Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Secret to Success

In re-examining society's ideas of success and failure, Alaine de Botton is in the same mould as public intellectuals as Malcolm Gladwell. de Botton examines a very common concept and exposes a multitude of philosophical and societal nuances. de Botton's inquiries are simple: Is success always earned? Is failure? In examining this from philosophical and historical trajectories, often humorous and humble, de Botton reveals four very simple truths to our society's basic unhappiness which are important for us all to remember during times of stress and convolutions of life:

1) Insecurity - The majority of consumers are at one point or another insecure about a certain element of their lifestyles. Hence, consumer goods are used to nullify uncertainty and a way to contain the void.

2) Envy - Deep down, we all rate people we come across according to their status - and that often is tied to their profession. What we cannot have, we want. This wasn't always the case in human history. Deep down, we all want to become the next Bill Gates based on an idea or a stroke of brilliance; but when reality sets in, we are unsettled at the thought of being 'common'.

3) Meritocracy - There is no such thing as a purely meritocratic society. It is impossible to achieve what we are based on what we can do. Numerous factors (often based on pure luck) are involved as to how we get to where we are.

4) Success On Our Own Terms - Much of how we measure success is based on societal perceptions and values. Many strive to join a profession not based on want, but usually on prestige. Success is purely subjective; we must base success on what we set it out to be.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The 'Amplified Conference'

At the recent Mobile Libraries (m-Libraries) Conference 2009 in Vancouver, B.C. I witnessed a vivid transformation of the conference experience, one that blends both physical and digital together into a rumination of ideas and exploration beyond the physical imaginations of a conference.

Interestingly enough, one of the keynote speakers, Lorcan Dempsey, had first written about this phenomena on his blog, and subsequently, the terminology has taken off on its own. But more spectacularly, as an organizer for this conference, I had not consciously formulated any particular strategies for an 'amplified' conference as I had not known about Dempsey's concept only a few days prior to the m-Libraries' commencement. But as the conference proceeded, the more and more I noticed how Dempsey's principles of the amplified conference so seamlessly natural this new emergence social media and digitally-inclusive technologies was enriching the very fabric of all that was happening around (and beyond me):
  • Amplification of the audiences' voice: Audience members through the use of such social media technologies (such as Twitter) can create online discourse during the sessions in real-time
  • Amplification of the speaker's talk: Widespread and inexpensive video and audio-conferencing technologies
  • Amplification across time: With low-cost technologies, presentations are often made available after the event, with use of podcasting or videocasting technologies
  • Amplification of the speaker's slides: With social media lightweight technologies, (such as Slideshare) entire presentations can simply be uploaded, shared, and embedded on other Web sites and commented upon
  • Amplification of feedback to the speaker: Micro-blogging technologies (such as Twitter) are being used not only as for discourse and knowledge exchange among conference participants
  • Amplification of collective memory: With the widespread availability of inexpensive digital cameras, photographs are often uploaded to popular photographic sharing services
  • Amplification of the learning: With the Web resources and social media technologies, following links to resources and discourse about the points made by a speaker during a talk propagates the learning which takes place at an event.
  • Amplification of the historical conference record: The ‘official’ digital resources such as slides, video and audio recordings which have been made by the conference organizers

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Economics of Time in the "Time Paradox"

Sometimes in life we lose those that we most cherish, and regret forever that what we cannot hold onto anymore something we once had. In this age of the information revolution, we forget that time is scarcity. Renowned Stanford psychologists Phil Zimbardo and John Boyd's The Time Paradox is a cumulation of thirty years of research, and is a must read for those who have questions about our existence and what our purpose is on earth.

Our time here is finite, and is perhaps the most precious commodity we have. The authors argue that time is psychological though; although we may live in the twenty-first century, our bodies were designed for life 2000 years ago. We are living and breathing anachronisms racing through an information-possessed world of social networking sites, globalization, cell phones, iPods, and hyper-2.0 technologies.

In spite of the many valuations we assign time, and in spite of the fact that time is our most valuable commodity, it is striking to note how little thought we give to how we spend it. The authors raise the question: Why do we often spend our money more wisely than our time? Relationships are very much time-dependent on three stages: past, present, and future. When you meet someone new, you share neither a common past or future. You are stuck at the present, which you hope will turn out to be a good place. The warm feeling of holding hands together for the first time, kissing on the beach, your first phone call . . . blossoming of love and staying up until four A.M. talking together about nothing.

Time passes; the initial passon fades; and the past and future reassert themselves. It is not that you or your partner changes. It's that together you have created a past and a future, which require having new attitudes toward time. If one person is biased toward the future and the other toward the present, it may be difficult to make simple joint decisions. Deciding what to eat for dinner to how to spend extra money to how to spend free time become tempting arguments where none had existed before.

Boyd and Zimbardo discover from their research of couples that what people want from relationships differ depending on their time perspectives. Couples with mismatched time perspectives will be prone to miscommunication and misunderstanding. They may truly love each other but live in separate worlds, like lovers who speak different languages. Couples with conflicting time perspectives may not undestand why they have difficulty in communicating. There may be no apparent reason why they cannot hear each other. While one speaks in the present perspective, the other speaks in the future. Their conversation is incomprehensible not because they are dense, uncaring, or unloving, but because they speak different time perspectives.

If two people attempt to meet in the past or the future, they are likely to be lost in a fog. When they argue, they are tempted to leave the bridge of the present and become lost in the past or abandon the present for the fog of the past. How do we bridge the gap in the languages of time? You start with the present. As Shakespeare puts it, we are the clocks on which time tells itself.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Farewell Michael, Thank You for the Memories

Under the scorching, unforgiving summer heat in Los Angeles, July 7, 2009 will forever be etched in the minds of many as a day of sadness, remembrance, and sincerity as the world mourned the loss of its cultural icon, Michael Jackson.

I am certain that as we watched with emotion, that we were also experiencing a form of communal sharing of joy and grief in honour of King of Pop. Although the memorial had global coverage, none could surpass that of CNN's remarkable round-the-clock-and-round-the-world features, integrating its superb use of Web 2.0 social media technologies as our hearts followed in rhythm to the marching songs and tributes of Jackson's life.

For much of the day, CNN and Facebook presented live coverage of Michael Jackson: The Memorial that had begun at 9am. For CNN, the last time CNN.com and Facebook partnered for a live event was for the Barack Obama’s inauguration as President of the United States. In all, this memorial service had broadcast around 6 full hours.

For the synchronicity of emotions and heartfelt words, the power of live social streaming is hands down a powerful technology that brings us together that not even television can provide. As one observer from TechCrunch notes,
Facebook serves as a proxy for a virtual living room that can hold hundreds of people. I find these comments much more interesting than random Twitters from people I don’t know
As we gathered around our screens, we witnessed a turning of the page in culture and media, a stage of our evolution in which Marshall MacLuhan had coined as the "global village," in which electronic interdependence:
when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a "tribal base."

R.I.P Michael J.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Digital Equlibrium for Librarians

There's no doubt about it: Twitter is here to stay as a social networking powerhouse. Despite what has happened, voices cannot be silenced. Although the head of Iran's judiciary has called for a crackdown on television channels and websites "deemed to be have been critical of government," it will be extremely interesting to see just how much information will be clamped down. As much as the government is interfering with satellite channels, and blocking websites covering the demonstrations, online social networking tools are allegedly emerging as the unlikely heroes, with bloggers quick to upload pictures and video clips of the demonstrations.

In essence this is really a showdown between twentieth century political mechanisms versus twenty-first century technology: the result could mean epic global implications. Thomas Friedman has called this this digital gathering place a "virtual mosque," a place that protesters "gather, mobilize, plan, inform and energize their supporters, outside the grip of the state." (The New York Times even reported that Moussavi’s fan group on Facebook alone has grown to more than 50,000 members.) But Friedman ultimately believes in a hawkish ending to this affair. As he argues: Guns trump cellphones.
Bang-bang beats tweet-tweet. The Sunni Awakening in Iraq succeeded because the moderates there were armed. I doubt Ahmadinejad will go peacefully.
This will be an issue that will be important for all to follow, not just politicians.