Category: Uncategorized

Technology’s role in journalism protest arrests: How phones have changed things

Technology played a major role in gutting media outlets. Further, the public used to rely on reporters to cover spot news, but the cellphone enabled everyone to do the same.

The Lurid Legacy of Coronavirus: Fear of Humanity

By  Michael Bugeja, IOWA CAPITAL DISPATCH


Back off! Social distancing was already a problem before coronavirus. (Photo by Getty Images)

Do you remember thriving downtowns, even in rural areas, with cafes, diners, restaurants and maybe even lunch wagons; hardware, clothes, book and department stores (some with lunch counters); TV-, car- and shoe-repair shacks; smoke, pet, barber, beauty, music and antique shops?

Then the mall opened. Maybe a Walmart superstore, and slowly several of those hometown landmarks went bust.

For more than a quarter century, megamalls had served as the main gathering place. Then came Internet and online shopping with eBay and Amazon, sparking a retail apocalypse.

In 2016, J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Macy’s and Sears each closed more than 100 outlets. Every year, one after the other, major chains filed bankruptcy. In 2019 alone, more than 9,300 popular stores shut their doors, the biggest year ever for closings, according to Yahoo Finance.

The exodus from physical place affected houses of worship. By 2018, Gallup found at an all-time low the percentage of Americans who belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. Only 50 percent of respondents attended services, down from about 70 percent between 1937 through 1999. The drop-off intensified in the ensuing 20 years.

People were disappearing altogether. Parks and libraries often were empty. Children played video games, patrons checked out eBooks. Teens texted into the wee hours in locked bedrooms. Adults ran apps on androids instead of laps in recreation centers.

By 2018, Americans were spending 11 hours per day looking at screens instead of each other. Factor in six hours sleep, and that’s 75 percent of waking hours.

The great outdoors used to mean nature — hiking, gardening, bird-watching, swimming, fishing and hunting. It still means that for some of us. But for many, the outdoors came to mean simply leaving houses and offices, navigating physical space in cars the way a submarine navigates the sea.

And yet, some downtown stores managed to survive. Some malls stayed open. Churches, synagogues and mosques welcomed the faithful. Parks and libraries were maintained, and community centers provided meeting spaces.

When we needed a break from social media, we could stow smartphones and wander the half-closed Main Streets and malls. We soul-searched on occasion with congregations. We relaxed in parks, exercised in gyms and patronized Ticketmaster for large gatherings at concerts and sporting events.

In this election year, political rallies were attended by hundreds of thousands.

Then came the coronavirus, and everything stopped, closed, or was banned or canceled.

The coronavirus has demon-like characteristics. You can have it with no apparent symptoms and spread it within close proximity of a neighbor. It takes a while to activate within a carrier, so you can test negative on a Tuesday and still spread it on a Thursday.

There are many fears in this life. Top ones are known by the suffix “phobia,” as in acrophobia, fear of heights; claustrophobia, fear of enclosed spaces; entomophobia, fear of insects; ophidiophobia, fear of snakes; astraphobia, fear of storms; and trypanophobia, fear of needles.

But of all the terrors, one in particular is the most intense in all of us: fear of the unknown.

Coronavirus taps into this, triggering panic behaviors.

Handshakes, a symbol of peace tracing back to the 5th century B.C., are forbidden. Yes, for good reason, because the virus is apt to be there. Even President Trump has found it hard not to extend a hand. At a news conference about the coronavirus, the Washington Post reported that the president continued “to shake hands with other speakers, many of whom are members of the White House Task Force charged with trying to stem the disease.”

Because of the emphasis on hands, sanitizers quickly vanished from store shelves. Hoarders bought crates of them. According to the New York Times, one Tennessee man bought 17,700 bottles to sell at exorbitant prices on eBay and Amazon before those online companies prohibited him and others for price gouging.

purellNevertheless, I checked Amazon on March 15 and found one seller “discounting” a one-ounce bottle of Purell sanitizer for $342.80.

Things are going to get worse before they get better. But they will get better. Sooner or later, a vaccine will be developed, and we can all go about living our digital, cloistered lives.

Maybe.

For almost two decades, I have documented the erosion of community because of technology, noting how it would change culture and, ultimately, ethical values established in time, place and society: truth-telling, fairness, responsibility and civility. I am not optimistic.

The coronavirus has set a dangerous precedent — that everyday human contact can be deadly. As such, social distancing will continue as long as we can be distantly social on Facebook and Instagram.

The real challenge for the multitudes who will survive this scare is learning to trust each other again, in person, with a handshake sans sanitizer. The alternative — continued, deeper, damaging self-isolation —may be the lurid legacy of this crisis.

We will need leadership at all levels of government as well as in our schools, churches, homes and work places to avoid that viral scenario.

Instructions to Hold Virtual Classes Using Canvas

Teachers using the educational software Canvas can utilize the “conferences” function to hold online classes for the duration of your institution’s ban on face-to-face classes due to the corona virus crisis. Below are step-by-step instructions.

STEP ONE: OPEN CANVAS AND GO TO YOUR SECTION

STEP TWO: GO TO SETTINGS

STEP THREE: GO TOP NAVIGATION TAB (Step One) AND THEN DRAG CONFERENCES TO THE TOP (Step Two)

STEP FOUR: YOUR NAVIGATION MENU SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS

STEP FIVE: NOW SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM AND HIT SAVE

STEP SIX: CLICK THE CONFERENCE TAB (Step One) AND THEN + CONFERENCE (Step Two)

STEP SEVEN: 1. FILL IN THE DESCRIPTION OF THE CONFERENCE 2. INVITE THE ENTIRE CLASS. 3. CLICK UPDATE. NOTE: You can unclick the box and invite individual students

 STEP EIGHT: CLICK START

STEP NINE: CLICK VIDEO

STEP TEN: YOUR SCREEN SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS

STEP ELEVEN: SHARE COMPUTER SCREEN OR LECTURE URL. Note: If you want students to see a PowerPoint or Photoshop or any other application, click the “Application Window” tab.

NOW STUDENTS SEE THIS

STEP TWELVE: GO TO YOUR LECTURE BROWSER TAB TO SCROLL DOWN AS YOU SPEAK NOTE: Your students will see your scroll. Toggle back and forth as appropriate.

FINAL NOTES:

  1. CLICK HERE for student instructions on how to use the “conferences” tab on Canvas.
  2. You should alert your students if you are using this function. Schedule a trial run, perhaps.
  3. You can call on individual students. Ask them to hit the video camera on their screen and they will appear for all to see.
  4. You can record your conference and reuse it.

Student Instructions to Attend Virtual Classes via Canvas

Follow these procedures to join your teacher’s Virtual Classroom. You must be enrolled in one of his or her sections using Canvas educational software. Classes may be scheduled online when  your institution closes for weather-related or flu-related emergency reasons.

STEP ONE: YOU WILL RECEIVE AN EMAIL INVITATION

You will receive via your institution’s email an invitation to join a live conference.


STEP TWO: GO TO YOUR CANVAS SECTION

Click “Conferences.”


STEP THREE: TURN ON YOUR MICROPHONE

Click on the icon so your voice is activated.


STEP FOUR: ALLOW ACCESS TO MICROPHONE

Be sure to click allow


STEP FIVE: CHECK YOUR MICROPHONE

Test the microphone and click “yes” if you can hear your voice.


STEP SIX: LET CANVAS TO ACCESS YOUR CAMERA

On occasion, you may be asked to participate via your phone or computer webcam. Click  allow  and  start  sharing.

STEP SEVEN: HOW TO USE VIDEO CAMERA FUNCTION

Do NOT click the video button unless your instructor calls on you to answer a question or you want to ask him or her a question. After you ask the question or participate in the discussion, you can click off your video and your picture will disappear from the class screen.


STEP EIGHT: HOW TO SHARE YOUR SCREEN

There may be times your instructor asks you to share a photo or digital product. Or you may want to show the class a website. In that case, click the “Share Screen” button below.


STEP NINE: HOW TO SHARE APPLICATIONS

Perhaps you might want to share a file in one of your folders, a video, a presentation or a photo in Photoshop. In that case, ask Dr. B for permission. If he grants it, hit the application tab and then choose the program you want to share. NOTE: You should close all non-class related applications or content you do not want the class to see. 


STEP TEN: HOW TO SHARE WEBSITES

You may want to share a link to your blog or a news or information site. In that case, you should ask the instructor for permission and then hit the browser tab. NOTE: Be sure to close out any open tab that you do not want to share with the class. Very important for privacy!


STEP ELEVEN: YOU SHOULD SEE YOUR TEACHER AND THE DAY’S LECTURE

This is your window into your section as if you were seated in your instructor’s class. Follow all the rules of engagement as if you were face to face.


STEP TWELVE: CLOSE OUT THE PROGRAM

You can log out of the class at any time if you have to leave the session for an appointment or when the class ends. Be sure, however, to close your Canvas tab as well.


In case you have any difficulty accessing the virtual session via Canvas, please contact your institution’s computer support number.

Technology, Cheating and Loss of Trust

The Houston Astros used technology to help win the 2017 World Series. Students cheat using cell phones, wireless earbuds, spyglasses and smart watches. The speed and stealth of technology are too tempting to resist. But the desire to win at all costs has its downside, too.

The Houston Astros baseball team may have won the 2017 World Series with a little help from technology, but the sign-stealing scandal had deeper repercussions than the penalties imposed by the Commissioner’s Office.

The penalties were the harshest possible under current rules: Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch were fired, and the team fined $5 million with loss of first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021.

The scheme involved use of a centerfield camera fixed on the opposing team’s catcher relaying signs to the pitcher: fast ball, change up, curve, and so on. The video was relayed to a monitor in a hidden space in the dugout. Once the sign was decoded, a trash can was banged to signal what the next pitch would be.

This had to be done within a second or two, but the speed of technology allowed it.

Once discovered, the scandal cast doubt on every game the Astros won with its cheating system. That was unfortunate, too, because the team was immensely talented and probably would have won the series without cheating.

As the New York Times noted, the effort wasn’t especially needed as in “2017 Houston hit .279 at home with 115 home runs and a .472 slugging average. On the road, where elaborate sign-stealing should theoretically have been more difficult, the Astros hit .284 with 123 home runs and a .483 slugging average.”

But the real damage was to the sport and, more specifically, to the business of baseball. According to another Times report, “The business of baseball depends on the public’s belief in the legitimacy of the competition. That is the implicit deal between the league and fans, and without that trust, everything falls apart.”

That’s the ethical lesson, too. Cheating obliterates trust. Often, it isn’t needed except to insure a winning season … or semester.

Last year Forbes published an article titled “How Technology Is Being Used By Students To Cheat On Tests,” describing how students use wireless earbuds connected to smartphones in backpacks with pre-recorded content related to exams. Other tech-related cheating involved Google glasses with pre-programmed answers and even smartwatches connecting to third-party off-site accomplices transmitting answers.

Temptation is part of the human experience. However, technology has spawned new strategies that some people just cannot resist because of ambition, greed or monetary reward.

When dealing with temptation, ethical people consider consequences, which often are greater than cheaters initially anticipate. They ponder the worst-case scenario and whether they are able to pay that price.

The price usually involves something worse than loss of a job or promotion, or a failing grade on a test or course; it can result in loss of trust, triggering irreparable harm to a person’s career or future.

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine focuses on how omnipresent technology undermines personal and professional values at home, school and work.

Deadly Censorship: China and Coronavirus

Whistlerblower physician Li Wenliang who warned the world about the deadly coronavirus and was punished by police for spreading rumors, contracted the disease and died in Wuhan Central Hospital. He was hailed a hero on the mircoblogging site Weibo, which carried the hashtag #IWantFreedomOfSpeech (now banned). His case shows the dangers of a world without journalism.

In the wake of his death, The Guardian reported “outrage and frustration felt across China over the initial cover-up of the deadly virus.” Some 1.5 billion Weibo users alone expressed their anger and grief on how Dr. Li had been treated.

According to the Guardian, Li was one of eight people detained for spreading rumors about the dangerous disease, with “the fates of the other seven, also believed to be medical professionals,” still unknown.

Government censorship not only silences truth but also often counters with propaganda and misinformation to minimize the impact on policy and national image. An example occurred with the 1986 meltdown of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in then Soviet Ukraine, which threatened all of Europe. To this day, the death toll from the meltdown has yet to be disclosed but has been estimated between 4,000 and 27,000 people.

The New York Times has reported that China had 20,438 confirmed cases of the disease as of early February. During the SARS outbreak, at this time, it had 5,327 cases.

A pandemic risks the lives of thousands.

Conversely, a free press saves lives. Censorship kills, as history has shown us from Chernobyl to coronavirus. Worse, in the absence of journalism, social media spreads misinformation that scientists have difficulty addressing or correcting. That has led to the term “infodemic,” prompting the World Health Organization to work with tech companies to minimize falsehoods about the coronavirus and other diseases.