A few weeks ago, I posted an unboxing video of the “free” Google Home sent to us by Rogers, our internet service provider.
Now, I’m not stupid. I knew this was “free” like the Krispy Kreme donut samples are “free” at Costco. Little did I know it was actually more akin to allowing Krispy Kreme to set up a store in your living room.
I love this thing. The voice recognition technology of Google Assistant makes Siri on my iPhone seem laughable. The number of things I can already do just by speaking into the air instead of thumbing, head tunneled into the screen, is growing by the day. It also results in some great conversations with my family. If it’s true that one of the best ways adults can lead by example in a tech-immersed world is to let our children know what we’re actually doing when our attention is dictated by our devices, then literally speaking out loud about it at home is a great way to start.
We are also listening to so much more music together as a family. Albeit, this has caused a side effect of me wishing very bad things would happen to Ed Sheeran (c’mon, you just shouldn’t be allowed to make music that catchy and sappy!) Nevertheless, I’ll always take more music over less music.
And I will admit that I’m willing to trade my data for the services Google provides. I don’t feel 100% confident about this, and I reserve the right to change my mind, but right now I’m living with this cognitive dissonance. And there’s another first world problem.
We’re an Apple family.
The only cellphone any of us have ever owned is the ubiquitous iPhone. Imagining using a laptop that doesn’t have a glowing apple on the outside is unthinkable within our home’s walls. We have likely spent well over five figures in hardware, apps, media content from and through the company. And who knew that the hardest thing to leave would be iMessage! We thought it was just text messaging. We didn’t know it was your social life!
We’re deeply invested. But I’m having a crisis of tech faith. I want to talk to my phone more and crane my neck towards it less. In a family, however, tech use is far more efficient when everyone’s using the same ecosystem. What’s a lucky family to do? I’ll keep you up to date.
Spicy Snacks are little bits and bites for people that are into education, parenting, or technology. Enjoy!
So, the term “snack” is actually a misnomer this week. I’m about to put some stuff on the table that is less like cracking into a couple of Doritos and more like eating the whole bag. The kind of stuff that sits in your stomach, rolling around, infusing your insides with feelings that, in the tamest terms, can be described as confusing.
I continue to ask myself: knowing what we now know about the unintended consequences that have transpired due to data-driven technologies, how can I still love it as much as I do? Well, first of all, love is the wrong word. Secondly, maybe I’m fascinated because it feels more and more like we are all living in a bizarre season of Black Mirror which needs to be binge-watched to the end. Lastly, I believe it’s vital that we not forsake our collective agency in making this digitally mediated world one which favours the public interest over the corporate one.
The Agenda welcomes Ramesh Srinivasan, the founder of the University of California’s Digital Cultures Lab, to discuss his book, Whose Global Village? Rethinking How Technology Shapes Our World.
The tech industry is no longer the passion play of a bunch of geeks trying to do cool s*** in the world. It’s now the foundation of our democracy, economy, an information landscape.
Somehow, a tool that started off as a way to get American college kids to socialize online has turned into possibly the most powerful media platform in history. We should be worried about it. Here’s one reason why:
Data breaches are, unfortunately, our new reality. All of the tech companies we sign our info over to hold our data in big black boxes and they’re clumsy at the best of times at keeping it a secret, most likely due to a stunning lack of accountability to its users (reminder: we are the product, not the customer). So, it’s important to know when your data has been breached. 1Password, my long-time preferred password manager has a great inbuilt system which alerts you of known breaches, but you can also subscribe to the free Have I Been Pwned, which will send you an email every time your data is likely to have been compromised.
ICYMI: I gave this talk at YRDSB Quest 2016.
I am a walking paradox. To understand who I am is to come to an intimate grasp of cognitive dissonance. My poor wife is a captive audience to my regular contradictions. She is forced to make the following face on a regular basis when trying to comprehend how she ended up marrying someone as confounding as me.
The starkest example of this can be seen in my dichotomous relationship with contemporary, data-mined, digital technologies. I have a preoccupation with digital technologies and social media that is beyond the parameters of good health, yet I wring my hands about it in an almost joyful fashion. That’s one of the reasons I am a massive fan of Manoush Zomorodi and her Note to Self podcast. Listening to Zomorodi’s stories helps me work through a lot of thinking and struggle I have around, as they say, “being a human that uses technology.” The podcast’s goal is not to give you neat and tidy answers to complex problems. Rather, it helps you to go deeper into the complexity.
The Privacy Paradox series was a great example of this. Listen to the episodes and see my accompanying sketchnotes below.
It was my daughter’s 14th birthday last week. I was so excited.
I’d concocted this clever plan to get her a brand new phone. Up until now, she’s always accepted 3rd generation hand-me-downs from my wife and I. Never has she complained. I’ve always been so impressed that she’s never been as obsessed with the newest and shiniest as I am. She’s been using my old iPhone 4S from 2011 quite happily, but the truth is that it’s quite slow and, as a result, not exactly a productivity device (yes, feel free to file under #FirstWorldProbs). I’m expecting it to kick the proverbial can any time now.
As I did my consumer research, I discovered how much more bang one can get from purchasing an Android device over one from our Lord and Saviour, Apple. Since 2008, no one in our family has ever diverged from disobeying our Apple overlords. Strutting my way through my Best Buy checkout, I was pretty pleased with myself for: a) breaking free from the chains of Steve Jobs; and b) getting ready to surprise my unsuspecting daughter with a brand new phone that had about 20 times the functionality of her current paper weight. I’m a bad, bad man, I thought (“bad” meaning “good”). You need to forgive me for being all…
as she was opening the mysterious box. I was so happy to “reward” her for all these years of never bugging us for a new, fancy phone. Instead, I was so puzzled when I saw her do this after realizing it wasn’t an iPhone:
Now, I’ve taught middle school. I know what that anxious nodding of the head means. It’s adolescent code for “I don’t wanna hurt your feelings, but…” I knew something was wrong when she said:
“Um, ya, thanks for… the… PHONE! It’s, um… OK… if I still keep my other one, right?”
“But, Yumi,” I insisted, “this new phone has a bigger screen, about 10 times the processor, more RAM than you’ve ever experienced, and is brand new! You’ve never had a brand new phone before!” I’m not proud to admit how much I sounded like a phone salesman. It reminded me of the time I tried to convince her that kimchi is delicious. The more I stayed on the sell, the less persuaded she became.
I was so bumfuzzled. Really? Was the branding that powerful? She would rather have a barely usable device with an Apple on it than a super phone that can do everything hers does but way better? It took a few days for her to admit the real reason she didn’t jump for joy.
“It’s iMessage, dad. Some of my friends only text through it. That’s more important to me than having a fancy phone. Sorry, dad. Thanks so much for the gift, but I’m good with my phone. If you can’t return it, I’ll owe you the money you spent on it.”
Echoes of danah boyd ringing in my ear…