2/28 Response: Evan Rosen & Collaboration

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Evan Rosen’s Business Week Article “Creating Collaboration Takes More Than Technology” discusses how new technological innovations do not instantaneously give an organization the ability to collaborate successfully. Rosen’s main point stems from the fact that an organization has to change its approach internally before it can assume new technologies (such as video chatting, or multi-media design formatting websites) will be of proper service to them.

Organizations and businesses first need to examine their goals, and how they plan to achieve their goals. For example, is their organization more formal than it is informal, strictly attached to its hierarchal aspects? To collaborate, Rosen suggests an organization must first deconstruct those factors that limit collaborative potential, tearing apart barriers set by specific roles. In other words, the business’s “culture,” as Rosen describes it, must be reexamined and reconstructed before the implementation of tech tools. How is the business environment structured? Who is allowed to command leadership? How can competition among employees be reduced?

Rosen implies that as soon as the realm of competition has been dismissed and fairly apparent to the employees of a business, collaboration becomes that much more reachable. Simply, collaboration is the opposite of competition–an organization must work to apply this mindset to its employees and once this is understood, there should be less failure in their attempts.

Beyond excluding the competitive nature, Rosen states that employees should be free to “adopt spontaneous work styles”. Not only does this apply to Rosen’s interpretation, where “everybody [has] immediate access to everybody else,” but also, to the idea that each employee should equally contribute with a work style of all their own. Whatever collaborative measure the organization or business seeks, each contributor should bring something entirely unique and apply it. What good would a collaborative project be if the same “variety” of skill were applied? There would be less distinction, less diversity, and the collaboration would be less effective. To collaborate is to work together despite differences (in skill, in idea, in level) in order to produce a combined result.

Thus, once all of these aspects are used, collaboration becomes more natural, and once it becomes more natural, it is easier to introduce the technological tools that aid in a collaborative effort. Rosen explains that the tools are the medium for the creation, but it is the people involved, the organization or business itself, that creates the collaboration. Failure becomes the result when one introduces the tool before the collaboration.

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A Reaction to “Snow Fall”

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My first thought on the article was: “Hey, I recognize this format!” Medium.com is a website for writers who pretty much use the exact same layout this particular story did, where they can creatively publish their own stories. The whole interactive experience thing’s been done before, but that is a thing that would make the NYT post memorable. It makes things more interesting, journalists finally taking advantage of being able to post via the internet. Readers get a chance to become more immersed into a story.

Another one would be the narrative introduction to the news story. It’s a fresh take on how we think that an article should sound or start off, hooking the reader into a story that much faster. However, writing it in such a purple prose sort of way made it seem a tad overdramatic, but it was different and that’s admirable.

Going back to the format/layout design, what I haven’t seen done before was the usage of virtual maps and storm grids that kind of made the danger the article was talking about more tangible and informational to the reader. Another memorable thing–it was long! The way they tried to break down the piece into sections separated by (again) the interactive bits helped make the piece a bit easier to digest, but its length was still quite noticeable.

 

Read “Snow Fall,” a New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall/?forceredirect=yes#/?part=tunnel-creek

Shirky & The Concept of Amateurization

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Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody,” talked about the massive drawbacks of having amateurs publishing their content via the internet, a term he coins as Mass Amateurization. 

An interesting example with cars: where a race car driver is in a specialized profession, any one adult can drive and operate a car with a few minimum requirements, no profession necessary. This is the basis of the idea for mass amateurization. To break this down, professions are an exclusionary group filled with people that share similar set goals and interests. A societal structure the past world had relied on, according to Shirky. With the internet, exclusionary professions are no longer necessary to link up with others, in Shirky’s words the “deprofessionaliz[ation]” of “like-minded people”.

The problem with formal organization, such as professions, is that they are exclusive in nature. This means that at one point, all news came from a small percentage of able-trained new reporters reporting on what they as well as their bosses thought should be news. Though “Mass Amateurization,” an offensive term in its own right, is correct in its analysis that opening the realms of news and communication to everybody runs the risk of having irrelevant and counterproductive content, I think that the positives out way the negatives.

 

  1. No Majority Opinion: For one, all content available will never run the risk of holding the majority opinion. The open format of the internet allows ALL opinions, with the exception of comment moderation or the like. There exists no majority and no minority, only an all inclusive mixture.
  2.  Individual vs. Collective No More: Within different societies, there exist the tendency for the individual to go against the collective opinion—yet again, however, because there is no chance to pin a majority against a minority, the individual and the collective can work together. In the case of the sidekick story of Chapter 1, one individual built himself into the collective, working toward both his goals and the goals of other people.
  3. Newsworthiness Doesn’t Matter: Because of this Mass Amateurization, if there is a story that the news channels and networks aren’t paying attention to, perhaps aren’t covering at all because of its own needs (political corruption, small town scandals, etc), now people over the internet can build an audience, gain support, and cover news themselves.
  4. Power to the People: In terms of American society, democracy stems from the people’s voice. Now, news in the hands of the people, and out of the hands of powerful authority figures (ones who can abuse their rights just as much as anyone else). 

Shirky may be tentative to Mass Amateurization, but as for me, I’m not.

From the Mind of a Writer: Plagiarism Controversies and When IS Plagiarism Okay?

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The Chris Anderson Plagiarism Controversy and Jonah Lehrer’s “Self Plagiarism” are two polar examples of the ways in which plagiarism is used in today’s digital age. Because of the knowledge availability given to us by the internet, some people have taken to abusing such power, and as in the scenarios above, do so to better themselves.

To me, plagiarism is still what it once was when I first heard about it: a student’s laziness to create their own words, or to attribute the proper credit due to the original author. Reading these stories, however, have opened me up to another possibility: malicious and selfish intent. Because the men above came from a place of high authority (Anderson, an editor and journalist for Wired Magazine, and Lehrer a well known journalist for NY Times), society expects from them a certain moral, to hold themselves up to a particular standard given the position their work allows them. To me, a student’s plagiarism is unlikely comparable to that of a journalist whose articles reach thousands of consumers. The larger of an audience you have, the more responsibility you should hold yourself to when you write.

Let’s concentrate on the case of Jonah Lehrer. The concept “Self-Plagiarism” never once occurred to me, especially since many of us have been known to self-plagiarize. In the case of those who write creatively as a hobby, this is even more so the case, where we’ve scrapped old edits and then resurrected them when the need suited us. In this case, self-plagiarism is quite harmless. In the case of Lehrer, however, once that work is published, taking it and using parts of it in a completely unrelated publication, one separate from that of its original placement, can easily lead to issues. On the one hand, there is no original author to offend or discredit, but on the other hand two separate publications with the same exact articles (even paragraphs or recycled sentences) can fall back negatively on both publications. This reflects unprofessionalism on the part of the author responsible.

Plagiarism, in my opinion, most certainly gains its level of severity from the intent of its user. For example, where CNN and Times’ columnist Fareed Zakaria plagiarized similar ideas of a historian Jill Lepore, there are instances where plagiarists steal entire sentences and paragraphs of work word for word without citation, as in the case of Chris Anderson.

For Fareed Zakaria, I believe sharing in another’s ideas is a less condemnable form of plagiarism, especially because humans as one single entity share a plethora of ideals, values, and ultimately concepts that will occasionally intersect. Human ideas are a much more difficult and intangible source to persecute under plagiarism, whereas deliberate instances of plagiarism (whereby the perpetrator seeks to steal) would be a worse case.

As a writer of novels myself, most authors know that all good ideas have been done before. In one South Park spoof “The Simpsons Already Did It,” the episode saw its characters trying to come up with something wholly original before realizing every attempt had already been done by the Simpsons. When I first started writing, on my way to finishing my first fully drafted book, I had this wonderfully creative science fiction piece about blue aliens with yellow eyes taking over a dystopian Earth, they even had pets they binded with at birth—sound familiar? Of course it does. A large element of James Patterson’s “Avatar” is exactly that, and as soon as the movie hit theaters I felt forced to scrap my book (and I did).

Point is, there are realms in which plagiarism is entirely unintentional, where ideas just seemingly coexist between more than one human at a time. We think we’re being original, until another someone in our field of work gets published before us, and—adding fuel to the fire—simply just does it better.

Plagiarism—though it has its exceptions—may never be okay, but it is allowed to be incidental.

A Shirky Response: Wikipedia and “Ridiculously Easy Group Forming”

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When we look at the ways in which societies from all over the world are able to connect, we almost instinctively begin to think of the tools that have enabled us to connect. The internet acts as our vessel to reach out to audiences we never imagined possible before. In relation to Shirky’s examples and analysis, we see that websites allow for average people outside the realms of a “Professional Organization” to rally together and form groups (including informal organizations of their own).

 

Concerning Wikipedia, the encyclopedia database is a collaborative effort from a variety of different people, thus different perspectives. Wikipedia acts as the tool for which researchers can gather and collect information. This collectiveness would not have been possible if not for Wikipedia as a website, sort of the way Flickr acts as a vessel for Photographers to collaboratively work, link, and connect together. Working towards one goal, in this way, allows for the audiences these sites are reaching out toward to gain some sense of digestibility. What I mean by that is with a countless number of people working toward a goal (as discussed in Chapter 1 of Shirky’s book: “Here Comes Everybody”), the audience they end up reaching begins to broaden itself, and more quality work and effort gets accomplished.

 

However, as Shirky points out in Chapter 2, not always do large groups working together reach their goals. In relation to Wikipedia, this may be true in that research may sometimes conflict, and information may not be accurate and so forth. It becomes a very difficult platform to keep track of, but at the same time, the workload is heavily decreased with group effort. I would assume that most of Wikipedia’s information comes from students and educators who have applied thorough research, and together they take “collective action” in a non-institutional way, without monetary profit or managerial push, but because they have merely decided to gather.

A Reflection to: Shirky’s “Organizing Without Organizations”

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Shirky opens up his book with this “saga of the lost phone” to make an example out of how we, as humans, get tasks done in this day and age. The blatant point made is that things have changed. Shirky states that as sociable beings, we are able to complete a lot more and do so a lot more effectively because we—as a countless number of people—work together, instead of as our own separate individual. And because things have changed, technology has allowed us to simplify the means by which we organize to tackle a certain task.

With Shirky’s “StolenSidekick” example, we see that the more people who rally in effort to accomplish something…are the more people who rally to accomplish something. The actions of Evan, Ivanna, and Sasha are the catalysts for this social explosion and audience phenomenon: the availability of Evan’s social network (already equipped with a readership to boot) allowed him to open his own space of internet forum and gather forth a group of people who supported his cause. Thus, with the number of his internet supporters growing from the thousands to the millions, it was obvious that somewhere along the way, the ones who stopped him from achieving his end goal would naturally become the minority. As society has taught us, the minority opinion must eventually succumb to that of the majority or become the majority itself.

If we, as a group of people, all work toward one goal the probability of reaching said goal becomes that much more attainable. Evan’s internet force is a prime example of how social networking has changed the way we organize ourselves into a larger, majority group. With the help of the internet, we can easily reach a wider audience and pull them over to our side.

When Life Gives You Privilege, Should You Take It?

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 When life gives you privilege should you take it and run? That’s the question Philip Guo, a Computer Science Graduate of MIT, once asked himself. As an Asian male with no former/proper experience in coding computers (or anything remotely related to CS), Philip entered his chosen major a blank state—not that his colleagues or professors ever did doubt his natural technologically savvy ability.

 

It’s less about the flattery or the confidence other people feel towards Guo, and more about why other people would assume his capabilities are based purely on looks. Does society project a particular standard onto its people? A kind of stereotype? Maybe typecast us into a perceived role?

 

Philip says this is present in the Computer Science major, but it goes so much farther beyond even this. And although this “privilege” works positively in his favor, he wonders how his female friends (or even any other ethnicity beyond Asian/White male) may work beyond the prevalent privilege Philip was simply handed. He’s suggesting that ability need not be based on physical attributes or societal roles—forget them. Because ability stems from hard work, dedication, and ultimately ability. There are no magical all seeing windows, unfortunately.

 

 

Here’s the original article, take a look: 
Slate, “Silent Technical Privilege”