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Class Notes for February 16

Hillary G's picture

 Gender and Technology – Class Notes for February 16, 2011 by Hillary G


Katherine Rowe:

-       Raised idea that there should be unpredictability in communication within information

-       Noise depends on the observer while information depends on context

-       Is the presence of “meaning” the only difference between noise and information?


Paul Grobstein:

-       Defines information as the “organization of matter and energy” based off the idea of plasticity

-       Information can be transformed

-       This relates to thermodynamics and entropy in relation to matter re-organizing itself


If information is not “essential” but rather transactional…:

-       What motivates the coder and the decoder?

         o   Coder may want to share information while decoder may break information apart

-       What do we trust as information?

         o   Kgoulds told an anecdote about “listening” robots in hospitals who form artificial “relationship” between robot and patients. Raises question of whether people actually have to be understood in order to feel like they are being listened to, and that their information matters.

        o   Robot anecdote raises an example of the ambiguity between sensation and perception, whether they are being judged or not.

         o   So then, does information exist if no mind receives it? Does there have to be a decoder for information to exist?

        o   Can information exist without meaning?


We, as human beings, love binaries. They simplify our world. But do we need them?:

-       When discussing noise vs. information, several students felt that the two are not mutually exclusive from one another.

-       We talked about whether noise and information are different types of the same concept or whether one causes the other


How does this idea relate to Gender and Technology?:

-       Can gender be color-coordinated?

-       We discussed that we grew up learning a “script” of how to decode gender information all around us

        o   For example: how do we know which bathroom to use? Most women look for the “female” image of the girl in the dress, despite usually looking more like the “male” icon (wearing pants).

       o   Can you use the same decoding skills to gather information about social relationships?


Discussion of the “3-body problem” from Katherine Hayles, which concerns the complexity and difficulty of predication.:

-       Interpretations from the essay on “How We Read”…

       o   Some students felt that she misjudged our generation, and that we have not lost our ability to analyze literary pieces

       o   Others expressed guilt at their lack of motivation to practice “close reading” on a regular basis

       o   However, thanks to technology, we are also exposed to much more information now than former generations were. This may account for the increase in “hyper reading”

       o   Most agreed that it depends on the content or type of reading it is (they might read a book for a literature class more closely than an expository article or a recreational novel)

       o   But is it such a bad thing for us to be hyper reading, or is it a natural response to information overload?


We examined what it means to think critically, and what it means to read closely

o   Close reading = interpreting details, seeking patterns, understanding context in a linear way (sustained)

o   Hyper reading = more “jumpy,” grasping basic idea of the text rather than absorbing the richness of the content

o   Does close reading lead to critical thinking?

o   Does hyper reading prevent critical thinking?

o   “Distance reading” - Can it be beneficial to read a text without breaking it apart, or decoding, all the details? Can it sometimes be more beneficial to get the big picture? (The “GIST,” if you will)

o   Many feel forced to hyper read because of the volume of information they are asked to absorb as students, which can lead to guilt that they’re not reading closely

o   One student, kelliott mentioned that even on our class webpage, Anne and Liz use bolded words, color-code titles, and bullet points, which may encourage hyper-reading


Toward the end of class, Anne even said that to some extent, she feels that hyper reading has made her better at evaluating (our) student papers online! She said it helps her grasp the important ideas and patterns in the projects. 



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