Archive

Alysse Curran

It is near impossible to quantify what technologies will exist in the future or to predict how we as a society will exist. It is therefore necessary to prepare ourselves and future generations as best we can for this unfathomable future. In order to do this, we must turn our attention to education.

It is not uncommon to hear millennials lamenting that their education has failed to provide them with life skills. And they aren’t entirely incorrect. The current curriculum draws from Victorian European education. Such a system produced workers, of whom were required 3 key skills: “They must have good handwriting…they must be able to read, and they must be able to do [mathematics] in their head” (Mitra, S. 2014). However these skills, aside from the ability to read, are no longer a priority or even a requisite for success.

With the probability that majority of current Kindergarten students will enter into careers which do not yet exist, we must aim to foster skills which equip people for 21st Century work. The primary schooling system as I experienced it was significantly behind the times in terms of contemporary technologies. In order to gain an insight into the current learning environment I conducted an interview with my mother, a primary school teacher. In her opinion there has been a “shift in education recently that’s moving children toward becoming 21st Century learners” (J. Curran, pers. comms., 17 October). It is her belief that this change in the curriculum is not only oriented toward Information Technologies, but also toward more practical and crucial skills such as problem solving and collaboration. A concern for the importance of fostering contemporary skills is raised by Sugata Mitra in his TED Talk, ‘Build a School in the Cloud.’

From my experience of recently participating in the HSC, I have observed that rather than assessing skill and intelligence, such examinations test memory and recall. There needs to be an overhaul in the way we monitor and assess the abilities and aptitude of children. This sentiment is reflected by Mitra in his TED Talk.

One concern expressed by my mother is that due to the fast-paced nature of the development of technologies, at times there may be a disconnect between the knowledge that children possess around technology and that of some of their teachers and parents (J. Curran, pers. comms., 17 October). I believe that in order for teachers to sufficiently administer and monitor student learning in a technological age, they must become competent with contemporary technologies.

However my mother’s outlook is optimistic. With emerging technologies such as interactive whiteboards, students can now connect to rural and international students, as well as organisations such as NASA. As my mother suggests, we are “not there yet in all schools, but there are positive changes in the right direction” (J. Curran, pers. comms., 17 October).

It is important to create a learning environment that equips our young people with the skills to become proficient in the pioneering and brokering of new ideas. After all, these are the people who will design the next ground-breaking technology, cure cancer and inhabit Mars; of this we are certain.

References

Curran, J. 2014, pers. comms., interview, 17 October 2014

Lindl, J. 2013, Can games create an education fit for the future?, video recording, BBC, viewed 17 October 2014, 
<http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20131107-could-video-games-replace-exams&gt;

Mitra, S. 2013, Build a School in the Cloud, video recording, TED, viewed 17 October 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud#t-1309251&gt;

Advertisements

It is in our nature as humans to seek support within the things around us, sentient or otherwise. This invariably evolves in conjunction with the development of our world and, inexorably, our technologies. But there is a difference between support and dependence. As we rely more and more on our devices, perhaps we are impeding our own personal abilities and functionality in this world.

A study conducted by UK communications regulator, Ofcom, found that ‘37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teens admit they are ‘highly addicted’ to their smartphones’. (Ofcom 2011) An interesting case study presented itself recently when I didn’t have access to my mobile phone for two days. I immediately fretted that no one would be able to reach me. Each time during that period in which I found myself waiting for something, I would automatically reach for my phone, only to remember it wasn’t in its usual spot. It became apparent my propensity for relying on my phone, to avoid the unpleasant chore of waiting for something. I had a persistent anxiety which I couldn’t shake until I had access to my phone once more. My mobile phone is such an extension of my mental self that, with its absence, I felt a loss of a part of myself. Similarly, the ‘Hybrid by Nature’ lecture suggested that “technology is [now] ingrained in social standards” (J. L. Kasunic, lecture, 22 August).

Cyborg Anthropologist, Amber Case, presents a plethora of thought provoking concepts pertaining to this dependency during her TED Talk, ‘We are all cyborgs now’.

Case offers the thought that, while in the past tools have allowed for an extension of the physical self, our gadgets allow for the extension of the mental self. As a result, we greatly invest ourselves and our day-to-day livelihood in these devices. This causes the hitherto unheard of paradox whereby, if we lose a device, and in turn all of the data stored within it, we experience a sense of loss; that ‘something is missing.’ (Case, A. 2010) When the device is an extension of the mental self, the loss of that device equates to a loss of that part of the mental self. Moreover, with the constant threat of hancking upon our devices, there is an even greater threat to our mental state; “we are being dehumanised…by criminals who use the ubiquity of technology and its lack of security to steal from us” (Narayan, A. 2013).

Case further argues that people are no longer taking time for mental reflection. This is indeed correct. Time that was once spent in thought, such as waiting for a bus, or food in a restaurant, or in a queue at the shops, is now followed by the immediate response of pulling out a phone or other device. If we feel such dejection with the absence of our devices, it is clear that we are too reliant on them. We invest too much in these vulnerable pieces of metal and plastic, when we could be realising our true and complete selves with a little self-reflection. So, the next time I have to undergo the abhorrent task of waiting, I won’t pull out my phone. I will spend the time in my own thoughts. Will you do the same?

References

Brandon, J. 2013, ‘Is Technology Making Us Less Human?’, techradar, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://www.techradar.com/au/news/world-of-tech/future-tech/is-technology-making-us-less-human–1171002&gt;

Case, A. 2010, We are all cyborgs now, video recording, TED, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now&gt;

Hoffmeister, P.B. 2012, ‘My Technology Is Smart, But Am I?’, Huffington Post, viewed 28 August 2014, < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-brown-hoffmeister/technology_b_1885650.html&gt;

Kasunic, J. L. 2014, Hybrid by nature: Social and persuasive technologies, lecture, UTS, Sydney

Narayanan, A. 2013, ‘Society under threat…but not from AI’, AI & SOCIETY, vol. 28. no. 1, pp. 87-94

Ofcom 2011, ‘A nation addicted to smartphones’, Ofcom, viewed 28 August 2014, < http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/news/a-nation-addicted-to-smartphones/&gt;

Rosen, L. 2013, ‘Game Changers But Not Brain Changers’, Huffington Post, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-larry-rosen/game-changers-but-not-bra_b_3543201.html&gt;

 

As we look toward the future, our sight must be trained firmly on sustainability. As a society, we are almost entirely reliant on finite resources which are depleting at an unmanageable rate. To prevent their extinction, we must focus on the development of renewable and sustainable resources, technologies, and holistic lifestyles. With analysis of past measures, as well as future oriented design innovation, this prospect – and necessity – is possible.

One lifestyle which successfully conserves the environment, substantiated by tens of thousands of years of realisation, is that of Nomadism. The culture of Nomadism is one of utmost preservation while still drawing from the environment for sustenance. It is a lifestyle that contemporary societies should look toward for inspiration, implementing the most successful elements from this historical regime within the current epoch. The answer is not to simply amalgamate the current destructive lifestyle of consumption in the West with perpetual relocation. Were we to do so, we would simply spread out our destruction of the environment. Instead, nomadism must be combined with an utmost environmental conscience in order to maintain the biological balance as best we can.

As a developed society (in the Western World) it is unrealistic that we could suddenly change our behaviour and society as a whole and become a nomadic, rudimentary civilisation. However an advantageous approach would take on the ideology of existing nomadic societies such as Mongolia where there has been a resurgence of nomadic practices; ‘the core idea of nomadic culture is centred on an awe of life, respect to nature and harmonious co-existence of humans with nature” (Zhang, M., Borjigin, E., Zhang, H. 2007).

We should place focus on accommodating population growth and expansion by drawing on the past means of nomadic living, appropriated for a contemporary society. One approach to developing a sustainable lifestyle comes from the Fashion Designer, Lucy Orta. Orta’s work DWELLING X MAQUETTE looks at mobility of dwellings. The structure created was only a mock up of a potential technology, however it illustrates the potential embodiment the form may take. It also opens a dialogue for the real world application of this design and how successful it could be in the Western World, or alternatively in areas of homelessness, poverty, disaster relief and other more immediate areas. Such a concept, and the nomadic lifestyle on the whole, is plagued with issues such as mobility, sustainability, economical and environmental implications, as well as the modern concept of a dwelling versus a home.

image_413_thumbnail_en

Lucy Orta, DWELLING X MAQUETTE, 2004

However it is a necessary discussion. Such a concept has significant implications for the inevitable geographical and numerical expansion of the population. In a domestic sense, the prospect of population growth in Australia will have great implications regarding population distribution requiring us to reconsider our current tendency to occupy the coast. As such we must consider, not the naïve idea that we could become nomads, but the adoption of the most practical elements and ideology of Nomadism, and of “reciprocal, respectful relations with nature” (Upton, C. 2010). If we pillage the environment we occupy, it will eventually become uninhabitable. We must unreservedly seek to increase the longevity of our environment and our planet as a whole.

References

Gaffney, O. 2013, ‘A nomad in a city of nomads’, The Anthropocene Journal, viewed 15 September 2014, <http://anthropocenejournal.com/2013/02/06/a-nomad-in-a-city-of-nomads/&gt;

Orta, L. 2004, ‘Dwelling X Maquette’, ORTA, viewed 15 September 2014, <http://www.studio-orta.com/en/artwork/23/Dwelling-X-Maquette&gt;

Travis, A. S. 2011, Planning for Tourism, Leisure and Sustainability: International Case Studies, Illustrated Edition, CABI

Upton, C. 2010. ‘Nomadism, identity and the politics of conservation’, Central Asian Survey, vol. 29. no. 3, pp 308-309

Zhang, M., Borjigin, E., Zhang, H. 2007, ‘Mongolian nomadic culture and ecological culture: On the ecological reconstruction in the agro-pastoral mosaic zone in Northern China’, Ecological Economic, vol. 62. no. 1, pp 19-26

Governments and their agencies allow access to fundamental information, ‘Big Data’ which, for their purposes, points toward threats and other terrorisations upon their civilians and administration. For this reason, tracking of internet usage is necessary. The intent is for our safety and wellbeing. But who are the real beneficiaries?

Well, marketers, for the most part. Within the current epoch, the true currency is hits. If you’ve ever wondered how websites like Facebook can even turn a profit, it’s from the advertising they enable on their sites. Such advertising is targeted by way of Cookies. Cookies are a form of digital code stored by your browser which allow websites to track some of your activity. Such a prospect is remise of ‘Big Brother’, however, consider the position of Evan Reiser, CEO of AdStack, who believes that if you can “make advertising more relevant, it becomes less like spam and more like content.” Reiser raises an interesting point. While internet tracking is our reality, perhaps it isn’t so bleak. AdStack allows businesses to send emails, the content of which they may change until users open them, in order to cater content. As writer Adam Tanner explains, “if you open a restaurant promotion in the morning it might advertise a lunch special, or later in the day, dinner.”

So if you can put aside the invasion of privacy, it’s indeed quite helpful. All the same, do we really have the right to be vexed by this invasion of privacy and our right to confidentiality when we’re blasé about our privacy in other situations? American comedian, Jack Vale, played an insightful prank on unsuspecting café goers to illustrate just how much of our information strangers can access.

The disturbed, even aggressive responses of some of the targets demonstrates the level of discomfort people have with personal data access, despite Vale only accessing publicly available information. So what right do we have to be angered by internet tracking when we provide so many permissions to, and direct provisions of personal information, to websites and applications; the result being an “increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises… fuel[ing] exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future” (Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., Byers, A. H. 2011).

Well, every right, one may argue. With the prevalence of the Cookie’s sibling, the Web Bug, it is becoming increasingly easy for advertisers and trackers to discretely access our information. The Web Bug is imbedded in pages and registers who, when and where from a person accesses a webpage. Each time you access the internet, the data collected adds to the increasing digital profile you inadvertently create. This, coupled with the extensive profile collated through everything from “digital CCTV [to] the recording of retail purchases” (J. L. Kasunic, lecture, 15 August) is leading to an unprecedented lack of privacy, and a call to action to combat this. An example of how this may be done is through the introduction of a private property right on the big data that exists pertaining to each individual (Fraser, M. 2014).

People have the right to autonomy and control over the access to information about them. Governments must uphold their responsibility to protect their people – the basis of internet tracking – and legislate the restriction of access by corporations to each individual’s share of Big Data.

References

Kasunic, J. L. 2014, ‘Data, data, everywhere: Week 3 Interdisciplinary Design Lab A’ UTS Subject 85202, lecture slides, UTS, Sydney

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., Byers, A. H. 2011, ‘Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity’, McKinsey Global Institute Report 2011, MKinsey Global Institute, 

Reiser, E. 2013, ‘The Web Cookie is Dying. Here’s The Creepier Technology That Comes Next’, Forbes, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamtanner/2013/06/17/the-web-cookie-is-dying-heres-the-creepier-technology-that-comes-next/&gt;

Rouse, M. 2014, ‘Web bug (Web beacon), SearchSOA, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/Web-bug/&gt;

Tanner, A. 2013, ‘The Web Cookie is Dying. Here’s The Creepier Technology That Comes Next’, Forbes, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamtanner/2013/06/17/the-web-cookie-is-dying-heres-the-creepier-technology-that-comes-next/&gt;

Vale, J. 2013, Social Media Experiment, video recording YouTube, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P_0s1TYpJU&list=UUsDl6A77CrbkSJLtxQFVDGw&gt;