Monday, February 13, 2012

Review on "You Are Not A Gadget" by Jaron Lanier

This thought provoking book talks about web 2.0 and how it has affected us humans. Throughout the entire book I kept asking myself "Are we humans controlling technology, or is technology controlling us." I'm not a techie so I didn't really get some of the jargon he was trying to use. However these are the ideas I managed to get out from Part 1.

Easier life
Technology and AI has supposedly made life easier. I agree with that, however predictive texting/auto correct can sometimes be a pain in the butt especially with the iPhone. As a result china becomes vagina, disney becomes divorce and kick becomes lick. Imagine sending the wrong message to your boss. Because of auto correct,  I now have to spend more time texting which makes it even more time consuming. Easier life? I don't think so.

Controlled by Google and FB
The algorithms that surface content on FB and google are miracles of modern programming, however some feel that search and social networks only serve us content that we like and that we are not seeing content that we need. Hence we are trap in this bubble. Take for example when a frequent traveler and a normal person types in Egypt on Google, two different search results appear. One shows holiday destinations in Egypt and the other shows political unrest the country is facing.  The internet can go either way. It can encapsulate us in a little bubble of our narrow interest, or it can connect us to new people and new ways of thinking.  Basically the internet is becoming a self censoring entity based on illogical algorithms. We are living in an age of moronic censorship and cultural regulation. Political correctness is a disease, free and independent though is the only cure.

The internet has supposedly made our lives much easier and simple. However it has created "Trolls" which has led to cyber bullying and fake identities. I feel as if people now do not have to be accountable for their actions as they can create pseudonyms and hide behind a mask. This reality should be taken seriously as it demonstrates the ugly side of technology and how much damage it can cause.

Lock In 
After MIDI created a musical note, it became the standard for every single thing today due to the Lock In feature where everything that we invent after that has to revolve around the idea of MIDI. This lock in feature I feel stifles creativity and technological advancement as a better design or invention might take over MIDI's place. I feel lock in as Jaron would say, "removes design options based on what is easiest to program, what is politically feasible, what is fashionable, or what is created by chance". In my own words, I feel  that the idea of lock in is like  a membership of an exclusive club where only people that are part of this exclusive club can only participate. The rest of the less fortunate people who may be able to offer more will not be able to obtain membership since they are not in the same league as these people because they are not part of the "norm".

Deep Blue vs Kasparov
The computer may have beaten Kasparov but what people failed to recognize is that humans designed Deep Blue. Deep Blue could not have existed without the intelligence of the creators. There is all this talk going on about how machines are much better than humans, this may be true, however when the machines fail then what? We as humans should not be over reliant on technology. Machines are only as good as their operator hence mankind should be given more recognition than the machines we create. We are not slaves to technology. I believe that we control technology and at the end of the day when all else fails, humans can be relied on as we have natural instincts and have the element of surprise. Whatever it is, humans have to always be in control.

I will leave you with a video from the latest Hugh Jackman movie "Reel Steal". Its a futuristic show where robots now dominate the boxing ring. Atom a sparring bot whose voice control system has been damaged, has now been switched to manual mode where he has to impersonate what Hugh Jackman is doing. Atom is up against a high tech robot Zeus that is able to analyze and respond to his opponents fight pattern. Zeus is supposedly the ultimate creation and has not been defeated. With the human touch and the element of surprise, will Atom be able to defeat Zeus??? Enjoy the show =)


Monday, February 6, 2012

Review on "Cognitive Surplus" by Clay Shirky

I completely enjoyed the read on the 4 Chapters in Cognitive Surplus. My creative juices are flowing and the 300 word limit will not not hold me back ;op. These are the ideas I gathered.

1) Creating content based on interest
This is how Justin Bieber became famous and to be only artist to hit 1 billion views on his videos on youtube. In this era with all the technology and digital tools available, anyone can become a creator of content. The amount of content creation is about doubling every year and it is through this creation of content, we will start to see more creativity and innovation taking place in the next 10 years. Creators have multiple platforms such as facebook, twitter, youtube to share their ideas and this will lead to an evolution of media and consumers. With a huge amount of content being created, its important to look at Context. Since people are starting to understand how to use the internet better and with their behavior evolving, Context will take over Content as KING in the web 2.0 era, or should I say web 3.0. CONTEXT IS KING

2) The Power of Groups
The book gave very good examples of the power of groups in the 21st century. My prediction is that  people will start to  collaborate more in groups and that is why Google + will be a powerful marketing tool when they realize the full potential of the Google + platform. If marketers can see this trend early, they will see a pattern on how people with similar interest are starting to form groups from all over the world. The 6 degrees theory of separation is already down to 4. The internet is making it easier for people all over the world to come together despite their culture backgrounds and global distance. One thing they share in common is their interest and that will be a powerful bond that holds them together. I shall explain why I say this. In this era 1 + 1 is no longer 2. I feel in the digital era, 1 + 1 = MANY as is limitless. Your audience is now an audience of audiences with audiences.  Click on the hyperlink to read my post on that topic

3) Camera Phones
Camera phones has changed the way news is published. In fact anyone with a camera phone will be able to record any events that takes place and upload it within seconds onto the internet for the whole world to see. As a result companies and the news will no longer be able to cover up anything from the public, hence transparency will play an important role when doing business these days. Take for example this video at Citibank. This is the branch next to the OISS office at NYU. It was captured during the Occupy Wall Street protest. Andy Warhol once said in 1968, "In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 mins". With the camera phone, youtube and the internet, everyone can become someone famous!!!

4) Milkshake Mistake
Rather than focus on the product, focus on the customer, from there you will be able to gather critical insights. I remember reading a book on Disruptive Innovation by Luke Williams, an adjunct professor at NYU Stern. He stated that by observing people interacting with computers in the Mac store, he realized that when people are looking at Macs in stores, they are drawn to them in a very physical way. They don't mind moving them around or touching them. This led to an insight " you're seldom intimidated by something that you can feel". If you're intimidated by an object, you tend not to want to touch it. This provided Apple with an opportunity to give people  a tangible sense of control over the technology by establishing an immediate physical connection between the user and the computer, hence the Iphone, Itouch and Ipad being so popular.

5) Culture as a coordinating tool
Culture is extremely important in a group, society or company. Just like the Invisible College and the group PatientsLikeMe, culture in the digital age helps spark innovation and make things more "SIMPLE" as John Maeda would say.  This culture of sharing and openness is relatively new and uncomfortable for some. However combining the knowledge of everyone can lead to better things. As Clay Shirkey says on page 138, " Combinability makes knowing something different from having something. An idea that comes to mind is Netflix. 

When the movie rental company Netflix decided that it needed a better software to more accurately predict the movies its customers would like, it decided to look beyond its own backyard to tap into the wisdom of a broader community. Netflix offered a $1 million reward to the company, group, or person that would be the first to create a solution that was at least 10% better that its in-house software, Cinnematch. A total of 41,000 teams from 186 countries worked on the solution for three years before two groups submitted successful solutions within 24 minutes of each others. A seven person team of computer engineers, statisticians and machine learning experts from the United States, Austria, Canada and Israel comprised the winning team which came to be known as BEllKor's Pragmatic Chaos. In fact when all of the top teams were having discussion with each other, BellKor's leader Chris Volinsky realized he needed to expand his 3 person team to include additional minds and disciplines. This was the secret to their success. The best part is that the team never gathered together in person until the awards ceremony. Now that is the power of culture and social media.

6) The Social Era - Shared Experience
Sharing a video or sharing a picture is common these days. In fact majority of content on fb, twitter etc is all shared. In fact this can help drive down advertising cost. Ford realized this hence they were smart enough not to spend 3 million dollars during the Superbowl over the weekend. Instead they spend less by allocating its budget into social media platforms. Companies need to realize that Brands are no longer created, in fact they are co-created. When consumers share a piece of content on their wall, they are not only creating brand awareness for the company through earned media, consumers are creating a brand for themselves as well and whatever they share tells you a bit about who they are and what they are interested in. Hence leading back to Context, it is important to create content that is relevant or in context with the consumers interest. We are exposed to 10,000 ads a day right now and in order for your message to resonate inside the consumers minds, companies need to be creating relevant content for their consumers to share. Companies always talk about ROI in $$$, however the ones that stand out are the ones who realize that RESONANCE is the new ROI.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Review on "Understanding Media" by Marshall McLuhan

First of all, Marshall McLuhan is a visionary, he was a legend during his time. The fact that he was able to predict what media and technology will be like today when he wrote this book back in 1964 just goes to show that he was light years ahead of everyone of this generation.  McLuhan predicted that at some point, man would develop the technology to have instantaneous communication with anyone in the world at any time or where he could access information on current events from anywhere on the planet. We call it the internet. RESPECT. However this book  is hard to grasp because any attempt to read this book without a detailed knowledge of anthropology, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, sociology, history, media and virtually every other aspect of the Arts and Humanities will lead the reader to confusion. 

Now this book was extremely dry and difficult to read. It is not for everyone. One must abe highly intelligent to comprehend the sheer scope and magnitude of McLuhan's fragmentation-based dialectic.  Thank goodness I was required to read the first part, and LUCKY me, the first part is all about the theory of media, and you know it, theory is never fun.  While I felt confused throughout the entire time reading this book, I shall try my very best to explain what I understood from Part 1 of the book. Here goes...

Marshall McLuhan's contributions to media theory are mostly dismissed in two phrases namely: 'global village' and 'medium is the message'. The first part details his theory of media. These are the ideas I manage to pick up:

1. Medium as at once the message (as it effects in spite of its content rather than because of it) and massage of senses. 

2. Media as extensions of man (that is, any tool that mediates human action or thought rather than just communication media). 

3. Hot media (which accentuate senses) and Cold media (which are synaesthetic). 
4. Hybrid energy released by combination of media. 

He explains in the theoretical part that media is the extension of man. That all things created by man have come from man's own experience. This is like a dream, in one sense, where one must determine at some point that they are creators of the dream, and therefore, all content of the dream must apply to the dreamer's existence, and no one elses. Likewise, all inventions and discoveries are aspects of human dimensions that have been created by man, and therefore must come from man's inner experiences. These inventions are ultimately what McLuhan calls extensions, as they extend our human capacity for that movement or experience. The foot can travel so fast, while the tire is the extension of the foot, and therefore can move at a much higher rate of speed than the foot.

In Understanding Media - it is "fragmentation" which is the force behind all human cultural evolution from early homosapiens to today's age and it is this same "fragmentation" which has been the force of any kind of future advances. McLuhan's popular phrase: "global village" in this context means this: fragmentation had alientaed most men from their many thousands of years life in small communities. What resulted from fragmentation over the centuries in McLuhan's time were inventions like: tv, radio, fax, telephone, which in turn brought people over vast distances - much closer together, indeed like a village, a global village where you could learn about events tens of thousands of miles away as if they'd just happened down the street. 

When McLuhan says: "the medium is the message" what he is actually saying is this: it is not important what we're listening to on the radio, or what we're watching on tv, or what the advertisement is telling us. The more important thing is what is going on in us when we're watching the tv, what is going on in us when we're listening to the radio. The same goes for any interaction with any given medium. It is how the use of a given medium contributes to further fragmentations. 

In conclusion I feel that what McLuhan is trying to say is that we become the media that we have been shaped by in our culture and time. The spoken word, the written word and the telegraph, McLuhan noted, has had the largest impact on our society. Not because of their usefulness, or whether they work or not, but because society has patterned themselves after the respective media.