Dispatches from Digital Natives

I have a new obsession. Well, not really a new obsession, as much as an old, new obsession. This Thanksgiving I found myself in an unsavory situation: I had to drive from Boston, Massachusetts all the way down to Arlington, Virginia the day before Thanksgiving. By the fourth hour on the road, when I was stuck trying to get through New York City, I had grown tired of music and was beginning to lose it a bit. I did something I haven't done in a while. I put on a podcast.
By - Posted Dec 18, 2014
Yesterday morning I jumped on Facebook to see what my friends had been up to over the weekend. There were a few fun posts, some pictures of autumn foliage and apple picking, a couple inspirational quotes or article links. And then, with little warning, I scrolled through at least six or seven ads in my newsfeed, one after the other. I had been shopping online the day before, and it seemed that everything I'd searched for was now showing up on my favorite social media site. A 15% off coupon for a yoga mat, a buy one get one free promotion for shoes, etc. When did Facebook turn into a giant billboard?
By - Posted Nov 06, 2014
The report from Pew Charitable Trust found that Gen Xers are making more money than their predecessors, but they have accumulated far less wealth: "Americans born between 1965 and 1980 ... have higher family incomes than their parents did at the same ages, but only a third have higher wealth." How could this be? Pew pointed to a few reasons, most prominently student loan debt from college degrees. It also points to factors like the Great Recession in 2008 and rising unemployment rates. All of these reasons are absolutely valid, but in my opinion, Pew might have missed one big possibility for Gen X's inability to save money: technology.
By - Posted Oct 02, 2014
Leave it to NPR to get me thinking. I recently heard a story that asked whether some images or videos, like that of the recent execution of journalist James Foley, should be censored by media outlets such as social media sites. The New York Post was vilified for running a picture taken of Foley just before he was murdered, while Twitter and YouTube both scrambled to remove videos of the event and suspend user accounts. Should social media sites have the right to censor content like this or any content at all?
By - Posted Sep 02, 2014
Twenty years ago, I bet none of us thought that we'd be able to buy basically anything we needed through our laptops, watch TV on our smartphones, or talk to someone across the globe through our computer screens. The internet has changed so much of how we live: we buy online, we converse online, and we relax online. Essentially, our culture now lives on the internet. Face-to-face communication has become less and less common, but shouldn't some interactions still only be done in person? Well, not if you ask the Digital Natives.
By - Posted Aug 07, 2014
Now if publishers like the New York Times can offer such a variety of digital options for consumers to choose from, why can't they give advertisers more options when placing a digital ad to reach those consumers? Giving people choices works. And if print subscriptions have decreased, wouldn't it make more sense for media companies to focus on creating more dynamic digital ad options for customers looking to advertise?
By - Posted Jul 03, 2014
A few years back, when the economy bottomed out and sent the publishing industry into a nosedive, a colleague of mine told me that ebooks would save publishing. At the time, I thought she was crazy. Kindles were just beginning to gain popularity, and most of us were still hanging on to the idea that print publishing could survive-maybe even thrive-in the years to come. But a recent story from NPR has me doubting the possibility that reading, even digitally, will continue to flourish in the years to come.
By - Posted Jun 12, 2014
You may recall that a few years back the tech industry pundits were saying that eventually our wallets would be replaced by our phones. In fact, a quick Google search reveals blog posts and articles from way back in 2010 like this Mashable article which explains, "Why Your Smartphone Will Replace Your Wallet." Now, I have always been pretty skeptical of statements like that. According to the Pew Internet Research Project, as of January 2014, only 58% of American's own a smartphone. If not everyone has a smartphone, how could they replace our wallets? From what I've learned over the past few weeks about mobile banking, it actually may not be that hard.
By - Posted May 01, 2014
We've all seen them: the person walking down the street furiously typing away on their smartphone, completely unaware of where they are going, when all of a sudden . . . boom, they walk right into a parking meter, stop sign, or another pedestrian. It's a relatively common occurrence, to the point where there have even been studies done regarding the dangers of walking while texting (spoiler alert: a lot of people get hurt). In fact, the texting-while-walking fail is so pervasive these days, Apple just announced that they now have a patent to create a transparent iPhone, just so the walking-while-texting population can multitask without fear of injury.
By - Posted Apr 03, 2014
A few weeks back, a good friend sent me an article that appeared on one of my favorite websites, ThoughtCatalog. It had me at the headline: "This Is How Social Media Is Ruining Your Life." See, last summer I wrote a column pointing out that many people use social media as nothing more than means to promote themselves, not to engage in honest communication with friends. For a while I believed that maybe I was the only one who thought this, but, thanks to ThoughtCatalog, I know now I am not alone.
By - Posted Mar 06, 2014
A few weeks back, I was lured into reading a nice little story on NPR about texting. When I first clicked on the headline, I thought that the article was going to chronicle the rise of the text and explain how it has changed and adapted over the past 20 years. Maybe it would even talk about how easy texting is, or how it's now the preferred form of communication when compared to email or actually calling someone. But I wasn't even close. The story was about how texting is on the decline.
By - Posted Feb 06, 2014
This year, I finally have a New Year's resolution I think I can keep. In 2014, I'm not using social media. or at least I won't be using the social media I'm already familiar with. Instead, I am vowing to move on to new social shores and try out new tools and networks.
By - Posted Jan 03, 2014
The fact that I don't read a newspaper isn't at all shocking. I read the news on websites like CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and so on, like many, many other people. Recently, though, something about the way I get my news has changed, and it's all because of Facebook.
By - Posted Dec 05, 2013
For the first time ever, I'm writing this column on my iPhone. In all my years as a writer, this is something I've never done, and more importantly, never wanted to do. Sure, every once in a while I'll compose a long email while I'm on the train, but once I hit about 300 words, my thumbs get tired and I find myself dreaming of a full sized keyboard. This time though, I didn't have a choice.
By - Posted Nov 07, 2013
According to recent studies by Pew Research, there are about 11 million people in the United States over the age of 18 that want nothing to do with the internet. And it's not just that these people aren't really aware of the power of the internet. "Fourteen percent of non-internet users used to be online. But the vast majority--92%--say they aren't interested in going online in the future." So, they've used the internet, they've seen the memes and the social media and all the small glories that I spend hours perusing through every day, and they just said, "Eh, not for me."
By - Posted Oct 03, 2013
I recently traveled from Boston to Baltimore for my brother's wedding. I discovered that the older I get, the less I look forward to packing a suit case, schlepping to the airport, fighting with other passengers for overhead bin space, and then watching in horror as the flight attendants detail how to survive if the plane crashes. Not my cup of tea. One thing that has always made it easier for me, though, is technology. Lately it seems that many businesses in the travel and hospitality field are all about giving their customers technology-friendly options -- from free Wi-Fi to "power up" stations -- but my recent trip made me wonder whether these "perks" are just smoke and mirrors.
By - Posted Sep 05, 2013
If the sweltering temperatures and massive traffic jams haven't given it away yet, it's summer, and if you're like me, that means that your Facebook newsfeed looks something like this: pictures of babies at the beach and dogs in sunglasses, panoramic views of vacation destinations, and FourSquare check-ins at the hottest rooftop bar. This annual onslaught never used to bother me before, but for some reason, this summer I find myself spending much less time purusing my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages than I have in the past. Why? Because, whether I want to admit it or not, everyone else having fun makes me jealous, and apparently, I'm not the only one.
By - Posted Aug 01, 2013
In light of Edward Snowden's recent disclosure that the NSA is keeping tabs on our every electronic move, it's hard not to think about privacy (or the lack thereof). While I often try to ignore it, sometimes it feels like science fiction movies (starring Tom Cruise...of course) about the watchful eye of the government are slowly becoming reality. That's when I begin worrying about the fabric of society. Shouldn't we all be worried about our privacy (especially if Tom Cruise isn't going to fix this problem)? Not surprisingly though, some of us worry more than others.
By - Posted Jul 04, 2013
I hate going to the doctor. My aversion to seeing the doctor is about how much of a hassle it is. How many times have you gotten to the doctor's office 10 minutes early (as requested by the receptionist) to fill out paperwork, only to finish the paperwork in 5 minutes, then sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes, and then in the actual doctor's office for another 30? There might be change brewing, and it might come in an unexpected form: Apps.
By - Posted Jun 06, 2013
The marathon bombing changed a lot of things for the people who call Boston home. It certainly changed things for me. It made me love the city I live in just a little bit more. It gave me a new respect for the law enforcement officials who protect the place I call home. It changed how I feel when I walk down Boylston Street toward the Boston Public Library and Copley Square. And it gave me a heightened appreciation for technology, specifically social media.
By - Posted May 02, 2013
The idea for this column started a few weeks ago when I read an article about self-described "tech evangelist," Adria Richards. Richards had been on the road for a few weeks, checking out tech conferences all over the country. At PyCon, a developer's conference in California, Richards heard the two men using sexually suggestive language such as "dongles" and "forking" in relation to some of the topics being discussed. From what I've read, it didn't seem like these men were making these comments in reference to Richards, but in the long run, that's neither here nor there. In a professional setting, their words were inappropriate, period. To make a long story even longer, Richards took a picture of the men, tweeted her frustrations, and watched as the two were removed from the room by PyCon staffers.
By - Posted Apr 04, 2013
Last week, the new CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, gave her employees an ultimatum: come to the office or quit. The statement sent shockwaves through the business world, inciting visceral reactions from media outlets and workers alike, and perhaps rightfully so. It seemed many companies were just beginning to get used to their employees working from home, and now, one of the most powerful figures at one of the most powerful companies was denouncing the idea.
By - Posted Mar 07, 2013
Early adopters. We all like to pretend we're one of them. People love to be the first to discover something new: a new band, the latest cool app, the hottest social networking site. In the end though, not everyone can be on the edge of innovation.I always considered myself part of the early adopters group. I'm a "Digital Native" after all, shouldn't I, and my peers, be spearheading the search for the next big thing? I'm not so sure anymore...
By - Posted Feb 07, 2013
Before I begin this column, you should know that I never play the lottery. In late November 2012, though, I found myself in line with a dozen other people getting ready to purchase a ticket for the Powerball drawing. After all, the jackpot was over $500 million at that point. Forking over a few dollars for the possibility of winning a few hundred million was just too tempting.
By - Posted Jan 01, 2013
It's true that with ebooks, we're no longer restricted by the traditional physical constraints. Rather than using this new found freedom to ramble incessantly, many authors have found that the serialization of a lengthy story actually implants the "hook" in a new reader's gills better than if the novel were to appear as a single narrative.
By - Posted Dec 06, 2012
Close your eyes and say it out loud: book.Now what do you see? When we call something a book, an expectation automatically bubbles to the surface, nurtured by centuries of collective historical memory. The name evokes a specific shape, structure, and format - not to mention an entire catalogue of sensory details. There is romance in its tangibility. Ebook naysayers and wary bibliophiles often refer to the feel and smell of a book, claiming how such simple pleasures are irreplaceable. Perhaps they are.
By - Posted Nov 01, 2012
Recent findings from Bowker Market Research reveal that 55% of readers who purchased young adult books belonged to the 18-and-up age bracket. In fact, the largest segment of those adult book buyers were between the ages of 30 and 44, and a good portion of that percentage were buying these books for themselves as opposed to gifts.
By - Posted Oct 04, 2012
I'm one of the lucky people who were able to know their great-grandparents. My great-grandfather Jean was born in 1910 and lived to see his 97th birthday. When he passed away, he left to me--then an undergraduate studying English literature--his 20-volume World's Greatest Literature set, published by the Spencer Press in 1936. And I can't help but wonder what kinds of literary hand-me-downs my grandchildren will get.
By - Posted Sep 06, 2012
But in light of the e-reader revolution, the great literary debate arose: is the book beyond improvement?I have come to believe that the argument is more philosophically stimulating than truly helpful in the process of content creation. What we have before us is not a matter of improvement, but evolution. We're talking about technology after all. The enhanced ebook may be a bird of a different feather but it still needs two good wings if it's going to fly: a smooth user experience and, of course, a compelling story.
By - Posted Aug 07, 2012
In the digital world, the idea of engagement has a very different meaning. Marketing is no longer a one-way street. Rather, marketers have learned to leverage social media to build two-way conversations in pursuit of that magic word: engagement. Scrolling marquees decorated with hashtags and @ symbols stream across our television screens, encouraging viewers to engage, luring us with the promise of sharing our shout-outs with the world. In the social networking age, companies continuously ask themselves: How do we reach these communities? How do we engage? How do we create valuable conversations?
By - Posted Jul 04, 2012
As a publishing professional with a deep-seated interest in the future of the industry-and, perhaps more importantly, a reader-I'm concerned that by filing an antitrust suit against Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster, the Department of Justice has effectively legitimized an ebook monopoly for Amazon.
By - Posted Jun 06, 2012
As an old school bibliophile, my initial reaction to the e-reader boom was to play the dogged naysayer. And yet, simultaneously, I began to recollect my journey through music technology: "What about the sensory enjoyments of literature?" I wondered. Like many others, I relish the feel of paper against my fingertips and the scent of a new novel. (But how long has it been since I even touched a vinyl LP or heard the click of a cassette?) Why trade paper for yet another screen in my life? (I love my iPod). What about the aesthetic satisfaction of possessing a personal library? (All my CDs, which had been arranged on a dedicated shelf, now live in a shoebox...underneath my bed).
By - Posted Apr 17, 2012