Module 4: Minor Blog- The Smart Phone Market

Recently, I have come to a cross roads in life. For the longest time, three whole years to be exact, I was the proud owner of an LG Rumour flip phone. I first got it in highschool and it carried on with me into the first few years of University. I would get odd stares when I would pull it out of my bag, or a few scoffs accompanied by, “Are they still making those things?” But for me, it was the best little device. It never failed me, that LG Rumour, so trustworthy. The screen never cracked if I dropped it, (only once or twice), it was easy to text and served its purpose more than adequately. Despite the berating feedback, I loved my LG.

However, as most things do, my contract expired and I was in the business of looking for a new phone. I had it in my head that there were pretty much only two kinds of phones out there. A Blackberry or an Iphone. I have to say I didn’t want either of them. I wanted a phone as simplistic as my LG. A phone that would get the job done, allow me to text and call. I didn’t need any bells and whistles or other embellishments. However, that’s really all there is on the market. What they call smart phones. I can use the term but I’m not entirely sure what it means. Smart phones emulate the Iphone and the Blackberry, in that there is access to the internet, the boundaries between a stationary computer and a mobile device gradually becoming blurred. Josgrillberg explains this as a kind of digital empowerment, “The digital locus is than just one place among many overlapping ones that make “society breathable”. Therein people not only engage themselves in different prosaic social relations, but also work and do business.” There is more to a phone than being able to contact someone. It is about engaging oneself in society, both physical and virtual, in an entirely different way. I am forced into buying a smart phone, because this is the future of communication. There is no ONE way to communicate. It happens in all ways from multiple directions. In my opinion this has an effect on interpersonal communication as well, but the main idea I want to get at here is that, for instance, the Blackberry is no longer a device fit for business, but a device that translates into the everyday.

Ultimately, what I have found is that there is a certain status attached to having a ‘smart phone.’ The mobile device is symbolically understood as an extension of the body because it can be carried with us wherever we go.  Building off of the virtual self, “Mobile phones can symbolically represent the self through their brand, color, shape, ring tones, and ornaments of adornment. Young people are particularly known for embracing the mobile phone as a form of symbolic expression.” (Walker) The info-generation never goes anywhere without their phone because it has become a part of the self. Thus, the binary function of a simply sweet LG Rumour has given way to the personalized mobile device. So do smart phones make us smarter?

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Module 3 Major Blog – Wikipedia It…

Living in the information society shows us that access has taken on a whole new meaning. Information is circulating at faster speeds than we can imagine. Someone on Twitter posted that an actor from Two and a Half Men  had bashed the show, so I googled it and BAM the clip was right there. Nothing to it. This simplified access to information allows a more level playing ground if you will, because content is no longer for the privileged few.

We can see this in regards to Wikipedia. We sometimes take for granted how vast and elaborate a site like Wikipedia is. It has reshaped what we consider to be a basis for knowledge because not only does it complement the institution of education (Robins & Webster) but it has transformed it. This ICT is an opportunity to contribute and edit information as well as consume it. Never before has there been a shift like this in the scale. Since we can remember it has been media and corporate entities that are control the floodgates of information. What is written in newspapers, or shown on the 6 o’clock news was absolute. Now, facts can be ‘checked’ on Wikipedia in a smoother fashion that flipping on the television.

That being said, sharing knowledge online still presents boundaries. There will also be monitors of web activity and it is pertinent to ask how credible online information actually is. In university, we are not allowed to even use Wikipedia as a source, though it serves students with a plethora or information. I did have one professor who outwardly praised it though! So its okay to share, edit, contribute to the circulation of information….as long as you don’t step on anybody’s toes. One student asks, “how free are we really to post things on the internet?” He concedes that we aren’t truly free and I think this is because the larger the platform the more limited we become.

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4P18: The Finish Line

So here I am, on the eve of my last environmental class.

I have to say that I wasn’t overly thrilled about the content of the class because research and the environment are not something I am passionate about. But truthfully, I learned a lot. Way more than I expected to take from it. I realized this when I was walking through the halls the other day. I had an empty coffee cup and I went to go throw it in the recycling but people were standing in front of the bin and I couldn’t really get around them. I ended up just throwing it in the garbage. As I was walking away, I felt a wave of guilt that I carried with me for the rest of the day.

I am actively thinking about the environment a lot more than I thought I would. I think that was the goal for this class. Not to mold us into environmentalists who are ready to quit school and fight the corporate suits, but to become AWARE. To critically look at whats happening around us, taking what we have learned and applying to issues outside the school walls.

It’s been swell 🙂

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4P18: The future of Environmental Communication

What is the future of environmental communication? This question is extremely daunting to me. I don’t know the answer to it! In fact I don’t know the answers to many questions about the environment. But what I can say, is that it needs to be a topic that people are informed about. Whether we are looking at it from the perspective of a consumer or an activist, the point is to have knowledge! It truly is power!

In class we discussed ways that technology can serve as a platform for creating more environmental awareness. To be honest I think it is a long shot. I say this not to be pessimistic but in truth I feel like the trend for technology at the moment is used for purposeless, and trivial means. As Jenn would say, we always have a screen in our face, but what are we actually doing with them? Creeping people on facebook, watching funny Youtube videos? I wonder when and if this trend will pass. To me, this is the change that must occur. We have to redirect our efforts into using technology, but I just have doubts that an Iphone app measuring your amount of water usage for the day would really make a difference in attitude. I think it has to come more from the generations to follow. I found this animated clip that goes along with our task of creating a kids television program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa58h4IJ6Hk&feature=related). It is extremely simple, no plot, no characters. Its just a visual indicator of what it means to be environmentally aware and to have ecological concern. I think if media like this was shown to children there would be more of a widespread understanding of the environment. Reduce the video games featuring guns and killing, and replace it with an initiative  Easier said than done I’m sure.

Overall, I want to be optimistic and say that if perceptions can be formed and shaped then they can be changed. Kurt Vonnegut once said, “how embarrassing to be human”. I really agree with this sometimes. My greatest hope is that we can see how we fit into the world rather than trying to manage it so much. So many things deter us from wanting to be informed, we don’t realize how simple it really is.

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4P18: The Shape of Environmental Communication

Today we took a look at ways we engage with environmental communication and it just so happened that an extreme weather warning was taking place that week. Hurricane Sandy was a brewing and there was a lot of coverage surrounding its tracking and effects. To be honest I didn’t know much about it, but I did see a lot of tweets and posts about it on the social media sites I am a member of. I felt the effects of it, high winds, cold rain, but didn’t necessarily know what to expect. Many of the posts I saw described anxiety or fear towards the storm (i.e, crossing my fingers that my power doesn’t go out) but other were extremely witty or dispassionate (i.e Sandy needs to calm down because she is seriously PMSing).  Later on in the evening I called my mom and she told me that people on the East Coast (New York, New Jersey) were being evacuated and that a few people had died. One casualty was in Toronto! I started taking the weather conditions much more seriously, and then turned on the news to find out the latest.

The idea of weather in general is quite recent to us. What constitutes for natural or unnatural weather anymore? These perceptions are always skewed. And just by looking at the range of posts in the public sphere of social media platforms, it can be noted that we don’t always take these things as seriously and are therefore desensitized to a certain degree. The widespread belief in the western world is that it could never happen to us. Catastrophic weather only effects the ‘other side of the world’. I think we employ the hypocognition technique a little too much. This means that we can easily ignore something, “if it doesn’t exist then it isn’t a problem.” Lakoff elaborates on environmental hypocognition as being, ” the lack of ideas we need. We are suffering from massive hypocognition in the case of the environment. The reason is that the environment is not just about the environment. It is intimately tied up with other issue areas economics, energy, food, health, trade, and security” (p.76)

Personally, I feel like I don’t engage myself in environmental communication. In regards to media outlets, I watch the news sometimes when its on or am flipping through channels, but on the web for example, I never actively search information out. The same goes for newspapers, if I happen to be reading one, I automatically go to a section I am familiar with, or a story that directly relates to my interests. I never WANT to know more about the environment because it either worries me or makes me feel useless. The act of ‘saving’ our planet is framed as such a big undertaking that sometimes it feels better to ignore it or place it in the context of humour because mostly, it is something much bigger than us.

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Module 3; Minor Blog – Life in the Information Age

A common question being asked this week is, ‘What do we mean when we say that we are living in the information age?’ This term is used quite often, and is sometimes replaced with digital, or technological, but all of them, to me, mean the same thing. Information is readily accessible and consumable. Information that was once consumed by an individual can now be shared with the world and consumed by an entire population in the blink of an eye. This is the information age. A time where everything, and seemingly everyone, is available to you. 

As Manuel Castells points out, “We know that technology does not determine society, it is society.” (p.3). Technology, thus, is a driving force in how society is shaped. Looking back at previous discussion, technology shapes our own identities meaning that in a sense, we rely on information to promote ourselves as members of this society.  

Education is also becoming a part of the information age. This is an institution where information comes from, yet is is easy to see that patterns of digital learning methods are becoming commonplace. (Robins & Webster) These contemporary developments all lead us into the present information age. 

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4P18: Environmental Advocacy

My immediate response to the words environmental advocacy is: Green Peace. I don’t even know what they really do, or who ‘they’ are but they are words I often throw around when discussing this kind of topic. To me, they are trying to raise awareness. This is what DeLuca talks about in one of the readings. He is a representative of Green Peace and talks about motivations behind the messages they are trying to convey. He explains that, “Green Peace functions as decentralized but integrated organization. Regions differ in messaging needed in building day to day awareness.” Green Peace campaigns for this general awareness and encourages media outlets to push for more revolutionary messages.  DeLuca elaborates on the ‘image event’ strategy which is, “conveying complex narratives with engaging iconic strategies.”

I have noticed these techniques employed in some of the videos we’ve watched in class. In order to make the biggest impact on the viewer, there is a continuous reel of shocking images, like forest fires or washed up whales on the beach. This hyper-active montage is supposed to evoke strong emotions in viewers, urging them to want to ‘do something.’ But I also find that responses to these videos can go the opposite way and generate apathetic attitudes. Sometimes if these images are too much in such a rapid succession then the response could shift to “they are just trying to scare us.”

I’ve also noticed a pattern with European attitudes versus Western attitudes. In class it was mentioned that in Sweden, Netherlands 1 in 4 (don’t quote me on those stats) is a member of Green Peace. I looked up some commercials and they seemed a lot more aggressive than western commercials.  This is an example from Finland. It showcases a mother leaving her baby in a bathtub with the water running. Its a metaphor for global warming because it is pointing towards the fact that ignoring the melting ice caps is similar to neglect of a child. This is a shocking image because of its social implications and not necessarily its spectacular value.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOSsIIxQ_dE) these more aggressive cues makes me wonder if, approaches such as this would be more effective in our own culture.

Why is it that so many of us simply do not care about environmental issues? What would make us care, if organizations like Green Peace struggle to make an impact? Is a more aggressive approach the answer. This makes me think of the film Fight Club and how in order to create change the characters establish an underground guerrilla movement. The idea is that consumerism runs the world, and if they destroy credit card companies then everyone goes back to having zero debt. This is accomplished through violent acts and terrorism. This concept can be applied to environmental activism. Perhaps people need to be shaken awake so to speak, from this delirium caused by materialism and consumerism. Or is it just plain hypocritical?

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