December 02, 2005

Continous not Ubiquitous: A review of technology

This is my last and final blog entry, tears (not really). I feel at this time I should reflect on my experience blogging, reading tons of books on technology, and learning new things. This entry is not a story, or a summary, but what I considered a good way to incorporate both in a comprehensive final blog (okay, now I am cry).
I realize I just posted an entry regarding whether or not ubiquitous computing will ever be feasible, or at least seen in my lifetime. To give myself hope, I thought I would look at how things have changed technology wise in the last few years. I am really surprise when I consider all the things I can do today that would have been difficult or impossible just a few years ago. Today, I can search Google via the internet on my cell phone, download podcasts to my iPod (which on a side note keeps shutting off after about 10 songs, I have yet to reset it, but if I do and it keeps up, this will be my 14th visit to the Apple store for tech support, and 2nd replacement iPod. But it is so worth it, I love my iPod). I can call my friends in Paris and Shanghi on a local 440 number and talk clearly to them while they use an internet phone on the laptops, and I can store gigabytes of their photos and emails.
These latest technologies are different in that they are both electronic and very much social, enabling and essentially built for new kinds of interactions among people. Blogging, text messaging, photo sharing, and Web surfing from a smart phone are just the earliest examples (read my essay for more ).
I wouldn’t go so far as to say these technologies are “ubiquitous” but I will say they are “continuous”. They do fail, websites go down, cell phones don’t get signals (thus not ubiquitous) but they are always there, constantly experiencing our lives socially, emotionally, physically.
Armed with nothing more than a smart phone, a person can get the answer to almost any question; locate nearby friends, and services (physically); publish a blog entry about a recent break up (emotional); or self-publish blog entries, exchange text messages with a friend to decide on where and when to meet for coffee (social). (P.S. If my mom and dad are reading this, this smartphone example is only further proof updating my cellular phone to a smartphone is necessary for survival in this quickly changing work.)

December 01, 2005

Ubiquitous computing, unattainable?

Today in class we talked a lot about whether or not the ideas and dreams surrounding ubiquitous computing will ever actually take place. Is this something that is just not feasible? For example, before we can walk into a room and have a sensor on our watch notify the room of our presence, and the room respond with the schedule of meetings to take place in that day, who will be at those meetings, and ask “Dr. Ursic, would you like to be scheduled into one of these meetings, if so please say which one and I will notify your Palm and those facilitating the meeting,” all the parts that go into this must be created, and work. The ability to have a room respond to us is to an extent possible now, so that is present. But the technology to have such a system so synched and networked with your Palm, schedules of the meetings, and the ability to schedule based on voice activation is not here, and it may never be. But I am sure those such as Mark Weiser will keep the dream alive, keep pushing for this, keep hoping. I hope along with them.

November 29, 2005

Generation Text, is it on its way to the US?

The first chapter of Howard Rheingold’s book “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution” titled “Shibuya Epiphany, Rheingold details the world of Thumbing Tribes, or as one Filipino youth put it “Generation Txt.” He talks about his interviews with youths in Tokyo, revealing the abundant everyday use of text messages. (Whether to girlfriends, friends to organize an event, or just a “good morning” or “good night” or “just thinking about you”.) He also speaks of other studies in this area to different demographics, such as those by the anthropologist Mizuko Ito, revealing the same results. In my opinion, and from the results of such studies, American youths don’t use text messaging services nearly as much as international youths do. I feel there are two major points in regards to this. The first, is that text messaging is just not as popular because most American youths are not engaged enough with their mobile phones to take part in this (this is a direct result of poor marketing on the part of cellular phone companies). Moreover, the pricing of text messages is ridiculous. My roommates younger brother racked up 78 dollars in text messages alone in one month, in addition to the 40 dollars my roommate spent on text messages the same month. Needless to say, mom and dad cancelled the text messaging capabilities from their service. There are plans for cellular phones that allow maybe 500 text messages a month for 5 dollars. And though these are advantageous to people who use text messaging a lot (and there is a good many) it really isn’t fiscally efficient for those that don’t. Take my other roommate Eric for example. He may text message 20 times a month, resulting in a two dollar addition to his cell phone bill because of this. Now it isn’t fair for Eric to have to buy 500 text messages for 3 dollars more, and over months that 2 extra dollars a month does add up.
And yes it is significantly cheaper for youths in international countries to send messages, but that isn’t it. In such countries as Korea, China, Japan most youths and those younger have cellular phones. There are many children and young people in supposedly technologically privileged countries like the United States who still face a kind of '”information inequality,” as a result of poor access at home and school. The need for a cellular phone remains a subject of much argument in American families, and a 5th grader with a cellular phone is still very much taboo,
I doubt we will ever see the “Generation Txt” that is present elsewhere make a significant impact on American social culture, but then again, who knows?

November 07, 2005

Keeping in touch

Since we are starting a new book tomorrow (of which I have yet to read), and since I gave my parents my blog address and they ask me when I talk when I am going to post (hi mom and dad), I’ll make a post.
I m going to blog about two of my best friends Taroon and Ryan (Case students). Taroon is a senior who spent his summer in Beijing and now his fall semester in Paris. Ryan is a junior, who is currently spending his semester in Shanghai, while traveling throughout China whenever he can. The three of us are extremely close (I consider them brothers), and though they are thousands of miles away, it is as if they never left.
Throughout this course we have discussed technology, mobile, ubiquitous, iPods, etc. and it’s been great. We talk about how ubiquitous computing will allow us to “forget” technology as it becomes seamlessly integrated into our lives. Well, a lot of it, at least for me, has. My cell phone, my computer, and more specifically my internet and e-mail are technologies I hardly ever worry about not working. But, on the flip side, how often do they go un-appreciated?
I bring this back to my topic early of my brothers away in Shanghai and Paris. Technology has helped us keep in touch, the three of us chat at least three or four times a week. Whether its over Skype, cell phone, text message, e-mail, or Instant Messenger, we are still quite close. Just today I got a text message from Taroon, and an email from Ryan.
They both have Skype, which is a free VOIP (voice over internet protocol) which gives the ability to make calls out, and take calls from not only other Skype members, but standard phone lines. Both Ryan and Taroon have “440” area code numbers (my area code) on Skype, so it’s a local call to China and France for me.
And we really haven’t experienced any problems with the technology either. A few times Ryan will lose a call because of a poor internet connection, and my cell phone caller ID always says “1-000-123-4567” or “Anonymous” whenever one of them calls. Over Instant Messenger, it takes Ryan’s messages a while to get to my computer, but for the most part its not bad. Whenever I’ve spoken with Taroon over the phone or Instant Messenger, its been extremely clear. I got a call from him in Milan as he was traveling throughout Europe this past weekend, and the clarity was great there too.

November 02, 2005

What's the deal with USG?

I realize I am only a sophomore and a vice president of USG, but my experience with the organization in this short time has really opened my eyes to a few things on this campus. For one, it seems there is a disconnect between USG and the students. It is almost distaste towards our organization. I cant tell if it is because students unaffiliated see us as “elitists” , disconnect from the student body by choice, if it is because of the USG funding policies, or if it that students are unaware of what we do, or all three.
These three seem to be the most logical explanations, in my opinion, but that’s not to say that there aren’t more. And I can see how all three are arguable, but not justifiable. In regards to “elitism” USG does conduct their meetings in the Topher room of Adelbert Hall. It is a rather classy room, dress is business casual, however, this venue does lend itself to the most efficient way of passing policy for the campus. It has a very professional feel, hence the dress, and these two things serve as a catalyst for skilled discourse around such things as policy.
I feel that the anger around funding is always going to be present. Not every group will get all the money they want, the budget is only so big and we fund over 100 student organizations. I will say that every year USG continues to be fair and efficient in its funding of student groups. Also, student groups are allowed to appeal for more money to the General Assembly as well as the Executive Board. There is a discretionary fund created for this.
Things like the new operating hours of Starbucks in The Village, and when USG passed a resolution to cancel class during the VP debates, are pretty big measures taken by the university in response to our resolutions and work. But do most students know that was something USG helped facilitate? I don’t know how else to convey what we do. I definitely will argue that most students are unaware, on account of us, but sending out emails or posting flyers regarding these accomplishments seems like it is forcing information onto students, only furthering our image of “elitism.” Any suggestions?
In conclusion, USG does do a lot. We definitely don’t perceive ourselves as elitists, and we are made up of individuals that are passionate about this university. We were elected by the student body, and if someone feels we aren’t doing our job, make some noise about it. Let us know, come to our General Assembly meetings which our open to all students, come to our open forum sessions scheduled for next semester, run for a position, make the change yourself, we’d love to have you.

Respectfully submitted,
Neil Ursic
Vice President of Development
The Undergraduate Student Government

October 25, 2005

e-Portfolios, exciting stuff

There are a few perks that come with being an executive on USG. You get to know a lot of the administration, you get a business card, and have a small office, and the best part is you get to change the campus. I was invited to attend a compression planning meeting today on e-portfolios, a program the university is planning to undertake. So, after coming back to school a day early, and sitting through a five hour meeting, I know more about e-portfolios than I had ever planned to, and I am really excited about it. I encourage everyone to send their feedback on this, because this is big for the university, and student input is crucial.
So first, what is an e-portfolio? It’s a collection of artifacts, demonstrations, resources, accomplishments, grades, etc. of an individual or group, saved and presented in a digital manner.
The reason why I am in favor of them is because they are electronic; your portfolio can be easily accessed, updated, and shared (if you want). Gone are the days of running around to advisors, the Career Center, and other offices trying to get information. And at any point in your four years here, you can update them. If I just finished a semester abroad, or co-oping, I don’t have to wait until the end of my four years when I am a senior to go to the Career Center and relay my experience.
A huge part of this will be a reflexive piece, perhaps the greatest advantage in my opinion. At Case, I feel we students are so rushed through our classes and such, that we never have time to take it all in. This isn’t to say we have a poor education program, its just that we are so busy with homework, labs, exams, extra-curriculars etc. that we rarely have time to sit down and reflect. If the system has some sort of blog feature, that would be great. You could sit down and talk about your co-op or just your day, and it would be great to see your progress as a writer as you look back at your bloggings from freshman year.
To be able to assess where you were academically, where you are academically, and where you need to be by logging into your portfolio as opposed to going to your advisor, would be awesome. It would also be a great way for alumni who are looking for student workers out of college to be able to view your successes.
Clearly there are few (besides funding and implementation hindrances) problems with e-portfolios, and I think they would be a great asset to this university. The biggest questions I have as a student representative are:
1. will it be easy to use
2. will students use it
3. how can we get students to keep up on it
What do you think?

Starbucks in The Village

After much work this semester, I can confirm that starting Monday October 31st, Starbucks in The Village at 115 will be open until 2 am throughout the week.

This is a great advancemnt for USG and the university.

I hope that we can set up 24/7 access during finals week, but we will see.