Did you hear…?

Did you hear Dan Brown was at the Web Summit?
As in the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons author?
Yes.
No, I didn’t see anything about it, would you believe!
Well he had plenty to say….

Dan Brown. Web Summit. Dublin.., I mean Portugal 2015. Cough cough.
Dan Brown made some very interesting comments. He brought up the ultra-controversial yet sensitive topic of science versus religion. Sounds like an episode of The Meaning of Life with Gaybo.
Dan Brown’s fiction is often driven by the tension between science, technology and religion. He went on to say that
“Science and religion are two different languages trying to tell the same story.”
Mind over matter. Yet technology is helping these subjects to merge and diverge in different ways.
Science helps to build the technology that could potentially reach out to people regarding religion.
On the other hand, religion can help to provide a sense of belonging which has been lost nowadays owing to science and technology and the isolation that has been brought about by these.
However, extremist views held by people in terms of any of these subjects cannot transport us anywhere. Rather we will come to a standstill. And there will probably be some very heated exchanges. Down with that sort of thing. Careful now!
I like the idea that science and religion are different languages. Because they are. Some people will be comfortable with both. Others will love or hate these languages. And at some point in time you will be exposed to both. You may well choose to learn one over the other. Technology is the translator of these languages. And very few can speak both languages at once. You may get to throw in a word or phrase here or there. But you cannot speak two languages at once and mix them up. That is very dangerous territory. And you are likely to be misunderstood by many. Numbers versus letters. Experiments versus memory.

“What’s fascinating is that they are polar opposites in their approach,” said Dan.

“Religions have not changed, they still look at the same texts that they did thousands of years ago. It’s self-assured. It’s consistent.”

“Science, on the other hand is changing at a mind numbing speed”.

Religion is static and that can be very assuring, embracing traditional views of society. Upholding a certain set of values and beliefs. And a lot less effort than trying to keep up with the pace of scientists. Technology has struck a healthy balance so far, in my opinion, between these subjects.
Sometimes however we just need simplicity over complexity to be at one with ourselves. More often than not, if we were to be truly honest with ourselves.
Dan summed it up nicely regarding science and religion:

“There’s something about the human mind that craves order and craves answers. The human mind craves the knowledge that it’s not all random.”

Robots may accept randomness, however, us humans, will not.
It comes back to storytelling and how we choose to make sense of the world surrounding us.
We want meaning. We want to acknowledge our existence. In some shape or form.
We all have a favourite story. We all understand the language that we grew up with.
The language that was used to tell us our favourite story. It is up to us to open up our hearts and minds to other versions of the story. But I have to admit there is nothing like an old favourite!
But perhaps by telling our own stories and listening to other stories we can learn something new or even a few phrases here and there. And in turn we may help someone to learn to accept and appreciate what other stories are out there. And technology can point us in the direction we need to go.
Stories inspire. Stories create. Stories ignite.
These subjects bring about such passionate tales that make us stare in awe.
We have to pinch ourselves sometimes to believe that it is all real.
It is great to be human. Such interesting individuals. Unique in every sense.
No two people share the same story but every story can be shared if the other is willing to listen and learn. Stories are there for sharing. Make yours an interesting tale to be told. Technology can aid you along the way but you cannot experience that story through technology alone.
Maybe one day years from now someone will wonder what life you led from the digital fragments left in your wake. Don’t bombard them and keep them guessing!

Cause I Can’t Get It Out Of My Head!

1. Effective stories inspire people for social causes by creating human connection and emotional resonance.

I love those movies that make me want to change the world. In a good way of course. Those stories that reach out to you and grab you by your heart and elevate, entrench and excite your mind to the endless possibilities and you won’t take no for an answer. It’s difficult to put into words how an emotional film makes you feel and it’s even more difficult to argue against it. Our emotions can be our greatest weapons. E.T., The Blindside, Dead Poets Society are just a few of a long list. Robin Williams had a special gift, making others feel good about themselves. Powerful stories that strike out at every imaginable emotion. It is almost akin to having a class with your favourite teacher. Inspirational, but not quite the same. In greater depth. You feel like you could do anything right now at this very moment in time. After this instantaneous high, you will probably sleep it off and return to what you believe are your senses. If you’re not helping people or at least attempting to inspire people to help others, then what are you doing? This world is for living in. Why does it have to be so miserable at times? If everyone could give of themselves just a little more in any way possible and I don’t just mean financially speaking, any stone could be overturned. There are lots of people who try out there, go over and above everyday – giving of themselves but we need more inspirational people for sure. These are the people that make you want to do something for the greater good and more often than not will be the prompt or be a catalyst that will bring about you achieving those goals in one way or another. We all have known at least one person in our lives, a real daring, go-getter, that chases after the thrill, has the zest for life, and elevates those who surround them, these people are light-hearted usually, can knock a laugh out of anything, and people would give anything to be exactly like them. These people are the definition of inspiration but instead may be labelled troublemakers and such in school and their value in the world can be undermined in some aspects. There are some who get the timing right and quickly cover their tracks. There is a fine line between mischievous misdemeanours and downright malevolence, that oscillating line is one of deviousness. And it separates the class clown from the upstart or those viewed as troublemakers. Know your limit. Become engaged with your emotions through creative works.

2. Well-crafted stories can communicate abstract and complex ideas in ways that encourage understanding and value connections.

Have you ever listened to somewhere ramble on endlessly and aimlessly about what seemed like nothingness? It made absolutely no sense to you because you didn’t place a value on it, it didn’t seem important, it wasn’t a priority because you just could not ‘get it’? And then somebody almost caused your mind to explode by telling you exactly what you needed to hear in order to spark your imagination and cause you to experience exactly what it all meant to begin with? Such lessons are learnt when cramming while burning the midnight oil, your lecturer rambled and rambled while you doodled and doodled and then it’s wham, bam, exam! Didn’t see that one coming! So you caffeinate yourself and get into gear you look for anything and everything but you just don’t understand it or ‘get’ the vital components, it’s all in disarray, and now it’s a priority. In sheer desperation and panic, you have begun to play with the idea that you may just fail outright but then you think of all the other times that you have passed exams and so you venture your network for people ‘in the know’ namely the lecturer who will probably shun you in your hour of need or at least won’t be particularly helpful at that point at time, if only you availed of the help sooner! So you then begin chatting with your college pals who are also freaking out but there happen to be a few ‘know-it-alls’ to the rescue! It feels like you’re using your lifelines on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? But at this point in time, there is only one option – to use your lifelines! Gently does it but you ask someone what something is about and in a panic-induced state of ‘not having enough time’ they draw something or say something that gets the ball rolling. Something essential that was missing from the jigsaw. And now suddenly everything seems so interesting and you are kicking yourself that you didn’t spend your time on this discipline that you chose, that you suddenly have begun to love with all your heart, and remembering why you chose to study this to begin with! And then it’s wham, bam, you pass your exam and the cycle repeats itself (ah well, humans are creatures of habit!)

3. Stories can be used to introduce a new topic into the public dialogue, contribute to an ongoing conversation and engage people as active participants.

The media. And now social media. People are talking all the time. It’s a great ice-breaker. It’s an everyday bond. It’s a connection or disconnection. An agreement or an argument. A love for or a hate of. The pot has been stirred again and again. And no two will have the exact same reaction but if they do repeatedly they may just become best friends given time. Those newspapers that float around the canteen at your workplace. Those daily newsfeeds that you just can’t seem to ignore every morning. You’re telling others what you think and now you can even tell the world via social media. If you hamper people consistently with your kind of uninteresting rants, prepare to get hammered by some online troll or reject or perhaps some form of expression of dislike or the worse kind, nothing even remotely responsive! We all know articles can be placed in the public domain in order to gauge a reaction before some change is even made. And of course it does happen with enough opposition behind or in tow, that that change is quickly rejected, replaced with something more affable or agreeable with the populace. Nobody wants a Twitter showdown but usually people become part of one before they realise it, the idea that someone may tweet you out of it, you just won’t stand for it! You know you’re right, and if you are a celebrity, some coverage is better than none at all. If you cannot get into the limelight, then the spotlight is available, just don’t turn the lights off completely. I am here just so you’re aware! There are days when we’d rather not voice or vent our opinion or vice versa..but the ink keeps rolling, they spate-ing….! Just ignore your phone and isolate yourself from the following: laptop, television, oh and people! Wreck the tech! But the tech will beckon you and you will come crawling on ones and zeros. Your dignity now lies with tech-heads somewhere…I would say here but who really knows!

4. Stories can be used to share learning and lessons from successes and failures with colleagues, donors and other key audiences.

We learn from others mistakes. End of. But really we do. As adults we become less daring and so we let others mess up first and listen to them tell us what we didn’t know already to ensure that we don’t walk the same plank again and again because that would just be the height of stupidity. But where the process is developmental and can be improved, we sometimes like to better each other and tell each other stories in order to extract any information that may be useful in our pursuits and future endeavours. Reverse Psychology 101. It is ok to make mistakes but just learn from them. You have got to admit to failure to become a success. It’s usually a great popularity mechanism. But hey fake it til you make it! Til then keep telling tales and making it up as you go along! Peace out!

digital-storytelling-for-social-impact-8-1024

What’s the story, boy?!

Storytelling in all its forms is a key player in helping us to gain an understanding of the world we live in. From the moment we come into the world until we learn to read we rely on storytelling through listening to others. Stories build connections, connecting information in order to make sense of things, otherwise we would all live in a random world of practically useless information. Irish people are not fully aware of their value in the world and the potential they hold to unlocking the world of digital storytelling. Many of the Irish, including the diaspora, are born gifted with the natural ability to tell stories. Two shorten the road by giving it length and breadth, by widening it and making it longer. Storytelling is the first step to empowerment, revealing the self in its raw form and setting out to reshape and reclaim what is yours. Irish people are adept probably because of the high levels of emigration in the past and even nowadays. Forced to adapt and change to the world around them, developing an understanding of other cultures, being sensitive to others beliefs. Knowing what to say and knowing when to zip it. The Irish have universal appeal!
Isn’t that what is so attractive about the digital world? Discovering and learning about new things and sharing those discoveries with the world around us? Performance. It may not be real but it feels real. It feels like you’re captivated by that moment in time. You are trapped but you like being trapped. You revel in it. It is the reason we entertain ourselves, to relax and enjoy, to relate, to share that story with someone who would ‘get it’, who would understand where we are coming from. The zest for life. We are born, we live and we die, naturally we have a beginning, a middle and an end. Good things come in threes and well we have a story to go with each stage and lots in between. We naturally edit our lives, we like to reminisce about the good points. We do not remember every single minute detail, just the ones that we feel or have a connection with. With the onset of social media, we get to hear everybody’s story whether we want to or not. One example of this is the Humans of New York page. But knowing how to capture your audience and knowing how to tell a good story will always apply. Emotional engagement is key. I watched the documentary film One Million Dubliners and the guide of Glasnevin Cemetery had something very interesting to say. To capture an audience you need to tell them something they know, something they don’t know, something to make them laugh and something to make them cry. You will then have a guided tour that is considered to be successful.
Everyday of our lives we attempt to grab others attention in one way or another. For good mainly and sometimes bad. We do not have to lift our heads anymore to grab others attention. We can blog, vlog, tweet, belt out a tune via videolink, skype, snapchat, facebook, Instagram, pinterest, IM. The list is never-ending as things fall in and out of fashion. Ideas are now even seen to be fashionable in the Age of Information. We can change our minds like the seasons about ideas, when new information comes to light. The catwalk is under threat. Has your idea any substance, is it worth its weight? The camera doesn’t miss a thing. It’s all down to the people buying into that idea. With more and more experts and people unwilling to pay more than necessary (as they could get it for free) it will be interesting to note how the world is shaped in the years ahead. Power to the people as they exchange ideas and share with the world on an open platform. Will copyright worsen or will it even apply given time? How can you own a word, a phrase, a lyric, even the alphabet? Or a picture, a caption, a story, an idea? Plagiarism is another area that will need to be put under the microscope. How do you apply copyright or plagiarism to a video? If you write about an American produced music video how do you credit it in a college paper or can you? Are you violating a social media website’s terms and conditions if you use the material for some other unnamed purpose? These are the questions that will need to be asked in the years ahead…but probably by a lawyer!

World War Web!

It was only a matter of time. Deep down we all knew it. The internet could not last as we knew it. Divisions lay in the camp. One company against the other. Who held the most weight? Who could get things done? At a European level, at an international level. A two-tiered system. It’ll be grand they said. Really? Do you expect us to believe that? Do you expect us to fall for it? The good point about the internet was that you were free and I know people can abuse that in ways. But there is an understanding at some level. If you were going to change everything, why introduce us to the world of internet in such a form to begin with? If things change drastically as they are quite likely to, there will be a reaction for sure. You think that the problems will go away by making it two-tiered. They won’t. There will be even greater problems and a disconnection across the wider world. Doing a search on the term ‘net neutrality’ is not very helpful, there seems to be a certain level of confusion surrounding this term. No clear cut definition. The policymakers carrying out these amendments know what’s in store but it will be a much later stage before we know the real impact of such amendments. I’m not an expert in this area but I am aware of the importance of free speech, and this also applies to the internet. There has been talk about paywalls in relation to media and such. Some are in force – streaming services and such. I would argue that until a code has been hammered out in relation to the tax affairs of multinationals, there is no argument to be even made in relation to gagging internet citizens. If someone could interfere with your phonecalls based on ploys and tactics in favour of certain companies would you stand for it? You call one pizza place but it is interfered with, so you have to call another pizza place, who are secretly giving backhanders to the phone service provider to interfere with those calls. Sounds very democratic, doesn’t it?

Free speech has divided people throughout history but it is basic human right. It is quite likely that any amendments will gag people, or chain them to a form of censorship as they may be discriminated against based on what data they are engaged with or hold. An internet black market of sorts will probably arise from all of this. What right does anybody have to store information about your search or file history and could then possibly manipulate data in order to discriminate against your person in the form of your IP? Something is not quite right there, that is a total violation of human rights unless that person is seen to be a direct threat to others for some valid reason. I do agree with a certain level of monitoring but tailoring data is not the way forward. Building data towers is not the way either. The internet is a worldwide phenomenon and therefore we should all have an input. There is not enough emphasis on managing technology which is the key issue if someone is taking to the airwaves to vent, or rant about not being entirely happy about something in life, and expressing themselves, in doing so, in an inappropriate manner. It is a reflection of wider societal issues that are not being addressed. But instead of taking responsibility, it has been decided to confuse, distract and divert people. We are not creating states which hold certain internet values because it is a global phenomenon but coming from different cultural norms and sets of beliefs our ideas of things are quite independent of one another. It is the internet that has begun to transform us in this manner and that is a positive thing and it should be embraced. We are beginning to identify, accept and celebrate difference and diversity, and connect through interests and ideas. Don’t stop us now! It is shameful to think that companies could attempt to influence policy when it is not in the interest of the common good and for their sole benefit. Every eventuality can arise from the internet, in the same way, every human being is unique and attempting to constrain human behaviour through internet civilisation will hinder rather than help people. There will be a backlash in some shape or form and it will manifest itself somehow.

EYE (I)-IN-A-SPEECH-BUBBLE

Eye(I)-in-a-speech-bubble is hopefully a step in the right direction. It has been designed in order to combat bullying online under the banner of I AM A WITNESS campaign. Whatever about the older generations who knew life before the onset of the world wide web in all its forms, young people know of nothing much else bar the screen they have become so familiar with. It is only right that their well-being is at the forefront in all they do. Without doubt the internet has become a platform for abuse, look to the end of certain journal articles on forums and you can see for yourself, or indeed any social networking website and its rants. This is the first step in the reimagined internet world in which we can all partake and enjoy. Exposure to high levels of abuse cannot be good for one’s health. There are better ways to deal with issues that people may be having in their personal lives. Eye-in-a-speech-bubble will help to highlight problem areas and we can begin to address these areas and develop solutions. Every website tends to segregate and separate what it does, however, perhaps it would be wiser to amalgamate. A have-your-say section on every website, a have-you-been-affected-any-issues raised on this website (like you have on national television programmes of a sensitive nature). People feel that they have become powerless in different situations and some reclaim this through the use of technology. But is this best practice? Will making something viral really bring about justice and right the wrongs? Have we created digi-vigi-justice, that is digital vigilante justice through memeifying and viralising everything? Sometimes it may get dragged into the formal justice system and used in evidence against the perpetrator, however, it usually is an informal way of dealing with issues wherever possible.

Should data have a shelf-life? Should data die? Do we really need to haunt ourselves daily with the past, something we said ten years ago resurfacing and may not reflect what we think today? Search FYI will prove to be a bone of contention making public posts searchable. I am sure that most people did not comprehend what this would have meant in the past. What about the implications of such a tool? Facebook has been seen to be a relatively private platform all along but now it is becoming very public within the site itself. Indeed some very interesting and embarrassing things could resurface from this yet. It may prove contentious on an international level and may require diplomatic assistance. One thing that could be recalled is the Thierry Henry sporting fiasco, there were a lot of angry Irish people at the time. This is just one example is the wider frame. And I’m sure that plenty of people out there would rather forget their past blunders in every shape and form. Particularly younger people, you will make plenty of mistakes while you are young, and is it the right thing to be punished for such mistakes? Something tells me that not everyone would agree. If there is one thing we have learned it is that we put our lives and others at risk sometimes in relation to technology, one prominent example is the Wanna-take-a-selfie-?(itis) phenomenon.

Selfies have taken over but why? There are plenty of psychological studies being carried out presently on this I am sure. In my opinion, the internet is like advertising and we have created ourselves in our own brand version to be liked and shared with the world. We only want to hear good things or we will unfriend you. We show our best sides and someone else will show you our worst (bit of competition, anyone?) We are the high flying executives who are at the mercy of big corporations, but we are so warped in our own technological and virtual worlds that we don’t fully understand what it is all about. We just want to get rich and famous quickly and have a good time when we can and let others know this (all the time). I have spoken to people and they find it ridiculing seeing people appearing to have a good time online. I can guarantee that many of them are lying through their teeth to sell their brand version of themselves. I want to be the funny go-to person that everybody loves but this just ain’t possible for everyone. There are very few people in the world that can love everybody and if they do it may suggest ignorance on their part.

It’s All Data, Data, Data!

Big Data and Big Money are interchangeable now. Last week Dell bought EMC to the tune of 67 billion. In my opinion, the deal is bound to payoff and be quite profitable in the long-term. Integrating systems can only bring the price down owing to economies of scale. Doing business with one company instead of two, or more, even. Both companies are reputable in the world of data business. Another topic of interest making headlines recently is the SafeHarbour/Max Schrems case. It brings to the fore the importance of privacy in relation to data. The argument can be made that personal data is not a commodity. Data becomes more linked everyday and therefore if we cannot prevent this from happening then we need to look at solutions of incorporating linked data in a responsible manner. Etiquette of sorts. One prominent example is the Code of Ethics of the Digital Repository of Ireland. The code has eight steps which are adhered to namely protection, openness and privacy, continued development, objectivity and to inform policy/share research and finally to communicate and to ensure equality prevails. This may seem a lot to take on board and attempt to balance. The nature of data is complex, however, it can be simplified where needs be in order to gain perspective. These are the libraries and archives of contemporary times. What some people fear is extreme censorship like what has been and still is the case in some parts of the world. The main reason given was not to ‘corrupt’ the mind. However, this is unlikely to be the case unless people are consistently exposed to media of a certain type, of a derogatory kind.

From where I am standing it is quite evident that unless every single aspect of the digital adopt a code of ethics, per se, to some degree or another there will be huge legal costs involved like we have seen with Safe Harbour/Max Schrems. The argument put forward against this has been that multinationals will be forced to pay much higher costs if this transatlantic destined data were to come to a halt. Many multinationals have been creaming it, with cheap skilled labour from other parts of the world and then repatriating profits back to their own headquarters based elsewhere. Some would think fair is fair, the cost has to balance itself. One cannot expect to take everything and not give back in some shape or form. The argument is that jobs are created and economies flourish as a result of the jobs created. But are jobs really everything if peoples’ personal data are at stake and become a commodity of sorts to be traded on the global market to the highest bidder. Leaving digital footprints aside what is more concerning is having to use personal data in order to use websites such as Facebook. Many people have been cut off from using the website if it is felt they are using an alias. One case I can recall is of a man who had in fact changed his name through deed poll, he was prevented from using the site until it was proven otherwise. Such sites may cause many more to change their names in future via deed poll if the use of such data were to become invasive. An analysis of a social media profile could expose quite a lot about a person’s personality, their personal likes and dislikes, their connections to others. Some of this information is rather sensitive and could easily be manipulated for other purposes. What if any image posted online could be used for advertising in the future. How comfortable would people be with that notion? For example, personal images used to endorse a product that someone is vehemently opposed to? It is presently happening but in a different way, you place information online which is then used to target advertisements at you personally based on your interests.

The only hope I can see is that internet search engines are not yet personally tailored but what will happen when this is the case? You may have no interest in something but are just curious to learn about something and suddenly suggestions begin to appear in relation to previous searches. A code needs to be hammered out and quick to deal with all eventualities before the world of marketing takes over as it has done in the past. How many children plague parents with the ‘nagging effect’ whereby daytime television targeted ads manipulate young minds and convince them that they need this product for their very happiness. I am not against marketing, it can be very effective and a powerful tool but where do you draw the line of it becoming abusive like that of harassing kind of promotional mail through the letterbox? If someone wants to sign up, let them by all means, but if someone declines, they should be let be and let to decide for themselves what it is that suits them given the time and place.