Society and the Information Age

Through this major blog post, I’d like to expand on my thoughts of the information age established in my minor blog post. Before I begin explaining and analyzing these thoughts, I’d like to start this blog with a quote from “The Network Society” by Manuel Castells and Gustavo Cardoso;

“We know that technology does not determine society: it is society. Society shapes technology according to the needs, values, and interests of people who use the technology.”

This is an interesting way to consider the subject that I had never really thought about prior to reading this. Through the needs, values, and interests of people around the world, new technology has been, and will be, continually created in order to make people’s everyday lives easier and more enjoyable. Through the need of communication with other people, the telephone was invented which revolutionized the way people were able to talk with each other. The internet was created to quickly communicate information to people over long distances. Through people’s values and interests, new devices are constantly being created in order to entertain and educate the masses. We now have phones with apps for just about everything you can think of from trying to pass the bar exam, to solving puzzle games with angry birds. Technology is constantly creating things that people would have considered impossible in the relatively not so distant past. I think a quote from http://seancaley.wordpress.com/ ‘s minor blog posting sums up the end results of this process quite perfectly;

“I think the real transition into this ‘information age’ is that we, as society, have let our electronic devices take on a role much greater than before. They have for the most part become much more of a lifestyle than device – that is not to say I believe that is a bad thing.”

With the constant evolution of technology catering to our every need, want, and desire, it only make sense that these pieces of technology have reached an elevated status becoming a “lifestyle” instead of just an item used for convenience.  After allowing a new piece of technology to take such a large role in our day-to-day lives, it is almost as if we are forming a psychological addiction to these devices.  Many people are unable to leave their houses, or even a room without their cellphone on hand. Their cellphone almost becomes a part of them. They constantly require the ability to be able to communicate, and if they don’t have their cell phone on their person, it is almost as if a part of them is missing. This phenomenon is unique to this “information age” as people previously did not have these devices that changed their lives in such a radical way.

As I said in my minor blog, through the information age things are possible now that were never even considered before with even this course being revolutionary compared to past teaching methods, and this advancement only continue into the future.

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The Information Age and what it really means

When someone says we live in the “information age”, people today often don’t really seem to understand the significance of the term. This is especially true for people born within the past 20 or so years, i.e. the majority, if not all, of this class, as they have not experienced life before the information age set in. So what does it mean to live in the “information age”? Although with the world we live in today it might seem hard to believe, technology as we know today was essentially non-existent until relatively very recent times. It wasn’t until the late 80s that the world-wide-web was introduced and gradually, yet extremely quickly relatively speaking, opened up never before considered opportunities to the world and changed how we live our lives in a dramatic way. Step by step this new technology being began to change how we complete everyday tasks, from how we communicate, to how we work, and everything in between. From cell phones, to laptops, if you were to describe any of this new technology to someone in the 70s and tell them it would be widely available in 30 years they would probably say you were crazy. Even this course we are in right now is revolutionary compared to past teaching methods, and would not be possible if we were not a part of the “information age”.

So in short, the “information age” is essentially this age we live in with widely accessible technology that has greatly altered our everyday lives from the past. Things are possible now that were never even considered before, and this advancement through the information age will only continue into the future.

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Do you really have privacy online?

Considering management of one’s public/private personae in relation to its privacy implications, I believe the opening statement in “The Valorization of Surveillance: Towards a Political Economy of Facebook” by NS Cohen perfectly explains the current situation.

“Depending on whom you ask, Facebook is either a revolution in social networking and the future of e-capitalism, or a place where excitable youth post too much information about themselves, risking exposure to stalkers or surveillance by employers, parents, and the CIA.”

People, youth who are fairly new to the internet especially, seem to feel an unfounded sense of privacy posting their information to the internet whether it be to social media sites such as facebook, to web forums or varying chat rooms. As far as a public and private personae in social networks such as facebook are perceived, unless your profile is completely private anyone can access anything you post. Whether this be photos from you at the bar last weekend, or family photos from your trip to Cuba last year, with no privacy settings on this information is free for anyone to see. People may feel a false sense of security relating from the fact that they can approve who they want to be their friends, but if their profile is wide open to the public it doesn’t matter; anyone has access to their information. For example, look at the following case found in katiebenedict13comm2f00’s blog,

“A friend of mine got fired from work because her boss saw pictures of her partying, drinking, doing keg stands on facebook. He told her that, “in the interview you told me you were a go getter, a responsible and reliable individual. But, after seeing those pictures makes me think otherwise”. The keg stand photos left a bad impression of her and he fired her. I guess he didn’t appease of the idea that keg stands is an art form and you have to be a ‘go getter’ by chugging as much beer upside down as you can.”

I’m sure the last thing going through her head as she posted those pictures were “my boss might see these”. Again, people are still maintaining a false sense of security with these social media posts. Even with private pages, people who you don’t want to see your page can still have access through a friend’s account that does access your page. There have been stories of employers using this method as well to look up information on employees/potential employees, which have led to employees being fired, as in this case presented on katiebenedict13comm2f00’s.

A lot of this boils down to a point again presented in “The Valorization of Surveillance: Towards a Political Economy of Facebook” by NS Cohen:

“Most people do not read academic and policy literature on social networking and privacy issues, and there is no guarantee that members will thoroughly read-or rear a all- a terms of service agreement or privacy policy.”

Although this statement is quite obvious and seems very understandable, as most people have no desire to read through 50 pages of privacy terms, it is no wonder why people are unaware of what may happen to their information after it is collected. Although the computer savvy may understand why they should be cautious towards giving out their information based on experience, those not “in the know” may be oblivious to the implications of giving out their information. They may be unaware of who will have access to their information and what exactly can be done with it. In summary, I feel the general public has to be educated on the perils or disclosing their information anywhere on the web, so they can understand where posting something is acceptable, and where posting something may lead to a future issue.

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Personal Information and the Internet

Generally, when deciding to share information about myself online, I follow two main criteria. The first is who has direct access to the information I am supplying. By this, I basically mean after I have supplied my information if it is going to be openly available for everyone to see, or if I have some way to make my information private. If every person randomly coming across my page or profile would have access to my address, email, phone number or any other bits of personal information I may have to supply to the website, I would have to think twice about registering for their service. However, if this information is not publically displayed or I have the option to hide it I generally would not think twice about supplying basic information, pending they meet my second criteria; how does the website use my information. If the website is planning on selling my information to marketing firms or releasing it to affiliates so they spam my virtual and real inbox I would have no intention on sharing my information with them. However, if they have a solid privacy policy in place, again I generally would not think twice about supplying my basic information to them.

As far as how I present myself, I don’t see much of a point from deviating off how I present myself in real life face-to-face situations. I see no gain from portraying myself as someone supposedly superior from who I actually am. When actually posting something, I will usually just follow the setting of the outlet I’m using. On a social media website such as facebook it’s generally information more specific to me such as what I’m actually doing, or personal photos. However, if the outlet is like a forum I’ll generally just stay on subject to the websites topic, and post information relevant to that instead of something more personal.

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Technological Empowerment in our everyday lives

Technological Empowerment is prevalent in our everyday lives everywhere we look. “The Californian Ideology” touches on this in many ways people may not think of including this quote:

“Although companies in these sectors can mechanise and subcontract much of their labour needs, they remain dependent on key people who can research and create original products, from software programs and computer chips to books and TV programmes.”

This pulls both pros and cons of Technological Empowerment the labour force. Unfortunately, this Technological Empowerment of the company results in detriment for a large portion of the work force as their jobs have now been mechanised. However, on the other side of the coin, through Technological Empowerment of the marketplace new “high tech” products are constantly flooding the market required companies to hire skilled workers from the so-called “virtual class”.

Technological Empowerment of both companies and the marketplace is affecting the entire world stage. Even Chinese factories are starting to see job losses due to automation. http://reason.com/blog/2012/09/11/automation-causes-job-loss-in-china-too

However, technology has also come to a point where people can make a living creating blogs like the one I’m writing now. http://marshallk.com/how-to-quit-your-day-job-become-a-professional-tech-blogger

Technological Empowerment is changing the world around us everyday. Whether these changes be for better or for worse, all we can do is wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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