The English language is a dynamic one with new words and phrases added to our lexicon every day. That makes it a useful language, but it also makes it a vexing one for those of us who are still trying to get comfortable with yesterday’s English.
I’m still trying to warm up to the tendency to take nouns and turn them into verbs, as in “I’m tasking him to do this,” or “I’m purposing to do that.” But what a lot of us are having trouble with — and I suspect it’s especially the over-40 crowd — is the entirely new dictionary of terms that has mushroomed around the Web 2.0 media.
Recycling some, inventing others
Some words have been “repurposed” (I’m catching on), while some have been created from the ground up. An example of the former would be “asset,” which used to be something accountants or CIA types worried about, while an example of the latter would be “vlog.”
You might want to see how many of the following dozen terms you know, and grade yourself accordingly. Following the list, you’ll find the definitions. Here we go:
OK, let’s see how you did, starting with one of the easiest terms and moving on to ones that we sometimes bluff others into thinking we understand.
Web 2.0 Media. No exact, uniform definition but this refers to the interactive use of the Web — generally called the social use — wherein users post their own original content alongside the content of organized information providers. In a larger sense, it refers to any new Web applications, ie. anything that wasn’t there last month.
Aggregation. This refers to the gathering and remixing of information from a multitude of sources on the Web, usually via RSS (see later listing) related to the topic at hand and gathered via keywords.
Blogroll. Not a distant cousin to a bedroll, this is a list of blogger-recommended, topic-related sites that appear in the sidebar of a blog.
Vlog. A video blog as opposed to a written one.
Mashup. What your wife does to potatoes. Oh yes, and a web service or software tool used to combine two or more tools to create a whole new service. A leading example is ChicagoCrime, which merges Google Maps with the Chicago Police Department’s crim- tracking web site to offer a map of crime in different parts of Chicago.
Moblogging. We’re talking mobile blogging here, which refers to users who post updates of their blogs from a mobile device such as a cell phone. It’s blogging on the fly.
Newsreader. This is what TV news anchors are often called in Europe, but that’s another story. In Webspeak, a newsreater collects the news from several blogs or news sites via RSS, providing readers access news from a single web site. A couple wellknown online newsreaders are Pluck and Bloglines.
RSS. You may have seen these initials on your e-mail site. They denote a format for users to store online data in way that makes it readable by a large variety of software. Many blogs and web sites feature RSS feeds, which are constantly updated to keep the site’s content fresh. These feeds are provided in a form that can be read by an aggregator or newsreader.
Podcast. Either broadcasting the news from the inside of a vegetable or, more likely, the distribution of multimedia files over the Internet for playback on a mobile device or a personal computer like an iPod.
Captcha. Seems like a cousin to Gotcha, but this refers to those crazy letters and numbers you have to decipher and type in when filling out a form on the web. It is a mechanism used to check whether or not you are human (really) and is used to prevent spam.
Cloud Computing. Sounds like this refers to surfing while flying the friendly skies, but things aren’t always as they seem. Cloud Computing brings up the recent trend of using the Internet as an applicaiton platform (or cloud) like utilzing an online version of a word processor rather than using a word processor on your computer’s hard drive. Cloud Computing also refers to the use of the Web as a service, such as storing your pictures online at Flickr as opposed to storing them on your hard drive.
Social Bookmarking. No need for a social secretary here, but this term refers to storing individual pages online, allowing you to “tag” them. For users who frequently bookmark web pages, social bookmarking can provide an easier way to organize the bookmarks.
And as for that asset listed earlier, it’s been rolled into a larger term called “asset management system.” Writer A.J. van Kiekerk calls that a computer hardware system that aids in the “ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets.”
This week featured Veteran’s Day, which is a day that too often is ignored except for those who have served — usually far away from home — and for those who have waited for them to return safely.
Neither job is easy, and I’ve often marveled at how my father’s generation pulled it off during the four-year-long WWII. I can’t imagine being gone from your loved ones for the years that those GIs were, either in Europe or the South Pacific.
Books like “The Greatest Generation,” by Tom Brokaw, and visual analyses like Ken Burns’ series on The Civil War show how lonely it is for soldiers to be cut off from their families while, at the same time, dodging bullets each day. Often, however, boredom is the toughest enemy for soldiers on deployment.
Too much time to think about who they haven’t seen for a very long time.
Happily, the Web 2.0 media is making life a little easier for men and women in the armed forced and their families back home. The long lines at the single phone booth in some outback country have been replaced by sophisticated communication facilities at many military posts in Iraq and even Afghanistan.
Better than before
It’s still not great, because soldiers and their loved ones can’t reach out and physically touch each other — but it is a lot better than it used to be. It’s also good for soldiers still looking for Mr. or Ms. Right.
Soldiers on deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan are using online meeting and dating sites just like other singles back home in the states. One example is Navy Corpsman Elrie Ferguson from Indiana. Now serving his second tour, in the Marja district of Afghanistan, Ferguson and his wife Aubrey were married last summer after meeting online when Elrie was on his first tour in Iraq. Their story is featured in this week’s edition of The Daily News at Ball State University, where Aubrey is a senior speech-language pathology major.
She and her husband e-mail regularly and she gets a call at least weekly.
“I scream like a little girl every time I see that number pop up,” she says.
Elrie and Aubrey met online in March, 2009, when a friend told her about a social networking site called My Yearbook. One day during her spring break, she decided to get the site a test spin, using an application called, “secret admirer.’
“When you click on someone it sends them a notification that someone clicked on them,” she told writer Megan Capinegro. “Well, I clicked on him, and he clicked back on me. It sent us both a thing that we had a match.”
Aubrey then sent Elrie a message and introduced herself, asking him what he was doing. His reply said simply, “In Iraq.” The couple kept the clicking going and they met the next month when he came home for leave. Their in-person meeting took place — where else — in the electronics aisle of a discount store. They were married last summer before Elrie had to fly to Afghanistan to start his second tour.
Communication is better
People separated by the twin wars America is fighting can communicate much more quickly and easily than in previous wars. The same Web 2.0 technology that enables better communication
between next-door neighbors, also connects people easier around the world. The difference probably is that those international communications tend to stay more upbeat, especially when one of the communicators is in a war zone.
In a 2007 USA Today story, for example, Army wife Cindy Hayes said that when she she spoke with her husband, Zack, in Iraq, “I don’t tell him anything that would distract him. If our daughter’s sick, I just say she’s sick. I don’t give any details, because he’ll think about that while he’s on a mission.”
It just an example of how those loved ones separated by war are careful about what they write in e-mails, or say on the phone or on Skype. According to writer Rick Hampson, “Many are careful not so much to protect military secrets as to protect each other. In the military the mantra is, ‘Keep it positive.’”
A lot of voice traffic
While some areas of Afghanistan are too remote for regular communication, technology has helped erase those barriers over the past few years. Now GIs head to the war zone with laptops, software for Internet phone calls, video cameras, and prepaid phone cards. In 2004, West Point sociologist Morten Ender found one-fourth of the troops in Iraq called loved ones in the states at least twice a week, and one in ten phoned everyday. Those numbers have gone up over the past six years.
The military has beefed up its communication system in the war zones, installing thousands of phone lines and creating many Internet cafes in Iraq, according to Rick Hampson.
So, when you’re counting the pro-social benefits of the Virtual Unknown, don’t forget about how it’s helping out our soldiers and sailors stay in touch with their friends and families. For these people, the advantages are priceless.
Like a lot of young university researchers, I once placed almost total confidence in numbers as the basis of knowledge.
If a research study were done properly, the variables were all brought under control, the observations all reduced to numbers and those digits were crunched properly, then the results formed a stronger basis for knowledge than anything else on the planet.
Those results were stronger than anecdotal evidence, stronger than what your mom or dad told you, stronger than common sense. In fact, a researcher once convinced me common sense didn’t even exist. I believed it until a good friend — herself a scientist — pointed out one day that everytime I came in from across a muddy yard, my shoes would leave tracks on the carpet. So take off your shoes.
That, she rightly noted, is common sense.
Since then, I’ve had new respect for that concept. I still place value in well-executed quantitative studies, but I also place a lot of value in common sense.
For example, media researchers will often tell you there is no body of research that proves violence on the Internet, television, video games, or in the movies leads to real-life violence. If young Edgar witnesses a spate of bodies dropping in prime time, it doesn’t follow that he is going to become the next Jeffrey Dahmer. But it is also true that the two young Colorado shooters who left 12 bodies in their bloody shooting rampage at Columbine High School were extremely heavy players of Internet games.
New York Daily News health advice columnist Dr. Dave Moore recently told a reader that the gaming habits of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were contributors to their bloody Columbine act, and explained why their favorite game of “Doom” was so dangerous. Doom was the hottest 3D action game of the time, launched in 1993 and named video game of the year in 1994 by PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World.
Video Game Addiction
Still, Dr. Moore told the advice-seeker, “You, and unfortunately parents, are clueless about what creates the video game addiction. What separates Doom from other video games and toys is one big point. They are deliberately programmed to make the player a ‘first person shooter’. You are not controlling a character, YOU ARE the character. Parents can see that transformation start in their video gaming kids – what addiction specialists call negative developmental changes.”
A quantitative researcher would say there were other variables involved with Klebold and Harris that would not be found in an across-the-board sample of teenagers. That’s true, but there are still a healthy number of kids out there with the unhealthy tendencies and vulnerability of these two, waiting to be triggered by mediated violence. Communication researchers have identified what they call an Aggression Stimulus Theory or Aggressive-cue Theory that shows the media violence can prepare someone — condition him or her — to act violently.
A Literal Defense
On the other side are defenders of the video game, Doom, now in its third iteration. This observation comes from a site called Old.doom.com: Choosing to take a more literal approach to the connection between the features of Doom and Columbine, the unnamed writer says:
“I personally believe that Doom had nothing to do with the Columbine High School attack. I seriously doubt that Kelly Fleming was running at the shooters hurling fireballs from her hand when she was shot or that Corey DePooter was chrarging them with a shotgun. In Doom, Hell Knights don’t comfort each other under the table crying. Humans have been killing each other since the beginning our of existence, before Doom was ever around. Harris and Klebold were going to shoot up their school no matter what.”
Good News, Bad News
Some parents might breathe a sign of relief to discover that heavy television viewing has decreased somewhat among teens, and that some video stores are having trouble keeping the doors open because of lower sales. The bad news, of course, is that young people are flocking to the Internet instead to get their kicks — literally when it comes to violent online video games. So the influence that may have helped propel Dylan and Eric is still there; it has just changed platforms.
Check These Out
If you want to attach some weight to statistics, try these from the Web site, Enough is Enough:
* American teens are more wired now than ever before. According to our latest survey, 93 percent of all Americans between 12 and 17 years old use the internet. In 2004, 87 percent were internet users, and in 2000, 73 percent of teens went online.
* 20 percent of teens have engaged in cyberbullying behaviors, including posting mean or hurtful information or embarrassing pictures, spreading rumors, publicizing private communications, sending anonymous e-mails or cyberpranking someone.
* 48 percent of K-1st reported viewing online content that made them feel uncomfortable, of which 72 percent reported the experience to a grownup, meaning that one in four children did not.
* 63 percent of teens said they know how to hide what they do online from their parents.
* 65 percent of high school students admit to unsafe, inappropriate, or illegal activities online
And the prevalence of Internet gaming?
* The most common recreational activities young people engage in on the computer are playing games and communicating through instant messaging.
Here’s what the site, Teen Violence Statistics says about internet violence, its methods and influence:
“While most people think of teen violence occurring at school or in the teens’ neighborhoods, some teen violence occurs or starts on the Internet. The Internet can both encourage and prevent teen violence, depending on who pays attention or speaks up.”
And the ways that can occur? The same Web site notes:
Teen Internet violence and cyberthreats can occur in many ways. A teen may use the internet to:
- Directly threaten to hurt someone
- Indirectly threaten someone, like saying, “You’d better watch out at school tomorrow”
- Manipulate someone by threatening to hurt their loved ones
- Write about hurting him or herself, wanting to end it all, or feeling that life isn’t worth living
- Read or publish hateful information about a certain person or group of people
- Talk about wanting to hurt or kill other people
- View or post threatening pictures, songs, videos, or other forms of media
- Play games that encourage violence. Studies have found connections between playing violent computer games and acting violently toward other people.
- Visit web sites about violence or self harm
- Engage in cyberbullying
The Best Math
As I think about it, probably the best means of gaining knowledge about issues like this is to combine statistics and common sense. When it comes to the dysfunctional aspects of Web addiction, that’s when the numbers really add up.