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When we stop being human.

February 23, 2013


Change is a constant, and however we might  forget or passively ignore the fact, it is happening behind our backs, in front of our eyes, above our heads, and at a corner we have not bothered hearing about. For me, the change we have let slide passively with little input apart from buying and always upgrading, is the hunger for digital devices. In the last few years digital devices have  become an integral part of our individual ecosystems, and without them we struggle.

A wonderful piece by the Economist It’s a smart world, explores this concept in the world of smart softwares, and in this years’ World 2013 shares out an important milestone:  “The number of connected devices to the Internet will exceed the number of people on the planet by a factor of 2 in 2013  according to Cisco, By 2020 some 27 billion unique objects will be connected wirelessly to the Internet- Economist  The World 2013

If we currently have more digital devices than human by 2 =  14 billion of these devices are part of our lives.  So if out of the 7 billion humans 2.45 billion have access to the Internet in 2011.  -“The World in 2011: ITC Facts and Figures”, International Telecommunications Unions (ITU), Geneva, 2011.”  How did 2.45 billion + humans suddenly find themselves needing 14 billion devices? Making an unscientific assumption that most digital devices need an Internet connection, but then again it is still a ridiculous amount of devices 2 per human.

The seductive commercialization of the device, and the relentless addictive capacity of its features, available, on: whenever, wherever, whatever!  2.45 billion of us have developed a need for more than one. Try this:  count how many digital devices you have at home. ( Think microwave, digital TV, laptops, tablets, phones, sat-nav, digital radio, game consoles, digital heating system, digital alarm…. and we go on) do give yours a count. Now do you see how many of us are part of the 2.45 billion needing more than one device?

To be honest is it a big deal that we have more digital devices than humans by a factor of 2. On first thought very likely not, but then if we differ, consult, communicate, access, share, update, inform, search, pay, track, publish and connect as part of a daily routine, to the point we are often not aware of it… seamlessly blended within our ecosystems fabric with which we interact, work and live by. Is it, should it be our current norm?

The digital devices are here, embedded in our lives. Have we sat back and collectively, as a conversation piece, wondered how this happened, how did suddenly we need to sleep with a smart-phone by our bed, check email during dinner, while waiting for a bus, on the toilet…. what kind of reflective process have we engaged with colleagues friends and family.  This propensity for the digital device is it a non negotiable of our own ecosystem?Snow Nebusice

Do not get me wrong, I love my digital devices, the convenience, versatility, connectedness, and ease of use, are a huge benefit to my own day.

As Terence McKenna states in the video above as the rate of change accelerates over time, the modalities, ecosystems we live by will change to a point we will not be equipped to synthesis, analysis, engage, understand control, and manage these…. it does sound like science fiction…. “By 2020 some 27 billion unique objects will be connected wirelessly to the Internet- Economist  The World 2013“, but the science fiction is becoming part of our current narrative, and somehow we have let it slip by or have we?

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

There is a war going on in my internet!

October 24, 2012

IMG_2429Somehow late in the game I have suddenly realized in the background of my life there was a war going on in my Internet and still is most likely, and without much fuss or noise it  took place and I suspect is still going on. It is one of these new dimensions of war, it happens undercover, behind the scene with little fan fair and without much human interaction. So not being aware of it is somewhat understandable. According to some pundits this has been going on for a few years but recently a Security company http://www.kaspersky.com/ started noticing this virus called “Flame” and since has been trying to better understand its workings and complexity.  Flame’ Virus explained: How it works and who’s behind it  and Flame and Stuxnet cyber-attacks. What to me is interesting, is that potentially nation states can engage in a destructive war within the internet, damage, capture, manipulate and steal information and in return shut down, wipe out or paralyze computer systems deemed a threat, or the country with the machines deemed a threat. This is now fact, and in the last years different groups have been busy at work using this powerful technology. Is this in the headlines, part of our daily discourse, something night news talk shows are spending time on? No, not at all this is something that happens undercover behind the scenes with little information or we hear of it after the fact.

With the global information glut and overload we consume, engage and live off, we just cannot keep up or be in tune with the various events, stories, and key pieces of information that might frame a better understanding of everything that is taking place in our world.  Then there is the information that does not get shared, or buried deep away from the main stream traffic, headlines and captions. As humans we tend to engage with our digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies in removed manner, less questioning or critical at an ethical and moral level of the role these have on us as humans. The sheer convenience of the digital devices, apps, web environments and new technologies we live, work, play and entertain ourselves with, dilutes often a critical engagement in understanding how these different tools are impacting us as individuals and a society. No time with our day to day business and the bombardment of new devices, apps and technologies daily being pushed out to us, prevents avenues for us to really stop, think, question and engage with this issue.

We are at the cusp of an age where there are more digital devices than humans on the planet: Mobile devices to outnumber people on planet this year.

New Technologies, digital devices, and web environments as they become more seamless, integrated, and part of our day to day fabric for us to function as humans. We are at many levels defaulting executive decisions to these devices/environments  independent of our input. I suspect most of us might feel that it is a small price to pay for the convenience of these digital devices, apps and technologies making the mundane decisions we need to engage with work, play, and living in a connected world. These two articles illustrate the wonders of some of these new technologies but at the same time test and confront our own morals and ethics.

Running repairs: An experiment on rats brings hope to the paralyzed
http://www.economist.com/node/21556209?frsc=dg%7Ca

A big step toward ‘designer babies’ – and big questions
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2012/0608/A-big-step-toward-designer-babies-and-big-questions

There has to be a cautionary tale if this convenience overrides our ability to stop and reflect, think, probe, discuss, and question the world of digital devices, web environments, and technologies we adopt.  If we are happy to sub contract our digital devices and new technologies to work, care, entertain, and support our day to day lives, how far do we give up the control for the convenience of it all? This article from the Economist highlights for me “Morals and the machine: As robots grow more autonomous, society needs to develop rules to manage them“, that we need to have this conversation as educators, organizations and a society in general, and be fully engaged with what is the potential impact to us all.

John @http://beyonddigital.org

What is your digital grid?

May 13, 2012

As consumers of digital technology do you not get the sense that the pace of change is increasing and impacting us with little time to sit back, watch, take things in, and try to make sense of it all.  Nowadays digital devices and digital environments tend to suddenly show up almost invisible to our awareness and quickly become an integral part of our digital landscape. The consumer acting, to often, as a passive bystander and paying little attention on how this impacts our lives.

Recently I was invited to set up Google Drive and realized this was one more service that I work and live by tied to one flavor of a digital grid. We as consumers of the internet navigate within a variety of digital grids which are the framework of our digital ecosystems. A digital grid is the interface we log into with a username and password that in return provides us with tools, information and services all within the confines of one brand, organization or company.  These digital grids have become essential to our communication, collaboration, creative output, and ability to share information in our professional and personal lives. A digital ecosystem are all the connections, hardware, switches, wires, boxes and components which tie us to the services and tools these digital grids provide. Common digital grids are for example Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft to name a few. Some dominate our digital ecosystems more than others. This market dominance is critical to these organizations and companies managing our digital grids.  This dominance translates into power and control over large groups of users’ information which generates huge incomes and profits for these companies and organizations. The price of this convenience, seamless integration, and menu of powerful tools and services at ones fingertips is being locked into a single organization’s/companies’ digital grid.  Millions if not billions of users like you and me live in these digital grids and cannot function without them.

There is immense motivation for the organizations and companies delivering these services to make the experience more unified, seamless and a one stop shop for all our needs.  In developing these architectures as digital grids the companies and organizations are provided with limitless information, access and control of personal/professional habits, relationships and behaviors of their users. The more diversity of mediums, tools and services delivered, the more users they get, the more information they generate resulting in income and profits. As our digital lives evolve in interacting within a limited number of digital grids out of convenience, ease and habit what is the long term impact to us as individuals?

Looking at the different privacy policies (here paraphrased on this link) of cloud data storage services for individuals for Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive and Dropbox  provides us with significant evidence of the change in ownership of personal/professional intellectual property and information. As our off line lives blend more and more with our online lives, all within a limited digital grid, organizations and companies suddenly have access to all the aspects of our lives.

For many of us the convenience of the digital grid out weighs the reality of having a third party, organizations, and/or companies access, track and own all our personal/professional online information. Unfortunately if one chooses not to work within certain digital grids ones options to interact with other users both professionally and personally becomes quite limited and in some cases even impossible.  Try to disconnect for a week, and not use  your most commonly used digital grid. What would your work week look like, what would your socializing look like, what would your personal and professional communication look like? Yes it is still possible at some level to live outside of the larger digital grids and try to use a mix of different tools unconnected to each other.  For most of us the effort, time, knowledge and logistics would require an immense amount of patience and skill to pull this off. At the end of the day the sheer convenience, seamlessness and variety of services the common digital grids provide us make opting out an impossible task for most of us. This reality has re-framed what personal and professional privacy is in our lives.

So, what digital grid do you live in?

John@https://beyonddigital.org/

No privacy, please.

April 4, 2012

We are in a world were our communication, information , search, entertainment, creation, and content are done with some form of digital device with access to the internet. This dynamic intricately tied to our personal and professional lives : privacy both online and offline is being transformed.  Some of this is within our control and some out of our control. This combination generates discomfort when people have time to sit back and reflect on this change we all are witnessing on the sidelines passively. Can we do anything about this? Do we need to?

There is nothing like the convenience to work and live with digital devices that provide you everything at your finger tips seamlessly 24/7. Google’s integration of mail, documents, sites, video, blogs, maps, online shopping, music storage etc…. is an example how the integration of a digital platform with one username and password provide users with powerful consumption and creation tools for free! Google is not alone, other examples: Apple iTunes, iCloud, and its growing selection of products via its own digital devices, Facebook and its growing menu of services and tools all available to you whenever you wish with any device that has an internet connection.

The pay-off is that the services and companies facilitating seamless connectivity and convenience 24/7 get unlimited access to all your online information. Our online information, habits and behaviors are available to them.  This is the hidden cost of using these environments, often without our specific consent or knowledge. Let us be honest, how many of us spent the time reading the information Google shared out once it changed its privacy philosophy with users of its suite of products. Does it matter? This is a matter of personal choice. Living without these services makes functioning in a digital world quite challenging.

The meaning of the word “privacy” has changed. The days of being anonymous, and having no digital footprint, are gone. We have adopted these conveniences in our eagerness to keep up with the changing world, and partly by the success of digital environment and device companies marketing. We have been convinced that we need these digital environments and devices to function in today’s world. The reality is that there are few alternatives.

What next? The dependency for 24/7 seamless connectivity is only increasing with the proliferation of digital environments and devices for communication, information gathering/sharing and content production. The algorithms digital companies are currently using to track, analyses, synthesis and control our personal online information will only get more sophisticated and intricate. Our own control of how much gets tracked and analyzed will diminish as the connectivity becomes more invisible.

The concept of privacy as we might have understood it in the past has changed. Our online lives are attached to an intricate digital trail on everything we do. This trail available to governments, companies and organizations controlling/managing our digital environments and devices. We as individuals need to re-frame what privacy means to us.

As an educator I am already witnessing some concrete evidence of students and adults coming to terms with this, as they manage their own online environments. There are students who are deleting their Facebook as they get ready to apply to Universities. They understand the timeline of events, and photos which often where started when they where in middle school are maybe not what they wish to showcase or allow folks to have access. With this a growing appreciation of having a clear division between your professional digital footprint and your personal footprint. Google (ing) your name on a regular basis, and trying to manage/control what is available to search engines by better managing your privacy settings. Developing a deeper understanding of what the different privacy controls mean, and how to best manage your online digital footprint with these controls.

We can no more expect to work in a world where privacy is something we control or have options to function under the radar. We live in a connected world, where everything we do, leaves a digital narrative. This digital narrative used, shared, and built upon by third parties often without our knowledge.

It is through an understanding of these new frameworks, tools and environments that we can to a certain level choreograph our own digital footprint. I believe that the literacy of online privacy needs to be part of our curriculum and learning for both adults and students. No privacy is the new privacy.

John@ http://beyonddigital.org

Forget the box!

March 7, 2012

Walking around our school, one thing that always grabs my attention is the capacity of our learners to engage independently in the process of creative innovation to generate something quite unique and original. Unfortunately this often happens outside of the classroom setting, or in an elective classes, after school activity as the structure and expectations tend to be more open ended. Granted this is not always the case. This capacity for autonomous innovation often conflicts with the more regimented curriculum and learning that students engage with in the context of their classes. This is also the case for adults in our own work environments. There is no doubt that the rigid structures of school and work have served their purpose well, but today I am not convinced these are as helpful as in the past.

Today with the acceleration of change in technology and our lives I believe there is a growing need for autonomous creative innovation to become an integral part of the day to day fabric of our schools and work places. In a world where the acceleration of change only increases there is evidence that this is impacting our day to day capacity to work and live effectively. Our to do list becomes bigger, we are multitasking to manage an ever increasing information flow and somehow things do not seem to slow down.

We are dealing with a situation that is relatively new, change at an ever increasing pace, desperately trying to manage this with tools and structures that simply do not seem to work for us.

Schools and work places need to engage actively to create environments where the unstructured opportunities to innovate, create, explore and try out new ideas autonomously are part of the day to day schedule, structure and learning. So often you hear the term let us think “out of the box” but as long as we start from a box and then go out of it to think, we still are tied to certain structures and habits connected to the initial box. There is no doubt that a set of standard skills, a clear scope and sequence, and learning capacity needs to be formally introduced and nurtured for each learner to develop a strong skill set to be then able to effectively innovate and problem solve.

There are company’s that have developed a structure into their work flows  “creative time” (Google calls it 20%). This is being done by many other companies and even some schools currently. The results of this dedicated time to explore autonomously has generated extremely innovative products or learning which have been integrated into the companies markets or schools learning.

For our respective community of learners who are exposed to continual accelerated change, we will need new solutions to be able to deal with this effectively. Creating in our learning environments (schools and workplace) time, capacity, structures and a cultural expectation were innovation becomes part of the day to day fabric will generate in my opinion a greater capacity for us to deal with this accelerated change.

Do not think out of the box, simpley get rid of the box, and let us think without a box.

John @ https://beyonddigital.org

Where is the manual?

February 1, 2012

where is the manual?

When is the last time you opened up the manual from some device  you purchased, sat down and went through the pages to become familiar with your purchase? The chances are a long time ago. To be honest nowadays often items do not come with a manual at all.

This last week we had the pleasure of having Jason Ohler visit our school and work with our parents, students and faculty. One statement that stood out during the day was Jason‘s reference that a sign of intelligence is not how much knowledge you have, but one’s adaptability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Our students often have a lovely capacity to sit down and just click around a device or software and through persistence, trial and error work things out gradually using the learn, unlearn and relearn strategy at an accelerated pace.

With the sheer volume of online videos, online FAQ, reference sights and web resource available at the click of a mouse it is still surprising to see how many adults need to filter their learn, unlearn and relearning through another person. Somehow for many in the education world, we are quick to engage with the idea that students should be independent learners, work things out on their own, and be able to breakdown complex tasks and create understanding from this process by troubleshooting independently. But then when it comes to us, we seem to loose the capacity to engage with these same attitudes. I witness daily adults confronted in having to work out a problem or go through steps to understand a process or procedure automatically looking to another adult for support.

There is no doubt that the culture of learning many of us have as a frame of reference is one of the sage on the stage, and the expectation and need for all our knowledge and learning to go through such a filter. Granted often it is easier to ask someone to find the answer for you then take the time to do it yourself.

Why?

I believe that many adults are not equipped with the tools or skills to be able to take advantage of  the rich mix of resources and mediums available via the internet 24/7 to  learn, unlearn and relearn.

The reality we face not only in our schools, but globally is there is a dramatic shift in what skills and jobs are pertinent for the new global economy. The tragedy is that for many who have worked and lived in a world where they were able to survive on one skill has disappeared. The throngs of unemployed around the world will not be finding the same jobs as many pundits keep reminding us. The only option, and the challenge both emotionally and logistically, is how does one engage with this bitter reality of being jobless, and find the capacity to engage with the learn, unlearn and relearn concept.

It is not really our students that need the mentoring with this, they have got it to a certain extent.  They have grown up in a world where there has been no manual for the devices and online environments they live with. If they are not sure they go to either Youtube, or click around till they bump into enough things to construct their understanding.

The concern is if we have a generation of adults currently who are adverse or not sure how to go about learning unlearning and relearning, mentoring our students and peers we are setting ourselves for some tough times. The world has moved on, and to sit and always expect your company, school or organization helpdesk to have the answers to everything is avoiding the reality that each one of us has to become our own helpdesk. This needs to be the non negotiable under current in our own professional learning communities.

John (beyonddigtal.org)

this carton shared by pgreensoup from Keith Ferrell

The success of failure

December 4, 2011

I am convinced as educational institutions we do not celebrate and nurture failure enough. Our days are so centered on highlighting success, and drilling into our students and faculty minds, that success is the measure which validates the time and effort we put into each of our days.

Life’s and the world problems are messy, inconsistent, unclear, and more importantly do not come with clear solutions. Sometimes there are no solutions! This is the reality many of us walked into once we left school.  Each of us has built capacity to learn and deal with this differently and the learning occurring in the motion of confronting the problems. Future generations of students will and are heading out of the school gates into this dynamic.

An acquaintance shared with me a perspective a few Venture Capitalist work with before investing into start ups. They look how many times a potential group/organization has failed in trying to start something, and the more failure they have experienced the more likely these Venture Capitalist will invest in them. The premise is that from each failure, there is significant learning that takes place, and as you build on this learning, and fail again, you increase your capacity to deal with the next set of problems. Through this process and engagement you as a group/organization are more likely to succeed with your idea. A key ingredient tied to this premise is the level of tenacity, passion, and belief you engage with as a group/organization in confronting multiple failures and what learning/lesson you build from this to then deal with the next challenge ahead.

A group of students pictured above working with Lego Mindstorms, faced an issue with the version they had installed on their laptops. The Lego Mindstorms software was not fully compatible with the MacOS version running on the laptop.  Lego Mindstorms had not updated some of the drivers to work with more recent version of the Mac OS they where working with. The problem they faced was some functions required you to tap, click multiple times, sometimes it worked and sometime it did not. Their solution  just tap/clicked till it worked, and before long they understood how many taps/clicks they needed for the function to work. This they integrated  into their collective problem solving and moved on. They continued to come across glitches. They adapted each time a set of strategies to work around the failure with one goal in mind to have their robots do some movements and tricks. Even though things took longer, often requiring restarting the computer, or clicking non stop, it became part of their workflow and solution to a messy problem. The passion, tenacity, and collective energy had them, even thought failing quite a lot, over come the problems and learning a little more little by litte to program the Robots to move and do tricks. Their goal and measure of success.

A group of International School students taking part in the European Student Film Festival Challenge came to a roadblock. Partly to the fact that these 6 individuals had never worked together, some where from different schools, different countries and cultures. The dynamics in front of them was pretty much one problem after another, coupled with the pressure of being in a timed challenge. They gradually unpacked things slowly, each step faced with a level of failure, but giving them a better understanding of the other group members potential. The setting for their collaboration was around a set of chairs with a chess set in the middle, which often saw them fiddling with, as an outlet to their nervousness and stress. The only common ingredient they all brought to the group, was each was passionate about Film. Individually they knew they each had a set of skills that could contribute towards their challenge. Surrounded by the discomfort of hesitation, false starts, juggling opinions, different individual needs, unpacking the parameters of the challenge, translating it into something concrete they all could move forward with. 24 hours later below was the result.


Czechmate used with permission from Julien M.  A collaboration and joint production by Begum E., Ema E., Jerome B., Julien M., Lenny M., and Oliver Z winner of the European Student Film Festival Film Challenge Excellence Award.

We should stop and celebrate failure within our groups/organizations more often than we do. Make it part of every learning experience. Invite ourselves to focus on the unique learning which failure can bring to our reflections, ideas, and ability to overcome the messiness of problems we face and will face. If our respective communities spent more time taking apart the failures we experience, look at each moment, see what components are in play, give us opportunities to do things differently than before. This can be the celebration of our collective learning from which we build our successes.

John
http://beyonddigital.org

I did not know Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, or Edgar M. Villchur

October 30, 2011

Tyne Cot Cemetery (Ypres)- Ieper Belgium

I did not know Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie or Edgar M. Villchur, or the 500,000 soldiers who died in Ypres (Ieper) Belgium in the trenches of  World War 1. Last week on holiday, reflecting on their respective work and passing away, then visiting the In Flanders Fields Museum and Tyne Cot Cemetery outside Ypres (Ieper) Belgium. I felt overwhelmed by the In Flanders Fields Museum and Tyne Cot Cemetery respective testimony. The shear numbers who died and  pointlessness of trench warfare, the leadership, story and narrative that lead to these deaths and suffering was mind boggling.

This visit marked me at many levels, and reminded me, that each of us are impacted by events, histories,relationships and connections, that give us a scaffold to build our own narrative and vision. To me Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, Edgar M. Villchur, and the soldiers of Ypres (Ieper) Belgium put a mark in very different ways on my understanding of the world and contributed towards my own narrative.

Steve Jobs’ desktops, laptops, i devices, , and iTunes has always been part of my personal and professional media life, at work, home, … a fan, and appreciative user. Dennis Ritchie who brought to the digital world, we live and work in daily: C programming language and co-developed the Unix operating system. Edgar M. Villchur’s vision plays a big role in my adult life : the Loudspeaker. He invented an acoustic suspension woofer producing the loudspeaker as many of us have in our homes, car and ears:)

Each had a unique narrative tied to their ideas and vision. Their respective narratives transformed into concrete outcomes that changed the way we function in our world. The narrative built on a passion and a clear belief in the outcome where they wanted to go. Maybe not always clearly defined to others or all planned out in their own heads but this narrative drove the conversations, work,  time, creativity, thoughts, and collaboration that made their ideas a reality.

As for many of us who have a passion for what we do, our narrative and story is constructed through events relationships, collaborations and belief based on experiences. The key to the success of Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie or Edgar M. Villchur,  narratives was they each transformed it into some thing concrete that was operationalized to significantly impact people and change the way we do things.

This transition from idea to reality is the most complicated and challenging aspect of building ones own narrative and ensuring it becomes reality. Ideas can be generated, conceptualized, discussed, debated, and dreamed up.  The delicate process of making an organizational narrative engaging to others so they adopt it as part of their own narrative is in my opinion the true art of visioning.  The key is that there needs to be a strong buy in by all players associated or connected to the narrative even if translated or interpreted through a different lens. To often I witness rich and engaging visions, but so often the operationalization piece is missing. This is due to the  narrative being lost in the translation before it becomes others own narrative in any organization. Without people in an organization internalizing the visionaries narrative within their framework of understanding little will become concrete and have an impact on others . Once you have this common narrative throughout an organization the stage is set for the intricate collaborative mechanism of choreographing and operationalizing a shift that creates change with ever lasting impact. Each of these men did!  Do you have an i in one of your devices, using Unix and listening to it through a set of speakers………..What is your narrative?

John@beyonddigital.org

Where is the “off” switch?

August 28, 2011

Can we really disconnect from devices, email, social networks, the internet and digital life in general? Being caught up in a cycling trip for me is the easiest way to disconnect from all the rings, tasks, needs, wants, musts and maybe’s we get caught up in our digital life. An element of isolation and the tempo provide a good way to unwind and coach myself to be okay with the disconnection. The daily cycling, in an isolated environment, provides often limited cell reception, rare internet and few digital devices. This experience on the bicycle gives me the opportunity to create head space and day dreaming hours to clear out the mind and fall into a different time span and a grounded feeling. You generate in your head space for nothing.

Yes it is okay, and it feels good. Today it is getting harder and harder to disconnect…or find space for nothing. As we integrate our digital devices and social medias into every aspect of our work and home life we have developed a dependence, which is becoming invisible to our lives.  As new generations adopt this digital world as part of their social fabric, and consciousness, a collective dependency on seamless connectivity is embedded to our day. This level of subconscious dependency creates a new social bargain for the way we connect, disconnect and live our lives online and offline.

For my generation and others prior to the explosion of the internet, we experienced an environment of  limited connectedness, tied to a land line, payphone, letters, fax, face to face, newsgroups, bulletin boards, and then email. Our privacy was shaped within a connection of a friend or two, or small circle of friends/acquaintances. The norms based on word of mouth, hearsay, rumors, reputations forged live in front of  friends/acquaintances or through mediums limited to a small groups of folks for viewing or to interact with. Often it became an issue of our word vs their word. There was no digital footprint and it was harder accessing a paper trail.  This experience has equipped my generation and others with a counter-balance and point of reference of another option to our current non stop connectivity and diminishing privacy.

Today with non stop connectivity and diminishing privacy there is a different reference point for a new generation. A world of online social circles with friends and acquaintances in the hundreds, images, videos, wall updates, tweets, online hangouts all available 24/7 to potential huge audience not only our perceived friends/acquaintances but search engines, companies, governments, and a digital footprint not in our control.

The perception and understanding of privacy and non stop connectivity has changed. For many of today’s online users, there is no point of reference or experience of not having a digital footprint, not being connected 24/7 or understanding privacy in the context of the pre-internet world. A social media openness is the norm of privacy today for a whole set of children and young adults.

This shift can be uncomfortable for some, but is here. This has happened in the background of our awareness to certain degree.  My generations concept of privacy, balance and connectivity is framed with a memory and life experiences without these. Today children and young adults are framing their understanding and experiences based on a new social bargain where connectivity is a non negotiable ingredient to socialization both professional and personal. Connectivity is a must: cell phones to keep Mom and Dad in touch with your whereabouts, educations demands for mobile technology as a mandatory learning platform, commerce, entertainment, goverment and information delivered only online.

As with any changes in life you gain things and you loose things  Privacy and connectivity have changed and will continue to evolve in ways which will be be viewed by some as a paradigm shift, others the norm and for others a necessary evolution of our digital life.

Today the off switch is no more available! Even while we sleep or disconnect for a moment, emails, images, wall postings, and our digital footprints are active, being viewed, shared, forwarded, cataloged, and leaving a permanent digital trail. As individuals and a society we will need to carve and find the spaces to disconnect on our own. This ability to disconnect, find balance, and space for nothing will need to become a learned skill and behavior. For many of our students, with no point of reference to a unconnected world, their is no previous learning or points of reference to build upon.

As a society what does it mean when our digital footprints are available to anyone online, anytime, with any type of devices 24/7? This conversation needs to becoming part of our educators fabric and curriculum in schools. Even if a new generation has not experienced a disconnected world, it is part of our collective historical heritage the many moments when philosophers, artists, musicians, and thinkers  sat with space for nothing so they could create marvels. It is fine by me that there is no more an off switch, but it is not okay to let our students and young adults not have a skill set to be able to disconnect and create a space for nothing. A balance in life is a key, everyone should be exposed to this learning and have the opportunity to be mentored on how to develop this capacity: space for nothing.

John@beyonddigital.org

while I was waking up…

June 3, 2011

This post is dedicated in memory of Gil Scott-Heron.

Connectivity, seamless integration, multiple digital devices all connected to my habits and likes. The seamless options to integrate my blogs with my social media accounts…..all provide wonderful opportunities. They simplify many tasks and interactions I deal with on a day to day basis. At times these can get messy and I understand that many of these integrations between the digital devices I use and social media platforms I interact with are still trying to evolve. I believe the future of this convergence of digital devices and communication platforms will only get more seamless and effective, that is exciting. For users the potential is huge in leveraging  these tools and opportunities into our social and professional lives.

and now……

I am noticing something, and it seems in the last few months all this seamless integration of digital devices and social networking media is generating some caution by a few. For me the first odd event was when Facebook suddenly decided without asking me (actually they never asking me anything especially if there are changes) that it would only feature in my news feeds the friends I interact with on a regular basis and not the  friends who I just interact with rarely or periodically…. my news feed narrowed in its diversity of people I could see. Good news you can change this, and I did. The issue is who should make the decisions for us?

I also am noticing with my search results (Google/Bing/Yahoo) that they tend to be little different when I search the same topic as my wife and kids….. the search algorithms seem to learn my likes and dislikes and then provide me with information which falls into my previous search patterns and within my opinion and interest range. Diversity of opinions or information which I do not agree with seems slowly to be pushed away from me, I am reading only what I want to believe .  This seems to be a growing trend as explained in an excellent: TedTalk Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

The Apple Developers conference again showed how our devices, operating systems and virtual worlds are now taking on more tasks without us having to be involved, as a way to increase our efficiencies. Now you do not need to save in OS Lion, if you have iCloud there is sinking of content between different devices automatically without you being involved. Your digital devices in the Apple environment now can be independent of your desktop or laptop, giving these devices the ability to do all the necessary tasks right there and now. These are exciting changes and definitely provide the user with more seamless tasks which we do not need to be involved with. This in someways is pushed even further with the IOS5 function that if you have list or tasks to do there is a geographic locater embedded so when say you drive by a grocery store and in your IOS5 device you have a shopping list it will pop up and remind you of the list and the option of doing this now as it has located a grocery store.

The list goes on…. our technology tools and environments are being equipped with algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks which are becoming more intelligent, and at a level are given more independence to make executive decisions to enhance tasks in reaction to our online behaviors and habits. This is a huge shift, and with this a whole set of philosophical questions and dilemmas arise which delve into privacy, who has ownership, who gets to decide what these tools and algorithms do, and how much independence should they have? I am reading and seeing more evidence of this change, where we are asking our technology tools and systems to think for us and help make decisions. At this stage it all seems useful, helpful and harmless. Who minds having something save everything without you having to remember. Who minds having their devices do in the background of our awareness, updates, sinking, and analysis ? At this time it is useful and a time saver….and to be honest this has been going on for a while with a variety of technology tools. An example is commercial aviation which has been relying on automatic pilot controls for a large percentage of tasks related to flying. There are definitely huge advantages, and at many levels these make the processes we rely on more efficient and seamless .

As we move forward with our digital evolution:  our tools, operating systems and devices are given greater independence to manage our lives. The question I currently struggle with is at what point do we feel comfortable giving up control and let many of these devices  have complete autonomy of certain tasks, decisions, and information we get to have access too. To what point do we let convenience and efficiency erode potentially our own independence to make decision ourselves with these digital environments. There is no doubt that for the companies behind these tools, devices and operating systems, this control and information is becoming a critical commodity to generate information databases which leverage a greater capacity to target products, habits and behaviors effectively to the user. This then generating profits for the companies behind these devices, software and operating systems.

I am like many, I love the seamless integration, the fact that more mundane tasks are being taken over, and me not having to think about them. But when is too much, and when will we suddenly wake up and realize so much has fallen over to algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks that we have lost control and now are having many of our decisions and tasks dictated by others who we have little input with.

As Gil Scott Heron says so aptly ” the revolution will not be televised

John@https://beyonddigital.org

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