Junk Thought – Advertising

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Internet: Made us better informed or just distracted?

06/06/2010 1 comment

“The information we consume is increasingly flat and homogenized. Designed to reach millions, it often lacks nuance, complexity and context. Reading the same factoids on Wikipedia and watching the same viral video on Youtube, we experience is a flattening of our culture.”

“We are the first few generations to receive most of our sense of the world mediated rather than direct, to have it arrive through one screen or another instead of from contact with other human beings or with nature”

Adbusters #90

A good example, Hilary Clinton farts!

This video is hilarious. Seems like 4.3million other people think so as well. But it is a distraction more than anything else. With 1000s of videos on the internet of political debate and discourse, a mash-up of Hilary farting gets the most views.

The advent of the internet was suppose to benefit humankind with its onslaught of information, readily accessible at our fingertips, making us better informed individuals. The Internet has helped individuals and businesses to overcome geographical, cultural and logistical barriers. It shrinks time and distance. It simplifies complex business processes and enables more effective communications. As social and cultural barriers continue to fade away, more individuals and companies are able to participate in the global economy, regardless of their size or location.

However, when the majority of people are navigating towards the 10 second soundbites, farting mash-ups, and other spoof videos, are we really better informed or just distracted?

Farewell Letter

If I was granted a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability.

I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express.

I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.

I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.

If I was granted a little bit more of life, I would dress in a simple manner, I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my soul naked at its mercy.

To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.

I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves.

To old people I would say that death doesn’t arrive when they grow old, but with forgetfulness.

I have learned so much with you all, I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken & the form used to reach the top of the hill.

I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life.

I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.

Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul.

If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say “I love you.”

There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you & that I will never forget you.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.

Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them “I am sorry,” “forgive me, “please,” “thank you,” and all those loving words you know.

Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.

A farewell letter from Gabriel Garcia Marquez on his deathbed

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Prime Minister needs to lead Open Government

Today, the Ottawa Citizen published a story entitled “PM needs to lead ‘open government’“. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault told a parliamentary committee Thursday that, with a few exceptions, the government has been slow to put its electronic data online, even though Canada is one of the most Internet-connected countries in the world. She went even further and suggested that Canada follow the US lead, when Barack Obama issued an executive order on his first day in office that outlined the US Government’s commitment to providing an unprecedented level of openness and to establishing a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration.

While the executive order did not garner much media attention, I do believe that in the future, Obama’s executive order will be regarded as the catalyst to creating Government 2.0. In the USA alone, we have already witnessed an explosion of initiatives by regular citizens to use government data to improve services. The Sunlight Foundation is the best example. They have digitized information and packaged it on various websites (opencongress.org, fedspending.org, opensecrets.org, earmarkwatch.org, etc) to allow citizens to collaborate in fostering greater transparency.

If Prime Minister Harper were to follow through on the Commissioner’s recommendation, it is suggested that leadership on open government be based on the following principles:
1) Services are more valuable when they offer citizens choice – therefore, data should be available through filters and lenses as well as in “raw” format.
2) Data should be easy to find – many governments today post data online, but it is buried in large webpages with inefficient search options. Use Portals!
3) Collaborate – both with other government departments and with the private / non profit sector. Often, different organizations collect similar data on a similar issue. A holistic perspective should be considered when compiling and communicating data.

Ontario’s New Sex Education Curriculum

Ontario’s proposed new sex education curriculum is casuing quite a stir. The Toronto Star reported yesterday that “Children in Grade 1 will be taught to identify male and female genitalia….In Grade 3, students will learn about visible differences and invisible differences between people, such as learning abilities, gender identity and sexual orientation“. The uproar is that some parents believe Grade 1 is too early to begin talking to children about sex.

The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada released a timely report (March 2010) on “sexual health education in the schools: questions and answers”. The report outlines many conclusions, some of which are key to the issue of sex education in schools. Among the report’s conclusions are:
– For a majority of Canadians, first sexual intercourse occurs during the teenage years
– The prevalence of STD infection among youth and young adult Canadians is unacceptably high
– Rates of teenage pregnancy have declined steadily
– The percentage of teens who have had intercourse has also declined in recent years
– The rates of condom use among sexually active young people have increased

Mostly good news right? So why the push to expand sex education to younger children?

This debate flared up south of the border during the 2008 Presidential Debate, with President Obama stating that “If [kindergarteners] ask a teacher ‘where do babies come from’… providing information that…it’s not a stork is probably not an unhealthy thing.”; while republican candidate Mitt Romney stating that “that the amount of sex education appropriate for a five-year-old is none”.

To argue that no level of sex education is appropriate for a five year old, or someone in Grade 1, misses the point. That view is informed by a belief that children should be sheltered from sexual exploits with the hope that they would abstain from sex as long as possible. The point is the betterment of society. In the end, does this help children make better choices? Or does it actually encourage youth to go out an experiment? (see Rolleri, 2005)

To answer this, some considerations should be kept in mind: the prevelance of the internet in the lives of today’s youth is enourmous, and indirectly teaches children about sex (which is often a distorted/perverted view). Advertising doesnt help either, which often promotes distorted images of male and female sexuality. A large portion of parents today feel uncomfortable speaking to their children about sex, even though many youth consider their parents as a valuable source of sexuality information.

With these circumstances in mind, it appears more appropriate to focus the debate on what is considered “age-appropriate” education, rather than how young is too young.

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Eight Tips for Winning Brains

Eight Tips for Winning Brains

Self-awareness: Train yourself to interpret other people’s facial expressions and body language by watching scenes from a movie on mute. Then watch the scene again, this time with volume, and compare how well your interpretations matched up. You can improve this skill over time.

Motivation: If you have a problem with procrastination, make large tasks feel more manageable by breaking them down into parts.

Focus: Like playing Whac-a-Mole, sometimes you can actually perform better when you’re not concentrating too hard. If something’s not coming to you despite your best efforts, try relaxing and letting the brain work on autopilot.

Emotional balance: Practice managing your emotions by changing your perspective of a situation. Research shows that if you think of a highly emotional event as a challenge rather than a problem, you can stay calmer and retain a better memory for details.

Memory: “Edit your brain,” the authors say. Recognize and consciously purge useless information. Imagine sweeping it away, so you can concentrate on more useful data.

Resilience: When you’re in a tough spot, think of a “resilience role model,” a parent, teacher or mentor, and ask yourself what they would do in your situation. That way, you’ll have more than your own resources to draw upon.

Adaptability: Try a few minutes of meditation a day to calm your thoughts. Studies show “regular yoga and meditation can increase cortical thickness in as little as eight weeks.”

Brain care: Research suggests that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, three times a week, can help strengthen your mind.

by Mark Fenske and Jeff Brown in their new book The Winner’s Brain.

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Mandatory Voting?

I recently read an article entitled “Making Voting Mandatory” on a new website I discovered: The Mark News. Actually, they discovered me. I got signed up to their mailing list randomly. At first, I emailed the sender and asked about it. He mentioned that my name came up on a blogroll and that he thought I may be interested in the content of the webpage. Turns out, I am.

Thus far, the Mark News seems to be a news webpage/forum for open debate on political issues. By the nature of my profession, I am trained to identify bias. From my minor account of the content on this webpage, I cannot accurately say what its slant appears to be. Regardless, Make Voting Mandatory peaked my interested.

I recently wrote about a research study that “debunked” political apathy among youth. The premise of the study was: youth are not apolitical, they just want to engage in the political process through non-conventional methods (social networking, debate, participation). This article supports that premise, arguing that political parties in Canada dont target all voters in elections, but rather play to their base. The “get out the vote” campaigns that the United States recently experienced are simply not found in Canada.

Unfortunate it is. It appears as though the media has given up on youth activism as well (not to say it hasn’t in the USA also). I often listen to radio talk shows, both out East and in the prairies, to gain a perspective on the political pulse around the country (talk radio is very telling!) I rarely hear efforts to engage young people. Interviews conducted hardly include youth. There appears to be minimal efforts to reach out to University campuses. Employees themselves are often older!

As social networking and communication gain momentum, and companies like Google become juggernauts, I do believe that politicians everywhere will have to rethink what Government really means.

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