Technology Takes Over From Tobacco

Very interesting article in the NY Times today regarding changes to the economy with technology replacing tobacco.

Ray Myers

Connect to Nepal Relief

Tragedy stikes Nepal as a huge earthquake and its deadly aftershocks continue to wreck havoc on the citizens of this picturesque country at the foot of the Himalayas. Various countries and non-governmental agencies are already rallying to Nepal’s rescue. We can easily use the technology readily available to us to help in some way.

Use your technology to connect and express your concern. Please go online to see what you can do. Thank you.

Ray Myers

Are Libraries Dying in the Digital Age?

Unfortunately, the title of this blog is more than just a rhetorical question about the future of our public libraries. While these community resources continue to enjoy immense popularity and usage, particularly in most of our urban centers, their continued public funding appears to be in jeopardy. It seems that more public dollars are being invested in underwriting the construction costs of cavernous sport complexes throughout the country.

Perhaps the irony in all of this is that technology’s ability to search and retrieve information from anywhere in the world and put it in the palm of our hand, may be the very force threatening the future of these historic repositories of human knowledge. If you are fortunate enough to have a smartphone and the connectivity wherever you may be, going to the library for the sheer pleasure of browsing or enjoying a quiet space may quickly become a cherished memory of your pre-digital life. If public libraries do become obsolete, we will be losing “the power plants of intellect and opportunity . . . distributed without regard to wealth” (Dwyer, NYTimes, 4/24/15).

Please understand that I am not trying to pit the future of professional sports against the continued existence of public libraries. But I do think this comparison of the amount of public funding invested in sports entertainment while our libraries struggle for the dollars needed for basic operational expenses and maintenance is truly a “wake up” call. Inevitably, I hope that we will all continue to value and support the services of our public libraries and not become hostage to the frenzy of building bigger and better sports complexes at the expense of “our power plants of intellect and opportunity.”

Ray Myers

Doppelgängers Meet the Internet

Pardon my German, but to some of us (maybe many of us) the chances of finding the one other person or persons on the planet who look like you have been greatly enhanced thanks to the Internet. Funny, but I never really thought too much about finding that person(s).

Maybe it was because I had three younger brothers who really didn’t look too much like me, or at least I didn’t think so. Of course without the Internet in those prehistoric days, I was probably more concerned with how I could make myself look more like the teen male idols of that generation. If you were around in the late fifties and through the sixties you know who I mean. Many of them were British, and if you lived on the other side of the Atlantic, were male, and let your hair grow (and played a little guitar), you could look more like them, and hopefully make a more favorable impression with the young ladies. And to many at that time, appearances were very important in terms of “connecting” with the contemporary youth culture. We also became more informed and concerned about social, political, and military developments around the world with the click of a TV or radio dial.

So now the young doppelgängers of today are “connecting” in a more global way thanks to the Internet. They share a keen interest in finding look-a-likes around the world. Who knows what’s next? Maybe it’s not too late to find my doppelgängers wherever they may be, but let me think about that.

Ray Myers

Look Into My Eyes, Techie

And don’t blink when you shake my hand. The handshake is still the most popular gesture in the initiation of most of our personal and professional relationships. It seems, however, that eye-to-eye contact in our interpersonal exchanges is becoming a thing of the past for a lot of our kids. Particularly when they spend most of the day looking at digitized screens, or are immersed in a variety of virtual worlds. Even our cars today come equipped with technology designed to entertain the young and old, especially on those long family car rides. Hopefully the car’s driver is able to keep his/her eyes on the road.

Many experts are fearful that this younger generation will be losing the skill to read nonverbal emotional clues that occur in face-to-face conversation. Young people are finding group dating preferable to traditional individual dating arrangements since it does not create as much personal anxiety. Current research also suggests that setting aside some time without using technology improves students’ ability to read nonverbal emotional cues.

Some researchers in this area go even further when they say we can’t become fully human until we learn to look into other people’s eyes.

Ray Myers

Smartphones – Opportunity Technology for Homeless?

Sometimes I really worry about the ubiquitous use of smartphones by young Americans since I believe they are increasingly becoming disconnected to the real world around them. And then I read about how smartphones can help other Americans become connected to a new world they had never experienced before. Some of these Americans are much older and unfortunately, homeless.

Ironically, much of this smartphone philanthropy seems to be happening in Silicon Valley, California, but not due to the largesse of the Tech companies that call it home. The nonprofit sector seems to be the most concerned with addressing this inequity. Remember the old adage, “Charity begins at home.” Maybe the problem is that charity is an old-fashioned concept, and the technology of the twenty-first century is seen as the engine of economic growth and not considered an opportunity (survival) tool for many others? Melinda Gates clearly understands how the cellphone can empower women in the developing world, and help lift their families out of poverty (NY Times, 4/1/15). We should also be looking in our own backyards in America, and I am not just referring to Silicon Valley.

Just as we can so easily connect globally with friends and colleagues anywhere in the world, we should be able to expand the world of the homeless in our own country. I recently visited an urban homeless shelter where residents had access to a computer lab that was closely monitored and supervised. Not a bad start, but I think there is more individual empowerment when the technology becomes more mobile.

Ray Myers

If You Can Read This, Don’t Thank a Techie

Looks like we now have fewer (proportionately) English majors in higher education than ever before. Not to worry you may say, we are going to have more computer and information sciences majors than ever before! Well, that may be what’s really worrying me.

Not that there is anything wrong with such a career choice, but I would also like to know that they can read and write well. Could be an old-fashioned notion on my part, but I think it is terribly important. If we reduce everything to tweeting and blogging and rapid reading of same, we are missing out on the world of literature and its contributions, positive and negative, to our respective cultures. Some things have to be expressed in more expansive formats that engage us more deeply, shaping what may be our current and future perspectives on our own lives. Many of our theatrical representations of literary classics in cinema, stage, radio, and now on the Internet, may offer us similar opportunities, but I believe reading will always take us further.

I understand there is an obvious irony in writing this blog about the importance of reading good literature. My only hope is that higher education will continue to support the importance of good literary skills in all areas of study.

Ray Myers

Big message – Tweet away!

“The media is the message.” Thank you, Marshall McLuhan. But I often wonder if the message is now being further defined by what is the quickest and shortest way to express what your message may be? Have our means of expression or comprehension become so limited that we’ve come to believe that less is more? Let’s consider the media of Twitter and the role it is playing in world affairs and American politics.

So after John Kerry and company had completed the arduous task of negotiating an arms agreement with Iran, the Ayatollah tweeted that not all the inspections would occur as agreed. I guess after all, he may have the final say, but here is the head man lowering the hammer through Twitter. Why not, all you need is the Internet and a Twitter account. No more nasty confrontations or face-to-face negotiations. Now in Hillary’s case, Twitter seems to represent a much kinder and gentler approach in her messaging than that of the pstrategy of 2008. Looks like she is going to use a more inclusive, collaborative approach described as joining her on a journey. I am sure this will include a very strategic use of social media.

Once again, technology is the tool, and the way it is used may still be much more a reflection of cultural preferences and amount of connectivity. For example, I don’t think that the Ayatollah is asking us to join him on a journey?

Ray Myers

Car Dealers – Canaries in a Social Media Coal Mine

I know this maybe a bit of a stretched analogy, but I think local owners of car dealerships understand that their worlds have changed because of online competition. It also represents a classic struggle between the old and new economies of the twenty-first century. Customer loyalty and local dealerships’ connections to their “hometowns” were hallmarks of an implicit business relationship. This kind of arrangement has not disappeared completely, but technology has clearly changed the playing field accross the country, and the fate of these hometown ventures may be like those of the canaries in the coal mines who expire when exposed to poisonous fumes in the mine. A clear signal for the miners to leave.

In bringing the Internet and social media into these negotiations for the best car deal, I think we may also be losing something else in terms of what we learn about people and how we make decisions based on trusted advice from others. This is probably going to be seen as an old-fashioned notion and admittedly it is. Perhaps the unfettered messages from our social media world may be the most objective and unbiased advices we receive, but I am not sure we should trust it exclusively.

Going online is what most shoppers today will do in making their purchasing decisions. My biggest concern may be that we are gradually taking the person-to-person relationship out of the car shopping process. The fate of the struggling brick and mortar car dealerships may serve as the “canaries” of social media’s impact on their business model.

Ray Myers

One cell phone per girl

I saw Nick Negroponte’s name on a conference program the other day and felt very nostalgic.  Those were the good old days, just give all those kids a laptop in the developing world and they would automatically enter the digital age. Well, I am not quite sure that has all worked out as planned, but I think the ubiquitous cell phone has become the more versatile hand-held tool for learners of all ages, and sexes. Maybe the biggest challenge still remains at the schoolhouse door, where colonial concepts of learning still prevail inside traditional classroom settings.

The bigger issue might very well be whether the school building is where learning really takes place in these parts of the world at this time in history. It seems as if the cell phone may becoming the more empowering tool for economic and political development around the world. And women can get to play a bigger part if given the chance and resources. This is obviously not a unique situation in terms of who gets to play with all the electronic “toys” first, but it should be understood as presenting broader economic opportunity for women and girls around the world in the twenty-first century.

What if we sent our old cell phones to women and girls in the developing world in support of improved economic development. Think of it as new type of foreign aid?

Ray Myers

New Internet Rules – Opening Day

What’s in a name?  Obviously a lot when we talk about “net neutrality” and what it means in the context of the FCC’s publication of new rules, and the opening of a period for public comment.  Please allow me to provide some limited insight into this process based on years of service in the federal government before the Internet even existed and we literally plowed through mountains of paper in an attempt to determine the merit and validity of the comments received.  Now however, the process has clearly changed with the existence of the Internet itself and the power and influence of the politically savvy telecommunications, or if preferred, information services providers.  This distinction represents the crux of the battle that will ensue in the coming months.

For the education community at all academic and economic levels, the implications of this distinction and any subsequent regulatory change will have an enormous consequence for our schools of the future.  Where is Al Gore when we need him?  I am talking now about the e-Rate and its importance in providing Internet access to our schools and libraries, and I think net neutrality helps to preserve this access for future generations.

This is not a time for a free market experiment!  It looks like the battle lines are clearly being drawn, and we should not be party to creating an “information gap” based on one’s ability to pay for the fastest and most robust Internet services.

For all of you baseball fans, think of this as Opening Day (which it actually is), for a season that may go on for months.

Ray Myers

Baseball and Tech

I know that the major league’s opening day is just a few days away, and I am looking forward to enjoying “America’s” past time, but please, let’s make it more low tech. I went to a spring training game in Florida last month and I certainly enjoyed it, even more than any regular season game I have attended in the past few years.  Why?

Perhaps the biggest reason, aside from a clear blue sky that day, and a hot dog and a beer, was the absence of the electronic entertainment that one must endure throughout the course of a regular season game.  Maybe the thing I miss the most is just being able to talk to friends and family who may be with you, or even with neighboring fans in the stands. Perhaps this is just nostalgia on my part, but I do think that sometimes “less is more.”

So professional baseball will surely never be the same, and I know tech also enables us to crunch numbers of players and teams’  statistical performance and predict winners, etc., but that’s not really why I like to go to ball games.  Maybe it was about routing for the home team, however good or bad they might be – too provincial for today?

Ray Myers

Online Identities

Thanks to Word Press, I can now have a number of different identities online.  Okay, but this might be a little confusing to someone as old as me who is learning a new task: writing this blog, creating a new “identity.”  And then in the back of my mine, I am reminded by a contemporary that we may all be living on “borrowed time.”  If so, I am certainly trying to make the most of it with the identity I have.

So please don’t worry as you read these posts on “TechtoExpress” that you may be hearing the comments of a person with multiple online (or offline) identities.  Maybe I will learn to do that some day, but for the present, it’s just me.

Ray Myers