Final Essay Blog

The essay questions I chose:

“Critically think about and argue the topic of using data mining by corporations such as grocery and department stores to find patterns in the way people buy goods. In doing this, stores hope to influence what shoppers buy and when. Consider this issue from as many different perspectives as possible (consumer and store owners may not be the only one’s here) and provide some evidence backing up your observations.”

My essay: 

There are a number of perspectives to consider when considering the positives and negatives of corporations’ use of data mining to find patterns in the way people buy goods.

Clearly it’s important for the stores themselves to know just what products are selling. Data mining can help the stores also know when certain products are more likely to be sold, i.e. seasonal appeal. I’d imagine product placement is another aspect of sales that data mining could be used to look at.

That leads to the impact on those who make the products. If something’s not selling, then the stores will be less likely to sell it. While in the past, I’m sure some product makers could argue, ‘There’s always a demand for our product,’ the use of data mining could show the stores that’s simply not the case. In turn, manufacturers whose product has become less popular will have to improve their product, change their production focus entirely or risk going out of business.

How about the consumers, whose purchasing patterns are being scouted through data mining? On the one hand, the process, if done correctly, should reflect the general buying patterns of the public. Of course, those consumers who favor a less popular product could find themselves unable to find that product because data mining has shown it’s not cost-effective for the stores to stock it. There’s also, as always, the concern over privacy. Depending on what data is being mined, there could well be information being recorded that some, if not all, consumers would consider private.

Another aspect to consider is the impact on “mom and pop” stores, who generally lack the budget to use data mining procedures. As if the deck isn’t stacked enough against them, they could find themselves stocking unpopular products, further damaging their bottom line, because they simply don’t have the data to know that those products aren’t what the majority of their prospective customers want to buy.

Generally, I would consider data mining to be a positive effort. By considering what’s actually in demand product-wise, manufacturers, sellers and consumers would benefit.

Blog post #8

Looking back at our “time capsule”:

I don’t know that my views have necessarily changed when it comes to Informatics. It’s still a field I’m interested in, and I intend to keep working towards my major in Informatics. I’ve done some thinking about where I see myself fitting into the Informatics field, and I’m leaning towards public and environmental affairs as my area of concentration outside of Informatics. So much for my goal of a well-paying role in the future of technology and informatics.

My favorite part of the class — at least, the one that seemed most beneficial to me — was the in-class lab work. Having the time to work on things in class, with the instructors there for assistance, helped with some of the bumps in the road, so to speak. Looking back, although I enjoyed the one-class-per-week schedule, I wonder if meeting twice a week wouldn’t have been more beneficial.

Blog post #7

I ended up reading two articles which address the disparity in broadband service in the United States. Broadband’s ability to provide high-speed wireless Internet connections and faster, more reliable phone service are a key to bridging the digital divide.

W. David Gardner’s article, “Digital Divide Persists Despite Broadband Expansion,” highlights some of the findings of a Commerce Department study of Internet access rates across the country. The study of about 54,000 U.S. households shows disparity in broadband access based on geographic location and income.

Grant Gross of IDG News Service wrote in “FCC takes first step toward mobile broadband fund” that the FCC proposed using money from the Universal Service Fund to “establish the mobile fund, which would target areas of the U.S. that don’t have 3G service available.” Gross also reports an interesting anecdote from FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who spoke about his ability to get 3G service virtually everywhere in China, including in deep valleys while sailing the Yangtze River, and that there are plenty of places in the U.S. where 3G service isn’t available.

Of course, it’s no surprise that there are areas of the U.S. that don’t have the same broadband access that other areas do. But it’s surprising that largely rural Utah reports 73 percent of households using broadband Internet at home, the highest percentage in the country. It would be interesting to see how Utah’s average household income correlates. It’s also encouraging to see the FCC pushing for more widespread 3G service, a sure way to help bridge the digital divide.

Gardner, W. David. (2010, November 9). Digital divide persists despite broadband expansion. URL: http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=228200536

Gross, Grant. (2010, October 14). FCC takes first step toward mobile broadband fund. URL: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9191198/FCC_takes_first_step_toward_mobile_broadband_fund?taxonomyId=16

Blog post #6

The first meeting of Team Bill Jobs went fairly well. It took a fair amount of discussion for us to decide on things, probably because none of the three of us has a forceful personality. Ultimately, we decided to look at the “digital divide,” and whether there really is one. Yes, some people have less access to the latest technology because of their financial status, or their age, or their education level, or their geographic location. But are there other factors to consider?

As for what worked well and what didn’t work so well with our group? Again, it comes back to the relatively laid-back personalities involved. Speaking for myself, I know I’ve got a bit more life experience, of course, being older. But I don’t think that necessarily means I should be the voice of the group. The recorder? Sure. But I’d rather we bounce ideas off one another instead of me sitting there saying, “Well, in my day … “

Of course, for our group work to succeed for the final project, I may have to take on more of an encouragement role. We’ll see.

Midterm Essay

I chose the following essay question for my midterm essay:

2. How has abstraction made computing more accessible to a wider audience of users?  Give two examples of how abstraction makes computing easier for you as a user.

Abstraction has brought the concepts of computing from the province of the techie to those less tech-savvy. By simplifying the computing process thanks to programs such as Dreamweaver and NetBeans, the “average” person is able to create their own Web pages and use computers much more readily than in even the recent past. It’s no longer necessary to know every little detail about how to write code for a computer program, although it is helpful to have the knowledge.

At the same time, the process of abstraction, i.e. recognizing that an idea or algorithm can apply to multiple situations, helps ease the process as one becomes a more experienced computer user. Because one doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” each time he or she tries to create a program, but can instead build off what has been done before, the entire computing process becomes faster and easier to use.

Blog post #5

Maybe it’s because my wife is a social worker, maybe it’s because I have experience in an industry (newspapers) that has taken a hit from emerging technology, but I’m interested in the “digital divide” or at least the perception of one.

Sonia Arrison’s article on CNet.com, “What digital divide”, references a Department of Commerce report that refutes some of the accepted beliefs about the divide between the haves and have-nots when it comes to Internet access.

Arrison’s assertion is that “the real (civil liberties) issues are the sorry state of education and the push to raise taxes that affect lower income families most.”

It’s an interesting take, and one I’m curious to investigate further.

Blog post #4

For this blog post assignment, I watched Lee Sheldon’s “Serious Fun and Games at IU.” At least, I watched as much as I could — apparently my little ol’ laptop doesn’t like QuickTime, because I tried watching a couple different colloquia without resounding success.

Anyway, I chose to watch Mr. Sheldon’s presentation because, let’s be honest here, the title was a lot less yawn-inducing than some others. I’m not really interested in designing games, but I did like his point that games need writers. I think the basic skill of writing sometimes gets lost or downplayed in favor of technology.

He gave an interesting example of that in talking about his experience working on a game which was to be designed first, then have the “creative” part added later. Of course I agree with his assessment that creativity and writing need to be part of the process from the beginning.

I don’t know that I’m any more interested in game design than I was before watching this presentation. But seeing Sheldon’s experiences and work history showed me that there is more to it than creating the next “Halo.” There’s a lot of room out there for different types of games; maybe that’s a path I’ll take after all.

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