As a long-time fan of renowned burlesque artiste Dita Von Teese, an academic DITA module sounded right up my street. However, it transpires that Data and Information Technologies and Applications is a very different kettle of fish…
Today everything seems to either directly or indirectly revolve around technology. The gathering of information is such a big part of this techno-world, but we often don’t realise that it’s even happening. You might experience a thrill when Etsy’s algorithms present you with the most deliciously perfect handmade bohemian organic alpaca-wool crocheted scarf that you could possibly have imagined. However, are you comfortable with the site already knowing you would love it, presumably because of information it has been quietly gathering and processing about your shopping habits and product preferences?
As someone who likes to make an effort to see the glass half full, these are some positive thoughts I have had about examples of DITA:
Organ donor and bone marrow registers
For years I have been registered as an organ and bone marrow donor. My details are held in an electronic database, and I hope that one day my eagerness to donate could save the lives of one or even multiple people, possibly even who live in a completely different part of the world. In this regard (and as fictional lawyer and activist Elle Woods would say), snaps for DITA!
The role of Fitbits in solving murders
I’m not going to say too much here as I might well want to save this as an assignment topic, but through investigating purely for personal interest, I am aware that the recording and storing of personal information via Fitbits has led to the resolution of murder cases that might otherwise have been unsolvable, or an incorrect conviction would likely have been made. Again, snaps for DITA!
These first couple of weeks of term have demonstrated the vastness of how significantly data and information technologies and applications affect and infiltrate our lives. There are so many directions in which to probe, that surely no one could ever find this topic uninteresting.
The incident of a technical problem cutting our Teams session short, was, perhaps, a sign of DITA’s undeniable presence in today’s world. It helpfully demonstrated how data-transmitting technology can be extremely useful when it’s welcome and working, but can leave us feeling unexpectedly handicapped when it doesn’t function correctly. Thinking of a similar example, it has been years since I have witnessed someone planning a route by using a physical map, rather than relying on GPS technology. How do you plan your journeys?
In these first two sessions, we have reviewed historical figures in the sphere of computing, such as Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and Alan Turing. We have also discussed issues that affect us all today, such as the concept of the infosphere, as described by Luciano Floridi. While thinking about the evolution of computing, a novel that I read about fifteen years ago sprung to mind; Microserfs by Canadian postmodernist Douglas Coupland. The book features a group of young coders at Microsoft headquarters in the early 1990s; a time when the concept of a global information web was in its exciting infancy. I don’t remember the details of the book, but I do know that it has been on my re-read list for many years. Given the relevance to this course, I have decided to embrace another facet of data and information technologies and applications by listening to it in audio format.
Bits, bytes, binary numerics and other ways of encoding, handling, and representing data and text is, frankly, something I have found quite challenging to comprehend. However, it feels great to be mentally stretched and intelectually stimulated, so I’m not complaining!
(The last image here is a photograph of my own workspace, but the other fabulous art is courtesy of Pixabay.)