Category Archives: Postion Paper

Position Paper = concise opinion/editorial style pieces written by Year 1 and Year 2 CultureNet students in response to course readings, tours, talks, etc.

The 21st Century Library: Library for Community

In today’s technological culture, associating technology with progress and engaging in discourse such as we should prepare for the rapid changing future is dominant in our everyday life. Whether our changing society is primarily because of technology or not, we often feel the fear about the speed of change and feel urgency that we need to do something. This fear or urgency applies to every one in every field. Library is no exception. The role of a library has been changing, and a library in the 21st century library will not be the same as the one in the 20th century. But as George Villavicencio, a librarian of Capilano University Library, said, it is hard to predict what will happen in the future and preparing for the future is not easy. In this context, two librarians, George Villavicencio, and Chris Koth (a librarian of North Vancouver City Library) suggest that library should be ultimately for people. They think library should be community based and provide a space for people who use it.

According to George, the primary role of Capilano University Library is to provide students database services so that they can get articles that they need for their research or other assignments. Library in the 21st century is getting people connected through online to the information that they need. Along with helping people access to databases, he is planning to use the main floor of Capilano Library exclusively open for student or faculty activities. He claims whatever technological development is, the primary focus is on people. City Library faces lots of complicated issues, and Chris starts understanding the residents’ of City of North Vancouver. According to him, City of North Vancouver is very multicultural and a lot f the residents live in apartments, which indicates their space issues. So City Library focuses on settling those issues such as making Multi-language materials, managing computer class, providing internet access room and so on.

I like George and Chris’s idea, because they understand today’s technological culture and try to find ways what they can do, and most importantly, placing people in the center of their future library plan. Truly, there is a demand that we should meet a certain criteria in this technological culture, but what they are reassuring is that it cannot be that way that technology dragging us to a certain level, forcing us to meet a certain criteria but we people are the most important part of technological culture, and we are making culture.

Word count:410

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How Do You Identify?

Would you agree that most technological inventions are geared towards a certain group, to meet a necessary goal or task? In Chapter 13 of Culture and Technology: A Primer, Slack and Wise discuss the importance of identity and technology in a society as fast paced as ours. Although, Slack and Wise may not agree, they say, “what technologies are made available to a person depends in part on their identity (gender, race, class, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, and so on)” (149). This makes it very difficult for people with less money and less access to come into contact with the technologies that they may need or desire. I agree that technology can have a strong influence in altering a person’s identity through online social networking sites and other forms of online interaction and I also agree with Slack and Wise when they say that technology can be biased towards certain identities in society.

Companies invent new technologies to make profit, so the people that they aim to please are most often people with money, the people with the means to make their company excel. This makes it difficult for other people, such as the unemployed, the homeless, or the disable to gain access to these technologies. This makes it very difficult for the unemployed, for example, to find jobs because they may be unable to access a computer to apply for a job position or to perhaps find a used car to drive themselves to interviews. In order for new technologies to be produced, research and funding must be done. Some technologies may not be developed because no one is willing to fund them because there is no profit to be made. Most often this is because the technology being researched is intended for people who do not have the means to pay large sums of money for the proposed new technology. Slack and Wise offer the example of developing medicine that will cure a disease, but will not make a profit. Although the ethical standpoint would be to make the medicine regardless of what money there is to gain, it is often difficult to find companies to do so. The more specific example of this is the cure for sleeping sickness which is a disease found in Africa. Most of the people suffering from this illness do not have the means to pay for the treatment, so companies stopped making it. This is a harsh example but it shows how technology can be very biased towards identity. The majority of people suffering from sleeping sickness live in poverty and a large part of their identity is defined by this fact, making it difficult for them to gain access to the technologies they need. Identity can be changed through the influence of technology but it also plays a very important role in the development and success of technologies. As much as it shouldn’t be, a person’s identity very much affects their access to new and old technologies.

By: Ruby Flynn

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The Future of News

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
March 26, 2010

THE FUTURE OF NEWS

In his article “The Race,” published in the March/April 2007 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review, American journalist and economist Robert Kuttner explores the complex financial and journalistic issues currently facing the ailing newspaper industry. As global Internet usage continues to grow exponentially, newspaper companies are struggling to maintain both readership levels and profitability. While large print newspapers are often part of media conglomerates with millions to invest in digital distribution, mid-sized firms are experiencing much more difficulty transitioning to and profiting from creating digital content. Newspaper publishers that expand their presence to include online and digital offerings of their existing products while ensuring journalistic quality will weather the economic storm facing their industry.

A number of critics of the print news industry argue that the Internet allows the news creation process to be more democratic and interactive, allowing anyone to create and share news material. They make the valid point that online technologies have a powerful ability to draw in the masses and involve them directly in the production and distribution of information. However, they fail to take into account the important role that quality journalism plays in our society, and the impact that skilled, trained writers have on news production. Indeed, Kuttner’s colleague admitted that although the Internet allows him to process more news on a daily basis, he has noticed that “the best material on the Internet consistently comes from Web sites run by print organizations.”

The fact that print newspapers are producing material that is of a much higher calibre than online blogs and other websites substantiates the argument that quality print journalism remains essential in modern society, although not necessarily in its existing form. Newspapers must create quality digital and online content to serve the growing masses who seek out information on the Internet in order to remain relevant and profitable in our digital culture. Although the average profit margins for newspaper divisions have been measured to be 17.8 percent as recently as 2006, “newspaper stocks lagged the S&P 500 … by 21 percent.” This clearly demonstrates the lack of faith that Wall Street has in the newspaper industry in its current state, and illustrates the need for newspaper publishers to re-examine and adapt their business models to become what Kuttner refers to as “print-digital hybrids.”

It remains to be seen if newspapers can maintain their existing print businesses in the future, but there is no doubt that news publishers need to expand their offerings to include online and digital products if they are to survive. In our modern digital culture, it is becoming increasingly important for publishers to embrace technological advancements in order to improve readership, profitability, and investor confidence. The development of print-digital hybrids necessitated by the current economic situation will allow the newspaper industry to survive by fusing technological innovation and journalistic quality. Whether print newspapers remain after this transition is less important than their ability to expand and diversify their businesses “without losing the culture that makes them uniquely valuable.”

Word count: 499

WORK CITED

Kuttner, Robert. “The Race: Newspapers can make it to a bright print-digital future after all—but only if they run fast and dodge Wall Street.” Columbia Journalism Review 45.6 (2007): 24-32. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 Mar. 2010.

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Simulated Authenticity

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
February 5, 2010

SIMULATED AUTHENTICITY

“Authenticity in the age of digital companions,” an article by MIT professor Sherry Turkle, explores the ever-changing landscape of human-machine interactions and delves into the issue of relational authenticity. Evolving technologies have allowed for the development of increasingly complex and sophisticated “relational artifacts” (Turkle 502) that are designed to communicate with humans realistically. The interactive nature of these digital companions can potentially allow users to experience therapeutic benefits through their relationships with these devices. However, as relational technologies continue to develop, spawning more faithful recreations of human characteristics and emotions, the “erosion of the line in the sand” (512) between humans and machines could forever impact the way we view and develop personal relationships.

Many studies, including those conducted by Turkle and her colleagues, have demonstrated the therapeutic ability of relational robots in a variety of settings, particularly in elder-care situations. By modeling a user’s behaviour and feelings, robots such as Paro are able to provide sick, elderly, or depressed people a means by which they can comfort themselves and attempt to resolve personal issues. Despite the fact that these relational artifacts are unable to understand or care about their users’ problems, their ability to respond to environmental stimuli and “push our Darwinian buttons” allows them to “inspire ‘the feeling of friendship’” (511). Even though the robot has lacks the capacity to understand or care about its user, it is interesting that people are able to experience beneficial effects based on the illusion that a digital creature appreciates and cares about them.

Although using digital companions may be advantageous for therapeutic purposes, this shift from human-to-human relationships to developing simulated relationships with machines marks a paradigm shift in the way we view authentic relationships. As the exposure of each successive generation to computational objects becomes more widespread, so too does the tendency to forge relationships and feel complex emotions towards these devices. The experiences that people have with digital companions could potentially result in less value being placed on authentic emotions or aliveness as a prerequisite for relationships. Another concern with integrating robotic technology into our culture is that we as a society will delegate more tasks to robots, becoming more reliant on the technology to handle responsibilities such as caring for the elderly.

The human desire to interact and build relationships with robots and other relational artifacts despite their lack of ability to understand or care about their user’s thoughts and feelings “indicates that traditional notions of authenticity are in crisis” (502). With the advent of sophisticated robotic technology, humans are no longer restricted to authentic relationships with each other, but rather they can interact and simulate relationships with machines. The continued expansion and development of relational technology will inevitably lead to closer replications of human emotions and abilities, blurring the line between authentic human relationships and those experienced with computational objects. This phenomenon illustrates the growing potential for a revolutionary shift from relationships based exclusively on human interaction to those which involve machines that simulate the authenticity of a human relationship.

Word count: 498

WORK CITED

Turkle, Sherry. “Authenticity in the age of digital companions.” Interaction Studies 8.3 (2007): 501-517.  Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 3 Feb. 2010. <http://web.mit.edu/sturkle/www/pdfsforstwebpage/
ST_Authenticity%20in%20age%20of%20digi%20comp.pdf
>

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Doing Our Part

Technology is used all around the world, but where does it all go once they’re no longer working or being used? Vancouver is known to be an environmentally benefit to Canada, whether that is cutting down on pollution, recycling, or conserving energy. Nonprofit organizations such as Free Geek are doing their job in helping the environment and community. Free Geek is a community organization that reduces the environmental impact of waste and electronics by reusing and recycling donated technology. They are doing this because a lot of people throw out old electronics without knowing what impact this may have on their own health and the environment. Free Geek recycle and reuse donated electronics because there are many toxins in them such as Lead, Mercury, and cadmium; exposure to these toxins could lead to brain and heart damage. As the co founder of Free Geek Ifny Lachance explains, a lot of computers are donated to poorer countries that recycle these toxic wastes by hand and not caring what effect it can have on the people and the world in general. Not only is Free Geek good for the environment, it also is a good way to volunteer because it gives you an hands on experience when dealing with computers, it requires no training and can teach you how to fix them if you ever have a problem yourself. When my old electronics are no longer a use to me I didn’t consider what happened to them once I threw them out, Free Geek may be a small organization but they are leading Vancouver in the right direction to a better environment. Although computers may only be a small portion of the world’s pollution it is putting Vancouver in the right direction and in addition helping these poorer countries such as China be more environmentally friendly too.

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Dying to be heard

Position Paper #3

Steffany Gundling

Technology has a way of suppressing our voices. This may seem like an oxymoron considering every time I go online I can instantly tell how many shots of espresso my Twitter friend has in his coffee. I also can read and write editorials, much like this one, on any topic I feel inclined to be interested in, exposing myself to the global village and the global village to myself. But Technology, in all its glory and liberty, has a way of shutting all of us up due precisely to these examples alone. With so many voices and so many opportunities to scream out our opinions, when are we ever heard or listened to? And to what extent will people go to in order to be louder than everyone else?

This draws me to the ‘Unabomber’. I had heard this word mentioned over the years but until I read a chapter focused on this in Slack and Wise’s Culture and Technology, I never gave much thought to the chaos of absolute freedom of speech and communication through technology. The chapter focuses on Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber and member of FC (Freedom club), and his anti-industrial revolution manifesto. Kaczynski’s famous manifesto believed that essentially the industrial revolution and all of it’s capitalistic qualities would inevitably be disastrous for society and that a revolt against technology was needed. In 1985, for Kaczynski, this revolt came in the form of mail-sent bombs to various experts in fields of strong technological backgrounds. Years later, when the taste of his reign of terror was dulled, he contacted newspapers and media outlets, demanding to be published, to be heard, and he would stop the death toll. Now Kaczynski could’ve easily been that crazy and psychotic guy that everyone labelled him to be (and most likely was), but the bombs and innocent deaths have catapulted a spotlight onto his otherwise ignored manifesto, which is now still being taught in universities and known worldwide. The deaths of innocent people was a price Kaczynski was willing pay in order to be listened to – and that he was. Essentially we can see this same fanatical method in religious fundamentalists (suicide bombers and terrorists) in today’s society. As CNN’s terror alert goes red, in our fear, we are all too eager to listen.

Should we go around killing people so everyone will listen to whatever burns and ignites our passions? No, that’s not at all what I’m saying. Is technology a time bomb ready to countdown the destruction of modern social structure? No. But a strong and unsettling question comes into my mind as I sift through my facebook news feed, dismissing and barely paying attention to how Dan’s day was or how much Jenny hates ice cream. As technology is already wrapping us up in its barrelling ambition forward, it is giving us all the freedoms we so aptly accept to uncensor ourselves to the world inexplicably. Through all the positive aspects of advancement and connectivity that these tools have given us, the balance of instant communication and expression may lead to an overall isolation in itself. Meanwhile updating my facebook status, the only question I undeniably ask myself is, “is anyone even listening?”

Works Cited

Slack, Jennifer Daryl and J. Macgregor Wise. Culture + Technology: a Primer. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.

Word Count: 555

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Guns Kill People: Advocating Technological Determinism

In their book Culture + technology: a Primer, Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise arise the debate on whether guns kill people , or people kill and argue that technological determinism falls on to the perspective that guns kill people. According to Slack and Wise, technological determinism, a belief that puts technology as a base for our society and cultural change is caused mainly by technology, is widely engaged in contemporary people’s discourse regarding the relationship between technology and culture (43). Although technological determinist position is accepted as convincing in today’s discourse, they claim that it is far from the truth because “technologies do not, in and of themselves, determine effects” and there are always people behind the technology creating, developing, and using it (45). If I read the entire book , I might change my view about technological determinism, but at this point, I am holding on to the position of technological determinism and I do not like the way Slack and Wise criticize technological determinism.

Going back to the ‘’guns” example, I want to ask, “What makes a gun a gun?” or “For what purpose was a gun made?” Answering these questions indicates a very important fact; guns were made for killing; if a gun is to be a gun, it has to kill people or animals. This “killing” attribute in guns make guns real guns and once they are made, regardless of the complexity of cultural context they were created from, guns have their own driving force. The very existence of a gun, ready to be used, waiting to be picked up, is inducing people continuously resulting in increased probability of people killing using guns. So, we say guns are affecting people or even forcing people to kill; however, we do not mean that guns are killing people literally. We know guns are not pulling triggers by themselves and it is people that pull triggers. Likewise, Slack and Wise’s claim that guns “did not drop from the sky” and people made them shows the same misunderstanding of rhetoric (45). To most people, it seems that guns dropped from the sky because they did nothing in making guns, and guns appeared suddenly out of nowhere. So, when we say guns appeared suddenly like dropped from the sky, we know somebody made them, but we are expressing the shock of guns’ coming into our lives without any warnings. Also, when we say guns are responsible for killing people, we not only blame guns itself, but people who use guns, our culture that needs guns and made guns, and social systems that allow guns to circulate so easily. Ironically, Slack and Wise’s criticism about widely used expressions that show technological determinism position reinforces the strength of technological determinism. As Slack and Wise argue, our everyday expressions regarding technology include languages such as, “technology is affecting”, “changing”, “causing”, or “revolutionary” (45). Leaving out those languages is not possible without alternative perspectives, which I anticipate the authors to suggest for us.

(Word count:500)

Work Cited

Slack, Jennifer Daryl and J. Macgregor Wise. Culture + Technology: a Primer. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.

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