Sunday, December 7, 2008

RICK VON FELDT: Virtual Socializing

Ramak – thank you for bringing up this topic. How appropriate as we near the first round of our 10 authors topics. 

I was reminded of the impact of the internet this last week as I talked to a potential business partner. She could very well be reading this sentence right now. You see, before our business discussion, she Googled me. And found out about my past on Tsunami’s. And she also found these links. The discussion was about a role in learning and writing. This blog probably gave her insight as to who I was. And it may also have given her good and bad impressions of my writing. But this new virtual technology is here to stay and is changing our society faster than I think we can even imagine.

1. YOUTUBE. People are entertaining one another, getting attention through horrible actions, and finding new found celebrity for their talents, all in a matter of minutes on the web. What you think about this medium for adults? What about for kids? Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

YouTube is a medium. Visual sharing is the phenomena. What YouTube is doing is simply taking the “visual generation” to the next level. When we were kids, we would make “mix tapes” on cassettes. We would call in to radio stations. But there was little for taking creativity and sharing it so broadly, so quickly. I have a friend from where I worked. Her husband is a tech by day – but by night, loves messing around with video. He has worked with his two young sons, and they are “shooting” little movies and posting them on YouTube. It think it is fantastic. It is taking new generations – and giving them whole new outlets for creativity and performance art.
A couple of notes. Ramak, the video you had on is more of a product of FOX NEWS who would actually show such a thing on their television station. Shame on them. But the story about the new Journey singer I think is a great one. I am a Journey fan – and I loved listening to the new version of “Faithfully

The next part of this whole equation with YouTube is just now manifesting itself as Phones and Cameras add in video. As that continues to happen – and bandwith increases with 3G – these mediums will make us a “video snippet” generation.

I am trying to live it. While on vacation this summer with my niece, I shot video everyday. I still haven’t gotten all the tech down to transfer from HiDef to YouTube – but soon I will. It will be on YouTube. And Haley will be the hit at her school.

2) MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. These are great spaces for social, academic and professional networking. So are these websites good or bad for us? Do you have a story to share where your privacy was invaded before you had a chance to react? Does it matter that complete strangers can learn so much about you?

They are absolutely fantastic. I have seen living proof over and over the value of social networking sites. I am a part of alumni groups from 25 years ago that would hardly talk to each other if not for these sites. The pre-cursor were “list servers.” Then came “groups” like Yahoo Groups. These social networking sites like Facebook are the next thing.

But Ramak, each of these three sites are very different in my mind. I don’t like MySpace, which is akin to chaos and the wild wild west. It is a younger crowd – and without much control. Linked in is for the far older – and while I think it has some merit, I have yet to see much benefit from many people on its value. FACEBOOK on the other hand I think is amazing – and is changing culture. Just this week, I am helping to migrate my high school class from a Yahoo Group account to Facebook. I am connecting up with individuals from highschool, 28 years ago, that even then, I hardly had much contact with. Twenty-Eight years later, we are different people. What will it mean? What good will come from it? Who knows.

But the social networking sites are making our new lonely ways of living less lonely in the world. On a Saturday night, if I have not “dates” with friends, I can go to a restaurant, open my laptop, and be instantly virtually connected with a dozen friends. It is amazing.

And it is only the beginning. Future trends involving Twittering, live video and Skyping and other technologies will continue to impact the younger society.

3) Wikipedia. Does it scare you that “unqualified people” (whatever that means) are creating their own version of reality for others to follow, or do you think society is perfecting its information retention through open free market data sharing (much like the concept of a free market economy)?

I like that Wikipedia is helping to organize the world. It makes answer easier to find. When I Google something, if I see a Wikipedia page, I go there first. It does present an interesting question on who and what will get paid to “research” in the future. What I like though is that if you are interested in one single topic, and want to “participate” intellectually in that topic, you can do so.

I will give you an example. I am a big fan of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. I try to reread the whole series every ten years. But in between, I will get rusty on the details. There is the beginning of a DARK TOWER WIKIPEDIA PAGE on the series. It is not through yet. And it could give me a way with other passionate readers to help contribute to the information. But I also often wonder who had time to write these things?

What is think is wonderful is that this was set up not for profit. It is created by the world, and grows with ideas thanks to two innovative inventors.

4) Blogging. Hey, I’m doing it right now. And, I have to admit, it’s my very first time. A very cool experience (thanks Rick!). When you blog, are you worried about piracy, or idea stealing? Or do you think it’s worth the risk to have the exposure and be able to share information freely and allow, say, scientists from around the world tackle the fight against some disease with real time online communication (you know, Scientific Journals on steroids!)?

ANSWER: I have been a blogger now off and on for 8 years. It is a marvelous thing. From year to year, I get confused on whether the blogging is a) for me b). a creative outlet for my thoughts or c). a way to interact with others. I think it changes, but can suit all three albeit at different times.

I wanted to experiment with this blog to see if ten people could discipline themselves to write interesting things each week. I didn’t know if it would be interesting. Would writers be motivated to want to share? Or did they all say yes because I asked them.

One of the challenges today is that we have information overload. There is just so much more reading in the world then there used to be. I am not sure if we have enough time in the world to read blogs. So – if people don’t read them, then is it enough to just write.

One of the questions I ask a new blogger is, “If nobody reads your blog – will you still write – for you?”

Having said that, I know that blogs are evolving. And there are very smart places where people can get real information that is pertinent to their lives. Mine writing has been more for joy. I hope to move to this newer more relative format in the coming year.

5) On the general state of the internet. Is it positive for our youth? In the middle of the 20th century, rock and roll was apparently poisoning the minds of our youth. In the 1980’s, television was frying our kids brains. Is the internet nothing more than this generation’s temptation that really isn’t as bad as people make it? Or, is it accelerating certain behaviors and/or awareness of the “real world” at too fast a rate for their level of maturity?

ANSWER: I think it would be hard to find few people under 60 who think that the internet is a postitive thing – not only for youth by for the world. I can honestly say my life is so much more enjoyable with the internet. I can live bigger – better and faster because of it.

On the flip side, it might make me live a more solitude life. It might make us more sedentary.

I probably worry a little more about mobile phone technology – and due to the current limitations, the kind of communicators it is making us. Instead of talking, young people are “twittering” – a concept of short phrases (or grunts) to describe a “where” or a “what.” That will translate downstream in to our communication styles.

I suppose the generations past might also say the same thing about how we write letters over the internet today. It was not uncommon for a person to thoughtfully sit down and write a letter of several pages. It would be filled with beautiful words of description. It was artwork. Today, I know few people who write a page on email, if they even write emails at all.

Another item that is being impacted is the "put it out there" attitude of the new generations. There is much more of a "I am who I am" attitude, and therefore, people are less fearful about what they say about themselves for others to see. Older generations are much more used to editing themselves. Because we grew up with perfection as a principle in writing and socializing. This is changing with new generations.  It will cause some problems. But it may also be more liberating as well.

But overall, it is a good thing. I live by the internet. I choose hotels and vacation destinations based upon my ability to stay on the internet. I love it. I love living in the middle of progressive technology

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