Meanderings of Z.

Location: United States

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I was pontificating on the confluence of media, gaming, digital music, cell phones, PDAs, Blackberries, and text messaging. For some reason the term “Hypermedia” came to mind. Wasn’t sure if it was really a term or not, but it seemed to fit the bill. A quick search on “define:Hypermedia” on Google confirmed that it is a widely used term, and it in fact means pretty much how I was applying it myself. In short it represents all of the above elements that have been coming together over the last 3 years in ways that no one imagined just 5 or 10 years ago.

These technology applications are enabling us to multitask in increasingly new and innovative ways. We are constantly connected to work, friends, relatives, hobbies, the media, and our music. It is possible to talk to anyone through multiple digital channels at any time. If we aren’t using our cell phones for conversation we can use them to chat via Text Messaging or even send email. We can even get video content on our phones with services such as Verizon’s V-Cast.

This explosion in stimulation is causing a social addiction that has never been seen. A new article in Time magazine by Claudia Wallis titled “The Multitasking Generation” talks about the social impacts of this phenomenon. Attention spans are being challenged and the need for social interaction with other humans is exploding. The article discusses the need for college students to use their cell phones between classes, or the need to be chatting with several friends while working on a paper. How can you write a coherent paper when it isn’t your primary focus? It is hard enough writing this post while sitting in a Starbucks.

We have seen similar leaps in enabling multitasking before, but not to this level, and certainly not coupled with what we are already capability of achieving via technology. When windowing-based user interfaces were introduced it was possible to work on several tasks at once. You could monitor your email while working in your Lotus 123 spreadsheet, or write a paper while playing minesweeper. Now we have this capability juxtaposed with messaging, cell phones, and portable music.

However, even with all of these caveats laid out on the table, there are several positive implications of Hypermedia. Advances in internet connectivity and the pervasiveness of broadband access are exposing us to music, art, and movies that we wouldn’t otherwise have access too. Digital artwork (e.g. music, print, and video) from individuals that wouldn’t otherwise have an audience is easily accessible.

Advances in gaming are exposing us to rich media fantasy worlds that aren’t as static as Pong, as two dimensional as asteroids, or even as mundane as our own everyday lives. Faster computers and more sophisticated gaming engines are exposing us to entire worlds that are shaped by our own actions in the gaming environment. These digital role playing games exercising both sides of our brains by challenging us with puzzles at the same time we are exposed to complex visual designs. We become aware of the visually stunning backgrounds, the use of negative space, and the innovation within those worlds. We are also challenging our own belief systems by choosing from right and wrong within the games and dealing with the repercussions of those decisions.

As with everything in life, moderation must be kept in check. Families need to communicate face to face and deal with everyday issues. Social skills are still important to learn and foster. The way someone writes an email, or chats online, isn’t the same as speaking face to face with someone. We may be entering a new world of social need and interaction, but it can’t come at the expense of humanity.

Monday, March 13, 2006


For those two or three people that are actually reading my entries, you have probably deduced that I am going through a period of change. For the most part this has been around my job and career. Throughout my working years, I have endeavored to work with really smart people, with people whose company I enjoy, for companies that I believe in, and creating solutions that could change the world.

Pretty grand, I know, but without at least a few of those I wouldn’t enjoy what I do. Since you spend more time at work than with anyone else in your life you have to make sure you are mentally and spiritually satisfied with what you do.

Over the years the place where I am currently working has gone through massive changes itself. We don’t seem to have a goal any longer. We have lost touch with our customer’s needs, and frankly the market in general. We can’t decide on a path forward to rectify the situation, and hope doesn’t seem to be in sight. To compete in the “global economy” we started to outsource engineering. We have been doing layoffs off and on for about 5 years. In that time I have seen a lot of colleagues and friends leave.

I have actually stuck around longer that I think I should have. This all goes back to my criteria above. For the most part, those all still hold true. I know that no matter where else I go I don’t be able to work with a group of individuals quite like the ones I work with now. It would almost be easier if I was forcibly thrust out the door.

The last few weeks have truly been enlightening. It is become more and more clear that there really is no game plan or master plan. Perhaps it involves things they can’t discuss in public yet, or perhaps they truly don’t have a clue. Either way, I think this lack of information should be my wake-up call. The market isn’t in the same state it was two or three years ago when technical jobs were scarce. I guess it is time to take advantage of that and move on. If I can’t find a team of people that share the same goals I outlined above, perhaps I can help create one.

Is Mother Nature a Tease?

In short, yes. Of course her tempting nuggets of weather come by many names including: Indian summer, favorable weather patterns, pockets of paradise, and milder than normal conditions. All in all it means that for some too short a period of time you will experience the ultimate weather conditions, and then be thrust back into the normal routine. For now, that means unnaturally warm and humid free weather until winter raises it ugly head again. I do enjoy all of the different seasons. This is one of the primary reasons for living in the area of the US that I do.

However, I have had enough of winter. I enjoy the beauty of snow, and even don’t mind shoveling it out of my way from time to time. But when I get to the back nine of its presence I have had enough. I am tired of the lack of color, and the chillingly cold breezes. It is like nature slips into a state of hibernation and everything stops. I need color, I am actually craving it. I want to see leaves on trees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and the various activities that are associated with the emergence of nature and life.

We have all been hibernating too long now; time to wake up.