The readings this week brought up several issues and concerns with technology today and where it is headed in the future. The two readings that discussed Facebook seemed to view the social networking site as a threat to us; therefore questioning the role it should have in our lives, if any. Norman’s article brought up the idea of creating technology that could line up with the sort of “natural humanness” of mankind, therefore tweaking it to better suit us. On the other hand, Joy’s article brings up the complete opposite thought- that technology may soon take over and this “natural” human way in which we exist will be no more. All provide different perspectives for looking at technology, posing the similar question of how we should begin to shape technology for the future- or how it may begin to shape us.
I found Don Norman’s article “Natural User Interfaces Are Not Natural” to be extremely thought provoking. As a student interested in interaction design, it raised a lot of interesting questions for me when thinking about how to design a “natural” interface. The first thing I thought of was how does one define what natural is exactly? The word itself can have so much variation between people, cultures, abilities, education levels, etc. Different people, especially across cultures, likely have different natural gestures. We live in such a diverse world, so how do we design keeping everyone in mind? Or do we exclude, possibly without even realizing it? It seems like the universal goal of interaction designers would be usability. I guess one would have to define who exactly would be using the product before creating it. We have to think about a range of things – all of the people living with some sort of disability, handicap, or medical condition, different age groups, and various learning abilities and skills. When we think we are designing for all, do we take into account the range of possibilities, or simply ignore it? How do we overcome the diversity, or do we have to accept that we cannot possibly design for everyone? I think the latter is true.
Macs, for instance, are supposed to be the most usable computer interfaces out there; yet for people like my parents, it is impossible to use because its overdesigned and too high-tech for them. The author says that pinching your fingers in and out to zoom is natural, but I highly disagree. All of the gestures that can be used on a computer have to be learned, and they are not in any way natural. I guess this means I agree with the conclusion – natural user interfaces are not natural because the word itself is so diverse, and technology will never be able to keep up with that diversity. Every single person using the same exact piece of technology is different, therefore making each experience unique. It is impossible to keep up with this, which is fine; it’s what makes us human. Unless of course Joy is correct and our world will eventually consist of robots, in which case this would no longer be an issue. Until then, this is a challenge that every designer must face.
Fred Vogelstein’s article “The Great Wall of Facebook” not only discusses the rivalry between two major companies both with the common goal of being on top, but also a deeper issue on how the worldwide web’s information should be distributed. This is really intriguing because I never thought of Facebook as having the potential to cross over into a different realm with the goal of changing the web. I would never think of Facebook as being comparable to Google- I had thought all it could ever be is a social networking site. However, the idea that Zuckerberg has for organizing web content and making it more personalized is not a bad one. There would have to be some balance between what Facebook is proposing and what Google is currently, without the level of exposure that Zuckerberg is trying to achieve with Facebook. I don’t think Facebook would ever be able to achieve this on its own, mostly because Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to take into account what user’s really want. He is more concerned with revealing identities as was brought up in the readings relating to the privacy issues of Facebook. He may believe this is what our society is shifting towards, but in reality this level of exposure is seen as a threat.
However, personalizing the web to a certain extent could be a very appealing idea. For instance, if I were looking for a specific kind of software, I would trust people in say the Parsons D+T program to give me recommendations over some random users. The information distributed on the web currently when you enter into a Google search may all be relevant, but how should we know whom to trust? We don’t – that is up to our own judgment, but maybe that’s a current problem with the web that can one day be fixed. Or maybe this is something that Facebook can take care of with a bit of tweaking. One thing is for sure, in whatever way this issue may be resolved, Facebook will never be able to replace Google; if it ever does, then I would be very scared for our future.
I found the Jeffrey Rosen article to be most intriguing because it indirectly questions advances in technology. After seeing all of the negative outcomes that websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace can have, it raises an interesting question: is technology helping us or hurting us? There are many people who think extremely negatively of the advancing technologies of our time. After hearing Stacy Snyder’s story, I was able to relate to her since I had my own personal experience where social networking was used against me. I was only in high school, which is when MySpace became huge. I did not fully understand it back then, and I definitely did not think about any negative implications at such a young age – I was just having fun with it. I really hated my new coaches for a team in high school (they weren’t nice people), and what better place to vent with my other friends on the team about it than MySpace. Nobody liked them, or at least that’s what I thought. Then I found out there’s always that one suck up who just wants to bring others down, and as I was the captain of the team I was the perfect target. Someone, I still don’t know who to this day, printed out a conversation a teammate and I had over MySpace and showed it to the coaches. Needless to say my teammate got kicked off the team, and I fortunately was spared but demoted from my position as captain. While social networking and technology were very new to me at that age, it did not cross my mind that I should be careful about how I use them. Should a child just 14 years old have to worry about this, should anyone?
I have learned from my mistakes and am now extremely careful about what information I choose to put on the web. I still use social networking sites like Facebook, but I take precautions. I decided not to reveal my full name so that I am not searchable by the companies or schools I am applying to. My friends and family know who I am, and those are the only people that really matter to me on Facebook. This “unsearchability” became very common amongst my colleagues at Cornell, so there is definitely a widespread awareness of the harm Facebook can inflict. Should this be our problem in having to worry so much about protecting our privacy, or should this be embedded in the site’s design? I believe we have to take responsibility to protect ourselves – we need to realize that Facebook is a tool for exposure, one that gives people the opportunity to see a different side of you, and gives them the power to bring you down. This is the reality for now. I think back to when I was only 14 years old and made that mistake in high school – I wish someone had warned me or I had known. However, we have to realize that technology often comes with the good and the bad, and that all we can do is live and learn from it.
Bill Joy’s article was one I found sort of irritating – he takes the idea of harmful technology to the extreme by proposing that it has the possibility to take over. He raises questions about why people were not more concerned by robotic dystopias early on when the ideas are seen in sci-fi movies like I, Robot. Well I would ask Bill Joy why he wasn’t concerned earlier. I believe the answer to this is that it is not something to worry about, and it does not seem like a serious threat to anyone yet. People would be concerned if they felt threatened. Yes, 21st century technology is extremely powerful, but is he forgetting who is developing these technologies? We are. The geniuses of the world are creating these powerful technologies, and they are the ones who have ultimate control over what they create. I think the human race is smart enough to realize when technology would become a major threat and prevent it. What really bugs me is that after talking to one person at a conference he all of a sudden goes into a panic. This is just one person’s theory, one person’s beliefs. Everyone conjures up his or her own theories about life and the future; however, do we go along believing what every crazy person in America says? No, this is not the case. We do not panic when one person tells us that aliens from outer space are going to take over, or the world is going to end. We go on living life. The same goes for robot dystopias- for now its just another person’s theory, and when we begin to feel truly threatened by this, then we can begin to panic.