A Difference in Perspective

When beginning this class I thought I was well versed in technology. I had always been the person that my friends and family would confide in with their technological problems and I was almost always able to solve any problem. After taking this class and exploring new technological as well as conceptual ideas I now realize that the knowledge I possessed at the beginning of the semester is such a small part of all the knowledge available pertaining to technology and that I did not know as much as I had previously thought. My view of technology has now become so much broader and I can see the different ways in which it can be utilized. I connected during class discussion the ways in which this class allowed us to use our computers in different ways to Walden in Thoreau’s description of the change in use of wood. In Walden by Thoreau, he describes the importance of wood, saying that “It is remarkable what a value is still put upon wood even in this age” and that “after all our discoveries and inventions no man will go by a pile of wood”. The material of wood is still just as valuable today as it was in the time in which Walden was written but what has changed is the usage of the material. For example, many of us do not use wood to warm our houses as Thoreau did during winter at the pond but we still use wood for things such as building. This exact logic can be applied to the way in which we are using our computers in this class. Our computer has not changed in importance but the way in which we are using the technology has changed causing us to view it in a new way. The ways in which we use our computers and technology will continue to change as time progresses just as the uses of natural resources such as wood have changed.

The novel Metadata truly encompasses how this class has changed my perspective on technology and the way in which I look at data in general. The quote which I find myself constantly referring back to is “a roomful of books is not a library” (p.13). The concept of Metadata is one that was entirely new to me prior to this class and the idea that the organizational system used in a library is a form of metadata is fascinating to me. Organizational systems are all around us and we have been trained in the ability of “coding” these systems. For example we understand that a space in between two chunks of text signifies two separate paragraphs, we have been trained in the ability to “code” the system of “text organization”.  Without the Dewey Decimal System a library is simply a room full of books just as when we were editing text in XML we had to follow a strict coding pattern or else it is simply jumbled letters, numbers and symbols. In order to know where to find the book you are looking for you must possess the knowledge of the “Dewey Decimal System” and in order to understand XML you must possess the knowledge of the specific syntax/system used in XML. When participating in the “hands on” aspects of this course such as exploring the command line in VirtualBox or plain text editing in Atom I have learned that our computers are so much more powerful than we think. As a society many of us are using only a small part of what our computers are truly capable of simply because of ignorance and this course has taught me to seek out different ways in which we can utilize technology. Metadata is all around us, society is made up of metadata and certain organizational systems and once you open your mind to seeing these organizational semiotic systems it is impossible to “unsee” it.

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