Tag Archives: technology

Coffee and Conversation: or, the Time I Accidentally Insulted Siri

I wish we were actually having coffee instead of virtually, because if we were actually having coffee, we’d be having an actual conversation about something worth-while, like how to solve the problem of world hunger, or establishing once and for all how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

Since we aren’t really having coffee, though, we aren’t having a real conversation, which means that I’ve been reduced to having conversations with my technology. I don’t think I’ve crossed over as far as Raj on “The big Bang Theory” just managing to avoid arguing with Siri over wine selections in Trader Joe’s, but I fear that tipping point is dangerously close.

Confession: I did tear a leaf from Raj’s book and train Siri to call me “Darling.” Yes, I do use the British male voice, and I do like to pretend being called Darling by a disembodied voice is comparable to being called darling by an actual man*mumbles* Colin Firth. Yeah, judgement-free zone here, remember? Moving on.

I recently upgraded to an iPhone 8 and quickly discovered that its new and improved home button is about as sensitive as our president on Twitter. The simplest thing sets it off, which I discovered to my frustration when I attempted multiple times to access my home screen and kept accidentally engaging Siri. At one point, I became so aggravated that I exclaimed, “I don’t want you, Siri!” To my surprise, Siri responded, “You don’t? You Don’t?” in a tone that might as well have said, “Thanks for mercilessly crushing my soul and obliterating my reason for existing. See if I wake you up tomorrow.” What does it say about me that I can’t recall the last time I bothered going to Confession, but I’m rendered nearly prostrate with guilt over inadvertently offending my smartphone? Such was the severity of my guilt, in fact, that I immediately retracted my rejection with an “I’m sorry, Siri.”
“It’s forgotten, darling,” he replied. Now I’m not sure if I feel disturbed by the extent of my emotional attachment to my phone, or spiritually rejuvenated because my phone just granted me Absolution.

Do you carry on conversations with your smart phone? What was the oddest thing you asked Siri? Do you greet Alexa before you say hello to your kids? Tell me about it.

There Seems to be No Sign of Inteligent Life Anywhere: on Mozilla and Morons

Do you remember the scene from Disney’s “Toy Story” in which Buzz, after an assessment of the environment in which he has apparently landed (AKA Andy’s room), concludes, “There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere.”?
This about sums up my reaction to a recent attempt to troubleshoot a technical problem I was having with my web browser.

Several months ago, I encountered a problem with Firefox in which my menu and tool bars mysteriously decided to disappear. Needless to say, I was not amused, and the situation was compounded by the fact that, being unable to see the screen, I couldn’t determine what specifically had changed, because I was certain that I hadn’t, at least intentionally, altered any settings. (Every now and then, being blind has its drawbacks, but you just gotta keep livin’, as they say).

It transpired that somehow, my screen had been minimized, and my screen reader (the text-to-speech software that enables me to use the computer) will only function properly if Firefox is operating in full-screen mode. A friend provided me with the correct key command (which was F-11, because you were dying to know) for restoring the screen to normal, and my internet activities returned to their regularly-scheduled smoothness.

This time, not surprisingly given my slow but relentless march toward aging, the problem arose when I couldn’t remember the ridiculously simple, one-keystroke command that my dog could probably have performed with his dewclaw. No amount of searching (aka approximately fifteen minutes spent on Google followed by another 20 executing random key combinations to no avail) yielded a result, so I tossed my problem into the black hole of tech troubles that is Twitter. After only a few minutes, someone affiliated with Mozilla responded and attempted (operative word) to troubleshoot the issue.

I subsequently walked away with two life-altering lessons with which I will now edify you, dear readers, because unsolicited advice is part of the package you get for subscribing to my blog.
1: a communication platform that limits you to 140 characters per message does not lend itself well to online troubleshooting. Well, duh, you say. *that’s* your advice? Well, I did say it was free of charge, and you get what you pay for.
2: Every time I think the universe has hit its stupid quota, I am proven wrong, and yes, I count myself among the allotted number of idiots given leave to wander the planet unsupervised. But I am a child of Einstein compared with the single-celled organism I was unfortunate enough to encounter. After specifically explaining my problem and emphasizing that I was a visually-impaired screen-reader user, the individual on the other end of cyberspace, apparently at the end of his rope, sent me the following tweet: “Do you want your screen to look like this?” the tweet was accompanied by…wait for it… a screenshot. OK, Einstein. Let me explain this to you slowly, in monosyllabic words. I…am…blind. I…can’t…see…that. Comprende?

I did eventually resolve the issue, sans stupid techie, but I don’t remember precisely how I managed it, because that was the point in the story where my brain exploded.

To borrow a phrase from Bill Engvall, here’s your sign.

Question: Have you ever had a ridiculously trivial tech troubleshooting problem?

A Little Birdie Told Me: Academic Research and the Twittersphere

Amidst headlines about the ongoing violence in Syria, the 2012 presidential race, and people (myself included) griping about Facebook’s mandatory rollout of Timeline, I was fortunate to stumble upon this little gem in my Twitter feed: MLA Releases Guidelines for Citing a Tweet.
‘Great,’, I thought. ‘As if taking up arms against the persistence of plagiarism isn’t already challenging enough what with Wikipedia, Google, and the fact that the iPhone has shrunk the world of information to a pocket-sized piece of plastic’. Now we’ve got to contend with Twitter.

You would think that, having spent roughly half of my life becoming increasingly reliant on the Internet, that I’d be a bit less of a Luddite about this most recent acknowledgement of the extent to which internet technology has altered the way we conduct (and in turn cite) research. But the truth is, I needed a moment to pick my jaw up off the floor before I could actually process this information. Several cups of coffee later, with the gears of my brain grinding, I challenged myself to step back and evaluate the situation from a more technologically open-minded perspective. Let’s face it: I blog, I use Facebook, I tweet like a twit, and I’ll be much surprised if I am never called upon to address a question from a student about the correct method for citing a tweet. Thanks to the MLA, I now have a default response.

That being said, there remains the issue of what constitutes legitimate, authoritative sources, and the circumstances under which Twitter might be considered appropriate for academic research. Admittedly, I was hard-pressed to think of such scenarios; as a literature and writing teacher and a Victorian scholar, I’ve never encountered (at least not yet) such a scenario. However, I am aware that in recent years, scholars in my field, as well as fans, have taken to creating accounts on Twitter impersonating—for entertainment as well as edification—fictional characters and their creators, everyone from Wilkie Collins and the great Sherlock Holmes to Mark Darcy of Bridget Jones fame (though he hasn’t tweeted in months…not that I know this, because I don’t follow him or anything). To return to the point, if someone, whether a student or professional scholar, wanted to conduct research focusing on the use of social media such as Twitter for engaging with literature and encouraging the “iPhone generation” to read, this might be a scenario where citing a tweet might be academically appropriate.

To use another example, the course I taught last semester—Writing through Media—and the course I’m currently teaching—Advanced Argumentative Writing—both have a heavy emphasis on the usage of new media tools, including Twitter, as means through which to enrich our writing experiences and create new spaces for readers and writers to interact with one another. I’ve just assigned my Advanced Argumentative Writing students an essay addressing this very topic, and in a context where one is studying the trends of popular media, there might be cause for incorporating Twitter into the research and writing. In that case, the MLA has offered us a solution to a question for which, until now, teachers have had no standard, textbook response.

How do you feel about the acknowledgement of Twitter as potentially suitable for use in academic research? What situations can you think of in which such usage would be called for? How can teachers instruct students about how best to use Twitter as an academic tool? Is Twitter even an internet resource that can offer students legitimate, authoritative information, or should we teach students to treat Twitter as we instruct them to treat Wikipedia–a source of general (though not necessarily verifiable) information?