Saturday, April 28, 2012

Attack of the 845 Million Facebook Users

The last days of Yvette Vickers' life were spent contacting people she had never met, fans in far off places, not family members or friends. In fact, no one will ever know the exact age of the movie star featured in such cult classics as "The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," and "Attack of The Giant Leeches." When she was found dead in her home, her body had been there for so long that it was mummified. According to the coroner, she might have been there for six months or a year. So how could a cult heroine spend her last days browsing the internet chatting with strangers?

The Atlantic Monthly likens this loss of connection, or loneliness, to our new "broader but shallower" relationships, relationships we have garnered through Facebook and other social media. In "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" Stephen Marche believes that "in a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information."

So how lonely are we?

There are currently about 845 million connected Facebook users all reaching out and poking each other.

27 percent of adults live alone. "In 1950, less than 10 percent of American households contained only one person."

35 percent of adults over the age of 45 are chronically lonely. In 2000, that figure was 20 percent.

20 percent of all Americans are unhappy because they are lonely.

25 percent of people have no personal confidants - no one to talk to when they need a friend or a shoulder to cry on.

But all these lonely, unhappy people are good for something. The rise in clinical psychologists, social workers, family and marriage counselors has risen dramatically.

There are many social trends that encourage isolation: moving to the burbs, watching too much television, the disintegration of the traditional family, the rejection of faith, the mainlining of social media and all its iterations, video games--moving away to college. It seems we want to isolate ourselves, especially since we spend enormous amounts of money on these lifestyle choices.

Author Stephen Marche posits the following: "The question of the future is this: Is Facebook part of the separation or part of the congregating; is it a huddling-together for warmth or a shuffling-away in pain?" Do you have any face-to-face friends that you can talk to when you're feeling down? Put another way, when was the last time you picked up the phone and called your mom (dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, BFF, etc.) just to say hi? Or do you just "socialize" on Facebook?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sometimes you just gotta dance . . .

Everybody gets stressed out.

Sometimes it's from too much studying, or lack thereof (I'm gonna flunk this test). Other times stress comes from too much working, or lack thereof (How am I gonna pay the rent?).

But sometimes you just gotta dance . . .

At other times, just having a good laugh will clear your head and help you move onto harder subjects, even something like physics, or whatever the professor is teaching in the following video. A cathartic emotional release purges the emotions and relieves emotional tensions, "especially through certain kinds of art, tragedy or music." Both of these videos qualify as art, such as music and, in Zoro's case, even a bit of tragedy.

So take time to laugh and then get back to work with a fresh outlook and you'll find things may just be a little bit easier.

What kind of quick stress relief do you practice to keep your head on straight?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

E-Rater Tips and Tricks

Who needs teachers when you can let a robot do the grading? Some colleges have recently started using robo-graders to score English assessment tests and students already know how to "beat" the system.

Students who have taken the test, offer the following advice: use big words with lots of syllables, spell every word correctly, and write at least a six-paragraph essay.

The New York Times recently ran an article entitled "Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously". Here's the advice they gave students when writing an essay scored by E-Rater (not really, but this is what the studies found):

Write your own subjective truth. Don't worry about whether your prose is factual or not, it seems that Robo-Graders can't tell the difference between whoppers and facts.

Write really long and seemingly complicated sentences because E-Rater does not like short sentences; not even dramatically short sentences.

Do not begin sentences with "or," or "and."

Beware of the sentence fragment.

Furthermore use "however" and "moreover" often.

Use big words. Don't write "bad" when you can use "egregious." Three syllables are better than one.

Don't worry about what you argue "as long as it looks to the computer as if it’s nicely argued." In other words, give evidence (any kind of evidence) to prove your point.

Don't be poetic. E-Rater does not appreciate poetry, not even Shakespeare.

Don't stop writing. The longer the better, so use up all the time you are allotted and just fill, fill, fill.

Use these tips and tricks when taking your English assessment test graded by E-Rater, you'll be glad you did. However your future professors may consequently end up with pseudo-scholarly solipsistic academic essays permeated with malapropisms and other gratuitous ineloquent purple prose.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2nd Annual O'Keefe Graphic Literature Winners

Are you wild about comics?

If so, you'll appreciate that there is one Bay Area College that also loves comics! In fact, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill offers a graphic literature prize each year featuring the best student-produced comics.

Not only that, DVC features classes in comics creation and story telling to facilitate the budding graphic novelist.

Don't want to create comics? No problem, DVC also has classes in the Graphic Novel as literature.

Whether you're an artist, comic aficionado, or just like art and literature, check out this year's O'Keefe Prize Winners!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What do you mean my phone doesn't work?

Last week eight lightening bolts hit the Bay Bridge at the same time. Pretty awesome!

Just imagine a lightening bolt hitting your cellphone.

"Never happen," you reply.

You're probably right, but think about this. Just imagine there's an earthquake and electricity delivery is interrupted for a week all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Would you Digital Natives be able to survive? I mean it's one thing to have no lights or a refrigerator full of mushy guck, but what about computers, cell phones, and iPads?

"That's easy," you say. "I'd just recharge my iPhone and notepad in my car charger."

That may work for a couple of days, but what do you do when you run out of gas? There's been a earthquake! You can't just pop down to the local station and get more.

I'm not sure what's scarier, that DN's can think of ways to stay connected during a natural disaster, or the fact that no one is worried about having enough food or water?

Just out of curiosity, do you have an Earthquake preparedness kit? If you do, what's in it?

Friday, April 6, 2012

What do you mean multitasking is a myth?

Some say there is no such thing as multitasking. CQ Researcher reports that "Researchers have proved again and again that multitasking, at least as our culture has come to know and love and institutionalize it, is a myth."

But as a Digital Immigrant I can report that I have been multitasking for a while. I can even watch TV and read a comic at the same time. For that matter my great, great, great grandmother could have a conversation while making meat loaf. Even more impressive, my Digital Native friends can talk on the phone, answer a text, play Words with Friends, and update their Facebook status with one hand. Now that's progress.

So for the sake of argument, let's call all those nanosecond switches from one task to another, multitasking. And, as Shakespeare would say, "Therein lies the rub." According to the same CQ Researcher, Digital Natives and savvy Digital Immigrants when "sitting at a computer screen--if they are indeed looking at just one--face multiple open Web browsers, an e-mail server, perhaps an instant-messaging chat or two and myriad other potential tasks among which to toggle." It isn't that Digitals multitask - it's that we switch between tasks a lot faster than we used to. "Technologies in the the last decade not only allow task switching but demand task switching."

What is the effect of all this switching back and forth? As you can probably guess, it's not so good. "Multitasking leads us to do everything a little bit worse all the time."

So I ask all you Dextrous Digital Wizards out there, how many tasks are you doing when writing a paper? Let me guess, responding to this blog is one of them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Google We Trust?

An article on Read Write Web claims that, contrary to popular belief, "Digital Natives" are not really media savvy. But after reviewing the study, what it really shows is that Digital Natives don't know how to conduct research. Duh. But this isn't a new problem. Digital Immigrants (those of us who weren't born with built in computer skills) improperly conducted research back in the day when we had to choose between a print copy of an academic journal and a print copy of The New York Times. Indexes contained lists of articles in miniscule type that were organized by subject in these door-stopping tomes and if one was lucky enough to find a promising title, you crossed your fingers hoping that your school library subscribed to that journal. But after you read that "perfect" article and discovered it had nothing to do with the essay you were supposed to be writing, you used it somehow because it took you two hours to find. Today's educrats are complaining about an updated version of the same thing. Students still don't know how to tell a good source from a bad source and just use the first thing that pops up on a Google search.

As an old school purveyor of indices, this just strikes me as lazy. Digital Natives don't have to spend hours combing through an index, they don't even have to go to the library. All they have to do is go to their computer (or phone) while listening to music, answering emails, Facebooking, and taking that "gotta have an answer" text message. So what's up, you guys?

To be well informed you have to look at a number of sources, or websites, as the case may be. Know this, the first entry that pops up on a Google search may not even be close to the best source for your paper. So look through a couple. How about trying this for a couple of days, start on page SEVEN of your Google search and see what else is out there!

But there's an even better place to start your research and it's called Wikipedia. While I would not quote Wikipedia, if you read through a Wikipedia article you can get a good general idea about whatever subject you're researching. BUT here's an even better feature. Scroll down to the bottom of the Wiki page and look at the references. Most times you can find links to the best original research for whatever subject you're studying.

So Digital Natives, don't be lazy, just add another item to your technological "twitch speed." You can squeeze efficient researching in between answering emails and making that final level in Worlds of Warcraft.