One Nation Under the Tech Groove: Modern Media as the Tower of Babel: Fragmented Audiences & Consciousness/Environs

Today’s media and technologies have taken the media revolutions to the neurons of the world brain, and this has helped this contemporary media juggernaut to dominate and to blur our perceptions. At the same time we experience a programmed world and unfolding world in a fully sensory manner. Also, this new media has the capacity and capability to affect and effect the greatest cultural and social changes in our midst; in short, the media can foster and is fomenting a revolution and is revolutionizing both technology society into a cacophony of media savvy users, analysts and public participants. In many other ways, the media is a world-wide culture-wide dance.

Through its constant barrage and consistent repetition the modern media allows a virus to multiply into our hugely self-referential media space, and has an ability to comment on the media itself. Rushkoff says that: “The viral shell permits the memes to spread before they have a chance to be marginalized. Viruses couch themselves in irony and appeal to the objective sensibilities of the viewers. Viral shells can be understood as framing devices that force us to distance ourselves from the issues within them. This objectification of the issues allows us to understand the symbols in our media as symbols and not reality. At the same time, we are made aware of the complexities beneath apparently simple representations of our world.” In this case, a society no longer merely uses technology as a support but instead is shaped by it.

Therefore, to reiterate McLuhan as stated above, “Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the next. Technologies begin to perform the function of art in making us aware of the psychic and social consequences of technology. … Technology gradually creates a totally new human environment.” Today, we are being rapidly transformed and depended on the memory and psychology of the embedded technique within the fast emerging interconnected gadgets and technologies.

These new environments have us hooked to our cell phones, iPods to the extent that they have become the extensions of our selves in an interconnected internet babble and new ways of human interpersonal interconnected memes; where viruses, according to media culture enthusiast “Bill Me Tuesday”: viruses can act like a logic analyzer. As the virus goes through the operating system, it stops at certain checkpoints, doing its rounds in a given amount of time. This checkpoint will report back what the condition is.

Essentially the virus will serve as a means of creating self-repairing system…. The goal is as a self repairing, crash resisting system, similar to the way our bodies repair themselves. Biologically we are the product of thousands of microorganisms cooperating together. We can apply that kind of thinking in the computer world. We are modifying the concept of a virus to serve us. In turn, technology shaped us as we are today.

It is also important to take a brief look at the impact and effect of language in our transforming the world and how that world transformed us. There are people who believe that language is what makes us human. From the beginning of language usage to using language within and with these new emerging and merging technologies, we have created some forms of different languages in the process. Neil Postman says: “As changes occurred, human beings invented surrogate languages to widen their scope: ideographs, phonetic writing, then printing, then telegraphy, photography, radio, movies television, and computers, each of which transformed the world-sliced it, framed it, enlarged it and diminished it.”

To say of all this that we are merely toolmakers is to miss the point of the story. We are the world makers, and the word weavers. That is what makes us smart, and dumb; “moral immoral; tolerant and bigoted”.(Insert mine) The new and emerging technologies are shaping our language, our behavior and creating a deep and unshakable dependency of these new and ever changing technologies, that we are barely keeping up and are about swamped by the new gadgets and the techniques, which shape obscure our view of life and spontaneity inherent in us.

As we manipulate technologies, they in turn affect and effect us in minuscule and major ways. We then have developed a language to help us cope, vary and expand our effecting technology and it in turn transforming our every being and ways and means of communicating.

Language makes us human. We use this language as a carriage in our interrogating and interacting with life and within life. We use language to talk, sing, voice our opinions, disagreement, thoughts, intention communicate, write, and so forth, in our day to day lives. It is a complex effect one mediated by each person’s psychological makeup, social status, age, and how the individual uses the media.

The Quilt of Pretentious Diction

This language issue and usage was covered by George Orwell and we will explore what he really meant and intended to make us see and understand in depth. Given that we speak English we assume we all mean the same thing or understand each other’s meaning. Meaning therefore is ‘the import of signification’. The study of the social production of meaning from sign systems is also known as Semiotics. Meaning is a largely untheorized, although debates about the meaning of meaning are well known conversation stoppers, but it is well known that it explains how people make sense of their social world.

The media nowadays uses a lot of words, metaphors and diction designed to have a certain impact, affect and effect. Words like phenomenon, element, individual(as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate are used to dress up simply statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Sometimes adjectives like epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion.

Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, status quo are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Some average writers opt to use Latin and Greek words because they are grander than Anglo Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous are gaining ground from their Anglo Saxon opposite numbers. The normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, theorize formation.

It’s easy to make words of this kind, deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth.” Orwell goes on to note about how these words have been used, he addresses meaningless words . Orwell states that: “In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.

Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, sentimental, natural, vitality as used in art criticism are strictly meaningless in the sense that they do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. … Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable” The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.

In the case of a word like democracy , not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way, Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are; ‘class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality and so on.’

Most of the political words cited above has inflamed passions and great debates on all social issues in all relevant media and mediums. It seems not to matter whether people understand or know or might ever experience either socialism, fascism and so forth,they nonetheless use them. What is of concern here is the modern usage of these words in the society and media, mostly for wrong reason and their lack of understanding of them, that creates seemingly, the confusion and talking at each other, rather than with each other.

Meaning Redux

Orwell concludes this lesson on the meaning of words thus:

“I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this,but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with decay of language. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.

“You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make stupid remarks, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to anarchist-is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give the appearance of solidity to pure wind. George Orwell wrote the excerpt above in 1946.”

He is merely pointing out to the meaning of words and their usage in day to day life, literature and, as I see it, in the print media and digital media. If we understand what he means by meaning and how it is conveyed, we can better understand how words are used today and what their meaning is intended to be. We always think we understand what we mean to say, since we are all speaking English, it is interesting to note that meaning can be concealed and applied within words to hide the actual meaning to the one that is meant.

Cultural Paradox

Culture is a form of communication and it is also formal, informal and technical. It is important to note that mass-communication media such as the press, radio,television, computers, Internet, cell phones, twitters, Internet games and so on are instruments used to extend man’s senses. It is also important to understand and know how men read meaning into what other men think and how this type of communications impacts our world and meaning-making abilities.

Hall says: “We must learn to understand the ‘out-of-awareness’ aspects of communication. We must never assume that we are fully aware of what we communicate to someone else. There exists in the world today tremendous distortions in meaning as men try to communicate with one another. The job of achieving understanding and insight into mental processes of others is much more difficult and the situation is more serious than most of us can admit.” Most of our difficulties stem from our own ignorance.

Honest and sincere men fail to grasp the significance of the fact that culture controls behavior in deep and persisting ways, many of which are outside our awareness and beyond the conscious control of the individual. Hall advises on this issue by stating: “Man’s brain has endowed him with a drive and a capacity for learning which appear to be as strong as the drive for food or sex.” This means that when a middle-aged man stops learning, he is often left with a great deal of drive and highly developed capacities.

“If he goes to live in another culture, the learning process is often reactivated. For most Americans tied down at home,this is not possible. To forestall atrophy of his intellectual powers, man can begin learning about those areas of his own culture which have been out of awareness. He can explore the new frontier.”

Therefore, to understand other cultures, it would be better to learn about those things within ones culture that one is not aware of, and has been left out of the loop about their existence and functioning patterns.

Another thing to note is how mainstream cultural studies have given scant attention to the institutional contexts in which mass communications are produced. As we seek to rectify cultural studies and their neglect of the organizational processes of the media, we must also be cognizant and consider how the context of production — whether this can be conceived as an occupational milieu, a specific organization, an industry or the wider social relations of power in society — influences what is produced.

Importantly, it would be worth it to interrogate cultural mass communication and media to see if it is possible to differentiate between contexts of production, and the multimedia packaging of cultural goods, cultural practices and whether these promote social empowerment or subordination, either foster aesthetic innovation or traditionalism, or do they or they do maybe enhance or detract from the quality that is produced.

The best reason for the layman to spend time studying culture is that he can learn something useful and enlightening about himself. It forces one to pay close attention to those issues of life which differentiate others from yourself

Ways of Seeing and Knowing the Culture of Media

Media Critics

The news we receive, as numerous critics point out,is the product of organizational processes and human interaction. It is shaped by the methods used by journalists in gathering the news, the sources they draw on, and the organizational requirements, resources and policies of the institutions they work for(Fishman ’80). Usable and predictable regular copies that need to be secured, makes some journalists to be assigned to certain ‘beats’, such as town hall, law courts or legislators. This pre-cues news, encouraging activity in these areas to be reported more fully(Tuchman ’78). This also locks up journalists into a complex pattern of interaction with key sources in which information is traded for publicity(Gandy ’82) .

In a nutshell, a prior decision about the allocation of personnel within a news organization can influence what new is reported, and how it is reported. Some critics also point out that information is selected and presented as news within socially constructed frameworks of meaning(Schudson ’91). The news is signified thorough the ‘symbolic system’ of society. It draws upon assumptions and premises, images and chains of association, that are embedded in cultural tradition. The news is also structured by formats and genre conventions of news reporting, which vary in different societies and evolve over time(Schudson ’94) We can therefore view news as the product of the culture of society and industry in which it is produced and processed.

There are still some other people who see the output of the media not as a reflection of raw, unmediated realty, but rather as a social index of attitudes and feelings. Sometimes our media ca be seen and portrayed as reflecting not a common culture and unified society, but a plurality of social groups and the hybridity of individual personalities. There are those who distinguish between values and normative attitudes , or between consensus and contended opinion(Alexander ’81) Here, the argument is that the media both expresses the values and beliefs that most people in society hold in common, and also give voice to those differences of opinion and orientation that characterize a pluralist democracy.

One way in which the media may reflect change, it is argued, is to register a shift in the boundaries between these two things over time(Hallin ’94). How the media functions and disseminate news, and how culture plays a role in all this meta media of contemporary merging and emerging technologies and memes, has not changed so much, but has been enhanced and upgraded because of the addition of the Internet,which has become an extension of ourselves like our nervous system in our bodies-because we experience it on the internet, in the datasphere and cyber world: like when we are surfing, texting, twittering, emailing, blogging, posting, commenting and so forth.

Under the Umbrella of Technology

Our nation is depended-on and is controlled by technology. Even as we utilize language to media application and participation, or manipulation of these technologies and techniques, we are still not aware to the extent we need them and their impact on us; but, surreptitiously, technical gadgets and their in-build techniques, by creating dependency of the efficiency, we end up being slaves to technological gadgets, technology and technique.

We are permanently in the groove of merging with emerging technologies and technological gadgets, that in the end we are unable to separate and differentiate ourselves from them. There are psychic and social consequences of technique and technology and modern technical gadgets on our persona, culture and society.

Marshall McLuhan, in this extended excerpt put it neatly:

“The medium is the message means, in terms of the electronic age, that a totally new environment has been created. The ‘content’ of this new environment is the old mechanized environment of the industrial age. The new environment preprocesses the old one as radically as TV is reprocessing the film. When machine production was new, it gradually created an environment whose content was the old environment of agrarian life and the arts and the crafts.

“This older environment was elevated to an art from by the new mechanical environment. The machine turned Nature into an art form. For the first time men began to regard nature as a source of aesthetic and spiritual values. They began to marvel that earlier ages had been so unaware of the world of Nature as Art. Each new technology creates an environment that is itself regarded as corrupt and disregarding. Yet the new one turns its predecessor into an art form. When writing was new, Plato transformed the oral dialogue into an art form.

“When printing was new, the Middle Ages became an art form. “The Elizabethan world view” was a view of the Middle Ages. And the industrial age turned the Renaissance into an art form as seen in the work of Jacob Bruckhardt. Siegfried Giedion, in turn has in the electric age taught us how to see the entire process of mechanization as an art process.” Today we see the modern technologies turning electricity into an art form, because through the internet, we are moving through the information age and data speed and the speed of light.

“The confusion and Babel that has transpired because of these changes of technological gadgets, technology and technique, we should not be confused and be startled; we only need to accept the fact that the new era is moving us into a new environment, and the old machines and electricity are being turned into an art form; it may be our reactions that cause the cacophony in the media, and we should not view that as confusion.

But McLuhan concluded that: “We can afford to use only those portions of them that enhance the perception of our technologies and their psychic and social consequences.” As a society under the groove and roof of current technology and techniques, we need to understand it thoroughly and completely and begin to master its cybernetics and reduce entropy in the channels.

How Technology Will Obviate Learning

Recent technological advancement framed within the context of new theories about the pivotal role of language in human evolution are decreasing the value of foreign language competency. Our confidence in technology’s ability to rebuild the Tower of Babel should remain steadfast, thanks to the newly emerging scientific theories. It is now becoming clear that language was pivotal in the early development of humanity, and where such critically exists, so do markets and business opportunity ripe for exploitation.

In his recent TED TALK, evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel asserts that language was a social technology(a la Ong), that emerged out of homo sapiens’ new ability to accurately mimic anything they saw. In order to prevent this “visual theft,” language was used to protect the ideas and innovations of early human cultures from those of other competing groups. In describing this theory, Pagel elucidates this language as:

“…A piece of neural-audio technology for rewiring other peoples’ minds … it allows you to implant a thought from your mind directly into someones else’s mind, and they can attempt to do the same to your without either of you having to perform surgery.” These “discrete pulses of sounds” allowed homo sapiens to cooperate on levels theretofore unwitnessed on Earth. Competing species like the Homo Erectus were never able to develop language like us and remained outside of our cooperative networks (cultures). Using technology to eliminate cultural barriers and thus enhance global human cooperation is a direct descendant of these early evolutionary developments.

The Tower Of Info-Babel: Cyberspace as Alternative Universe

This is Jorge Luis Borges’ remarkable vision of the ‘Library of Babel:

“The universe [which others call the Library] is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries…. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase.

“One of the free sides leads to a narrow halfway which opens into another gallery,identical to the first and to all the rest…. Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upward to remote distances. In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances…. The Library is a sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.”

We then learn and cull from Reg Whitaker this following Historical piece:

“Given the frenetic and feverish manner in which the information revolution is being hyped, it is worth pausing to ask just what is actually involved in this revolution. The initial answer is deceptively simple. Essentially there are two closely linked technological departure points: the computer and instantaneous communication systems. Both technologies have been developing in an exponential, explosive trajectory, but it is in the fusion of computing and communications (networks), that the truly revolutionary potential lies.

Just as the capacity of the human mind to store, sort, retrieve and manipulate vast amounts of information is being enormously enhanced by means of ever-smaller, ever-faster and ever-more powerful microprocessors, the reach of individuals is being immeasurably extended through fibre optic cable and satellite communication to form ‘real-time’ networking of all computers.

This technological fusion has literally created a new world, a new space — cyberspace. Cyberspace exists nowhere and everywhere, it is a tabula rasa in the sense that it is constantly being constructed and reconstructed, written and rewritten, by the simultaneous interaction of all those networking in the medium. With Virtual Reality – which eventually will shed its clumsy apparatus of goggles and gloves for something

More akin to StarTrek’s Holodeck, an all-encompassing artificial inter-active environment — cyberspace will actually become a lived space, with its own land scape and geography, into which people will ‘move’ and inside which they will ‘act’ (and be ‘acted upon’). The discovery of such a new world, and more, a world that is apparently plastic, that can be moulded (closer to our heart’s desire), unlike the intractable and often perverse real world, bound to bring out the Faustian in those who first glimpse its expansive, seemingly limitless, contours. They stand with wild surmise upon a peak in Darien.

With Faust, let us give the devil his due. The possibilities are endless, intoxicating. Space – old-fashioned physical space, distance — already shrunk by technologies like the telephone, is finally dissolved in cyber-space. People communicate with one another without regard to physical location: communities (systems of communication can transcend not only locality but the artificial constructs of the nation and political boundaries). New languages are born out of the new forms of communication, and with them, humanity reshapes its own consciousness.~

Already, not in some speculative future, but in the here and now, cyber-space is giving birth to new, ‘artificial’ life forms. In computer labs, programs have been designed to replicate particular environments (say, an ‘ocean’) and into these environments a ‘species’ (for instance, ‘fish’) has been introduced that is programmed to adapt to changing conditions. Generations pass and adaptations are made quite independent of the original program. The fish swim about, eat, reproduce and die in cyber-space.

They are not ‘real’, they have no physical materiality, yet they behave just like ‘real’ fish, they interact with their environment, and they make something of themselves in the processing~the most recent Star Trek spinoff series, Voyager, there is a brilliant creation, the Emergency Medical Hologram, a computer program containing the most advanced medical knowledge projected holographically as a ‘doctor’ who must serve as the starship’s chief medical officer in the absence of a human doctor.

This hologram behaves remarkably like a human being when interacting with ‘real’ humans; he is self-conscious, he experiences anxiety, irritation, affection5 And why not? How does ‘real life’ differ from its ‘artificial’ replication in cyberspace, presuming only that the program is complex enough?

Of course, the Library is not really the ‘Universe,’ its architecture is not the architecture of matter: It is an analogical ‘universe’. Its shelves store information in the form of texts which contain ‘data’ that mirror or reproduce the material universe. Borges advances two axioms about the nature of the Library that he considers indisputable. The first is that it exists astern. The architecture of information is too complex and elegant to have been the product of man, the ‘imperfect librarian’. Call it

God or Nature as you please, but remember that information is about something, it is not that thing itself: But this is easily obscured when the focus shifts to what is in the Library. Borges’ second axiom is that: ‘The orthographical symbols are twenty-five in number’ (the letters of the alphabet plus the period, comma and space). This has allowed the formulation of a General Theory of the library. All books tire made up of the same elements, but in the ‘vast Library there are no two identical books’.

From these premises it may be deduced that the ‘Library is total and that its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographical symbols [a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite]. In other words, all that it is given to express, in all languages. Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future….’

When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books , the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose elegant solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimension of hope.

Thus our own era of info hype, the unlimited promise of the great Internet (the embodiment of Borges’ Library condensed into millions of individual computer screens as-[w]windows into cyberspace, a ‘sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible’). These are no small matters. The devil’s promises are enthralling, enchanting, alluring.

No wonder s o many have been drawn by the siren’s song. But wait . . . cyberspace is not another universe into which we can escape via a magic doorway. Dream worlds exist in the minds of dreamers, who live in this world, breath air, eat food when hungry and drink water when thirsty — or not, depending upon their material circumstances. Cyberspace is a dreamed world, but the dreamers dream it through the mediation of computer hardware, fibre optic cable, complex telecommunications networks, and specific social and economic systems that support and deliver these technologies.

Cybernauts are wired, in more ways than one. There is, or at least there should be, a political economy of cyberspace. Yes, even in the free-floating delirium of this new world, the old dismal science, like gravity, drags the cybernauts back toward earth.

Some uncomfortable but unavoidable facts: most of the people of the present real world not only lack computers but even lack access to telephones. To most of the world, the Information Revolution is not even a rumor. The IBM television ads that portray “solutions for a small planet” with cute clips of people in traditional and exotic settings discussing (with subtitles) various arcana relating to the latest IBM technologies perhaps tell us more about the imperial delusions of corporate power, or about the penetration by new products of Third World elites, than about any reality of ‘solutions’ for a ‘small’ planet.

The Information Highway may be opening out like a vast autobahn across North America and Europe and the hyper-developed parts of Asia, but when it reaches into Africa and Latin America and the less developed parts of Asia, it reaches as narrow fingers into privileged islands; for much of the Third World, it simply stops short altogetherN~or is there any rational reason to think that the information revolution offers a magical solution to the endemic problems of poverty and underdevelopment.

It is rather the latest name given to the enduring and ever deepening domination of the many poor by the wealthy few. Access to the Internet is as much use to a Bangladeshi peasant as hitching a ride on the Challenger space shuttle; but it is very useful to the multinational corporations that rule the global economic system that maintains Bangladesh as a ghetto of misery.

There are similar arguments against facile idealism applicable within Western societies. A reasonably up-to-date computer clone, pirated software, modem and monthly connect charge may not represent a huge investment. Yet it excludes a great many, as does the specific context of computer culture. The result is that the Information Highway has a decidedly middle-class look. Users tend as well to be disproportionately male, white, and the other familiar categories of privilege.

Of course, over time these things may change. But just as with the case for Third World development, there are overheated notions afloat in political and bureaucratic circles (viz., the frenetic mind of Newt Gingrich) that a computer in every kitchen will somehow solve the problem of unemployment and regional economic decline.

It is, of course, out of the question that rightwing neoliberal politicians (who tend to be the ones that babble most about the transformative power of the computer) can devise and execute and pay for a vast public works scheme for actually putting the hardware and software required into the hands of the poor and the unemployed.

Unfortunately, social democrats have been equally complicit, if less utopian, in talking up the computer as empowerment. Even the limited schemes undertaken by some social democratic governments to ‘retrain’ (a mantra of contemporary capitalist crisis) redundant fishermen with no fish stocks, coal miners with closed pits, or workers with skills tied to vanishing heavy industries, via the route of imparting ‘computer skills’ quickly disclose their derisory limitations.

At best, these retrained workers hunching over their consoles have instantaneous access to the intelligence that no jobs are available. At least lining up outside the unemployment office provided some minimal human contact with others of like predicament, even if the end result is the same.

The attraction of neoliberal politicians to info babble has little to do with any notions of redistribution of wealth and power. The computer as ’empowerment’ is a wonderfully ambiguous piece of rhetoric. This ’empowerment’ offers a convenient and trendy rationale for further

Slashing the public sector.

Who needs armies of public sector workers to offer support services when former state clients have the opportunity to plug in directly? Who needs expensive capital investment in physical infrastructure and maintenance when services can be accessed on the Net? Right-wing politicians in North America who are tired of seeing tax dollars going to universities and colleges have started talking about the ‘Virtual University,’ where courses are on offer to clients (formerly called students) receiving information designed by programmers (formerly called professors) and tapping in assignments and answering exam questions, without ever leaving their home computers.

In the fullness of this vision, the entire support and maintenance staffs, most of the teaching staff and the administrative apparatus can be lopped off the public rolls, and the physical plant (formerly known as the campus) can be sold to the private sector for more productive and profitable use. This is a paradigm for other such schemes for a ‘Virtual Public Sector’ or the ‘Virtual State’. Like Virtual Reality, users allow their senses to delude them into believing that they are somewhere they are not, that they are really doing things that are not happening at all. The opiate of the masses indeed.

There is an ideology among many of today’s cybernauts, especially the Americans, that can best be described as frontier capitalism, or rugged individualism. The self-image is that of the lone frontiersman out there on the cutting edge of civilization armed with his [the gendered pronoun is used advisedly] contemporary equivalent of the six-gun, the high-speed modem. It is expressed in a powerful aversion to the traditional enemy of the frontiersman, government and its attempts to regulate and domesticate his wild energies.

Thus, there have been ferocious reactions to the clumsy attempts of the Clinton administration to impose surveillance over the Internet, from the ‘Clipper Chip’ and the embargoing of exports of various encryption programs; to the FBI’s ham-handed attempt to enforce tapping of digital communication (and make the users pay for the privilege); to censorship initiatives from various levels of government against cyberspace pornography and hate mail. These are probably reasonable responses under the circumstances, but they are also classic examples of navigating via the rear view mirror.

Neither individual free enterprise nor an aggressive interventionist state are particularly relevant to the new political economy of cyberspace. Hardware and software are produced by corporate giants like IBM and Microsoft, and the infrastructure of the Internet is currently a bone of contention between the telephone and medial cable giants. The real frontier is the commodification of information by capital. To shift metaphors, cyberspace is like the commons under attack from enclosures. The relentless emphasis in recent years on ‘intellectual property’ as a crucial element in international trade agreements points us clearly in the direction

That the so-called information revolution is traveling. The architecture of cyberspace may well look very much like the dark vision of William Gibson in his 1984 science fiction novel Neuromancer that first invented the very term ‘cyberspace’: vast mysterious collections of data looming like mega-fortresses fiercely guarded by giant corporations — while the ‘real world’ wallows in urban squalor, petty criminality, violence and tawdry escapism.

Information is a resource whose relation to late twentieth century capitalism is like that of oil to the capitalism of the early twentieth century. This is not to say, as some have unwisely extrapolated, that industrial capitalism is dead. Automobiles still provide the basic means of transportation for much of the world, and oil must still be tapped to feed the voracious appetite of automobiles for fuel. Information has not displaced older resources, just as postindustrialism has not displaced industrialism.

But the computer and the new communications technologies have redefined how production and distribution take place. Mass production and mass consumption have, in the process of fulfilling their promise of growth, been transmuted. Production (including services) requires fewer workers and greater ‘flexibility,’ and mass consumption of mass-marketed goods is increasingly matched by ‘niche’ marketing of specifically targeted production.

On both sides of the equation, information and high-speed communication of that information is a crucial resource. The shift from the primary to the information-intensive services sector that is evident throughout the rich industrial nations is another indicator of this same change. Command over information and its transmission will be the key to success in the capitalist world of tomorrow.

The notion that this crucial resource will be allowed to become a public good is idealism at its most inane. Thus the cyberspace commons is enclosed as rapidly as its space expands. The advocates of ‘electronic freedom’ have their hearts in the right place but their heads in the sand. More apposite to the realities are the young freelance cyberpunk hackers who for their own fun and profit break into the dark corporate information towers that loom over the wired world.

The first (anti)hero of the first cyberpunk novel was Gibson’s Case, cyberspace cowboy who had made too many powerful enemies. Yet even these latter-day information highwaymen are themselves gobbled up by the very corporations they have successfully targeted: the electronic safe-crackers are hired on as smart high-tech security guards to keep out others and, who knows, to crack their competitor’s security as well

Already we may be moving into a new era that leaves behind the individualistic hacking frontier: organized electronic warfare employing disciplined teams of corporate hackers setting about systematically to break into or to sabotage the data banks and operational software of economic competitors may become the order of the day.

Computer viruses, first transmitted by freelancers out of malice or just for the hell of it, will increasingly be utilized as weapons targeted at specific competitive information systems (the biological warfare of cyber-space attacking the synapses of the enemy’s information economy). This is a long way from the ‘promise of the Internet,’ from the limitless vistas of information laid open to each and all who wish to browse its fields and pluck its free flowers of truth. Let us be blunt: this is a vision of Never-Never-Land, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

We should consider carefully why the promise of the Internet is such a pleasing delusion. It is not because capitalists are evil persons, or because corporations are conspiring against the public interest (both propositions might be true, but still be beside the point). Information is a product. Raw, unprocessed data is not yet information — and even that requires someone to collect it in the first instance and store it in accessible form. Already there are claimants expecting compensation for their work.

Processing data into a finished product useful to potential consumers is even greater value added. All this will be reflected in the final price. Only in the for-profit private sector are there the resources both to produce sophisticated information and to purchase the finished product on a commercially viable scale. Public sector information services were once fairly widely available on a free or relatively low-cost basis, but in this neoliberal era, market principles of user-pay, cost recovery and servicing’ clients’ have led to the virtual privatization of public sector information.

Even those once-privileged bastions of state information secrecy, the security and intelligence agencies, are flogging their information services to the highest bidders in the private sector. Governments increasingly post free information on the Internet, but this is mainly for democratic legitimation of their cost-recovery supply to the private sector: the very fact that information is Freely available is generally proof of its relatively low value as commodity.

Cyberspace will be a treasure trove of information only for those who already have treasuries to spend. For the rest of us, beneath the false promise of the Internet lies an overstuffed, cluttered, anarchically disorganized jumble of info trash so worthless that it has been discarded to lie along the sidewalks of the information highway for the casual use of anyone who cares to pick the odd item up.

As time goes by, even this litter will be cleaned up and replaced by smaller business ventures selling baubles and beads: North American television viewers have already seen the future in the Shopping Channels. Information is a valuable commodity, and it is power in the form of competitive advantage. But it is crucial to understand that information is power in a deeper sense. Ever since Foucault’s Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison was published in 1975, we have been alerted to the importance of surveillance as a primary mechanism of social control in the modem world.

With Foucault, the Panopticon – Bentham’s plan for a prison designed in such a way that each prisoner was under constant hidden surveillance, or what amounts to the same, would believe that he might be watched at all times — became the quintessential metaphor for a modem technology of power. Others have elaborated Foucault’s insights into a concept of the ‘surveillance society.’

This technology of power rests on the accumulation of coded information used to administer the activities of individuals about whom it is gathered. In contrast to earlier political forms, the modem state lays less stress on overt coercion to sustain its rule. Instead it favors pervasive, and penetrative administrative power, primarily through the collection, storage and retrieval of information within an administrative context of regulated definitions of tasks, functions and roles that situate individuals and groups in relation to other individuals and groups in an administrative or organizational framework.

Under a surveillance regime, people disappear into abstract, bureaucratic categories: ‘client,’ ‘customer,’ ‘taxpayer,’ ‘functionary,’ ‘law enforcement officer,’ ‘supervisor,’ ‘shop steward,’ ‘teacher’. The routinized exercise of surveillance implies coercion, but overtly involves only the marshaling of information as a means of regulating behavior. The lineaments of the surveillance state have been apparent for a long time, but the explosive advances in computer and communication technologies provide a powerful and ever-expanding toolbox of surveillance.

From the workplace to the streets to the home, people are being subjected to ever more sophisticated, ever more specific, ever more invasive, scrutiny. Although many of these technologies were initially developed through the military-industrial complexes, force-fed by the national security states during the eras of world war and cold war, they are now very much central elements of contemporary capitalism, in two main ways.

First, corporations are enhancing their surveillance capacities to increase competitiveness, both in terms of the productive process and marketing distribution.Second, surveillance is increasingly relied upon by capital in general to reduce risks and provide a more stable environment for doing business, both domestically and globally. Indeed, the privatization of surveillance has proceeded to the extent that it is perhaps more appropriate to talk about the surveillance society rather than the surveillance state.

In effect, many of the aspects traditionally associated with the state’s political rule — authoritative allocation of roles and regulation of behavior, for example — are being quietly transferred to the private sector. To look first at surveillance for competitiveness: fewer workers in more automated work environments are also more closely watched workers. ‘Smart-cards’ permit controlled entry to work places and also allow supervisors to keep electronic track of where employees are at all times. Electronically encoded identification of tools and parts not only permit better inventory control but also block employee pilfering.

Increasing use of computers as an integral part of the productive process not only enhances efficiency but also provides a cumulative and precise record of the productivity of the employees operating them, as well as of the workers that the computers are tracking. None of this need be confined to individual workplaces: global corporations carry out global surveillance of operations and employees; managers are in constant electronic touch through E-Mail, teleconferencing, etc., and their performances closely monitored and evaluated.

When we turn to the marketing and distribution side, the scope of surveillance is equally impressive. Mass marketing — which still of course continues — is a very blunt instrument, a bit like the bombs dropped from air planes in World War 11: a visual or radar sighting of the target area was made from thousands of feet in the air, the doors were opened, the bombs dumped, and the crew hoped for the best. Today’s niche marketing is more like the military’s contemporary smart weapons: the targeting is precise and the delivery is monitored and guided all the way to impact.

The key to the new smart marketing is information. Consumers are identified not as mass, undifferentiated markets, but as subgroups with very specific information about purchasing patterns and purchasing power. Data banks on consumer preferences, with information gathered from myriad sources, can be cross-referenced and specific potential customers for specific products can be identified and targeted. Mass media move from broadcasting to ‘narrowcasting’: 500 channel television via direct broadcast satellites permits a proliferation of specialized programming with specific audiences whose particular buying preferences will be sensitively accommodated by the advertisers on those channels.

Most of the data gathering goes on quite unnoticed by the targets, or is seen to be facilitating consumption. For instance, electronic checkouts at video rental shops speed up the process for customers. Few realize that information on each rental becomes part of a data profile of each customer’s preferences in films. Supply and distribution have been similarly revolutionized by the new technologies. Bar codes on products can provide instant readout of sales and inventories all the way to the factory door; readjustments and resupplies can be underway within seconds of consumer decisions recorded at checkout counters.

Surveillance as ‘risk aversion’ moves the private sector closer to the traditional concerns of the state. Credit-worthiness is a crucial entrée into the consumer society. Anyone judged a credit risk cannot hold a credit card, or borrow money for a house or car, and may even be barred from renting accommodation or transportation. Once named a credit risk, on the basis of data matching from private data banks, a process which allows little recourse for the targeted person to crosscheck the validity of the sources of the negative information, an individual may find it very difficult to get off this electronic blacklist, leading to a downward spiral in personal economic circumstances.

Insurance companies, basing decisions on data banks to which they have privileged, sometimes exclusive, access, can deny people access to insurance policies, or arbitrarily set rates at prohibitively high levels. In the case of automobile drivers in most jurisdictions, this may amount to effectively preventing someone from driving — and in many cases, from making a living.

Even more ominous is the increasing use of screening for employment: drug testing, evidence of previous legal offenses, medical problems, even lack of credit-worthiness, may be reason for denying employment or sacking an existing employee, often without appeal. Information upon which such significant decisions are made are based upon immediate access to vast data banks, many of them privately held and controlled.

Even in the case of public data banks, funded by taxpayer dollars, the subjects of the information may have little or no access to data on themselves, either because they are prohibited by law, or because only corporations with a high commercial stake can afford to pay for the added value of ordering the design of the data in forms accessible for their particular purposes. Again, in the case of public data banks, citizens often feel that these are actually helpful to them in their daily lives.

For example, ‘smart’ health cards that encode personal medical information (blood type, allergies, medications, etc.) offer holders security that they will be properly handled in medical emergencies. Less obvious is that such cards may contain credit information about health insurance coverage that could lead to being turned away at hospital doors, or worse, medical information (a history of drug addiction, for instance, or having been tested positive for certain conditions such as HIV) that may have devastating consequences for the holder in various situations. DNA banks might seem to offer protection for peaceful citizens against criminals, but what of the (admittedly very small) chance of an innocent person’s DNA sequencing matching that of an offender?

The Cold War national security state pioneered the process of security screening of broad categories of people: state employees; workers in defense and other industries of national significance; immigrants and citizenship applicants. The criteria were political: membership in the Communist party or in some other left-wing groups; association with known Communists, or past membership in alleged Communist ‘front’ organizations.

The political prejudices of conservative politicians and police were given free rein under the purportedly impartial cover of security screening — as if this were like objective screening for a disease. It did not stop there. Homosexuality was targeted as an alleged character weakness that left persons vulnerable to blackmail and thus security risks. Rabid homophobia was never far from the surface, and has in the case of the American and British military outlasted the Cold War that provided the ostensible rationale.

Wind Technician Salary

Wind Tech Pay Rates

Update: Wind Technician salaries drifted lower in 2012-13, averaging between $45,000 and $48,000. Noticing this, many “would be technicians” pursued alternative careers in turbine construction and manufacturing. Since most are interested in getting more information about how Wind Tech pay rates are determined out in the field, the following Hubpage will start by describing two of the more common pay schedules used by employers. After highlighting these two pay schedules, we will then define a Wind Tech’s scope of work and their typical entry-level requirements. Please continue reading below to learn more. (Before continuing, it should be noted that Wind Turbine Technician pay rates usually depend on whether or not the Technician is considered a “Local Tech” or a “Traveling Tech.” With this in mind, we will now take a closer look at the pay schedule of a Local Tech.)
Pay Schedules

◊ A Local Wind Tech is a service professional who typically works within one specific geographical area. In this manner, Local Wind Techs enjoy consistent workloads with regular hours spent working on nearby wind turbines. Although they have been known start out with slightly lower hourly rates than Traveling Techs, Local Techs are often able to advance into supervisory positions which can significantly increase their earnings. This being so, the typical starting rate for a Local Wind Tech is $18 per hour and this varies little from state to state or from wind farm to wind farm.

In addition to the starting rate named above, Local Techs also receive substantial employee benefits including; health insurance, a work truck, tools, safety training, and personal protective equipment. After gaining experience, Techs who work locally can expect pay raises with most earning close to $40,000 by the end of their first year in the field. In all, Local Techs tend to experience high levels of job satisfaction. Please continue reading below to learn more about Traveling Wind Techs.

◊ A Traveling Wind Tech is a wind turbine service specialist who works in a number of wind farms spread over a large geographic area. Working on the road, the Traveling Technician has a flexible work schedule that can be arranged in a variety of ways. One of the more common work schedules for Traveling Techs is the “5 on and 2 off” where 5 weeks will be spent working in the field before 2 weeks are allotted off. During their time in the field, Traveling Techs stay in employer sponsored hotels and get to experience a variety of different cities as they make their way from one wind farm to the next. As can be seen, this type of lifestyle can be very rewarding for someone looking to visit different parts of the country without having to change jobs or employers. So how are Traveling Wind Techs compensated? To answer this question we will now look at a couple of different options that the Traveling Tech can choose from.

Per Diem – The first and most common payment method for Traveling Wind Techs is the “Per Diem Allowance.” This pay schedule is similar to that of the Local Wind Tech, only there is an additional payment on top of the hourly rate called a Per Diem. This Per Diem payment functions as an additional daily bonus meant to go toward living expenses like food or other supplies that may be needed while on the road. Fortunately, the Per Diem payment is frequently greater than the Traveling Tech’s daily expenses as it can total up to an extra $50 per day. Money saved then becomes extra cash in pocket.

Day Rate – In contrast to the Per Diem pay schedule is the Day Rate. The Day Rate is a negotiated payment that a Tech is contracted to receive for each day spent in the field. In some cases this Day Rate is also paired with a Base Salary which the Traveling Tech would earn regardless of the number of days spent on the job. Unfortunately the negotiation of a Day Rate and Base Salary depends on so many factors that it is difficult to define a standard amount that one would expect to earn under this type of compensation package.

In either case, Traveling Wind Technicians who stay busy average a salary of $45,000+ per year while receiving the same benefits that Local Wind Techs are known to enjoy, including; health insurance, a service vehicle, tools, safety training, and PPE. Next, this Hub will detail a typical Wind Technician’s job description before continuing on to describe how to get wind technician jobs.
Job Description

When it comes to exciting jobs in renewable energy, Wind Technicians lead the pack. Working at the forefront of green technology, Wind Technicians specialize in maintaining wind turbines over their operating life which can exceed 25 years. Typical work duties for the occupation include; torquing, fluid changes, component replacement, hydraulic system repair, and electrical system troubleshooting. Performing these tasks within the safety of the tower, nacelle, or hub, Wind Technicians work in small teams in order to regularly service 2 to 3 wind turbines per day. Employers are often looking for new employees who are ready to enter into the field. How then, can someone with no prior wind industry experience get a job as a Wind Technician
Job Requirements

To get a Wind Technician job, you must complete a wind energy training program specific for Wind Technicians. For a listing of wind energy training programs, please visit my other Hubpage which I have linked below. In addition to training, many employers also favor work experience with mechanical and electrical systems. Opportunities are out there for those with education and related work experience, so take your first step toward a satisfying career today.

The Best Free Online Strategy Games and Tower Defense Games For The PC

Welcome to part two of an ongoing look at the best free-to-play online video games. Our last installment focused on free role-playing games, while this week we take a look at some of the best strategy games you can play on an empty wallet.

Strategy games are a big business, and one of the few genres that keep PC gaming afloat. With Blizzard’s StarCraft 2 slated to come out, uh, some day and some great games like Company of Heroes and Sins of a Solar Empire selling strong, player interest in strategy games has remained strong and genre loyalists have driven even obscure titles to modest but respectable financial success.

So, how can you get in on the action? There are a number of ways to play without pay, and I’ll help you go straight to the best the internet has to offer.

Warlords: Battlecry III
Warlords: Battlecry III
Free Real Time Strategy (RTS)

The RTS might be the type of strategy game players are most familiar with. Games like Starcraft and Command and Conquer introduced the strategy genre to millions, and created the demand for fast paced strategy games that require quick unit movement and production as well as managing resources and planning for opponents strengths and weaknesses.

Some great older RTS’s are now available for free, and some new, home brewed ones are making waves too. It is an exciting time to be a fan of the genre.
Warlords: Battlecry III

The Warlords series has a finger in many pots, ranging from turn-based strategy to puzzle games. Battlecry, their entry into the real-time strategy arena mixes RPG elements such as stat building and finding loot with RTS staples like unit management and tight control of individual units. Originally released in 2004, the entire retail game is now available for free on Gametap.

The gameplay is a little stiff, and the difficulty starts high and stays high, but the series has rightfully earned a niche following. The game play is non-linear and will likely be different every time you start a new game depending on the type of character you choose. Race doesn’t just determine your stats units stats: it determines the way individual towns and regions will react to your army and how much support they’ll provide. If you get upset over racism against Orcs, this might not be the game for you.
Warfare: 1917

In this browser-based flash game, take on the role of a World War I general. Focusing on trench warfare, you have to keep your defenses strong while leapfrogging from trench to trench, slowly taking enemy ground. Managing assault teams and artillery, you have to keep your army perfect in order to advance.

Just as important, though, is maintaining troop morale. World War I was a bloody war that killed millions, and if your troops see too many of their buddies die in failed attempts to take out entrenched enemy soldiers, there’s a good chance they just might surrender rather than die themselves.

Desktop Tower Defense
Desktop Tower Defense
Bloons
Bloons
Where I Look First for Free Games

Armor Games
Great free games from all genres. All flash based.
Kongregate: Play free games online
Kongregate has free games that you can play online. Choose from thousands of free flash games. Complete online game achievements to win badges.
GameTap – play free now or buy your favorite PC, Arcade and Console Games – GameTap.com
GameTap.com – play hundreds of your favorite free and premium pc and arcade games from GameTap’s online gaming service. Play free or subscribe for unlimited access to all games.

An example of how to “maze” using the WC3 Gem Tower Defense
Tower Defense

Tower Defense games originated as custom maps in Starcraft and came of age in Warcraft 3. Now, they’re a browser-based hit and there are hundreds of different variations to choose from. In a Tower Defense game, you build towers to fend off wave after wave of enemy, the ultimate goal being to kill them before they breach your defenses.

Tower Defense (or TD) games come in two main varieties: games where you are required to “maze” the opponent and ones where they walk a predefined path and ones where the path is already set for you. Mazing requires you to construct your towers in such a way that the invading creeps and critters have to take the longest possible path to the exit. These games require the most strategy and planning, but can quickly become frustrating to newcomers.

There are some great Tower Defense Strategy games, and I’ve chosen the ones that I personally have played the most and found to be the most challenging and entertaining.
Desktop Tower Defense

Desktop Tower Defense is probably the “big papa” of TD games. Not the first, but maybe the best. Literally taking place on a desktop, this is a game in the mazing category, and requires you to manage two lines of adorable invaders coming from different directions. Money management and creating the perfect maze are essential to victory.

The graphics are adorable and hand-drawn, and even the most difficult game will leave you wanting more. Check out the latest version now.
Bloons Tower Defense 3

What’s more fun than popping balloons? How about monkeys popping balloons? Using darts, tacks, trebuchets, and boomerangs, take whatever sharp object you can get your monkey hands on and stop those balloons from making it to the finish line of your predetermined path.

A nice, moderate difficulty level that scales well as you increase in levels, Bloons 3 is a great time waster with a playful attitude that’s great for filling a few empty minutes in your day.
Flash Gem Tower Defence

Poorly spelled, but great fun. A straight conversion of one of my favorite Warcraft 3 maps, Gem Tower Defense combines mazing with a predefined path, encouraging you to block off and create winding paths that prevent the creep onslaught from tagging each of the six points on the map for as long as possible. Place magical gems with elemental properties, and combine them to create more powerful, rare towers with special abilities.

The flash version is low-tech, but the spirit of the game remains the same. Check it out!
Towering Forever

A tough game to place, eventually I decided Towering Forever belongs in the tower defense category. Mixing elements of side-scrolling action with traditional TD game play, Towering Forever is unique. The game plays in a 2D, side-scrolling format and your character can jump, double-jump, and perform multi-hit combos on your enemies.

But, this is a tower defense game at heart, and you have to build and upgrade magical trees to help take the pressure off yourself while you’re beating up your enemies. Or, you can opt to spend your money on yourself instead, upgrading your attacks or foot speed.

The concept is somewhat inexplicable (a robot is defending the Yggridsil, the tree of life from other robots? Ooooooooookay).Occasionally frustrating, it seems the enemy units have far more health than is fair sometimes, Towering Forever is still worth a look if you’re interested in playing a new defense game but are tired of the same ol’, same ol’. And heck, how often do you get to mix Norse mythology with robots?*

*Answer: Here and in the truly awful Too Human. Ugh.
Battalion Strategy Game
Battalion Strategy Game
Turn Based Strategy

Sit back, relax, and take your time to think over the best move possible. Turn-Based Strategy allow each side of the battle take a single turn to move all their units and attack. Popular turn based series include Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic.
Battalion: Nemesis

Inspired by the great Advanced Wars series available on Nintendo portable consoles like the Game Boy and the DS, Battalion: Nemesis is a great free alternative to these games. Control tanks and other military vehicles and take down some opposing jerks.

Good graphics, and a decent attempt at a story bolster this amusing flash game.
Dominion

A long-form turn based multiplayer strategy game, you are vying against thousands of other players in Dominon. Build an army, build up your lands, and then go to war. Most games take months to complete, and become very competitive. You’re placed into a kingdom and these other players are your allies. Elect a leader, attack other kingdoms to add to your holdings, and maybe even go into all out war.

This game is very difficult if you’re not careful, and since you’re playing against other real human beings, don’t be shocked if they take advantage of every mistake you make.
Zoo Empire
Zoo Empire
Free Online Sims

Finally, some free online simulation games. You know, like SimCity? SimEarth? SimBrothel?
Pandemic 2

Become a virus and try to infect the entire world. Build up your deadliness without becoming so noticeable that doctors and officials are able to shut down your point of entry into foreign lands. Personally, I always wanted to be a parasite that causes dementia and vomiting, and Pandemic 2 gave me just the chance.

Have fun trying to infect isolated island nations like Madagascar.
Zoo Empire

Another free game from Gametap, Zoo Empire lets you become the manager of an up-and-coming new city zoo. Buy animals, attract crowds, and make sure nobody gets eaten by lions. An easy but fun respite from intense war games, Zoo Empire is great for fans of games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and The Sims.

Choosing the Best Internet Connection

When choosing an internet connection to have whether a fiber broadband, a DSL, a cable connection or even a dial-up, it helps to keep these factors in mind.

Download speed. Your internet download speed should be commensurate to the kinds of activities that you engage in online. Choose an internet connection that not only allows you to do what you want to do, but also allows the number of people in your house to connect to the internet all at the same time. Choose the internet speed that can accommodate the traffic and congestion present in your household.

Normally, a download speed of 1 to 4 Mbps allows you to check your email, browse the web, stream music files and watch standard definition videos. If you are telecommuting, the download speed quoted above should keep you satisfied. A download speed of 4 to 6 Mbps allows you to engage in the same activities plus file sharing and IPTV or internet TV services. A download speed of 6 to 10 Mbps allows you to play interactive games online. As your download speed goes higher, you get to do more activities such as multiple user video conferencing, real-time image consultation, HD video surveillance and more.

Availability. Especially if you are located quite far from the city, you need to know the internet companies available to serve your area. Since communication towers can only reach a certain geographical scope, the internet provider you want may not be able to serve you with the internet connection you desire. Residents in the urban center may not have to factor in the availability in their decision-making, but residents in the outskirts and in regional locations should.

Price. This is probably a consideration that consumers factor in regardless if it is for an internet connection or not. If the initial costs and monthly payments offered by the internet provider you want meets your budget, then there is no reason for you not to consider getting their services. Check too if they have bundled services and promos. Promos like free one-month connection or free installation can help you save money. Keep in mind though that the cheapest offer is not necessarily the best idea. You might be sacrificing a lot such as internet quality and varying download speeds if you choose the cheapest offer over a modestly priced internet connection.

Tech support. It is quite useless to sign up with an internet provider that has weak tech support. You can see whether the tech support of the internet provider you want is at par with your requirements through customer feedback. Do they dispatch technicians immediately to your location if you need help with your internet connection? Are they quick in replacing modems, wires, outdoor satellites and other technologies that only they can replace? Is their tech support hotline picked up by a live person or not? How can you reach them? Are they reachable through phone, email or IM? Tech support may seem insignificant, but it can affect the internet experience later on.

The Internet of Everything – Exploiting the Data Explosion

I haven’t owned a TV in 20 years. I don’t watch the Super Bowl or The Bachelorette or Dancing with the Stars. I estimate that over these 20 years, choosing to have no TV in my house has given me 262,800 hours of time to spend time on my life’s passion – understanding markets and learning about new technology each and every day.

On average, I am reading, thinking and writing about markets and technology trends for eight to 10 hours each day. Spending this much time reading about markets and technology is what gives me incredible insight to see big tech trends before everyone else.

And right now I’m seeing what I believe is the greatest tech trend of my lifetime. It’s more than a trend. It’s a revolution… and one that could be the greatest for investors in human history.

This revolution is called the Internet of Things (IoT). Some people are even beginning to call it the Internet of Everything.

That’s because this revolution is going to connect every single thing you can imagine… roads, pipes, houses, windows, cars, streetlights, clothing, medical devices, big machines in factories, robots… to the Internet.

And the enormous reach of the IoT is going to create some massive opportunities – and massive profits – for the companies that are positioned to be leaders of this new technological wave.

The Inner Workings of IoT

Some of you may not have heard about the IoT revolution that’s going on right now. So, I’ll just lay out how this technology works.

The first step in this technology is where sensors (essentially tiny microchips) are imbedded in… well, just about everything. These sensors are specialized for the particular environment in which they will work as well as for their purpose. These sensors are capable of tracking, measuring and monitoring data.

This data can be a wide range of information from temperature to usage levels to weight to light readings. They can even track a heartbeat or movement. There are thousands of other categories of activity.

The second step is the transmission of these trillions upon trillions of data points. These data are sent through wireless communication networks to computer storage systems, which are referred to as cloud computing.

The third step is the analysis of this data, turning it into actionable information. Once stored, this data is analyzed to find trends and correlations, creating usable information.

For example, the collected data might show how a machine operates when it heats up to a certain temperature. The machine operator can then use this information to determine the optimal way to run it so that production is maximized while potentially reducing energy usage or even increasing safety.

Now imagine these steps being applied to more than just a factory machine, but to health care, transportation, the usage of natural resources, food production and even the energy efficiencies in our own homes.

These data-driven informational insights that increase efficiency and save money are the key to the IoT.

The Data Explosion

The raw material underpinning it all is data.

Each and every day we are creating the equivalent of four Eiffel Towers worth of Blu-Ray Discs worth of data. That’s 2.5 quintillion bytes of data.

What’s more, 90% of all data that’s ever been recorded has been created in the last two years – a clear sign that the IoT revolution is well under way.

Even though you aren’t hearing much about it right now in terms of the stock market, it’s just a matter of time before it begins to be ALL you’re hearing. But at that point… it’ll be too late for investors.

People who got in early will have made incredible gains of 500% or even 1,000% in the key stocks that are participating in this revolution.

If you want to get generalized exposure to the IoT, there’s the Industrial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSE Arca: XLI), which will get you in on the industrial and manufacturing side of the IoT tech trend. The VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (NYSE Arca: SMH) offers exposure to the growing electronic-sensor field, a critical element of the IoT tech trend.

Readers who followed through and bought these from the first time I recommended them are up 7% and 20%, respectively, on these exchange-traded funds (ETFs) already. The S&P 500, by comparison, is up about 5% this year.

The Concept of Micro Cellular Towers in Your Small Business and Possible Technology Investments

A new form of technology was introduced to improve cellular connections in areas where coverage is poor. This technology is called Femtocell and allows for customers to have better coverage and business to supply this service with this device connected to a broadband internet connection.

Everyone should understand that a femtocell is most often used to improve cellular coverage without the cellular carrier needing to upgrade their networks. This implementation would be great for rural or remote areas (80% of Australia) but the technology itself may be a little bit expensive for small to medium businesses. As one knows, a lot of these femtocells can operate on spectrums without the permission of the owner.

This is occurring in the US and Canada now. This is full of controversy and I for one do not want to delve into this area when starting up or being stood on by the big Telco’s. Dual mode handsets worldwide could be taken advantage of but how would you price or pay for your costs? Does their Telco pay the business for supplying a connection or is it a pay-per-use system implemented by the owner. If you implement an agreement between Telco’s on a business to business basis than there is real money to be made. Especially when this technology is being released worldwide.

I could see the application of a femtocell network for business that have poor coverage or want to attract customers in high demand areas where churn rate is high. I could see cafes, book store and food courts implementing these ideas to improve the quality of service where coverage is lacking.

In my honest opinion wireless would still be easier and more affordable to customers than femtocell tech and allows businesses to implement e-commerce into their store. Well at least till I can determine how a business could achieve revenue from this activity. My presumption would be that the femtocell provider would only provide coverage in exchange for what? So that a user can continue to conduct their normal routines over a cellular network and ignore the concept of wireless technology.

So as you can see there is real possibility of a business now acting as a cell tower in business district areas. I am working on ideas that could really affect small business and boost revenue. Some countries may have dual-mode cellular phones which allow this technology to operate. Countries like Australia are falling behind with the concept of dual-mode cellular phones. So phones have to register with that spectrum to be any use.

Net Neutrality Threatened by Trump Administration

Tom Wheeler, the former chair of the FCC, used his final speech before stepping down to warn businesses and consumers that their choice of cloud services and business applications could be severely limited if the incoming administration strikes down the 2015 open internet order that he and his group put in place. This order positioned the FCC’s net neutrality regulation that prevents Internet Service Providers from slowing or blocking traffic on their networks. This gives all traffic equal opportunity and speed and prevents network favoritism.

Wheeler also showed concern for the Internet of Things, an area of economic growth that is quickly becoming top of mind to many businesses and policy makers in Washington.

“[T]he growth of the internet of things is another area that depends on the open connectivity of those things,” Wheeler said. “If ISPs can decide arbitrarily which IoT device can be connected, or favor their own IoT activity over their competitors, the bright future of IoT dims.” Wheeler continued, “As everything goes into the cloud, the ability to access the cloud free of gatekeepers is essential. If ISPs get to choose which applications and clouds work better than others in terms of access, speed and latency, they will control the cloud future,”.

Wheeler’s position may not be a surprise now but given his past as a lobbyist for the cable and wireless sector his support of net neutrality may come as a shock.

Bill Wilson, a consultant for Broadband Landing, said, “Wheeler may be underplaying the seriousness of the situation. Net Neutrality is the biggest deal that no one really understands. If consumers and small businesses actually realized what the internet would look like after it was bought and sold by large corporations that was be worried. This would be all that was being talked about.”

Wheeler has the same question many businesses do, namely will Trump dismantle a policy that is clearly working? With republicans openly opposed to net neutrality things do seem dire for the policy.

Wheeler’s speech not only acts as a warning to the incoming administration but also clearly attempts to widen the scope of the net neutrality debate as a whole. Consumer impact of the open internet order is almost always the lead in any discussion of net neutrality but here Wheeler’s focus was on the danger to businesses and their increasing use of cloud computing. Interruption or the slowing of these services is a bit more destructive than a video playing slow. Businesses might be required to completely change back office management systems. A company like Salesforce.com could have their customer base divided between users that have an ISP that allows their traffic and ISP’s that won’t. Situations of this type could be repeated across many business services. If AT&T buys a firm that provides CMS to sales and marketing groups, it is not unthinkable that they would show preference to this firm over others.

Wheeler specifically calls out Verizon and AT&T for the “zero rating” programs that give some companies free access by not charging customers for the data they use. While this isn’t the feared “Fast Lane” net neutrality has been trying to avoid, it may actually be worse.

Wheeler finished his speech with, “It now falls to a new set of regulators, to a new FCC and to those who advocate before it and the Congress to determine the road that they want to take from here,” Wheeler said. “We are at a fork in that road. One path leads forward and the other leads back to relitigating solutions that are demonstrably working.”

While the fork in the road analogy fits, it’s actually a bit more drastic than Wheeler makes it seem. One road leads forward and the other leads back a decade and then off a cliff into a hole filled with alligators.

Coupon Codes, Discounts, Promotions, And More – 7 Ways For Your Business To Save Money

With the recession looming, many businesses are looking to cut costs wherever possible. Fortunately, there are several reputable ways to reap the benefits of business discounts, promotional codes and coupons; bulk purchasing savings, and more. Businesses can take advantage of amazing discounts and smart operational moves to save big on all of their business needs. In this article, I’ll outline several steps you can take to help your business save money.

1. Join a business discount club. This is a simple way to access hundreds or even thousands of deals simultaneously. You can usually apply discount promos or coupon codes offered through the discount club to save big on goods and services from flowers to travel to shipping.

2. If you’re looking for places to cut back, technology is one of the biggest budget-busters. Join a technology discount buying service, or scout the Internet for promotional coupons and discount codes. Many vendors offer seasonal or buy-in-bulk coupon discount deals, so always compare prices between different seasons and different vendors.

It never hurts to buy used technology, either. Laptop or notebook computers usually should not be purchased used, because the internal hardware could be infected, corrupted, or failing. Never buy used computer towers, either. However, purchasing used desktop computer accessories, such as keyboards, monitors, and ball or optical mice, is a great way to save a few bucks.

3. Consider outsourcing your IT services, or using remote tech support to help boost your budget’s staying power. With remote staff, you won’t need to pay for benefits or training time. More importantly, you can usually use discount coupons and promotional codes to shave a few bucks or more off of the services. Bonus: Remote IT services often staff help desks 24/7/365, so there’s no downtime during your technology emergency.

4. Visit specialty office supply stores or bulk discount warehouses to get the best savings on your office products and needs. You can purchase pens, pencils, printer paper, CD spindles, ink cartridges and toner, and more. Use discount coupons and promotional codes to save more on office supplies.

5. Give discounted gifts, and consider giving logo or promotional items to your colleagues and customers. What are the benefits of this? You will spread your name and your brand, thereby netting more business. And, many logo and promo product outlets accept discount coupons, promotional codes, or business membership discounts.

6. Join a trade association for great insurance discounts. It’s difficult to provide small businesses with health insurance at affordable rates because the risk pool is too small. However, small business owners who join a trade association – such as a group of writers or a group of designers – join a larger risk pool. They are then usually able to offer group healthcare plans with lower premiums – the savings are passed on to employees.

7. Hire part-timers and contractors to take on some duties. Let’s face it: hiring an employee on full-time can be costly. You need to worry about comprehensive training costs, benefits, health insurance, and paid vacations. Have you ever considered hiring staff part time or on a per-project basis to complete tasks? Many people don’t want to work full-time, either – maybe they have kids, maybe they’re pursuing other projects, or maybe they just want a project a week to get some experience in a new field. Whatever the reason, send out feelers and you’re sure to find some part-timers or moonlighters ready and eager to help you with your business tasks.

Operating a business can be costly. However, by using smart buying tactics, great discounts, and strategic business moves, you can cut costs as you work on growing your profit margin.

Most Exciting Neighbourhoods In Paris

Tourists and locals swarm around in front of the large white facade of this 14th-century building. Inside is an exhibition on the French poet and screenwriter Jacques Prevert, where you can read his words, “Paris is tiny for those, like us, who share such a great love.” Hotel de Ville, the capital’s epicentre, is located in the 4th arrondissement. In Paris, the arrondissements don’t have names, but, since the 1860s, numbers from one to 20, spiraling around each other like an elegant snail shell. Each one is distinct, with a character all of its own. The 4th is both one of the oldest and most stylish, a rainbow arrondissement.

An accordionist sets the rhythm on the Arcole bridge, which extends from the Hotel de Ville. One hundred times a day, the old man on the Seine repeats the same bal musette tunes. His Parisian soundtrack probably hasn’t changed in 50 years. From time to time, the comments by tour guides on the bateaux-mouches reach the riverbank. Postcard-perfect decor stands at the far edge of the bridge on Ile de la Cite, the towers of the Conciergerie, the stained-glass windows of Sainte Chapelle and the flower market, while groups of tourists follow closed umbrellas carried like batons toward the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. With its five naves, three portals and galleries built to accommodate a multitude of worshipers, this religious edifice remains an iconic site in the French capital. It is the cathedral of all cathedrals. Legions of tourists enter by all sides, the south tower, the crypt, the sacristy housing the treasury.

The Square Jean XXIII offers the best view of the cathedral, the back side and chevet. This is also where you’ll start to see a surprising number of people with ice cream cones in hand, no matter what time of year it is. Bertillon, one of the most widely acclaimed ice cream parlours in Paris, is just a few steps away, on Ile Saint-Louis. Since 1954, the famous family has been delighting children from nearby schools as well as tourists and aficionados alike. On offer some 70 original flavors, all handmade on site, according to family tradition and expertise. “From my position, I can keep an eye on my father, my husband and my son, who all work in the back,” says Marie-José Bertillon, the cheerful boss who oversees everything from behind the cash register.

The main street, Rue Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, has a few art galleries, cosy restaurants, a stationery store run by a shopkeeper who is over 80 years old, and the oldest travel bookstore in Paris, aptly named Librairie Ulysse. The street is as straight and narrow as a French baguette. The shutters are often closed, this is an island of luxury and discretion. Bottle green bookstalls line the right bank, just a stone’s throw away, along the quays listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The secondhand booksellers continue a tradition that dates back to 1578. Wearing a black fedora and red scarf, Pascal Vincent has occupied his small plot of sidewalk for 20 years. A former poet in Saint-Germain-des-Près, he wouldn’t give up his stall along the Seine for anything: “I love Paris, I love books and I love watching the Seine. So I come every day, drink a few glasses of wine, listen to music and talk about books with people who pass by. Sometimes I even sell a book or two..” These booksellers are a breed apart, as they work outdoors every day.

A stroll along the Quay des Célestins and Quay Henri IV leads to the Port de l’Arsenal. A barge is slowly creeping forward, while the pleasure boats are moored one alongside another, under the watchful gaze of the Génie de la Liberté, the figure perched high on top of the Bastille column. Today, the boats are named Epicure, Lady Penlyric and Les Vieux Papillon. “Some are moored here year round, others are in transit. We have moorings for 170 boats. We handle nearly 1,500 per year, they are often tourists traveling down from the canals in the north who moor their boats for a few days while they visit Paris,” said Olivier Peresse-Gourbil, captain of the port, who’s proud of this site, which many Parisians don’t even know about. A few meters from the boats, on the Place de la Bastille, the modern opera house sits on the site of the former prison, a symbol of the French Revolution in 1789. Velib bikes, from the ingenious rental bike scheme that now forms part of the Paris landscape, slalom between the cars amid honking horns. The colorful and historic area of the Marais stretches behind the Rue Saint-Antoine, one of the city’s oldest streets.

Place des vosges is a haven, hidden away from all the commotion, where the entire neighbourhood seems to converge at lunchtime. Completed in 1612 during the reign of Louis XIII, whose statue stands in the center of the garden, the former royal square is surrounded by 36 bourgeois homes all with identical colors and designs. Several former ministers and a number of celebrities live here. Children, budding models, and tourists enjoy the lawns under the lime trees. Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, lived here in 1832-1848, in an apartment still open to the public. The Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, to the west of the square, leads to a whole new world, where history steps aside for fashion and design. The beautiful old stones have disappeared behind brightly colored shop windows. Paradoxically, the Marais may be one of the oldest parts of Paris, yet it looks to be one of the most modern and high-tech. Architects, graphic and fashion designers, and antique dealers compete with each other in a district that “Bobos” (Bohemian Bourgeois) have colonized over the last few years. Art galleries and clothes shops have gradually replaced local businesses, and even the falafel and shawarma shops on the Rue des Rosiers, which called Rue des Juifs, Street of the Jews, until 1900, have packed up.

The Marais, is a privileged neighborhood that has transformed over the years into a superb “museum quarter” encompassing the Musée Picasso and the Musée Carnavalet, covering the entire history of Paris. It’s also home to the futuristic and brightly colored pipes of the Centre Pompidou, the iconic temple of contemporary art that has just celebrated its 30th year. In this part of the 4th, you’re more likely to hear techno music than the sound of the accordion.

Chinese New Year Spectacular – Where Art Meets Technology

Imagine a backdrop of a vast ocean with surging waves for a grand dance called “The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea”. Or picture a fairyland landscape and palace for a dance called “Grinding an Iron Pestle Down to a Needle”. These are but two of the many classic creations used as a backdrop by NTDTV for its Chinese New Year Spectacular show playing at New York City Radio City Music Hall from February 14 – 17.

Tranquil artistic concepts from Chinese paintings and the magnanimous charisma of Western paintings are combined with a hi-tech application of traditional art, photo-electricity and projection used as backdrops. The combination makes for a rare delight of artistic performances. It is not surprising that the show ranked 7th on Billboard Magazine’s top 10 shows in Feb 2006 based on ticket sales for the 2006 shows at Radio City Music Hall.

Li Wencheng, head of the New England Monte Jade Science and Technology Association, said, “The backdrop for the NTDTV Chinese New Year Show is indeed rather unique and the skillful application of projection and photo-electricity has to be the creation of an expert.”

“The backdrop makers of the NTDTV show have extended the effect of our backdrops to its extreme,” noted Radio City’s Manager.

The enormous background screen used during NTDTV’s Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall has the effect of bringing the audience into the performance. In a typical stage setting, it is difficult to create a multidimensional effect, even with a large number of performers. The space on stage has limitations, and stage props also often give people a feeling of things being faked.

However, when Soprano-Alto Yang Jiansheng sings a vocal solo, she stands alone on the stage with no accompanying dance or stage props. However, the magnificent backdrop makes the audience feel as though they are right in the midst of the performance.

For example, in the 2006 Chinese New Year Spectacular, throughout the show the backdrop kept changing along with each performance, from misty rain, pavilions and towers, to the water-bound country in south China to shining spears and armored horses and famous mountains and rivers; from green bamboo and red flowers and the change of four seasons to the sun, the moon, the stars and the auspicious clouds in the highest heavens.

Colorful events that took place in the thousands of years of Chinese history were replayed to perfection on stage. The design of the backdrops was definitely the creation of an expert. The backdrops did not use dominant color themes to supersede the performers on the stage. Instead, they provided a very logical and harmonious artistic atmosphere.

Audiences of all ages and walks of life are guaranteed to be impressed by the backdrops in the 2007 show at Radio City Music Hall. Whether for the artistic and technologically advanced use of the screen or the magnificent performances, it is a show you don’t want to miss!