Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451…the temperature at which books burn.

So, I thought since none of you have read Fahrenheit 451, I would tell you a little bit about it and maybe in your spare time (because we all have so much) you can read it.  The book takes place in the future (like Brave New World) and describes a dystopian society where books are banned and burned and never to be read.  The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman, which in the book is very different from our definition of a fireman because they set fire to books and homes that are found to be hiding books.  Fireman actually means book burner.

What traitors books can be! You think they’re backing you up, and they turn on you. Others can use them, too, and there you are, lost in the middle of the moor, in a great welter of nouns and verbs and adjectives. (p. 107)

I don’t want to tell you too much because then what’s the point of reading it.  I just thought of this book a lot while reading Brave New World because of them not letting the people in the World State read books because they didn’t want them forming opinions.  After Montag meets a young girl, Clarisse, who describes the world to him before books were burned Montag’s curiosity gets the best of him and he starts stealing books from the houses they burn and hiding them in his house.  He eventually runs away and finds a place in similar to the Reservation in Brave New World.  In this society there is a group of people there called “The Book People,” because they have memorized books and they share them with eachother.  In a quote from a synopsis on The Big Read, you can see many of the parallels between the society in this book and Brave New World:

The people in this society do not read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently or have meaningful conversations.  Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears.

There are many similarities between the two books, so I think if you enjoyed Brave New World, you would also like Fahrenheit 451.  The author is Ray Bradbury and it was published in 1953, there is also a movie made in 1966.

Interesting note: They have been trying to remake the movie since 1994 with stars like Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt, and Tom Hanks playing Guy Montag.  Several of these have fallen through, Tom Hanks pulled out of the role in 2008 and they are still looking for the perfect actor to portray Montag.

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@ Andy

Andy – I don’t seem to be able to sign in to comment on your blog anymore via openid…again probably a UE so I’ll leave my comment here and try again later.

I like your point about Postman and Roszak “that the machine influences curriculum, rather than curriculum influencing the machine.” However, what would be their argument about educational software?  Meaning software that is built specifically to teach or reinforce a concept.  I believe that Logo was initially built to teach programming, but has evolved to teaching math and other ideas.  There seem to be plenty of softwares out there and the only purpose they serve is to teach something.

A Faustian Bargain

In his final pages of The End of Education Postman offers a list of ten principles that should be included in the teaching of technology if it were a core subject in school (p. 192). His first principal states, “All technological change is a Faustian bargain. For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.” We have heard similar prose from Postman before in one of our first readings from Technopoly where he states that, “every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that.” In light of his thought, I have come up with a list of three (fairly new) technologies and will write about an advantage and the corresponding disadvantage for each.

Email: This technology has the advantage of giving us a way to connect with other people. We can write to them at times we might not be able to step away and make a call or at an hour where the call would disturb the recipient. It gives us the opportunity to keep track of our correspondence with people and we can organized them into little folders. We can write a long distance email to Korea essentially for free (all you need is an Internet connection, if you don’t have one you can go to the public library and use theirs (because I don’t think they’d be too keen on you asking to use their phone to make a long distance call to Korea).
A disadvantage of email that comes to mind first is the fact that we are essentially always available – most specifically with work. I am expected to check my work email when I am not at work and be ready to answer questions or take care of other tasks even though I’m not being paid. Another is that there are people who do not use email and therefore if email is your primary mode of communication it is difficult to keep in touch with people who choose not to use it. I suppose that isn’t a disadvantage to email (more a disadvantage to the person who chooses not to use it).

Google: An advantage of Google is the ability to access tons of information at the push of a button. The ability to search the Internet for any piece of information you are looking for. You can find answers to virtually all of your questions…even ones like: Will computers take over the world?? However, this leads us to one of our disadvantages, the reliability of the information. As you can see from the answer to that question anyone can post information on the web and Google will take you to it. This is something that many young people do not understand, they do not realize that the results are based on popularity, not reliability. Google gives us the ability to search for all types of information, but doesn’t exactly teach us or our students good search skills. I have an Internet scavenger hunt that I have my kids do for sub plans if I’m out. My hope was that students would pick the key words from the questions and find the information based on that, but instead they just Google the whole question…then when they want to search a database, they do the same thing and they get zero results. Should we blame Google for conditioning them to search this way? Ask.com has enabled this problem even more.

Facebook: I chose this social networking site because it’s probably the one I am most familiar with right now. I think one of the advantages of this site is being able to keep in touch with or get in touch with people from various stages in your life. When the site was first introduced to me you had to have a school email address to join and networks were made up from the schools that you attended. Since then, it has expanded and you can join with any email address and join area networks like Baltimore or school networks like Towson, but school networks need to be verified in some way. One of the disadvantages might be people from your past who you don’t necessarily want to keep in touch with tracking you down. Sure, you can ignore their request to be your friend (which sounds a lot meaner than it actually is), but it makes for an awkward meeting the next time you see them in person. I wonder if Facebook is ruining the idea of a high school or college reunion? First, there are those awkward run-ins with people who requested to be your friend and you denied them. If they are your friend on Facebook there’s not a whole lot to catch up on because you’ve posted on eachothers walls a few times and done the small talk of what are you up to these days, etc.

I’m sure that the advantages and disadvantages that I have come up with are much more simple than the way that Postman might analyze these technologies.  He’d point out loss of productivity at work, the thought that students could teach themselves with the vast amount of information available to them indexed by Google etc. but I feel like Postman gives these things too much credit sometimes.  Though as Bill pointed out, he’s from a different era than me, so he sees things in a different light.

Change is good…right? (NR)

Not related to class

I was on facebook yesterday and I noticed a lot of this:

Jane* ok…i hate the new facebook- i just got used to the old one! urrr!

Sean* is not feeling the new Facebook…

Jennifer* is confused about the new facebook…agh

*Names have been changed to protect the idiots.

and then I noticed this:

oldfb

Seriously people – they’ve updated the website to make it better (I’m guessing).  We’re supposed to be young and able to easily adapt to change (especially when it comes to technology) – I sometimes wonder if we just need something to complain about.  It’s not even that different, at least from what I can tell…

Roszak’s Cult of Information

What is mature technology?  As defined by Roszak, it is a technology that “generates as many problems as it solves” (p. xlii).  Roszak begins his book, The Cult of Information (1994), by discussing the essential issues he wrote about in the first edition of his book published in 1986.  A lot has changed since then and a lot has changed since the second edition was published in 1994.  Many of the things he and other people he quotes in his book as saying about technology and the future of technology have already happened.  For instance, twice in our reading he discusses the future of using technology to exchange advice, make dates, etc. (p. 34 & 61).  This is already hapenning – as we know because we are using one of those technologies now to express our ideas.  It is happening in multiple forms and is used probably by more people than Alvin Toffler and Roszak every imagined it would be.

One of the most interesting chapters in Roszak’s book (in xiii-107 anyway) is Chaper Two – Data Merchants (p. 21-46).  I came across so many interesting ideas in this chapter and made many notes and did a lot of highlighting and questioning when I read this chapter.  I’d like to discuss a few of those.   In the first few pages of the chapter Roszak quotes John Naisbitt as saying:

we now mass-produce information the way we used to mass-produce cars.  In the information society, we have systematized the production of knowledge and amplified our brainpower (as cited in Roszak, 1984, p. 22).

I found this quote particularly interesting, though written in 1982 it applies even more so in 2009.  In the age of Wikipedia and things like blogs, writers no longer have to wait weeks, months or years to be published.  In a matter of seconds we can publish our knowledge to be read by millions (though I doubt millions are reading this particular blog).  We’ve created more ways for knowledge to be mass produced.  As Bill “twitted” (not sure how else to refer to it) the other night, he presented information one day at SITE and his information was used in a presentation by another person the following day.  In years past this would have been possible, but much more commonplace today.  We can write, publish, edit and have responses to our knowledge and opinions in a matter of minutes – to me that is a mass-production of knowledge, I would venture to say that more blog posts are created daily than cars are built, but haven’t done the research to back that up.

On p. 30 Roszak presents the following question:

Can the latest generation of micro- and mini- computers be merchandised on a larger scale as mass consumption items?

Well, we all know the answer to that question.  In my tiny 2 bedroom apartment there are 3 computers and an iPod touch (which in a sense is a mini computer because I can get online and do many of the things I can with my laptop).  Though I know more computers than people in a household is not a norm, it’s clear that computers are mass consumption items.  I think our society has come to see the computer as more of a necessity than a priviledge, though not the case in all areas of the world.  On p. 32 Roszak discusses that it is the thought of many that our lives would essentially stop if technology were to break down.  Is this the case?  I’m not sure because it hasn’t happened, though the looming thought of it during Y2K certainly seemed to paint that picture.  I do know that working in a school when the Internet goes down, some people seem to panic.  I have students asking me – what will we do in class if there is no Internet – being the Comptuer teacher I simply respond – do we ever go on the Internet in this class?  the answer is No so this doesn’t cause any issues for me.  In a recent meeting we were discussing what a 21st century learner/student would look like.  One of the skills I thought they should have is the ability to develop a Plan B.  So many times I have seen situations where students have become so reliant on technology that if something goes wrong (Internet goes down, sound doesn’t work, picture doesn’t show up, etc.) they have no plan B.  It reminds me of a quote I have on the wall in my classroom:

homedog2

Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog. – Doug Larson

Students in some ways have become too reliable on technology to solve their problems, leading us back to Roszak’s quote about mature technology that it has to generate as many problems as it solves.

Later in the Data Merchants chapter Roszak discusses Toffler’s book again and refers to a house that will respond to it’s occupants and appliances where if a toilet leaks, the house will detect and find a plumber to fix it (p. 34).  However, if technology has come that far – will toilets even leak anymore?  It seems that if we can create a technology that can detect a leaking toilet and find a plumber that it would make more sense to just create a technology that keeps a toilet from leaking in the first place.

Throughout much of Roszak’s book he talks about how computers are so much smarter than humans in the way that with the touch of a button they can produce total recall, etc.  I hear that, loud and clear but am left thinking – yes they might be smarter than humans – but they are created by humans.  On p. 39 Roszak writes about the [possible] creation of the UIM (ultra-intelligent machines) in the 1990s which will, of course, be smarter than humans.  I quickly scrawled a note in the margin that said “but created by humans.”  How can something created by us, be smarter than us?  Finally on p. 41 Roszak writes:

…scientists need to be reminded that the organisms (human beings) which came before mechanisms are far more remarkable pieces of work than the tools they may occasionally invent when they are not spending their time singing songs, making jokes, telling tales, or worshiping God.

FINALLY! (I wrote that in the margins next to that quote too).  I have been waiting for him to mention that for the last seventy-some pages (including Preface)!  Later on the same page he disscusses that computers take part of some type of evolution.  I think it’s important to note here that we control it’s evolution.  The computer will not evolve on it’s own without some type of human poking and prodding.

I’m going to stop here and discuss some of the other chapters later this weekend.

(Seems I forgot to hit Update Post and didn’t publish my full text until Saturday, sorry about that!)

What does DVD stand for?

Write about/describe an example of a technique in today’s society. Tell its story and the need for the creation/adoption of this technique and the new techniques that resulted from it? Could we have controlled for this technique? Is there or was there an alternative?

In the mid 90’s several technology companies were working to develop a new type of disc to store video, after dropping competing ideas and joining forces they came up with the DVD.  The DVD was invented to replace the VHS tape, which was mediocre for various reasons.  Over time a VHS tape loses quality, you don’t have the ability to jump to specific areas of the tape and the player for the VHS tape is large and only serves that function – to play and record VHS tapes.

By 1997 the DVD and its players were available in the United States and other countries.  Though the idea took some time to catch on, by 2003 DVD sales were far surpassing VHS sale and by 2005 most retail stores had stopped selling VHS all together.  We know that today you can’t usually walk into a chain movie rental store (aka Blockbuster) and find a VHS on the shelf.

Did you know that according to didyouknow.org the “name of the format is simply ‘DVD’; the letters do not officially stand for anything?”  Thought most of us assume it stands for digital video disc, we wouldn’t be wrong, it’s just not the official name (…or definition of the acronym??).

From the DVD several new techniques have been created, here’s a short list off the top of my head:

  • DVD players
  • compact DVD players
  • game consoles that also play DVDs
  • personal DVD burners
  • recordable DVD media
  • DVD video cameras
  • DVD codec software
  • BluRay*

*I’m not sure how long this will stick around, though I did see that Blockbuster now has a special section for BluRay rentals

There, of course, is an alternative to the DVD and that is the VHS tape or any other movie format I supposed (would watching it on TV or OnDemand count as an alternative?).  However, there are now additional alternatives to the basic DVD (discussed more below).  I think we could have controlled for this technique, but I also feel it was necessary to upgrade from the VHS for storage purposes.  I think the coming about of the DVD was very controlled because of the way all of the major companies came together to create the technology rather than creating their own version.  This is why I’m not sure if Blu-Ray will stick around, yes, you can play a regular DVD on a Blu-Ray player, but it just seems that there is too much added expense.  I suppose it is kind of liek HDTV, is it worth the extra money to upgrade your TV and cable service?  The difference though between Blu-Ray and HDTV is that HDTV is not proprietary format and therefore will probably be a more evolutionary type of technology where if you’re getting a new TV you go with the HD version because the price point isn’t much different.

Information from:

http://www.didyouknow.org/dvd/dvdhistory.htm

Technique, Technology, Science…etc.

I think my eyes are about to fall out after reading that piece about technique on my machine…

So…technique is used to represent the word technology and the word science (as stated on p. 11). Interesting…and all the more confusing to me.

I pulled several quotes from the reading, and thought I would reflect briefly on them:

“…technique has taken over all of man’s activities, not just his productive activity.”  (p. 4)
I found this particular quote very interesting, assuming in this quote that technique can be replaced with the word technology.  Every where we look today there is technology, everything we do is lead by or improved by some type of technology.   I find it hard to think of an activity that involves technology that doesn’t improve our productivity because in many cases it makes most events take less time.  I was trying to think of a simple activity that did not have to do with productivity, and considered something like taking a shower.  While taking shower doesn’t directly relate to productivity, the ways in which the shower have been improved make it possible to take a shower in less time (we no longer have to wait to heat the water, it’s already done through technology).  So because I spend less time taking a shower I can complete other tasks or more tasks than I could in the past.

“‘The machine is antisocial,’ says Lewis Mumford.”
When I read this quote, the first that comes to mind for me is social networking, not really an antisocial tool, though some may argue that social interactions that take place via the computer are not as meaningful as those in a face-to-face interaction.  However, as I pointed out in a previous post, I keep in touch with a lot more people because of technology and the machine, in this case, my computer.  I find the machine can be a social tool.

“It is efficient and brings efficiency to everything.”
This relates mostly to my first point about thinking technology improves many activities, many of the improvements are improvements on the efficacy of things.  This leads to efficiency in all fields.

“The discovery enters the public domain before anyone has had a chance to reckon all the consequences or to recognize its full import.”
Someone made a similar statement about not taking into consideration all the effects a certain technology might have on society, but even if they did, you can’t predict every one. I think it was Andy, but I’ll have to go back and review to double check. I thought it was interesting that it came up again.

“…a need to hold that technical progress is unconditionally valid-which leads to the selection of the most positive aspect of technical progress, as though it were its only one.”
This statement made me realize that not all technology is good, but many of us always try to see the good in technology fir before we consider any consequences that may come as a result of it being introduced to our society.

an entire realm of effects of technique-indeed, the largest-is not reducible to numbers;
Because we can not quantify the success of some technology, we can not always describe it’s effect on our society.  However, most times those are the elements we remember most or those that are used most often to convince us that a technology is good or necessary.

“…gathering of fruit among primitive peoples-climbing the tree, picking the fruit as quickly and with as little effort as possible, distinguishing between the ripe and the unripe fruit, and so on. However, what characterizes technical action within a particular activity is the search for greater efficiency. Completely natural and spontaneous effort is replaced by a complex of acts designed to improve, say, the yield. It is this which prompts the creation of technical forms, starting from simple forms of activity. These technical forms are not necessarily more complicated than the spontaneous ones, but they are more efficient and better adapted.”
I found this quote fascinating and so true.  We are always looking to improve the way that we do things so that they can take as little time, effort, thought, etc. as possible

Here we find the supreme Greek virtue…self-control. The rejection of technique was a deliberate, positive activity involving self-mastery, recognition of destiny, and tlle application of a given conception of life. Only the most modest techniques were permitted-those which would respond directly to material needs in such a way that these needs did not get the upper hand.
I feel that the use of many technologies today requires self-control, while it’s easier for me to email a colleague or do something via “machine,” sometimes it’s necessary to exert that self-control and go have a conversation with somebody to keep those social interactions alive.

More later…need coffee 🙂