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ENG 101
Assignment Two

Due:Friday, March
6
Length:3 to 5
pages plus a Works Cited page

Goals/Grading
Criteria

In this paper, I want to see:

A strong title and thesis.
A balanced and organized
discussion that provides sufficient background regarding your topic and which
supports your thesis.
Coherent, well-developed
paragraphs.
Proper grammar, spelling,
and punctuation.
An academic tone.
Proper document format
(see page 56 of A Writer’s Reference).
References to at least two
works we have read for class. You can either quote directly or paraphrase
the material you use, but be sure to provide proper citations in either
case.
In-text citations that
follow MLA format.
A Works Cited page that
follows MLA format.
A strong conclusion.

For more information on many of these topics, see the “Notes
on Writing” folder under Course Materials in Blackboard.

Instructions

By the time this paper is due, we will have read the
following essays: “The Power of Patience,” “Obstructed Reality,” “The
Documented Life,” “Feeling Old on the Internet,” “Why People Name Their
Machines,” “Real Adventurers Use Maps,” and “What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.”
For this assignment, develop your own argument about the relationship between
people and technology, and use two of the essays we have read to support or
lend depth to your argument.[*]
Your thesis might make a point about the influence of technology on a
particular aspect of our lives, examine the ways in which technology is
changing our ideas about what it means to be human, or offer a single theory
about how to prevent a particular piece of technology from overtaking a
specific aspect of our lives (and why doing so matters).

To focus your discussion, you can limit your discussion to a
single aspect of technology (e.g., smart phones, GPS, music players) or service
(e.g., social networking, file sharing, electronic banking, shopping).
Additionally, you can further focus your discussion by examining the ways in
which the type of technology you are discussing influences a specific aspect of
our lives (e.g., how we communicate, how we think, our creativity, how we
behave in public).

When you use material from our course readings to elucidate
your own argument, be sure to present sufficient context to allow the reader to
understand how the material you are quoting or paraphrasing fits into the essay
or article in which it appears, and then be sure to relate that information to
your own position. Cite your sources using in-text citations and a Works Cited
page.

[*]
By “lend depth to your argument,” I mean that you might not simply use it to
support your position. You could, for example, present information that goes
against your thesis. In such a case, you would summarize the position of the
author you are citing in one paragraph before going on to critique or refute
that position in the following paragraph.ARTICLE ONE Feeling Old on the InternetBy ANNA NORTHJune 6, 2014 11:52 amWould you like to know how many times the moon has orbited
the earth since you were born — or, more soberingly, what percentage of people
born on the same day as you have died? Now you can find out this information,
along with a great many more depressing facts about your senescence, at the
website You’re Getting Old.Brian Koerber of Mashable says the site “serves as a good
reminder to be grateful and enjoy life — while you’re still alive.” But its
typical users have many years left to enjoy — the average visitor to You’re
Getting Old, at least as of this writing, is a relatively youthful 31. This
isn’t surprising — increasingly, the feeling of oldness is being decoupled from
actual biological aging, and offered as an end in itself.In a recent essay at The London Review of Books, Jenny Diski
says other people make her feel old. They’ve begun responding to all her
statements with a condescending, “Ah, bless,” changing the way she sees
herself: In her mind, she’s now “a small, nondescript old lady going bravely
about her business.” She is 66, but notes that feeling old can start much
younger — she cites meditations on aging by BronwenClune, 39, and Molly
Crabapple, 30.In response to Ms. Diski’s essay, Jia Tolentino of The
Hairpin writes, “I’ve always thought that technology and habits delineate us so
finely today that we’ve all got a bit of ‘In my day’ syndrome.” But it’s not
just the fast pace of technological change that separates doddering
22-year-olds from their still-vibrant 18-year-oldsiblings. Media outlets now
explicitly encourage us to feel old, no matter our age.There’s an entire genre of BuzzFeed posts devoted to “things
that will make you feel old” (recent examples include a 2000 photo of the
“Harry Potter” cast, Blur’s “Parklife” video, and the fact that “Friends” has
been off the air for ten years). Deadspin recently invited readers to “Feel Old
With Our ‘How Many Pro Athletes Are Younger Than You?’ Tool.” (This writer is
older than 74.6 percent of Major League Baseball players, but holds out hope
for her career as a knuckleballer.) And in April, Alexandra Petri of The
Washington Post bemoaned the proliferation of “Want to feel old?” headlines.
Her explanation for the vogue of Old:“Nostalgia, never out of fashion, comes on faster than ever,
these days. Back in my day, as they say, it took a much longer time to feel
nostalgia about anything. You wanted nostalgia, you had to wait for a countdown
of Best Cotton Gins or Musical Artists From Before The Present. Now we get
instant nostalgia, as fast as we want it. Hey, remember dial-up? Remember back
when the Rectangular Object That Was Essential For Communicating With Your
Friends And Hearing Music was DIFFERENT? Remember NOUN? It used to be here just
a minute ago, but now it’s GONE FOREVER!”For Ms. Petri, pushing oldness on us is a way of
capitalizing on today’s rapid cycling sentimentality — it’s not so much aging
we’re encouraged to embrace as a certain misty-eyed fondness for last year’s
slightly more unwieldy smartphones. If indeed an emotional hook is what makes
online content go viral, then putting a sepia filter over the recent past may
be a smart business decision.But Ms. Diski’s essay suggests a less mercenary use for the
premature feeling of oldness. She praises Ms. Crabapple and Ms. Clune for
thinking about aging while still in their 30s: “It’s right and proper that they
should try on their older selves rather than sit in the warm but rapidly
cooling bath of thinking themselves simply young.”As Ms. Diski notes, growing actually old means confronting a
variety of indignities, from the constant onslaught of anti-aging products to
the inescapable decline of the body. Of the latter, she writes: “It comes to
you that whatever ailment you’ve got at this point is decay inflected by decay,
in one form or another, and, to people who aren’t you, only to be expected. It
is, to put it simply, which they won’t, a recognition of the beginnings of the
approach of death.”
That recognition isn’t pleasant, and it’s no surprise that
some people might want time to get used to it — that they might start thinking
about their impending demise long before the actuarial tables suggest they need
to. For some people on the younger side, maybe feeling old isn’t just
nostalgia. Maybe it’s practice.ARTICLE TWOObstructed Reality SmartGlasses are more distracting than smartphones. By Will Oremus. There are two
problems with smartphones. One is that they’re distracting. To use one, you
have to pull it out of your pocket, hold it in your hand, and look away from
the world around you. The second problem is that they’re small. The keys are
tiny, making typing difficult, and Web pages don’t always adapt well to 4-inch
screens. To these problems, the technology industry has offered a solution:
wearable gadgets. Google Glass in particular has been touted as a more seamless
way to experience the digital world: no more peering down at a handheld gadget
to get directions, no more fiddling with a miniature touchscreen keyboard. With
smart glasses, you just glance upward to see the screen; commands are carried
out by voice, or with a simple tap or swipe of the frame. That’s the theory.
Here’s my experience: In most cases, smart glasses are more distracting than
smartphones. Their screens are smaller, too. Oh, and you still need a
smartphone in order for them to work when you don’t have Wi-Fi. Smartphone problems:
unsolved. An example of smart glasses’ unfulfilled promise is an app called
Field Trip, which Google promoted at a media event at New York City’s Chelsea
Market on Thursday. The event was meant to show how Glass can be a handy tool
for the tourist on the go. But, as with my first trial of Field Trip on Glass
several weeks earlier, I came away convinced you’d be better off leaving home
without it. The Field Trip concept, developed by Google’s own Niantic Labs, is
intriguing: Speak the words “OK Glass, explore nearby” and the device’s screen
will display a series of cards devoted to notable sights in your immediate
vicinity. You can search by category—food, architecture, history—or just browse
at random if you’re feeling lucky. The results, however, amount to a
frustrating lesson in the limitations of a device that’s too small to deliver
the full power of the open Web. “Explore nearby,” I commanded my glasses. The
first card that popped up bore the cryptic title, “SL – Architizer.” I tapped
the glasses’ frames to learn more, and was treated to some photos of what
appeared to be a swanky nightclub. I eventually discerned that SL was the
club’s name and Architizer the name of the content source, but I still didn’t
know where SL was, nor why I should care. “Get directions,” I said. Glass
commenced a Google Maps search—and promptly froze. Eventually I had to turn off
the device and reboot it. I tried again, and this time Maps pinpointed a
location a block or two away. Moments later, it changed its mind. “You have
arrived!” it announced cheerfully. On my second try, I searched for food and up
popped an article about an establishment called the Doughnuttery from a site
called Tasting Table. “The Doughnuttery makes pint-sized donuts,” it informed
me. “No doubt you are being bombarded with diet ideas for 2013.” I was not
being bombarded with diet ideas for 2013, nor did these nonexistent diet ideas
involve miniature donuts, but I pressed on. This time, I left the Field Trip
app to seek directions via Glass’ standard Google search function.
Unfortunately, the device heard “Donuttery” and pointed me to a place in
Huntington Beach, California, that makes regular-sized (!?!) donuts. With
Glass’ limited interactivity, I saw no obvious way to correct the error. And I
never even wanted any doughnuts! To be fair, Field Trip’s suggestions can
occasionally be as serendipitously pleasing as you might hope. A history search
turned up a well-written article about the history of the High Line, the
abandoned elevated rail line that has been turned into a distinctive public
park. I hadn’t realized that former mayor Rudy Giuliani had been planning to
demolish the line before a pair of grassroots preservations dreamed up the park
idea. Yet as I gazed upward and to my right, upward and to my right, to read a
sentence or two at a time on the tiny screen, I found myself wishing that I
could just read the article on my smartphone’s Field Trip app instead. I was no
less distracted reading it on Glass, but the process was slower and less comfortable
and I looked twice as silly. The effect is magnified on a busy street, where
you’re tempted to keep walking while using Glass. Unless everything goes
right—which is rare, in my experience—you end up having to repeat voice
commands and swipe repeatedly to back up and toggle through results, all while
glancing nervously back and forth between the screen and the sidewalk in front
of you. You’d almost certainly be safer just stepping out of everyone’s way,
using your smartphone for a minute, and then putting it back in your pocket so
you can return your focus to the world around you. (An observation: When I’m
without my smartphone for some reason, I feel anxious and incomplete until it’s
safely back on my person. With Glass, it’s the opposite: Whenever I’m using it,
I feel anxious and distracted until I take it off.) Tripit, an on-the-go travel
app, makes a slightly better case for Glass’ utility, if only because the
airport is one place where you’re likely to have both hands full of luggage.
You can use it to double-check your rental car reservation or get an alert
about a gate change for your flight without breaking stride (provided you don’t
trip over anyone else’s bags while you’re glancing up at the screen). Again,
though, there are bugs to be worked out, and you can only do so much with it
before you have to dig out your phone. For instance, if your flight is late,
there’s an option to see a list of alternate flights to your destination. But
you can’t select any of them, or call to change your reservation: They’re just
displayed on a static card. Google Glass isn’t bad at everything. It’s a great
improvement over smartphones for a few specific purposes, like snapping a photo
on the fly or shooting video while your hands are occupied. It can also be
helpful in its capacity as a heads-up display—e.g., for glancing up at a recipe
while you’re cooking. And one app that
Google showed off on Thursday looks genuinely great. It’s called Word Lens, and
it’s the niftiest translation tool I’ve yet encountered. Say you find yourself
on a street in Russia staring at a sign that you can’t understand because you
don’t speak Russian. Open Word Lens, select “Russian to English,” and then look
at the sign again. As if by magic, Word Lens replaces the Russian words with
their English counterparts’ right before your eyes. The
translations aren’t perfect. They’re actually just one-to-one transliterations,
and the mistakes can be comical. Presented with a sign that read “Joyeriadel
Barrio,” it tried “Jewelry of Mud” and “Jewelry of Barrel” before (mostly)
correctly settling on “Jewelry of Neighborhood.” But surely they’ll continue to
improve. And while Word Lens has been available on smartphones for a few years
now, it’s the rare app that works significantly better on Glass, because you
can just look at the word you want to translate instead of having to aim a
camera and read a screen. Apparently it isn’t lost on Google that Word Lens is
a potential killer app: Google announced on Friday that it’s buying Quest
Visual, the startup that makes it. It’s a reminder that, as underwhelming as
Glass might be today, the technology is still in its infancy. Google—and the
rest of us—are still just beginning to figure out what smart glasses can and
cannot do. Glass is likely to be judged harshly upon its release, thanks in
part to the high bar that Apple and other consumer-electronics companies have
set for mobile devices over the past decade. As a replacement for—or even a
supplement to—a smartphone, smart glasses today simply aren’t worth the trouble,
let alone the price.Still, let’s give Google and its rivals a few years before
we give up on smart glasses. In the meantime, maybe we can start appreciating
our smartphones a little more. As distracting as they can be, at least they
still spend most of their time hidden away in our pockets.

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