Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

On the heels of the recent petition asking the American Sociological Association to reconsider the timing and location of its annual meetings come a few signs that the ASA does, in fact, (sometimes) listen to its members. First, the ASA responded to efforts to more easily export the annual meeting schedule by providing that option within the online system. Now, it is seeking feedback on the ASA “App” and the ASA website. After years of being terrible, the ASA’s website has recently seen some improvements, so hopefully this will be another step in that direction.

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Given the multitude of features that today’s smartphones have, some may be surprised to see commercials featuring people holding their phones while talking. Not on their phones, of course, but to their phones (here is an example featuring Samuel L. Jackson). When I originally got my new phone I thought that the idea of talking to it was ridiculous and assumed that I would avoid doing so. What I’ve found, however, is that my new, touchscreen phone makes doing something like setting an alarm take three times as long as on my previous phone. In order to avoid the frustration of this process, I’ve found myself talking to my phone. It is much easier to say “set an alarm for 6:30 am,” for example, than it is to manually set the alarm.

Phones are not the only area where technology helps us overcome the challenges presented by technological convenience. My previous cars featured single-disc CD players. This required me to bring physical CDs with me when driving but made the process of selecting and changing music simple and straightforward. My current car has a six-disc CD changer but it also has a USB port that I use for a flash drive with digital copies of all of my CDs. Instead of having a few albums at my disposal when driving, then, I now have all of my albums. It is possible to access these by cycling through menus by artist and then album, but it is much faster (and safer, when driving) to simply tell my car what I want it to play.

As technology provides us with access to more things in more places, it also complicates our lives. Thankfully, technology also provides us with ways to simplify these complications. (Unless there is a power outage and we’re  left with neither.)

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The widespread power outages on the East coast got me thinking about what I would do without power for a week.  Beyond the obvious difficulties of controlling the temperature of my house and refrigerator, it seems like I might be more productive in a world without the distraction of TV and the internet.  Even though there are a lot of days when I come home and don’t feel like doing any additional work, it seems that boredom might overcome laziness.  Similarly, I might get more done around the house without the temptation of football games on Saturdays and Sundays.  On the other hand, I’m not sure how much reading I could stand to do by candlelight, so the winter months when it gets dark by 5 pm might be a different type of challenge to my productivity.

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While technology is sometimes used to pry into the private lives of individuals, it can also be used as a force for good.  When Jason Leonard’s suspected that employees at the Toyota dealership where he had his truck serviced were stealing from him, he called and wrote letters to get to the bottom of the situation.  When these methods failed, he placed a small video camera in the passenger door of his truck and recorded employee practices at his next service.  As noted in his letter to the dealership, his camera captured the following:

1. The first person to touch my truck was the service manager, Mike (see DVD video #1 “Mike the Service Manager”). He opens my door, puts my keys in the ignition, writes down my mileage, and then removes the keys. Next, he takes a notice in my keys. I keep a red pill vial, used for hikers, on my key chain. I keep personal medication in it for emergencies. He then unscrews the vial, looks inside and smells the vial. Next, he pours them into his hand and inspects them. He then puts them back in the vial and then licks the pill dust from his hand. He then screws the vial back together, replaces the keys, and then writes down the VIN number from the door sticker. Before closing the door, he checks the door compartment where my previous thefts occurred. He closes it without taking anything. He then returns to the vehicle, opens then compartment and proceeds to remove quarters (3 of the 6, totaling $0.75). He then inspects the other contents of the compartment, closes it, and then inspects the bottom door compartment before closing my door.

2. The second person to appear is the unnamed service male (see DVD video #2 “Oil Change Guy”). Upon entering my truck, he places it in reverse and says “ole stupid nigger, back the fuck up.” Apparently someone was behind him and he could not back up. He then proceeds to drive my truck around the dealership and into the service garage. Immediately after placing the truck in park, he opens the astray, which contains pennies, nickels and dimes, and visually inspects the contents. Next, he lowers the center seat console, which was raised, and inspects the first compartment. He then opens the second compartment, takes out my CDs and inspects the compartment. He returns the center seat console to the upright position. Next, he inspects the contents of the glove compartment and the compartment above it. He is seen pulling out a personal bag from the compartment to inspect it. He then rolls down the window and inspects the door compartment, which Mike the Service Manager previously stole money from. He drops a small flashlight, which was in the compartment and picks it up off the floor. He then inspects the bottom compartment located in the door.

3. The third guy is the computer technician. He connects the laptop to my truck, located under the steering wheel, and begins working on the laptop. At approximately 3:27 into the video, a male and female voice, is heard coming from the laptop. The audio from the laptop plays the following:
MALE: “I’m sitting here with Violet. How are you today Violet?”
FEMALE: “Pretty good.”
MALE: “You doing pretty good?”
FEMALE: “Yeah”
MALE: “So you’re gonna do some modeling for us today, huh?”
FEMALE: “Yeah”
MALE: “Yeah, nice. So I see you’re wearing a little see-through top. Not bad, nice. A little skirt.”
This audio, which is coming from the laptop, is obviously some type of pornographic video due to the language and context in which it was spoken, which is being accessed using the company’s laptop.

As a result, the dealership fired four employees and offered Jason a free extended service contract for his truck.

While situations like this demonstrate that the “little guy” can stand up to those who abuse them it is frustrating to think of the unknown number of customers who silently suffered the same injustices.

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