I know where you were last night…

I don’t have an iPhone or any other kind of smart phone, not for any real reason. I just never felt the need to get one; I already have a decent cell phone. Now, however, I think I’ve found a reason to avoid them.

Last week, two developers found that iPhones log their users’ locations to a file called “consolidated.db,” each detailed with longitude-latitude coordinates and a timestamp. According to Time magazine blogger Erica Ho, Apple has been collecting this data for over a year in order to better assess where its users need service. Although it seems to be a mild enough excuse, I can’t shake the thought that this is more than a little bit creepy.

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Unplugged: Taking the Interwebs to New Extremes


Could you go a day without using your cell phone? How about your laptop? TV? If you’re like most young adults today, you may answer these questions with a nervous laugh, say “Of course! I’m not dependent on it, I’m just, you know, fond of it…” while you reach protectively for your 4G technological gizmo. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

A recent study found that college students who were asked to give up media for 24 hours experienced physical symptoms of withdrawal. The experiment, titled “Unplugged” tracked the lives over 1,000 young adults for a single day without any access to media. Participants reported feeling fidgety, anxious, insecure, and isolated, among other physical and psychological symptoms. It’s like experiencing withdrawal from hard drugs, only the drug of choice is, um, your Droid.

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Unplugging Watson

Last week, something amazing happened: a computer took on two human beings on a game of Jeopardy!–and won. Basically, here’s what happened: IBM designed a supercomputer paired with powerful algorithms that had the ability to interpret a question that was asked using normal grammatical syntax, sift through a large number of articles and books (and from sources like Wikipedia), and then finally find an answer to that question. Pretty amazing.

Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy! computer, doesn’t even look like a computer. Watson has a “face,” consisting of a screen that displays a constantly changing pattern based on Watson’s confidence when answering questions. Watson doesn’t require a human to run–the computer reads the same questions that are provided to the human players, and responds using a text-to-speech system. Watson is arguably more humanlike than any other computer ever created.


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Facebook PDA-To Laugh, or Not to Laugh, That is the Question

It’s that time of year again. It’s getting warmer (well, not really…), the color pink is everywhere, and you will be surrounded by love. Or at least have to deal with St. Valentine’s Day. And if you’re part of the approximately 50% of Americans who have a Facebook account, you’re going to have to deal with a deluge of posts:

“Happy 1 year! I love you baby!”

“You’re so sexy!”

“I can’t wait to see my hubby tonight!”

(Courtesy of Lamebook.com)

And many, many more. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest.

The acronym “PDA” has gotten quite a bit of mileage out of it-from the Personal Digital Assistant to the Photo Diode Array to the Posterior Descending Artery to the Progressive Democrats of America. But now, PDA has settled into a newer and (for the time being) more permanent home: Public Displays of Affection. In fact, there is even a new term for a particular niche of PDA: the Facebook PDA, or PDA that is public (on the internet, at least) on Facebook.

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Your Angry Birds addiction is … good for you?


There is the longstanding stigma that videogames are, at best, an escape from reality. Painted in less favorable light, the games are regarded as corruptive and dangerous. However, a recent Wall Street Journal article claims that they are fulfilling and beneficial to users. Videogames bleed more and more into our daily lives.  They come with us everywhere now, hanging out in phones, not just in people’s dorm rooms.  Their ubiquity hasn’t convinced everyone of their good, though.

There is evidence for each side to cite: kids who play video games are better able to reason spatially; or a murderer who attributed his facileness with the crime to his videogame usage. While I think a lot of myths propel both sides, for the sake of this post, I think we should take basic point the WSJ article is making: “games consistently provide us with the four ingredients that make for a happy and meaningful life: satisfying work, real hope for success, strong social connections and the chance to become a part of something bigger than ourselves.” So, people desperately seek social connection and a meaningful life; what are the implications of allowing people to satisfy these needs in a virtual setting?

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