Gina’s Blog

The Takeover

Posted in Digital Technology by Gina on October 30, 2007
Tags: , , , , , ,

Within the first five chapters, Smart Mobs provides an overview of various forms of technology—their history, their present state, and their future.  Rheingold’s writing style isn’t quite as enticing as Scoble and Israel or Battelle, but again, writing books on technical topics is not an easy task.  The tie that binds this book’s many topics together is the creation of technology for the betterment of the world. 

Mobile phones have become one of the greatest technological creations to date.  Rheingold even goes as far as to proclaim that it will one day be a remote control to our lives.  They already provide valuable services such as text messaging and web access and serve as mp3 players, cameras, and camcorders, and some phones have even more capabilities.  I am sure that they will continue to evolve like every other aspect of technology, which makes the notion of them becoming the remote control to our lives extremely likely.

It is impossible to mention the benefit of cell phones without discussing text messaging.  Text messaging or short messaging service (SMS) is an example of the applications created for the betterment of humankind.  It is a formation of short messages that can be sent between mobile devices.  There are many advantages to texting, but privacy is its biggest asset.  You are able to converse practically anywhere without disrupting those nearby.  As the author points out, it just hasn’t taken off here in the U.S. like it has in other parts of the world.  We’ve all seen the commercial were the daughter is talking to her mom using text language, but teens here still don’t use texting to say “good morning” or “goodnight” to each other like teens in Tokyo.  Smart Mobs gives part of the blame to the way texting was organized in the U.S., and I totally agree.  The initial inability to send texts to other phone company subscribers was one cog in the wheel, but one of the biggest reasons even now is the cost of text messages.  If you don’t have a text message package included in your plan, you’re typically paying about 10 cents per message, which can really add up if you’re texting like people in Tokyo, The Philippines, Finland, and Stockholm.  Our culture also allows people to be less dependent on texting for privacy.  Many people in the U.S. are able speak more openly on the phone since the living area in homes here is larger than homes in many other countries.  Texting is a great application, but the process must be improved before we catch up with other parts of the world.

Before applications were incorporated in cell phones, there were only software applications on computers.  This week’s reading, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”  and Smart Mobs, opened my eyes to the way computers were meant to be.  Like many people, I was afraid of open-source software like Linux and Firefox.  After becoming familiar with Microsoft, it just didn’t seem natural for everyone to be able to go in and change stuff, but in actuality, the originators of computer systems (also known as hackers) intended for people to work collaboratively to build more perfect applications.  However, along came people like Bill Gates, who showed the world the unimaginable income potential that the computers could provide, and naturally, the priorities changed.  Eric S. Raymond, author of “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” surprisingly mentions that he’s not opposed to “software hoarding,” but after reading Rheingold’s book, I can’t help but feel a little differently toward Microsoft.  I guess I can’t fault Bill Gates.  I would have made the same decision… play nice or become a billionaire?  Raymond discusses open-source versus closed-source software mainly in regard to his development of fetchmail.  Development of open-source software is obviously a labor of love project.  Contributors are typically volunteers who believe in the original software, but feel they can improve its ability to function.  Open-source software is dependent on their passion, which typically makes the application especially useful since it is created by genuinely interested developers/users versus developers who simply want a paycheck.  Of course the downside is if the developers lose interest, the application stops evolving.  The author believes that in the end open-source software will triumph, and I guess this depends on your personal definition of triumph.  If you are referring to making the better product, I totally agree, but if you are referring to becoming a billionaire, I would have to go with Microsoft’s blueprint.

After the development of computers came the Internet, which is arguably the most important aspect of modern-day technology.  The Internet evolved from computers linked together in one room to computers that communicated with nearby campuses to computers that connect to the each other all over the world.  Linking to other computers, which is referred to as peer-to-peer networking, first started to obtain additional power from computers that weren’t in use.  I am still not totally clear on how peer-to-peer networks operate, but after reading The Search last week, I assume they must carry some of the same principles as search engines.  This innovation played a key role in the development of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), climate change projects, and health research.  It also led to file-sharing networks, which continue to spark controversy.  Napster is of course the name that most often comes to mind when referring to file sharing, and although they were the mastermind behind an unbelievable amount of copyright violations, they have now accepted the terms set by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and are providing a legal file-sharing service to its users.  Peer-to-peer networks expose the Web’s biggest asset, which is the ability to share resources and information, and its biggest downfall, which is the inability to monitor the transmittal of information that for any number of reasons should not be shared.

Technological developments often fall into the category of information that comapnies chose not to share, but Smart Mobs provides a sneak peek at the innovations companies are working on that are soon to be part of our everyday existence.  Rheingold mentions that Gartner Consulting, tech industry analyst, predicts that wearable computers will be worn by 75% of teens by 2010….  I guess they’re on their way.  It’s a very cool idea, and I would be one of the first in line for a wristwatch that can search and whatever else developers have in mind.  CoolTown is another very cool idea brought to us by Hewlett Packard.  This is basically a sample version of what the world will be like once microchips have been placed in virtually everything.  We will be able to access all information on an object or place by simply using our cell phones.  We are already able to pay for items by waving our card, which is mentioned in the book.  I am sure the companies’ other ideas will be presenting themselves soon.

As important as technology may be, many believe that reputation and cooperation are actually the driving forces in our society.  It is only logical that they are closely tied into the way technology currently functions.  A prime example of these two forces coming together is eBay.  This Web site allows users to buy and sell goods, but requires cooperation from both parties in order for the system to work effectively.  Reputation plays a role in whether a person will even chose to do business with the other party.  If a person has a history of failing to ship or pay for items, more than likely people will be hesitant to trust that person.  Our decisions to trust and sacrifice for others is based on different factors, but what I found to be fascinating was the motivating factors for people who are willing to take big risks showing great acts of kindness or generosity.  All this time I assumed that they were just giving people, when they really just wanted a little extra acknowledgement.  Apparently, they are more motivated by the benefits that stem from their actions, including respect, “future political power, economic partnership, or sexual attention,” (Rheingold, 2002, p. 128) which are not so uncommon desires among all people.

Most people also share a passion for technology, even if it is just our attachment to our cell phones.  In a loose sense, I suppose we’re all part of Rheingold’s smart mob.  This movement has captured us all, and even those who don’t want to come along for the ride are being dragged right along with us.  Cell phones and especially the Internet are tools for life now.  Without them you’re limiting your employment opportunities, friendship and romantic possibilities, and access to other beneficial information.  It’s obvious that smart mobs are taking over, and like it or not we’re all forced to participate.


One Response to 'The Takeover'

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  1. Rio said,

    “wearable computers are predicted to be worn by 75% of teens by 2010” Who made that prediction ?

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