From Social Media to Political Media

I guess Mr. Trump (our “so-called President”) started it all when he learned to tweet and use it as a tool for political propaganda, but it seems that he has also created some unintended consequences.  American students at all levels have come to learn more about “fake news” and the importance of recognizing it when you see it.  Let’s look at one example.   An outraged students found found a news article that President Obama had awarded himself the Medal of Honor, which he never did.  So this particular “news item” became a teachable moment for a classroom in Topeka, Kansas.

Their teacher, Mr. Raines, appreciated that at this time in our political history it was most important to rely on the old-fashioned notion that it was most important to disagree without being disagreeable.  He added that his students are seeking direction on how we get back to that point.  They are seeking some reassurance in an age of bifurcation and rancorous disagreement.  Some teachers see a note a note of hope in all of this.  “It’s seeing students wake up to their citizenship, to the fact that citizenship is not passive, or shouldn’t be.  Regardless of how you feel about everything that’s going on, it’s thrilling for teachers to see that shift happen on a teenager, to see the world get wider.”

Protest politics in which all are welcome to participate, online or in real time!  I think we all realize how important it is to do both (or more).

Ray Myers

Going Global with Mark Zuckerberg 

He says we need a “social infrastructure” that goes global.  Now who’s not for that?  In his own words: “There’s a social infrastructure that needs to get built to deal with modern problems in order for humanity to get to the next level.  I just think it would be good of more people thought about things like this.”  He came to realize that more people were feeling left behind by globalization, and by societal and technological changes.  “We have to build a global community that works for everyone.”

Maybe this is the technological dawning of the astrological “Age of Aquarius.”  (See the play or the movie “Hair” if you are really not that old).  Now back to the Facebook generation.  Mr. Zuckerberg also is emphasizing Facebook’s role in keeping communities well-informed, which will necessitate tackling misinformation and highly polarized news (sign me up!).  He alluded to Facebook’s shifting role as a distributor of news, saying the social network is “not just technology or media.”  I think he sees a better future in creating more tightly knit online groups that would make traditional institutions, like government, religious groups, and other communities that share interests, even stronger.

Some say that Zuckerberg is attempting to buck the tide against increasing isolationismm and nationalism that is rising around the world.  Can Facebook save us?

Ray Myers


I will be taking a late winter break until next Monday.  Thanks for following TechtoExpress.

Feeling Blue in the Rust Belt – Try a Video Game!

When Donald Trump proclaimed that he was going to make AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, people in the Rust Belt heard him  loud and clear.  Here was their savior who had spent most of his life on the banks of the Hudson River in New York.  He had lots of money, and they had seen him on TV telling everybody how smart and rich he really was (I hope I get to see his tax returns sometime soon).  I am not sure exactly what he is planning to do in the “Rust Belt,” but I think it has something to do with reopening those old factories that once made that part of America a great place to raise a family and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.  I am not sure exactly how long it will take Trump and company to re-engineer that part of America but in the meantime, try a video game or two.

As reported in the New York Times, “These games do not aim to make players feel successful and powerful as conventional video games do, and instead challenge people to look at the world in a different way.  Creators of the games said they were more interested in showing the complicated lives of the people and places the world has left behind, as well as the economic realities that inevitably circumscribe their stories.  We wanted to create stories and mythologies about the places we’re from and the people we know and that includes addressing the economics of it.”  Sounds more like a training video for real life in that part of the country than a video game.

Not to worry, play a video game, help is on the way.  I am not exactly sure when it will arrive.  It seems that President Trump is very busy these days in Washington: filling his Cabinet and draining the “swamp.”

Ray Myers

Face-to-Face, not Facetime

I used to like going to meetings in our government office (well, most of the time), but I am not sure I would feel the same way today.  To be honest, the best part may have been the donuts and/or other pastries that would appear in the center of the table.  I also gained a few pounds over those years, but those culinary incentives usually assured that most staff would attend, usually with a freshly brewed cup of coffee in hand (those were also the pre-Starbucks days).  They really were old-fashioned meetings with all their open and hidden agendas on display.  You really got to know and/or distrust certain colleagues pretty quickly.

The abundance of all our technological tools has changed all that.  “Meetings?  Ha!  Who has the time?  An article in the British Psychology Society’s Research Digest said a third of all meetings are unproductive, costing companies $37 billion a year (Washington Post, 2/13/17).”  And even when you go to these meetings most attendees are usually distracted with their heads down, looking at their smartphones.  That’s if you even bother to attend.  If you are not at the meeting’s location, just “dial in” from wherever you are: watch on your computer or just listen on your phone.  There seem to an increasing number of partially occupied conference rooms in government buildings where scheduled  meetings are held.  I think coffee may still be a mainstay at these meetings, but I am not sure if you can multitask while eating a donut, and keep up with all that’s going on.

John Kelly, who authored the article in the Washington Post quoted above, wonders if our ability to multitask during meetings has just spawned more meetings.  “Someone should probably schedule a meeting to discuss that.”

Ray Myers

Opening Up and Exhausted on Social Media

I know it might be heard to believe, but it has only been three weeks and three days since Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States.  Seem longer?  It has for me.  A recent article in the Washington Post compared the surge of commentary and political opinion on social media to attending an opera.  “Like opera, social media is dedicated to amplifying human utterance so that a single voice communicating an intimate thought may be heard by hundreds, even thousands of people.”

“But the attempt to experience and broadcast information about things that deeply move us, in a public forum, has left many people across the political spectrum feeling emotional, wrung-out and exhausted.  Opera may have some practical tips to offer anyone who is feeling drained and hoarse, literally and figuratively.  There’s a difference between raising your voice to make yourself heard, and degenerating into mere screaming.”  That may be the hard part.  We all know how to scream, but we are now being encouraged to “Resist.”  What’s the best way?  Ghandian nonviolent civil disobedience?  Political activism aimed at the Congressional election in 2018?  “Throw the scoundrels out!”

Social media is indeed a powerful tool for mass communication, but people also need to “connect” in a very traditional political way.  And I think we will have to start from the ground up with family and neighbors.  Only three weeks and three days have passsed and we still have a long way to go.  So let’s “Persist” (thank you Senator Warren) and “Resist.”

Ray Myers

Baby, You Can Drive My Car. Or Not.

Remember the old “Yellow Pages” ad when you were encouraged to let your fingers do the walking.  Now it seems that you may be letting your fingers do the driving.  Autonomous driving, electric cars and ride-hailing apps from Silicon Valley, like Uber, are reshaping transportation.  Young people no longer feel as compelled as previous generations to own cars.  Experts in the transportation sector are changing rapidly.  The whole “mobility market” – transportation as a service – is just at the beginning.

In Germany, under an initiative called Industry 4.0, they are striving to help the country thrive in a smartphone world. The future of Germany as an industrial nation depends on how companies succeed in bringing the manufacturing and digital worlds together.  Industry executives there often cite how Apple’s iPhone quickly erased Nokia’s once-dominant position in the mobile handset market, and they are determined not to let something similar to happen to them.  Google is also entering the driverless car market.  Their market value is more than double that of BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen combined.   So instead of owning and driving your own car, you may soon find that your smartphone could be the best means of “ride-hailing” you have.   It will enable you to chose the most convenient means of vehicular travel available to you at any given place and time.

But I wouldn’t get rid of your new BMW, Mercedes, or Volkswagen quite yet.  Maybe you can become a ride service  provider yourself.  You can let your passengers work/play on their iPhones while you enjoy the ride.  That may even be more fun.

Ray Myers

Facebook Wants You!  Young Muslim Jihadist.

Some call this guerrila marketing in an attempt to persuade young potential jihadist NOT to join Islamic State.   Michael Lumpkin at the State Department realized that “You’re not going to convince die-hard jihadists.  We were not resonating with the audiences that we needed to resonate with.  We needed to engage with with people who haven’t yet joined ISIL.  It’s how you starve them out of recruits.”  By buying ads on Facebook – something never before attempted in this way – the officials found that they could tap into vast troves of data on the interests and browsing habits of legions of Facebook users, allowing them to pinpoint individuals who showed an affinity for jihadist groups and causes.”  Maybe Mr. Lumpkin can help Mark Zuckerberg in his efforts to ferret out fake news?

Mr. Lumpkin further argues that the efffort remains a critical one for a reason that has been long apparent to terrorism experts around the globe:  Extremist ideologies can’t be defeated with conventional weapons alone.  “We are not going to message our way out of this conflict, nor are we going to kill our way out.  We have to have a layers and balanced approach.”  Unfortunately Mr. Lumpkin has to leave his position on January 20 (he was not a career civil servant, various types of “political appointments throughout the federal bureaucracy).  He left with this message:  “For $15,000 you can buy an audience.  And you can make sure you’re hitting them with the best information based on their profiles.  That’s good business.”

And we were always afraid that “Big brother was watching.”  In this case, I am a little less concerned since he seems to be watching us and others who may do us harm.

Ray Myers

Indy Tech – Midwestern Manufacturing Hub Goes Digital

So it seems that the city of Indianapolis has some ideas of its own in terms of making that part of America “great again.”  Some young professionals see “digital” opportunity there in contrast to Trump’s plan to bring back those manufacturing “hub” cities (and jobs) of the last century.   And guess who used to be Governor there, Vice-President Mike Pence.  Not only is he in favor of bringing back the good old days, he also wants to bring back that “old time religion.”

Then Governor Pence ruffled the feathers of the tech industry back in 2015 when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which allowed businesses to cite religion as a reason to refuse to serve customers – a move that people say was aimed at the gay community.  To his critics that alleged such discriminatory intent, he has responded that he was simply trying to ensure religious freedom?  Unfortunately, this legislation has had a chilling effect in terms of the growth of Indiana’s economy across many business sectors.   Some technology entrepreneurs and engineers, however, still see opportunity there.  Many  see a chance to play a larger role there than they might have had in Silicon Valley.

A larger role, perhaps, but with less of a salary that she could have earned in Silicon Valley.  Many young professionals simply like living in a “prime Midwestern technology center.”

Ray Myers

What’s App?  Nothing, in China and Russia!

Unfortunately, the censorship of apps on the Internet is a much easier tool for repressive governments to apply.   In countries such as China and Russia, it is like a return to the “good old days” when books were banned by totalitarian governments or local authorities and other self-appointed censors.  It seems like censoring apps can be done in a very effective and efficient way if any government so chooses.  Banning an app from an App Store is like shutting down the printing press before the book is ever published.  If the app isn’t in a country’s App Store, it effectively doesn’t exist.  The censorship is nearly total and inescapable.

In the last few weeks, the Chinese government compelled Apple to remove the New York Times apps from the Chinese version of the App Store.  Then the Russian government had Apple and Google pull the app for LinkedIn, the professional social network, after the networks declined to relocate its data on Russian citizens to servers in that country.  Finally, two weeks ago, a Chinese regulator asked App Stores operating in the country to register with the government, an apparent precursor to wider restrictions on app marketplaces.

Decentralized communications was once a central promise of the Internet.  Not any more.  Big brother may be watching, and blocking.

Ray Myers

Socializing on Social Media – Adults Only?

So you thought that social media was strictly for the young.  According to a recent Nielson report that’s not the case.  Americans from 18 to 34 are less obsessed with social media than some of their older peers are.  The finding underscores how ubiquitous the smartphone has become.  In the United States, 97 percent of people 18 to 34, and 94 percent of people 35 to 49, had access to smartphones.  Seventy-seven percent of those 50 and older used smartphones, the report found.  I will let you decide which group you are in, and if having one has really made you any smarter?

Some more data from Nielson that might help you compare your use of social media across different age groups.  Adults 35 to 41 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group, 18 to 34.  More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week.  I guess some of the older folks (you know who you are) still like to learn new tricks, and perhaps some of the others simply prefer their old social networks that are not technology-dependent.

One conclusion offered by Nielson is that social media is not exclusively “owned by the younger generation.”  It is being accessed by a wide variety of Americans, but is this truly making us all more social?

Ray Myers