Your Online Tattoo…

A 2013 Ted Talk by Juan Enriquez, futurist.  Thought you might enjoy watching it after our sans-mobile/electronic device assignment.

I’m also including the link to a NY Times article about Justine Sacco, it’s an interesting read and cautionary tale.

And one more recent from CBC regarding Harvard rescinding admissions.

Harvard rescinds admission offers!

Technology Free Day

I woke up early one morning eager to complete my four-hour block of time assignment immediately so that I would be finishing just in time for lunch.  I live with my Husband who also woke up at the same time as I did and I must say it was an interesting experience surviving my four hours without technology alongside a person who was not equally constrained. I set my wind-up alarm clock timer for four hours and then proceeded to go make myself a cup of coffee.  My husband notices me filling the coffee machine with water and then proceeds to tell me about all the wonderful technology that that coffee machine has. I was convinced that if I had the coffee that came out of my coffee machine, I’d be violating the no technology rule. So, I sat for a few minutes in silence still desperately craving that cup of coffee when I had a bright idea: let me grind my own beans and make my coffee through a French press. I pulled out my hand operated coffee grinder and my French press and found an unused bag of coffee beans.  I opened the bag of coffee beans and filled my cylindrical coffee bean grinder with beans and just as I was about to start manually grinding, my husband asks me what I am doing; apparently, the handheld coffee bean grinder I was using is technology: the nerve of this man to go outside and get a rock from our yard and quietly say “chop chop.” I laughed out loud before deciding to school my husband on the difference between mechanical and technological devices: the coffee grinder is a mechanical device not a technological one. After a few minutes of back and forth my husband finally agreed with me or maybe agreed to disagree with me but then came out with the iron-clad reply “ok honey but how do you plan on heating up your water?” Well, he got me there! No coffee for me! At this point I realized that there was only another three hours and seventeen minutes left after the whole coffee ordeal and so arguing with my husband proved to be a really great way to make the time fly by fast. The remaining three hours and thirteen minutes creeped by slowly as I tried to find something productive to do that did not involve technology. No phone, no television, no radio, no computer. Bored out of my mind, I started to feel sad. And then something unremarkable happened: I started to fall into even deeper sadness after realizing just how sad I was getting over not being able to use my technological devices. “My happiness should not depend on anything outside of myself,” I affirmed to myself. Then came the philosophical thinking about my life and purpose: what does it say about me that my happiness may depend upon my technological devices? I then came up with the bright idea of cleaning up the house. I started to clean. I became frustrated trying to figure out which cleaning apparatuses I could use: the vacuum, washing machine, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and etcetera were out. I started sweeping the floor. Then, I mopped. Then I scrubbed my bathroom until it was spotless. After all that I thought it must be close to lunch time. I couldn’t believe it, I still had another two hours and twenty-two minutes left! I looked for my husband and found him in our room fast asleep: no surprise there! I had two hours and twenty-two minutes to count down and I would have to do it all by myself!  As tempted as I was to go lay with my husband, I didn’t: there is no way in the world I was going for a round-two of this four-hour no technology thing. I decided to stick it out and do something that would wake me up for sure: I decided to take a shower, a cold one at that.  It was tough plugging in that blow dryer out of habit and then forcing myself to not use it.  Needless to say, my hair dried into a tangled mess all on its own but the good news was that I only had another one hour and forty eight minutes left of this primitive living! I started to get sad again thinking about how reliant I am on things outside of myself: “I should really work on becoming more self-sufficient,” I remember thinking to myself. I then proceeded to get ready for my day. I already knew the first thing I would do after this tech-free craziness is get myself a coffee from starbucks and boy was I looking forward to it: but the time was ticking by oh so slowly.  After showering with ice cold water and brushing my teeth with my old-fashioned toothbrush (no Sonicare for me), I dressed myself and decided to lounge on my living room sofa.  I thought that this might be a great time to get some homework done but I ran into a stumbling block: everything is online and all of my textbooks are digital so I couldn’t read either.  I then opened my front door.  The sun is out, and it is nice. The lawn needs mowing but of course my John Deere lawn mower is a technological device with a battery in it. So, I put my sneakers on and decided to go for a walk around my neighborhood. As I stepped outside I, out of habit, went to grab my wireless headphones only to put them right back: today I would be forced to appreciate nature.  As I walked, I noticed things around my neighborhood which I normally would not have: I paid particular attention to the houses and features about them I liked and disliked.  I observed the clouds and trees and passed by a huge mountain right down the block from my house.  I must say, I truly enjoyed the walk. It was a lovely walk which I don’t often have the pleasure of doing or when I do I am preoccupied listening to a podcast or music. I must have walked over two or three miles before I headed back to my house. As soon as I got home, I headed straight for my alarm clock to see how much time had passed: I actually walked further than I needed to as the alarm had already rung.  At that point I immediately ran upstairs to get my phone from the bedroom; I noticed that my husband wasn’t home, he must have gone out for lunch.  I turned on my television and flipped open my laptop.  I was back in the civilized world! I immediately called my husband and asked him to bring me home some chipotle and a coffee from Starbucks. I thought about all the things I needed to do for the rest of the day which would require technology: wash the clothes, the dishes, vacuum and maybe if I have time go rewash my hair and blow-dry it, not to mention all the reading and homework I have that’s been piling up.  On the day I completed the four-hour no-technology exercise, the idea of no technology made me feel like time without technology is time wasted. While I have come to appreciate the time I had away from technology, I do remember thinking to myself how much time I wasted without technology: time I could have been using to get something important done. Although the walk was nice, a part of me still felt like I had an extremely unproductive morning.  Looking back, I now realize that being that dependent on technology is not healthy and I’ve vowed, going forward, to no longer wear headphones when I go for my walks.

Tactic and Explicit

I am a caseworker at the Department of Social Services (DSS). The key activity this agency engages in revolves around the servicing of the local community’s most vulnerable populations.  DSS oversees the active implementation of plans of action which ensure that clients can be positioned to acquire the basic necessities of life including adequate housing with abuse- and maltreatment-free households, water, food, and an ability to elevate socio-economic status.

As part of my job function, I must be trained in a number of areas of expertise in order to provide clients with top-notch service and care. In all honesty, however, the most in-practice relevant knowledge is the knowledge that has been garnered from years of experience in the field. Without explicit knowledge of how to deal with various underlying factors which can be unique to each case, it would be very difficult to proficiently perform my job function! Information is essential in my line of work as getting to the truth of matters can be like pulling teeth since many such matters are considered private and not things clients are interested in sharing with outsiders.  A caseworker must investigate the cause and source of a family’s housing- or food-shortage problem? Whence does abuse and/or maltreatment occur in the household? What are the major factors contributing to a particular client’s unsafe living environment? With the explicit facts of a particular case having been noted, a caseworker can then use her working knowledge of people in general to conduct interviews with involved parties and get a general feel for how interviewees’ responses line up with the facts. The tacit knowledge a caseworker acquires over years of conducting such questioning can be used to reveal a great deal of information about a client’s moral fabric and intrinsic character. In the course of a case investigation, one of the first things a caseworker is looking for is whether or not he or she is dealing with a liar. Once the caseworker can determine whether or not the people involved in a case are liars, he or she can then proceed to deal with the situation accordingly. A liar’s words cannot be taken at face value and knowing for a fact that a client has lied about something without necessarily letting the client know that the caseworker knows this can be one of the most effective ways of getting to the truth of a matter. Talking to a family is a very significant part of the job but knowing how to talk to a family and knowing which questions to ask or even who to ask are key skills that only come with experience. Such experience cannot be garnered from academic study in ivory towers: only through field work does one learn how to effectively communicate with a directed purpose.

Vestal Website Evaluation

I chose Vestal as my Town. The criteria used to evaluate the website are usability, functionality, and speed. Vestal’s website can be found at In terms of usability, that is, the ease and comfort with which the website can be navigated, and functionality, that is, the extent to which the website did what it was supposed to do, the Town of Vestal scored a ten out of ten.  On speed, that is, how quickly elements of the page loaded on each click, the site gets a nine out of ten. What I like about the tab link layout is that the links are horizontally spread across the top of the page and are very easily accessible and visible while on the left side of the screen in a vertical spread are links, twenty-one of them in fact, to the website pages which visitors to the site have visited most often. The vertically spread links on the left side of the screen pop up sub-links when the user hovers the mouse over them. All links on the site are in working order and do their job which is to direct the end-user to the relevant webpage. With the many positive aspects of the website, the only concern I had was with the load speed of the tab links situated horizontally at the top of the website: when I first navigated to the website’s homepage, the images associated with those tab links took about a minute to load which is to say that a bunch of image placeholders were displayed at the top of the screen until all the images were fully loaded; because this did negatively affect my end-user experience, I had no choice but to impose a one-point penalty with regard to the speed criterion. While the functionality of the website is probably the most important aspect, i.e. can it get the end-user from point a to point b in a fast and efficient manner, aesthetics, ease of use, and comfortability with a website’s graphical design have become increasingly important to end-users: in these respects, the Town of Vestal’s official website does not disappoint as the website does feel like the Town of Vestal’s home on the internet with gorgeous pictures of the Town on top of their pages and a simple yet homey color scheme with background and foreground colors that make for a read which is easy on the eyes. Another great thing about the Town of Vestal’s website is that they seem to have gotten their search engine optimization efforts right as typing the word Vestal into google brings up the Town website as the very first result. The contacts directory makes for easy communication should I have any questions regarding town matters and the search tab facilitates an end-user’s particular queries which may not exactly match the tab link categories listed on the homepage. Overall the site scored quite well from my perspective as not only a random Binghamton University student end-user but also as a long-time Town of Vestal resident who has used the website for many years to obtain important town information: those load times though, they must do something about those load times!