Category Archives: Technology & digital

New year guilt-free information cleanse

It’s Chinese New Year and it’s time to celebrate the last year, relax with family, and look ahead to the next year.

On reflection, it turns out that my husband is a very wise man who has solid advice for me, despite being part of the white male liberal urban middle-class capitalist patriarchy. (Just joking. Mostly. Luv u!!)

On politics: “We’ll be OK.”

The shuddering , sliding and shifting of world politics has been consistently  concerning for me. But husband has taken a practical view that we will survive it, and that despair is pointless.

In the more eloquent words of author and activist Rebecca Solnit: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and in that spaciousness of uncertainty there is room to act.” Hope in the dark

What I’m doing about it

I’m keeping the hope, but still reading the news.

We are reaching information fatigue. Last week, we couldn’t face any more news, opinions or analysis. I want a little sip of information, just to keep my brain hydrated, but the newspapers, TV and websites are coming at me with a water cannon of THINGS I NEED TO KNOW.

The ‘clean eating’ fad is ridiculous and dangerous, so I’m on an ‘information cleanse’ – applying some conscious filters to my news and information. I’m avoiding meat-based shouting opinions, fake news pumped full of refined sugar and dairy-laden conspiracy stories.

red heart nope pin

Do you see hope or nope?

 

On guilt: “Stop wasting your time feeling guilty.”

Guilt. Gilt. Only one letter difference and only one is shiny.

Husband is very quick to smack down guilt. He has a more practical sense of how we need to motivate ourselves.

What I’m doing about it

Less guilty and more gilt-y.

After the inauguration (in-anger-ation?) and women’s march, I was on Twitter, scrolling and shaking my head, contributing to the aforementioned ‘information fatigue’.

Kristina Halvorsen is one of my content strategy heroes, and I follow her on Twitter.

Kristina: My 12yo son is racked with white man’s guilt. Wants to help the world but doesn’t want to be seen as a “white savior”. Parenting is hard.

Me: I don’t want my kids to be driven by guilt alone. Maybe grateful to be in a position to make a difference?  Responsible & aware & kind?

Kristina: ME TOO

Me: I’ve got a calming facemask on & starting to read Hope in the dark. Rebecca Solnit. Want to pass hope on to kids. And skincare.

Special thanks to Sam for the recommended reading.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

To all the ladies in the house   Mother’s Day had serious expectations heaped upon it, such as handmade cards and someone else replacing the toilet paper for once. International Women’s Day? Just the same old fluff – gender parity, equal opportunities, more women in leadership, less violence blah blah.

Kids – sorry the grown-ups broke your EU   Dear kids, Yesterday some grown-ups broke your European Union. Sorry about that. They didn’t really mean to. I hope that you can fix it when you’re older. Remember to vote. Love, mum

 

 

Hype cycle of life

I’ve had a few days recently when I’ve been without my phone. This made me realise how I use social media to fill all the little gaps in the day when I’d rather scroll than think or look or talk. (Introverts unite!)

Over the years, I have been subjected to many people explaining the Gartner Hype Cycle  to me. It’s *a thing* if you work in digital/technology. They use it to show how we are all sucked in to new tech, get disappointed, then shrug our shoulders and use it more sensibly. It is represented by a bendy chart like this:

gartner-hype-cycle

The Gartner Hype Cycle

I tried to review my own use of social media using the Hype Cycle’s five phases of a technology’s life cycle…

Technology Trigger: “A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity.”

Me: Started it/went back on it because I’m feeling strong. Technology will not control me. I can stop when I want to. It’s fun. Wheeee!!

Peak of Inflated Expectations: “Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures.”

Me: Oh it’s so shiny. A lovely portal in to pictures of excellent hair, architectural fruit platters, artistic shoelaces on amusing tablecloths, outlandishly refined pencil storage vessels.

Trough of Disillusionment: “Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver.”

Me: What have I learned from the last 74 posts I scrolled through? Clean eating is both a joke and a serious food phobia. Everyone I know, or do not know, or should know, has more than me. More culturally diverse holidays, more whimsical children, more successful and publicly affectionate partners, more innovative recipes using avocado, birch water and food-grade iron filings.

Slope of Enlightenment: “More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood.”

Me: Have accepted that my abdominal muscles will only be *that* defined if I use a bold permanent pen and glitter glue. Realise that taking a little peek in to the lives of friends and family is better than closing the door. A family reunion is three generations + Mark Zuckerberg in a blue room.

Plateau of Productivity: “Mainstream adoption starts to take off. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.”

When I can’t be bothered making small talk amongst unknown school parents, I can pretend that Twitter is my work email.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

The invasion of the attention-snatchers Using technology mindfully.  Does that sound like a phrase created by rich young white men in grey organic bamboo t-shirts? Turns out that I‘ve actually been doing it for years…  I wasn’t trying to be mindful, I just don’t like technology telling me what to do.

Using tech for good, not evil  I was running a little quiz and a guy made a joke about looking up answers on his phone. Him: But you’re a digital person aren’t you? It’s technology! Me: I believe in technology for good, and not evil.

The invasion of the attention-snatchers

Using technology mindfully.  Does that sound like a phrase created by rich young white men in grey organic bamboo t-shirts? Turns out that I‘ve actually been doing it for years…  I wasn’t trying to be mindful, I just don’t like technology telling me what to do.

This morning, while mindlessly Twitter-scrolling during the kids’ swimming lessons, I found some people with interesting job titles explaining why and how to take control of our technology.

The rebirth of calm

I found this article first: The rebirth of calm: Why we need technology with manners.  Amber Case, who is a Cyborg Anthropologist (!!) talks about why technology needs to be less intrusive and more polite.

“… fancy computerised replacements threaten to overcomplicate the tiniest details of life. Imagine a fridge or an AI-studded fruit bowl that texts you when one of your bananas is rotting. That might sound nice, but Case points out that a banana already comes with a custom technology that lets you know it’s going bad: “It’s a peel,” she says.”

Time Well Spent

That first article led me to this website: Time Well Spent. They are a bunch of designers who want technology help us spend our time well. They have a manifesto (of course they do), but it makes sense.

“We believe in the possibility of better design, that lets us connect without getting sucked in. And disconnect, without missing something important.”

They also have a video of a TED talk (of course they do).

Mindful smartphones

From there I ended up reading about mindful phone use: Distracted in 2016? Reboot Your Phone with Mindfulness I can’t tell if the author Tristan Harris wears bamboo sweaters, but I do know that he used to be a Product Philosopher(!!) at Google.

His article is well worth the estimated reading time of 11 minutes and 28 seconds.  It has some simple tips on how to use your phone when you need to, and not be tempted by those shiny pretty colourful apps.

“We live in an Attention Economy. That means every app and website … is trying to get you to come back and spend more time. Companies literally have teams of people called Growth Hackers, whose job is to invent new reasons (notifications) and new persuasive tactics to bring you back.”

I don’t think that we are weak or stupid, but there are just much smarter people whose jobs are to keep us app-happy and alert-addicted.

Lessons learned

  1. We have limited capacity to pay attention. Technological fun is unlimited. It’s not a fair fight, so we have to try harder.
  2. If you use frog legs instead of dolphin kicks while doing butterfly arms , the swimming teacher gets annoyed.
  3. I was right to turn off my email, app and phone notifications. Last night, my husband had an enjoyable drink with my boss because I was finishing something in the office and hadn’t seen his messages. The world didn’t end, and I joined them a bit later.
  4. Job titles are much more interesting than they used to be.

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Using tech for good, not evil. I was running a little quiz and a guy made a joke about looking up answers on his phone.

Slightly ranting about kids, technology, good and evil. I can’t decide. Internet = evil cesspit of narcissistic idiots chatting to gambling-addicted paedophiles? Or Internet = global community of inspiring humanity sharing knowledge and joy?

Make your own laptop I was in one of those over-priced Belgian cafes, filled with equal quantities of rustic wooden furniture and jars of chocolate spread.

Using tech for good, not evil

I was running a little quiz and a guy made a joke about looking up answers on his phone.

Him: But you’re a digital person aren’t you? It’s technology!

Me: I believe in technology for good, and not evil.

I can barely remember what life was like before search engines. Not because I am young, but because Googling has become so automatic.

There is barely a nanosecond between thinking “I wonder …” and someone tapping on search engine results. We have no time for pondering and musing. And everyone is a proxy expert.

Here are some things I Googled this week. Was this using technology for good?

  • Balayage. Freehand hair colouring technique. I’ve recently fired up my old Instagram account again , and there are entire accounts filled with bespoke heads of highlights.
  • Getting chicken fat out of suede. It happens.
  • Seokmin Ko. A Korean artist who holds up giant mirrors in beautiful places. See his wonderful art.
  • Harpy. Mythical bird women. See photo below that I took at The National Maritime Museum. Who knew that they were so well-proportioned?
  • Female astronauts. Because my daughter wants to be one.

   

 

A funeral from afar

A couple of weeks ago we went to a funeral service in our pyjamas. Thanks to the power of the internet, at 2:30 in the morning (UK) we sat in our dark bedroom, and tuned in to a webcast of an early afternoon funeral service (Australia).

I normally associate webinars and webcasts with work-related learning. “27 reasons why you should horizontally integrate your on-boarding data with your digital marketing ROI leverage opportunities”.

In contrast, this webcast was a fond remembrance of a loved uncle. We listened to the gently amusing, achingly sad and warm-hearted tributes to the unfamiliar other facets of this man – father, brother, friend. All from the comfort of our suburban bedroom, cradling mugs of tea, with a light scattering of pretzels over the duvet.

Technical issues

There were some technical issues. At first, although we could hear the service, the video was mostly an old-fashioned test pattern of bold coloured stripes. The experience of listening to the voices pausing and wobbling with emotion, in the silent dark made the eulogies even more moving.

test pattern

Later on, as the service began drawing to a close, we lost the audio, but gained video. We saw the people rising and falling and shifting and singing.

I don’t work for you

As interesting as this was, we thought that we would enquire about the simultaneous transmission of audio AND video. We called the funeral home and then it got a bit weird.

INT. BEDROOM. NIGHT.

The funeral home reception person has put us through to the ‘technical people’. A very efficient man listens as we describe the issues – what we previously could or couldn’t see or hear.  He performs some technical jiggling at his end, asks us some brisk questions, and we duly report back on what we can or cannot see or hear.

IT MAN: (businesslike) Right. OK. Seems to be some kind of issue with the cabling at (‘name of funeral home location’). I need you to get on to that straight away before the afternoon service.

US: (Baffled silence)

HUSBAND: (quietly) We don’t work for you…

(Pretzel packet rustles slightly. Mugs of tea are silent. )

ME: (confused) We’re calling from London, trying to watch a webcast of a service …

(Uncomfortable micro-pause.)

IT MAN: (mortified) I am SO SORRY. I thought you were calling from the venue. I didn’t realise … etc etc

US:  (Speechless with laughter.)

FADE TO BLACK.

I’m not sure if the tears in my eyes were from the strangeness of this last conversation, or the moving stories of a great man.

[– In memory of PJ –]

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Love is not dead, it’s just resting. How often do you tell your loved ones that they are loved? On a sliding scale, I think the most romantic medium are (with 1 being most lovely) …

I’m blogging again, but I don’t know why…

Well, hello again. After an extended period away ‘resting’, I’m back on the blog horse, riding high.

What’s the point though, of all my treasured blog posts, if WordPress probably won’t exist when my kids are old enough to appreciate my stylish turn of phrase? Perhaps I could print out all my entries and bind them all in butter-soft hand-embossed leather.

These thoughts on the nature of digital assets have been prompted by my current Online Learning (capitalisation intended as this is Work Related).  I thought I’d try the Digital Marketing Course on the FutureLearn website to give me some ideas for work (and because it’s free…) It hasn’t been practically useful for me, but it has raised all sorts of interesting discussions about what digital assets I buy, own, use and sell.

If digital formats, companies, technologies come and go, then I am wary of investing too much of my real self in them. Ongoing contradiction: I want to control and limit my digital profile, but if I don’t exist digitally, then what will you have to remember me?

For now, I’m just going to keep blogging and clogging up the digital drainpipes. Read it while you can…

BTW: After my previous pastry-themed homesick post, you may have assumed that I had stayed in Sydney. However, I’m back in lovely London and eating crisps.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Gluten-induced homesickness. Fresh sourdough toast with jam and ricotta has made me ponder moving back to Sydney. A fig Danish pastry has triggered layers of crispy homesickness. A pork and fennel sausage roll has almost brought me to tears.

Show me your private parts. Pre-digital privacy was such a clear concept: Teenage diary with “Keep Out. Private.” written on the cover; Letters addressed to you; Your phone calls made at home, in a room with the door shut; Holiday photos stuck in a photo album.

Let there always be kittens

One day I found myself hopping with a clickety click of the mouse from pictures of vintage French cheese labels, to a pro-anorexia, self-harm Tumblr site.  I have never seen one of these before because I am neither interested in anorexia nor self-harm.  

I started off scrolling through:

  • artful pictures of fading flowers in enamel jugs
  • pretty girls in wistful hats
  • nail art  (I am getting sick of nails painted to look like ladybirds and cheap cocktail umbrellas)
  • biscuits
  • kittens.

I then ended up stumbling through a stream of:

  • skeletal hip bones and shoulder blades and spines of teenage girls
  • rainbows
  • various skin wounds and scratches, sometimes in the form of bleeding red text
  • life-affirming platitudes “never give up” “ you are beautiful” “follow your heart”
  • kittens.

I rolled through these images for a while, wondering at the curious mix of cute sunny fluffy animals and deep self-loathing. Is this what it feels like to be a modern young woman? Is this what my daughter will fall in to as she grows up? Is there any place on the web where it is NOT appropriate to include kittens?

As sad as that desperate collection of images was, I’ve had a tiny useful glimpse in to a dark place that I want nothing to do with.

Thank you Mrs Internet for teaching me a little about the girls who cut themselves because they don’t have a gap between their thighs.  And for kittens. Let there always be kittens.