Living In the Moment

JOMC 240 has been a lot different than almost every class I have taken at UNC. Both in structure and content. The standard pattern of exams, textbook chapters, and writing assignments that encourage attempts at gaming the system was replaced by class discussions generated and directed by students, and earnest interest in the subject of the course.

One topic we touched upon that really struck a chord with me was living in the moment. I think this discussion is often generated by the feeling that people spend important moments looking at what is happening through the screen on their phone.

Let me first say that i think living in the moment, and enjoying life as it happens, is a valuable quality to have as a person. I think it is good because often the things that keep us preoccupied are negative thoughts, worries, and stresses.

But does technology contribute to us not living in the moment? In many people’s eyes, it absolutely has. And I can understand why they feel this way. Go to any concert or sporting event and you will see countless screens recording the action. This means that when a great event is happening, a lot of people are more concerned with sharing it on social media than focusing on enjoying the moment.

Despite this, i don’t think technology is impairing our ability to be in the moment to a significant level. Like i mentioned earlier, I think that most of not being in the moment comes from being focused on the future. Whenever somebody says someone should stop filming something and just enjoy it, I’m always amazed. Since when does taking a few pictures or a short video clip remove someone’s ability to enjoy the rest of what is going on. Also, I think I can enjoy part of a song while recording it for thirty seconds almost as much as I would without doing so.  Who is to say that the current moment is more important that then one that will be shared with friends later when the pictures or video are shown?

In the end, I think being in the moment, and the value of doing so, are such subjective topics that we shouldn’t question if someone is in the moment or not. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, but it is not a problem that affects anyone but that person.

Turns out I don’t really care anymore, and neither do a lot of people

I wrote a blog post earlier this year about how Brian Williams had been suspended from the NBC Nightly News for six months after fabricating stories about various reporting assignments. Well, we aren’t at the six month mark yet, but a final decision on if he actually will return could be looming.

According to the Washington Post, Williams’ replacement hasn’t been doing much different from Williams in ratings. The ratings have gone down, but the drop started before Williams left. But why does NBC need to decide before the six months are up? Next month, negotiations with advertisers begin for the price of commercial airtime for networks, and NBC might have a hard time selling slots for its premiere news program if advertisers don’t know who the face of it will be.

For my part, I’ve realized I don’t care. I rarely watch the Nightly News. But when i do, I don’t care who is anchoring as long as they are good. And, according to the ratings, neither do most people.

I hope our screens get better

We watched a video  for class this week from technology company Corning. It portrayed a future world where glass screen were everywhere in our lives. It seemed pretty awesome, aside from the constant looking at screen you would have to do all day.

I don’t often have issues with looking at screen, but sometimes after being on my computer non-stop for most of a day I start to get pretty irritated. And i know other people who have this issue as well.

Apparently sensitivity to screens has been around since computers first came along. According to the Washington Post, it could be because people tend to blink less while looking at LED screens. Also, when looking at our phones we hold them closer to our eyes, and this puts more stress on our visual system.

I don’t know if we can adapt to looking at screens so much, but if we don’t, I think Corning’s world could just be downright painful. In the video, even windows change shade and can become monitors. I hope the glowing surfaces portrayed end up more like that of a Kindle. I like to blink.

Blendle would have been a good idea when newspapers first went online

The Dutch news site Blendle is what some are calling the itunes of journalism. It brings articles from major Dutch news outlets and charges money for articles. This is similar to how itunes charges the listener per download.

In a promotional video the founder of Blendle said it doesn’t make sense to him that people get access to good journalism online for free. I agree, it doesn’t make sense that quality journalism is available for free when for years you had to pay for a newspaper. But, newspapers have all ready made the mistake of putting content online for free. It has become a norm. With how widely available news is these days, I personally can’t see myself paying on a per-story basis when I can find out what I want for free and relatively easily.

The one part of Blendle that gave me hope for its success is that it gives users the option for a certain number of redunds if they don’t like an article they read. This refund feature is limited, but it makes sense that people spend more because of it. If you give me the option to get the money back if I didn’t like the article, i would be much more likely to pay. But even still, if I can get news for free and easily, I find it hard to imagine paying for news. It’s tough for media outlets that are struggling to bring in revenue, but it’s their mistake that is hurting them.

Clinton’s social media campaign

I think we all expected social media to play a big role in the next presidential election. Barack Obama used social media all the time in his successful campaigns, and it just makes sense that such a popular medium would be used.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president, and we got a first look at her social media campaign. A youtube video was posted and garnered over two million views. She also tweeted the announcement to her follower base that is larger than any republican candidate, according to cnet.

The video showed various people “getting ready” for a number of things: a baby being born, planting tomatoes and getting a job. Clinton appears at the end to say that she is getting ready as well, but she is getting ready to run for president. What stuck out to me from the video was the strong presence of homosexual couples. One was two men who were getting ready to get married, and there was also what appeared to be a lesbian couple smiling and touching foreheads.

I think social media campaigns allow for these depictions to become normalized slowly because the audience for a youtube video is probably younger than that for a television advertisement. I don’t think the first television advertisement of her campaign would show the same things, but soon we will be there.

Mathematical typewriters

I was talking to my girlfriend’s grandfather earlier today at an Easter brunch. He’s an old British man who walks with a cane and has eyes that twinkle in that stereotypical way. We were following that standard progression of questioning about my post college plans or lack thereof when he started to reflect on his own college experience.

He went to school in Aberdeen in England, and his first degree was in Botany. He said he had always intended to go to graduate school, so he had never worried about the prospects that degree in botany might provide. He then went to graduate school and spent two years writing a thesis on statistics. And here comes the weird part. He spent two years writing his thesis, and then waited two more years for it to be typed for him on a mathematical typewriter.

That’s not something we have to worry about these days. Imagine spending two years completing research and handwriting a document, and then waiting an equal amount of time for it to be put into a form where you could present it. It wasn’t that long ago when disseminating information was something that was extremely time consuming.  If I wanted to share something I had written, I would have to type out as many individual copies as I wanted to give out. As a millennial, this is incomprehensible.

This conversation helped put things into perspective for me. My last blog post was about how too much access information could be a bad thing, but now I think about how much I’ve learned from the internet and the benefits become clear. I’m glad I don’t have to type individual copies of this post.

Is the internet also ruining creativity?

The internet is often hailed as a creative place where everyone cane share their own ideas and creations. It has allowed creativity to be shared like never before, but I think it may have reached a point where it could also be stifling creativity.

I’m at my aunt’s house, and her two young boy (6 and 10 years old) are dying Easter eggs. The colors have all been made from the little pills mixing with vinegar, and the kids are drawing with clear crayons on their eggs to create designs. But, before they make any move with the crayon, they scurry into the next room to search for Easter egg designs online. Then, they attempt to mimic the designs as closely as possible, which, unsurprisingly for hyperactive kids, isn’t that close.

This scene is very different from how I remember Easter when I was younger. This is going to sound curmudgeonly, but I miss the days when you created your own designs on Easter eggs. But, of course, my concern runs deeper than creativity lacking one day a year. What if kids are now doing this for all of their art? Is access to creativity online blocking kids from honing their own creative skills? If kids just google a project before they do it, I don’t see how are they going to develop the capability to think of their own designs.