Patty's Fluency Blog

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Milestone 12...more thoughts on Snyder

Here at Pitt during my first semester I took a class called "Introduction to Information Systems." A majority of what I read in the Snyder book was a repeat of material I had already covered. Again I feel it is meant to be an introduction and provide guidelines to what it takes to be considered "fluent"...however vague that term is.
Continuing on with my assessment of Chapters 8-10, 12, and 17.
There is some discussion of the processes behind how the computer works, and other things which I found to be a repeat of material already covered in other classes.
Around chapter 10 though we dive into some new material. Algorithms. The word itself is something you know you know, but can be difficult to define. Personally I see it as a set of steps leading to a desired result. Kind of like a baking recipe. Snyder feels that if we know the processes behind why a computer does what it does, one will be one step closer to fluency.
There are five steps to an algorithm. Input, output, definiteness, effectiveness, and finitness. Applying that to baking (I work as a baker right now)...input are the ingredients (eggs, milk, butter, etc.), output is the cake or final product, definiteness are the steps you take combining the input to produce the output (mix 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, etc.), effectiveness is like if you did all the steps right in the definitieness stage then there is no reason your cake shouldn't turn out to be delicious without any extra means being taken, and finiteness when the cake is done and the whole process is stopped.
I had never been introduced to algorithms or algorithmic thinking. It was really interesting and I found that I really understood more when I took what I was reading and applied to to a process such as baking or something else you might not really think as having an appliable algorithm. For the most part when I thought "algorithm" I thought "math" or "numbers". But that does not have to be the case.
Again maybe I take for granted that most people know about email or computer viruses. Snyder devotes a whole chapter to discussing email, passwords, and computer viruses. At the end he talks a little about the sticky situation of copyright. Copyright is another topic that is brought up in a majority of my class. Usually it relates to print material though, not electronic. Although I think many of the same issues can be had with both formats.
Finally in chapter 17 we talk about digital security. Privacy seems to be a big issue after things like "The Patriot Act". There is a lot of discussion about the different definitions of privacy and how it is applied. I didn't know there were so many previous privacy acts, but it makes sense when you think about it. When I read the section on idenity theft I kept thinking of those television commercials with the fraudulant credit card purchases. They make me laugh...not the situation, but how it is presented.
One other topic that I think was presented in just about every course I've taken is the importance of backing up your work. Early on it was "make sure you save" and now with all the different things that can befall your computer it's "do you have a backup copy." And we have all experienced that with something getting deleted, a disk messing up, the format in general you saved material on, emails not sending, etc.
So I guess in terms of how Snyder views the term "fluency" and his goals for this book there was a lot of good information presented and issues raised. This may be a lot for someone who is victim of the digital divide to handle all at once, so I think it is important for these issues to be presented in a timely manner during the process of instruction for greater effectiveness.

Milestone 11...for my own satisfaction

This post is in response to the readings in Chapter 2-7 of the Synder book.

The Snyder book is called "Fluency with Information Technology Skills, Concepts, & Capabilities". Over the course of the semester we talked about that term, 'fluency'. Snyder says "To become Fluent, we must learn the language of information technology."
Personally speaking, for someone of my generation to be so far behind in a form of technology such as a computer completely blows my mind. I remember in elementary school being introduced to the computer, in middle school being required to take typing courses and other computer office skill courses, and even in high school being taken to the computer lab to do work.
I had exposure to the internet in high school, but always with some purpose never just surfing around to see what I could find. In college though, that all changed. I found myself up all night seeing what the internet had to over. Ironically it wasn't until I went to college that my parents finally got internet at our house...which I moved out of when I was 18.
The internet became like my mother's new toy. She took classes to learn about it, she paid her bills online, and overall just thought it was great. The direct opposite of that is my stepfather who won't touch the computer, can't turn it on, and when my mother was sick did not know the methodology behind her bill paying habits. The computer now sits collecting dust.
Why did I go on that trip down memory lane? Because my first impressions of the Snyder book is that the topics covered and the structure are a lot like the heirarchy of how things should be presented to those just entering into the world of information technology. And that's probably it's intention.
In the beginning one would be taught about how to use the buttons, learn what the desktop is, different menu commands, and one operation being obtainable two different ways, etc. We'll call these the basics. From these basics almost any program can be tackled given some time and outside instruction if needed.
Later on one would learn about the Internet. Which would cover everything from the language of the Internet, how it can be used, and what it could mean for the future.
In probably every class I have taken at Pitt, we have discussed the Internet. Mainly how it is important to educate people about the questionable validity of items found on there. Snyder discusses how to test the authenticity of sites and also the roles that libraries play in this online society. I can't say that I have ever been in a library where they did not offer computer class. Sooner or later the class tries to tackle the Internet. So I think that libraries are the perfect places for people to learn about how to assess a website, and learn about computers in general. Libraries are also great because they usually have a vast collection of online materials which help further patrons understanding of E-materials and how to access them.

Missing presentation

Since I did not get to present my project in front of the class I will just say a few more things about future considerations if I had to do it all again. I put most of my notes and data from the experiment on this flog to begin with, so you know where I'm starting from.
If I had to do it again I would have included one or two victims of the digital divide. I mainly used people my age because I figured they would already be familiar with the formats and it would show the level of political involvement of this generation. But what would the test have been like using someone who did not know the format of the online session. Would this new experience have been excepted or cursed in their assessment of the whole thing?
Also I might have done some comparison on the basis of gender. To see whether there are more of one gender choicing one format or citing one specific reason as to their choices, etc.
There are probably a few other things that you might even be able to think of that might have created more layers to the experiment, but those are two I thought of...after the fact of course. I could have still done the gender element, but I would have preferred a even number of both genders represented in the test.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

milestone 10

Here were my assumptions before starting this experiment...

- A majority of people my age are not that politically involved or discuss politics, which is part of the reason for the narrow age range of subjects.
- Political discussions would probably be had between participants and their peers and probably a result of an assignment or major world event ("hot issue").
- That the participants would favor the online chat based deliberation because of the anonymity and the leisure that surrounds being in your own environment.
- If more involvement could be had online, I thought people would be more inclined to participant in their government.
- A majority of the participants would be intimidated by the face-to-face deliberation.
- Participants would have a few suggestions for future deliberations.

My assessment of the experiment itself:

- As to be expected the roundtable deliberation seemed somewhat labored, but once we got into a topic the ball just kept rolling.
- Most of the topics the participants stated as interesting to them were discussed.
- I tried not to get involved at all, but in one or two instances I had to suggest a topic to keep things going.
- The face-to-face deliberation seemed rather polite. My suspicions were that they were intimidated by the situation.

- I felt the online deliberation was rather unorganized due to everyone entering comments and the same time, and if you were commenting on something already said you may or may not realize it due to the other comments posted before yours.
- Every once in awhile some participants would use the smiley expressions available through America Online Instant Messenger to further their message.
- Perhaps it is because of the hectic nature of the forum that participants seemed more involved.

My conclusions...
- There is not enough information out there about digital/online/computer based forums for citizens to be more involved in their government and it's decisions.
- People feel that they have no voice in the government or little voice, and it should be increased.
- No one forum was drastically favored over the other, but the online chat did get a more favorable response.
- While people do like anonymity, they also like being able to get a feel for people that you can only get face-to-face (expression, tone, voice volume).
- People would probably be more inclined to participate and get involved in more aspects of governance if they were able to do so online.

milestone 9

There were five participants in my experiment. Rather than scanning all the questionnaires I will provide a summary of the information.

First Questionnaire

1. Participants were all 23-26 years old.

2. Three participants voted in the last Presidential election.

3. Topics of interest (which were used as fuel for the deliberations): abortion, foreign and domestic policies, fair law making, human rights, public policy, and as one person wrote "whatever topics effect me directly".

4. All participants stated they did not regularly discuss politics or government.

5. So I guess that's not very often.

6. Three participants stated discussions usually happen while watching the news, and two stated they usually happen just in social gatherings with friends.

7. All participants stated these discussions are had among people their own age, roommates, and friends.

8. Only two participants were aware of any online/digital/computer based forums for political involvement.

9. All participants stated that the level of citizen involvement in the government is minimal and should be increased. One person went so far as to say they didn't believe citizens had any part in government decisions.

Second Questionnaire

1. Three of the participants favored the online chat based forum over the face-to-face forum.

2. The reasons for favoring the online forum were the level of anonymity and their lack of inhibitions. The reasons for favoring the face-to-face forum were getting more subcommunication from the other people involved, and being able to get a better feel for the other participants.

3. Four of the participants were more comfortable with the online forum.

4. Here are a few answers for how the participants level of comfort was different between formats: "I like being able to look at people when they talk, but when I speak I prefer the online chat." "The online was more comfortable because I could do it from my own home, but you lose the feeling behind why other people feel the way they do." "I am more comfortable online when I am discussing the straight facts."

5. Three participants said they would probably be more involved if more things could be done online, and two said their involvement would probably remain the same.

6. Only one participant said they were intimidated by the face-to-face deliberation.

7. The participant said their speech was not really altered, but they felt the need to be less argumentative.

8. Only one person had a suggestion for future deliberation. The person suggested having a moderator for the online chat because it was hard to get comments out before others commented.

milestone 8

This post is a little late due to the stress of what seems like a million projects all being due at the same time.

My final project for this little experiment called Digital Governance was a mainly inspired by Beth Simone Noveck's "Unchat: Democratic Solution for a Wired World." Her essay examined using a chat room or instant messenger like forum for political discussions.
I did a comparison of a roundtable face-to-face political deliberation to a online chat based political deliberation. I had the participants fill out a questionnaire at the beginning of the experiment and then a second questionnaire at the end of the experiment.
It wasn't a shock to me that it was really hard to find people (especially near the end of the semester) willing to donate some time to participate in this project. I tried to keep the questionnaires simple and to the point.
First Questionniare
Second Questionnaire

Sunday, December 04, 2005

for all you dead fans....

Digital nugget

So I was reading this article on "Specter: Alito said he will respect abortion precedents".
In the article it states that "Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito had a private meeting with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday as he sought to reassure lawmakers that he would respect legal precedent on abortion rights and put his personal views aside". To me that seems like such a loaded statement.
"With my personal views aside" is one of those statements that you say, but may or may not be able to follow. Especially I believe if you are a politican. It seems like they are all in it for their own reasons. That statement is right up there with the old "we'll still be friends" line.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

milestone 7

So today on the bus I was thinking about this whole digital governance thing. I was thinking about my own reasons for being so uninterested in governance (mainly political in nature) and if there were more actions that could be done from the comfort of my home behind a screen, would I? It's hard to say. I do believe though that more and more people are becoming computer dependent. It's like a crisis if the internet is down for more than a few hours anymore. People are more computer literate now then a few years ago and those who aren't are slowly being extinct. I believe this pattern will only continue with future generations and the possibilities of technology are endless.
I think that governance and government should embrace new technology and take advantage of it. If they really want people to become involved then they should explore all possibilites. In my opinion I believe there would be more activity if more things could be done by people simply using their computers. Of course it may take time for the phenomena to really get going and take hold, but with the right marketing and promotion of these new methods they may really catch on. And if not with current generations then certainly with future ones.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

milestone 6

My last post was about how in theory our government sounds good, but in practice it has many flaws...or has come to have many flaws over the years. This is again about some issues I have with the policies of our great nation.
One of the issues I think of is that of health care. The price for medical treatment is enough to make your head spin. Especially if you are unforunate enough to have no insurance, and even if you have insurance you may have a select number of physicians you can visit or encounter other problems. Why can't we take a tip from our neighbors up north and somehow have free health care? Or atleast figure out a way of lowering the costs of medical treatment. So many people are in need, but don't have the money. *shakes head*
Another issue which I have is taxes. I'm not saying that we shouldn't pay taxes, but anything they can find a way to put a tax on, they will. I have two stories. The first is that of inheritance tax. It's really sad that after you clear away the costs of that final resting place (which is not cheap by any means), if you were fortunate enough to have anything left to you by the deceased you then have to pay a tax on it. Meanwhile it's just sad that they wanted you to have something, and you have to pay a tax on it. Not to mention the fact that the person was most likely paying some kind of tax on the money at one point or another while they were living, so why can't the government be happy with that fact and less money hungry?
I had a conversation today at work with a man who had a friend that won a car in a raffle last year. He told me that afterwards his friend wished he had never won it because of all the taxes he had to pay. The man had to take another morgage on his house to pay them. He did it though, because his wife really wanted the car.
I guess one could argue that the portion we pay in taxes really is just a small percent of the total value of the item in question, but in these two cases taxing just doesn't seem fair.
The government really is a body with no heart and soul.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Milestone 5

So lately I've been watching that HBO series "Rome". I know it's just a television show, but it got me thinking about the set up of our government.
Now in theory our government sounds good. We hold elections to appoint people, and in theory those people are supposed to fight for the interests of the people. Then we have this one "Commander-in-Chief" who is supposed to protect the interests of the country as a whole and be in the position to have the final say on what is good for the future of the country and it's people.
Somewhere along the line though, things got pretty screwed up. Maybe it's just that we don't have any good politicians anymore. Not to say that we ever did. But I think that politicians today are too interested in themselves and the big payoff. They don't really care what the common person thinks. They really aren't doing things for the common man so much as they are acting to further their own careers or lobbying for their own interests.
Who's fault is it? The common man for allowing this to happen in a government "ruled by the people"? The common man for not voting "the right man for the job" into office? Or the politicians for abusing the power we have entrusted to them?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wikipedia idea rip off nugget

"Is Google ripping off Wikipedia?"

Maybe this all goes back to my post about how nothing is entirely original anymore. So now Google is going to let anyone upload anything to a searchable database. Just like Wikipedia lets anyone contribute information to their site. It's kinda different and maybe the context is slightly original, but when I saw the article I thought of Wikipedia.

Milestone 4

It's nearing the end of the semester and with that said the dread of a final project or paper is hanging over my head. For me to write a 20 page paper on an area which I have no background knowledge before this class, would be quite labor intensive. Not to say I couldn't do it, and maybe even do it well, but you really don't get as much out of a paper as you do a project.
I decided to compare a roundtable political deliberation with a online chat based deliberation. The only snag right now is that I'm having trouble rounding up participants. Could it be that everyone is either too busy or too uninterested to want to be bothered? Or maybe my fliers are just to dull and boring?
Either way I'm setting into panic mode. This is the only class I am worried about. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let myself be talked into a class or staying with a class that is completely foreign to me when everyone else always has something to say.
I suppose this post has read more like a diary entry than a milestone. But the milestone is supposed to chart our steps toward fluency. Right now I'm at the step of panic in my fluency experience and the hurdles ahead.