I Want My Own Blog!!!!

How young is too young for a person to have his or her own blog? My daughter is 8 and she has been bugging me for months to set her up with her own blog site. Today is the day that I will finally let her have it. She will have to pick an obscure name and she absolutely positively better not even think about giving out personal information on her blog!!!!! I don’t know. Maybe she should just write in a journal…..

Games People Play and CMC

This week’s blogging assignment is actually fun because it is all about online gaming and whether or not I think “online gaming” should be a part of a CMC course. I say it’s fun because I had the opportunity to recruit two leading experts who are a major part of the online gaming world to give me some insight. These experts are my children – my nine year-old son Andrew and my eight year-old daughter, Katharine. Who would have thought that my very own children could actually help me with my graduate school homework? It is usually the other way around, me helping them with their spelling, math, and science projects. Now they know how I feel when I am in the middle of something and they yell, “Mommmmmmm how do you spell computer??” “What’s 7 times 9?” “Can you help me build my volcano for science class?” With this assignment, it was, “Andrew, which Lego game for the Wii has the best YouTube videos?” “Katharine, what is your new password so I can get on Webkinz?” “Would one of you guys please go to KinzChat so that I can write my blog?” Revenge can be so sweet!!

Anyway, it is kind of ironic, but because they do play a lot of games I thought it would be helpful if I talked with them about what they actually do when they are online. I figured they could help me find out information that I was not aware of before. I also thought I would be able to have a little bit of fun in the process. Then I thought it could also be cool if I attempted to apply some of what I learned this semester about informatics, social networking, community, technological determinism, and family time to this week’s assignment.

Starting with informatics, which is the retrieval of information, I looked for examples within the online gaming world to see if I could find any kind of a story. Right off the bat, there was an obvious example. Andrew has a Nintendo Wii and some of the games he plays include the Lego games – Star Wars, Batman, and Indiana Jones, as well as Ghostbusters, and the Sonic series. Sometimes when he is playing these games he gets stuck on a certain level and needs a little bit of help in trying to advance. Enter YouTube. Almost every American knows what YouTube is and what it does, so I am not going to get into it on this blog. However, specific to assisting Andrew in his quest of beating a video game, he usually turns to YouTube for help. For example, if I type in “Lego Batman video game Wii” in the search box over 500 results are displayed that either show game trailers or walkthroughs in how to actually beat the game. One video that I found showed a teenage boy sitting at his computer playing the game and talking the audience through it as he played. He was very serious in explaining the game – typical computer nerd. But, hey if he helps Andrew when he is stuck on one little move, it is better than having to listen to him yell at the Wii as if he is being tortured.

Now, as for the subjects of social networking and community in terms of online gaming, they can really go hand-in-hand. For instance, now that I am an active member of Facebook, and getting to know all of its nuances, I went to its web site, logged in, and looked for online gaming communities. Using “online gaming” as my search terms, once again, I ended up getting over 500 results. The communities range in content from tips and advice to actually playing games against other members of the community. Some of the tips include how to beat different games, things to do to improve your computer hardware, and how to get your hands on some of the hottest titles that are out there. You can chat with other members of your online gaming community and get to know others who are a part of the gaming world. Most of the communities are based in the United States, but I did find some based in England and Italy. Using Facebook in this manner is really an efficient way to bring gamers together who are from different parts of the world. However, my son is not old enough to be a member of Facebook, but I am. Even so, given his age and innocence, I would never become a member of any of those communities for him and then let him log onto my account and surf around as he pleases. I am okay with him visiting YouTube because he is only able to retrieve information and he cannot communicate with anyone.

The final two topics that I am going to discuss are the topics of technological determinism and family time. You might be wondering how in the world the two could be connected. Believe me, I was extremely surprised when I first made the discovery but I can certainly see the connection. Okay, as a review, technological determinism is based on the belief that a change in technology would cause a change in social behavior. Regarding family time, we already know the results from the Annenberg School of Communication study which talked about the amount of time families are spending together being on the decrease. All of this is due to the amount of time spent on the Internet and social networking sites. I could be wrong about this, but I think a classic case of social behavior being determined by technology or a development in technology is the Webkinz web site.

I talked with my daughter about how much time she spends on the Webkinz site and what she does when she is playing. A feature that is clearly an example of CMC is the KinzChat, where you can “call” friends who are on your friends list and if they are online playing you can chat with them and play games. Through KinzChat you can also meet up with each other’s Webkinz in the Webkinz Clubhouse and hang out. Where the technological determinism comes in is because the kids are spending so much time on this web site that parents want a part of the action. After finding out more about the Webkinz World, I discovered that there are parents who have their very own Webkinz and have their very own account so that they can play on the site themselves. Also, if they have more than one computer in the house, they can play with their children. I was really amazed that an adult would want to spend his or her precious free time in Webkinz world. But, I guess if it helps to improve the family time, then it is all for a good cause. In summary, the creation of Webkinz, has created a change in social behavior amongst adults. For the record, I do not have my own account, nor will I be getting one.

So, in a nutshell, do I think that online gaming should be a part of a CMC course? Absolutely. As demonstrated, there are so many examples and it opens up an entire new world where I see so many research studies that can be developed. How about the effect of the Webkinz World on parents? How about using YouTube videos as a way to facilitate the gaming experience? How about studying online communities in the gaming world? These are just a few of the many possibilities! To me the topic certainly sounds promising. Maybe it’s just that I like the fact that by studying online gaming in relation to CMC, I can be a part of my children’s community and increase our amount of family time.

Informatics

This week’s blog assignment is to find an example of informatics, write about it, and talk about whether I would conduct a normative, analytical, or critical study regarding its usage as presented on the web site or blog. I was going to look at one of the medical web sites such as WebMD but I thought that would be such a common choice. Another choice I considered was to find somebody’s blog about how they were managing their child’s ADHD and see what I could derive from reading it. That could be helpful in writing my thesis but I was afraid that I would get sucked in for so long that I would never get to write my blog entry. After thinking about it, I decided to write about the CNET web site as it is one that I frequent even though when I go there I usually end up leaving confused and with more questions. CNET, a part of CBS Interactive states its mission as “showing you the exciting possibilities of how technology can enhance and enrich your life. We provide you with information, tools, and advice that help you decide what to buy and how to get the most out of your tech.”

They accomplish this by providing product reviews (written and video), podcasts, software downloads, and news. They also issue product awards – CNET Editor’s Choice, CNET Best of CES (Consumer Electronics Show), the CTIA (International Association for Wireless Telecommunications Industry), and the CNET Download 5 Star award which is given for software downloads that get perfect scores for Interface, Features, Functionality, Stability, and Download. The information that can be found on CNET is not only credible and mostly accurate, but CNET is considered to be one of the go-to sources for consumers trying to decide on which technology products to buy.

In terms of choosing the approach to take when studying informatics in relation to CNET, again the three primary approaches are the normative, analytical, and critical approaches. The normative approach looks at other ways in which the technology tools could be designed, developed, and used. The analytical approach would look at institutional and cultural contexts in terms of theory and research. Finally, the critical approach examines and challenges the views regarding society’s use of technology. Given the descriptions of the three approaches as compared to CNET, it is very clear that it should be studied using the normative approach. The retrieval of information can become very cumbersome, frustrating and can sometimes lead a person down the wrong path in which the search ends up being a total waste of time. These are some of the issues that I encounter when I use the CNET site.

I really do like CNET and its editorial content. Their editorial staff is credible and they approach product reviews by testing products in labs, using the products themselves, examining user opinions, and showing product videos. What I don’t like is how hard it can be to sift through all of the information that can be found on the CNET site. For example, my beloved Nokia cell phone that I have owned for over three years is literally hanging by a thread and is about to break. So now I have to figure out what in the world I am going to buy next. I have been thinking about it, and I know I don’t want the iPhone because I like buttons. I don’t want a Blackberry because it seems so corporate.

Right now we are using T-Mobile as our carrier, and because I am familiar with them and their products, I thought I would test my idea about the normative approach on the CNET web site by researching T-Mobile phones. I clicked on the Reviews tab and then cell phones, and then as I was ready to click on T-Mobile (choose by service provider), I just knew there was going to be a problem in trying to sift through all of their information. By clicking on T-Mobile I would be able to see 165 different phones from this carrier. There was just no way that I was going to read 165 product reviews especially when I know for sure that T-Mobile doesn’t even offer anywhere near that amount of choices. However, I needed to see what the 165 consisted of if I was going to stick with my decision about the normative approach.

So I clicked on T-Mobile and the 165 different phones were displayed in a grid with pictures, brief specs, number of stars (for editor and user reviews), prices, and where to buy. I scrolled down a bit and discovered that I was definitely right about there not really being 165 different phones (well technically). They display each phone separately in each of the different colors that are available. For example, the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G (which is not out yet), will be available in white, black, or merlot. Therefore the MyTouch 3G was listed three separate times, one listing to represent each color. In terms of the editor reviews, the exact same reviews appear for each of the colors. What is not consistent is the way the user reviews are listed for each. The MyTouch is not available to the public yet, so it was difficult to figure out if CNET gave certain people the product in advance in order for there to be user reviews ahead of time, or if people had gotten their hands on them some other way. Either way, there were 11 user reviews for the white phone, 6 for the black phone, and zero for the merlot phone. What is strange about the way the reviews are set up is that except for the color, the phones are exactly the same. However, each color has its own set of user reviews with no overlap present for the black and white phones. Why didn’t they just combine the listings so that the user can go through them all at once without having to navigate through reviews for each phone color? Under both of the black and white models, the product was given mixed reviews but if the reviews were listed together, it would make for a more complete story.

I could also search for my phone by going to the CNET cell phone finder. I didn’t figure that out until a pop-up appeared in my window when I left the site static for several minutes. A person can search for the phone by starting with the carrier, type of phone, and features. Once you go through that process, CNET will give you the results. Again, you can click on the results and look at the editor and user reviews, full product specs, and even a video. This was almost less confusing as you can really pick the features that you want and during the process it will tell you how many phones meet that description. However, I found a discrepancy in information right off the bat. When I chose T-Mobile as my carrier, there should have been 165 different phones to choose from, right? Wrong!!! There were 34 different phones to choose from (10 smart phones and 24 regular). I decided to click on smart phones because I need one, and the phones were further broken down by whether it runs on Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry, Palm, Symbian, or any of the above.

I clicked on Blackberry because there were seven of those to choose from, and then I was taken to the features screen. Here lies the confusion, as they list various features – camera, 3G, Bluetooth, speakerphone, world phone, full alphabetic keyboard, push to talk, GPS, video recording, or not important. When they do that they tell you how many Blackberry phones meet each criterion. For example, four of them have cameras, and one has GPS. However, when I chose to filter my results by camera and GPS, the results gave me four phones to select from. It completely ignored the “AND” qualifier. So assuming that one of the four does match my criteria of having a camera and GPS, I had to click on each of them individually to see which one was in fact a match. That drove me crazy. As you can see from the searches that I have conducted, both ways of trying to find a phone brought questions and wasted time.

Again, I will say that CNET does have a wealth of credible information where it should be the go-to web site for consumers looking for technology products. The problems that I encountered during my cell phone search are only a few of the examples of what needs to be addressed on the CNET site. By taking the normative approach in relation to CNET, one can examine how users make the most of the available tools on CNET, how they conduct their research, and where improvements can be made. As I was going through the process of searching for a new cell phone, I was trying to figure out how much time I could have saved if the interface was not only slightly more user friendly but also if the information was laid out in a more organized way. I also wonder if the design of the site has made any impact on the phone that I am going to end up with. Either way, at the end of the day I will be getting a new phone. As much as I will miss my little Nokia, I know it is time to move on. As loyal as I have been to T-Mobile, it’s time to say good-bye to them as well. I am making the switch to AT&T. Oh, and I got completely sucked in. I am getting the iPhone.

Friending Facebook

Okay so our latest assignment in my Computer Mediated Communication class is to join a social networking site and write about it. The point is to explain the site as if others don’t know about it at all or even what it can do. Most people would be jumping for joy at this assignment, but not me. First of all, I have been trying to NOT get involved with these kinds of sites forever (well as long as they have been around) as I really can’t see much value in them. I am so darn busy with school, family, dealing with a hyper Wheaten Terrier, and driving my kids around that the last thing I need is to start something where I actually have to post random and frivolous information about myself, and then also have to read random and frivolous information about others. To me the whole concept seems pretty pointless.

As far as having to explain what these sites do, I could just call my 20 year old cousin Tommy and ask him to give me a running commentary. He would do an excellent job of it, as I am sure he has been a member since he became eligible to join. As I am an older Generation X-er, I think I just missed the cut-off in terms of feeling a strong desire to join one of these sites. Over a year ago when I was taking another class, the people in the class who were over the age of 35 did not have an account with a social networking site; those under the age of 35 belonged to one or two. I was definitely a member of the first group.
Shortly after that class began, I joined Linkedin which is more of a business networking site, and I also ended up joining Facebook several months ago after an old friend friended me. I got the invitation to join and be her friend (I already thought I was her friend) joined, and then suspended my account as I started to receive spam from other people’s Facebook accounts. That was a pretty annoying experience. However, I did reactivate my account at the beginning of this semester because somehow I just knew that I was going to have to really friend Facebook.

Anyway, for those of you who are not familiar with Facebook, it is a social networking site, which means it can be thought of as a web-based community of people who are brought together based on some commonality. This commonality could equal friendships, or a club, or hobby. Founded in 2004, by three Harvard students, their goal was to facilitate a better way to share information amongst fellow students. The membership was expanded to include other colleges and high schools, and now anyone age thirteen or older can join. Membership has grown to over 200 million people worldwide, and their stated mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

With that said, I logged onto my account to get reacquainted. If you don’t have an account it is extremely easy to set one up. All you need to do is to go to http://www.facebook.com and you will be taken to the home page where you can log in if you have an account, or create one if you don’t. The directions are pretty straightforward to create and account, and once that is accomplished you can create a personal profile. To accomplish this, click on the profile tab and fill in the blanks. You can list your name, hometown, address, birthday, relationship status, reason for joining, your political or religious views, favorite books, movies, television shows, activities, interests, and sayings. You can also list where you went to school as well as your employment history. The other day when I was working on my account I edited my profile to show my relationship status as being married. The area that shows recent activity (the wall), stated that Anita is now married. Hey, wait a minute. Anita has been married for almost 12 years. That doesn’t make any sense. Well the wall let me comment on that and I did. The wall is the area where you post information about yourself, upload pictures or videos, and give people updates. Each member has his or her own wall and if the person belongs in your network he or she can post comments on your wall or upload photos. In another section called photos, you can actually upload entire albums for people to see. This is a pretty handy feature if you are too lazy to upload to a specific photo site like Snapfish and choose email addresses to send the pictures to. Another interesting feature is to be able to post events such as letting friends know when you will be in town. You can also send messages to your friends who are in your network.

Speaking of friends, it is really pointless to have a Facebook account if you don’t have any friends to begin with. To find a potential friend to join your network, you can search the Facebook directory via your email address book, by name, school, place of employment or other organizations. Once you find a person you know, you can send out a friend request. Facebook will send out the request to the people you’ve selected letting them know that you want them to join your social network. If they say yes, then you will have access to each other’s information. If they say no, then I guess you can wonder why they are even your friends to begin with.

Anyway, aside from friending people and keeping in touch, there are certainly many frivolous activities that you can take part in on Facebook. For example, you can join a network of other Facebook members in a group dedicated to a particular interest. I am from Red Sox nation so when my cousin forwarded the Red Sox Sweet Caroline wave and asked me to keep the wave going, I had to do it. The Red Sox group had other waves going such as the Yankees Suck wave – SWEET! You can also take quizzes such as the one I took to see how girly I really am. Apparently I am 100% girly all because of the amount of shoes and dresses I own. Well I also hike, rollerblade, canoe, and I used to catch frogs in the brook all the time when I was a kid. This doesn’t really sound 100% girly to me. Whatever. But anyway, all of this stuff that I have just described is yours for absolutely free! What isn’t free is what is called the virtual gift. A virtual gift is a little icon that you can send to your friends by paying for them with credits. Basically each gift is worth 10 credits which translate to $1 per gift. There are just so many useless virtual gifts to choose from. You can buy virtual birthday cakes, flowers, disco balls, cell phones, pink poodle skirts, corndogs, Jell-o molds, and signs that say “Kick Me.” It truly gives a whole new meaning to the saying that it’s the thought that counts.

Another feature that Facebook offers has to do with being able to remain anonymous to outsiders while still being able to communicate with your friends in your network. You have the option of being able to adjust your privacy settings so that only those who are in your network can have access to your detailed profile and other information that you post. If someone is looking for you but isn’t in your network, they won’t be able to see your personal information. Facebook, will then give that person the option to friend you, and then if you say yes, then you can begin talking with each other. The only other concern I have in relation to security issues is the fact that anyone can create their online persona and pretend to be a 13 year-old boy trying to friend a 13 year-old girl, but in reality the 13 year-old boy is really a 47 year-old sexual predator who belongs on the registered sex offender list. That is just something to keep in mind.

Well, even with all of my whining about Facebook I actually do see the value in being a part of a social networking site. We have lived in five states in twelve years of marriage and we have met many people along the way. We have our old college friends who are living in Massachusetts, and then we have all the others that we have met during our time living in all of those other states. Then of course, we have our relatives. In the old days when everyone lived near each other, we would be seeing those relatives at least six times per year, or a lot more often depending on where they fell within the food chain. But now between friends, relatives, and business acquaintances, we know people who are living in California, Connecticut, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Georgia, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Texas, and New Jersey. We also have very good friends who moved back to India last year and another set of friends who are moving back to France after living here for three years.

So now, I can see between, school, family, dealing with a hyper Wheaten Terrier, and driving my kids around, I don’t have time to pick up the phone and say hello to everyone! Also, when talking with our friends in India and France, it is definitely easier to speak with them via a social networking site versus the phone. There are some language barriers present that make it difficult to converse with them in person so to try to talk to them on the phone could become frustrating for all parties. Also, we are definitely not going to be able to fly out to India or France and see them every year, or even every three years, but if we can keep in touch with each other via Facebook then that would be a positive. Being able to see pictures of their children and hear about what is going on with their lives and being able to respond in closer to real time instead of having to hear about it from the dreaded annual Christmas letter is much more meaningful. I guess it is just the stupidity that goes along with being a member of Facebook that really bothers me. I don’t want to have 350 friends in my social network and have to keep up with their lives. I don’t want to meet my cousin’s new girlfriend by friending her on Facebook. I also don’t want to send virtual gifts to people, nor do I want to receive any. I will say that nothing beats a face-to-face conversation, or a video conference, or even a telephone call. However, Facebook can be the tool to enhance your relationships rather than have Facebook run them.

Online Communities – Friendships, Facilitators, or Both?

I was able to read about FledgeWing after tracking down its web site and scrolling through to see what it was they were trying to offer. The link that was on our virtual classroom board was not working so I had to search on my own. I only bring this up because as much as I love technology, this is a prime example of how when it doesn’t work it can cause problems if you rely on it too heavily to complete an assignment. Anyway, I left the FledgeWing site with much intrigue. I graduated with a degree in marketing from Northeastern University in Boston, and if you are not familiar with Northeastern, its 100 year-old co-op program is considered to be one of the largest and most innovative in the world. When I was a student there, I gained experience in fields that helped me to not only decide what I wanted to do (advertising and marketing), but more importantly what I didn’t want to do – accounting!! Basically you would go to school for five years and during that time period you would alternate between taking classes and working at a job related to your major. One of the best parts – you would get paid!! Even better – you could graduate with a full-time job which is truly a novel idea in these crazy times.

At Northeastern we had academic advisors and co-op advisors. The co-op advisors worked with the companies that Northeastern has partnered with for years to try to place students in a job. They also spread the word to other companies about the co-op program to try to create new partnerships with other large and even smaller companies alike. For the students it meant getting contacts and actually going on interviews like a grownup person and landing jobs in our intended fields. It is definitely better than putting lifeguard at the local pool on your resume, but maybe not as much fun. But now with FledgeWing, entrepreneurial students can have access to case studies, mentors, jobs, and networking events that bring them together with professional entrepreneurs and investors.  Northeastern has jumped on the bandwagon of FledgeWing and is one of 155 universities that sponsor this site. Some of the other schools include Dartmouth, Stanford, Babson, and Columbia. This is definitely a win-win for students and universities as the academic experience is enhanced by adding a real world component that helps students market themselves in the job world.

Remember Northeastern drop-out Shawn Fanning? His founding of Napster paved the way for the new and improved (and legal Napster) as well as other sites that offer music downloads. Fanning wasn’t meant for co-op. He was meant to create innovative companies such as SNOCAP, another digital music site as well as his latest, Rupture, a social networking site for gamers.  If he didn’t have the help of his uncle in getting Napster off the ground then he probably would have needed the connections that FledgeWing offers.

But enough about FledgeWing. My assignment was to track down another online community, evaluate it, and apply what I learned from “Neighboring in Netville” to the site I picked. If I were really cool then I would have picked a hip site like Fanning’s Rupture. However, since I tend to be practical and I am writing my thesis about family communication patterns of households with ADHD children, I looked for an online community for parents who have ADHD children. It wasn’t that hard; right away I found Facebook.com/adhdmoms. At first I thought it was an online community for mothers who have ADHD, which could have been helpful as I sometimes feel like I have ADHD given everything I have to juggle. If I could only sit for one hour straight! The site is actually a community for mothers who have ADHD children of their own, which between my son and my thesis, could be helpful. On this site moms have access to vent and share experiences about dealing with their ADHD children and all of the issues that go with it as well as receive professional advice. This community gives moms a resource where they can communicate with other mothers who understand what they are going through. For example, the discreditable stigma that goes along with this condition sometimes makes it more difficult to explain what exactly is going on with the child who is affected by this disorder. I would have to say that having to deal with a child with ADHD can be pretty draining so if this community can give me advice on how to better handle the situation, then I am all for it. I don’t want to make friends with these people; I just want some expertise. My idea of a community is that it brings people together based on location or similar interests. There has to be a common interest and you almost have to share a passion for a particular subject or activity for the community to work. However, I don’t equate that with friendship. I think that maybe the NET-L in Netville helped those who were reticent to break the ice in terms of meeting others, but I don’t think the reason friendships were formed was because they happened to live in the same neighborhood. NET-L was the facilitator that brought the friendships together. The Facebook.com/adhdmoms community is just another facilitator to bring me together with others who are dealing with an ADHD child. There is still only so much I would even talk about regarding my son’s condition in this community. If I really wanted to talk to someone, I would talk to a friend.

I Want My Family Time!!!

The latest study conducted by Center for the Digital Future at the Annenberg School for Communication is screaming that we need more family time and it’s the Internet’s fault!! One of the biggest concerns is that they found that “28% of people said that being wired has resulted in them spending less time with family members.” The problem is that this number was only at 11% back in 2006. Another statistic that is concerning is the amount of shared time that a family spends together. In 2005, the average number of hours that families spent together each month was 26 hours. The 2008 study shows the number dropped to only 18 hours. Finally, in 2000, 11% said people under 18 were spending too much time online as opposed to 28% in 2008.
Okay, so these numbers are concerning but I needed to find whether or not I could get the same kind of data elsewhere. I first turned to my old friend Computerworld which holds a very important place in my heart. This editorial award winner was one of my favorite technology magazines when I was working in advertising. First of all, they did quote some numbers from the Forbes article and actually let us know how many people were surveyed (2,000 people). They also quoted other numbers that were derived from the Consumer Internet Barometer which is a quarterly report put out by the nonprofit The Conference Board that surveys 10,000 households. Their study talked more about social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The overall gist from this study is that of Internet users, 43% of them use a social networking site, as opposed to 27% from a year ago. Aside from the fact that they are using these sites, more than half of the users are logging on once a day and the majority are using these sites several times in one day. I love the quote by Lynn Franco who is the director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. She says, “Online social networks are more than just a fad among the younger generation. They’ve become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. They’re an effective way to keep in touch with people, connect with friends and family, and network with colleagues.” Okay, I can kind of buy into that statement, especially if a person is trying to get back in touch with an old friend or network with old business associates (an essential now that there are no jobs and the economy is in the toilet, but that is a different discussion). What I can’t buy into are the number of users who friend maybe 300 people that they don’t really know so that it becomes a contest of how many friends one has versus the quality of friends.
I also can’t stand the amount of personal data that is being thrown out there for everyone to see. It goes back to my argument of breaking the rules of Social Penetration Theory. People are self-disclosing information on these websites that they may not necessarily disclose to a friend. For example, my cousin and her husband are adopting a baby. Detailed information is splattered all over Facebook. Yes, they are excited and they should be as this has been a long road for them. However, I really don’t want to hear about it through Facebook. I want to talk to them and listen to their stories about how they got to that point and have some real face time. I want to see the excitement on their seven-year old daughter’s face as she talks about this new addition. I also don’t like that Facebook is not really instantaneous in the way that face to face communication is. The article that we read for class by Kiesler, et al talked about not being able to regulate feedback. Another point they made had to do with what they called dramaturgical weakness. Seriously, do you think that an emoticon is nearly as effective as seeing non-verbal cues in real time, in live action? What about actually hearing the tone of a person’s voice?
Another point this article made was that people were more uninhibited when they communicated using a computer. They also stated that even though people felt more embarrassed when meeting in person, they actually ended up liking each other more. I definitely agree with both of these points, but they didn’t specifically talk about those are communication reticent. I remember an article that we had to read in our quantitative research class where the purpose was to “develop and validate a measure of affect for using communication channels.” One of the findings was that those who are communication reticent were helped by CMC in that they experienced reduced anxiety and had more time to prepare what they wanted to say especially in the case of e-mail. This is a very good thing. This article is entitled Development of the Affect for Communication Channels Scale and was authored by Kelly and Keaten. It can be found in the Journal of Communication 57 (2007) 349-365.

Okay, so I found the Annenberg information in the Computerworld article as well as well as other data from the Consumer Internet Barometer. I also have information from the Kiesler article and Kelly and Keaten, but I still needed to look further. Another study was published in CyberPsychology & Behavior (October 2007, 10(5): 640-644. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9975). Sook-Jung Lee and Young-Gil Chae conducted a survey of 222 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade Korean children. The study was two-fold and examined the following: “(a) whether children’s Internet use influences declines in family time and family communication and (b) how parental mediation techniques are related to children’s online activities.” I didn’t have access to the full article, but what they found was the “total time using the Internet was related to perceived declines in family time but not related to family communication. The influence on the Internet on family time and family communication differed by the type of children’s online activities.” The study said perceived family time declined with Internet use, not family time. It also said that family communication was not affected. In addition, it factored the type of children’s online activities. I would like to compare the full results from this study with the full results from the Annenberg School’s study.

I say even without the Internet, social networking sites, and Twitter we could use more family time! I say who has that much time for the Internet or television???? In my family we mostly eat breakfast in shifts, hardly ever eat lunch together and we are lucky if we get the family dinner in 3 times per week. We have cable but we hardly ever watch television. We don’t use the Internet for fun as much as we use it to access information or shop online. I have a Facebook account that I barely use. We pretty much live in our car. My husband and I have two children who are nine and eight, and they have A LOT of activities. He works full time and I am in school, but between the two of us we help them with their homework, help them with piano, take them to piano lessons, basketball in the winter, soccer in the spring, all combined with year round swimming that requires them to be in the pool 3-4 times per week. Plus we make time for our Wheaten Terrier who needs to be walked twice per day or else she will be way too hyper. Oh, and we just got back from a weekend swim meet in Indiana. Whew!!! We do make sure we spend our Sunday mornings completely together rollerblading with our dog. That is our time, where nobody can interrupt us and we can focus on our family. When that one hour block is over, it is back to reality of homework, swimming, piano, etc. But there are so many families like mine. There are many families who are living the same life that my family is living. They may even have more kids and even more activities.
Okay, so the point I am trying to make is that I think there are other factors that could contribute to stress and the family breakdown. One of the quotes from that came from Michael Gilbert, senior fellow at Center for the Digital Future was “In the last two decades, there has been an erosion in family dinners together that take place without gadgets.” “There’s reduced cohesion, reduced communication.” I say turn off the gadgets!!! Turn off the television! Turn off the cell phones! Turn off the pager (unless you are a doctor)!! Don’t even answer your land line (if you still have one). When we are eating dinner together, we do not let any gadget interrupt our time together. We don’t have the television on during dinner and we never answer the phone. Doing so would only negatively impact the time we are trying to spend together. If our son is telling us a story about what happened at school, or what went on in swim practice, we want to hear it. If our daughter is dealing with some drama in her eight-year old life, we want to be there. If families are living in their cars driving their kids around, that is the perfect time to talk. I hear more about what is going on in my kids’ lives when I am taking them to school, piano, or the grocery store. The trick is to not let them have a gadget in the car while trying to talk to them.
In summary, I think it is all about balance and time management. I find nothing wrong with going online and using social networking sites or playing games. With all of the stress in people’s lives it is just another way to unwind. The world is a much more complex place versus what it was 20 years ago. However, It is when the Internet completely consumes your life at the expense of your family members, then it becomes a problem.

Technological Determinism

I am absolutely, positively determined to have the most advanced technology versus anyone in the whole universe. My life will be more enhanced, more organized, more socialized, and just plain better. Those were the thoughts that raced through my mind when I first read the term technological determinism. Joking aside, in order to really think about this definition, I dusted off my Theories of Human Communication book to see if I could get at the root of the definition. In this book, Littlejohn and Foss discuss ontology – the “branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of being,” focusing on the nature of social interaction. One of the important issues of ontology is answering the question as to what extent people are making their own decisions, or as they describe real choices. The two points of view that are considered are whether or not a person is a pragmatist or a determinist. A person is a pragmatist if the belief is that humans are active decision makers who can control their destinies. On the other side of the spectrum are the determinists who believe that prior conditions will cause human behavior, and that humans are passive and reactive individuals.
In terms of defining technological determinism, this theory examines the relationship between technology and its effect on society. This theory states that technology will determine social change including the degree of that change. Relating this theory back to the deterministic way of thinking, the person would not be an active participant in creating change. The person would act according to the conditions set before them. In this case, a change in technology would cause a change in the social conditions. One of the issues with this way of thinking is that it is seems to take an all or nothing approach. The technology, which technological determinists consider as being autonomous, would cause the social change, giving little regard to other factors such as economic, political, or religious factors that could also contribute to a particular change. The theory forces simplistic thinking meaning there could be more complex reasons for a particular change.
In terms of applying this theory to a particular technology, a well known example is the Segway. The Segway was first unveiled in 2001 after months and months of hype. Before giving away any real hint of what the Segway was going to be, Ginger (its code name) was touted as the “it” that would change a person’s life. Ginger was going to change transportation in a way that no one could ever imagine. The question, what was that mode of transportation going to look like? The public speculated that Ginger could be some kind of personal jet pack, or something straight out of the Jetsons. This Segway was supposed to present itself as something so different and fascinating that it would cause society to change. There was so much hype with this product that once it was unveiled, it proved to be disappointing. The Segway was expensive, it was bulky, and in many places it has been banned from sidewalk use. The annual sales target of 40,000 units was too ambitious, as only 50,000 is the total number that has been shipped since its inception. The Segway is a niche product with a high price tag (starting price at approximately $5,000), and it did not catch on the way the company thought it would. However, there are many Segway tours in bigger cities and vacation spots such as Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Naples, Florida. Critics have said that one of the biggest issues with the Segway is that it was a “solution looking for a problem.” The Segway was supposed to change society as we knew it, but that kind of change never occurred.
Another technology that was kind of plopped in front of us and did cause a change is Facebook. Founded by students at Harvard, the original intent was to allow college students at the university to stay connected with each other. Its usage quickly expanded to include other colleges in the Boston area, the rest of the Ivy League schools, and Stanford. It quickly spread to high schools and finally to anyone who is age 13 or older. Social networking and “friending” people that you may or may not know is the catalyst behind this phenomenon. Facebook enjoys over 200 million active members worldwide. Its mission as stated on its web site is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to keep in touch with their friends, upload pictures, and share videos. Where technological determinism comes into play is where the technology was disclosed and people took that technology and began to change the way they communicate. I have a Facebook account that I never visit. I don’t have the time to deal with it and I don’t really care that much about keeping in contact with 300 people that I know from a friend of a friend, of a friend. I try to be private in my life and will only be open with close friends. I recently ran into a former classmate of mine and she told me she got engaged. She said that if I had a Facebook account and used it then I would have found out when everybody else did. I told her, that if she felt her news was so important, she would pick up the phone and call people. Facebook should not be a substitute for face to face or telephone communication. It should enhance what we have, not replace it.

What is Fair?

This is a short one today. I have two kids and they are nine and eight years old. My eight year old went to kindergarten with a little boy who died from complications of meningitis this past Wednesday. We are going to his funeral today. My daughter is wise beyond her years. She said, “Why would somebody who is crazy and evil like Osama bin Laden be allowed to live and a dear, sweet, wonderful little boy have to die?” That is the question that cannot be answered with simple words.

Saying No or Caving In

This is a test blog but to make it more interesting, it is a story of an actual event that took place last night. My kids brought home a puppy from camp for the night. The deal is that you take home the puppy and they hope you make the puppy a permanent fixture in your home. My kids, especially my son fell in love with the dog. We already have a dog. We have a beautiful, loving, Wheaten Terrier. Our dog did get along with this puppy. At First. The whole family fell in love with the dog. Our son begged us and begged us, trying to sell us on the virtues of owning another pet. I kept looking at my husband trying to send a silent signal that I was caving. He looked back at me and he was caving too. I wanted to cave and say yes. But then, the puppy growled too much. She was eating her bone and I touched her (we can do that with our dog all the time), and she jumped up and bit me. She broke the skin and drew blood. I ended up having to get a tetanus shot this morning just to be sure. The bite killed the deal. There would be no puppy being added to this household at this time. As my husband said, there are just so many dogs that if there is one little thing you don’t like then it isn’t worth it. Will this dog grow up to be a biter? Was it just being territorial because she had never had her own bone? Did she like our dog, or did she want to hurt her? We won’t know any of those answers because we are not getting that dog. There are many others who need a home. There are so many that it is worth taking the time to make sure that you get the right one and that the process doesn’t end up biting you in the you know where.