Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Five Questions for a Techie: Chris Kish

This interview is with editor Chris Kish of 1st World View, a social technology website/blog.  He has recently started a Twitter feature known as the "Electronic Haiku," which shares tech news highlights in 17-syllable bites (or should that be "bytes"?).  Let's see what he has to say...

1. Okay, what happens when you mix the traditional nature-based Japanese art form of haiku with up-to-date news on technology?  No, this isn't a joke, this is what you're doing.  Explain.  Please.  You have piqued our interest.

It actually comes together really well, and for a few different reasons. Haiku are designed in a way that allows you to create a poem completely from a single thought, if you want to do that. Whether you see something interesting while taking a walk, or you think of some crazy observation on human behavior while you’re waiting to be seated at a restaurant, it doesn’t take long to write something about it in Haiku format. Even if it’s not perfect, or not complete, you can create the poem immediately after the idea hits you. You can write a Haiku in your head while you’re driving. Because the Haiku is such a fun and practical way to express ideas, I thought it would also be a fantastic way to express single opinions on technology and technology news.

Twitter was the inspiration for Electronic Haiku, along with the fact that I’ve been working on a more straight-forward technology website/blog (www.1stworldview.com) for about a year now and have enjoyed using Twitter to expand its audience. I noticed I was often just posting links and small comments, just another series of tweets that blend into the rest of people’s timelines. I was lacking a sense of energy and style, I guess. I wanted to come up with a way to give people more than just a relay of the technology news they could find at Engadget or TechCrunch, and more than just opinions that people could also find at those major tech sites. The whole point of 1st World View is to give people technology news and opinion in an easy-to-read, entertaining style, so "Electronic Haiku" fit right in.

With Haiku poetry on Twitter, we can relay not only technology news of the day, but include our thoughts and opinions as well. This way people can learn about new stories in technology, read an opinion or two on the matter, and enjoy poetry, all at the same time. A lot of technology news we read tends to take on a dry tone and becomes too technical, so "Electronic Haiku" will hopefully add some calming flavor into the mix.

I think using Haiku to discuss technology news pushes me to reconsider these stories from different perspectives and helps me to more thoroughly develop opinions on these topics. You might think you know how you feel about something, but write a Haiku about it and see how much more specific your opinions on the matter become. Because you have to consider your word choices so carefully, the format naturally pushes me to consider different angles. We only just started "Electronic Haiku," but what we’ve created so far seems pretty cool.

2. We always hear about the "must-have" electronic gift of the season. Anything you would warn us off of this time around?

Wait to buy your tablets, and your 3D televisions. Out of any gadgets that will be popular this season, I would avoid picking those up just yet. If that’s the thing your son or sister wants more than anything, of course, give them what they want. But those newest forms of technology are going to be changing, improving, and lowering in cost very rapidly in the near future.

This applies to most technology, except video games which come in obvious generations of systems. I think this concept currently applies to tablets more than anything, simply because they’ve been around the least amount of time. 3D Televisions also fall into that category; I mean, think back to the release of flat screen plasma televisions. I remember a family friend purchased one, about 32 inches, for over $2,000. Within a couple years he was looking at the new TV prices and kicking himself.

I’ll take this quick opportunity to suggest the best gift of the season - Xbox Kinect. At this point in time, people seem to be down on it, but that is only due to the lackluster wave of games released with it. Once some mature, adult-oriented games are released, things will change. If you are a fan of video games, just imagine what these game developers will come up with when you control the games with your body.

3. What effect do you think social networking (or other communications technologies) have on individuals' opinions and tastes?  Is this connectedness an overall good or bad thing?

It connects and disconnects us at the same time, an idea that was captured so well in the new Windows Phone commercials. People walking around on the street, but just staring down into a 4-inch abyss of information. Social networking does connect us, but it tends to take the opposite effect in other ways. I love David Fincher’s The Social Network because it showed Zuckerberg as a symbol for Facebook itself: have a ton of friends without actually having any friends.

People are spending more time communicating with close friends, but they also spend a lot time communicating with “friends” they have never met in person, and will never meet, and that isn’t a great thing. I feel like younger people are developing online friendships and taking them a little too far, and I bet a lot of kids would prefer an online friendship to one in person. Social networking helps to keep people in touch, but it makes friends spend less time together in person.

For me, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are tools to help stay in touch with friends who have moved. I am 25, so many of my friends have recently spread across the country, and Facebook helps me find out what’s going on with them. On the other hand, I never communicate with in-town friends on Facebook, or Twitter. I chat with them on Gmail, but only because it’s so easy on my phone and helps me save on text messaging costs.

As far as affecting opinions and taste, I think social networking is amazing. As people constantly submit quick ratings and opinions on products, we will slowly grow a better understanding of all the products out there. The main problem was that people only went online and gave reviews of a product when they had something to complain about. Now, since it’s so quick and easy to submit good or bad reviews, we can get a more accurate user rating for products. Time will constantly improve this system of user reviews.

4. The Internet has been great for all of us to get our thoughts out there immediately; unlike the letter-writers of old, however, our communications are increasingly ephemeral.  How do you think society will handle this loss of permanent records of communication?

Although I don’t always reach my goal of posting once every day on 1stworldview.com, I do multiple posts every week. Over the last year or so, I have amassed a nice collection of writing. Even though I save all of the articles onto my computer, I still worry every time I open up the website that everything will be gone. That just happened to my sister’s website and she does not think she will ever get it back.

In the end, though, I can just save it in Word,  save it to my back up hard drive, save it to a flash drive, print it, and I’m set. When it comes down to it, the things that matter will be saved. They will be saved multiple times in multiple places.

In a way, the increasingly ephemeral online world serves as a kind of filter, weeding out the best of the best. If someone sends out a Tweet that is just one of the most ingenious, insightful sentences of all time, you can bet money that people will find it. It will spread, and suddenly it will be on websites, blogs, Facebook, and of course, splattered all over Twitter.

Even if you haven’t written the next society-altering Tweet, you can save it in many different ways and in many different places. You can even print it! So, I actually don’t think society will have to deal with a loss of permanent records.

5. How can the worlds of technology and poetry benefit from cross-pollinating?

They will both benefit from one-another in different ways. While poetry has been dissected and twisted around to fit any subject matter and style possible, I think technology will add a sense of intelligence and respectability. A lot of poetry is just psuedo-symbolic gibberish, overly layered in emotions and twisted around to be complicated for the sake of being falsely complex. Instead, let’s make poetry about facts and figures. Instead of writing poetry just to create poetry, let’s write poetry that has a more concrete purpose. I think crossing technology news into Haiku poetry will not only add to the fun, playful nature of the poems, but will force us to come up with wordplay and opinions we otherwise would never have thought of.

Poetry, on the other hand, can also benefit from technology news. I created 1stWorldView, then "Electronic Haiku," for people like me. I love technology, but I don’t have degree in CSS and JavaScript. I love using Twitter, but I have no idea how it works. I am a writer, but I love technology and wish I could enjoy reading more about it (or at least understand more of what I’m reading). I often read tech articles and find myself mentally drifting to something completely unrelated. By providing technology news and opinions from a very basic perspective, we hope to simplify technology news so its entertaining and interesting to people who aren’t necessarily in the technology industry, but still use smartphones, tablets, laptops, Facebook, and Google.

Branching off from this idea came "Electronic Haiku." By integrating Haiku poetry into the world of technology news, people will be exercising their brains in multiple ways. Not only will they be enjoying technology news and opinions, but they will  be enjoying art as well. Art is basically just a representation of life through one medium or another, so it makes sense that we would explore technology through an artform like this. If anything, "Electronic Haiku" will add some moisture to currently dry tech news. The fact that Twitter is such a perfect tool for posting "Electronic Haiku" seems fitting. Crossing technology news into Haiku poetry should symbolize how technology has become such a natural part of life.

CHRIS KISH is a writer living in Phoenix. An Arizona native, he graduated from the University of Arizona and currently works as lead writer and editor of the social technology blog 1st World View as well as the in-house writer for a local marketing company. Chris is interested in creative writing for film, television, and video games. He enjoys blogging about social technology, watching the English Premier League, cycling, and playing Halo.

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