Happy ๐ŸŽƒ ๐Ÿ‘ป Halloween!

Trick or treat time in the U.S.A., and I am not talking about the upcoming Presidential Election as scary as that may be.  And I do promise to stop using my newly discovered emoticons in my blog titles (well at least not in every one of them).  I think just following the news for the next week will probably be more entertaining (frightening?) than any new technology development I can post.

Perhaps with one exception.  Some states are now utilizing Facebook to post more information about what the ballots will look like before you go to your polling place.  You can also save and print out your choices and bring them to the ballot box where phones are generally prohibited.  In paper we trust.  And maybe we always will – the old paper trail!  But even with paper we might have some problems with those troublesome “hanging chads” in certain States (Florida 2000).

Please don’t be scared.  It will all be over soon.  Halloween will be over in a day.  We should know who the next American President will be in a little over a week.  Or maybe NOT?

Ray Myers

Emoji As Modern Art ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ™‹๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘พ And a New Lexicon ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘…๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ™€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿค–๐Ÿ‘ป

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York City has decided that these glyphs have now obtained an artistic status that entitles them them to an permanent exhibition of their own.  The original set contained 176 emoji, but now there are nearly 2,oo0 standardiazed emoji.  They may have had their beginnings in Japan with the mobile telephone company DoCoMo and risen to MoMa, but they now seem to belong to everyone and no one.   Some see emoji becoming the medium for an Internet-wide collaborative art project as they are traded and remixed by users.

I am not really sure what kind of art project this would turn out to be.  I am still trying to figure out what all the emojis mean, but maybe that’s just my problem.  Here is what the experts say, and I have to take their word for it: “Emoji evoke art forms both ancient and modern, from hieroglyphics to manga (Japanese comics).  Their novelty is in how they are deployed.”   In some sense, I guess this means we can all become artists contributing to an Internet-wide “object d’art.”

And all along I thought I was just finding clever icons that I could include in email messages and random online responses.   Thank you emoji.

Ray Myers

The King of Twitter Insults – America’s Next President?

Whoever thought that Twitter would become a powerful political tool in the social media battle for the hearts and minds of the American public.  Build up those followers and start firing away.  You can do it any time of the night or day, and never have to worry about whether it is accurate, libelous or slanderous (maybe there are some legal limits?). But maybe you don’t even care or worry about such “subtleties” if you are the Donald.  Just take a look at this past Monday’s New York Times if you would like to get a flavor of his favorite targets and topics over the past seventeen months.  Please don’t expect to be enlightened about current events and world affairs.  These little tidbits take direct aim at his political enemies or anyone else who may be getting in his line of fire.

No one seems to be firing back in this Twitter battle.  The Donald has taken the high ground (some may call it “low”) in freely attacking whomever he chooses.  So after he dispensed with all his Republican rivals from June 2015 through April 2016, he has now taken almost exclusive aim at Hillary Clinton as his primary target.  But even in doing this, he has apparently not chosen to hone his assaults in a more factual way.  Why even try?  I guess he figures that he has fooled most of the people most of the time, so now he can fool all the people all the time.  In the coming weeks we will all have to figure out who is fooling whom.  Don’t believe everything you read on Twitter!  It is not designed or never was intended for political discourse.

Take a look at Monday’s New York Times.  On two full pages of the “A” section are just some of his tweets over the past seventeen months.  Retweets are not included, nor are any other insults made outside Twitter, such as on television, in speechs or in public interviews.  I just wonder (dread) to think what a Trump State of the Union Address would be like.  Scary, huh, and it’s not even Halloween.

Ray Myers

From Samsung With Love – Galaxy Note 7, Playing with Fire!

Maybe this is all good news for you pyromaniacs out there, but most people that I know are not amused.  I have been traveling a lot by plane over the past few weeks and noticed that the boarding calls for the different flights had some additional information that I was not paying much attention to.  They were telling passengers that they could not bring their new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones on the plane.  I was not sure what the problem could be, but I do not own one, so I was a little blasรฉ, as they say.  HOLY SMOKE!  Now that I know why, I am going to begin to listen more carefully.  

Here is some background information on Samsung that will explain what a great economic shock this will be to the company and perhaps the whole Korean economy.  “Samsung is the best-known brand name South Korea has ever produced, ranking seventh in the 100 best global brands compiled by Interbrand, a brand consultancy.  It’s Galaxy smartphones have lifted its – and by extension South Korea’s – high tech image more than any other Korean product.”  Ouch!  This is going to hurt their export-driven economy dependent so heavily on Samsung and a handful of other family-controlled conglomerates.

So this is surely more ominous than the old “buyer beware” warning.  In this transaction the consumer may literally get “burned” in more ways than one!

Ray Myers

Please Don’t Email Me – Let’s Talk

Maybe it was just a matter of time, but it looks like email may be falling under its own weight.  Take a look at your inbox.  Do you pride yourself in having all those important messages just waiting for your witty and pithy responses, or are you just impressed with the scope and depth of your importance in the age of the Internet?  Or maybe you are just fooling yourself and others?  Something will be getting done in the long run, but I think you may be losing something else in the process.  You may actually be able to get more done, more efficiently by returning to the days of meeting face-to-face, or talking on a phone of any kind.  Not to mention honing your interpersonal skills in the process, if that is important to you?

“Email sometimes tricks us into feeling efficient, but it rarely is.  Because it’s asynchronous, and because there are no limits to space and time, it often leads to endless, pointless ruminations.”  If decision-makers had ditched email and just held a 15 minute meeting, members of the campaign (presidential) could have hashed out some decisions more quickly in private.  “In other words, limits often help.  Get on the phone, make a decision, ditch your inbox.  The world will be better off for it.”

In the words of one security expert, in light of the hacked world we live in: “If you have something sensitive to say, you’re going to use the phone or walk down the hallway.”

Ray Myers

Harasser-at-Large – Trump as Just One of the Boys

“The Donald” has taken locker room banter to a new (lower) level in the political arena.  Thanks to social media and his penchant for “tweeting” and saying whatever he wants to anybody at any time, he has become the country’s Harasser-at-Larger.  He is the undisputed champion of cyber bullying, but unfortunately many just see all this as a digital manifestation of the old adage, “boys will be boys.”  It is simply “locker room talk” as defined by Mr. Trump, not meant to be heard by the “weaker sex.”  But all this makes me wonder about which is truly the weaker sex?

Interestingly, recent research has shown that boys seem to be particularly sensitive – even more than girls – to social influenceces and role models who can help them overcome disruptive behaviors.  Conversely, by excusing bad behavior as a boy thing, boys get the message that they can not improve themselves.  But there are still opportunities for boys to improve behavior if the right cultural support is provided.  Gender studies’ authorities now say they have evidence that if you shift the discourse around boys and give them the cultural support they need to solve problems with strategies other than aggression and to express their feelings without being mocked, they respond like any human being.  So there is still hope that all of us MEN still have a chance to become human beings.

I am still not sure if all of this could help Mr. Trump in preparation for his debate tonight with Hillary Clinton.  But then again, who needs help if you are already “the Donald.”

Ray Myers


Let Your Fitbit Count the Steps

Ten thousand steps seem to be the preferred number on a daily basis.  This little gadget that you wear on your belt or wherever, seems to be revolutionizing personal decisions about where to live or work.  I don’t think the number of steps my father took to work had anything to do with where my parents chose to live and raise a family.  Commuting distance, of course, played a part but fiscal return was the primary concern with fitness benefits rarely discussed.  My father would walk around the Budd Company plant on any given work day, but I believe he was fortified daily with freshly baked pastries and coffee, and never ever thought about counting their steps.

Instead of living in suburbia where motorized transportation became the preferred method of transporting families in the post World War II era, many families (couples) are now looking for residences with a “walkability” factor.  Many of these neighborhoods also promise higher home equity down the road, if you can afford to buy there.  Recent studies found that the “walkability factor” added more than 72 percent in increased housing value compared with car-dominated developments, where he says prices will fall over time as America ages.

So is Fitbit the cause or effect of everyone wanting to count their steps?  Or is it that old competitive spirit that measures our accomplishments against our goals and those of our peers?  Only in America?

Ray Myers 


Mobiles for Education – U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

USAID created the mEducation Alliance over six years ago in order to capitalize on the increased availability of mobile devices in the developing world. The use of these new portable communication tools can become powerful forces in establishing twenty-first century educational systems no longer bound to legacy systems from the past. The mEducation Alliance is committed to reducing barriers to access appropriate, scalable, and low-cost mobile technologies to help improve learning outcomes in formal and non-formal education across all levels, especially in low-resource and developing country contexts.

The Alliance is working to empower evidence-based decision making through an explicit focus on the evaluation of education technology interventions. Our community is full of enthusiasm and innovative ideas, the Alliance serves to refocus our collective efforts towards impact.
Representatives from around the developing world (Asia, Africa, Central and South America) will be gathering in Washington, D.C. next week, October 18th-20th. To find out more about the full agenda for the week, please visit http://www.meducationalliance.org/

Ray Myers

Calling All Cars – Social Media Alert!

I guess we all know that police use scanners to receive alerts and messages concerning possible criminal activity or traffic violations in their vicinity.  Well now some ingenious entrepreneurs in Chicago have created a social media scanner that will alert authorities to potential “social protests.”  I am not talking about Vladimir Putin here (sorry Donald).   I am actually referring to a company called Geofeedia that can use data collected from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help law enforcement monitor and respond to potentially disruptive activity in certain parts of its community.  Geofeedia was in Baltimore in April 2015 after Freddie Gray died in police custody.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have now said that they have cut off Geofeedia’s access to their information.  Too little too late?  Civil liberties advocates still criticize the companies for lax oversight and challenge them to create better mechanisms to monitor how their data is being used.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Northern California still seems wary of these assurances.  “When they open their feeds to companies that market surveillance products, they risk putting their users in harm’s way.”  I guess we are still in living in the days of “buyer beware!

At the same time, there also seems to be a more serious concern.  “Users of social media websites do not expect or want the government to be monitoring this information.  And users should not be at risk of being branded a risk to public safety simply for speaking their mind  on social media.”

Ray Myers 

African Knowledge Exchange (AKE)

How do we help prepare our youth to become more engaged participants in an increasingly globalized economy.  One pioneering group in Africa is seeking to empower their young citizens with the digital skills needed to succeed in the twenty-first century.  The organization is known as GESCI based in Nairobi, Kenya.  Their African Knowledge Exchange (AKE) is addressing this challenge.

“In todayโ€™s world, the changes to which education and training need to respond include globalisation and the demands for new and emerging skills required by knowledge-based economies and new media production and services. These new skills incorporate the extensive use of digital technologies which are changing many existing sectors and enabling the emergence and proliferation of new industries and digitally-based services.  The Globalโ€“Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI), an international NGO founded by the United Nations in 2003, is pioneering an innovative training and enterprise program model combining culture and digital media technology dubbed โ€˜African Knowledge Exchange (AKE) โ€“ โ€˜A Creative Media Ventureโ€™.  Participants develop industry- standard digital media production skills and acquire and apply their entrepreneurial skills to set up small enterprises in the cultural industries arena. The creation of small start-ups is an integral part of the program as well as a range of supports for their development and sustainability in the digital creative media sector.  The program addresses the changing global jobs and employment contexts driven by new technologies in the contexts of growing youth unemployment which is particularly affecting youth.”

Please visit their website to learn more about this exciting work: http://gesci.org/fileadmin/user_upload/2_Youth_Skills_Enterprise_Files/African-knowledge-exchange-brochure-2016.pdf

Ray Myers

Social Media and Social Networks

Using social media doesn’t create social networks; it just transfers established networks from one platform to another.”  Stephen March said this in The Atlantic in 2012.  And it now seems that social media and technology are not solely responsible for making us lonlier.  It’s what you bring to Facebook, for example, that matters.  Socially engaged people use it to further engage; lonely people use it to make loneliness.  We do, however, seem to be reaching some sort of saturation level.

Being online is not just something we do.  It has become who we are, transforming the very nature of the self.   According to a recent British study, we check our phones on average 221 times a day – about every 4.3 minutes.  At saturation levels, social media reduces the amount of time people spend in uninterrupted solitude, the time when people can excavate and process their internal states.  “It encourages social multi-tasking.  You’re with the people you’re with, but you’re also monitoring the six billion other people who might be communicating something more interesting from far away.  It flattens the range of emotional experiences.”

David Brooks of the New York Times has also observed that “when we’re addicted to online life, every moment is fun and diverting, but the whole thing is profoundly unsatisfying.”  I guess that is something we will all have to decide for ourselves in terms of its impact on the quality and most important values of our lives.

Ray Myers

Droning On In the U.K.

If you like the sight of “delivery drones” hovering over your head wherever you may be, then maybe the United Kingdom is the place for you.  Not all Brits, however, are enthusiastic about this prospect.  As one unhappy British citizen expressed: “They are testing the drones over here because they can’t do it in America.  Whatever the Americans don’t want, I don’t want it either.”  Talk about your trans-Atlantic alliances.  Aversion to remotely controlled airborne technology may actually be strengthening international partnerships around the world.  Amazon is in the forefront in the U.K. and retailers in other countries are already testing how these drones may play a more strategic role in their delivery of products that they sell online.  

In Britain, Amazon is working with local authorities to test several aspects of drone technology like piloting the machines beyond the line of sight of operators, a practice still outlawed in the United States.   It seems that much of the drone opposition is rooted in concerns for the historical preservation of the countryside that played a large part in Britain’s past.  For example, the Friends of the Roman Road, a local organization that maintains centuries-old public footpaths near the Amazon drone testing site in Cambridgeshire, fear that the drones represent a threat to local wildlife and the wider countryside.  Drones flying overhead would certainly detract from appreciating the historical significance of the Roman Road and the role it played in ancient times. 

I guess we all know that times do change, but surely some things are worth preserving.  Droneless skies over sites of historical preservation are well worth our consideration.  Think of them as new types of “no-fly” zones.

Ray Myers

Everything’s Up-to-Date in Kansas City?

Here’s the news: AT&T has offered discounts to its Gigapower high-speed home Internet customers who allowed the company to monitor their behavior.  Now it will offer the lower price without tracking.  So if I understand this pricing change correctly, you will now pay less to maintain your privacy.  What a concept!  But maybe I am not being fair.  I will let you be the judge.  

As reported in the Kansas City Star last week, AT&T has explained the their new pricing policy in the following way: “The company will dump that tracking and charge anybody who buys its Gigapower level connection $70 per month for a connection to the Kansas City market.  So customers who took the privacy-light discounted service will no longer see AT&T watch what they watch.  Those who paid a premium to keep their behavior secret will see their rates drop $30 a month.”  If I understand this all correctly, if you paid more to protect your privacy initially, you will recive a bigger rebate because wants you to feel better about having paid them so much more in the past?  What price privacy?

I just don’t know.  Good intentions gone bad.  Or perhaps consumers are getting more skeptical about how much personal information they want shared on the Internet.

Ray Myers