Category Archives: Techno Kitty

Apple 1976

pbsthisdayinhistory:

April 1, 1976: Apple is Founded

On this day in 1976, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple, a business dedicated to selling personal computers.The three founders worked in Jobs’ parents’ garage and developed their first product, Apple I. The following July, Apple introduced 200 personal computers to the market and sold them for $666.66. 

Throughout the years, Apple has gained its title as a global leader in the consumer electronics industry due to its iconic products such as the iPhone, iPod, iMac, and iPad. 

In 2011, the world had to say goodbye to Apple’s leading force – Steve Jobs. Take a moment to remember the life of Steve Jobs with PBS NewsHour’s special report

Image (from top to bottom): Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs (Tony Avelar/Bloomberg via Getty Images), An early Apple Macintosh computer c. 1981 (Bertrand LAFORET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

rhetoricat’s web detritus

If anyone is interested, I set up a tumblr blog a while back and I’ve recently started putting short posts up on it. It’s mostly just link, photo, and video sharing; but if you’re interested, you can find it here: rhetoricat’s web detritus.

Verizon Has Blocked Access To 4chan

The notoriously awful 4chan, home of Anonymous, has been blocked by Verizon. (From what I understand this is only on their wireless network, but I’m not entirely sure.) Regardless, as much as I truly hate them and their misogynistic tenets and peculiar ideas about what constitutes “lulz.,” I can’t condone any type of censorship. The following article on Gizmodo provides more information.

Verizon Has Blocked Access To 4chan, But What Are They Gonna Do About It? – Verizon 4chan – Gizmodo.

To read more about Anonymous and their oh-so-unimpressive exploits, check out my paper, “Healing as (We)blog in a ‘Show Tits’  or ‘GTFO’ World”. (Not my best work, but it gives a general overview.) You might also want to check out the digital version of my poster session–“A Rape Culture in Cyberspace”.

Getting Things Done: Part One

For some time now I’ve been trying to implement the system known as “GTD” or “Getting Things Done.” Created by productivity expert (isn’t it awesome that we’ve become so incredibly busy that we now need experts in how to get things done productively?) David Allen, GTD has been written about exhaustively in the blogosphere as well as in print and electronic media. In fact, after the publication of Allen’s book Getting Things Done, the concept went viral, moving swiftly from the intended audience–business professionals–to the world of IT and other techno-geeks like me and then continuing to expand outward. Not surprisingly, given its popularity (which has reached almost cult-like status) among the techno-geek population, GTD has inspired a multitude of software programs and GTD-centric blogs. Since I read Allen’s book about three years ago, I have been trying (on and off) to implement the system with limited and certainly sporadic success. Given my research on cognition and writing and given what I’ve read  in the scholarship that explains how we process information in decidedly different ways when writing as opposed to thinking and speaking, I thought that writing about my process might prove helpful. At the same time, it seems that exploring the cognitive value of GTD, which relies primarily on writing to achieve maximum effectiveness, might prove useful in giving me the final push that I need to successfully integrate the system into my life.

To begin, a brief explanation of the system seems in order. GTD relies on the principle that we have limited storage space in our brain and that much of that space is being inefficiently used. Our “wet” hard drives, or brains, are filled with information that could be stored elsewhere. This information could be as mundane as “I need bread” or as significant as “how am I going to get tenure.” (Remember–I am looking at this from the perspective of an academic.) Allen asserts that while we have all of these ideas bouncing in and out of our consciousness and being stored in our subconscious, we are unable to focus and actually accomplish the tasks needed to achieve these task and goals. His solution: write it all down. Sound familiar, fellow academics? And when he says “write it all down,” he means “write it ALL down”–every single thing in your brain no matter how small or large. Once everything is out of your head, it gets processed and organized into simple tasks, projects, goals, etc. Once everything is organized, you set up a system to keep it that way by continuing to collect information and process it on a regularly scheduled basis.  [For a real introduction to GTD, check out Merlin Mann's Getting Started with "Getting Things Done" (which contains a multitude of other links and posts), David Allen's definition of GTD, the Business Week excerpt from Getting Things Done, and/or Wikipedia article on Getting Things Done]

Early Attempts to Get Things Done

My firsts attempts at implementing GTD included the filling of pages and pages on a legal pad, creating a set of GTD folders in my email inbox and on my computer desktop, and experimenting with a seemingly endless array of GTD applications. My first crucial error: getting overly absorbed in finding the right GTD software app. I spent so much time searching for, downloading, and experimenting with apps that I totally forgot to implement the system. To be fair, this is not an unusual problem for me. I do get entranced by new technologies and spend an abundance of time finding the “right” one. However, to be equally fair, this inevitably works to my advantage, helping me to better understand user needs and ultimately “hacking” a system so that it works best for me and in the case of teaching technologies, for fellow instructors and our students. Unfortunately, this was not the case with GTD. I couldn’t decide on one application and attempted to use them all simultaneously resulting in a system that I could not depend on. My mind was not at ease. On the contrary, it seemed more confused than ever.

Once I abandoned the quest for the perfect application, the confusion improved and I was able to implement some of the techniques. This is fairly typical for me. I am a self-help junkie (though only for self-help books that focus on organization and time management). I am a naturally disorganized person, which results in an unhealthy fascination with and extreme dedication to being organized. As a result I am an obsessive micromanager and constantly struggling macromanager. In some situations, this is quite beneficial. When it comes to organization as a teacher and in some ways as an academic, my detail-oriented nature is helpful. When it comes to overall peace of mind and organization in other aspects of my world, it results in constant struggle. Still, my continued devotion to learning about organizational strategies has been beneficial; with each system I learn about, I extract at least a few techniques and integrate them into my everyday life. Each system that I read about and attempt to implement improves my level of organization. GTD has been similarly helpful. At the same time it has been more frustrating than the other systems I’ve attempted. Specifically, the other systems seemed in many ways counter-intuitive and ultimately incompatible with my personality and my profession (most systems were created for 9-5 business folks not academics). On the other hand, GTD seems quite intuitive and meshes both with my personality and profession. So, why is it so difficult for me to integrate it into my life?

Unrealistic Expectations

Ultimately, the most difficult part of the implementation process is the “Jesus factor.” I expect the system to save me from all the difficulties of my life if I simply accept it as my savior. (Caveat: I know this isn’t really how Christians believe that people are “saved through Christ” but that it is the misconception, thus it fits well with my own. So, please, no offense to Christians meant.) In other words, the work part of it gets overlooked, especially the reality that it takes time to effectively implement any system. I want to jump straight past the collection of everything and just start using the system. As a result, I still have a lot of brain space filled with unimportant information or at least information that could be more effectively stored elsewhere. One aspect of this relates back to my previous issue–I can’t decide on what tools I should use. So, I just chose one and jumped straight into using it. My most recent attempt follows this model.

Merging Unrealistic Expectations into Software Applications

Now, on the one hand, I seem to have found a fairly good software application and am having some success in using it. Things is a task management/to do/organization application for Mac that is designed using the GTD methodology. Software designed based on an organizational system isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. I know that at the very least software has been designed for the Franklin Covey system.  GTD, however, has gone (as one of my favorite tv characters would say) “crazy viral.” In other words, there are already tons of apps designed specifically for GTD and even more that have been hacked to use the methodology. As with all applications, this has been done to varying degrees of success. Since I’ve tried out quite a few of them, I feel fairly confident in recommending Things.

Ultimately, Things allows me to create tasks on the fly (using a keyboard shortcut), set up projects, tag tasks based on what I need to complete them, include notes for the task, assign due dates, set up recurring tasks, and set areas of focus. So far I’m not utilizing Things to its utmost potential. For example, Things allows you to set up “horizons of focus” –areas of responsibility in your life. Right now I’m using tags to divide tasks by my various roles (e.g., “teaching,” “scholarship,” etc.). I am, however, collecting to do items as they occur to me (at least while I’m at my computer, which is most of the time) and filing them under projects as is appropriate. The projects that I have currently defined might be more accurately represented as “horizons of focus” under the GTD methodology. For example, I have “English 420 Spring 2010″ as a project, which is rather broad, as are other projects such as “job search” and “professional development.” Still, for right now these seem to be serving their purpose and since time is an issue, I’ll continue to use them until I have some extra time to learn the other ways of organizing these tasks/projects. One of the functions that I find most useful is the tagging feature. I use David Allen’s “contexts” for these. Specifically, I tag tasks based on where I need to be in order to complete them. “Do laundry,” for instance, would be tagged “@home,” while “pick up dry cleaning” would be tagged “@errands” and “pay credit card bill” would be tagged “@online.” Using those tags, I can sort items that I need to do  when I actually can do them. This keeps me from constantly looking at items like “do laundry” while I’m in my office on campus or at a coffee shop.

So far, so good. More to come… In my next post I’ll discuss how GTD works for academics and is particularly adaptable to organizing writing and research.

The Library of Congress Working the OS Angle

Great news from The Library of Congress–they’re exploring ways to release open source software. Check it out on their website here.

Friendship, Community and Knowledge in a CMC World

I just had a discussion with my dissertation committee about issues concerning personal blogs and how we define knowledge. We also discussed the debates regarding whether or not community can be established online, followed by a brief discussion of micro-blogging (Twitter and Facebook). So, it was interesting to see an email from The Chronicle of Higher Education linking to an article discussing these very issues.

The article, “Faux Friendship”, left me with a sense of dismay. I had just been talking about how personal experience is important knowledge, how community can be built online and successfully sustained, and how even micro-blogging provides us with a sense of connection to others. William Deresiewicz disagrees, falling under the umbrella of critics like Clay Calvert who refer to practices such as reading and writing blogs as “mediated voyeurism” and “mediated exhibitionism” respectively.  After a lengthy [which will be evidenced by my many quotations] discussion of the history and evolution of how we define friendship, Deresiewicz asserts that as a result of computer-mediated-communication, such as Facebook

the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook’s very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they’re not in the same place, or, rather, they’re not my friends. They’re simulacra of my friends, little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.

and that

Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves, rearranging the tokens of connection like a lonely child playing with dolls.

Oh, chicken little, the sky is not falling! It seems so crazy that these same diatribes continue to be written. Sing me a new one, will ya?

To give Deresiewicz credit, he does provide an interesting historical perspective, provides us with information about the evolution of friendships and community, and links it to cultural change. This is certainly a nice break from the usual bemoaning of the loss of “real” world interaction and the evils of technology. But those who fear that technology will be the end of things that we value are repeating the same refrain that we’ve heard for centuries. When the telephone was invented, people feared that we’d no longer talk in person.

The advent and increased use of the internet may seem to be a new fear but is really only a reinvention (pardon the pun) of an old one. People have always worried that technological advancements will cause irreperable harm. In actuality (or at least in my opinion), it is that we evolve as people, as cultures and societies, and our tools evolve with us. Or, perhaps more accurately, we evolve in tandem with one another. It’s more of an iterative process than a static exchange. Fearing or hating change doesn’t make it stop, nor should we want it to. Growth is a beautiful thing, and we must make choices to determine how that growth affects us. In other words, I don’t believe that we are cogs in a machine over which we have no power.

Interestingly enough, Deresiewicz doesn’t seem to have a problem with email. (Providing further evidence that we grow and adapt as technology changes.) In fact, he says

The most disturbing thing about Facebook is the extent to which people are willing—are eager—to conduct their private lives in public. “hola cutie-pie! i’m in town on wednesday. lunch?” “Julie, I’m so glad we’re back in touch. xoxox.” “Sorry for not calling, am going through a tough time right now.” Have these people forgotten how to use e-mail, or do they actually prefer to stage the emotional equivalent of a public grope? [emphasis mine]

and again

I thought that Facebook would help me feel connected to the friends I’d left behind. But now I find the opposite is true. Reading about the mundane details of their lives, a steady stream of trivia and ephemera, leaves me feeling both empty and unpleasantly full, as if I had just binged on junk food, and precisely because it reminds me of the real sustenance, the real knowledge, we exchange by e-mail or phone or face-to-face. [emphasis mine]

What, pray tell, is “real knowledge”? When we chat on the phone or see each other in the street, don’t we talk about mundanities, the minutiae of our lives? Why is it such a problem that we share this with multiple friends while online? How does this constitute “exhibitionism”?

A further claim that concerns me is

Finally, the new social-networking Web sites have falsified our understanding of intimacy itself, and with it, our understanding of ourselves. [...] So information replaces experience, as it has throughout our culture. [...] Posting information is like pornography, a slick, impersonal exhibition.

This seems presumptuous. Has it “falsified our understandings” or has it changed them? What is the distinction and how does the author make it. Are information and experience mutually exclusive? Have we really “given our hearts to machines, and now we are turning into machines.” Is this really “[t]he face of friendship in the new century.”? Or is chicken little screaming his head off again?