Posts Tagged 'Text Messaging'

Saving the World, One Text Message at a Time

A while back, I commented on the text-message generation. But this story caught my attention.

I have long understood that the cell phone/text message iteration of our culture is more broadly implemented in places other than our United States….indeed, countries like Japan and the European collection generally have more phone technology and use that phone technology more widely than we Americans do.

Examples (from the link above):

If you live in the United States it can be difficult to understand the role mobile phone technology plays across the globe. Here, you may use your phone for calls and messaging, perhaps for some computing lite, but likely little more. In Senegal, however, farmers are using phones to track crop prices, in Japan, writers are SMSing whole novels, and in Sweden, they’re texting to apply for instant loans. An app that lets you kill time on the subway, this is not.

Within a year and a half, half the world will use cellphones, predict analysts, and with the bulk of new users emerging from developing nations, the question of what phones can do for their owners has never before had such potentially world-changing answers.

Enter Nokia and Dean Kamen.

Kamen has recently completed a field test of two inventions that he hopes will change the world. Both are based on Stirling engine technology: one is a water purifier, the other an electrical generator. “Cancer, diabetes, all those diseases, that’s 50 percent,” says Kamen. “The other 50 percent of all disease is caused by bad water. Getting clean water to people would knock out 50 percent of all disease.”

Each purifier and generator provides enough power and water for a village; but, with one million villages in India alone, deployment is a challenge. In the past, Kamen has worked with multinational companies to launch his inventions, but the top-down approach of a big company doesn’t mesh well with the million-village scale of this project.

The developing world has a high number of cell phones per capita — the counterpoint to having very little in the way of landlines — and the idea is that software running on Nokia’s platform could be used to network and control a village’s small-scale power and water supply.

Hence the contest. Kamen is hoping to tap the expertise of mobile software developers — for instance, the three million of them enrolled in Nokia’s “Forum Nokia” community — to provide the infrastructural glue that will help get his inventions to the people who need them. Like Tim O’Reilly, Kamen hopes that developers, properly motivated, will pour some of their efforts into projects that help the world instead of endless widget toys and games.

It’s an inspiring idea.

Then there’s the revelation (already understood by pollsters) that 12% of the US population is available only through their cell phone, and that number is going to continue to go up.

Imagine a culture where everyone is available through their mobile phone/device/pda, and that important personal activities are able to accomplished via text-messaging (or whatever it evolves into), as the first link states. Mortgage applications, loan applications, voting, shopping, school, all processes and institutions that require a physical presence, a physical location, block and mortar. A truly mobile society, connected to each other not by roads and physical addresses but by ip addresses. Available all the time, from anywhere in the world.

Could it be?

Text Messaging & Classroom Protocol

Via Instapundit, an interesting report from Inside HigherEd that talks about an environment that every student is familiar with.

Some professors threaten to confiscate students’ cell phones if they go off during class. Laurence Thomas has his own approach to classroom distractions. If the philosopher at Syracuse University catches a student sending text messages or reading a newspaper in class, he’ll end the class on the spot and walk out. It doesn’t matter if there is but one texter in a large lecture of hundreds of students. If you text, he will leave.

Last week, when a student in a large lecture — in the front row no less — sent a text message, Thomas followed through on his threat (as he had done just a few days earlier). And he then sent the university’s chancellor, his dean, and all of the students an e-mail message explaining his actions and his frustration at the “brazen” disrespect he had received in class. In the e-mail, he noted that the student who sent the text message is Cuban, and that last year, two Latino students had started to play tic-tac-toe during his class.


Now, I have voluntarily relocated in a class to get away from incessant text-messaging, so I can understand the professor’s perspective. But, as the article goes on to point out, text-messaging is today’s version of note-passing; students today live in a persistent, ubiquitous information environment where instant communication with other parties is the rule rather than the exception.

In a time when e-mail is snail-mail, where land-line telephony does not exist, and where the “dead-tree” media doesn’t have so much as a toe-hold in the media market share game, perhaps it’s time for the professors to quit taking such offence at what is essentially now human nature.

“Life’s hard, son. It’s harder when you’re stupid.” — The Duke.

Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate,no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend, abroad, an introduction, in solitude a solace and in society an ornament.It chastens vice, it guides virtue, it gives at once grace and government to genius. Without it, what is man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage. - Joseph Addison
The term informavore (also spelled informivore) characterizes an organism that consumes information. It is meant to be a description of human behavior in modern information society, in comparison to omnivore, as a description of humans consuming food. George A. Miller [1] coined the term in 1983 as an analogy to how organisms survive by consuming negative entropy (as suggested by Erwin Schrödinger [2]). Miller states, "Just as the body survives by ingesting negative entropy, so the mind survives by ingesting information. In a very general sense, all higher organisms are informavores." - Wikipedia

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