Sunday, May 9, 2010

Change is constant

"Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road." - Stewart Brand

If you’ve been following at all, you know that this blog was a discussion of technology: past technology, past predictions of technology, present technologies and future technologies. Oftentimes one post would include not one, not two, but all of these things. A discussion of cell phones began with telegraphs, evolved to rotary phones, took a detour through “futuristic cell phones of the past” and eventually ended up at blackberries; this is the formula many of my posts followed.

Why did I approach topics this way? What did it teach me?

It’s simple, really: nothing lasts forever.

Today’s technological advances are often tomorrow’s stone age devices. Remember Windows Vista? And how that was around for oh, I don’t know, 2 seconds? (In case you haven’t picked up on this, I exaggerate things. It’s for effect) How about the original iPod? If you still have one of those things, you might as well use a Walkman.

Things change. Personally, I think it’s scary.

I’m a communication major with a focus in public relations. Public relations, like many other concentrations, is constantly evolving due to changes in the field. The difference with public relations today, is, that social media has been adapted by PR pros (and aspiring pros like me) as our own. Twitter, linkedin, blogs, foursquare: PR toys.

As a young PR student, I’m worried. Or, as I like to say, "optimistically aware." Should I bother with these “toys?” Should I learn them, become a pro at them, earn the title of “guru” and garner the respect of my peers….for a year? Will the industry still be using twitter when I graduate? Or will I have experience in a useless tool? If someone has some insider info on that one, I would greatly appreciate it.

My point is we don’t know. We don’t know who will invent what and when. The social media tool of the future may already have been invented, may be in use right now, but it’s not widespread. Facebook and Twitter didn’t take off overnight. So what if it’s out there, waiting for me to use it, and I’ve got no clue it exists? It’s weird to think about, but it’s very possible.

I know that this occurs in almost every field of study: every day has the possibility of creating a new theory, a new tool, a new way of thinking that can revolutionize the way things work. But I’m in PR, so that’s what I worry about.

All I can say is learn to adapt. That’s what I’ve learned: to be open to learning. I know. It sounds really, really simple. And it is—somebody just needs to let you in on the secret simplicity of success.

So for now I’ll tweet, I’ll keep blogging, I’ll eventually figure out how to use foursquare and I’ll continue to change the privacy settings on my facebook until it hardly exists at all.

Or maybe I won’t—but that’s for tomorrow to tell me.

Happy Sunday, & Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and to all other Moms.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Internet Addicts Anonymous

"Getting information from the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." -- Mitchell Kapor

My name is Kelly, and I'm addicted to the Internet.

Okay maybe not, but the Internet is awesome. Seriously.

Last night, my phone wasn’t working so I googled the problem I was having and voila, I fixed it. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to make a cheesecake but didn’t have a good recipe, so I googled it. I find out what’s going on at school, what’s going on at home, what’s going on in the world all in one place. Internet = awesome.

This semester, I had the pleasure and advantage of taking Jour289i: Information 3.0. This, of course, is the reason I’ve been blogging all semester. I’ve learned about blogger, twitter, secondlife, picasa—so many social media sites and apps that I cannot remember all of them. But I think that one of the most important things we’ve learned in this class is fact checking and analysis.

Some of my favorite posts to write this semester were those where we read an article, and were told to comment on it (think gender & video games or cell phone use and dependencies.) I never had enough info from my one reading or in my personal repertoire to successfully analyze and respond to these articles, so I was always forced to do further research. This not only expanded my knowledge on the specific topics, but it taught me to read critically. I’ve learned to find a second source, to compare and to contrast, and to learn from all of the available information on the web (which is a lot.)

So what have I learned? To consider things from all points of view. To take what I know and use that as a launching point to learn more. To utilize the resources that I’ve been given to find and use new ones. This class was not only about using the Internet or about new technologies or social media; this class was about taking all of these things and expanding your knowledge, learning to use these things to think critically.

Citizen Journalists and Street Cred

"The smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. To a degree, people read the press to inform themselves-and the better the teacher, the better the student body." -- Warren Buffett

Students in Jour289i surveyed friends on technological use and opinions. One of the questions we asked was "Do citizen journalists have as much credibility as professionals?" The answer was an overwhelming "no." Later in the survey, the question "In the future, do you think citizen journalists will have as much credibility as professionals?" was raised. The answer changed in a positive manner. So although our peers do not believe that currently, citizen journalists have credibility, we do believe that in the future, things will change.

This instilled some serious curiosity in this citizen. Why? What is going to change that is leading today’s students to believe that in the future, we will have just as much credibility as people like Stephen Colbert.

I think it’s technology. Technology is making the difference. Technology is driving this change in belief and technology is enabling this change.

For years, amateurs have been sending in videos to news stations who were unlucky enough to miss “the story of the century,” which, in all the novels I’ve read, appears to occur every week which seems to be a bit counterintuitive but whatever. Back to my point. Amateurs, who happened to be in the right place at the right time, would catch the right video clip, whether on a professional video camera or your run-of-the-mill model. Whether they were looking for this opportunity or not, they happened upon it and they made news.

According to a 2009 Marist Poll, 87% of Americans have cell phones. How many of those cell phones have cameras capable of photo and video? I don’t have a number but I’m going to approximate: a lot. Every single one of these cell-phone owning Americans has the mobile ability to capture moments—to make news.

Here’s a personal example.

A recent Jour289i class assignment revolved around Maryland Day. For those of you who do not know, Maryland Day is an event, held at none other than the University of Maryland, where the University is open to visitors of all ages. Activities range from performing shows, campus tours, moon bounces and autograph sessions. It’s a blast and a half. This year, my classmates and I were given the task of travelling around campus, experiencing different aspects of Maryland day, and reporting back on it. Live. All. Day.

I had an iTouch, a camera, a cell phone and a rain coat, and I had a long day. But I learned something. My classmates and I provided (to my knowledge) the best available online coverage of Maryland Day. It may have been the only available online coverage of Maryland Day, but still, it counts for something, right? I was a citizen journalist. I tweeted, I uploaded pictures, I interviewed performers, visitors and volunteers. Isn’t that credible? So I’m not a professional, and Maryland Day may not be a big deal—but what’s preventing my (and my classmates’) coverage of Maryland Day from being credible? The fact that we’re students? The fact that we weren’t paid to do it? (unless you count a pass/fail grade…) I’m not sure. I don’t really see the difference between the information and materials that I provided, and the information and materials that a professional could have provided.

Here’s another story, free of bias since I didn’t participate and I didn’t write it. I’m just reporting.

This CNN article, “Citizens monitor Gulf Coast after oil spill” tells the story of an MIT student trying to make a difference. Jeffrey Warren is walking up and down the Louisiana coast “holding a kite string that’s tethered to a helium-filled trash bag and a point-and-shoot camera.” Sounds ridiculous, but he’s doing it anyway. Why? Because the professional satellites that we have covering the oil spill are really freakin far away, and the pictures they take and the efficiency with which they take them are just not that helpful. So citizen journalist Warren is doing his part and documenting the accident himself. I give him credibility, but I’m not a pro.

To sum up my longest blog post in a while: This class has taught me to be a citizen journalist. To create news. To efficiently and effectively produce credible content. To utilize various social media tools in correlation with different technological toys like digital cameras and iPods. Am I credible?

Well, you just read this whole thing—didn’t you?

Happy Thursday :)