Posted by: lunacouture | March 18, 2008

The Expansion of Technology- Week 8 Response

The first five chapters of the book Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold explains digital advancement in today’s society.  Rheingold initially talks about cell phone communities amongst young students in Japan.  He describes text messaging as a simplified communication process in which symbols are used more frequently than words.  He suggests that text messaging is inexpensive and practical from a technical point of view, as it can pass on data at a faster rate.  The author describes the SMS process as a means of mass communication amongst groups, forming a distinct culture within itself.              

Rheingold suggests that text messaging is not as common in the US as in other countries. One reason for this could be that US cell phone providers don’t have cost effective mobile service plans, as you pay both when you send and receive the SMS. Providers have recently started to change their approach, including a fixed amount of free text messages in the user monthly plan.  Another reason US culture may not be suitable for text messaging is that Americans tend to want more details when coordinating an event, such as meeting time, place, and sometimes dress code. Other cultures are more informal on that respect and may simply decide on a time to meet, while working out the other details later. Text messages work well in these circumstances because people can send up to the minute updates.   

Rheingold also highlights the importance of people cooperating with each other via internet.  He discusses the notion of online networking by using internet as a tool for both individuals and businesses.  The book talks about the legal problems brought about by using peer-to-peer networks such as Napster, which made file sharing possible.  Although file sharing has been prohibited for the most part, the number of illegal downloads still remains high.  The Washington Post tech blog on March 17 reports that internet providers suggest charging a small fee to allow unlimited file sharing downloads.  Not everyone agrees with this plan because it would cause problems to companies such as iTunes or people who never download music online.   

Even though I understand this point, I personally think that charging a small fee would be a great solution to this much debated problem.  Some of the copyright protection laws are taking everything to the extreme and risk stunting the growth of artists in the next few years.  I was pleased to read in Larry Lessig’s blog from March 3rd which reported that the band Nine Inch nails put their latest album under a Creative Commons license.  I feel more bands should follow this example, as it would make music more accessible to listeners.  Bands are likely to generate higher revenues when going on tour if more people can savor their music.  Creative Commons seems to be a great idea because it gives artists the ability of choosing the how they wish to copyright their work, while concurrently allowing the public to access it.               

The notion suggested by Rheingold of technology touching every aspect of our lives is noticeable with cell phones.  Most cell phones nowadays come with GPS service, email access, text messaging, MMS and a series of other functions. The iPhone is a perfect example of an avant guard cell phone that can do an endless number of things.  The Mobile Monday announced an event on its blog that was held on February 11th.  The event discussed how eventually numerous functions will be carried out from a mobile device.  Only a decade ago, no one would have imagined this to be possible.    

The idea of using technology for almost everything in life is one of the main points of Smart Mobs.  While the book is very interesting, I find it a little perplexing.  Rheingold’s incredible detail foreshadows a world in which technology will be applied to every aspect of our lives. It looks to me like there needs to be a limit on how technology is adopted in our lives, before it begins to backfire on us.  The GigaOM blog from March 7th discusses the notion that technology may be moving too quickly and spinning out of our control. The blog points out that often people invest in technological innovations, which end up becoming obsolete within a short time frame.  One of the examples cited in the blog is people paying for Ethernet installment when shortly after wireless devices arise everywhere.   

The impression I got from the book was that people have an uncontrolled desire to want to improve the quality of life, without being able to handle the changes.  While each individual technological commodity has definitely made our lifestyles easier, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has made it better.  If technology continues to grow at this rate, it will soon get to the point that it outgrows us.  Innovation brings about simplified solutions, along with a series of problems.  People will soon take everything for granted and reach the point where they can’t perform everyday functions because they are too reliant on technology.  In the long run, this will cause the quality of life to deteriorate overall.  You can already see hints of this by observing the way that people socialize with each other.  Face to face interaction seems to occur much less frequently than it used to.               

This book has a lot of similarities with other books we’ve been reading throughout the semester.  Smart Mobs almost seems to be a cohesive summary of all the other books, as it contains elements and points discussed in each one.    The Search mentioned that technology would make searching possible in every aspect of life, including everyday tasks such as comparing products at a super market to find the most competitive prices.  In Smart Mobs Rheinland mentions the importance of using the mobile phone to carry out everything and search for what is needed.   

Smart Mobs also relates to the book Naked Conversations because it explains the importance of using the net as a social venue and networking opportunity.  This is similar to the notion set forth in Naked Coversations, were authors Israel and Scoble emphasized the importance of turning information into one big conversation on the blogosphere.  The idea in both books is to use technology to spread information to as many people as possible in a short amount of time.  By making conversations accessible to everyone, people are likely to find numerous opportunities to network and chances of enhancing their businesses.  

We the Media differentiates a bit in subject matter to Smart Mobs because it deals with the idea of creating the media as opposed to using it.  We the Media dicusses grassroots journalism, while Smart Mobs seems to focus more on how people make use of technology.  In a way, the two books have a connection because it would be impossible to create media without being able to use it.  One definite similarity is their view on cell phone technology.  I recall Gillmore pointing out in his book the importance of using the SMS to communicate and diffuse information.  I am certain that Rhiengold would agree with this idea, as he mentions text messaging often in his book.   

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