My Disappointment for the Day: News, Steve Jobs, and Plato

Yesterday started out nicely enough. On deck yesterday in my course on Christianity and Media: Plato’s discussions of the arts in The Republic (books 2, 3 and 10) and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The grandfather of criticism and the great articulation of freedom of expression. The goal of the class was to start exploring different approaches to interpretation of art and media. What does media do and how do we know that it has succeeded? Does good art portray reality accurately, express the emotions of the artist, or teach lessons? Is the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and press an unlimited right, or are there times when the right may be legitimately curtailed? My students were great, offering some profound insights and unpacking the complexity of the question.

Steve Jobs and the News

All of that was floating around in my mind as I returned to my office to read the tech news. Of note was a Reuters report about the “civil lawsuit brought by five tech workers against Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Corp and others, alleging an illegal conspiracy to eliminate competition for each other’s employees and drive down wages.” The companies seem to have agreed not to poach each other’s employees, which seems to be a common practice, but also seems to be illegal. I say “seems” because I’m not a lawyer and am not really able to say for sure. Morally questionable, in any case. But that’s just context, not the point.

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Christmas, Family, Media, and Music: 2012 and 1904

Just a quick interlude on this Christmas night. I hope that all of you have had a couple of nice days with your families (whether or not you celebrate the religious aspects of the day). We had a touch of snow last night on our way into Mass that made the evening as picturesque as could be.  Today was quiet, spent with family and friends.

Apparently, Netflix was down last night and this morning. As they put it at PhysOrg,

Families across the United States will have to rely on other sources of entertainment after Netflix’s video streaming service was hit by a Christmas Eve outage.

Rebecca Greenfield at  The Atlantic likely echoed the sentiment of many people when she wrote:

The service went down…during arguably one of the worst possible times ever, when many people stuck at home with their families would hope to seek a little refuge in some streaming movies.

So, wait, families don’t want to talk to one another?

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A Modest Proposal for Fanboys

Omar Gallaga at CNN dreams the impossible dream for Apple vs. Samsung: A Peace Treaty.

WHEREAS, the respective Parties, the Apple Fanboys also known as “Apple Fanbois,” “Fanb0yz,” “iPhoners” or simply “The Mac Faithful,” among many other names and the Samsung Fanboys also known as “Apple H4terz,” “Galaxians” or “Androiders” seek a lasting peace, both online and off, and…

WHEREAS, online forums, queues for new products and technology blogs have become polluted with smack talk, useless feature comparisons and Photoshopped ads meant to deride and belittle each others device preference, and… Apple vs. Samsung: Tale of two countries The Number: Samsung the new Apple?

WHEREAS both sets of Parties recognize that a competitive market is both critical and necessary for continued technological innovation to benefit all, especially early adopters…NOW, THEREFORE, the Parties agree to abide by the agreements herein, enumerated in the terms of the articles set forth below:…

Pretty humorous—which is really the only way to react to the absurd behavior out there.

via Shawn King at The Loop.

Rewiring Dinner—Temperance as a Social Game

Love this great new dinner-time game (via Marco Arment):

It works like this: as you arrive, each person places their phone facedown in the center of the table… As the meal goes on, you’ll hear various texts and emails arriving… and you’ll do absolutely nothing. You’ll face temptation—maybe even a few involuntary reaches toward the middle of the table—but you’ll be bound by the single, all-important rule of the phone stack.

Whoever picks up their phone is footing the bill.

I mentioned to a friend last week that I thought that those of us who didn’t grow up with cell phones and mobile computing devices are probably the worst at setting boundaries for temperate use of our tech.  We lacked any formation in appropriate use as kids, and now we’ve gone overboard with our enthusiasm.  We’re all trying to teach our kids good habits, but it often ends up “do as I say, not as I do.” Perhaps making a game out of good habit formation would help?

Stunning Impatience and Failure: CNN, FoxNews, and the Health Care Ruling

At SCOTUSblog, an amazing, detailed account of the June 28 failure of CNN and FoxNews to broadcast an accurate report on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act by Tom Goldstein, the Publisher of SCOTUSblog (who got it right). Over 7,000 words on a 15 minute period of time.

The Court’s own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court’s website.  …  The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.

But it does…

The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour.  So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.

But they didn’t. Or at least a couple big news outlets didn’t.  Chief Justice John Roberts started speaking at 10:06:40 am. That’s when the first press got the decision on paper. Bloomberg issued the first report 52 seconds later, correctly reporting that the individual mandate was upheld. But not everyone got it right, of course. 12 seconds later CNN reports it incorrectly. Fox had already posted the same news at 10:07:39. Lots of people were given the wrong news.

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The New ‘Digital Divide’? Wasting Time With Technology

For nearly twenty years, people have been worried about the digital divide: the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not. Because of the key roles that tech plays in our lives, especially in the economic realm, it has the potential to create even deeper rifts in our society. Most of the time, discussion of the issue deals with how to get tech into the hands of socioeconomically disadvantaged.

Unfortunately, the connection between tech and success turns out to be complex. For instance, back in 2010, Jacob L. Vigdor and Helen F. Ladd published a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled “Scaling the Digital Divide.” The study dug deeper into the numbers on academic lives of students, tracing the connection between success, failure, and computers in the home. They detail lots of trends, but one thing they clearly showed was that access to computers and broadband does not correlate directly with improved acheivement. Indeed, later introduction of computers into households without effective parental monitoring of child behavior can be harmful. One thing they noted—late adopters, “Students who gain access to a home computer between 5th and 8th grade tend to witness a persistent decline in reading and math test scores.”

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