Sample Exercises

Journal Exercise: “On Demand Contact”


Many of us are losing the ability to interact meaningfully with others, face to face, because we opt for on-demand rather than physical contact, relying on technology to mediate our communication. Bombarded with junk mail, email, spam, direct marketing, advertising, texts, and premiums, we may ignore the written and spoken word out of distrust or cynicism, because we have become desensitized to language. The visual world also has diminished with a flatness associated with screens. Mostly, technology has altered our perception of time and occasion.

Test the above assertion. During the course of a week, analyze the impact of technology in your electronic exchanges at home or at school/work. Note the following in a detailed journal or even create an online blog to critically evaluate the exercises:

1. How were you contacted: via social network, microblog, blog, email, text?

  • Was contact untimely rather than opportune? Be sure to catalogue interruptions at school/work, in the car, and disruptions at home. Jot down the medium used to make contact, along with the time of and the reason for the contact.

2. Determine whether the message:

  • Was timely for the medium, given the reason for contact.
  • Was untimely for the medium, given the reason for contact.
  • Could have been conveyed at a more propitious moment.
  • Probably should have been conveyed face-to-face at a different time.

3. Was content capricious rather than cogent? Determine the import of each message, noting whether:

  • Language was (a) clear, (b) somewhat clear, (c) unclear.
  • Content was (a) important, (b) somewhat important, (c) unimportant.

4. Conclude your journal entry by:

  1. Listing what components of face-to-face dialogue were filtered by the particular medium?
  2. Examining whether sight, sound, touch and so on would have enhanced content read or viewed on a screen.
  3. Documenting how the medium may have modified meaning.
  4. Optional: Start a blog chronicling your “tech and social change” experience!

Journal Exercise: “48-Hour Social Media Experiment”

If you are like most readers, you have a Facebook or Twitter account. You might also use other social media such as Instagram, WhatsApp, SnapChat or different service. Perhaps you order regularly from Amazon or bid on eBay or other sales or auction portal. You are probably accustomed to advertisements appearing regularly on your smartphone, tablet, laptop and computer offering products and services attuned to your age, sex, income, race, hobbies, activities, sports, religion, political affiliation, location, brand preference, lifestyle or other statistic defining who you are and the merchandise and services you use.

For the next 48 hours, continue using your digital devices but cease looking at your preferred websites and sales portals. If you are young, visit geriatric sites. If you are male, visit pregnancy sites for women. If you are female, visit erectile dysfunction sites for men. If you are white, visit African-American sites. Heterosexual? Visit gay sites. You get the idea.

To begin, make a list of your lifestyle statistics as identified above (age, sex, income, race, hobbies, etc.) and then choose dramatically different lifestyle statistics and attributes. For instance, think about a hobby you know little about, such as stamp or coin collecting. If you have never invested in gold or silver, visit a site like, which sells bullion. See how long it takes for bullion products to appear on your screen.

Each time a new advertisement appears that bears little resemblance to who you actually are, take note of it in a document.

When your 48-hour experiment concludes, revert to your regular online viewing habits. See how long it takes before those radically different products and services disappear.

Write about the experience in your journal or online blog.

Journal Exercise: “Your Digital Inventory”

Electronic devices are programmed for profit with the intent on driving continuous consumption. Moreover, each device or appliance has the capacity to sell products or services because of omnipresent digital access in the home. Do an inventory on your person (the devices you carry or wear) and room by room (where devices exist or are used). Include smartphones, digital eyewear, televisions, radios, computers, laptops, tablets, gaming consoles, and even kitchen appliances and vehicles with media and Internet access. (Optional: Create and compare two inventories, if possible: one in your dwelling if living independently and another in your former family home.)
After you complete your inventory, noting devices and where you located them (on your person or in a specific room), assess:

1. How much each machine costs (check Internet for original purchase price).
2. How often each machine is on or has access to products and services.
3. How many minutes or hours per day you used a particular device.
4. Cost for Internet access or continuing services from telecommunication vendors such as AT&T or Sprint, satellite or cable television, and downloaded applications such as Netflix or video/computer games.
5. What products and services you remember purchasing through each device in the past month.
6. Electronic media/technology charges on your credit card statement, digital wallet or PayPal statements. (Compare with #5 above.)

After completing your inventory, write a journal entry about the results, focusing on cost and consumption and time spent using devices per day. You may want to conclude your journal entry by (a) evaluating how you used technology in your family home and how you are using it now independently and (b) whether technology created an interpersonal divide between you and other family members (or, conversely, strengthened bonds in some way.)

 Journal Exercise: “Real Time and Place”

Educational diligence in computer age has three basic requirements:
1. Know the machine more like a computer scientist than a consumer, understanding when and how to use it, the cost of such usage (both in time and funds), and the terms of service that apply to such usage.
2. Think critically rather than mechanically (continuously checking social media), primarily through undistracted reading, coming to conclusions based on fact rather than belief.
3. Feel empathically by engaging others in real time and place so that inspiration and innovation are derived by authentic rather than facsimile experience.

Test your abilities in these areas by:

• Analyzing service terms of favorite applications, such as Facebook or Twitter.
• Setting aside technology for the entire time it takes to read a best-selling printed book purely for fun.
• Leaving mobile technology at home and spending an entire morning, afternoon or day interacting with others at a public park or community event.

After doing so, write about the experience in your journal, explaining anything new you learned about your use of social media, reading for pleasure, and engaging with others in real time and place.

Journal Exercise: “Digital Discretion”

One of the keys to success in the digital workplace is to develop discretion. During tense times:

1. Accept your gut instinct, but reject your first reaction, especially when using technology.
Learn to feel your ethics as well as irritation. Perception is often distorted when you feel tempted, manipulated, or deceived. Relearn physical feelings associated with your values so that when questionable situations arise, you can practice discretion.
Accepting your gut instinct is one thing, but acting on it quite another—a maxim that is especially important when using technology. Gut instincts can bring back memories of past experience and thus can cloud the immediate situation.

2. Don’t communicate before thinking.
You risk betraying yourself when you “speak what’s on” or “give a piece of” your mind, using social media,creating more problems, and causing bleaker circumstances for yourself and others.
Take a digital time-out. Don’t telephone, text, email, or fax until your emotions subside.
Ask yourself why you are angry. Determine if you are reacting because someone is using an uncivil tone of voice or “trigger word” (topics, terms or phrases meant to evoke a reaction). Remember to focus on the content, not the word or the tone, to help ease the pressure so you can articulate your viewpoint credibly.

3. Do not spread rumors or gossip.
Untruths posted online can come back to haunt you, undermining your career. Rumors and gossip destroy team work and collaboration and typically worsen, rather than resolve, problems.

4. Solve problems without creating greater ones.
Use appropriate but penetrating discourse, even when others are inappropriate or uncivil.
Do the necessary analysis before judging others’ work or person.
Embrace a shared set of values that analyzes or honors all viewpoints—even ones with which you disagree—in the interest of diversity and community.

Those are basic tenets of discretion. They are particularly important when others criticize or disapprove of us or our work. Tenets of civility—solving problems without creating greater ones, using insight and information rather than hyperbole and mean-spiritedness—also require us to reflect on levels of offense-taking. What words, terms, topics or phrases may cause an emotional reaction on social media? Are colleagues more civil face to face than online? Does distraction, multitasking and interruption play a role in how employees respond to others using technology?
Evaluate how these questions might pertain to you by following the process below.

Part One: Personal Assessment

In a personal journal contemplate and respond to these questions:

• When I interact with others online, especially on social media, what are my “trigger words”—topics, terms or phrases that evoke a negative response in me and cloud my perception and discernment?
• If I decide to comment, am I taking the time to listen to the argument in question and think critically about the topic so that I represent my views or ideals as powerfully and appropriately as possible? Or do I regret what I have written or expressed? If so, was I distracted or interrupted while formulating my response?
• What are the issues or behaviors, again online or in a class or work environment, that do not concern me but nonetheless annoy (slight irritation), anger (moderate irritation), or outrage me (substantial irritation)?
• What are the issues or behaviors of that do concern me and annoy me (slight irritation), anger (moderate irritation), or outrage me (substantial irritation)?
• Am I responding with similar or varying levels of offense-taking at slight, moderate, or outrageous issues and behaviors that do not concern me or that do concern me? What does that say about my typical mode of response?

Part Two: Write about It
In your journal or blog, write about your personal assessment, noting any discoveries that might enhance your online character and interpersonal integrity.

Journal Exercise: “Artificial v. Human Acumen”

Sir Roger Penrose, an English mathematical physicist known for his contributions to general relativity, proposed four possible outcomes for the future of artificial intelligence:

Option A, strong artificial intelligence (or functionalism). If scientists program the right computations, awareness will result.
Option B, computational simulation. Machines will be able to simulate awareness but will lack it, along the lines of the Searle test referenced earlier.
Option C, physical consciousness (preferred by Penrose). Humans possess awareness located in the brain that cannot be replicated by computation.
Option D, inexplicable consciousness. Human awareness cannot be explained in scientific terms.

IMPORTANT: Review your journal entries from each of the preceding exercises. After doing so, compose a journal entry, asking yourself questions posed by computer scientist Matthew Dickerson:
• What does it mean to be human?
• What does it mean to have a human mind?
• Is the human mind, in all its complexity, just a very complex machine?

Upon concluding your journal entry, review the four options above by Penrose and write a 5-page paper (double-spaced, properly footnoted) advocating for one of those views, using at least two technology books and five digital or print sources .