Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Continuing the conversation...

I thought my Sunday blog was my last, but here I am again. I suppose I’ll continue blogging about society, culture, and technology for a little while more. I feel I’ve reached another level of awareness, and through this medium I can comment on it.

What made me come back today was a Trinidadian student I met today. I immediately remembered the article we read about the ‘Internet and relationships’ and could not resist myself. I had to ask her if she used the Internet to communicate with her family members and expected to confirm Miller and Slater’s research. But somehow to my surprise, she only uses the phone to call home. What a disappointment!

[Check the Thursday, November 13, 2003 entrance down below, or click here to jump to it.]

Sunday, November 30, 2003

On beauty, truth, love, and integrity

Pretzer analyzes what he calls the “five basic categories of rationales for studying technology” in K-12 schools today. Through this analysis the author looks at personal and national utilitarianism, national security, technologically literates, and applied problem solving. He presents a different perspective emphasizing the need for the development of (1) “leadership, communication skills; quantification skills, interpersonal relations, and the ability to work in teams; … the capacity to adapt to rapid change” (p. 3), (2) citizenry, (3) cooperation and collaboration, (4) goal, values and principles, and (5) human progress.

Learning about and with technology cannot have as its main goal the use of technology. Technology is more than anything else a tool, an instrument, a gizmo, a gadget, an artifact that should help us accomplish a task, solve a problem, share ideas, develop a product, collaborate with others, and work together from afar.

I agree with Pretzer when he states: “Learning technology is essential precisely because it situates learners as participants in the process, provides them with real contexts for their actions, and requires them to reflect about the process” (p. 11). Note that this means that technology is used for a lot more than drill and practice, that it is used to develop critical thinking skills.

Pretzer understands that through technology students should not only learn cognitive skills, but also affective skills, and that history should always remind us where we have been. Learning from the past can only help us improve the future. As always, the ultimate goal of education should be the development of values and ethics.


Pretzer, W.S. (1997). Technology education and the search for truth, beauty, and love. Journal of Technology Education, 8(2). Retrieved on May 13, 2002 from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournal/JTE/v8n2/pretzer.jte-v8n2.html.

Hacking away ...

Hackers and crackers … the good and the evil!

Hackers are not always seen as malicious people, take for example the on-line technical dictionary whatis.com, they look at it from a very different perspective. Hackers are presented as “clever programmer[s]”, people who fit one of five different characteristics, which all of us would probably fit in. There is a difference between a hacker and a cracker they say, it is the cracker who enjoys ‘cracking’ (this is, breacking into) other people's or organization’s computers. But the media has made a big mess out of this and usually portrays crackers as hackers. Ross, the author of this chapter, does so too.

I believe Ross tries to establish a fine line between the good and the evil 'hackers' (this is crackers) can do. He argues that hackers “directly or indirectly, … legitimate needs of industrial R&D” (p. 337). In this particular case, 'hackers' push for more research in the security area as they venture in different computer systems and leave their mark.

In the last section of this chapter, Ross also explores the impact of technology on culture: the use of technology for surveillance, the amount of personal information available on the Internet about each of us, the necessary ‘technoskepticism’ for social change. The idea that no product is good enough, making people wait for a new product to substitute the old one, encouraging people to continue buying new technology, even though they probably don’t need it.

Somehow this chapter was discouraging to me. To say out loud, to glorify 'hacking' because of the need for new research and development; and to acknowledge the impact of new developments and artificially created needs in a consumerist society, seems to lead to nowhere instead of to a brighter future.


Ross, A. (1991). Hacking away at the counterculture. In C. Penley & A. Ross (Eds.), Technoculture (107-134). Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. [Chapter 10].

Whatis.com. (2003). Retrieved on Sunday, November 30, 2003 from http://whatis.techtarget.com/.

Monday, November 24, 2003

To talk about it!

I think last week’s discussion turn around a different path, because we not only talked about our readings, but also about real life. As we discussed Gino’s movie on how homosexuals have been portrayed in media, we were able to look at how we feel about the subject and expose our feelings a little.

I don’t think people had an outburst or anything like it. The subject was very close to our believes and feelings got entangled in the conversation. It was good to have people say out loud how they felt because it gave us another perspective to look at the idea of having gay/lesbian friends. I did not know who was or who wasn't gay; it is really hard for me to distinguish one who is from one who is not. I prefer to look at people for what they do and how they do it: a classmate that I will enjoy working with or not. I’ll look at people’s eyes, because they can say a lot of their character, not at how they look on the outside, which is usually very misleading.

Many times we prefer not to talk about touchy subjects (racism, prejudice, believing in god or not), most of all because we have been trained like that: touchy subjects are better left out of any conversation. For some they are very uncomfortable, because they are afraid of exposing their views. This I believe is bad, because it allows people to continue having their same old ideas, usually on the more conservative side of the road, and sadly enough even prejudicial.

In class, I talked about creating spaces where people can expose themselves, as they are, where people can excel and shine. This is not to say, we are putting people on the spotlight, or that we are saying they are better or worst. I believe having spaces for everyone can really increase our worldviews. Being able to see others as they are could help us better understand what they go through in life, becoming more empathetic to others, and even getting closer to a more balanced life.

Going back to my point of accepting people the way they are, without looking at their gender, race, religion preferences, sexual preferences, nationalities, or whatever else: Does it really matter when you are working with someone, or is it more important to have a co-worker that’s on time and responsible, that will do the best s/he can, and that will strive for excellence?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Picturephones, were they true?

In this article Lipartito explores the meaning of failure as it related to the development and marketing of the picturephone. This technological device, available in the late 60’s was extremely expensive (“sixteen to twenty-seven dollars per minute for a call”) and was only available in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. In early 70’s the number of picturephones had raised to 453 (1974) and by 1978 they had practically disappeared.

The author presents an argument as to the reasons why this technology was not adopted by the people, as other technologies were – take for example the television. Some reasons that were given for its ‘failure’ was how expensive it was and the privacy issue. But as Lipartito examines the issue he also notices the limitations encountered at the time for lack of the appropriate technological advances in communication. For example, an image that was seen in black and white, or as he cites an early adopter: “There’s no color. You’re gray. I’m gray.” There was also the political issue, the monopoly struggle of telecommunications.

Lipartito also analyses how marketing impacts the adoption of a new product. “… innovation – he argues – is a process of social change that involves the gradual enrollment of new uses and the creation of a platform or standard from which further product innovation can take place” (p. 71). In the next paragraph, he goes on to say: “connecting users to new technology is not easy. An important part of the process of enrollment is attracting an initial group of enthusiasts to the machine”. And this was precisely what was not done with the picturephone. It was not marketed toward a specific group, that 2-3% of innovators and 10-15% of early adopters that would have spread the word around and showed how exiting the new gadget was (Ward, 2003).

So, should we say the picturephone was a failure? I really don’t think so. It is true that it was not adopted by the ‘masses’, that AT&T as well as other telephone companies decided to stop marketing this product. But the fact is that the idea behind it, the idea “for an integrated approach over a single network for multiple media – data, voice, text, graphics, and video” (p. 64-65) is still with us; that is, what we call today the Internet. And as Lipartito states on page 65, instruction in higher education can be carried out today through information technology, as predicted by the Carnegie Commission in the 1960’s.

Therefore, what can be considered a failure, turned out to be the precursor of the Internet, a system that allows us to share with people around the world in a few seconds. Do you think we would have believed it fifty years ago?

Finally, a few words about the title: I remembered hearing about the picturephone, but never believed it was true, never saw one, and though people were trying to trick me when they talked about it. Thanks to Lipartito I now know it was real.


Lipartito, K. (2003). Picurephone and the Information Age. Technology and Culture. 44 (1), p. 50-81.

Ward, Brian. (2003). The Footsteps of Change: Understand how change migrates from one group to the next, and you will dramatically increase your chances of success. Retrieved on November 26, 2003 from http://www.affinitymc.com/managing_change_and_risk.htm.

Is it really magic or just a bunch of procedures and algorithms?

When I was a little girl (in the early 60’s) I wondered how the little people got into my TV and made all kind of things to make me laugh. If there was something boring in TV I wanted to take the little people out of it, so that the cartoons would come back. Several times I tried to move the big console and looked behind it to see if I could do something about the programming. The explanations my parents gave me were not enough, I wondered about the little people for a long time.

Was it magic? At that time, it seemed to me it was. But growing up takes away the magic of things you encountered as a child, and you come to understand why things are the way they are (or at least we think we do). You might not want to believe it, you might try to run from it, but no matter how far you go, it seems you will never go far enough, sometimes it even hunts you.

Facing the truth is not easy, re-evaluating the lessons we learned as little kids with the ‘facts of life’ is disturbing. So, what do we do? Should we go along and keep doing the same things we were taught to do? Should we adjust our thinking or even change it taking into account the new information we have come across, trying to understand the world we live in today, adjusting to the world we live in, being true to ourselves?

About the article

Stefik is concerned about a lot more than magic; he is concerned about responsibilities. He argued, “we need to consider how we can apply the lessons of the magical literature about power and control to the world we live in” (p. 257). As apprentices of new technology, he contended we ought “to learn awareness, patience, and responsibility” (p. 256). We could become amazed, marveled about new gadgets, we might even embrace them without considering the outcomes, and this is precisely what Stefik says we need to be aware of.

Beepers, wearable computers, smart houses, the ‘new’ IPv6 (Internet Protocol, version 6), new technologies that can transport masses and information seem to be the order of the day. Humans relate to them in one way or another. In some cases they become so attached to them it is almost as an integral part of themselves. And we forget we are part of something bigger, the world we live in, the environment we have tried to control. Responsibilities, Stefik reminds us. How responsible are we with the environment, with the world we live in as a whole? Are we destroying it little by little? Are we allowing this to happen?


Stefik, M. (1999). The Internet Edge. MIT Press. [Chapter 10: Indistinguishable from Magic: The real, the magic, and the virtual, pp. 253-290.]

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Culture, TV, and Language

Media and culture … culture and media ... To represent a group of people, their ways and expressions, their understandings of life, knowledge, music, traditions, …

Ginsburg (2002) presented the case of the Australian Aborigines and how they were introduced to the development of television segments where they could present themselves to their community as well as to others. The outsiders, the ethnographers that came and interpreted the Aborigine’s culture, were pioneers in the creation and presentation of movies, which were seen not only in Australia, but also all over the world. The insiders, the Aborigines learned the skill and where then able to portray themselves, to reclaim a space for their language, their festivals, their oral histories, their ways of living. This space permitted them to revitalize their own customs and languages (p.221).

But this also meant the introduction of new ways through the television that was now showing programs developed in the city, elsewhere. So in one way the Aborigines had the opportunity to present themselves, but in another were led in another direction, away from themselves into an era of commercialization and cultural imposition by the dominant segment of society (p.230).

An interesting point this article brings to our attention is related to native languages. The author states: “We’re trying to teach kids you can be Aboriginal and keep your language and still mix in the wider community and have English as well” (p. 224). This could be translated as ‘it is OK to accept yourself as you are, from whatever cultural background; it is OK to have another language and be fluent at it’. The dominant language will then be learn at school. And by having two languages you won’t be less, instead you’ll be more. By learning one culture at home and another at school, you won’t be worst you’ll be more. And note that I don’t say better, because it is not a matter of good or bad, it is a matter of being able to understand others as they are, and minimizing cultural misunderstandings.

Its interesting because many times I have heard teachers say to parents not to talk their native language to their kids at home. For some reason they think kids will be better off if they only talk one language. But at the same time, teachers are saying your native language is not important, in fact it disables you of talking English like other kids. This is so wrong! Your second language will be your second, not your first; no matter how much you try, life will not change this.

I believe teachers that present such an argument to parents are being very disrespectful to the other culture. If a kid or any person wants to improve their language skills, they don’t need to stop talking other languages, they need more practice developing whatever language they want to learn. Picture dictionaries, reading simple books will make a lot more for the kids than not talking to their parents in the way they can better express themselves, in the way they can communicate to other relatives, that might not need to learn English, or whatever the second language would be.

It’s true a dominating culture will try to impose their ways, changing as many elements of another culture as they can. This has happened throughout history since the beginning of civilization. But I think we need to come to some kind of agreement, where we can learn to respect each other, with our languages and cultures, just the way they are. We need to learn as much as we can from others, we need to respect other people the way they are, and we also need to respect and love ourselves just the way we are.


Ginsburg, F. (2002). Mediating Culture: Indigenous media, ethnographic film, and the production of identity. In K. Askew and R. Wilk (Eds.), The Anthropology of Media (187-209). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Relationships and the Internet

Miller and Slater use the case of the Trinidadians to study the impact of the Internet on relationships between people of the same family, friends, and strangers. The fact that the Internet has allowed family members of all ages to keep in touch with each other, is not exclusive of the Trinidadians, but what makes it so particular is that, according to the authors, this phenomenon is common to most Trinidadians.

Is it possible that because Trinidad is an island and most families have relatives abroad, the Internet has made a major impact on the Trinidadians culture? Probably the fact that the population in Trinidad is only a little more than a million has something to do with it. Anyway, it would be interesting to find out what percent of the population of Trinidad lives in another country, and what percent of the population really has access to computers.

The authors of this article also explore other types of relationships. For example, virtual friendships were reality and virtual mixed together; and real friendship developed in cyber cafés, clubs, and schools because of their interest on the Internet.

Finally, it would be very interesting to explore how this change took place, who were the innovators, the early adopters, and early majority; and how they all embraced this technology to get where they are now.


Miller, D. and Slater, D. Relationships. In: K. Askew and R. Wilk (Eds.), The Anthropology of Media. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. [Chapter 12, pp. 187-209.]

Trinidad and Tobago People. Retrieved November 26, 2003 from http://www.1uptravel.com/international/caribbean/trinidad-tobago/people.html.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Official Numbers? Will we really know?

It seems the Pentagon and other officials give different numbers to different people. In Puerto Rico, El Nuevo Día reported: "Según los datos del Pentágono, el total de soldados estadounidenses muertos en Irak -incluidos 11 de origen boricua- se eleva ahora a 390."

This is: "According to data from the Pentagon, the total number of American soldiers that have died in Iraq - including 11 Puerto Ricans - raised to 390."

But today's CNN on-line newspaper reports something different. Take a look at the article titled "U.S. attacks sites near Black Hawk crash". It doesn't seem to include information related to this issue, but check it out, it says: "With the latest attacks, 269 U.S. troops have been killed by hostile fire since the war began. Since May 1, when President Bush said major combat was over, 154 U.S. soldiers have been killed by hostile fire."

This is really disturbing! Even more is you think about the number of wounded soldiers and civilians.


Creciente combatividad armada. (2003, November 8). El Nuevo Día. Retrieved from http://www.endi.com.

U.S. attacks sites near Black Hawk crash. (2003, November 8). CNN.com. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com.

Puerto Ricans in the 'War in Iraq'

Last Tuesday night, November 4, 2003, Bush talked about the ‘casualties’ in Iraq. Well why not say it out loud, the soldiers that have died. I don’t know if my ears were fine, but did he say this was necessary?

Know let’s look closely. El Nuevo Día reported today that since the war began 390 soldiers have died. Looking at the numbers a little closely we have:

390 divided by 50 states gives us about 8 (7.8 to be exact) per state. Doesn’t seem much, huh?

Reality check: there are many soldiers in Iraq that come from Puerto Rico, one of its territories, or should we politely say the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Pardon me, but I’ll count Puerto Rico in:

390 divided by 51 gives us about 8 (7.65 to be exact), very close to the average presented before. Well, that doesn’t seem that bad!!! But this is just a statistic and you know how they can obscure reality.

In fact El Nuevo Día (November 8, 2003) reports, 11 Puerto Ricans have died already. Two died in the helicopter crash during last weekend, and two more died during the week.

11 not 8; that’s 37.5% more than any other state and please take into concern that there are only a handful of states with less population than Puerto Rico.

Maybe Bush doesn’t care about the real people. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a son or a daughter in Iraq, nor a relative or a friend. Besides, he is not going to be president too long – he wasn’t even elected by the people -- and when he retires he will have a whole bunch of people serving him, protecting him.

He is not going to care for anybody, even less our children, relatives and friends that will come wounded, emotionally and physically sick, addicted to drugs because they could not take it any more, out of their mind, not being able to sleep because of the horrific memories!

Anyway, have you thought about how many soldiers are already wounded? Where are those statistics? They can’t hide the dead, but are they hiding the wounded?

Finally, there will be a 40th anniversary coming soon. It makes me wonder if we are repeating ourselves.


Caen ocho militares más. (2003, November 8). El Nuevo Día. http://www.endi.com.

Delgado, J.A. (2003, November 8). Creciente combatividad armada. El Nuevo Día. http://www.endi.com.