Thursday, April 9, 2009

All he wrote....

So the school year has come to a close. Amidst writing my final essays, I am compelled to complete another blog entry. First of all, I would like to comment on my blogging experience. I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it. Although I am clearly not the best or most interesting blogger, I did find it nice to write about certain issues that I found to be relevant. I have come believe that to being an effective blogger is really a skill. On the bright side however, it is in most cases a skill that can be acquired. To be an effective blogger one must be entertaining as well as insightful and witty. After reading Bill's blog as well as Rob McDougall's, and then comparing it to mine, you can see a difference with respect to the content as well as the approach. All things considered however I believe that the blogging portion of this course is very beneficial. It allowed us to express ourselves on various issues with the ability to be analyzed and critiqued by our peers. It has been a fun and effective way to relay many of our ideas which we were perhaps unable to in class.

With respect to the course itself? Well, again I found much of the material to be very useful and the ideas discussed in class to be interesting to say the least. I really think there is something to this art of Digital History. When I first began the course I had no idea what we would be learning throughout the year. How can history be digital? What is digital? Well the answer to these questions is not an easy one, but it is addressed many times throughout the course. The idea of Digital History is not a new one but has become increasingly important in today's world. With the creation of the w.w.w. the amount of information available has grown exponentially! What are we going to do with all this information and who will organize it into useful and not useful. I am left with believing that the answer to this question is quite complex. My personal belief as maintained throughout the course is that this is a wonderful thing, the internet. The fear has often been that technology is moving to quickly or that we are becoming lazier. The book in paper form will soon be replaced by scanned copies and there will be no incentive to write. Well quite frankly I disagree with these beliefs. I love using the internet, it is truly a great resource, but it is a limited resource! It is a great starting point for many individuals looking to begin their research about various topics. It is a great way to mesh many ideas and bring other new ones to the fore. But again, it is only a limited resource and it will stay that way. People will continue to publish books and they will continue to be sold. There really is something to buying a new book and cracking its spine for the first time. With regards to some of the other technologies we discussed throughout the year many of them proved to be interesting to say the least. It really is difficult to determine what the future of our digital community is, it will be useful and relevant but not threatening.

Finally, the Harvey Project. Besides sort-of learning how to program ( I say sort-of because I think it's impossible to fully learn how to program) this project taught me quite a bit. Clearly there is a continuity between Harvey's work and that of his predecessor Galen. That is not to discredit Harvey however who made perhaps one of the biggest breakthroughs in medical history! Overall I think the project itself was a complete success. Although our visitor turnout could have been more significant I believe those who came really enjoyed the exhibit. We really worked hard on each of our components and feel as though we were all somewhat surprised to see that they turned out as well as they did. The exhibit is a great reflection of how one can utilize a historical event, and express its content and significance through a digital means. I really think we did that! I enjoyed working with everyone in the class this year and I recommend this course to anyone looking to learn more about the significant digital world and how it applies to history through a hands on approach. Although I myself am in the course based program, I can see how much of what we have done throughout the year pertains to what I am involved in throughout my research as well. For those in public history, programming as well as learning how to make an effective exhibit is invaluable.

Thanks for a great year!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The word is Kiva...

Last weeks discussion about Robots has inspired to me to blog about them this week! Recently in the news a new type of Robot has entirely replaced the staff at a Staples Business Depot warehouse. Although this may sound insignificant, these robots can life 4 times their weight and move paper four times quicker than the average human. Creator Michael Mountz says that "The Kiva robots, powered by rechargeable lead-acid batteries, are typically 2 feet by 2.5 feet (0.6 metres by 0.76 metres) and stand a foot (0.3 m) high, with blue running lights on their orange facades. They weigh 250 pounds apiece and can carry four times their weight, a trait that befits the company's name: Kiva is a Hopi word for "meeting place of the ant people." These robots use scanning technology to know where to go and where not to go in the warehouse so that they do not bunch into each other. For example (depending on the item) a Kiva carrying a box of pens versus one carrying paper come into each others path. They read labels stuck to the floor to see where they are going and simply zoom around the warehouse on wheels to various shelves to pick up the stock. They make it to their destination at the shelf and begin spinning up a cork-screw-like skid that picks up whatever item is needed to bring it to where it is needed. What can I say? This is amazing! I have enclosed a video, of coarse presented by YouTube to show you exactly how these things work, its quite amazing.
So what does this type of invention mean? With this type of technology are we making things easier at the expense of our employment or does it simply create productivity and the ability to focus on more meaningful tasks?
The answer I think is YES!! To begin with they are electronically cost efficient as they do not take up much power, they get the job done much faster, but perhaps more importantly it reduces the amount of workplace injuries that take place which are a huge problem pretty well anywhere. The fact that they are now being offered even cheaper than before makes them all the more accessible to various companies. Mountz says that that "Kiva can outlast the downturn and be ready to scoop up clients in a recovery. He compares his company with the Internet successes that emerged in the wake of the dot-com bust. "Web 2.0 is plowing ahead," he says, "Kiva is fulfillment of 2.0." Whether or not he is right will be determined in the next 5-10 years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

yadda yadda yadda..... send send send

I wanted to take the time this week to raise some interesting points about cell phones, considering that I would bet money everyone in the class has one. I got my first cell phone very early on, around 1998, and I did so only because it had that cool snake game on it! I have been using a cell phone pretty much ever since. Do I like having a cell phone? NO!! I hate it, but it has honestly become a part of my life, as random as that sounds. We are all creatures of habit and honestly I would argue that nearly everyone in our class "NEEDS" their cell phone. The problem with having a cell phone is first of all the cost! The average monthly cell phone bill in North America is about $82.00. Can you imagine how much these companies are making in profit every year? The second is the health issue. Although it is still not conclusive, cell phones reportedly cause brain tumors and other disorders. The third downside of using a cell phone of course is that they can, and often do, cause accidents because people use them while operating machinery and driving. So what is it about the cell phone that makes it so appealing to everyone? Well I think that first of all this is a social phenomenon. Using Lisa's 17 year old sister as an example, I began to realize that teens would often rather use their phones and text one another than actually meet in person. One statistic I came across revealed that the average cell phone user sends around 250 texts per month. Although there are often text message bundles and plans, this number is still profound. Some users can send anywhere from 250 - 4000 messages per month. 4000 messages per month averages out to 129/day!!! Who has that kind of time? It is a quick and easy way to communicate and so it is appealing. But the new cell phones don't stop with text messaging and now picture messaging. The new smart phones let you do just about anything! A smart phone has the ability to e-mail, live chat, video chat, conference chat, surf the web, use GPS, play games and even come as MP3 players. Again, as with my post on the automotive industry, what next? I honestly love having my cell phone and I don't know if I could survive with it, but I mean is this really necessary or has this just been a fad and a fashion statement. Cell phone companies are charging 400-600 dollars for their phones unless you are lured into a contract for 3 years! If this trend continues what happens next? Anyways, I gotta go someones calling me! ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Youtube for sale...

In recent news Google (the owners of Youtube) have announced that they are flirting with the idea of making the video's available for download as opposed to only streaming. This idea however is potentially going to come at a cost. This initiative is being done for the purpose of 2 reasons. The first is to stimulate further creativity and the second to make money in a struggling economy. YouTube is planning on selling their video's for $1US. You|Tube spokespersons have said that since purchasing YouTube they have been looking for various ways to make money from it besides just advertising and although they are not expected to attract any serious content service provider partners they are convinced that this will be a success. The issue for me with this type of thing is that nobody is going to want to pay money for these video's. I mean yes they are entertaining and you can find clips of just about anything, but in an age with Torrent downloading and Rapidshare I can't imagine people paying anything to watch a cat chase a mouse through the garage for 2 min. Although I can side with Google that this is a clever idea, I just simply don't buy it. I can't imagine this type of idea appealing to anyone and I think advertising as a source of revenue is enough at this point. Let us have our YouTube, does everything have to cost money? I find this particularily problematic because we, the potential consumers, are the ones who are publishing and creating most of these videos and now we may be charged for it? And what about getting paid for our own video? Do we get a cut? Now there is an idea!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Future of Chat.......

This is more of a rhetorical question than a blog post but it is something that we are all a part of. I want to discuss the evolution of Chat and where it could possibly be heading. As far as I can remember the first online chat program that I signed up for was called MIRC. It stands for Internet Relay Chat and is a chat interface.It is used to communicate, share, play or work with others on IRC networks around the world, either in multi-user group conferences or in one-to-one private discussions. Mirc, when I first started using it, was an easy way to chat with various people around the world but had no easy and coherent way of gathering friends in the local area so I found myself chatting to random people around the world (kinda cool). Then came the introduction of MSN. It was the new way to communicate and seemed so convenient and easy to use. Simply search someones hotmail address and you add them to you list. There was also the neat option, if you wanted, to search people your own age or with similar interests. It also came with a fully functioning email account and seemed the end all to chat programs. And then along comes Facebook. What can I say about it? Well I think like most people I share a Love/Hate relationship with Facebook. I think it is an easy and convenient way to communicate with friends and family around the world. It is easy to use, easy to access, fairly secure and practical. You can view and post pictures, songs, videos and other exciting multimedia as well as chat or exchange messages. But to be honest with you, its just too much. I mean I enjoy being in Facebook once a day or so for a few minutes but it can be so time consuming when someone posts a wedding album consisting of 200 photo's. The worst part about it is that now if you don't look at all those pictures and comment on them, they get pissed off at you. So I mean having that option of doing more in a way forces you into having to do it. (If that makes sense) My question than is, What the hell is next? I mean what else can we come up with? It kind of scares me to be honest with you! Anyways I have to go check My Wall so I'll write next week!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Beware of the germ!!

I recently became acquainted with a new area of history which I have had no prior knowledge, the History of the Germ. I recently reviewed Nancy Tomes, "The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life" and was absolutely fascinated with how little I knew about germs and germ theory. I don't say this from simply a medical perspective but rather how influential the germ is in how we've been conditioned to think and the problems that arise as a result. Tomes begins by referring to a mother teaching her son to cover up before sneezing and washing his hands after using the bathroom. But does the mother know why? The relationship between our understanding of various germs has had an immense influence on our society. The author refers to one fascinating example of how in 1984 a young man contracted HIV by receiving an injection to treat a heart condition he had. This young man was completely shunned from his community and on one particular day someone shot a bullet through his living room window. This is how important it is that we perceive germs and germ theory properly. People are often completely misinformed and mis-educated on various topics and we become afraid of what we don't know. For Tomes, understanding how the Germ Theory developed allows us to deal with our present understanding of germs. She also shows us how it is vital to create our own Gospel of Germs. A new Gospel which will deal with new challenges and diseases that we face in society today. Our understanding of the Germ theory can be compared to those who perceived Galen and Harvey's works but perhaps in a less radical way. Regardless of which century we are talking about, the relationship between our social understanding of the body and our medical understanding of it has shaped culture.

Now before you go ahead and comment on my post, make sure you wipe down your keyboard.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Future Backwards...

The holidays have come to an end, Christmas is officially over, and what can be said about the month of December from an economic perspective? Across Canada the unemployment rate jumped by 0.3 percentage points to 6.6 per cent in December as 34,000 jobs disappeared, with almost half the losses in Alberta.It had been the second consecutive month of significant job losses with declines in full-time jobs and the construction sector leading the declines. With unemployment down creating a financial drought it comes as no surprise that people were hesitant to buy any large items for Christmas and people were planning to spend about 76% less than usual. One of the biggest areas worth examining is the automotive sector during these times and what they are doing to rebound from their losses?
Are you curious?
I was, and what did I find? Ford, in the first quarter of last year was already down 8.7 Billion dollars and the trend continued throughout the remaining months. To offset these huge losses and bounce back on their feet Ford recently announced the production of a new line of technological perks that will be found in new cars. These electronic gadgets are said to be internet ready and more interactive than ever. So let's step back and have a good look at this. Last week I saw a women driving a car, talking on her cell phone and eating something and now Ford is proposing Online Facebook in your car? Come on!!! I realize you are trying to spark the economy and get yourselves out of the hole but I can almost assure you that the production of these gadgets will not be in North America but in China or somewhere out East.
But at least we can "poke" one another and create events on Facebook while we drive from one Gas station to the next.