Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

From Consumer to Prosumer

My learning continues into week 8 of 12.

In week eight my learning curve moved significantly upward as I explored the many programs that can be used to become a prosumer of my own cultural content. Such programs as Picasa and Windows Movie Maker or iMovie can lead anyone into the vast possibilities of creativity and innovation. To steepen my learning curve even more was the rather weighty article on “Semiotics for Beginners” by Daniel Chandler and a part of my course reading. Clearly if a person is going to be an effective prosumer of cultural content and messaging/story-telling, I gained a heightened awareness of the importance of how signs can be used and how essential it is that signs are clear enough to help the intended audience receive the intended message. This means being aware of the cultural norms and understanding of the intended audience and beyond. Here is a ToastMasters presentation that I thought was very clear on what you can do to learn more about your audience.

And just for fun, I threw in this YouTube video with the characters from the Big Bang theory. Sheldon is doing want you want to avoid sharing with your audience.

What strikes me in particular is the realization that when I post something to the world-wide web, I have to recognize that my message might go far beyond my intended audience and my cultural compatriots. I was reminded of the incidents within the last year where a political cartoon that deeply offended those of the Islamic faith which caused riots thousands of miles away almost instantaneously. We must be very aware of the power and possibilities of signs and choose our messaging, visuals and stories with the global village in mind. In short, I learned this week of how I can develop my own cultural content and the need to understand the power of semiotics.

Here is a quick clip showing a “world of images” right outside ones urban door.

As more and more people gain the ability to produce cultural content, at what point will there be an oversaturation of content on virtually every topic imaginable and how will people who do not understand an individual’s ability to manipulate images and messages ever gain accurate information? Will this lead to an even deeper cultural and digital divide?


Compliance: Institutional and Human Interoperability

The key message this week from Interop by Palfrey and Gasser was the challenge presented is the issue of compliance by all institutions in Ontario to accommodate the needs of disabled and vulnerable members of society. The United Nations states “Internet Access is a Human Right.” The following article and embedded video provide more insight.

When you get right down to it the planning and training necessary to be able to provide accommodations to information, internet and websites in Ontario have nothing to do with technologies and data. They have everything to do with human and institutional interoperability. The next YouTube video explains to a larger degree.

As I reviewed the Accessibility Wizard, I realized that it emphasized that not all institutions were the same but rather that the goal was for all institutions and humans who work in those institutions to work together to accomplish shared goals. In this case, to make accommodations in whatever way individuals require to access information, maintain their safety and acquire employment. Take the Accessibility Wizard to see how your organization can be more accessible.

The question becomes what can the Ontario government do to increase institutional and human interoperability in an accessibility program that aims to bring so many diverse institutions into a common goal?


Thinking with design in mind – is not a novel concept

Complexity is certainly the theme that ran through all that I learned in this week’s module. It began with design thinking that requires the designer to consider all those who might use the device, website or commodity that is being created. Considering the various needs, expectations and potential platforms people can access there are an extraordinary number of possibilities that must be considered as we know. From here, the step into context-aware computing and ubiquitous computing added new levels of complexity with the number of different devices that are available for use.
The You Tube video that follows explains the potentials of ubiquitous computing.

Here is a wonderful example of ubiquitous computing. The world as we might think it should be:

Everything introduced in this seventh week of learning presented mind numbing potential and possibilities while at the same time reinforcing the increasing complexity of the age in which we live. It appears to me that with each new potential and possibility that seems useful, there is an equal if not greater potential and possibility for disaster. The case of the global financial meltdown and the extent that within the global village, a mismanaged economy in Greece or an erupting volcano in Iceland can have dire global impact highlights the complexity in which we live. Since by nature, governments tend to be short sighted, business leaders tend to be self-serving and both of these groups aim to use system designers and engineers for their advantage. It is hard to understand what needs to happen in order for the mechanisms to engage to allow us to work proactively with the negative effects of a highly interconnected world. (Interop, pg. 153)

The question becomes:
What can citizens of the global community look for in a proactive way to ensure that governments and business leaders are implementing mechanisms that will enable us all to deal with the negative effects of a highly interconnected world?

Interoperability in Consumer Empowerment

Or the road to disaster.

This is my third week in the Ryerson Communications program in Digital Skills and Innovation for a Global Economy and I have learned so much. So much that through my excitement I felt compelled to share the pivotal points to you by tweeting the YouTube videos and other views that I felt you would benefit from. There is so much out there as you already know, but to a novice that I feel I am, I have been enjoying this learning and hope you enjoy my adventure. The following YouTube video has the authors of my text Messrs Urs Gasser and John Palfrey on Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems speaking on this subject.

In this week, while I have learned that consumers, companies, and governments should work together for higher levels of interoperability, I learned that what is good for consumers is not necessarily in the best profit interests of companies. This was made clear in the case of chargers for all of our electronic devices. I certainly have a drawer of them and often frustrated in not being able to find the one I need. The fact that the European Union as a result of pressure from consumers and environmentalists finally had the top ten cell phone chargers interoperable by “introducing a shared micro-USB standard” was very encouraging. This “legislation by threat” example pointed out the power of humans if an institution such as the government steps in to apply pressure on companies for greater interoperability. (Palfrey and Gasser, Pg 58-59). This next article explains in more detail the advance technology and why some companies are not so quick to be interoperable.

Without this pressure it seems that achieving horizontal interoperability where all the big companies make their various gadgets or in the case of China, instant messaging tools compatible, is a long term struggle. Companies such as Apple would be inclined to work toward vertical interoperability instead where all the consumers texting, viewing and listening desires are interoperable within the range of “I” products but not beyond. Even here, I learned that strides are being made to expand rather than contract the degree of interoperability (even if in some cases a premium has to be paid) as a result of consumer demands.

Finally as I explored the various instant messaging tools this week, it was interesting to read the case of the Tencent and Qihoo in the “Chinese Internet wars” in my text Interop, pg 67 cited how “consumer demand has played a role in driving interoperability horizontally across platforms.” It was interesting as well that it was computer programmers or the technology layer who were primarily responsible for the successes in this area. There is no doubt that interoperability empowers us in our role as active users of digital technology.

The YouTube video that follows shares more detail about these two internet giants in China.

”Most important from a society perspective, interoperability empowers us in our role as active users of digital technology. The powerful role that interoperability plays in this respect becomes clear when we look at the ways in which millions of computer and smartphone users now can create and share digital content.” (pg 72)

This YouTube video is an example of working together to make improvements to technology that is affordable for all.

The big question is, to what extent in the shrinking number of major players in the global economy, will demands for interoperability make the biggest players more competitive and therefore responsive to consumer demand? And, to what extent might we be setting the stage where one or a few giant companies control the thoughts and communications of all consumers?