Musing #2 Bus Rides, eBooks, Social Media Power

I’ve been in a technology training class this week in downtown Denver. I’m fortunate that an express bus to downtown stops at the end of my street, so I’ve been bus commuting this week.  I used to do that when we first moved here 20 years ago. Times have changed. technology has changed, and the more things change, the more some things stay the same.

Social vs. Solitary

20 years ago when I was a regular bus commuter, some folks read the paper, or a book, and some would talk to each other much as neighbors did when I was a kid.  This week, most folks who would have read a paper back then were using their smart phone Kindle or iPad to read. I was the only one reading a real paper. Comfortingly enough, the percent preferring solitary pursuits vs. social was about the same. There was one debate between an older gent and an older lady with a Kindle about his preference for a book and the feel of paper and her preference for many books in a light weight form so she could read whatever she wanted whenever convenient. It was a draw in my opinion. Each to their own.

Women Prefer eBooks

I read an article that Kindle readers et al have sold very well to women. This also has led to a boom in romance novels, aka, “bodice rippers”, in eBook format. It seems that a Kindle provides the “plain brown wrapper” of anonymity lacking in print copies of the same book.  Being anonymous shapes human behavior when passion and romance are involved.

End of Encyclopedia Britannica Sales

I get to read the paper on the commute and noticed a WSJ article about the demise of the Encyclopedia Britannica door-to-door salesman. Why?  Because the Internet, Google and Wikipedia have replaced it.  In the 1960’s and 70’s when I had to do research papers in class, access to an encyclodedia was the fastest way to get the project done. Today, the information available to a person on a given day via a laptop, smart phone or desk top computer surpasses the total content in the Encyclopedia Britannica, (and in fact, the entire contents of my public library) and it’s available on demand pretty much anywhere you are if you can afford a smart phone.

Social Networking and the Power of a Single Voice, Part #1

The news this week included the letter from the disgruntled employee of Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith. His letter in the New York Times triggered a twitter/blog echo.  Result, the CEO and the President of Goldman publicly had to respond promising “investigations” into the claimed abuses of customers by Goldman.  A Senate investigation with Lloyd Blankfien’s grilling didn’t achieve that much impact after the recession. One man, one letter and then the echo chamber of social networks created more pressure than the US congress.  Hmm, participatory democracy in the extreme?

Social Networking and the Power of a Single Voice, Part #2

The trial of the university student who video taped his roommate’s homosexual encounter with a fellow student and then promoted it using Twitter resulted in his conviction on charges of invasion of privacy, among other charges. If he had made the same comments in the student union and in conversations with friends, would he have been prosecuted?  Would there have been any hard evidence prosecutors could have relied on? Does social networking impose harsher restrictions on what you say then a private conversation in a public square?

Something to consider when next you tweet or post a comment to any blog.

IT Administrator Perspective on Social Media

My class mates are IT administrators in private companies, local government, and not for profits. A comment overheard about Google and Facebook, “I don’t worry about privacy when I use these. Sure they collect information, but I don’t think the government would really be interested in mining this to learn all about me.” 

Most of the people in this class were born long after the Joe McCarthy era. the late 1960-early 1970’s with the infiltration by the FBI of various “left-wing” organizations, or Nixon’s Watergate break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters.  I made the comment that a rereading of “1984” was in order to appreciate the ability of government to abuse surveillance powers. Sadly, I don’t think many understood my 1984 reference.

Today, substitute “advertising funded free applications” for Big Brother in the story of 1984. It seems in the 21st century the power of “free” is far more effective, and less costly, then overt surveillence to collect an in-depth dossier of Winston’s comings and goings. How much more powerful is surveillance when human nature is leveraged to collect the information instead of covert means?  It’s well worth considering I think since we do have a choice in our use of social media applications.

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