Final Reflection

This class gave me a much better understanding of the progression of information through history, how that affected the creation of different technologies, and how that relates to where we are at today. I think understanding different forms of communication changes the perspective of technology we have today to open up to more possibilities and future creations of new technology to increase information and understanding.

One thing that really stood out to me was the fear surrounding new technology which is something that I think we can see throughout the age of information but it becomes especially apparent with technologies that do not make sense with basic communication abilities such as visual and speech. This was really prevalent with the “telephone scare” and it seems to be really common today as well as new technologies that actually could potentially be harmful are introduced to people’s lives as a way to improve them and increase productivity.

It seems like a lot of our information technologies today are meant to further increase productivity by having quicker access to information. I think this is interesting to see as it is the focus of a lot of the technology throughout history but it is really obvious today. I found it interesting that some of the class felt they could be ok without their phone in today’s world and some did not. I think this is because the smartphone is really a central piece of technology that is often seen as a necessary component to communicating in the world today in areas where there is high useage. It is amazing how people adapt to having technology like this or to not having it. It changes the way that you run your life. We talked about the smartphone as being the ideal piece of technology to have your entire life planned out in and access to all your contacts. It is interesting to think about the different steps that would have to be taken to organize your day and connect with people if the smartphone suddenly did not exist. I really liked how we discovered and discussed many different pieces of technology in this way to better understand their affect on our lives as well as the affect of future technologies.

I found this class to be really fascinating and helpful with understanding the role of information and technology in our lives. I also enjoyed and found it helpful to have the opportunity to use different platforms for various projects throughout the class. This increased my overall confidence with technology and helped me to see how it can be used as well as introduced me to things I had not heard of. Some of these programs include Canva, meme creators, Timeline JS, and AI generators. I could see developing comfortability with using these as highly beneficial for work and business.

AI Essay Generator Hua Mu Lan Project

For this project I chose the historical figure Hua Mu Lan for the essay generator to write about. I prompted it with just “Hua Mu Lan in Battle” and I was curious to see what kind of information would be generated about the topic. I used to generate the essay. It did a pretty nice job of summarizing her story and keeping it to what was pretty well known facts. It was also written with a lot of really nice descriptive words that made it interesting to read but maybe some would consider some of these words a bit unnecessary or wordy. The essay did flow nicely, however, and seemed to be pretty in line with what is known about Mu Lan. I did not feel that it was able to get into specifics or argue a certain point very well, it seemed like a lot of general information. I also found that it was a bit passive at times. Some of the sentences sound pretty but it is hard to tell exactly what it means by them. One example of this is “enduring values of Chinese culture”. Chinese culture and history are complex and I am not sure that this is specific enough. I see other issues throughout the essay as well. I think that the flow and then the outline and general information are the strengths of the essay.

I went with the image generator because generally I am not a huge fan of AI images and I read that this one tended to be more artistic. I actually kind of liked the image that it generated, it was better than some that I have seen before and I think it at least captured the idea of Mu Lan as a woman warrior.

Overall I think this was a fascinating project that shows what can be done with AI, some of the strengths and weaknesses, and potential uses for AI image and essay generators. I think they could also be a way to get quick information on a topic that could give ideas of portions that could be researched further, especially for a topic that you are unfamiliar with. Of course the same thing can be accomplished with an encyclopedia, more accurately, but perhaps there could be a reason why you it might be helpful to generate some quick general information about a topic you are interested in.

AI project thoughts

This week we chose which project we wanted to participate in. I chose the AI assignment and we also came up with topic ideas this week. I thought it was interesting beginning to explore the different AI essay generators and image generators to see what would be available for the project. I chose a topic I was already familiar with and I am curious to see if the essay generator will be fairly factual or if it will be missing important pieces of information in the story. I am thinking that an AI essay generator will be more generalized in the information that is available for the essay than that of which an actual person researching could find and put together.

Meme Creating

Our assignment this week was focused on creating a meme. I chose to create one about untrue popular history. While it’s not difficult to find pretty accurate descriptions of what actually happened at the battle of Thermopylae, a lot of people were not even aware that this battle took place until the movie “300” came out. The movie leads viewers to believe it was basically just King Leonidas and 300 Spartans and I think it shows a few hundred others according to 300: Movie Vs Reality which explains some of the differences between history and the movie. It also explains that the movie was never truly intended to be historically accurate, but it still had the affect of leading a lot of people to believe that King Leonidas stood up to hundreds of thousands of Persians with only 300 Spartans. What actually happened was equally impressive but with different numbers. The numbers are still estimated but there should have initially been around 7000 men who joined him to fight who were not Spartans and around 2000 that would have stayed. This is not intended to be a history paper on the battle of Thermopylae here, but I felt it was necessary to explain the background a little for the meme to make sense. I found it difficult to create the meme, it was challenging to figure out what words to put and what picture to use since you only have a few words that can fit. I was hoping the meme would come out a little thought provoking and maybe a little humorous to people who were familiar with the story.

This was an interesting project, I was struck by how easy it is to make memes. Not that I thought it was hard but I had just never created one before. The only part I found difficult was just figuring out what to write.

Meme generator:

Works cited:

dev, Super User -. “300: Movie vs. Reality.” Athens Tours by Local Experts & Greece Trips. Accessed March 22, 2023. 

Propaganda Website Project

This week working on the website propaganda project really highlighted the different ways propaganda can be used to influence people. Propaganda is manipulative, sometimes in a harmful way and sometimes not, or at least not intended to manipulate for harm. This is kind of a gray area then it seems when propaganda is used for a cause that is inherently positive, good, or needed.

Propaganda is intended to create an emotional response from people whether that response be fear based or igniting a passion to complete a helpful task, it can be very effective at getting a large number of people interested in a cause. Propaganda leaves out parts of the story generally that do not further the cause or complicate things. This is why it can be harmful or manipulative because people are not just given all the information and able to make an informed decision that is not based on emotion and lack of information.

This was a great project and I think the website was put together really thoughtfully and came to be quite entertaining as well!

Advertising and Propaganda

Thinking about the differences between advertising and Propaganda this week was really interesting. There are some similarities but one of the key differences that we talked about was where the information comes from. Propaganda tending to come from the government and advertising tending to be associated with corporations.

The effectiveness of propaganda seems to be dependent on who is pushing the information and how wide-spread it can be come. We were discussing in class whether or not propaganda for frugality would work in America today as it did during war-time efforts. I think the key point here is that it would have to be something that the government was behind and as we discussed in class, there would not be a reason for them to push that agenda right now as our economy is based off of consumerism. So instead of getting messages about frugality, we get propaganda more about how to shop and how to save but it is still focused on spending. All that aside, propaganda campaigns have proven to be really effective and I think if the government had a reason to promote frugality and actually did it, that it would be just as effective today as it was in the past. Frugality is not “saving” money necessarily or spending “differently”, it is re-using, using what you have, re-purposing, fixing things rather than throwing away, gardening, recycling, driving less, etc etc. There may be aspects of frugality focused on how to spend money but the core of this is going to be focused in these other areas. I think the key here would be the government putting out propaganda explaining to people why they are helping just as they did in the past which would appeal to people on an emotional level. I do think it would take some more time and extra persuading as people are really used to having what they want on demand now, but I could still see it being effective but only if it came from an authoritative source, not just from someone’s instagram account.

I do think COVID is a great example of how people initially respond when things they are normally entitled to are taken away. I worked as a server throughout the pandemic and I saw some truly outlandish behavior from the public when they couldn’t have what they were used to having. I think anyone working with the public during covid would have experienced this. In a lot of ways it brought out the worst in people, but that is also a very sudden shift and, at least to me, doesn’t have much to do with frugality. It was more like “go spend your money” but you cannot have “this, this, and this”.

I remember hearing about my great-grandmother and how she would re-use items such as foil and plastic bags since living through the great depression. She never wanted to purchase new things and I recall one story about a set of dinner plates she had. The plates no longer appealed to her but she refused to get rid of them without having a reason to and my great grandfather literally threw them out of the window so that they would break and she would get new ones. Pretty dramatic sounding over some plates, but I think it is interesting how the way she had to live continued to impact her life long after the depression was over and many people were returning to consumerism.

Morse Code Infographic

When I started working on this assignment, I wanted to think about the ways that Morse Code was used and how it evolved over time. There is a lot of great information that I found and I ended up narrowing it down to show some of the variety of ways the code itself was used, starting with the telegraph but expanding to seeing its use throughout a variety of industries and personal uses up until today.

In the infographic below, I wanted to convey beyond just that Morse Code was used in conjunction with the telegraph. I expanded to show a little bit about letters to show how the postal service remained intact and there was a continued use for sending mail even if it took longer, many people still did it.

Morse Code was used widely by a variety of enterprises and for private use to communicate information quickly. It was also used in Wireless transmitters on ships as well as used through the use of lights to convey messages.

Lastly, people still use Morse Code today and many people who use radios to communicate globally may still have a use for the semi-universal language of Morse code. While Morse code varies depending on the language, there are some signals that are relatively universal providing a quick means of communication to break some of the language barrier in communication. Some people also keep Morse Code alive today as a hobby.

Works Cited:

Smith, T. “Morse: The End of an Era?” Unesco Courier (Paris, France), no. Jul/Aug 1999 (1999): 65–.

“Postal and Telegraph Service.” Scientific American 33, no. 25 (1875): 391-391.

Cave Paintings

Thinking about and creating “cave paintings” through drawing makes me consider the different types of things we communicate and the depth of communication based on what type of technology is available for use for communicating. If you did not have paint, you could draw in the dirt, but it would be likely that the messages would not last as long. This would lead communication to be more short-term based and possibly repetitive. With the use of paint and caves, the effect is that the drawing can be more permanent or at least last longer. This would change the kinds of things that could be conveyed. There is still a lot of room for misinterpretation however, especially when it comes to nuances that go beyond a basic idea. For example, in a cave drawing you could probably illustrate “Sick people here” or some thing to that effect, but it would be much more difficult to convey what the people had, how long they had been sick, and/or details like what may have caused it. Today, using words instead of pictures gives people the ability to include more details, leaving less to the imagination.

When we were designing our cave painting to convey the message “instructions for playing cornhole” we made our drawing on the pretense that our audience would “get” the message since most people had the knowledge what that game was. We attempted to convey that it was instructions by using dots instead of numbers and showing a progression of stick figures playing the game. It was not difficult to come up with the drawing, but after seeing everyone’s reaction we realized there were other things we could have added to make it more obvious and a little less literal.

Coffee houses and Print Culture

The connections between coffee houses and print culture are interesting to me as they can obvious or more subtle. In The Social life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffee House the connection between the two is described in several different ways. The primary thing that appears to be happening in the coffee houses is bringing men from different social status and backgrounds together and discussing all kinds of news and topics (The Social life of Coffee, 99). More conversational than reading, however, it is typically things that men have read that is leading into discussion and learning about various topics. At times, books may be sold at the Coffee houses as well, which is another connection to print culture (Social life of Coffee, 101). A lot of education is happening at coffee houses as well which is another indication that there are books involved or at least one may be able to acquire books by signing up for classes or learning which ones to read and where to purchase them (Social life of Coffee, 99).

Works cited:

Cowan, Brian. The Social Life of Coffee : The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Reflections on Downey Reading

As a whole, reading Downey really highlighted to me the progression of technology for each category and how it affected the people. As new technology rises, people’s habits and behaviors change. This includes the example of living rooms changing and more households had access to television (38). People went from the fireplace being the gathering point to the television being the center of focus in the living room.

The next significance was how the technology changes affect people in the work place. The example of how much man-power it took to effectively run networked-communication of “. . . Outdoor linemen, . . . Indoor operators, . . . Uniformed child messengers . . .” for the successful implementation of early communication networks highlights how significant a role people have doing very hands on jobs to make these forms of communication functional (Downey, 30-32). Another example of this is with Amazon as as an online store where the consumer only has to use the internet to make purchases. There is, however, a lot of hands-on labor behind the scene to make this platform successful. “In all of these ways, the new virtual economy cannot escape a very old physical fact: it takes human labor to make the web work.” (Downey, 57).

Lastly, the displacement of workers as technology shifts is something highlighted in the reading. An example of this is discussed in relation to the Bell industry when 32,000 operators were hired to keep up with call demands. These positions, however, end up becoming obsolete as the technology advances to where the customer can dial their own telephone (Downey, 31).

Technology is always shifting and changing and causing people’s lives to change with it. This idea truly highlights how focused our lives are around communication and information technology when there is access to it.

Works cited:

Downey, Gregory John. Technology and Communication in American History. Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2011.