Kleshas and Tanhas

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Posts Tagged ‘technology

“Dishes thou art, to dishes returnest”

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Recommended to listen to while reading

There ain’t never been a more patriotic act for volunteers than dishwashing. The whole history of dish washing is simple and easy for anyone and everyone to comprehend. From the Dawn of time, cavemen ate off of bone plates and drank from seashells. Apparently, legend has it, there were no recycling bins; the term “renewable resource” wasn’t the buzzword it is now. There were no bone or shell recycling plants yet for little Jimmy Grotto to partake in school-wide recycling challenges. And so, the origin of dishwashing came about from the lack environmental awareness of our monkey-ancestors.

               To this day, the art of dishwashing has been passed from some of the field’s greatest. Jesus Christ is most notable; the Bible botched the account of whose feet, or rather what chalice, he was washing that one Passover night. (You can’t say that Jesus didn’t help clean up after the Sadr Supper; it wasn’t kosher to eat and run.) Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was really a call for the laborers to become more in touch with their roots, that is, dishwashing. Back in the day, supply and demand had obviously not existed, and there was no need for clean dishes. But during the second week of Genesis’ creation story, Adam had to address a more serious issue than original sin; the huge stack of dishes on their kitchen sink.

In his Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet must’ve had quite a few empty glasses to clean up after that extravaganza. We can only infer that this lyrical genius was pointing to something greater in his songs. That is, the consequences of drinking out of glassware meant that glasses needed to be cleaned. In a not so similar way, Ghandi was known for his fasting. However, this did not mean he was exempt from cleaning up after others if not himself. Taoism’s unknown founder was a dishwasher. And on that note, anyone who has ever eaten a meal at some point in their life has encountered the dish dilemma: Do I clean these dishes or do I slip out the back and run?

The universality of this most sacred (in terms of health) tradition is something to marvel at. In partaking in this elementary act, one gains powerful insight to the greater cosmos of dishwashers. So when I was asked to deviate from my usual service by my superiors to do kitchen duty, I answered the call. Did I know what I was getting into? I sure as hell did! Dishwashing, if it has not been built up already, is the one act that I can string through my past, present, and most-hopefully future acts of service. There’s something rejuvenating about sticking your hands in scalding hot water for the greater glory of sanitization.

And by the way, there’s a reason why there are only men mentioned as some of the mythic heroes of dishwashing. At some point in time, the world became skewed. Somehow, the world’s reflection of itself portrays women performing women work. Today, in a very sexist manner, women are stereotyped as members of Occupy Kitchen. I would like to make a personal testimony that I have bled over dishwashing (quite literally) and find the task to be daunting for the rookies of the trade, male or female.[i] After the first few encounters, one can quickly calculate how many hours x a stack standing at y height will take with z washers.

So there was no surprise on my side when I walked into Mercy Neighborhood Ministries’ kitchen and stared down about an hour’s worth of dishwashing. Ms. Antoinette quickly recognized that I was no newbie when it came to dishwashing. Lessons on how to use an industrial-sized dishwasher are for suckers. By the end of it all, I had those dishes shining like the high-end dishes at the fine dining restaurant I work at back home. It’s inevitable. It’s one’s duty. “Do your dharma” is commonly used phrase in Eastern religions. It means “do your duty.” Do your dishes.

[i] The level of stress a volunteer dishwasher takes on in one load of 2.5 hours’ worth of dishes can take its toll. When I was asked with several other volunteers to do evening dishes in addition to morning dishes, the sight wasn’t pretty. About 30 minutes in, we found ourselves dazed in a mirage of soap n’ bubbles as if we were taking on some task like crossing the Nairobi Desert. In a heroic, maybe more so sporadic, attempt to cheer up one of my fellow volunteers in our grudging work, I blindly grabbed a wet knife fresh from the dishwasher machine. My plan was to emphatically stab the knife into the rubber carton that the cutlery was cleansed in as I shouted a “this is Sparta” line. Let’s just say in this not-so-bright moment, chaos got the better of me as the oddly-shaped cheese knife slid up out of my grip, and through my pinky finger. No cutlery was harmed in this scene. No blood was spilt either, so all health freaks, calm down. (We even ran that batch of silverware back through the washer.)

 

Written by Jack Viere

March 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Disneyland: Maybe More Than Just Dreams Come True

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I apologize for the delay  between this post and the previous one. I have been in a daze from the quick transition from hectic finals week to a vacation in San Diego. And I haven’t found the time to post any pieces. Though, I must say that San Diego has given me a lot to write about!

Piglet is my favorite character from The Hundred Acre Woods. Tiger’s bashfulness never caught my attention. Woody was always more original than Buzz. Rapunzel from Tangled has replaced Cinderella as my favorite princess. And Mickey Mouse; I can take him more seriously than Goofy.

You might ask why an eighteen year old is so opinionated over his Disney characters. Well, the real question is: who isn’t opinionated over their childhood’s influential movie stars? The reason I found myself with my extended family in Disneyland was that it was a monumental return trip that paralleled our earlier adventure from years past. Same family members, same place, a new experience. I must confess that the magic never dies as you grow older.

That being said, an eighteen year old’s vision is more likely to detect the extraordinary activities that are not related to the Disney theme. I cannot recall if I blotted out these events when I was younger or if I just didn’t really detect them. Either way, a person’s action has an effect on his or her neighbor’s experience in the “real world.” In Disneyland, where children hug and take pictures of their favorite characters, one would hope that every effort would be made to create the recreation of what one views on the big screen. And, if I might add, Disneyland goes out of their way to cater to this “magical need” that people are paying for more so than another theme park like Busch Gardens or Six Flags.

We encountered a scenario that included several of these rash, disruptive actions that killed Disney’s magic. As we waited in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, we commented on how the lines were constantly moving to give the effect that we were not waiting as long as we thought. Before we knew it, we had pulled down the safety bar and were being transported to Tortuga Island. I really enjoyed looking up and seeing stars on the ceiling and gave into the feeling that I was outside passing shipwrecks.

Pirate booty littered the scenes we floated past until we reached a port that was under siege. “Yo ho ho/ A pirate’s life for me” was continuously yodeled as we went by in the dim light. Fake fire flickered. Other boats were lining behind one another up ahead; the end of the ride must be near! I equated that the ride was worth the wait as we bumped into the boat in front of us, letting my mind wander my mind back to the “real world.”

We had yet to clear the tunnel that would transport us back to Disneyland when we realized that there was a traffic jam. We were still in earshot of “Yo ho ho.” A drunk pirate robot character sat above us pouring out whiskey for his befriended feline. An incline was ahead that would most likely lead us to the final descent before we would make port. I thought this was the reason for our traffic jam; rides need that proper spacing so one car doesn’t slam into the next one.

Our boat drifted in line behind another until we were pushed by another. We finally entered the tunnel to escape the loud “Yo ho hoing” when I realized something was amiss. “Oh well,” I thought. “I’ll let my Patience Skills level up,” as if my life was like the Star Wars Game of Life. Maybe it’s the college student’s ability to take a nap anywhere at any time, which I took full advantage of, but freaking out typically does not help any situation. In this scenario, the moral of the story is yelling-power does not propel the boat forward in situations as such.

Upon waking up after dozing for three minutes, the pirates’ singing ceased. And in retrospection, we concluded that this initiated the panic-syndrome that every human being is equipped with at birth. The background music was soothing (I guess) for those who were more likely to panic; the gracious mothers and fathers that paid the pricey admissions fee for their children to experience that savory Disney magic. No one wants that feeling ruined. Yet, that complete sense of control that panic-prone people desire on days like the trip to Disneyland has to be forfeited. Theme parks, especially those like Disneyland that create a magical feel for their audience, need to have control over more than just the rides and attractions. Consequently, you see “Cast Members Only” signs that allow for the in-between-times to be filled with magic. So even when you’re waiting in line for Space Mountain, you still might catch Buzz Lightyear signing autographs.

Most people unknowingly secede their control on entering theme parks. However, when they look to unnecessarily regain control in instances such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, they flail as they try to get a grip.

Hell broke loose after eight minutes and forty-two seconds passed by without the boat moving anywhere. The lights came on and cast members appeared to reassure passengers that everything was alright. The loudspeaker announced, “Arms, legs, and heads should remain in the boat.” At that, I think people commenced to flop around like fish looking for the water. With the theme music paused, the combination of silence and lights on brought out the worst in human beings.

Kids started complaining about the wait. The woman sitting directly in front of me turned to a Cast Member who was quite obviously not the technician solving the technical difficulty and said, “We have been for twenty-five minutes and she (referring to her four-year old daughter) needs to go to the restroom. I will not have her fricking pee in her pants!” That’s appropriate for all other kids to hear, I initially thought. But on reflecting, it exemplifies the lack of control parents do not realize they have forfeited when they were locked into their seats.

Soon thereafter erupted a voice from the boat in front of us. A chilling sound that would make the hairs stand on the back of necks of cut throat killers; “Get me off this boat!” It was as if some poor kid didn’t know what a throat lozenge was combined with a roar of a dragon. All I could think was, “How is this helping the situation? What parent would let their children start this mini-riot…” I felt distanced from the issue at hand, as if I was an observer rather than a part of the equation, when the chanting began. “What is it this, Lord of the Flies?” The dim lighting, impatience, and fear from the lack control were the ingredients for chaos.

These bizarre scenarios are amusing if you can remove yourself from the irrational behavior that we are susceptible to fall in under certain circumstances. This isn’t to say that I enjoy people’s struggles and hardships. But small, unpredictable tests of patience really can bring out the darker side of human nature. Many people turn a blind eye to this quality of the person in the hope to raise their esteem. This not only kills the magic in Disneyland but that spark of life in our everyday world.

Written by Jack Viere

December 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

There is something ethically vitalizing while riding trains

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You can’t help but see the underbelly of society; the infrastructure that one can sense, but no one wants to admit exists. Riding the SEPTA in Philadelphia over the Schuylkill River displays you the declining socio-economic classes that are compiled into what is called a city. Starting with middle class homes and their neighboring duplexes, the train passed more barbed wire fences and broken concrete as you enter Center City Philadelphia. Wrecked buildings are still inhabited since the city’s orange conviction notices did not label any doors. Garbage is that factor to gauge the destitution that communities face. You realize that garbage is an expense; you pay for garbage pickups and disposals-something that a college student wouldn’t realize offhand. While people cannot afford a new window to replace shattered glass or fix their deteriorating homes, how will they be able to properly dispose of their trash?

And then suddenly, as if the poverty witnessed was all a dream, the train magically arrives at a transportation hub. Filled with prominent business people that sit across from the untouchables, you begin to smell the pretzel shop at 30th Street Station. The sky is grey, allowing no sunshine to breach the windows as you walk widely around those that invade your path. Your smartphone of choice is your compass that your nose is pressed to in the hope that you don’t trip, fall, and land face first into the lap of one of the beggars.

God forbid you spill that Starbucks you sip as you walk down to the platform. Waiting impatiently, you pull your collar up closer while experiencing the smallest of glimpses of what the homeless must feel. You’re still inside; you’re only catching a slight breeze from the opening on the other side of the platform. And so you continue to sip that coffee as if it’s some barrier keeping you from being no different than the beggar that you avoided up stairs; he’s now sitting directly above you, still looking on with his bleak eyes. Your smartphone happens to be out again, acting as your status shield. It says, “Don’t worry everyone; I am financially sound and stable! I can’t afford to be here now though, I have to check Facebook statuses from the past and Like events in the future.” Is the present too expensive for the well-off? The poor man upstairs was rich enough…“But more importantly, I have that piece of plastic to suggest otherwise, don’t I?”

As you become situated in your own row that is designed for two but Mr. Suitcase fills that extra seat, you look up from your phone. Staring after college girl and her body before she turns; you think no one sees you as you try to mask your act as some sort of thinking posture; “Did I crunch those numbers correctly?”

Your dream turns into a nightmare as your Amtrak starts pulling out of the station. You leave the city’s prominent skyline-buildings and stumble into a rapid decline into the impoverished areas again. This time it’s worse. You see the outskirts of another city: Baltimore. Where did those hours go; the time in between Philly to here? It couldn’t have been the suckers only free Wi-Fi, could it?

 

The portion of Baltimore’s underbelly you’re witnessing is worse than Philadelphia’s. This time, you see white conviction notices that bar individuals from inhabiting eroding structures that you dare to call a home. More grey. More trash. Less people. As you’re about to look back down to some distraction in your lap, a magazine or a laptop-“What’s the difference these days when you can get your news online?”-something catches your eye. The train is slowing for the next station; why is there such an obnoxiously colored turf in one of the traffic medians? Its highlighter quality is in glaring contrast to its surrounding counterparts; broken benches, broken homes, a broken community.

That baby won’t stop crying any time soon will it? Luckily, I have those Bose headphones. One of the best purchases of my life! Or was it a gift from Tina? It doesn’t matter, I’m almost home. I can just see myself waking up from this mess.

Written by Jack Viere

December 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm

A Crippling Digital Divide: Social Injustice Caused by Advertisements Part 2

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Today, America’s attitude towards consumption exacerbates the digital divide between higher income individuals and lower socio-economic groups. In Time’s Luxury Survey, research shows a surge in consumerism with those born between 1980 and 2000. “Because [18-27 year olds have] grown up in the age of dotcom billionaires, wealth and success are a given” (Time, 2008). At the turn of the century came the invention of the smartphone. In 1992, IBM’s Simon was a concept smartphone that initiated the trend of handheld devices (Schneidawind, 1992). While this technology evolved into the sleek, status-fulfilling must-have-item, a sense of inherent exigency began to dominate young adults. The category “looking stylish is important to feeling good about myself” had a 93% approval vote from young adults (Time, 2008). The smartphone’s timely introduction during the turn of the century has taken advantage of America’s new fashion; consumption.

What further deepens the digital divide is advertisers’ selection of who is depicted using what product. In another commercial, Boost Mobile promotes its Anthem 2.0 phone. Among others, rapper Young Jeezy advertises the new product by using lines of his material to promote the practicality of Boost Mobile’s deal offered sublimely through the thirty second clip (Boost Mobile, 2007). In this instance, Boost Mobile promotes their Anthem 2.0 to a young, pop-culture-fixed consumer population. With several rappers promoting their product, Boost Mobile attracts the attention of not only the youth, but a black population as well. In contrast with this specific commercial, Apple products are geared towards a white population. In a commercial promoting a Macintosh computer, actor Justin Long utilizes wit and charm to depict the sharp edge of Apple products (Apple, 2007). There is a drastic difference between these two commercials; it is easy to see who is to be using what brands of technology.

It is no coincidence, then, that the racial divide in America factors into the digital divide. Preying upon crude stereotypes, commercials depict more than who should be using what form of technology; they depict a financial gap between the races that is prevalent in today’s society. “The poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites was lower than the poverty rates for other racial groups…For Blacks, the poverty rate increased to 27.4 percent in 2010, up from 25.8 percent in 2009” (Census Bureau, 2010). This conveys that the white population is more financially sound to purchase expensive technologies such as the Macintosh computer in the Apple commercial. “Broken down by race and ethnicity, African American residents of rural areas and central cities had the lowest level of access to computers (6.4 and 10.4 percent), followed by central city Latinos (10.5 percent)” (Modarres, 2011). Computers allow for more than social networking, emails, and entertainment; the limitations of a smartphone. Computers enable a white population to a more expansive spread of technology, information, and internet use.

From this difference between the levels of access to the internet derives a social injustice. While there exists a digital divide between upper and lower socio-economic classes, there is a misconception that smartphones are closing the gap by allowing access to the internet.

“While there is a distinction between using a phone for communication and using it to access digital information, it should be equally obvious that having a smart phone is not the same as having a networked computer (laptop or desktop) that allows the user to create and manage a business or a community Web site” (ibid).

Non-white, typically poorer consumers are able to purchase cheap deals from companies like Boost Mobile and the issue of the digital divide appears to be solved. However, smartphones only allow for a limited access to the internet. Social networking does not equate to a full, complete use of the internet, and assuming that smartphones are bridging the digital divide is ethically harmful.

The social injustice, then, is the limited internet access poorer individuals have and the misperceptions of affluent individuals who believe that smartphones are a legitimate portal for a full access to the internet. This inhibits the poor from gaining better access to knowledge as well as cripples young peoples’ education.

“The most devastating consequences of the digital divide are the long-term effects it will have on today’s youth. Lacking access to technology and computer skills, an entire generation will be disempowered from realizing its full potential to contribute to society” (Koss, 2001).

Furthermore, the statistics from the US Census Bureau support Time’s concept of young adults’ intrinsic need for material goods. While more expensive computers would be more beneficial in an educational setting for today’s youth, cheaper, more attainable, and incomplete smartphones are fashionable and more captivating for young people to purchase. The media drives this social injustice by depicting who is to buy what products by feeding off of racial stereotypes. As a result, innovations, such as smartphones, are frequently built on top of misconceptions. Change, in this instance, is restrained by empowered advertisers. As Heraclitus once said, “Nothing endures but change.” The hold that advertisers have on their consumers disproves Heraclitus; people will buy what is trendy and ignore the social injustice that they create for themselves.

References

Apple. (2007, January 9). Get a mac-surgery [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci2D1ig4df4

Alverman, D. E. (2004). Media, Information Communication Technologies, and Youth Literacies: A

Cultural Studies Perspective. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(1), 78-83. doi:10.1177/0002764204267271

Boost Mobile. (2011, April 6). Working man [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZX6tHkW7xg

Boost Mobile. (2007, December 23). Anthem 2.0 rap commercial [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnvYBtZNowU

Coupland, D. (1991). Generation x, tales for an accelerated culture. St. Martin’s Griffin.

Koss, F.A. (2001). Children Falling into the Digital Divide. Journal Of International Affairs, 55(1), 75.

LaGesse, D. (2001). So many gadgets and so little time. U.S. News & World Report, 130(2), 36.

Modarres, A. (2011). Beyond the digital divide. National Civic Review, 100(3), 4-7. doi10.1002/ncr.20069

Pain. S. (2006). The phone that roared. New Scientist. 190(2550).

Schneidawind, J. (1992). Big blue unveliling. USA Today.

The Luxury Survey. (Cover story). (2008). Time, 17158-59

U.S. Census Bureau. (2009, October). Current population survey, reported internet usage for

households, by selected householder. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/publications/2009.html

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, September). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the united

states: 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

35% of American Adults Own a Smartphone. (2011, July 11). PewResearchCenter Publications. Retrieved

December 3, 2011, from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2054/smartphone-ownership-demographics-iphone-blackberry-android

Written by Jack Viere

December 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

A Crippling Digital Divide: Social Injustice Caused by Advertisements Part 1

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Statistics are biased; they only depict numbers, not people and their identities. The theses that are developed from predisposed statistics are mere coincidences that are shared among human populations. As a result, innovations are frequently built on top of misconceptions. Change, in this instance, is brought about erroneously by empowered individuals. As Heraclitus once said, “Nothing endures but change.” This would prove to be dangerous if change was coerced and manipulated by several individuals to capitalize the least advantaged.

Today’s youth is more technologically savvy than the elderly. Cultural studies conducted in the early 21st century point to their ability to multitask:

“Youth of all ages…use media in junction with various information communication technologies…to communicate with their peers and relatives, to say current in what matters to them, to shop, to relax, to create personal Web pages…among other things.” (Alverman, 2004.)

As a result, advertisements target an age group that is more susceptible of being concerned with what is fashionable. Technology feeds the youth’s inborn disease of multitasking that never existed in their parent’s generation. The only formidable explanation for Generation X’s (Coupland, 1991) use of technology is its strong attraction to convenience. Advertisements select to whom specific pieces of technology are to be sold. Their shift in focus to adults defines their product as sophisticated for professional use. For example, email shortens the previous time it would take to send snail-mail. Still, Generation X does not idiosyncratically partake in social networking, nonverbal communication, and entertainment as today’s youth so avidly does. By gearing advertisements towards a younger generation, advertisers force today’s youth to become more susceptible to consume spontaneously.

Fabian Koss, one of the founders and coordinators of the Inter-American Working Group on Youth Development, has measured technologies’ effect on the youth. Initially, he defines the digital divide as “the gap between individuals…at different socio-economic levels and their opportunities to access information and communication technologies” (Koss, 2001). Within this definition there are two factors that are rudimentary to not only the definition of the digital divide, but to the social injustice it creates; socio-economic levels and individuals’ access.

The poor have insufficient financial means to access technology. “In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009” (Census Bureau, 2010). This can be seen as the digital divide; the socio-economic gap between the wealthy and the impoverished. But is this an entirely fair or just assumption? Are certain socio-economic groups lacking information and communication technologies? If they are, is this evidence alone enough to deem the digital divide a social injustice?

Before the increase of handheld devices, the digital divide was misunderstood; poorer neighborhoods did not have access to telephones and computers. “The poorest households in central cities had the lowest level of access to telephones (with a market penetration rate of 79.8 percent), and the rural poor had the lowest level of access to computers (4.5 percent)” (Modarres, 2011). But with the invention of smartphones and social networking, individuals gained access to cheap technology. While the prices of computers and laptops remained high, the destitute skipped the basic technological “necessities” such as a telephone.

Modern technology for individual use has a timeline beginning with the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 (Pain, 2006). Subsequently, abled consumers connected the dots from one product invented for the individual to the next. Most notable of these products on the timeline in the 21st century are the digital camera, desktop PC, and the cellphone (LaGesse, 2001). As a result of technologies being fashioned for individuals, a stark contrast grew between the consumption of material goods between the affluent and the poor.

This contrast between the haves and the haven-nots creates the groundwork for the misconception wealthier socio-economic classes have better access to the internet than the poor. While the wealthier have a more obvious financial means to purchase desktop computers and Wi-Fi, this does not lead to the conclusion that poor people, who do not have financial means for desktops and Wi-Fi, do not have access to the internet. This is a hasty generalization; to assume that the only method of reaching the internet is from computers, and only the wealthy have access to these computers.

The digital camera, desktop PC, and cellphone have been combined into one piece of technology: a smartphone. An added characteristic sets smartphones away from telephones and cellphones: internet access. Pew Research Center Publications has found that 35% of American adults own a smartphone. Of these smartphone users, “87%…access the internet or email on their handheld device…25% of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer”(Pew Research, 2011). These statistics suggest two points, the first being that there is a large portion of the adult population using smartphones. Cheap deals and advertising directed towards specific archetypal individuals enable for users of all types. A Boost Mobile commercial titled “Working Man” depicts a man’s busy workday:

He holds several positions of employment such as a construction worker, delivery man, window washer, desk temp, and toilet cleaner. As he scrubs the toilet, he uses his smartphone to send a message saying, “How many jobs do I need to pay for a cellphone bill?!” The commercial ends with “$50” dropping by increments of five dollars until it reaches “$35” (Boost Mobile, 2011).

At $35, Boost Mobile offers a low monthly rate for calling, texting, and internet access. This is Pew Research’s second point: smartphones offer internet access. In this advertisement, the lower and middle classes are offered access to the internet.

While the destitute may be left without any financial means, even for food, water, or shelter, lower income individuals are tempted by bargains like Boost Mobile’s $35 monthly rate. “Even among those with a household income of $30,000 or less, smartphone ownership rates for those ages 18-29 are equal to the national average…44% of blacks and Latinos are smartphone users” (Pew Research, 2011). This statistic addresses the misconception that only the wealthy have access to the internet. Through smartphones, the less-advantaged have access to the internet. In fact, the United States Census Bureau holds that 57.5% of high school graduates have access to internet. This percentage is dwarfed by college graduate’s 88.5% (Census Bureau, 2009). However, those who are capable of attaining a job after high school, like those vocations depicted in the Boost Mobile’ commercial, are able to gain access to the internet. This is not to say that non-high school graduates and the poor necessarily have internet access; statistics show that out of the people who do not graduate high school, 32.2% have internet access (ibid). Low income households and individuals are able to access the internet; typically through smartphones.

To be continued…

Written by Jack Viere

December 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Map vs. GPS

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Today, there’s a readiness and willingness to accept information from machines at face value with no discernment. Technology is just a machine, a computer at best. There’s no human judgement values, personal experiences, or wisdom in technology. Specifically, GPS’s are not really giving you an actual destination. It’s a computer that is taking you from point A to point B in the GPS’s system. A simple equation. (We use to be able to solve it with a thing called a map.) The problem arises from our believing that the GPS is really depicting an actual, tangible place. It has the undetectable illusion that is presenting the driver with a real place by showing qualities of the destination. Just because a computer can intake data and spit it back out to the user does not mean it discerns like a human mind.

Google has the ability to run specific search engines that evolve regularly due to its tracking bugs that automatically find new data to intake.  A person had to preprogram the logarithm for that bug to have the illusion of working self-sufficiently. Technology is the extension of human discernment that is propelled by our seeming growing need for convenience. Technology is NOT its own entity that should outweigh or completely for stomp out the individual’s ability to make decisions, especially those affecting him or herself.

I felt motivated to write out the above reflection as a reply to a classmate’s self-righteous exclamation: “Do you even know how to use a map?” Directed at my professor, I couldn’t help but smirk at his idea that maps are already outdated. Maybe they are, but I thought it was quite the assumption to make. Anyways, to me, it sounded like someone saying, “Don’t you know that 2+2=4?” to a college professor. Of course it was said with the tone inclining some sort of rhetorical question. Our professor said he preferred maps over GPS’s; I concurred at which the classmate proceeded to say that maps are susceptible to being outdated. I don’t think you need Garmin and MapQuest to tell you that, buddy. I think the cartographers  back in the day were well aware of the fact their product was susceptible to change when new information and details were procured from further research. On reflection, this gradual process of receiving and editing new data seems more plausible (in my opinion) than the GPS saying, “Turn left now,” leading you into a ravine, which (I’d argue) most people would do as they have their heads down, texting away on their iPhone 4s’s. When the smoke clears, and we crawl out of the ditch, we would then proceed to say, “Stupid GPS! It did not update itself!”

So basically that argument is whether you trust a map that will become outdated or you trust a voice on a GPS. That’s really not my point because it boils down to preference. (I don’t think a map has ever misled its user into a ditch though…even if the roads are rerouted, we don’t follow the road as intently as a GPS, hunched over, waiting for Mr. Australian Accent to lead us to the next point within the list of directions.)

My point is to question why or how do we find ourselves so ready to accept information from technology. Why do we have a desire to let things take control (like machines) as we sit back and take the passenger seat? Is it really out of convenience? If it is, how are we any better than animals if our rationale is only to make our life more convenience? (Medicine, machines, weapons, computers-making everything a little easier for us, allowing everyone to take the passenger seat and let technology take us for a spin.)

I think Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity all point to being in control of one’s own actions and one’s own mind.

Buddhism: the Eightfold Path has a few points worth mentioning. Falling under a broader category of Mental Development, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration all speak of  self-control. There’s really no presence of those three in our lifestyle when we take the backseat with technology.

Hinduism: the Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga; I’ve been reading a lot into this in one of my courses. Pratyahara, control of the senses. Dharana, concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness. We might be shutting down our senses (and survival skills at that) when we choose to allow technology dominate our decision-making. We really have no shot of cultivating any type of awareness, more or less the inner perceptual kind that many faiths shoot for.

Christianity: this could prove to be a little more difficult since there aren’t many lists in mainstream Christianity. I’d point out that in the Catholic context (which has many a good list) the Seven Deadly Sins has a little something-something called sloth and gluttony. While that may be a bit extreme in the instance of the GPS, taking the back seat in faith (which is a part of every day life, even when we choose to make it not,) is still letting other people”’ and other things do our work.

On a final note, in summarizing, I don’t think technology is wrong at all; that’d be to argue that all the scientific advances (like medicine-that does fall under that category) were for the worse. Absurd. But in the field of something like medicine, it’s not the meds that are making advances on its own. Its the researches, scientists, and physicians that propel medicinal advances.

So why, then, do we take the back seat?

Written by Jack Viere

November 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm