All posts by thomas.samu

Weaving the Web Response

A point raised in our last discussion was the advantages and disadvantages of true understanding of how the computer works It was asserted that there are many electronics that we use and have absolutely no idea how they function, and this article reveals how true this is in terms of the internet. Prior to reading I had no idea how anything on the Internet worked, or even what “http” or “URI” or any of the acronyms associated meant. I think this ignorance is especially true for our current generation since the Internet was just something that was always there, something that we grew up with. We never question where it came from or how it came to be, but rather have immediately starting interaction. Reading this piece made me realize how ignorant I am. It occurred to me that I don’t even know how things are saved on websites.  I would think that the site itself has some sever that things are saved to, but is there some cloud that all things are saved to? Also who would have access to said cloud, and is privacy of the Internet even possible then?

Another interesting part of the article was how the Internet wasn’t really popular at first, and Tim Berner’s Lee really needed to push for it. It wasn’t even an official CERN funded project; Lee worked on it in his spare time. He needed to go from source to source in order to find the right funding and help for his project. The Internet today is ubiquitous and probably the most popular form of media. It is interesting that those in the past didn’t see the potential the Internet had. Lee also mentions the Memex, and it seems that he took that idea and really ran with it. He calls Lee, Engelbart, and Nelson ahead of their times, which is ironic because it seems that Lee was ahead of his time too. Those around him, much like the contemporaries of the men he mentioned, didn’t see the potential and if they did couldn’t really help. Lee and the internet were the synergistic combination of all of his predecessor’s efforts, and a real testament to the type of knowledge sharing that these men wanted.

In one of my other classes, we watched the movie Dr. Strangelove, a movie in which the nuclear arms race is satirically discussed. In the movie, the Doomsday Device (a device that would essentially end life on earth as we know it) can only be activated by a computer, and would go off in the event that a human tried to disarm it. The movie explained this as trying to take the human element out of nuclear war. It makes me think though how quickly society has become intertwined with computers and the Internet. The whole Y2K scare was almost 15 years ago, and the thought of computers not working into the new millennium was unthinkable. Now think 15 years later how interdependent our lives have become and how devastating a loss of Internet would be. This article was written in 1999, which shows how relatively knew the Internet is. While I am not asserting that the Internet is inherently bad in any way shape or form, it is important to discuss the ramifications of our Internet dependence.

A Social History Response

The article for this week touched upon the same idea that the previous “Computer Boys” article touched on: Who has the power? With the advent of the computer, a whole new world of possibilities was created as well as a whole new sect of people who could build and program these devices. The struggle was to decide how important and pivotal these men and women would be and how often the computer would be used. Due to computer’s ability to store data, it was quickly seen that the invention was not only here to stay but would quickly become pervasive. The concept of ‘big data’ was therefore conceived, as companies could now store and analyze data like never before then. From this data came this question of to what extent data can be restricted and if this is an invention that is more beneficial than detrimental.

The part about Twitter and the Occupy Wall Street issue was especially interesting as both of these ideas are extremely contemporary concepts and inventions adding a degree of relevancy. I personally have a Twitter and have seen the trending topics on the side of the screen. From my experience these have been fairly accurate to the world around, as they are analogous to pop culture. It is interesting to think that perhaps the Occupy Movement was censored and more importantly if Twitter has the right to do that. I would think not since Twitter is a social media app for the people. What is the point of having a trending section if it isn’t even accurate? Twitter can tweet their own views instead of trying to portray ideas by restricting what can be seen. It is possible and probably more likely that it was just a mistake, or perhaps the movement wasn’t as pervasive as those running it thought. It does raise the question though how can we check, and are we then at a disadvantage for not understanding how these systems work?

Due to modern transportation and communication the world is becoming a much smaller place. As a result, knowledge of popular languages is of paramount concern. Interestingly enough, this article brings to light the question is computer languages should be on the radar as well. Computers are undoubtedly ubiquitous at this point, and it is valid to argue that most users are ignorant to how exactly they work. That brings to mind Elective C’s point: “…in the future everyone must be data literate… or their lives will be destroyed by those who are.” To be competent in the current world that we live in, do we need to be aware how to code, how algorithms work and how databases work? Will one day we be at the mercy of those who can? While a dramatic question, it is important to consider the ramifications. Perhaps there will be a day in which high paying jobs require a background in coding. In any event, the article brings up key questions about data literation and touches upon the larger question of the power of data.

Assault on Privacy

The main point of the article was to discuss the consequences and threats that the new age of computing might bring forth. The article warned against a “Dossier Society,” in which the government or big institutions has information on every individual in the country. The author mentions that companies feel like they need all the information they can get to be most effective in their marketing or research. Prior to the advent of the computer, it was impossible to amass and study large amounts of data, yet with the computer the age of “big data” was created. The novel 1984 was mentioned as well, as an allusion that readers during this time period would understand. The novel speaks about a dystopian society in which the government is always watching and monitoring its people and any hint of subservience would result in punishment. The article seemingly connotes that this dystopian concept was now much more realistic.

It is most interesting that this article takes place before the internet became popular. I wonder what Miller would think now that certain websites ask for credit card numbers, bank numbers, social security and other extremely personal and private information. Computers are much more intimate and integral to society now then they were before, and it is much more important to protect privacy now. Whole identities can be stolen through computers now and users must be much more vigilant. The article mostly talked about protection in terms of big institutions that ask for data, and how they must protect the data that they ask for. Now, personal computers are at risk as well and will usually have less protection than big companies.

The article stressed possible ways of protecting data and brought to light the question of if people will use privacy methods. Miller lists all these possible methods of protecting data, but notes that many companies will not take the time or money to institute these changes. He also touches on the fact that there are very few laws for the internet and computers, especially at this time. Computers were not invented with the intent to accomplish all they can do, and therefore it was hard to predict how to stop crimes with computers. Now, hacking and task forces against hacking are a huge network and thriving industry due to our dependency on computers. Miller is ahead of his time as he asks the question to the extent of data that companies should be allowed to ascertain, the liability of companies that hold this data, and government intervention in protecting this data. All these issues are still very relevant and pressing today.

 

When Computers Were Women Reflection

The article mostly spoke about the unfair portrayal of women in modern science. Eckert and Mauchly are given full credit for the invention of the ENIAC while the 200 women that helped received little to no credit. The most interesting part of the reading for me was the fact that women were so integral to the field of mathematics. Popular history asserts that women were relegated to the home or more menial jobs, though this finding goes against popular belief. I would think that at least in modern times that more articles would be devoted to discussing women’s role to science and engineering at the time for the field of computing seems far before its time.

The article reminded me of the story of Rosalind Franklin and her contributions to the discovery of DNA. Franklin was a researcher interested in the fields of biology and chemistry. She was actually the one who took the famous picture 51 and sent it to Watson and Crick who then won the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering the structure of DNA. Franklin for her efforts was given the honor of being a footnote in the magazine that published Watson and Crick’s work.

While the article itself didn’t speak about data, it touched upon the larger theme of the importance of data. Without archives or historians examining them, many still unsung heroes would be totally forgotten. Cultures change dramatically, and as a result history needs to be reexamined to incorporate new ideals and values. The article is not only historically valuable, but speaks on contemporary issues. At my time in Northeastern, I have met one female computer science major. It is ironic that a field that was practically pioneered by women now has a scarcity of women. Engineering too seems to be more male oriented as well, and society as a whole needs to start addressing why these cultural norms  exist.

The Five Dollar Day

After reading the two chapters, I really started to wonder if Ford’s method was really worth all the work, time and money it cost. The theory of scientific management seems much more practical and less time consuming. In scientific management, every step of the process did seem relevant to the industrial process to maximize output. In Ford’s system, it seems that he is spending a lot of money to investigate every part of his employee’s lives, and also imposing his own will so they act closer to company ideals, though I will expand on that later. What I don’t understand is that Ford was arguably much more successful! Ford Motors is still around today (though I doubt with the same practices of management) and it withstood the Depression and also in general the test of time. I do not know the current state of Bethlehem Steel or their current management practices, but I feel that neither practice would be effective in the long run, but scientific management should last longer or at least be more efficient. It is much more pragmatic in nature while Ford’s method is the epitome of the incentive method that  Taylor spoke about.

The main reason I find Ford’s method odd was because of how intrusive it was into the lives of employees. Not only did he investigate his employee’s private lives to regard them as “good” or not, he also was invested in how his employees spent their money. The author spends a large amount of time describing how Ford wanted employees who were thrifty, sober and saved their money. While these are good attributes, the whole point of capitalism is freedom to spend money in any way that a citizen wants. Ford’s management is akin to micromanagement, and even further it is like he is a god figure. He decided how his employees live, and if it is against his master plan they are fired. Again in theory it seems like it had success as the writer describes 3 or so success stories of men getting their lives together due to his plan. In America however, and in this day and age especially, I do not see the viability of Ford’s plan.

 

The final point which the end of the chapter touched on was the fact that immigrants were the ones that were greatly effected by Ford’s plan. The immigrant demographic makes sense as the most effective, since they need the money and will do pretty much anything for it. It also seemed that Ford wanted to instill strictly “American Values” into his employee’s, so the Five Dollar a Day method would be  the perfect way to promote his ideals of America into the new population. As previously stated, I do not believe that this method would work in today’s market, but I wonder perhaps with a similar immigrant population if it could? I also do wonder, though I bet Ford’s method did better in the long run, which management style did better Scientific or Five Dollar. It is interesting to note that after the economic boom of the Industrial and the Control Revolutions, that companies could now truly focus on how to effectively manage, a question that remains with us today.

Walker Response

The main issue addressed in the piece was the impact of Walker’s transcendent  “Statistical Analysis of the United States.” To summarize, the work was influential in that it had both political and regional views displayed on the map, making it the first of its kind. From the map, one could see the stark differences between the east and west, ranging from temperature to resources. However, I believe that the political aspect of the piece is what truly made it both memorable and innovative.
I remember once in I think US history being given maps and asked to decide the bias of each. To my primitive 11th grade self, this seemed like an odd request; how could an objective piece of data like a map possibly have a bias? The above piece, clearly seen by its political connotations, clearly proves that data can definitely push an agenda. By not mentioned the Native Americans on the map, the whole western frontier looked so open and free to move into. The west was seen as a land free for the taking and teeming with resources, further perpetuating the idea of manifest destiny. There is also a sense of authority data innately has; people assume that data was produced from reputable resources and methods and therefore should be trusted. Therefore, this piece gave Americans a scientific method for Manifest Destiny; the land was ripe for the picking.
The work reminds of the Linnaeus piece as they both emphasize the economic benefits of organization. What separates these works from the one about the Control Crisis is these works were subtlety about the economy. Linnaeus’ taxonomy is largely regarded as a scientific work, which it is, but his ultimate goal was to use science to bring new species and therefore wealth to Sweden. Likewise, this work was overtly a scientific piece, but it had the result of bringing settlers west. These passages in tandem show the manipulative tendencies that seemingly objective data can have.

 

Hammond Instruction Reading

After reading the document and the rules and regulations of slavery, the most blaring aspect of the piece is that the slaves were treated as animals. By animals I do not necessarily mean treated cruelly and inhumanely, though by no means am I saying there is any aspect of slavery that is not cruel and inhumane, but I mean the manner in which the slaves were treated was that of a farmer and an animal. An overseer could “show no favoritism among negroes” which in one sense dehumanizes slaves because it leaves the idea that slaves and masters could not be friends. Even in professional relationships in which an employer and employee relationship is established, it is still possible to be friends and not show favoritism. In the slave setting however, I feel that the favoritism comment connotes that this is strictly not allowed. What really displays the animal like tending was the descriptions of food and feeding the slaves. Each slave had a specific diet that they got once a week, and there were such condescending reasons for the dietary plan. Meat was not given on a Sunday because the slaves would eat it all and not have anything for the rest of the week or perhaps get sick from it. The way that this is described and the assumption that slaves cannot ration or even learn how to ration makes them seem more and more like animals. This piece shows how data and observations can be used as propaganda. While data is in essence bias free and just facts, it can be contorted to perpetuate a certain viewpoint. It is valid that this is how plantations were run and that this method may have been efficient. With these instructions, however, slaves are treated like animals, or at the very least as humans who cannot act on their own accord, and therefore it is necessary that they have masters. The men who read and followed these instructions probably believed that they were superior and that slavery was therefore necessary not only for their way of life, but also for the slave.