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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Do you ever feel like the internet knows too much? You sign into your Gmail account, Facebook, et cetera, and bam! Ads for movies, television, jobs, restaurants, and clothing that interest you are floating on your screen. How did Facebook know that I’d be interested in a 1950’s vintage inspired dress from ModCloth or want to see the trailer for next week’s episode of The Borgias? Well, the idea is simple enough. Companies pay good money to have their ads seen by the right people and, thus, websites simply scan your profile for hot words that stick out and match subject tags on ads or remember clicks and navigation moves you make to other groups and websites on or from their website. Of course, the algorithms behind the IT magic is more complicated than my simplification here, but that is the general gist of how it works.

Sometimes it seems like the computer knows me or can read my mind, which frankly is a bit frightening. I know that a lot of the ads and spam I get are based on my net-surfing behaviors and appear because I have things listed in my profiles on social networking sites that are common knowledge for the website marketers. Sometimes even the way these things work is predictive. I like The Borgias, so therefore I might reasonably enjoy other period dramas such as Camelot or Spartacus (which I do).

These cases usually don’t bother me because they are innocuous, if slightly unnerving, knowing that I have enough information out there about myself that a machine can predict my behavior. It is only recently, with my Gmail account, that I’ve begun to get quite peeved.

Over the past year or more, I have persistently received at least one e-mail of the spam variety pertaining to online dating per day. I decided, for the sake of very informal research, to see how many of these kinds of e-mails I get in about a month and to share with you all my ire.

Look for example, below, at exhibit A: August-September. This is a snapshot of my very own Gmail account, in the spam section. Look at all of that dating service junk mail, literally from everywhere! I am neither Indian nor Black, but at least it’s nice to know that these websites don’t discriminate. We have a representative sampling from eHarmony, Match, BlackPeopleMeet, and a generic Indian dating directory site. Really, over 20 e-mails in about a month!

Google Mail

My Gmail spam folder. Click me for the readable image in all its spamalicious glory!

What about me or my online presence says that I am desperate? I realize that online dating is a common arena in which to meet new people and to find a future spouse, but I get the impression that the internet “cloud” is trying to tell me something. Maybe I have visited too many Romance authors’ websites or SmartBitches one too many times and the big ol’ machine thinks I am obsessed with romance and need help finding a date. Who knows?

All I’m saying is that although I believe people can find meaningful relationships online (my cousin and her husband met via one of these harassing sites), it is totally not for me. And furthermore, I don’t need my computer telling me how and who to date. It’s like he knows how poor my dating skills are and, like a nosy family member, has to butt in, give his advice, and set me up with a less-than-desirable candidate.

Thank you spam, I really feel the love you’re trying to throw at me, laced with your judgment and know-it-all opinions. Please stop sending me e-mails about my love-life. I’ll do things my way and on my own time. I get the hint.

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Warning, I’m about to have a little pity party here. And a push for Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Like Sapphire so eloquently put it a while back, technology brings along its own special brand of problems, along with incredible advantages. Take Facebook for example. It’s made keeping in touch with my high school, study abroad and college friends so easy. If I were to rely solely on the phone could I plan weekend trips to Vegas with people who all live in different states? Could I easily figure out who on my college swim team is also interested in sharing a room when I go to another swimmer’s wedding in September? Probably not, because frankly, I’m not the greatest at keeping in touch with the traditional methods. I hate talking on the phone and I will send out letters or emails but not on a regular basis. Facebook and Twitter is an (almost) instantaneous way to keep in touch, even if I don’t actually speak or write to a person–their status updates or other wall posts update me just as much as a quick text message or phone call.

The other reason to see this movie, and the reason why I'm going to read The Help.

So what’s the problem? You know too much. At least I have this problem. For example, several friends from high school who I didn’t really keep in touch with through college got engaged this past year, one yesterday. Suddenly, seeing everything on the Internet and seeing their excitement makes me so incredibly jealous.I know that’s mean-spirited of me and I know their happiness wouldn’t bother me as much if I didn’t have access to pictures etc. I guess at this point in my life I figured I’d at least have a boyfriend. The two most meaningful relationships I’ve had were either one-sided (mine) or a glorified friends with benefits.

Seeing what seems like the majority of my high school classmates finding happiness of some kind is just depressing and highlights my lack. At least while I was still technically in grad school I could pretend I had the career part of my life figured out, but now that I’m officially an MS and unemployed there’s no covering up my lack of career. Sure my contemporaries probably don’t have their careers figured out either (except one and she’s also engaged, so part of me kind of hates her, but not really), but at least they have love figured out. They have someone besides their mothers to rely on and cry to when job interviews turn up nothing.

Oh, Ryan

The other thing that totally bums me out, is that every single one of these girls I mentioned met their fiances in college. Do you know how incredibly hard it is to meet guys outside of college? Sapphire and I just got back from watching Crazy, Stupid, Love and Ryan Gosling plays a womanizer. During the montages of him seducing the ladies I have to wonder, what self-respecting woman goes home with the random, albeit HOT, smooth talker? Not that all men in bars do that, but at least in the bars I’ve been, getting the girl to go home with you seems like their ultimate priority.  And if you don’t meet in bars where do you meet? Given that I’ll probably move to some strange new state I won’t have friends I can mingle with and meet new people.

Actually, scratch meeting guys, where on earth do you make girlfriends? I can’t say I’ve ever made friends outside of a school setting. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I just pray I won’t become a crazy dog lady (I’d say cats but they make me sneeze). Actually, I probably won’t even be able to become a crazy insert-animal-here lady because I won’t be able to afford the upkeep–hello student loans!

So, I’m sorry for my pity party, but I feel like I have nothing going for me now. I’ll be moving in with my brother for goodness sakes. And go see Crazy, Stupid, Love. Not only is Ryan Gosling über attractive, but the clothes made my friend E melt into a puddle of fashion inspired mush.

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I have to say I agree with Sapphire’s comments on technology, keeping in mind all the various gives and takes. Interestingly enough, my tech class lecture the day I read her post was about historical sharing of information. I’m sharing this information with you because it’s one of the first lectures that actually captured my attention. My thoughts were, “Hey! History! I understand this! We’re not talking about where the Internet lives! Or clouds!” And yes, my internal monologue involved that many exclamation points. Usually during my 3 hours I try to not only stay awake, but also make sense of those crazy acronyms. Seriously, my brain does not do so well with math, and as far as I’m concerned the Internet is math. Did you know that the internet only reads numbers? That’s a lot of math.

Anyways, I’m assuming that since you are readers of a historical and historical fiction blog, you are also not math people, forgive if I’m wrong. And so without further ado, I give you the information dissemination timeline:

Pre-1400: Handwritten books that were costly, rare and took a long time to create.

1400: Gutenberg made publisher and bookmaking faster, easier and more cost-effective.

1665: The beginnings of journals and the Royal Society and their journal the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

1700: Peer Review within the medical field was established because the Health Sciences field need more up-to-date information.

1800: Industrial Revolution began because of technology and innovations which gave Academics more credence, as they came up with discoveries that improved people’s lives. Therefore, more money was given to academic institutions.

1900: Yale established the precedence that related tenure with publications. This relationship meant that well-respected universities such as Yale and Harvard only hired well-respected instructors who were approved by other professionals in that field.

1980: Desktop publishing and computer technology became more prominent, therefore threatening the academic journal’s life. With the invention of technologies such as Microsoft Office authors could write and distribute articles while bypassing the gatekeepers.

Today: Articles are written and published via two different formats

  • Formal
  • Peer Reviewed journals
  • Books
  • Conferences
  • Both
  • Blogs
  • Website
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Informal
  • Twitter
  • Wikipedia
  • Facebook

Basically, my point is, we have a gazillion times more information than anyone before us ever did. Did those poor students in the 80s who I pity because I’m too lazy to research for real ever think about how the technology they were inventing would affect students today?

Here’s a fun, or scary video (depending on your mindset).

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Technology: Friend or Foe?

Yesterday, I had several frustrating hours of technological failures. It started off with the internet dropping out and ended with a job application website logging me out and deleting all of the information I had uploaded over the course of a half hour. Needless to say, I was on edge all day and finally had the last straw. Of course, nothing that happened yesterday that couldn’t be cured by a large margarita and chat with one of my friends, but it got me thinking about the role technology plays in our lives and whether or not it is good for us.

On the one hand, I love technology. I own a iPhone, an iPod, a fabulous Apple laptop that I am in love with, a Blu-ray DVD player, and an HD tv. In my household, each person has their own computer, we share a hybrid car with an electrical plug in the back seat, and regularly play Wii games. Admittedly, technology makes our lives easier. I was able to work on the internet in the doctor’s office yesterday because my iPhone created a wireless hotspot for my laptop. When my friend moves back to Pakistan in August, I will be able to chat with her face-to-face whenever I want via Skype. It’s not just the hi-tech toys that we’ve become used to though. Think about all of the simple things we used to do fifteen years ago. I remember waiting by the phone (which was attached to the wall with a cord) for a friend to ring me and make plans for a sleepover, looking up viewing times for shows on television in TV Guide and actually watching them when they aired, and writing essays for school in long hand because everyone didn’t own a computer.

Letter and CandleWhatever happened to the simpler days? Everything wasn’t instantaneous. People got letters in the mail other than bills and catalogs. Go further back and people had an appreciation for the little things like electricity or running water. If you’ve forgotten, I posted several months ago about my misadventures with hand-heating water for my bath, and have a deep appreciation for hot water furnaces and pipes. That being said, I can’t help being nostalgic about decades pre-modern convenience. Whenever the power goes out, which at my childhood home in New York used to be practically every time a storm passed through, I actually enjoy reading by candlelight and conversing with my family. Besides a romanticized notion of times of old, walking down a corridor in a long dress with candlestick in hand, I think moments or evenings sans technology bring people closer together and foster the development of what is becoming a lost art in the age of social networking sites and internet dating: face-to-face conversation.

I actually considered creating my own experiment of living without technology, although it never came to fruition. This experiment involved completely cutting myself off from social networking sites, my phone, my computer, television, and any technology created after say, 1930. I was going to allow myself to take phone calls from my landline and maybe to listen to the radio, but to cut myself off from the modern world. Of course, this was slightly impractical, especially with the amount of information that we ingest each day. If I completed the experiment in a week, I’d have approximately 300 e-mails and various irate friends who couldn’t contact me when I wasn’t at home.

Although my attempt at experimenting with what used to be the norm (some of which was in my rather young lifetime) didn’t make it past the paper outline I’d drawn up, the very fact that I couldn’t give up technology says something. People are so reliant on technology for everything today. I actually got annoyed yesterday when my tethered wifi hotspot internet connection caused a window on my browser to take about a minute to load. Anyone remember dial-up? When did instant gratification become expected?

At lunch today, Indigo and I discussed the positive sides to technology. Just writing a college paper is a miracle of modern ingenuity. I recall using a card catalog when writing a report in elementary school. Now, all you have to do is click a button on the internet to search for resources in a library catalog, not to mention the availability of thousands of journal article abstracts and full text files available in the blink of an eye. Think about the last time you used a dictionary. Not Dictionary.com, not to mention Wikipedia, but a paperback dictionary to look up something you didn’t know. Imagine trying to figure out who the Roman god of mold was without the internet.* You would have to first find the right source to look for the information and then look up the fact itself, all at your neighborhood library. While I wholeheartedly encourage you to still use your library (reference is FUN!), little facts like this can be found fast and conveniently today. If you are a member of my family, easy access can settle a WWIII size argument and is a valuable tool.

My gripe is mainly that a lot of the niceties and pleasures of pre-technology eras have been lost with new inventions. I’d love to bring back calling cards and wax seals for envelopes. Even though we need and enjoy technology, it is still possible to spend a game night with your family, to have dinner with someone without texting at the table, or to write a letter to a friend. People just don’t do these things anymore and that is what makes me sad. Please, can we try to bring back the past just a little bit?

Technology; frustrating to live with it, but can’t live without it.


* That would be Robigus, in case you were wondering. Yes, I had to know this several years ago during my college career as a Classics major.

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