Archive for October, 2012

Blog Entry 9: Politics and the Internet

In recent years, politics have become a pertinent part of the Internet, as politicians take to garnering support over various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and individuals become accustomed to sharing their oftentimes very strong political inclinations on blogs and in forums. So much of a trend has this become that even politically-conservative Singapore is not spared – the 2011 General Elections and the outpouring of support for the opposition parties and expression of disgruntlement with the incumbent government painted a very sobering picture.

A particularly interesting (and worrying) trend pertaining to the interweaving of politics and the Internet is the concept of the “splinternet”. Also referred to as cyberbalkanization, the splinternet is a characterization of the Internet as splintering and dividing due to numerous aspects, including politics and nationalism. Pertaining to these two aspects, it was discovered that many countries engaged in politically-motivated filtering of information. This selective provision of information – and therefore implied valuing of one source or type of information over another by the government – will invariably change the way affected people perceive the world. People will come to adopt a biased position on pertinent issues, or, in some extreme cases, not even be aware of the existence of these situations.

Other issues include the emergence of tribal mentality alongside the rise of the global village in the digital age – rather than a collective or mass consciousness, what results are various specialized electronic tribes contentious over diverse beliefs and values regarding a wide array of issues, in this case regarding politics.

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Blog Entry 8: Multimedia on the Internet

You have to admit, that multimedia is what makes the Internet so entertaining. Without all the prosumer videos, animations, music and podcasts, as well as all the flash games and virtual worlds, the Web wouldn’t be half as enjoyable. And it’s not just about entertainment and enjoyment, but also educating ourselves – multimedia have become a very powerful form of learning.

One of the most interesting trends pertaining to this facet of the Internet would be the rise of hypermedia. Used as a logical extension of the term hypertext, hypermedia is the phenomenon where graphics, audio, video, plain text and hyperlinks entwine to create a generally non-linear medium of information.

The first hypermedia system was developed at MIT by a team working with Andrew Lippman in 1978, using ARPA funding. Known as the “Aspen Movie Map”, it enabled the user to take a virtual tour through the city of Aspen Colorado. I imagine that must have been immensely enjoyable for users when it was first introduced – I do remember how excited I was as a child of 8 years when my primary school’s official website finally got with the times, dropped the text, and created a similar hypermedia function. It didn’t matter that the virtual tour lasted all of one minute, or that we were in school and could easily see much more of the campus by walking around – the insinuated advancement in technology was what threw us into a tizzy.

Speaking of education, hypermedia has been linked to learning, so much so that several theories have been developed. One significant claim pertaining to hypermedia learning is that it provides the reader or student with more control over the instructional environment, and another is that it levels the playing field among students with differing abilities, thereby enhancing collaborative learning. Psychologically-speaking, hypermedia is also said to resemble the structure of the brain more closely than simply printed text.

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Blog Entry 7: Internet Security & Malware

I’ll admit; I’m a big fan of the World Wide Web, specifically the Internet of today. These days, it’s become so easy to find information that, just half a decade ago, would have been worth quite a sum of money. (Or my big toe.) Not to mention that communication with far flung regions have been made so convenient, contributing to the metropolitanization of Internet users

Sure, there are a few annoyances here and there, but I can usually deal with it. Well, most of it anyway. Because if there’s one thing that I really hate about the internet, it’s malware.

Short for “malicious software”, malware, according to Wikipedia, is software used or created to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, adware and other malicious programs, and has led to the increased use of protective software types like firewalls, antivirus and anti-malware.

According to Apartment Therapy, there are 7 ways to avoid malware, namely:

  1. Developing Good Web-Browsing Habits: Avoid clicking on links you don’t trust, don’t install software unless you’ve specifically requested for it, close a pop-up using keyboard shortcuts (Alt+F4 for PC) instead of clicking it
  2. Watching Out for Emails: Never click on spam, pay attention to even emails from trusted sources, watch out for irregularity from regular contacts
  3. Being Careful of What You’re Installing: Note what you’re clicking “Yes”, “Ok” or “Next” for, ensure no additional software is added to your computer
  4. Keeping Your Software Updated: Official updates for browsers and operating systems will often fix security loopholes or bugs in earlier versions
  5. Use a Legitimate Antivirus Software: Ensure that the antivirus is from a trusted source, keep it turned on and updated, and schedule regular scans
  6. Set Up a Firewall: Depending on the setting, firewalls will note all attempts to access your computer and make you aware
  7. Don’t Share Files: Such as illegally downloaded music and videos. This includes files from flash drives, which may not necessarily be safe

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Blog Entry 6: Internet Tools

This week, I have something a little bit more special for my blog. Rather than simply uploading a textual post on internet tools, we were requested to put these tools to practical use, and create a video with the default film-making software loaded in our computers. After, we had to upload said video to video sharing websites like YouTube, Dailymotion or Vimeo.

Being a YouTube junkie, it was an obvious decision for me. So now, let me present a video I made with Windows Movie Maker*.

*I feel I simply must clarify that it’s WMM, not Windows Live Movie Maker, because honestly, “newer” doesn’t always equate to “better”.

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Blog Entry 5: e-Learning

Back when I was in primary school, every Friday was “com lab day”, or computer lab day. It being the late 90s to early 2000s, when most of us students did not have a computer or fully-functional internet (dial-up sounds, till this day, remain a source of trauma, not nostalgia for me), this was a real treat for us. Looking back, I think we were too busy having fun that we never realized we were actually engaging in e-learning. Somehow, even though our thought and problem-solving processes were the same, writing just seemed much more of a chore than typing on a keyboard and clicking the buttons on a mouse.

Something like this, but we had chairs with wheels. And color.

So what exactly is e-learning? According to Wikipedia, our very best friend, “E-Learning includes all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching, including EdTech (Educational Technology).” It refers to both out-of-classroom and in-classroom educational experiences via technology, can be self- or instructor-led, and includes media in the forms of text, image, animation, streaming video and audio.

Back in those computer labs, we were playing educational flash games and answering questions of language, math and science. We were enthusiastically obtaining knowledge, without the prerequisite grumbles and groans. Sensing the potential of e-learning, the administration and faculty quickly developed an online portal for us. Using the portal, we students could email both each other and our teachers, and tests and assignments could be administered even while we were not in the classroom. Eventually, this culminated in a TLTM, or “Teach Less to Teach More” week, during which students would stay home and do all of our work over the e-Portal, a project that would provoke much confusion from parents, who always believed that computer-based learning was more suited towards older students, such as those in college, or at least those of pre-university level.

People in stock images always look so happy, no matter what they’re doing!

Now that I’m actually in college, and most work has to be done over the computer, both online and offline, e-learning has lost much of its fun and evolved into a mere method of improving efficiency; I work on the computer because it is faster to type than write my notes, not because it is more enjoyable.

Ultimately, I would say that e-learning, while convenient and effective in its own right, should not become a complete replacement for traditional learning. Rather, it should be a complement to it, helping teachers and students improve on their teaching and learning. After all, call me old-fashioned, but nothing can replace the feeling of flipping the pages of real books, writing with real stationery and getting annoyed at background noise by real people.

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Blog Entry 4: e-Businesses

According to this article on the website “Quick Online Tips”, there are a few factors that determine one’s success or failure in running an e-Business. One thing, in my opinion, to note, is that e-businesses tend to have needs that vary from traditional businesses, and these differences should be taken into account when working on an online entrepreneurship project.

Tip 1: Be properly informed. Indeed, for anyone to do well in anything, extensive research and detailed information are necessities. As in the words of the article’s author Karo Itoje, “If you want to succeed in e-business, you have to be ready to sacrifice some time and money”.

Tip 2: Ensure that there has been thorough preparation. After all, every endeavor begins with a strong foundation, and building on a shaky one will only result in eventual collapse. To quote the author, “If it will take you 2 years to save some money, buy some products, learn, plan and start right. It’s better (that) you wait till then, than jump into it now with your eyes blindfolded (and) not having any particular purpose you’re serving online.”

Tip 3: Organize topics well. One should decide on whether their focus is horizontal or vertical, and link to related pages accordingly. Potential customers should not have to be subjected to frantic searching when seeking related topics.

Tip 4: Using search engines to your advantage. Pages should be arranged in a manner that will make it easy for search engines to index them, and therefore effortless for readers to find them.

Tip 5: Properly monetizing visitors. One should decide on what monetization model(s) to use way before their site is getting a sizeable number of visitors – the decision should be made during the preparation stage. Another thing to note is that every topic has a model that suits it well, and Ms. Itoje cautions us against “implement(ing) a monetization model because (a) pro-blogger is making good money implementing such (a) model on his site”.

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