Authority

Authority is represented by those who hold it. It is either taken or given. Most of the time it is both. I have held a position of authority of a good portion of my working career. It comes with its rewards and its heartaches. There are a wide ranges of behaviors associated with my interactions with those people. The first two items that I want to touch on are founded entirely on my experiences on this subject.  The next two items are examinations on two different sorts of perspectives. The first is the perspective of the authority. In this I can only express from my own view point. The second is the perspective of the authority as an individual. There is some form of context to be had when viewing different forms of authority. The scale of that authority defines how we react to that authority.

I do this in order to better frame the research and establish a mindful approach when considering the questions. It is fair to try to understand how I react to authority, as well as evaluate a differing opinion. In this I want to be able to express how the two influence the other through new media. It is with this constant interconnectedness that allows that flow of information between authority and subordinate. It is impossible to interact with one and not be influenced by one as well.

Perspective as the authority

When interacting with people whom I have authority over, I have to maintain a professional decorum. I have to be able to talk to those under me, and tell them what needs to be done in order to be able to achieve tasks that are important to the goals of the company or to the day. It is my job to define the priorities and reallocate resources to the appropriate tasks. This requires me to communicate to persons within my building, and at the corporate office. I may have to field questions and give responses to other entities in other stores. This requires me to communicate via e-mail, telephone, and mobile messaging.

Understanding how I am to communicate with people depends entirely on the context of the message, which in turn defines the medium. Important things usually involve a phone call and situations that do not require immediate response is via text message or e-mail.

When communicating via these many methods I have to be aware of what I say or do. My statements can be misinterpreted or confused. A simple friendly communication from me can be considered furious or anxious to a person who may be in that frame of mind. I have to be mindful of this distinction. This mindfulness would lead me to add friendly cues to my messages, or express appreciation. It often requires me to stop and reread what I have written to ensure that questions of my competence are not called into question when I misspell or mispunctuated.

When I craft my messages I consider it an art of interaction. It is a difficult medium to properly express the intended emotion or desire. Artfully posing questions, and making it sound beneficial to the receiver is very important to me.

That is perhaps one of the hardest barriers that as an authority figure, I have to be able to drill into. People are very self absorbed and will be strongly focused on their own lives and needs. I have to communicate to the self interest of that person to convince them to help me in a task.  The need to place yourself in their shoes is evident in that. Like in any interaction that I would have, I need to empathetic to my team’s needs so they can help facilitate my request.

In this environment anonymous activities are hard to maintain. Everything is tracked, and recorded. It would be hard to send a derogatory email to all the addresses without being caught. There are time stamps, and return addresses that can be looked at. Compounded by the availability of camera systems that can be remotely accessed, it would take very little work to find the person who may have sent it. Messages sents from and to phones had numbers attached to them, as well as individual logs that can be used in prosecutions. Facebook has only become relevant when small social disputes happen and are brought into the store by the participants. I have a very strict personal rule that I will never friend request a work person. I may even on some levels refuse friend requests, especially if they are subordinate to me. This is to protect myself from any issues that may arise, and prevents them from being invasive into my personal life.

Perspective as the individual

I think it is important to know what my own personal reactions are to authority before I can fully understand how it might affect another person. Step one of understanding another person is to metaphorically walk in their shoes. This is an essential portion of this essay in that I will dive into the different types of authorities that I see, and examine how I personally evaluate them.  For each I will also examine the impacts that social media has on that authority figure. These are only three major ones out of a myriad of options available.

Government

Authority in the form of government is a very easy theme that I can deal with. I was born in the Air Force. Both of my parents were enlisted within its ranks. As one can imagine, I grew up with a military viewpoint. I am proud of the legacy they left to me. I respect my military, and I respect my government. I may not agree with them, but I am always at will to support them. While I may be slowly slipping out of the range of the draft age, I would still answer a call if my military would call on me. This is assuming that I hadn’t already seen the need and enlisted of my own volition. Therefore, I am more willing to accept government authority.

It takes a person who deliberately ignores the world around them to see only one way, and I have to recognize that not all persons to have similar viewpoints. If anything this election cycle has proven that point manyfold. Some feel that the government is too restrictive, or too loose. That it is fractured, and polarized. This is reflective of the people that have elected to our government the voices. Perhaps it is the problem that people can’t stand to look in the mirror and see themselves for who and what they are. Rather than see the government as We The People, we see it as Them The Few.

I think in this, the technology is serving government very well by creating that reflection. The people are being represented. The problem is that there are so many divergent viewpoints that there is discourse in the government’s actions. Those who have access to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone has access to all government materials and communications. They communicate to it through facebook, emails, website blogs. This constant flow of information is all additive and collects to show where we as a nation view issues.

Election cycles have been growing more dependent on this information as they tailor their arguments to the people’s needs and wants. Each candidate speaks to a specific need.  The people are having their influence heard collectively. How and where those needs can be addressed is the biggest issue at hand. Perhaps social media will continue to shape politics, and even push it in directions it could never be forced before. In this, the people are still shaping the government, and the government shapes the people. Both are evolving together as the means of communications allow that evolution to take place.

Religion

Religion as an authority figure holds absolutely no water to me. If we speak in strict religious textual terms, I’m not interested. The faiths are all corrupted by human betrayal. Even if the very voice of god as spoken, or etched words of decree, those same words have been handled by humans over many thousands of years. Each person twisting it one way and the next twisting it another. A simple change in letters, or words. Punctuation is altered. Translations are made as languages change. How can the faith not change with the times and the people’s?  

What I can acknowledge is the value of some of their teachings. Rather than accept a single faith and only its values, I try to find value  of all faiths and accept the universal values they all preach? Why not understand it in a way that connects with the person, and all persons. There is a unifying force behind the universal desires for love, acceptance, and hope. I will never a fault in a person who accepts faith and receives these things. I can fault those who take a life though, as this even is universal in all faiths. Humans have twisted these scriptures to support their desires and beliefs. It is the universal values the religion teaches that accepts my respect. The more the religion stays true to those universal values, the more respect I can have for it.

This is made easier through the use of social media. It has allowed me to connect in a different way to the many voices that speak the words of faith. It lets me see how they are toned, and how expressive they are. In this we can communicate to one another our feelings of belief, and what can make those feelings stronger. However it allows anonymous voices heard that would never have been. A shift of authority is taking place from the conventional clergy to the clergy of the internet. A perfect soapbox to stand on, evangelicals can press their faith with little restraint. Reverence may still be given to those who hold office within a religion’s hierarchy, but the true power is to the people. It then becomes the job of the figurehead to identify the people’s voices and speak on them as determined by their interpretation.

Employer

Work authority is treated much in the same way as I do that of government. The employer as a company I have to hold respect to. The entity pays for my life, and all the things that I enjoy doing, or need. If I don’t respect the entity that I work for, then why work there in the first place? Being paid for something you don’t even agree with is an extremely upsetting idea to me.  Individual who hold authority over me can sometimes be a frustration, and have varying levels of respect from me.

Most communications are conducted on public channels and are publicly available where there is a terminal available. There is little ability to restrict access to this information, and it is very difficult to hide actions. As such, social media is not the primary source of communications between authority and subordinate. Mobile communications are most common, with text being the predominate form. This leads to miscommunications. The biggest component to this matter is that there are repercussions involved in miscommunications. The wrong word choice can spell disaster to a career at an important point. People are forced to consider their words before pushing the send button.

Conclusion

One cannot interact with the other without being influenced. It doesn’t matter how tyrannical or insignificant the authority is, there is some swaying of opinion and action. Observe the events of the Colombian civil war’s end. The leaders forged a peace agreement bringing to a close decades of conflict. They were affected by the people they led. They discovered the need to  end the war and find peace. Social media brings authority closer to the people, and it brings the people closer to authority. This closeness always will have some form of bleed through. The mark of the people are left on the authority, and vice versa. Do demand an interaction free from influence, would be to demand an impossibility.

Bibliography

Davis, Richard, and Diana M. Owen. New Media and American Politics, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998.

Religion, Media, and the Public Sphere. Bloomington, US: Indiana University Press, 2005. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 6 November 2016.

By. “Colombia and FARC Rebels Sign Historic Peace Agreement.” Colombia and FARC Rebels Sign Historic Peace Agreement. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

“The Arab Spring: A Year Of Revolution.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2016.

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Social Media Hell

This post is in response to the first half reading of Dave Eggers’ The Circle. Published October of 2013.

Upon starting this book, and being introduced to Mae and The Circle, I found it exciting, fun, and the sort of place I wanted to work. Then the story gets progressively more interesting, and darker.

The parts that I found exciting was the sorts of freedoms and gifts such a company can give to its employees. They aren’t so much as lavish as well thought and well practiced efficiencies meant to extend the employee’s life and improve their health.

What really started hurting this future story for me was the increasing invasiveness of social media. Being social for the sake of being social. It seems almost insane. Perhaps I value substance over breadth.

I think the characters themselves are a reflection of their lifestyle. They act like they are all brainwashed. Giddy and itchy at the smallest of things, but when it gets to the deeper darker levels, there is no care paid. It is interesting how some of the characters come in pairs, but both of their personalities are identical. And don’t get me started on the intense and unreasonable mood swings. These people are so sleep deprived they can’t think straight for themselves.

The lengths that Mae was required to increase her social standing, is mind numbingly audacious. Perhaps this is where I start showing my old man stripes and start drawing lines. I’m sorry, but there is a part where you loose your humanity for the sake of managing it all.

However, I can think this differently and approach it from a different perspective. What if I grew up in this time where Facebook was a memory and this company has replaced them, and phone companies, and stores altogether. The Circle is the single most powerful and influential company on the planet. It is Google plus Tesla plus SpaceX, plus any number of universities. Ultimately you don’t choose to work at The Circle, you choose to live The Circle. The Circle is a Lifestyle. Yes, you work there, but you have to pay for the technology and conveniences that only they can provide. It’s like some huge social experiment in a society where nothing is secret and to demand privacy would be treason.

Their openness towards each other forces truthfulness. It requires awareness of each other’s emotions and desires. It demands a greater attendance to your neighbors and how you can best provide to a society. I see value in this philosophy. I value privacy. In a way it is sacred. In a world where privacy becomes less and less, it can be valued more and more. There will come a time where even our minds can no longer be safe refuge for your most private of thoughts. I accept this to be an inevitable truth in the pursuit towards better mediums of communication.

As the mediums of our communications evolve, so will our society to match it. Perhaps we have yet to reach the very height of social media. I’m not sure I would be able to keep up with such a demand. There has to be a point where a person can only take so many inputs. Perhaps we can handle more, but it has to be trained and developed, and the only way that can happen is if the technology pushes us. Even so, the wider you spread your attention, there is only so much depth one can have. These characters are shallow because of their lifestyle. Well connected, but unable to go any deeper then the barest of facts and the business at hand. It is disturbing how drone like they are.

Next Industrial Revolution

This post is in response to the following video: Chris Anderson: Makers – The New Industrial Revolution

There is a certain sense of liberation when you own a 3D printer for yourself. It is literally a game changing device that has brought me joy, and access to being able to manufacture what is in my mind into reality. Chris’ descriptor of placing bits into atoms is fairly apt.

I had no idea that digital manufacturing has gotten as customizable as it has. If it is as flexible as it says it is, then we are talking some serious technological adaptability. My mind has been resting on the concept that factories were still fixed. While robotics have replaced a large chunk of manufacturing labor forces, I understood them to be as varied as their tasks were. This meant specialized hardware, and very specific demands. Tesla’s automated multi-purpose robots are amazing.

I think far ahead, and imagine how having just one of these would be an amazing concept. A multi-purpose construction system. Built in 3D printer, Built in CNC, Built in Laser cutter, as well as drill, welding, forming, bending, screwing, bolting, and whatever else you need that thing to do. Just one of these would augment human power by factors.

Another aspect that I love about this, is the concept of singularity and this. If the manufacturing equipment is so powerful, and adaptive, then in theory the computer can analyze designs, modify it to enhance the operational design, and built it. Could an Artificial Intelligence improve our technology, and even invent that? Once computing power exceeds that of the human ability, we may find this answer.

I have seen glimpses into this world on websites that offer 3D printing services. Upload your design, they print it, and then mail it to you. Simple, efficient and short lived. However it gives access to that person who never would have been able to.

The Maker Shops that Chris was mentioning sounds like a dream, and is something that I have been considering creating for Bangor. What I did not consider was the addition of a workshop in conjunction to advanced manufacturing systems. Now I must consider having two separate locations. The DownTown storefront, restaurant and micro manufacture, and a more urban workshop where all the tools and equipment are.

I think it is really important to supply these resources and abilities. There are incredible amounts of ideas and possibilities out there that do not get the opportunity to see the light of day. It is almost criminal to keep all that locked up. If you have thought about it, most likely someone else has as well. In the end, it is who can get to the resources first that is the real winner in any race of innovation.

I see value in Chris’ vision, and proof. It is essential, and will expand the possibilities to be able to tackle problems we haven’t even discovered yet.

Random Thoughts

What if your search engine had personality? My brain has never really been wired to accept responses from a search engine that I didn’t ask for. My usual reaction is to step up to a search box, type in my query, and expect a response that is exactly relevant to my request.

Today, I was slapped in the face with another reminder to vote from Google. I had  a sudden flare of frustration, destroyed the little reminder by clicking on its little x of destruction, and proceeded to type my feelings into the search engine’s text box so prominently centered, and framed by little images for voting.

I pressed enter, and then sat for a moment. Then I felt remorseful, and felt I had to append my message with a follow up. An explanation in my earlier outburst. God forbid I offend the internet. More seriously though, in an internet of lost context, my message would have been seen more as a rage entry or something. What I really wanted was the ability to indicate I already had voted. Understandably, early voting is still somewhat new, and even the analysts are not sure on how that will affect this election cycle in the United States.

What I really wanted to drive down into is the concept of talking to the search engine. In years past, the search engine has been a tool. It still is, but it has become far more intelligent and predictive. The speed in which it collects and exports data is incredible, and  it has vast connections. If I had to reduce it, the search engine is is a method of learning. It is an access point to data. An intelligent being would know how to navigate the endless indexes and pull data from any point.

Personality is borne from experiences. Experiences are bits of memory, information, that contribute to our ability to interpret the world. Memory is measurable. Therefore, the internet is a collective memory. All those who have participated, leave something of themselves. If there was a way for the search engine to be used in the creation of a mind, I can only imagine the personality that could come out of it. Would it be analogous to our own? Would we be able to understand it? What would it learn?

If it came out as being benign, would it be willing to help us? Would helping us be to taxing, or would that mind be able to do other things? If it was willing to help, would seeing results being returned by it be different? How would that personality show itself? Would it modify my responses for the better, or for the worse?

I suppose I would have to ask Cortana, or Siri, or any of these new voice activated interfaces. Though, I’m not sure I can. Is their personality a result of their experiences? I’m willing to believe that, but I think those experiences were preprogrammed by the designers. I’m not very sure how far along this technology is as of now. Progress has been very swift on artificial intelligence research, and I really do wonder what is already being done.

Mindfulness in Design

This post is in response to the following video: Simon Norris on Experience

Simon is exactly right concerning the subject of user experience. It is extremely important to consider the humans that are using the product. Being aware of how that product is being used in a variety of times and places goes a long way towards understanding how the product should work.

What I found interesting was the concept of making distinctions between physical experiences and digital experiences. Given that our current society is very much inclusive in the internet with many of our tasks. What we would normally do in the real world we can do digitally as well.

Simon brings up the other point in how the same retailer would have completely different experiences between their online and physical stores. Where the store experience is so much better, that the user does not want to use the application or website. However, knowing that the customer may want to use the app while in the store may allow the user an additional tool to navigate and compare the products.

This sort of mindfulness has been part of my own mindset for a long while. When I redesign kitchen at the various stores I work at, I consider very seriously how the space is used, and who will be using it. Knowing the needs of those you are working with is imperative in being able to design an experience that fits their needs and desires. Once those are met, then the worker is more effective and efficient at their job. It reduces stress on their mind, and their body. The customer is better served as we know where things are, and can easily access the product when the need for it arises.

Understand the customer’s needs. Understand the customer’s requirements. Understand the limits of ability. Understand that time moves forward, and we have to consider what could disrupt our future actions. These anticipations are important towards a successful product.

 

image is a screenshot from the video

Robotic Teachers

This is in response to an article titled “When the Teaching Assistant Is a Robot”. Published in the October 28th, 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Only as an assistant. The human element in education is much too important. Unless we have fully fledged self aware artificial intelligence, I cannot accept technology as a replacement for education.

I fear that this places me at something of a hardliner when it comes to the subject, however. I would be willing to change my mind, so long as the technology is human like in its behavior and thoughts.

At this point in our technological development, robotics are unacceptable for the human experience portion of a child’s education. They need that interaction, and they need that empathy that only a human can provide. Humans must choose to help, and to sympathize. Humans have emotions and capacity to gauge other human’s emotions. This is imperative when it comes to context, or realizing that a different method of explanation is required.

As a teaching assistant, I think it is wonderful. It holds no hours, and has no emotions when it comes to menial questions. It has all the patience in the world to address student needs and questions. In a text based format, the technology is sufficient to address student’s needs while maintaining a facade of humanity. As students learn to learn, the teaching assistant can become more of a tool. A reactive dictionary, or search system. Much like Siri, Cortana, and other such assistants.

Until the technology is capable of addressing the emotional component of a person’s education, I can’t see it being useful at that level. Technology is ever evolving and it will be interesting to see what results from this experiments and others that are similar to it.

image from here

The Internet Of Things

This is in response to an article titled “The ‘Internet of Things’ Faces Practical and Ethical Challenges”. This was published in the October 28th 2016 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This brings up the same questions that I had concerning the subject. While I was aware of the concept of many common items becoming “smart”, I have only recently been aware of the term “Internet of Things”.

I have two minds on this subject. There is the old geezer me that says, Why? My toaster was just fine as a toaster. My fridge keeps my food cold. I know how long it takes me to get to the store, and I know when to shop so that my checkout is fast. Why do I need to have all these things innovated for me? As a particle human being, I can’t say that I agree with the smartening of things. I understand that by allowing our technology to become so invasive into every little thing we touch, we some how ease the human experience. Allow us the opportunities to explore thoughts and creativity rather then waste our lives on mundane actions. This is great and all, but I think those mundane things are what help to create the human experience as well. By removing the human from the action, we remove the empathy, and awareness of how that action came to be, and maybe even why it happens at all. I believe that there needs to be an awareness of one’s environment in order to be able to fully understand life.

My other mind things this is very interesting, and spurs the futurist in me thinking forward. What happens when the internet is included into everything? Where the internet knows you so well from past behavior, that it will be able to predict your actions and needs, and in theory meet them before you realize you will need them. A society that is sufficiently capable of doing this would in theory be so advanced, that menial labors and mundane tasks are all automated. Anything from agriculture, energy production, and manufacturing. The technology would be capable of self modification and research. This would in theory be the point in which technologically we would have passed the singularity of computing power. This type of society would be able to pursue other tasks, such as exploration, scientific discovery, or spreading of religions, or whatever it is that is important that far into the future.

Today however, this is a very precarious point, and leaves us open to invasive cyber tactics that would hurt us significantly. Or it would allow tyrants to oversee the actions of all their citizens to ensure compliance. Stalking, and war would be redefined. This is a very fragile thing we are doing, and I believe we are treating it more as a toy then as a real potential. Most people don’t know what to do with it, or what its impacts are.

My personal fear, is that it will remove the human element from a process. When that process has no human involvement, apathy becomes prevalent. We become dependent on it. There is no longer emotional investment in the object, or service. Then we take it for granted. It becomes part of our lives, and accept it. Then we forget completely how to do that service, or how to make that object. We forget how to make it happen, and become completely reliant on the system. If that system fails, then we fall. When I look forward to that glorious civilization of discovery, I feel sadness. Those people who are asking such massive questions, forget that their are important smaller questions for themselves. And if that technology were to fail? That civilization would be doomed to their ignorance.

 

image from here