Final Reflection

It is the end of a semester and which means it is time for a reflection! History of the Information Age was actually my first and only history class I ever took at UMW. I am a transfer student and I never even imaged that I would end up taking a 400-level history class. Throughout this course, we discussed history, technology, communication, information, sharing, and how technology revolutionized every area of human existence. We also had a lengthy (and heated) discussion about citations that will forever be burned into my memory. I never anticipated that this course would be so applicable to all my other classes (seven in total) and I have no regrets about taking this course.

On the last day of class, Dr. McClurken proposed a question that we were not able to discuss at length, and that question was along the lines of, “if what we need is attention, can that be provided by a computer?”

I would like to think that the answer is no. Humans need interaction and attention to some degree, and from my perspective that need can only be fully fulfilled by another human. We can argue that computers are one of man’s inventions, therefore it could be viewed as an extension of humans. But without autonomy, without the human nature aspect of humans, computers cannot solve our need for attention and I do not believe they could sustainably fulfill our need for attention.

Something mentioned in class related to this was the Turing Test, and how if we can’t tell the difference between a person and a computer’s interaction, we have passed a certain point in humanity or perhaps crossed a line. I don’t think we will ever get to this point, I think we can be tricked to a certain degree but after a while, a computer will always be identified as a computer. I don’t think a computer will ever be able to indefinitely pass a Turing Test, and even if that day does ever come into existence, I still stand by my statement that computers will never be able to fully fulfill human’s need for attention and interaction.

A common theme we discussed throughout this course was how technologies related to communication and information sharing get used and reinvented. I think a huge drive for technological innovations and improvement stems from the fact that humans desire that connection with each other. We keep creating extensions of communication in order to satisfy that need.

I made the argument in class that online communication is just an extension of face-to-face communication. Online communication isn’t good, bad, or better, but merely just another avenue to continue communication. I know people are worried, as they always have been, that the digital world is ruining our ability to interact with each other, or ruining some aspect of “the good old days,” but I don’t think this worry is justified. I know that with the younger generation, the true digital natives and “iGen” demographic, just because they have technology integrated into far more of their life than generations before, doesn’t necessarily mean they are so different from previous generation. Although they are born with the means to interact and communicate online, I think the younger generation values in-person communication just as much as generations before. I think the most we have to worry about is that the younger generation may supplement face-to-face communication with digital communication too often.  They might experience more feelings of isolation and loneliness without that healthy balance, which again I think supports my declaration that computers could never fully fulfill the need for human interaction and attention.

Something we briefly discussed in class was the concept of planned obsolescence, and if there was actually a solution to it. I believe there is a solution to planned obsolescence, and I think the best way to go about ending technology waste from planned obsolescence is by holding businesses accountable that produce technology with an expiration date. In the future, I think businesses will need to do trade-ins where they have to take back their old/outdated technology. Older technology needs to be repurposed and new technology must be designed to either take on a second life or be built with the goal for it to be recycled. Technology waste is becoming such a huge issue, and planned obsolescence is only making the situation worse. Most of us do not even notice this issue with technology waste, because our trash doesn’t end up here. More often than not, technology waste ends up in another country and becomes their problem. We don’t consider what happens when we trade in our old phone for the latest and greatest piece of technology, and we never think about where that new technology comes from and the impact it has on our world. This seems to be an endless cycle of consumption and waste, and the first step to ending this would be to force these businesses producing technology to be responsible.

On the last day of class, we ended our discussion with predictions for the future. When I first thought about it, I immediately wanted to share some futuristic Jetson-inspired predictions, but then I tried to think a little more realistically about the direction technology is moving in. So, I shared my prediction that, in the very near future, we will not have the need for remotes. I think that remotes will no longer be included in future technologies, because so much of our current technology already has the capability for voice control and motion activation. Not to mention, our phones now have apps and software that allows our smartphones to become a remote for all different types of technology and devices. You can use your phone to start your car, change the channel on your tv, turn off the lights in your kitchen, etc. The smartphone has replaced remotes. From my perspective, remotes are now obsolete and unnecessary. They also contribute to technology waste, so I think the sooner they go, the better.

Overall, I learned so much from this course and found it invaluable. I enjoyed collaborating with my table and listening to my classmates share their perspectives during classroom discussions. It was a really great semester, and I am glad I was able to be a part of this class.

“FollowMeTo” Couple: Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova

Going Viral:

Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova were on their first trip together in Barcelona when the couple were were exploring the streets and taking lots of photos. This is the origin of the now famous “Follow me to,” shot. Natasha looked away and pulled Murad forward while he took the photograph[1].

Photo by Murad Osmann[8]

Murad, who was already an Instagram user, decided to share his photos from the trip on Instagram. At the time, he had quit his dream of being a photographer, but still enjoyed photography and could not resist developing the photographs from the trip into project[5]. The couple shared the first photo, and week by week continued to post and share. After a year and a half, their documented photographs on Instagram appeared to look more like a thoughtful collection rather than a series of random shots. Within that year and a half, the photos began to gain popularity, and sure enough the series went viral.

How it’s done:

Video by Murad and Nataly Osmann[7]

In 2016, the couple shared a YouTube video that documents the lengths and efforts they go through to take the perfect shot. They must scout out the location, work around large crowds, and often balance on small and rickety boats. Natalia typically wears expensive and elaborate gowns that represent the country’s or local area’s culture, which requires outfit changes in areas with little privacy[3]. The couple is strategic in their shots with Murad directing Natalia and coaching her through each photoshoot.  

Murad credits his successful Instagram account by doing thoughtful and interesting collaborations, interviewing with media, developing the Follow Me To project into a consistent brand, and building a relationship with his audience [3]. This has acquired him over 4 million Instagram followers as of 2019.

When developing a consistent brand, Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova have done this effortlessly by showing the beauty of the world while sharing their own romantic love story[5]. The couple manages to show off the beauty of each location and include themselves in the shot with their famous pose. Viewers and followers look at the photos and immediately want the same lifestyle. They are intrigued with the travel and the love story, and each photo allows the viewer to imagine themselves in place of Murad and Natalia. Each photo is eye catching and makes you want more, which makes the viewer invested enough to become a follower.

Although it appears from just the photographs that the couple has a very simple job of traveling and taking photos, do not be fooled as it is a much more rigorous process. Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova have a small team and travel with expensive equipment for each photoshoot., #FollowMeTo has grown into more of a marketing agency than just a hashtag, because they are able to partner and collaborate for larger campaigns with other brands. The duo has a long list of partnerships and collaborations such as: Macy’s, Samsung, Google, Clinique, Levi’s, Michael Kors, Cartier, Dior, etc[5]. Not only are the projects and campaigns beautiful, they are a work of art, and have been at Art Basel in Miami [5].

Bigger than an Instagram Account:

Book Cover provided by Simon & Schuster[6]

FollowMeTo – The Book

In 2015, Skyhorse Publishing, under Simon & Schuster, released Follow Me To: A Journey around the World Through the Eyes of Two Ordinary Travelers by Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova. The book features many on the images that the couple had previously posted to Instagram, but each page shares the larger story and all the little details that go on behind the scenes of each shot[6]. Both Murad and Natalia share their perspectives on each country they have traveled to, and details that would be too bulky for an Instagram caption. This is just one of many entrepreneurial ventures the couple has taken outside of their Instagram business.

Photo by Murad Osmann [8]

Jewelry Company:

The couple launched the jewelry line, “FOLLOW YOUR LOVE,” in 2015 following their wedding [4]. When the couple was sourcing materials for the jewelry line, they were very specific on wanted conflict free stones. In order to achieve 100% conflict free jewelry, Murad and Natalia Osmann agreed to only use and sell lab grown diamonds in their pieces [4]. Through lab grown diamonds, the couple is able to maintain their desires to sell jewelry that is both environmentally and socially responsible.

Raising Money for a Cause:

The couple has shown a strong inclination from the beginning of their viral photography project to wanting to impact the world for the better. After a trip to Ethiopia in 2018, Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova wanted to partner with a project that would change the world. In 2019, the couple decided to partner with Charity: Water with a goal of raising $1,000,000 USD in order to provide 33,333 people with clean water for an entire year [2]. The couple continues to support the charity by posting photos on their instagram and mentioning Charity: Wate in their videos.

Income and Sustainability

Although being famous on the internet is not viewed as a sustainable source of income, Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova have taken many steps and measures to ensure they have a business and income outside of their viral Instagram account. Even though they are busier than ever running their companies, they still spend the majority of their efforts maintaining their #FollowMeTo project, by partnering with brands of their choosing and traveling the world[5]. Most notably, the couple refuses to do one-off posts for brands, and instead insists on 360 campaigns that involve photos, videos, and other mediums. Not only does it show consistency within their own FollowMeTo brand, it is a great business strategy, as the couple is able to charge more since they will be delivering more content[5]. Murad Osmann and Natalia Zakharova know far more about marketing a product and content strategy than you might expect, and they certainly know how to capitalize on their knowledge and skills.

__________________________________________________________________

[1] “About.” #FollowMeTo. Accessed April 21, 2019. https://followmeto.travel/about.

[2] “Join Murad and Nataly Osmann from #Followmeto in a Challenge to Raise USD $1,000,000 to Give 33,333 People Clean Water Every Year!” Charity: Water. Accessed April 21, 2019. https://www.charitywater.org/donate/the-spring?variant=amount-buttons&start_at=25&increment=25&highlight=50&utm_campaign=user_referral&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=68582ec518ffe604465336b9306cdd61.

[3] Bray, Arthur. “Murad Osmann of #followmeto Shares Secrets on How to Turn Instagram Following into Cash.” HYPEBEAST. August 11, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2019. https://hypebeast.com/2015/5/murad-osmann-shares-secret-on-how-to-build-social-media-following.

[4] “About Us.” Follow Your Love. Accessed April 21, 2019. http://followyourlove.com/pages/about-us.

[5] Belanger, Lydia. “How a Spur-of-the-Moment Photo Led to This Couple’s Iconic Work Being Featured in Times Square and Around the World.” Entrepreneur. August 09, 2017. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/298480.

[6] “Follow Me To.” Book by Murad Osmann, Nataly Zakharova | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Follow-Me-To/Murad-Osmann/9781629145501.

[7] FollowMeTo., “#FollowMeTo India by Murad and Nataly Osmann”, 03/25/16, Accessed April 20, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RYprwlmgS4

[8] OSMANN, MURAD. “@muradosmann.” Instagram. Accessed April 22, 2019. https://www.instagram.com/muradosmann/?hl=en.

Privilege Walk

This week, the class discussion topics revolved around “Algorithms of Oppression” (race and gender in production and consumption of digital information); social media and politics around the globe. I was confronted with how I consume news and where I receive news from. I subscribe to a daily newsletter called The Morning Brew (highly recommend), but I also watch the news on my phone (embarrassingly from snapchat). Growing up, I religiously watched NBC Nightly News with my family, but that slowly went away from our routine as life got busier. I try to supplement that intake of news through the daily newsletter, but if I am being honest, it is so much easier and quicker to watch a quick snapchat video from NBC.

A really cool activity the discussion leaders had the class do was a spin off a privilege walk.

Some of the prompts included:

  • Take a step forward if you have a social media account
  • Take a step forward if you follow sports accounts.
  • Take a step forward if you follow celebrities.
  • Take a step forward if you follow a politician.

At the start of the exercise, I expected to take the least amount of steps forward… or at least be in the group towards the back. At the end, I was closer to the front, but so was the majority of the class. It definitely put it into perspective how I and the students in our class use social media/technology.

I think this same exercise would be even more scattered in results if we included frequency into the prompts.

Reading & Video Resources:

Week 12 Reflections

This week, I was one of three discussion leaders. Our topics included:

  • Trust
  • Citations
  • “Truth” in the Information Age
  • Digital journalism
  • Problems of “Fake News”

On Tuesday, we had a lively discussion on citations. Something that really intrigued me about finding sources on citations was that everything our group could find was manual based. There was a lack of information on the history of citation styles, so when I found the source, “Citation Styles: History, Practice, and Future” I was elated. I thought the class would have more commentary about the actual article, but the general concept of different citation styles incited a lively discussion on favored styles, and why the others are less desirable.

For the record, I still stand by APA and MLA 100%. I love everything about Chicago, except the citation style. But as a former English major and current Marketing major, I am a little biased. The education system has never supported or steered me to using any other citation style outside of these two.

When we met (discussion leaders), we wanted the class to be able to make a flier or infographic about their favorite citation style. We had no idea that is assignment would fuel a passionate battle between citation preferences. But it was also a great outlet for the class to try to prove why their favorite style was better than the others.

On Thursday, we explored the topics of fake news and digital journalism. I enjoyed the fact that many of my classmates stated that they check sources when they see news shares through social media. The majority will do their own version of fact-checking in order to determine the validity behind an article.

I also liked that we steered away from referring to fake news as “fake news” and instead called it “misinformation,” which helped bring a serious tone back into the subject. I think the problem with labeling something as “fake news” is that it immediately follows an eye roll (or at least in my case). I think the subject of fake news immediately goes into a political divide and is often times a way of invalidating facts or even someone’s statements just because it doesn’t align with your own views (not even because what they said is inaccurate). So, by calling it what it is -misinformation- this somehow makes it SO MUCH EASIER to discuss, and keeps the conversation on track.

Overall, I was really impressed with the depth of discussion the class contributed this week.

Sources for this week:

  1. Karcher, Sebastian, and Philipp Zumstein. “Citation Styles: History, Practice, and Future.” Authorea. October 04, 2018. https://www.authorea.com/users/102264/articles/124920-citation-styles-history-practice-and-future/_show_article.
  2. Chapter 1 of McIntyre, Lee C., and McIntyre, Lee C. Respecting Truth : Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age. 2015. https://doi-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.4324/9781315713168
  3. Anderson, Janna, Lee Rainie, Janna Anderson, and Lee Rainie. “About This Canvassing of Experts.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. October 19, 2017. Accessed April 02, 2019. https://www.pewinternet.org/2017/10/19/the-future-of-truth-and-misinformation-online-about-this-canvassing-of-experts/
  4. McAlpine, Kat J. “In the Fake News Era, Native Ads Are Muddying the Waters” Boston University. December 21, 2018. https://www.bu.edu/research/articles/native-advertising-in-fake-news-era/
  5. CBS News. CBS News. April 24, 2018. Accessed April 06, 2019.https://www.cbsnews.com/video/new-video-technology-stokes-fears-of-fake-news/.

History Timeline

For my contributions to the class timeline, I added two posts. The first entry is about Project Xanadu and the second entry is about afternoon, a story by Michael Joyce.

Full disclosure, I could not get my timeline to properly function unless I built it off of the existing template (with template entries) or unless I included my new entries into a timeline I already created for the class. I decided to include my entries on timeline I already created for the class, so unfortunately (not unfortunately) there are Toy Story related entries as well, please disregard them. For convenience, I deleted the first Toy Story entry, so the timeline would begin on relevant content.

Week 11 Reflections

This week we discussed the history of communication technologies, online bullying, and the dark web.

I was really impressed with the conversation this week, especially regarding online bullying. I think there were so many great points from the readings, I was kind of surprised that bullying has only recently been studied, but at the same time, so many of my classmates made valid points that bullying is a lot harder to define and draw a line, especially online bullying, because perception definitely influences what is deemed bullying. I genuinely do think that that social media platforms should regulate bullying on their sites. I understand that there is only so much they can do, but at the same time, if a problem is brought to their attention, they should take the steps necessary to end/prevent the bullying from continuing.

I know a problem is that, just because you stop a conversation on one platform, doesn’t stop the conversation from continuing elsewhere, but I think social media sites should ban users, take their accounts away, generally make it more difficult for these users to come back. It’s not a perfect solution, but it is better than doing nothing.

On Thursday, we discussed the dark web. Personally, I knew nothing about the dark web other than what movies have taught me! I didn’t realize the the dark web is actually pretty easily accessible, or that people use it for more than illicit behavior. I still think that the dark web is not enticing enough for me to want to continue my online activities exclusively through the dark web.

We kind of discussed how privacy is dead, and how the younger generation is very accepting and understanding of this. We signed away our rights to our personal information when we made our first social media profile. We all kind of understand that privacy is harder to maintain when we are the ones sharing all the information online. So, that definitely ties into my general acceptance or lack of concern about being tracked online.

This week’s sources:

  1. “The History of Communication Technology.” Conference Calls Unlimited – Easy, Reliable, Affordable. Accessed March 30, 2019. https://www.conferencecallsunlimited.com/history-of-communication-technology/
  2. Konnikova, Maria, and Maria Konnikova. “How the Internet Has Changed Bullying.” The New Yorker. June 19, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2019. https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/how-the-internet-has-changed-bullying 
  3. Salter, Michael, and Chris Bryden. 2009. “I Can See You: Harassment and Stalking on the Internet.” Information & Communications Technology Law 18 (2): 99–122. doi:10.1080/13600830902812830. https://umw-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com:443/UMW:Everything:TN_tayfranc10.1080/13600830902812830
  4. Hood, Michelle and Amanda Duffy. “Understanding the Relationship between Cyber-victimisation and Cyber-bullying on Social Network Sites: The Role of Moderating Factors.” Personality and Individual Differences 133 (2017): 103-108. https://www-sciencedirect-com.umw.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0191886917302556
  5. Hurlburt, George. “Shining Light on the Dark Web.” Computer 50, no. 4 (2017): 100-05. https://ieeexplore-ieee-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/document/7912236
  6. Heaven, Douglas. “Unpicking the Mythologies around the Dark Web.” New Scientist 240, no. 3209 (2018): 82-84. https://www-sciencedirect-com.umw.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S0262407918323753

Mass Media and Popular Culture

Who runs the world? Tastemakers!

One of the readings from this week came from Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction into Mass Communication by Andy Schmitz. Schmitz begins by making the connection between the mass popularity of Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, otherwise known as “Lindomania,” to that of the hysteria that followed the Beatles, also known as “Beatlemania.” Fans drove the market and popularity for both, in terms of selling paraphernalia and such. Fandom, through new technologies, would then become responsible for the success of contestants on show “American Idol.”

The new technology of photography influenced the popularity of Lind, while television did the same for the Beatles, and direct consumer influence channels, such as the Internet and text messaging, accomplished the same attention for American Idol. Tastemakers, have always influenced culture.

We have seen a shift away from strictly prominent people having the monopoly on taste-making (such as professional reviewers and critics) to  mass-tastemaking where all people that leave reviews on products (anything really) create an equal influence percentage for that particular product. Currently, there is a mix of the two systems because they each hold a value in the world of reviews and taste-making. We still need professional critics for their reliability but we also need mass-tastemakers for their efficiency.

Citation

Schmitz, Andy. Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction into Mass Communication. Washington, D.C: Saylor Academy, 2012. https://saylordotorg.github.io/text_understanding-media-and-culture-an-introduction-to-mass-communication/s04-06-mass-media-and-popular-culture.html

Week 9 Reflection

This week we read and discussed articles and videos relating to the role that the military played in the creation and spread of digital technologies.

We discussed heavily on encryption, which I really enjoyed, because I find it fascinating! When I saw that we were going to read about Alan Turing, I was really eager to dive in, because I had already watched the movie, “The Imitation Game.” I was curious to see how much of the movie was accurate. After confirming that he was the one that broke the German Enigma code during World War II, through the invention of the “Turing machine,” I had to admit, I found most of the explanation on how it worked to be a bit confusing. My table even tried to further investigate and find a simplified answer, but didn’t come up with much. By the end of Turing article, I felt so sad for all the people who heavily contributed to technology and history who were written out of history and unacknowledged for so long.

Regarding the role of GPS, something that I didn’t get the chance to bring up was that smart watches and fitness apps that track location have been limited or banned in combat zones for the US military, because those devices and apps were quite literally outlining perimeters and giving away daily routines through GPS. So after reading the article about how GPS was created for military purposes, it felt ironic that the same technology was causing problems for them.

For Thursday’s class, we also discussed “27 Military Technologies that Changed Civilian Life,” and my table was particularly excited about the invention of Kotex. You can even see the infographic we created here:

Resources this week:

Hom, Elaine. “Alan Turing Biography: Computer Pioneer, Gay Icon”. Life Science. June 23, https://www.livescience.com/29483-alan-turing.html

Mowry, David. “German Cipher Machines of WWII”. Center for Cryptologic History National Security Agency (2014) p1-6. https://www.nsa.gov/Portals/70/documents/about/cryptologic-heritage/historical-figures-publications/publications/wwii/german_cipher.pdf

Ward, Mark. “How the Modern World Depends on Encryption”. BBC News (2013). https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-2466783

Willings, Adrian. “27 Military Technologies that Changed Civilian Life”. Retrieved March 12, 2019.  https://www.pocket-lint.com/gadgets/news/143526-27-military-technologies-that-changed-civilian-life

Lachow, Irving. “The GPS Dilemma: Balancing Military Risks and Economic Benefits.” International Security 20, no. 1 (1995): 126-48. doi:10.2307/2539220. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2539220

Gordon, Olivia. “How the Internet Was Invented | The History of the Internet, Part 1,” SciShow, March 1, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UStbvRnwmQ

Week 8 Reflection

This week, I was one of the three discussion leaders.

For our first day, we focused on early computers and discussed the article, “As We May Think,” the video demonstrating Charles Babbage’s Difference Machine, and lastly, “Stars: Early Popular Computers, 1950-70.”

The video demonstrating Babbage’s machine, showed just how brilliant this man was and how advanced he was. The question was posed whether or not Babbage could have actually built the machine himself, and I think he could have with the right technology and money. Later in the week we discuss the prominence and importance of Ada Lovelace, and she shared so many similarities with Babbage. They were both far too advanced for the world they lived in, and were not able to actually build the technology they conceptualized.

Early technology and computers were so insanely expensive. Before reading these articles, I was unaware that companies rented their computers for a substantial amount! And that computers were not viewed as valuable when they could only replicate what could be done by human hand on pencil and paper. Their cost outweighed their benefit during this time. It was so fascinating to see how far technology has come.

For day two, we focused on women in technology, and discussed the article, “When computers were women,” and the obituary for Ada Lovelace. The theme for this day further delved into the erasure of women in history. Women who were intelligent, creating software, writing instruction manuals, and operating key positions in their field, were viewed as masculine and credit for their work was often shifted to the men who created hardware. Their work continued to go unrecognized until record, and even statements from their husbands, confirmed their place in history. When the men returned home from war, women were expected to go back to running a household or teaching the next generation. Even though their efforts shaped had already shaped the world, it seemed like no one wanted to give them any credit. Imagine how much technological advancements we could have had earlier if sexism hadn’t hindered women from learning, participating, and working in STEM.

Sources from this week:

Bush, Vannevar. “As We May Think.” The Atlantic. July 1945. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/.

Garner, Robert. “Stars: Early Popular Computers, 1950-70 (Scanning Out Past).” Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 101, Issue 9 (Sept. 2013): 2134-2140. https://ieeexplore-ieee-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/document/6582591;

Infinite Retina. “A Demo of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine.” YouTube video, 24:09. Posted June 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlbQsKpq3Ak&feature=youtu.be.

Light, Jennifer S.Technology and Culture; Baltimore Vol. 40, Iss. 3,  (Jul 1999): 455-483.https://search-proquest-com.umw.idm.oclc.org/docview/198455336/fulltext/BE773ED481094C37PQ/1?accountid=12299 

Miller, Claire Cain. “Ada Lovelace.” The New York Times. 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/obituaries/overlooked-ada-lovelace.html.