Exercise 1 – What is information technology?

Geoff asked everyone to do a small exercise for January 20.

Pick one of the following and explain how it might be serve as an “information technology.” Try to make your answers ingenious without being implausible.
a bicycle!
a necktie!
a blanket!
a piece of string!
a dishrack!

We discussed a few responses in class.  Those responses are below:

A bicycle may be used as inspiration or a very simple prototype for future generations of automobiles. Because a bicycle doe not emit any type of pollution, in the future, this would greatly reduce the rapidly rising problems in the ozone layer, global warming, health, and the overall quality of air and life for people. Future cars may have automatic pedal-like things to help propel the car forward without using gas or any other form of electricity. While this may seem like a big step from the car industry today, I know that anything can happen in the future. Right now, and I believe in the future, green energy and steps to reduce our use of energy and resources are very big. This will be a way to greatly help the problems we have today.  Another way a bicycle may be used as information technology is through the use of exercise bicycles in gyms around the world as a way to generate electricity and power to help with producing enough energy for everything we use in the world. It would be a way to save energy along with better health. They could hook up the exercise bicycles to possibly fans or televisions near it, and by pedaling, it would allow the circuits to generate electricity for things around it. –Olivia C.
If we define “information technology” as a technology that spreads information and allows that information to be accessed and manipulated, a dishrack can be a source of informational messages about a household for guests. A dishrack’s brand, size, and type provides information about the nature of a household, its’ economic and social status. The content inside the dishrack also provides evidence of a family’s food preferences and serving size. The organization of these dishes tell stories about the personality of the members who placed them there. All this data and information can be interpreted differently by people who hold different values and ideologies, for example, some may take one look at a disorganized array of dishes and find the household disgusting and uncivilized while another may find the family lively and active. This information is also easily manipulated with each new person that loads and unloads the dishrack. A dish that is still dirty with old food stains will send a particular message than a sparkling clean one and these messages will change. –Anne C.

Modern computers and electronics are a prime example of what most would consider “information technology”, but other, somewhat less obvious items can be seen as information technology that are just as capable of storing and spreading information. Your typical bicycle may not store information the same way a computer would, but it contains in it information that can be accessed with
some careful observation. Warning labels, as well as logos and company
names on the surface of the bike can give out some kind of information
to the world regarding the bicycles history or usage. More subtle
things, like how worn out the tires are, or how many scratches there
are on the body of the bike, could also give you information about the
rider.  New information can also be shared and spread by using a bicycle, and
perhaps one of the most common examples of this would be that of a
paperboy who uses his bike to deliver newspapers. Another example
would be of any person who rides his or her bicycle to go somewhere
and meet with someone, since anything they share or say could be
considered new information. -Sayed W.

A piece of string may be used as information technology. A series of knots can be tied into the string and used to encode and preserve information. While I am unaware of any modern standard method of encoding for this, such systems did exist. One example is called Quipu. A page exists at wikipedia about these, including a picture, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quipu. While a string may not seem
like viable data storage by today’s standards, the pull to record and recall information is so strong that if a string is all you have, you may end up feeling pulled to use it. –Charles

What would mankind do without the invention of the piece of string? Used for everything from book bindings to hasty repair jobs, this innocuous invention pervades society, but few realize that it can be considered “information technology.”
In ancient China, bamboo strips were tied together with string, forming a book took a horse and cart to move around. Now in modern times, string is still often used to bind books together, especially in do-it-yourself book binding. In this way, string helps organize information into the logical, orderly mass of papers we call a book.
Have you ever broken something and hastily repaired it with duct tape? This powerful tape contains cotton mesh, which in turn is composed of little pieces of string. By improving society’s repairs, it has also increased the amount of time in which can be spent on other things. And finally, what is cloth but a collection of really long, carefully woven pieces of string? By keeping us warm and comfortable, these pieces of string have not only given us another outlet in which to express ourselves, it also plays a part in keeping us healthy and able to continue inventing new things. -Diana W.

The category “information technology” is broad, as many items can be used to convey, create, or otherwise disperse information.  For instance, one may think that a necktie is far from any sort of technology.  If one were to consider the role a necktie conveys, however, one might see how a necktie may be considered a type of
information technology.  When making a presentation in a class or an academic seminar, one might choose to wear a necktie to make the audience think that the presenter is well prepared, serious, and in a position of authority with regards to the presentation.  Thus, when one is wearing a necktie, one is likely to be taken more seriously and, as such, more able to give information to others.  More generally, there is certain attire associated with certain social roles and, depending on the role, some attire is more suited to sharing information with the public. -S. Victoria P.

On its own, a necktie is not much other than a piece of cloth. Worn around the neck of a man or woman, a necktie is a statement of information, conveying the social status and personal style preference of the one who wears it. This type of information emanating from the tie varies based on the context it occurs. In the context of a man in an office building, it conveys a status of power and professionalism. This same tie worn by a woman at a party with a cocktail dress
signifies the opposite. She could be interpreted as weak and silly with the usually masculine necktie contrasting her effeminate ensemble. It also tells the world that she either doesn’t know a thing about fashion or can’t follow social mores. A necktie worn by a teenage boy clad in studded jeans and a leather jacket shows the public that he’s an anti-conformist headed to a special occasion (and maybe trendy, depending on the current fashion trends where he lives). Without the necktie, he would not display any information of formality. -Kelly W.

In America, a baby blanket with the Greek alphabet on it will convey the information to everyone who sees it that the baby’s parents are intellectuals. –Ariane L.

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