Archive | CULTURE RSS feed for this section

Making Time to Disconnect

11 Nov
7982870599_48d5b005c7_z

Flickr – J. Skorobogatov

I had a weird/scary moment last week. Not scary-bad as much as scary-unusual. While driving, I actually…looked around at my surroundings. When I was stopped at a red light, I people-watched. No Facebook status updates, no Twitter posts, no Instagram feed. Just driving and thinking. Not surprisingly, and as you may have guessed, it took a moment of forgetfulness – leaving my phone at home – for me to actually appreciate the silence and solitude of my drive.

There are plenty of stories online about people who disconnect from the network and how it affects them; my favorite came from Barantude Thurston of Fast Company. Usually the story begins with some anecdotal tales of how their ever-connectedness via social media caused them to lose the ability to engage person-to-person. Next comes the withdrawal symptoms of “fear of missing out (FOMO),” an actual anxiety that has been covered by The New York Times (forgive me if I think this is wholly an ultimate “First World Problem”). Finally, the protagonist realizes that with silence comes inner peace, or something akin to that.

I’ve not felt that FOMO, since I purposely keep my circle small enough to keep in touch as needed. However, I recognize that as I have more accessibility to email, social networks and news on my smart phone, it becomes harder to just put the phone down. I want to be visually and mentally stimulated at all times, and I’m not the only one who sees it as a potential issue. Dating is an area where technology has skewed what is normal and what is not, as described in this article. Children are not engaging in reading as they once were because of increased time looking at screens. The more technology helps, the more it hurts apparently.

I always say that any potential future offspring will likely hate me, because I don’t believe in giving children access to technology just because it exists. The kid that I spend the most time around regularly asks to play games on my tablet and smart phone and 9 times out of 10, the answer is no. Just yesterday, they told me the ultimate worst situation for a kid: “I’m bored.” My response…good. Be bored. Learn how to just sit and think and be still. You’ll appreciate it when you’re an adult and you look back at those hours of free time you had, wondering how you filled a whole day. Now, don’t get me wrong, I provide entertainment in the form of answering any and all questions asked of me, especially if it becomes a learning experience. I’m thinking I should start taking my own advice though, and create learning moments outside my house and an Internet connection.

Do you feel a FOMO? Are you on a technology fast or diet, or do you take one every so often to reconnect to human beings?

Digital Footprint in the Afterlife

20 Sep

3578441521_1397a3664c

In “This Is How Technology Ruins Society” news this week, Facebook used a dead young woman’s tagged photo to advertise a dating site. Once it was brought to their attention, the social media site issued an apology and removed the ad. What makes this story even more tragic are the details surrounding the death of the woman in the image. Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life this past April after severe, aggressive and relentless online bullying following a sexual assault.

This incident sheds light on the larger story of how long our online identities live beyond our physical existence and how the sites where we are building and sharing our identities are using what we consider our personal content to earn revenue from their advertisers, mostly without our explicit permission. When my best friend died in 2009, Facebook was not yet using the photos we’d uploaded of our college days and fun nights out to promote weight loss, vacations or dating sites. In the aftermath of her very unexpected and painful death, I can’t imagine how upset I would be if I looked to the right panel of Facebook and saw her smiling face hawking some jewelry line or teeth whitening (she has a great smile, I wouldn’t put it past the algorithm to pick that up). I will say, I’m glad that her page wasn’t immediately removed in the months after her death, as her friends, family, coworkers and even people who didn’t know her sought to share their grief through posting memories of better times.

Never did I think that the 21st century of a baby book of memories, the Facebook album dedicated to the life of a child, would become fodder for online ads. The advancement in technology – facial recognition, anyone! – means that even if you don’t tag a person, the Internet can still recognize them, associate that image with them and connect the two with a simple search. Almost frightening and…sentient, isn’t it? Because of this, I refrain from posting pictures of the children of friends. What was a funny picture of a 1-year-old smearing cake on their face at their birthday party isn’t so funny when they’re in middle school and trying not to stand out as the “weird kid.” Interestingly enough, the FTC is creeped out as well. The federal regulator is launching an investigation to see if the latest round of privacy setting allowing advertisers to use photos violates a 2011 agreement.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with this thought, as evidenced by a recent wildly popular post by Amy Webb of Slate. Webb said that she and her husband refuse to post images of their daughter on the Internet- the Internet responded by finding pictures that other people had posted. Ahh, Internet justice, is there anything sweeter?

I think it may be too late for me; my face is out there, for better or worse. Thankfully I learned (fairly) quickly that putting down your drink of choice and not giving any ironic/offensive/odd facial and hand expressions makes for a safer (for life and job searches) online social presence.

What do you think of the fact that you can no longer disappear online? Did you start curbing and editing your identity?

What I’m Reading – August 5, 2013

5 Aug

I’m delayed, I know!

20130803_231848

I’m currently reading “Open City” by Teju Cole, which transports me to the innermost thoughts of the protagonist. The layer by layer reveal of information about the narrator is suspenseful and keeps me coming back. Concurrently, I’m reading “Now Is The Time To Open Your Heart” by Alice Walker. Her narrative is so dense and packed with rich language and imagery that I must slow my speed and let the prose stay and rest in my mind so I fully comprehend her story.

I’ve been wanting to read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” for a while so I’ll likely have to renew that rental. “The Little Black Book of Success” is a classic personal development text and it came highly recommended from one of the best, my mom.

Finally, since I just finished reading “Super Sad True Love Story” and I love me some io9, I have to share this story. The book’s author, Gary Shteyngart, tries out Google Glasses, which are conceptually similar to the “äppärät,” a central device Shteyngart’s characters use to communicate with friends and family, blog, live stream and email.

What’s on your reading list? Any sci-fi or business books?

What I’m Reading – July 3

3 Jul

I said it would be semi-regular, so here is the latest passel of books picked up from my local library. I’ve been slightly biased to Black women writers in the recent weeks, aside from Karen Russell – Vampires in the Lemon Grove was excellent – so I’ll be diversifying soon. Perhaps mixing in some historical non-fiction; recommendations welcome! Additionally, I’m here for Octavia Butler and I recommend you get into her as well.

1003270_10100310865185659_1298013937_n

What’s on your list? My next quest will be for Zadie Smith’s short stories and some Margaret Atwood.

Why I Need to Live Like a Rap Star

27 May

How I carry my thug (via vermegrigio on Flickr)

How I carry my thug (via vermegrigio on Flickr)

I fully admit to being inordinately amused by the exploits of most rappers, especially in the antics and lifestyle outlined in their lyrics. I figure if an artist is truly about their business, they’re likely are not doing all of the extra activities they list. There are only so many hours in the day.

So, in the spirit of my ratchet music appreciation, and thinking of the conversation I had with one of my coaches, Dawn, I’ve decided that incorporating some aspects of the rapper lifestyle may not be a bad thing.

Fake It Until You Make It

Going back to my earlier statement, rappers are some of the bombastic creative people in the nation. A local star who still lives at home with his mother, works the stock room at Best Buy and records in his third cousin’s basement will have you believe he was just signed to the most well-known label with a million-dollar advance and has the hottest chick the game on his arm at all times. To use an overused term, it’s “swag.” Applying this to me, I have to be more prepared to talk about my ambitions for freelance work. No one wants to hear the hem and haw of tentatively describing aspirations for excellence. Claim it, declare it, own it. Rappers have this spirit in spades, even the ones who record in their closets. Why not adopt that in your business?

Roll With a Supportive Crew

What performer do you know that goes on stage with less than one hype man? I’ll wait…Exactly. Having a passel means rappers are never alone, bored, hungry and without entertainment. And they always have a fall guy, who doesn’t want that! For my needs, my crew  consists of my sorority sisters, family, my career coaches, former supervisors and various social media accounts for inspiration, laughs and thought-provoking commentary. Since I tend to avoid any kind of legal snafus, I never have to ask any of them to take the rap for me, which I’m sure they appreciate. Instead, this assorted group provides me with feedback and guidance, as well as accountability to do even better than I think I can.

Make An Investment

As Jay-Z said years ago in a line that epitomizes the rap life mentality, “Money ain’t a thang.” Cars, jewelry, houses – but I mean, who really looks at the price tag (thanks for that one, Nicki Minaj). Since it’s all about appearances, and I don’t have to impress the masses, my investments are a bit different. For example, one of the first things I did upon realizing that I have to build my brand outside of any company affiliation was purchase business cards and rent a P.O. box. Though my initial reaction was “Why am I spending money when I don’t have any coming in?” I knew it was the right thing to do to show that I was serious about my aspirations. Now when I go to networking events, I have my own card to hand out. And should I need to receive payments or contracts, I can have them sent to a location that is independent of my home address. As I go even further down the road of independent ownership of my work, I know additional investments will be necessary, though likely not dipped in gold like a Jesus piece. Mentally, this is part of the process for which I have to prepare myself (and my bank account). Thankfully, my momma didn’t raise a fool when it comes to saving and spending wisely.

So, that’s how I plan to adopt a limited scope of the rap star lifestyle. How are you embracing your inner rock and roll star: what would you add to this list?

Also, just for fun: my 90s rap name is Smoove V Tha Magnificent Thief. I will take that, expect T-shirts soon!

Are You Seeing This: Shifting Makeup of Media Production

3 May

In keeping up with the latest news on entertainment, I’ve noticed some trends that are exciting for more non-traditional media ownership.

I’ll kick it off with the latest news, the upfront season for television networks. I usually skim the news about what shows got the can, what shows are returning and what mid-summer drivel the networks will serve us. This year, as the Times outlined, there is a new crop of entertainment that made me sit up and take notice. Media companies that have not traditionally delved into video content are making waves – Microsoft, Yahoo, the Weather Channel (I know, right?) and the Wall Street Journal. The bottom line, as the article rightfully notes, is that media agency buyers are buying nearly as much in digital advertising as they are in traditional ads, and these networks have to show they have the content that will draw eyeballs. So if you are interested in a WSJ-produced reality show where “entrepreneurs will work with more than two dozen mentors like Richard Branson, Tory Burch and MC Hammer,” your time is now.

Next big thing is the amount of content coming from Netflix. Previously, when I thought of the company, I thought of airport layover entertainment and their pricing debacle with Qwikster. These days, Netflix has hit a nice stride with original content like House of Cards and the debut of a long-anticipated return season of Arrested Development (scheduled for May 26, do not miss it!). It’s a series of brilliant moves on the part of Netflix leadership, who were beaten down in the press and by customers after a mislaunch of a new pricing structure. By recognizing and, most importantly, providing on their own the content their customers were craving, Netflix diversified their value and output and likely at a low cost.

How can you not be excited about this? *starts singing “The Final Countdown”*

 

Finally, one of my favorite writers/producers/directors/generally hilarious people, Issa Rae, is one of five hosts of a new talkshow in the vein of “The View.” The show, which will be on the Magic Johnson-owned Aspire Network, is guaranteed to be awesome and much more relatable to women “like me.” There are a two things that excite me about this news: Issa Rae’s online origin and Aspire Network. If you’re not familiar with The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, seriously, crawl out from under a rock and watch seasons 1 and 2. You’ll laugh, you’ll feel some emotions and you’ll thank me, I just know it. ABG, as I will call it from here, began as a short episode, produced by Rae and posted to YouTube. Niche websites like Clutch Magazine promoted a Kickstarter account for the show, prompting people who were tired of not seeing themselves presented in such a positive and comedic light to donate enough for Rae to produce a full season. Enter Pharrell Williams and his production company, i am OTHER. With his backing, season 2 was even better and Issa’s name became more regularly known. Then came a television show with Shonda Rhimes and ABC. And we all know the power of Shonda when it comes to good drama, so imagine what she can do with Issa and comedy? Basically, started from the Internets, now she’s here, to borrow from Drake. Oh, and she has her own production company that is putting out new content regularly. Can I just say, my she-ro!

I want that bubble gun!

Lastly, the Aspire Network excites me because I can’t stand the majority of the programming that is supposed to be targeted to my “demographic.” Aspire is a partnership between Magic Johnson, Comcast and NBC Universal, and I’m quite upset I don’t get it with my AT&T Uverse. While it’s nice to see that some media companies recognize the influence of the Aspire target audience; just wish it wasn’t limited to one provider.

What are your thoughts about the explosion of original content? Does this pose a threat to traditional television channels?

 

 

 

 

Inspiration for Continued Excellence

4 Dec

My mom keeps telling me I should write more and figure out how to make money along the way. This article is telling me the same…hmm…

Great profile on Andrew Evans of Digital Nomad on National Geographic