thoughts of a mild-mannered firecracker

Please Burgle Me

This year, Foursquare Day (April 16tth) marks the first official social media holiday in New York, NY and at least twelve other states. With over 7 million registered users, myself included, foursquare allows avid users to gain status by becoming mayors of venues and unlocking badges. Users can also see who else has checked-in to a location, which can lead to new social connections. Occasionally, users can also check-in for special discounts which Mayor Michael Bloomberg notes in his positive observations about foursquare.

 However, foursquare is not all fun and serendipity. PleaseRobMe, which publicized irresponsible use of Twitter, chastised us for openly giving away our location so that those with malicious intent could burgle homes (robberies include threatening or using force on the victim, making PleaseBurgleMe a more accurate title). While foursquare provides a Privacy Grid that allows users to modify their settings, anyone who makes the mistake of designating the wrong person as a “friend” defeats the purposes of their enhanced settings.

Possibly related statistics:

  • In eight out of ten rape cases, the victim knew the perpetrator. (Tjaden & Thoennes 2000)
  • 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims knew their attacker; 34.2% were family members and 58.7% acquaintances. Only seven percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim. (Sexual Assault of Young Children 2000)


I am not so enthused by the idea of location-based services. While I am not an advocate for living in constant fear, I can hardly say that new social connections courtesy of foursquare’s services are worth the risk. I don’t believe that I am in great need of serendipitous run-ins instigated by location-based services, nor do I think I need the extra vulnerability that increases my chances of running into those suffering from psychotic disorders. We’re already being tracked by devices we carry of our own accord (see: Malt Spitz). Why make it even more public? Again – does oversharing really exist?


On Mental Devolution


The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all…

Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?

It rots the senses in the head!
It kills imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind
He can no longer understand
A fantasy, a fairyland!
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
He cannot think – he only sees!

Finish the poem here!
Excerpt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl


Jean Lotus’s article, It’s Official: TV Linked to Attention Deficit, explores a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics that states video-watching can harm toddlers by causing Attention Deficit or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder further on in life. This is caused by flashing images and speedy scene shifts that are shown on TV, which “rewire” a baby’s brain to think that such activity the norm when it is not. According to Dr. Dmitri A. Cristakis of the Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, over-stimulation caused by video exposure  alters neural pathways in a crucial stage of development.

A quick search on Google reveals that the average length of a TV commercial ranges from fifteen to thirty seconds. Some of us spend even less time skimming through the front page of a newspaper. We jump to what we want or what we think we want, and “thoughtfully” peruse the article, comic, or advertisement for… how long? Ten minutes, if even. We absorb a few choice words, maybe a phrase, maybe even a whole statement in order to make ourselves feel worldly and cosmopolitan. How often do we actually hold fragmented information deep in our memories for real enrichment (not to say that enrichment must be found in all things)? Dashing through blurbs can only bring a certain amount of fulfillment. The question is whether this is mostly a result of our wishes to appear a certain way, a desire for efficiency, or our attention-deficit-and-hyperactive minds going to work.

Forget the newspaper. As we’ve transformed our main sources of information from pulp to pixels, we’ve broadened the number of blurbs we expose ourselves to – in addition to increasing the speed at which we can browse. As each new trinket goes from 3G to 4G to a bazillion kilobytes per second, we open our minds to the possibility of developing a sort of attention disorder. Like a pianist learning a new piece and becoming accustomed to each hand’s patterns, our hyperactive brains can also become accustomed to bouncing about from one half-idea to another.

TV bringing on behavioral disorders? It’s presumably true for our kids. We could be doomed to the same fate – except we’re bringing this on ourselves. Today’s world is certainly fast-paced, in which it would be unreasonable for most of us to reflect on every single news briefing. However, if eventually no one could survive without giving into incessant ADD tendencies, then our fast-paced world would quickly slow to a stop. Gone would be our inventors, our musicians, sculptors, scholars, and anything that required time and concentration. Artistic workmanship would dwindle down to those being clever with meme generators. These are the reasons for our dying symphonies: we simply don’t care enough, we have little to no attention span, and all we really want is quick, dirty and catchy (and their finances are shot). It’s what we’re used to, after all.

Ravel gives fighting the system a whole new meaning.

If you’re still here, congratulations (there might still be some hope for you)!  But let’s push further… Are we devolving? Let’s converse. 😉

No Conclusions Required

Douglass Rushkoff’s claim that digital technology is biased toward a reduction of complexity addresses those who mistake their digital ventures for tangible life experiences. However, for those that recognize the vast chasm between simplified models and life on Earth, digital technology creates even more complexity.

A brief introduction to chaos theory.

Chaos theory suggests that amidst random assortments of data, order exists. For example, Wikipedia houses around 18 million articles, all written by volunteers.  Anyone with Internet access can dive into any article and edit to his heart’s content, which would make it sound as if other Wikipedia volunteers would be forever relegated to finding and fixing unnecessary or faulty changes. However, Wikipedia’s editing system allows for users to also view an article’s history as well as participate in a forum to discuss what changes need to be made. This is an example of cut-and-dry chaos turned to managed chaos.

The argument that technology polarizes is valid. A single political decision, or even personal characteristic can be used to turn away the masses if effectively broadcast in the media. Mudslinging doesn’t only make its appearances in politics though. Apple is notorious for their “I’m a Mac” ads, which use humor – probably not to soften the blow, but probably more to pacify and entertain their audiences.

Despite my personal efforts to be objective when evaluating politicians, technology, and sources for research projects, bias is inevitable. Many of the sources that I come across during research are less likely to be known as questionable, as there aren’t nearly as many advertisements glorifying historical accuracy and insight (or defaming the attributes of others). While this allows us to read with a clearer mind, it also forces us to find the strengths and weaknesses on our own. For the educated consumer and voter though, there isn’t a way to avoid associating products with big names and success, as corporate manipulation finds its way onto billboards, free t-shirts, magazines, and more. What separates the reasonable from the rash is the ability to discern through observation, lest we fall prey to falsehoods about how we can receive over $245.00 from Microsoft for forwarding emails.

Just because BP claims that the oil spill is being taken care of, does not mean it is. Just because Jennifer Rexford made a video detailing her related afflictions, does not mean that she is right. If we take a look at our surroundings and evaluate our situation, we can become more informed – no conclusions required. But if you must fall under a certain party’s umbrella, do it carefully with open ears and flexibility. After all, you could be wrong.

I Needed Escapism

And by God, I had it. Generally, I hate pointless getaways – you know, when you just browse mindlessly, on and on and on and on … and on. But I’m at a point currently where I need mindless. I can’t allow myself to think. I’ve done more than enough thinking in the past twenty-four hours, and all I’ve gotten out of it are unpleasant flashbacks and quite the barrage of strong urges to commit righteous, but violent wrongdoings.

Call me melodramatic. Call me deranged, call it oversharing (Does oversharing really exist?), or whatever you please.

I finished an exam at 7:54 PM. The subject was on applying different philosophies to ethics in public administration. I was ecstatic that it was much more simple than I had imagined it to be, until I realized that my mind had began to wander. I regularly evaluate my days in order to analyze how to efficiently achieve personal goals. I question whether I was productive, how productive I was, did I enjoy my day, did I treat people well, and etc. Unfortunately for me, this includes remembering the events of the day, one of which I wish my inner wiring was better enabled to forget.

Frustration is one of those curious things that we, as living beings, feel when things do not go according to plan. Some of us have higher tolerances than others when it comes to such life mishaps. In order to escape frustration, we deal in different ways: we break things, ignore the problem, cut, drink, engage in fitness activities, eat our feelings, but mainly, get distracted.

image source

Due to my methodological ways of deciding whether or not I deserve to live happily, as I’ve noted above – I hate pointless getaways, because they are unproductive. I populate my Google Reader with a few blogs related to my work, maybe five blogs unrelated to my work, the #ATEC2321 Twitter feed, and visit news pages on the side. I am not a hedonist. I don’t indulge in pleasuring my environmentally-created ADD mind with endless, leisurely Tumblr browsing. Except that I did, after my exam-induced euphoria crashed and for how long? I would be too embarrassed to say.

The point is: until today, I was very much an advocate for escapism through art… and books. Books as in Pulp-things, not fancy-schmancy e-books, e-things, new-age bastardizations of something that was already flawlessly designed, unwieldy textbooks and methods of transporting Pulp-things aside. Yes, of course one can explore worlds of art through screens, but the point I make here is on reading on pressed pulp versus reading on top of agglomerations of pixels. Today on my screen of pixel-potpourri, I read through dozens of blurbs off of random Tumblr feeds, links within those Tumblr feeds, and The Onion, flitting from page to article to meme like a crazed prepubescent trying to figure out life’s hardest question(s).

I cannot say it was relief that I found. After all, here I am typing away about my reluctance to give into the ADD screen reading that is so stereotypical of my generation, while my brain is/feels like a mess. But thanks to screen reading, I’ve found direction somewhere in the pigsty that is my mind tonight: the direction being that while I will forever love pulp-things, I no longer despise screen reading. Of course I had been able to recognize its benefits before: portability, how it encourages us to interact and think in “real-time,” and promotion of self-discovery through recording our activities. Conversely, there are still things I dislike about how screen reading affects others. For example, summaries of meaningful contemplation have been shortened to 140 characters, already minuscule attention spans have disappeared, and libraries are becoming more neglected as Wikipedia has more or less achieved divinity. Despite these pitfalls, screen reading isn’t going away. Whether this will help or hurt us will be all in how we choose to use it.

Adolescent Apologetics

Earlier in the week, in an effort to find something substantial to write about, I began a thought exercise that involved spewing out all the academic thoughts that I had managed to absorb since this past Tuesday. It didn’t last more than a few minutes, most likely because I am accustomed to keeping my thoughts safely within the confines of my head or inside the much-abused notepad I should probably carry around more often. Perhaps it is a teenage type of activity, but embracing a chaotic stream-of-consciousness strategy seems to have benefited my blogging ventures thus far. Here is a much-revised, less unkempt summary of my results…

Truth is an elusive and mysterious creature. Facts are less elusive than the truth, but still few and far between. Read the rest of this entry »

Blogging Reflections (assigned)

My blog entries generally have no connection to each other from week-to-week, though the influence of the Internet and its biases on how we act today can be considered a theme. “A Good Mask Is Hard To Find” explores how the Internet affects our personalities, “Revolution and the Art of Protest” revolves around how the Internet has affected the entertainment industry, “Into Octavarium” questions how we can share information and ideas while giving the “original authors” their rightful credit, “On Networking & Cow Clicking” reflects on whether manipulative social games can be valuable tools, and “Reaching Aesthetic Nirvana” is about visual cohesion online as well as offline. Read the rest of this entry »

Reaching Aesthetic Nirvana

While evaluating a friend’s website during my new media course the other day, I became vividly aware of how my own personal tastes differed from his.

I consider myself fairly open-minded when it comes to aesthetics. I admire simple, thoughtful, clean, and elegant design. I’m also a sucker for the abstract and surreal. Macabre is completely within the bounds of my comfort circle, I love attention to detail, and I love color just as much as I love the absence of it. Read the rest of this entry »