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Posts Tagged ‘society’

All The Little Birdies Go Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

Posted by Brandon McKoy on May 14, 2009


Yea, I Twitter. “Big whoop, wanna fight about it?” (Family Guy reference, I couldn’t resist) But seriously, I do use Twitter to follow people that I find interesting. I follow ?uestlove (Drummer of the Roots, my favorite band) to find out how work on the group’s new album is coming along, or what funny things happen behind stage at the Jimmy Fallon Show (I also follow Jimmy Fallon because he’s just silly). I follow Shaq because really, he’s a pretty funny dude. I also follow a few of my close friends, who most of the time don’t have anything more interesting to say than “I’m at the library, it’s so quiet. Shhh!” (A lot of the time we just tweet funny YouTube links back and forth to each other)

But there’s a whole lot of other people I follow as well. I follow Meghan McCain to see how a young, progressive, female Republican is trying to reshape her party for the future. For someone who’s been quite the topic of discussion as of late, what she tweets has the potential to get mentioned in the morning news. I also follow CNN and BBC so that I can keep abreast of breaking news at all times of the day. The bottom line is, I use Twitter for straight information. I like to know what’s going on, who’s thinking/saying it, and what others think about it. The service launched in March of 2006, and I’ve been using it for well over a year, but it has just recently really taken off. Rick Sanchez of CNN was the first person to really take advantage of Twitter on television, using it to interact with his audience and get their opinions. Since then, Twitter has exploded everywhere. I can’t think of a single television program or network that doesn’t make use of it, and the vast majority of celebrities have already jumped in, embracing the service as a way to reach their audience without a filter. Included in this group are politicians, many of whom even tweeted during President Obama’s first (unofficial) State of the Union address. The danger of politicians using Twitter isn’t so clear, but I’ll get to that point later.

I consider Twitter to be, for the most part, an incredibly useful tool to share information, opinions and ideas. Twitter is changing the way people share information, and furthers the instantaneous, yet alienated way in which people now interact with each other (E-mail, texting, instant messaging, you know, all that jazz). People use it to network, market their products and themselves, and notify their followers of future prospects. Twitter has a huge potential to become a main source of news and information, helping to eradicate the newspaper industry and possibly other media sources. However, it is this very authority that Twitter seems to have which makes it so disconcerting.

The Swine Flu outbreak and subsequent overreaction are the perfect example of how Twitter can be used to spread misinformation and foster a panicky environment. There is even a Swine Flu Panic Twitter page that is still being updated. The incredibly wrong notion that one could catch Swine Flu from contact with a pig was being thrown around and Twitter assisted in spreading the idea. Misinformed and panicked people with the ability to broadcast their fears are likely to only create more fear. Despite reputable news sources tweeting accurate information about the flu outbreak, people’s fears overrode pragmatism, helping lead to unnecessary panic. Some say that the Swine Flu example is a single event that showcases no more than the effect that an extended, global community can have on public opinion; but there’s more than meets the eye to the influence that Twitter has over society.

The basic premise of Twitter is a platform where one can follow people that they find interesting in an attempt to know more about them. The very ability of being able to follow those, and only those, that you want to creates a source of information that is biased to fit one’s viewpoint. I mentioned before the danger of politicians using Twitter. What I’m inferring is that, since Twitter inherently has a genuine connotation to it (most people really use it to open themselves up to the world, talking about things that they really think and feel), politicians and authoritative figures can use the service to send out tailored messages with an agenda. Yes, there are some politicians who seem to genuinely tweet what they feel (Senator Claire McCaskill for example), but it’s entirely possible and probable that politicians send out messages that are edited and tailored to evoke a certain reaction; it helps them put forward a faux visage if you will. Followers of these people will take what they say as factual, and won’t even consider the opposition’s position because they won’t be looking for it.

What I’m saying is that liberals follow Democrats, conservatives follow Republicans, and people rarely if ever follow someone with whom they disagree or don’t find to be appealing. Yes, it is certainly everyone’s right to pursue information at their own discretion and decide who they listen to. The problem is that the service Twitter offers helps people shut out the opinions of the other side. For example, let’s say that I don’t like Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Though right now he seems to be a Democrat’s best friend, I’m sure he has sincere and good ideas for the future of this country. However, I won’t listen to them, because I can choose to not hear what he’s saying. Instead, I’ll just continue to follow Obama, Biden, and the White House to get my information. I’m choosing to segment myself so that I don’t have to hear what the opposition has to offer, in effect not even giving them a chance and severely reducing the variety of information that I expose myself to. How can one make a sound decision or come to a proper opinion if they only use information that doesn’t challenge their current position(s)?

I haven’t been able to decide if people treat the information they receive through Twitter with authority because of who it’s coming from (if you’re following someone, it must be because you admire or are interested in them right?) or because of the platform itself. I’m leaning towards the former, because I can’t see why Twitter would be deemed to inherently be a source of factual information. A friend of mine put it best, saying, “I think because people have the option of choosing who they want to follow,or who they think they are following, they are going to view these people as reputable sources that wouldn’t deceive them; they trust said twitter as much as they would trust a friend.” Not only do people choose what information they want to be exposed to, but they treat that information with a higher degree of authority because they hold the source in high regard. This certainly can’t be said to be true for every person or situation, but I think that
many users of Twitter fall under this description.

The influence of Twitter (at least the technology) is growing and will only continue to do so. Now people can tweet videos from the internet (VidTweeter), or videos of themselves (BubbleTweet). There are also programs that help people use and navigate Twitter in an efficient and customizable way (TweetDeck, Twhirl, just to name a few). You can even use Twitter on your cell phone, making it even easier to keep up with breaking developments while on the go.

Maybe I’m just being a nervous pervis; it is true that my arguments here can be applied to just about any information medium. The thing that worries me about Twitter is the user’s ability to choose the information they receive. This is different from other forms of media such as newspapers and television in that one cannot choose what information is delivered to them. Sure, people can choose to not read a certain article or change the channel when something they don’t like comes on, but at least the information is presented to them. By choosing who to follow, Twitter allows users to choose what information is presented to them, and I think it highly probable that people will use that ability to create a biased information pool for themselves. In a time where different ideas and opinions need to be heard more than ever in order to come to proper solutions that will work, giving individuals the ability to completely block out information that they don’t agree with doesn’t help. We shall see how this technology evolves, and how society’s use of it changes overtime. For now, all I wanna know is what hilariousness Michael Scott will get into next.

P.S. To the 4 people who read this (if even that many :-P), please let me know what you think! Leave a comment below!

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Listening to: Michael Jackson – Rockin’ Robin
via FoxyTunes

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Through the Looking Glass

Posted by Brandon McKoy on July 10, 2008

Hello, hello. First update in 2 weeks as last week was the July 4th weekend and I was all over the place without a chance to sit down and write something decent. I still can’t believe it’s already July…

Anyways, I was without a phone for a few days this week and boy did I feel the pain. No texting, instant messaging, sending e-mails, checking scores, reading news articles, looking up answers to trivia questions, or browsing Digg images…for a whole 48 hours! Crazy right?

I’m just kidding of course, but that’s the general sentiment isn’t it? When people forget their phone at home or break it and are without it, they act as if they’ve lost a part of themselves for the day. For some reason it’s just so damn difficult for people to get through the day without a cell phone. Sure, you feel like you’re not connected to anyone or anything and lost without a map, but I don’t think that’s the culprit here. People have become so used to texting, AIM, and other communication technologies that society as a whole is losing the face-to-face communication skills that are necessary; the root word in communication is community, and we’re losing out on our last opportunity to create one.

With all of this neo-communication going on (including viral advertising), life just doesn’t seem real anymore. Even the part that was real before, the part we could control, is slowly becoming a facade. I can’t find the article right now (I’ll continue searching and post it when I do), but I remember reading about a company advertising it’s camera by hiring people to walk up to tourists and others, offer to take a picture of them, and after doing so, strike up a conversation about the camera. By doing this, the company had ensured themselves direct access to consumers, as well as their full attention on the product they were peddling. I seem to remember the article also stating that people were then offered the camera for what would be pitched as a cheap price, but the actual retail value; some people would buy the camera on the spot, but even for those who didn’t, they had just been greatly informed and influenced to buy a particular product. I don’t know about you, but that’s creepy as hell to me. Now when people walk up to me, I have to have it in the back of my mind that they might be a plant by a company to try to get me to do (most likely purchase) something? WTF.

Things like this have now made it so that face-to-face communication can’t be trusted. I used to think that as long as I wasn’t a spy for the CIA, I could pretty much trust that the people I interacted with had genuine intentions; good and bad they may be, but still genuine. Advertising like this is not genuine, its fake and casts a cloud over the reliability of human interaction. I knew I texted for a reason! I can choose who I want to message and control who reads my thoughts and influences me….I think….?

Note: I made it so that I could moderate comments (I don’t want this to turn into a Digg comment page…ugh) and after applying the option, it deleted all of the comments that were already there. I dunno, but I tested it and I think it’s working now.

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Castle in the Sky

Posted by Brandon McKoy on June 26, 2008

A few nights ago I was watching Jurassic Park, and was struck by the many similarities between the lessons in the movie, and the lessons we learn from urban and suburban planning. In Jurassic Park, scientists built a beautiful park with all of the precautions and amenities they could think of. One of the repeating lines in the movie is, “spared no expense.” Yet, in the end, even with all of their fanciful designs and plans, nature found a way to do what it wanted and the dinosaurs on the island took over. Well, the same goes for residential planning; no matter how nice you make the buildings or the parks, there will still be crime, drugs, and all of the social problems that come with society. Physical environment is no where near as important as mental environment. As long as people fear one another and flee rather than invest in their community, the same problems will continue to plague society. Pretty looking buildings, as amazing as they are, don’t do shit to help ease these problems.

Speaking of pretty buildings, there was a recent announcement that developers are planning to build a skyscraper in Dubai, where each floor can spin (yep, spin) independently to change the view. The BBC has a nice report here on the event. This incredible building will have 80 floors (all but the ground floor can spin), with a computer controlling each floor’s rotation, contorting the building into very interesting shapes and designs. Owners of penthouse suites will have the ability to control their floor’s rotation, so that they can change the view if (and when) they tire of it. In a nutshell, this building is off the hook; too bad it doesn’t serve a real purpose. Yes, the building is energy self-sufficient from wind turbines which power the rotation of the floors. But this building isn’t being used for some public purpose; it’s just more incredibly expensive housing ($3.7 million – $36 million for an apartment), and is taking a large amount of money to construct (~ $700 millon) considering it’s only 79 apartments. Is it cool? Yes. Is it necessary? Hell no.

The development of Dubai is very interesting. Most metropoleis have been built over hundreds of years, slowly growing in architecture and population. Dubai however, has gone from basically a desert town to a thriving metropolis in a mere 14 years. Its population has tripled in 20 years from 370,800 in 1985 to 1,204,000 in 2005. I say all of this to illustrate that it is no surprise that such a building would be constructed in Dubai. However, my concern is that similar extravagant projects (though they may not have spinning floors) are being planned in many cities around the world, including American cities.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to use all of this money to create buildings and structures that can serve a real purpose, rather than throw it all away on beauty and aesthetics? The Chrysler building in New York, though not particularly unique, is a staple of the city’s landscape and houses many businesses and ventures which breath life into the city. Instead of trying to make everything look beautiful, cities need structures of substance. You may not agree with me here, but I’d rather that cities use such money on parks, corner stores, and maintenance, instead of building these extravagant monstrosities. A city can look as beautiful as it wants, but if there is no substance behind it, it’s not going to operate in an effective way.

So, in a way, Jurassic Park taught me everything I need to know about Urban Development. It shows that environment doesn’t breed success, and ultimately nature will find a way. Just like Urban development, the public has to have the right mindset to go with the right environment, otherwise they will resort back to their natural behaviors which continue to result in the things that plague our society (fear, drugs, crime, etc.). It is why people flee to the suburbs, and why Donald Trump sits atop his personally named tower – they would rather get away from the problems than to stay and fix them. Hiding behind gated communities and inside 80 story skyscrapers will not advance this society one lick. If people are provided with places to foster community and relationships (parks, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, etc.) instead of places to escape and segregate themselves, we will all be better off. Everybody seems to want their own little castle in the sky; it is only on the ground, amongst the people where true community and happiness lie.

Listening to: No Doubt – The Climb

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Note: For everyone who continues to visit this blog I greatly appreciate it. I’m going to make Thursday updates a regularity so that there’s some consistency here. Also, please comment so I know what your thoughts are; whether you agree or disagree. I’m going to start posting polls and the like so stay tuned. Thanks again – B

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