Archive for the ‘cultural trends’ Category

Ubiquitous surveillance changing our culture

November 17, 2007

Don’t look now. Somebody’s watching.

But you knew that, didn’t you? How could you not? It’s been apparent for years that we’re being watched and monitored as we traverse airports and train stations, as we drive, train, fly, surf the Web, e-mail, talk on the phone, get the morning coffee, visit the doctor, go to the bank, go to work, shop for groceries, shop for shoes, buy a TV, walk down the street.

Cameras, electronic card readers and transponders are ubiquitous. And in that parallel virtual universe, data miners are busily and constantly culling our cyber selves.

Source:  Washington Post

Hyper-connected generation rises

May 10, 2007

Mobile phoneInternet services such as Twitter, Jaiku and Kyte TV are giving rise to a “hyper-connected” generation.

An increasing number of applications has been launched that take advantage of “always on” connections, either over the net or on mobile devices.

Users are not just sending texts and e-mails, but are “lifecasting” words and video 24 hours a day.

“It’s a lifestream of your activities – both in the real world and online,” said Jaiku’s Jyri Engestrom.

Source:  BBC News

Washington targets ‘driving while texting’

April 22, 2007

While talking to a high school social studies class last fall, state Rep. Joyce McDonald noticed students sending each other text messages on their cellphones. That, she says crisply, sparked a discussion.

“I was really a bit shocked to learn just how much these kids text each other, including when they are driving,” says McDonald, 54. “I mean, I’m a talker. I can’t understand why in the world you would send your friend a text message rather than just calling up to say hello.”

There are plenty of reasons, of course — with the ability to communicate covertly during a social-studies class high up the list, the Republican concedes with a laugh. But she decided then and there that she would write a bill making DWT — “driving while texting” — a crime.

Source:  Los Angeles Times

The Little Botox Shop Around the Corner

April 19, 2007

ON a busy section of East 59th Street in Manhattan, a half block from Bloomingdale’s, two plastic surgeons are preparing to open a new kind of cosmetic medical entity: a Botox-only storefront office. No appointment necessary.

Smoothmed, scheduled to open next month, will offer only one procedure: Botox injections to smooth wrinkles around the forehead, eyes, lips or neck. Its owners said the idea is convenience, competitive pricing and standardized care.

“Botox-on-the-go is the way we like to think of it,” said Dr. Andrew I. Elkwood, an owner of Smoothmed. He and his business partner, Dr. Michael I. Rose, are plastic and reconstructive surgeons who practice in Manhattan and in Shrewsbury, N.J.

Source:  New York Times

Are we all hyperconnected?

April 9, 2007

One early front runner for the title of the “YouTube of 2007” is a service called Twitter. Twitter enables you to broadcast to the world at large, via the Web or phone or instant message, tiny snippets of personal information: what you’re doing, what you’re about to do, what you just did, what your cat just did and so on.

Twitter does the Internet equivalent of splitting the atom. It creates a unit of content even smaller and more trivial than the individual blog entry. Expect the response to be suitably explosive.

I try to regulate my data intake: I don’t carry a BlackBerry, but I do carry a cell phone, and it has made me a rapacious consumer of text messages. I’ve become dismally fluent in typing on my cell phone’s keypad, one-thumbed, while walking.

Don’t get me wrong; I have a full-blown e-mail problem too. I frequently override the little notifier app that checks my G-mail for me once a minute because an e-mail could have arrived in the intervening 60 seconds.

More info:  Time magazine columnist

BlackBerrys, laptops blur work/home balance

April 6, 2007

Staying in touch constantly by using laptops, BlackBerrys and other wireless devices has blurred the line between a person’s professional and personal life, according to a new survey.

Seventy five percent of people questioned in a survey by Yahoo! HotJobs said they used their wireless devices equally for work and personal reasons.

Nearly 30 percent were so attached to them they only switched them off while sleeping.

“While they were intended to provide convenience and flexibility for workers’ lives, they have changed the physical parameters of the workplace and extended the work day. Professionals can work from anywhere and connect at any time,” Susan Vobejda, vice president of marketing at Yahoo! HotJobs, said in a statement.

More info:  Reuters news article

Natural, no-chlorine pools springing up in U.S.

April 5, 2007

MICK HILLEARY, an industrial designer who builds zoo exhibits and trade show displays, and who expanded into residential pools five years ago, has found that Americans have a clearly defined idea of what constitutes a proper swimming pool.

“It’s a white-tiled thing,” said Mr. Hilleary, whose company, Total Habitat, in Bonner Springs, Kan., specializes in what could be called the opposite of the white- or blue-tiled things found in millions of backyards across the country.

The “natural pools” that Total Habitat builds are bordered with wood, planted with lush vegetation and free of chemicals like chlorine; they resemble nothing so much as a swimming hole. “It’s natural-looking, like a pond,” Mr. Hilleary said. “But the water looks so clean. People really want to swim in it, more than in a farm pond.”

Natural swimming pools (or swimming ponds, as they are called in Europe, where the concept originated 20 years ago) are self-cleaning pools that combine swimming areas and water gardens. Materials and designs vary — the pools can be lined with rubber or reinforced polyethylene, as in the case of Total Habitat’s, and may look rustic or modern — but all natural pools rely on “regeneration” zones, areas given over to aquatic plants that act as organic cleansers.

Waterworks

The pools have skimmers and pumps that circulate the water through the regeneration zone and draw it across a wall of rocks, loose gravel or tiles, to which friendly bacteria attach, serving as an additional biological filter. Unlike artificial ponds, which tend to be as murky with groundwater runoff and sediment from soil erosion as the natural ponds they’re modeled on, in a natural pool the water is clear enough to see through to the bottom.

More info:  New York Times article

Big Brother gets bigger in England

April 4, 2007

CCTV cameras 

“Talking” closed-circuit television cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be extended to 20 areas across England.

They are already used in Middlesbrough where anyone seen misbehaving can be told to stop via a loudspeaker, controlled by control centre staff.  Home Secretary John Reid has earmarked nearly £500,000 to add speaker facilities to already-existing cameras.

Critics say the cameras are absurd and an intrusion into everyday life.

More info:  BBC News article

Venture capitalists going green

April 4, 2007

Silicon Valley venture capitalists are pouring cash into solar power, fuel cells, wind energy, biofuels, new lighting microchips, “smart” power grids, and other innovative energies, according to a Boston Globe article.

“The best brains in the country are no longer working on the next pharmaceutical drug or the next Silicon Revolution. They want to work on energy,” said Vinod Khosla, a top venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.  “It is under-researched. There are easy pluckings. Oil companies spend no money on research, especially outside of how you discover more oil.”

It could be years, however, before “clean” power plans translate into commercial products, not only because of scientific barriers, but also due to uncertainties about timing, market development and competition.

The microprocessor, the brain of computers, was developed in 1971 but it took another 10 years before pioneer Intel found a market for the device in personal computers.

Are you at work right now?

March 29, 2007

Washington Post reports that nearly two-thirds of office workers who responded to a recent survey admitted to looking at Web sites for personal interest every day on company time.

And when they do, they said, they’re about as likely to look up encyclopedia entries as to discuss work or the boss.

More than four in 10 respondents said they went online several times a day to view blogs, photo-sharing sites or, most commonly, their Web-based e-mail. One in five of the respondents reports logging on once a day.

After e-mail and instant messaging sites, the most visited Web pages were online encyclopedias, such as Wikipedia.