Wednesday, September 25, 2013

For all the Apple fanatics out there...

Last week, Apple released their newest operating system for the iPhone: the iOS7.  This update completely redesigned the visual aspects of the phone to create a more simplistic feel.  There are new features, including more efficient multitasking options and the Control Center to quickly access frequently used functions like the music, flashlight, photos, and timer.  (This is a very abbreviated overview of the new iOS7 features.)

When I was working on one of my peer editing assignments this week, I made a connection between this new operation system and the debate between print versus digital.  In the operating systems preceding iOS7, iPhone apps and features were based on “skeuomorphism”.  This concept dates back to the late 19th century when it was defined as “an ornamental design derived from the structure of an earlier form of a particular object.”[1]  In connection to the iPhone, this means that features, like the address book, were designed so that they look like the actual object would: a spiral booklet of lined paper.  Another definition from explains that “skeuomorphism refers only to those vestigial elements in nature or artifact that survive from an original form, even though they are no longer required.”[2]  So the address book on the iPhone clearly does not require spirals and actual paper, but it was designed in this way in order to connect with the original printed version of this technology.
The iOS7 update trashes the skeuomorphic approach, striving for ease and efficiency.  My question is this: is the eradication of skeuomorphism another step towards the absolute domination of the digital world over the print world?  Although I do not think this is possible…what is the meaning of these technological developments that continuously break from the past?  Are they solely for ease-of-access purposes or can these advances somehow be categorized as control technologies?  How will consumers react to simplicity over skeuomorphic design?

Let me know what you think!     

[1] “What is skeuomorphism?” The Economist, accessed September 26, 2013,
[2] The Economist, “What is skeuomorphism?”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Detroit Is Now a Charity Case for Carmakers"

The New York Times ran a piece a few days ago that is quite topical for LIS 201 this week. As Detroit is buried deep within the tangles of the "largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history," (the city is currently running a budget deficit of around 1 million dollars a day), Chrysler, G.M. and Ford are pouring millions into charity efforts to revive the city.  

"But the likelihood that any of the automakers will build a new factory in Detroit is slim. The companies are increasingly global in scope, and are pouring resources into plants in China and other growing markets.

And after going through drastic restructurings to reduce overcapacity in the United States, the companies are loath to build new factories. Instead, they are increasing production by adding shifts of workers to existing facilities across the country."
Sound familiar?
And watch for the quote from Professor Thomas J. Sugrue, the author of one of our readings this week!
Read the whole article here.

Not college professors, surely ...

An interesting article crossed my news feed today, with a clear connection to our lecture: a claim that "47% of US jobs under threat from computerization according to Oxford study":
Almost 47 percent of US jobs could be computerized within one or two decades according to a recent study that attempts to gauge the growing impact of computers on the job market. It isn't only manual labor jobs that could be affected: The study reveals a trend of computers taking over many cognitive tasks thanks to the availability of big data. It suggests two waves of computerization, with the first substituting computers for people in logistics, transportation, administrative and office support and the second affecting jobs depending on how well engineers crack computing problems associated with human perception, creative and social intelligence.
Read the rest here.  Are you worried?  (Should _I_ be worried?)

This week in LIS 201 (week 4)

Week 4: The postindustrial service economy




  • If it's your week to write a 500-word article critique, you must post this to your section blog before your section meets.
  • If it's your week to give a speech, prepare and practice!  Otherwise, prepare for a possible extemporaneous speech response.
  • Complete your peer reviews of your fellow students' paper #1 drafts, posted as comments on their pages of the discussion section wiki.


  • First five minutes: Pop quiz? Maybe!
  • Two student presentations (#5 and #6) on the readings (and two student extemporaneous responses).
  • Discuss this week's lecture and required readings.


This week, you will discover how much information you can find out about yourself online.

  • First, do a geodemographic marketing analysis on yourself, by searching online for data about the place where you live which someone might ascribe to you. Here are some sites to start with:
  • (enter your phone)
  • (enter your zip code)
  • (enter your address)
  • Next, do a social networking analysis on yourself, by searching for online data specifically about you on various social networking services that you might use — Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. Make sure you are not logged in to those services in order to see what an outisde visitor would see (you might want to try searching your Facebook identity from a public computer, for example).
  • Now do a general Google search, first using your name in different combinations ("Greg Downey," "Downey, Greg," "G Downey," etc.), then using your email address, and finally usingyour telephone number.
  • Can you think of any other sites to search for which might provide either individual or aggregate data to help flesh out your "digital puppet"?
  • When you are finished searching these sites, create a new post on your discusion section blog describing the person that a geodemographic firm would see when they look for "you". What do you think about this representation of your existence?
  • Comment on at least one other student's posting for this assignment.
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.


Information in today’s technologically-minded society is immediate. This can be a curse and a blessing. Last Wednesday, all of you received a series of WiscAlerts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department regarding a gun that was fired on Langdon Street near the Memorial Union. In a breaking news situation such as this, students and community members immediately affected by this situation are going to want to know information immediately.

With media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, not to mention websites with the capability to denote breaking news in banners and pop-ups on webpages, the public has the capability to access that immediate information. This is a benefit to the public especially when determining the threat of a situation such as a possible gunman on campus. In last week’s incident, it was determined that there was only one shot fired, and the incident was a result of a robbery gone wrong. Police later identified the suspects. In this situation, immediate news is necessary and a benefit to society.

But as with all things good, there are drawbacks. In many breaking news situations where the public demands immediate information, the media can jump the gun and report inaccurate information because of the pressure to provide information. In the most recent shooting at the Navy Yard, the media at one point misreported the identity of the shooter. These incidents of inaccurate reporting have happened more than once in breaking news situations, and I think, are somewhat of a result of the immediate news cycle.

Did you think the WiscAlerts, Tweets from local newspapers and updated stories on media websites were accurate and informative during the incident last week on UW-Madison’s campus? Do you think media jeopardizes accuracy for immediate information?

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Insanity in the Desert by Zach Walsh

In light of the events in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday evening, I would like to take this time to dig into responsibility and honesty in sports.  As most of you know, the Wisconsin Badgers lost to the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday after a bizarre and hectic series of events. Trailing by two points with 18 seconds to go, the Badger’s Joel Stave snapped the ball and took a knee in the middle of the field to set up a game winning field goal attempt. Nearly every weekend in the fall, you will see a team perform the exact same procedure as the Badgers were intending to do: Take a knee in the middle of the field to center the ball for the field goal kicker, get lined up for another play, spike the ball to stop the clock and, finally, kick the game winning field goal. While I have personally seen this scenario work successfully hundreds of times, on Saturday night this perfectly tested procedure failed. After taking a knee, all of the time ran off the clock as ASU players laid down on the ball so the referee could not spot it.

While the entire referee crew was at fault for not correctly handling this incident, I am more disgusted with the Arizona State team. While lying on the ball was an illegal act, it was also classless and Bush-league. What happened to integrity and class in sports? Have we become too driven by the need to win that we throw our morals out the door? Are institutions for higher learning promoting winning at all costs over teaching character to young men? This game is yet another example of how our result driven society has become so enamored with the need to “win” that we have forgotten what it means to be truly victorious.

Excited to hear your thoughts!

Sources: "Let's Be Clear About the End of the UW-ASU Game." Off Tackle N.p., 15 Sep. 2013. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <>.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This week in LIS 201 (week 3)

Week 3: The electromechanical control revolution




  • If it's your week to write a 500-word article critique, you must post this to your section blog before your section meets.
  • If it's your week to give a speech, prepare and practice!  Otherwise, prepare for a possible extemporaneous speech response.
  • Post your rough draft of paper #1 to your personal wiki pages (create a separate subpage so that your peer reviewers can just "comment" at the bottom).


  • First five minutes: Pop quiz? Maybe!
  • Two student presentations (#3 and #4) on the readings (and two student extemporaneous responses).
  • Discuss this week's lecture and required readings.
  • Your TA will set up peer review groups ( 6 students in each) and post these on your discussion section wiki in case you forget.


This week you'll explore the Prelinger Archives, which contains thousands fantastic vintage educational and corporate promotional films, some of which deal with information and communication technology. Many of these films are in color with sound, and most are short (15 or 20 minutes).

  • Search the Prelinger Archives for telecommunications-related films (telephone, telegraph, etc.) and find the most interesting vintage film for a 21st century class on the "information society" that you can.
  • Please note: Within each discussion section, every student needs to find a different film to post! This means you need to see what's already been posted in your section to avoid duplication! (Students who do this assignment earlier might have an easier time of it.)
  • Post a link to your film on your discussion section blog and make an argument about why this film is useful to students of our modern information and communication infrastructure — what can we learn from the film you found?
  • Watch at least one of your fellow students' suggested films and post a comment with your reaction.
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Computers and the Control Revolution

Hello everyone. A couple days ago I found an article (link below) on a report which suggests that about 45% of US jobs could be replaced by computerized automation in the next two decades. Now this number seems high to me, although admittedly I have no expertise in the area to draw on, and I suspect similar reports have appeared since the dawn of the computer age, probably even before. The point remains, however, that our economy is somewhere in the process of upgrading to a more efficient, computerized economy. Since this involves a large degree of automation, I think it’s safe to say that some jobs will unfortunately be lost as computers perform more and more routine tasks that would typically be performed by a human.

While the idea behind this study may not be entirely new, I think it does offer a good opportunity to reflect on how this connects to what we are learning in class. Admittedly this is more of a topic for future weeks of the course, but hopefully everyone has or will read ahead this week in preparation for the first paper. Two areas which the authors believe will be hit first are transportation and minor administration, both of which are central to the idea of a control society as argued by Beniger in our readings. Modern transportation technologies required new methods of control, and one method of control which developed was the bureaucracy. I cannot think of a term that screams administration to me more than “bureaucracy”.

Now we have two aspects of the control revolution being replaced by, or perhaps integrating with, computers, a key part of both postindustrial and network societies. One could argue that this is a decline in control revolution behavior in the US, traditional transportation and administration by humans, in favor of a different type of society with computers, perhaps a network society. These terms are ambiguous enough that I think an argument such as that would be valid. I think an equally valid argument could be made to the opposite: by implementing computers in our transportation and administration systems, we will be exerting ever greater and more autonomous control over our social structures. In this case despite computers traditionally being a technology of one of our later areas of study, they are being used in a more “traditional” role of the control revolution.

How do you think computers (potentially) taking over human jobs relates to what we are learning in class? Just like everybody else on the internet, I’ll ask you to leave a comment below if you have anything to share on what I’ve said.

James Beniger, “The Control Revolution,” in Albert H. Teich, ed., Technology and the Future (1990).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hey everyone! My name is Megan.
In light of Wednesday being 9/11, I’ve been thinking how much this tragedy has affected communication, relating to the conflicts of technological advancements we’ve been covering in class. 

From what I understand, during the attacks, government agencies repeatedly had technological issues and were unable to contact the air traffic control center, radios in the trade center left some police and firefighters stranded and uninformed that the towers were collapsing, as well as unable to contact each other because the Office of Emergency Management was located in the towers and had been evacuated. Systems were also overwhelmed, causing radio feeds and phone calls to be disconnected.  

After the attack, it was apparent that there were flaws in the technological systems we were using, and in some opinions, even the reliance on technological communication in general. Programs were created to try and minimize the chances of these same communication issues happening again. The Department of Homeland Security helped develop Fusion Centers across America to help agencies cross exchange information between each other. Also, a system called STARS, Statewide Agencies Radio System, was updated in 2004, which increased mobile radio coverage for 21 state agencies to improve communication during a crisis anywhere in the state. After the attacks, researchers helped create a database of all terrorist events ranging from 1970 to 2010 called the Global Terrorism Database, which tracks the rates and patterns of attacks over time and the impacts of terrorist countermeasures.

However, during the attacks many people did have access to phones and some radios that did work, and passengers on one of the planes were able to understand what was going on in time to crash the plane before it hit the target. Others contacted police and loved ones from inside the planes and towers telling them their current situation.

On a side note, various government agencies began “spying” on citizens long before 9/11, since the attacks it has become more prominent as people argue, “domestic eavesdropping is a necessary part of a post-9/11 world” as an anti-terrorism technique. This means that Homeland Security and the IRS are allowed to access your emails, texts, phone calls, and more without a warrant and without informing you. If the government has found a way to do this without us knowing, isn’t there some computer hacker out there who probably can too?

Even with the amount of failures, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that if there had been no form of technological communication at all, the death toll would have been even worse. How much worse, though? And do you think that updating these technological systems has just put us more at risk by opening up more ways for types of terrorist attacks?

For more information, as well as my works cited, visit:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Something Provocative for the Week

Something Provocative for the Week

The Prominence of Facial Hair in Today’s Society

Forget print culture for a minute and think about- you guessed it- facial hair culture.  While perusing the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal online to find a topic for this article I came across a story about Madison’s own Chris Kriskovic. A local cab driver for the well-known “Green Cab”, Kriskovic has avoided his razor for two years. With a bottle of hair spray he transformed his beard into seven points and two curly mustache tips. The work of art that resulted won him first place in the freestyle full beard category of New Orleans’s National beard and Mustache Championships.

Kriskovic’s journey to fame got me thinking about beards in pop culture. Traditionally, a manicured mustache signaled a law enforcement official, however recently facial hair has had other meanings in pop culture. Most notably are the men of the Robertson Clan on A&E’s popular show Duck Dynasty. The men proudly display their beards as a testament to their manhood and redneck status. They relentlessly ridicule younger brother Jep when they suspect he has colored his.  In AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad, Walter White plays the role of genius high school chemistry teacher turned millionaire meth producer. White’s goatee transforms him from loving father Walter into “Heisenberg” – his criminal life pseudonym. The next time you spot a popular character trying a new facial hair look, dig for the meaning behind the beard.

The Duck Dynasty Men:

Heisenberg’s look:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This week in LIS 201 (week 2)

Week 2: Print culture and literacy




  • If it's your week to write a 500-word article report, you must post this to your section blog before your section meets.  An article report should briefly summarize the main argument of the article, and then pose a question or comment in response. You will also want to say a little something about the author of the article and the way people responded to it. What can you find online about the person who wrote the article? Can you find any online reaction to the article? (It probably came from a book, and you can probably find book reviews.)
  • If it's your week to give a speech, prepare and practice!  Otherwise, prepare for a possible extemporaneous speech response.


  • First five minutes: Pop quiz? Maybe!
  • Two four-minute student speeches (#1 and #2), one on each of the readings (and two two-minute student extemporaneous responses).  Your TA will designate a classmate to record your presentations on digital video. The recording will be either emailed to you or uploaded to your discussion section wiki (which you'll be joining this weekend). After watching the recording, you must email your TA with one substantive way in which you could improve your delivery.
  • Discuss this week's lecture and required readings.
  • Discuss tasks and strategies for writing assignment #1. (Rough draft due on wiki by start of next week's discussion.)
  • Discuss the written presentation grading metric.


This week you'll learn how to use your discussion section wiki:
  • Please click here for a wiki tutorial
  • You must finish this online activity before next week's lecture.



Please note that Wednesday during the third week of classes is generally the last day to drop without a "DR" on your transcript. (You can still drop through the ninth week of class but there will be a notation on the transcript.)