Inquiry Project Beta

The year 2006 was a big one for American web designer Jack Dorsey, American internet entrepreneur Evan Williams, American software developer Noah Glass, and software engineer Biz Stone. The 21st day of March would be a day that changed the internet, the way people communication in cyberspace, and social media itself. By the time July of 2006 came around, the new social media site, Twitter had been launched. Twitter is a microblogging site where people send out “tweets” or a text message-like post that allows up to 140 characters. Twitter had 500 million users by 2012 and the following year it was one of the most visited websites in the world. It has even spawned another social media site called Vine. Vines are just six seconds that people film and edit but have become very popular, very fast. With the limited amount of characters allotted for a tweet calls for an augmented language or slang. For the tweet makes some semblance of sense, this welcomes acronyms and shortenings that is universally accepted and can fit into the 140 character frame. So people may believe that Twitter is making people dumb because the social media site forces you to condense your thoughts in an unreasonable and unnecessary way. There is also a common misconception that tweets have a solidity to them, that they are just pointless details about people’s lives. Some probably think that idle teenagers sit staring at their phones, updating their Facebook status and tweeting about their favorite apparel store. Twitter is more than empty chatter and funny memes. Twitter is able to connect someone from D.C. to someone living in Dubai. People are able to promote themselves and their business, keep up with what their favorite celebrity is doing, and just knowing what their friends are up to by scrolling through their timeline. Twitter makes it easier for people to stay in their friends lives without really being there. Communication has merged into a whole new dimension that has affirmatively affected society. Since the invention of Morse code to the telegraph to the telephone to cellphones, how we communicate is becoming more efficient when we previously wrote on cave walls and grunted. Accepting that Twitter is a mindless website made to melt brains, would be to ignore the future and what is to come. Twitter and other social media like it has opened a door to something I’m sure many people thought to be impossible. The world is changing and it is taking the way we communicate, with it. Instead of reading the newspaper in the morning, people are checking their Twitter feeds and checking out what happened last night on Facebook. They are looking on Pinterest for recipes, opposed to going to Grandma. It is a different time, and we either have to fall in line with what is new or be left in the dust. With the growing number of social media sites like Twitter and their increasing number of users, there has also been a significant impact on society and communication in this era.

Twitter is so most useful and popular social media site of present day. As stated by Michele Marius, author of The Growing Impact of Twitter, Twitter was valued at 8 billion United States dollars when this source was published last year in 2013. Marius lays out a broad overlay of Twitter. As mentioned earlier, Twitter is a “microblogging” site but is said to be more convenient than an actually blog. Marius informs us that while standards blogs may take hours to set, which involves setting a theme, maybe connecting the blog to your other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and making sure the blog is aesthetically pleasing to anyone who visits the site, Twitter is much simpler. “A tweet can be rattled off in seconds,” making the media handy and user-friendly. Instead of sending out one massive blog post when you have the time, Twitter allows you to send out a bunch of smaller blog posts, whenever you feel like it. Like Facebook, Twitter is an app and can be scanned quickly, enabling you to retweet, favorite, and send out your own tweet. There is also the real-time factor that plays into Twitter with Marius explaining “…which when coupled with the immediacy of the communication, can create a greater sense of community…” Individuals can feel like they are a part that makes a whole just by being on Twitter, knowing what their friends are doing and feeling connected. There has not been a tool like that since Facebook, where it is socially acceptable to post only one status update per day. Marius concludes by acknowledging that Twitter has indeed changed and “noticeable impact on how we communicate and even on how and where we turn for information,” referring to the fact that news shows are not the only conduit to receiving news anymore.

In a preface of sorts, Dhiraj Murthy tells us of a play written by John Dent called The Telegraph or A New Way of Knowing Things from 1795 in his article, Towards a Sociological Understanding of Social Media: Theorizing Twitter. The play is focused on a man very enthused by the invention of the telegraph. This man, Sir Peter Curious, is concerned that his wife, Lady Curious, may by cheating on him and he would like to use the telegraph to spy on her. The telegraph was a bit of a controversial piece of technology, it having the function of transmitting and receiving messages over long distances. If you were able to decode the messages, there would be no privacy between the sender and receiver. The telegraph can be seen as the first technological advancement that allowed people to peek into other’s lives without them knowing, which is obviously invasive in this case. When Sir Peter becomes an owner of a telegraph, this leads to the confessions of many people that work for him like the gardener, housekeeper, and the butler who was stealing bottles of champagne, for fear of being caught by the telegraph. The telegraph from the 18th century was the beginning of something bigger and probably something a lot of people didn’t see coming. Murthy notes that there a few similarities between the telegraph and the social media site Twitter, saying that both were controversial in their respective eras, sent short messages, and “a means to dumb down society and the harbinger of letter writing’s death.” Having a conversation over Twitter, excluding direct messages, essentially means having no privacy. Murthy describes this as sitting in a room with a closed door and not knowing who was going to come through and who is ease-dropping. Twitter and the telegraph stack up in comparison, seeing as they both were new for their time and introduced a new way of communication. Twitter, as Murthy saw it, “shaped our social world” if not for its ancestors before it.

I look at the use and growth of Twitter as people willing to self-promote and put more of themselves out into today’s world. In 140 character or less, you are able to say whatever you want, whether it be how your day is going, an interesting news piece you would like to share, or just a picture you find intriguing and are able to post that and have many people see it. Maura Nevel writes in her article titled A Positive Effect of Twitter on Communication, that tweets very much have the capacity to be powerful, even though they are limited to 140 characters or less. Twitter being combined with “the simple transfer of information allowed by the Internet, experimentally” makes it powerful (Nevel ). Al Gore’s 2007 book, The Assault on Reason, prompted Nevel to revisit Twitter after hating the site the first time. Reading the book made Nevel realize how Twitter can actually inspire a change on the world. “How about Twestival, the “festival on Twitter,” which raised over $250,000 and brought worldwide public awareness to the global water crisis?  Even great news stories, like the plane in the Hudson River, is breaking first on Twitter.” Think back to the 1950’s when civilians only got one side of a news story. Now we are able to see things from every angle. From countries in conflict to celebrities just being controversial. Nevel links us to 10 memorable moments that occurred on Twitter with a marriage proposal topping the list to Jack Dorsey’s first tweet as number 10. Nevel claims that true democracy is possible when an ordinary person is able to participate in an extraordinary way. Of course, the previous statements do not blanket everyone, but for internet users, it is becoming more obvious of the amazing things people can do.

It has become common practice to do homework on the computer. It is normal to speak to a relative living in a different through Skype. It is routine to wake up to the sound of your phone buzzing rather than an alarm clock. The ways of the world are very different from what they were 40 or even 20 years ago. Doug Engelbart would say that we have become augmented. We have adapted to the technology around us. We are familiar with it, it has essentially become a part of us, so that we are on the same wavelength. Engelbart, in Augmenting Human Intellect, claims “Basic human capabilities for sensing stimuli, performing numerous mental operations, and for communicating with the outside world, are put to work in our society within a system–an H-LAM/T system–the individual augmented by the language, artifacts, and methodology in which he is trained.” I interpret this as humans becoming desensitized by the little things changing around us. According to Engelbart, “language” is one of the four basic classes when he talks about his general conceptual framework. Language is the way a person deciphers the world around them, using symbols and concepts to connect them in a way that individual can understand or “thinking.” Engelbart uses an aborigines as an example. Because they do not live for worldly possessions like us, it would be extremely difficult for an aboriginal to adapt or even accept our society. The brain needs to work up to certain problems. It may be hard to notice that we are always checking our email or checking Navigation for the fastest route to whenever we going. But this augmenting is all to improve effectiveness says Engelbart. It is safe to say that humans and technology are becoming more alike as technological advancements flourish. It is all about the process the brain takes to understand it all.

Yet is it okay for humans to be augmented like this? J. C. R. Licklider writes of a “symbiotic partnership” between man and man-made machines in Man-Computer Symbiosis. It appears that computers almost think for us. They anticipate our question in a search engine and provide recommendations from our searchers in the form of ads, which some people found troubling and meddlesome. When you follow a few people on Twitter, you are recommended to follow the people they follow as well as people similar to them. Licklider assures us that “any man-made system is intended to help man” because they were made by man. This makes sense because humans create these types of things to make life easier. Simple household appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine take a lot of the pressure off of household responsibility, and it is not until the machine is not there that we realize what a privilege it was. Licklider explains that where man falls short, a computer is able to pick up the slack and vice versa. For example, in an assembly line to put together car, the machines do not do all the work and the same goes for the machine. A person may set up a whole for the machine to fasten the wheel securely into place. A symbiotic relationship is heavily implied in Man-Computer Symbiosis, the only downfall being the differing speed and language barrier exists between human and machine. The aims for the man-computer symbiosis is to “solve preformulated problems” and “to bring computing machines effectively into processes of thinking that must go on in “real time,” time that moves too fast to permit using computers in conventional ways.” The biggest claim that Licklider seems to be dealing us is the compatibility that can exist between humans and computing devices.

With technology changing so fast, other aspects of life are bound to change as well. Technology has noticeably changed communication. N. Nayab gives us the run-down in How Communication Has Changed Amidst New Technologies. As mentioned earlier with the telegraph, there were quite a few ways that have come and gone when it comes to people interacting with one another. Nayab mentions the pictograph from ancient times. Which was followed by written language, which “were on stone and remained immobile” (Nayab 1). The 15th century was the age of paper, papyrus, and wax and the time when “documents” became mobile because of the invention of the printing press. The production of books, the Bible being the first if I recall correctly, and newspaper (for those who could afford it). The most current phenomenon is the digital age. It would be normal to assume that communication has lessened due to technology but it is actually the opposite. Instant messaging and video conferencing (business and pleasure) are just two of the methods people use to communicate, however the amount of time spent interacting has reduced (Nayab 1). Style within communication has evolved as a result of keywords shrinking to fit cellphones and tablets heralding language modifications and emoticons alike. Slang is hardly considered slang anymore and emoticons can tell a whole story, “communication has become concise and short, and the adage “brevity is the soul of wit” finds widespread implementation, though unintentionally” (Nayab 1). Like Maura Nevel said in her article about Twitter creating a true democracy, Nayab explains that it would be impossible to talk about how technology has evolved communication without mentioning how it has been democratized for the people. The ease of communication may be the best part, allowing people to chat virtually anywhere by texting and instant messaging. Nayab gives us a favorable comprehensive overlap of the change that occurred to technology.

In hindsight, people may be worried that all this technology is changing society for the worst. People are speaking less and less face-to face, while spending more time speaking in a third space or the virtual world. Nayab elaborates that people do indeed spend less time speaking together on average. According to Joseph Webster, author of The Effects and Impact of Mass Communication Technology on Society (An Analysis and Theory), believes that people view communicating as more of a leisure activity than something we need to do to survive. Shirley Turkle is accredited in the article, saying “we are lonely but fearful of intimacy,” which apparently leads us to crave our technological devices to fill that hole where human intimacy should be. These are fair points to make because they are true. It is practically impossible to leave the house and not see a person with their. How many times have you been driving and happen to look over and see someone staring at their phone? Regardless of what they’re doing, looking up directions or texting, this technology is an integral part of our lives. Even you, while reading this, have your Apple or Android product nearby and may have even checked it a couple of times. Having too many virtual friendships can become jeopardized as we lean more towards communicating via social media because we end up trying to preserve meaningful relationships when in reality, it is just too tough. Webster believes that our technology has gotten us into trouble “because of communications technology, we tend to forget the very purpose of the technology itself. The designed purpose of these inventions is to bring us closer together and not farther apart.” To let technology become the ruling factor in our lives would be to hinder the actual relationships people have, face-to-face. Webster argues that while technology is a new ad wonderful thing, it should be used in moderation so it will not control your life.

Computers and advanced technology are here to stay, so why not learn a little more about it. It is almost like computers and how they work are shrouded in mystery. What do the inner working contain? How does the computer do what it does? Well, Theodore Nelson, author of Computer Lib/ Dream Machines does not specifically answer that in the first section of this source. Instead he tells us why we should learn to use computers. Nelson claims, In Computer Lib that “any nitwit can understand computers,” and he has many people ask him where they can learn. For people, I would assume that you were not taught to use to computer. You simply got on, poked around, and figured it out. Sure, you did not know what you were doing at first and you may not have understood how the computer does what it does, but you sure know your way around the key pad and keyboard by now. Computers are easy to use and are meant to be that way. They are as easy to understand as cameras, and camera are pretty self-explanatory right (Nelson 303)? The author views computers as “versatile gizmos which may be turned to any purpose, in any style,” while dismissing the claim that computers are cold and scientific. In the past, it is understandable why people viewed computers this way. They use to be huge and clunky, practically lifeless. Now, computers and laptops are customizable and have certain features enhanced, like Beats by Dr. Dre speakers. Nelson also does not appreciate when people “hoard” their knowledge from the rest of the world by labeling it the “Computer Priesthood.” Everyone should have full knowledge of the computer and not just the computer people a.k.a. the experts (Nelson 304). Though it may not seem like a necessity to understand computer, nevertheless they’re here and they’re only going to multiply so we might as well hop on the wagon.

Technology is a manifestation of ourselves. This is from the second part of Theodore Nelson “book” Dream Machines as itlooks at the more abstract side of computers. “Technology is an expression of man’s dreams. If man did not indulge his fantasies, his thoughts alone would inhibit the development of technology itself.” Anything conceivable in the digital age, so anything we dream can become reality. Nelson mentions “ancient visionaries” who dreamed about men “flying about” and “seeing each other at great distance” alluding to airplanes and maybe Skype. This concept is similar to Man-Computer Symbiosis, when Licklider stated that man-made technology was intended to help man because man created it, technology is possible because man dreamed it. Media is compared to water, Nelson claiming we live in it like fish do water and we won’t be getting any from it for as long as man as on this Earth. It is hard to imagine a world where technology is not a part of it. Some people would find it down right unlivable and dreadful, including myself. And because computers can be used in some many different ways, some people may take advantage of media and/or become obsessed with it (Nelson 306). It is not new news that people may or may not be a bit too attached to their preferred media. It may cause individuals to become withdrawn, losing touch with reality. Nelson asserts that “the great American dream often becomes the great American novelty.” Computers were readily accepted when they first came out, and they have been on the upswing since. Companies like Apple, Intel, HP, etc. have to best their competitors and even themselves to stay in the game by making the newest, most functional item on the market. Therefore, what we dream of reflects on what the outcome will be, and in this case, technology.

The birth of compelling, multifunctional technology has made one hell of a footprint in modern history. There has been nothing like this before and it continues to evolve before our eyes. Communication now, when it used to be time consuming and idle, is now fast paced and in the palms of our hands. Twitter is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes down to the change in communication. It is just a little nugget in space, joined by the telegraph, cellphones, tablets, social media, etc. What are we to expect for the future that we do not already have? It has become possible to print organs through a 3-D printer, maybe in a few years we will have pillows that can catch our dreams and devices that allows us to interpret animal’s thoughts. Whatever it may be, it is bound to leave a mark, sane with social media. There is so much more to the proverbial iceberg than we are lead to believe, so I hope you are all fortunate enough to be able to experience it all.

(Planning on adding links, pictures, gifs later)

Works Cited

Engelbart, D. (1962, October 1). Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from http://www.dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-3906.html#6

Licklider, J. C. (1960, March 1). 1 Introduction. Man-Computer Symbiosis. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://groups.csail.mit.edu/medg/people/psz/Licklider.html

Marius, M. (2011, December 21). The growing impact of Twitter. ICT Pulse. Retrieved July 16, 2014, from http://www.ict-pulse.com/2011/12/the-growing-impact-of-twitter/

Murthy, D. (2012, September 24). Towards a Sociological Understanding of Social Media: Theorizing Twitter. VCU.edu. Retrieved July 4, 2014, from http://soc.sagepub.com.proxy.library.vcu.edu/content/46/6/1059.full.pdf+html

Nayab, N., & Edwards, G. (2013, July 31). How Has Technology Changed Communication?. Brighthub Project Management. Retrieved July 4, 2014, from http://www.brighthubpm.com/methods-strategies/79052-exploring-how-technology-has-changed-communication/

Nelson, T. (1974, January 1). Computer Lib/ Dream Machines. . Retrieved June 30, 2014, from http://www.newmediareader.com/book_samples/nmr-21-nelson.pdf

Nevel, M. (2009, April 20). A Positive Effect of Twitter on Communication. . Retrieved July 4, 2014, from http://www.regainyourtime.com/twitter-communication/

Webster, J. (2012, October 27). The Effects and Impact of Mass Communication Technology on Society (An Analysis and Theory). HubPages. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from http://josepher.hubpages.com/hub/The-Effects-and-Impact-of-Mass-Communication-Technology-on-Society-An-Analysis-and-Theory

 

 

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