Sunday, July 08, 2012

Douglas Rushkoff, author of "Program Or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for A Digital Age"

A podcast from CBC radio's technology programme "Spark" caught my attention today. Douglas Rushkoff full radio interview on CBC "Spark" (24:27 min).

In his interview with Nora Young, Douglas Rushkoff talks about the need for awareness that we are within a constructed environment when we are occupying a space like Facebook or Google. He is concerned that people are unaware that they are not the customers -- they are the content. The "customers" are those that are paying for it, namely, the advertisers.

He also talks about the educational role that is needed from the last generation of people who have lived in a pre-digital environment. He advises that children learn to do enough programming that they understand on a gut-level that it is all about algorithims. He suggests that a good time to start would be at the grade four level, just after children have been shown long division for the first time. This is their first algorithm, where they learn that if they apply rules to a problem, they can methodically step through to an answer. He says this is a profound experience for children, when they see that they don't have to understand the whole thing in order to still work their way to answer. He says this is a teachable moment to then take another couple of weeks to show them a bit of programming, so that they understand that this grinding through steps is what a computer does too.

He also made an analogy to cars. You don't need to know how to build a car. But if you own one, you should learn how to drive it. Otherwise, you are just a passenger. You are trusting that person you are paying to drive you around is really looking after your best interests when he tells you there really are no grocery stores in this town, and that he has no other choice than to drive you twenty miles to his brother-in-law's restaurant.

It will take a bit of time investment to listen to the Spark interview, but worth it. What else have you got to do on that twenty-mile drive?

If you prefer to read rather than listen, here is the review in It described "Program Or Be Programmed" as "One of the most important and instructive books of our time."
The GeekDad Interview with Douglas Rushkoff

Interested in going straight to the source? Here is David Rushkoff's website

Photo of Rushkoff by Paul May. Licenced through Creative Commons.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Phone your mom -- or your child

Sometimes the "smartest" part of a smart phone is the remnant from that earlier big black object that used to hang on the wall.

Today is Mother's Day, and I just got off the phone after my adult son called from Toronto, three time-zones away. I'm used to initiating most of our communication by texting and email, but I melt with gratitude every time I have a conversation with him.  I bet most parents feel the same way, regardless of the age of their children. 

Earlier today, a friend mentioned hearing Molly Johnson, on CBC Radio2 "Weekend Morning", urging her listeners to "Phone your mom. Don't email her or text her." For most parents of any age, a voiced conversation resonates on many more levels than a text-based one, or even a Hallmark card. But research proves that there is a two-way benefit. In an January 5, 2012 article "PowRer of Mom's Voice Silenced by Instant Messages" on the Wired Science section of the website, Brandon Kelm has data that proves that "When girls stressed by a test talked with their moms, stress hormones dropped and comfort hormones rose. When they used IM, nothing happened." And he concludes, "People still need to interact the way we evolved to interact".

My son is much better at using the "phone" part of his Blackberry instead of the texting options. He sometimes calls me as he is walking or riding the bus. I confess that it is rare that I use my iPhone to call him. Often when he calls, I've forgotten to turn my ringer on. It's my loss in foregone serendipity. Cost is not a factor. My cell-phone account has the option of listing 5 long-distance number for unlimited free calling, and his number is top of the list.  I need to get past the fixed idea I have that a phone call is an event that needs to occur in a fixed context. I simply need to get in that habit of using my own transition time to call him. I will try to avoid boring a bus-load of people. But a few minutes of conversation would certainly transform bus-stops into sites of warmth and pleasure.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Welcome back Nancy!

I dread seeing the "Welcome back" greeting when I log into Facebook or some other social networking site. Right off the bat I feel like an insufficiently ashamed prodigal. I don't want Facebook to think I have been dragged back by their "Notifications  pending" emails. Those are as inspiring as the  letter writing sessions at Summer Camp. But I'm noticing that my Facebook denial is getting in the way. As I was planning the movies I'd see at the DOXA film festival, I kept thinking of re-connecting with a friend from my grad project group at Emily Carr.  At my request, as students, she'd been my Facebook mentor. Last time we tried to make a plan, she told me she doesn't do phone calls or emails anymore. So this time I didn't even try to contact her. Fortunately last night we ran into each other at one of the events and I confessed my avoidance. We agreed to get together through the mutual comfort zone of texting. Now, in my perverse "late adopter" way, I want to re-visit my Facebook resistance. Can I afford NOT to be there? Is there a balanced way to participate? Anyone want to create a Facebook Support Group with me?

Sent from my iPhone4

Personal project@ the Apple Store