Your device puts you in public

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy (photos via Thinkstock

Is there such a thing as digital privacy

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 25, 2015

The more we know, the more frightened we become, but that shouldn’t be the case. Technology has pushed people to the fringes of paranoia. The devices in our bags and pockets know more about us today than our parents do. Every action we make, every item we purchase, and every person we correspond with is ultimately recorded to some hard drive library or in the ether. And that data is combined into a harmless stat for marketers, law enforcers, and other faceless benefactors.

While it seems like we are closer to an Orwellian present, we are far from danger. I don’t believe information will be used against us for evil—at least, not unless we’ve done something wrong. I think what people need to start understanding is that the device they hold in their hand as they fall asleep at night is as close to being in a public place as waiting for the bus on the side of the road. Whatever you are doing is not important, but someone will probably see you. They might just be passing by in a vehicle or strolling by minding their own business, but you are there.

There are witnesses for our actions. Behaving as if the world is watching should in fact be our way of thinking when we use our smartphone to log onto the Internet. We have grown too comfortable with our devices. We treat them as our closest ally, never to betray us. But in fact it’s not your friend, it’s inanimate, and it’s a window into the outside world. Living through your device is essentially living in a glass house for everyone to see.

The devices are not the scary things. There is nothing scary about tools and appliances. We should not worry about an oven, but we should worry that if we leave the oven on, we’ll probably burn down our house. We are only now beginning to understand the damage our negligence can do through our electronic devices. Maybe there will never be a day when people are arrested for being drunk on the Internet. But being belligerent and harmful online is by no means an un-punishable act.

We need to start using our devices with responsibility. We need to learn that what we do there is not private. Even if you have a passcode to your phone and a complicated password for your accounts, someone somewhere knows it. A device is not a home you can secure, it’s a vehicle that takes you to sites worth visiting, and you share these sites with billions of other people.

Hotspots for happy campers

Parks Canada introduces Wi-Fi

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Originally published in the Other Press. May 5, 2o14

Canadians live for the wilderness, especially British Columbians. We anticipate our camping trips all winter long, and for many it’s our vacation from a stressful urban life. We want to escape our emails, our social media, and anything else linking us back to our offices and desks. Camping brings us back to the majesty of nature—and there is nothing natural about Wi-Fi.

The current initiative by Parks Canada is to install Internet into 150 national parks locations over the course of three years. While some spots will offer the Wi-Fi for free, others will charge a fee—either way, it is implemented so that visitors can stay connected with all their worries back home. How wonderful, right?

For those like me, who work mainly from the computer, having accessible Internet everywhere is a great commodity. But do I want to do work while I’m camping? Hell no! I always have this romantic idea of taking my work on vacation and doing it in the midst of travelling. I believe that type of work ethic is harmful to both the product and the worker. Separating work and play is essential to living a happy, healthy life. “I’m going camping” should still be a valid excuse for a break, even if Wi-Fi is available.

It is true that we are becoming addicted to our mobile devices, laptops, and other technology. Whether we are on social media or we are playing games, technology has proven that we no longer need to go outside or even converse with real life human beings. One can live perfectly happily from the confines of their home or office. If you think Wi-Fi in parks are going to get people outside, then you have missed the whole reason for being outside.

Going out into nature should be an opportunity to reconnect not with your digital devices, but with the world around you—the world you probably forgot while you were busy studying for your finals, or working overtime, or simply doing other things. There is a lot to see out there and you might miss something because you were too busy looking down at your phone.

Technology is excellent for bringing people together, but once people are together—at camp grounds for example—then it’s best to spend some quality time with them and not worry about others far away; there will be time for them later.

Parks Canada has stressed that there will be many places in the back country where Wi-Fi will probably never be enabled. That’s good, but the fact that so many outdoor locations will have accessible Wi-Fi scares me. What if one day Wi-Fi disappears and we can’t YouTube a video on how to build a fire or set up a tent? What will happen when we aren’t able to get lost in the beauty of Canada? What makes us Canadians great is the fact that we are survivors in the wilderness. Take pride in having a weekend where you go to the bathroom in the bushes, or cook meals from a can, or log off of the Internet, because in a world where we can take it or leave it, it’s always harder to leave it. Better memories go to those who take risks, so be a courageous camper and power off.

Canadians are Seriously Addicted to Their Smartphones, Google Study Confirms

Like a trusty companion, we have our smartphones close to our sides. We carry it along with us all day, rely on it for communication and information and help us pass the time during coffee breaks and bus rides—but can all that be considered an addiction?

In an online survey conducted by Google earlier this year, out of 1,000 Canadians an estimated 56% have a smartphone, a 33% increase from 2012.

There is no denying the popularity of smartphones, but some believe that we might be too reliant on the technology. About 80% of all smartphone owners admit that they won’t leave their house without it, and two-thirds of those said they use their phone every day during the past week.

“Mobile has become a core part of how people live their lives today,” Google Canada’s head of mobile advertising, Eric Morris told Globe and Mail. “The study shows people are using mobile to change all aspects of their life, whether it’s their job, travel, shopping, the way they communicate with others and specifically trying to understand the world around them.”

So the question might not be about why people are using smartphone so obsessively, but why aren’t they using it more? How long will it take before our mobile devices replace all the alternatives? Can that happen? Approximately 35% of smartphone users confessed that they have replace watching television by watching their phones.

“People watch videos on the biggest screen they have available to them,” said Morris. “Sometimes that’s your 50-inch TV at home, sometimes that’s your tablet while you’re on the couch or in bed and sometimes that’s the smartphone while you’re on the couch or travelling or even in the office. I think one of the interesting things from this survey is there is a lot of mobile consumption that’s being done in the home…on home WiFi.”

Smartphones offer everything from social media to online banking, like our keys and our wallet it has become another essential component of who we are. Whether it is a harmful addiction or just an annoying habit, that is still to be determined, but one thing is for sure, as the mobile industry expands there are bound to be more of it.

An average smartphone user will have 30 apps and use approximately 12 in the past month. About 78% use their smartphone for social media and 52% say they are logged on daily.

Distraction or Entertainment? Either Way, Second Screens are Changing the Way We Watch TV

Whether it is because of our shortened attention span or our heightened interest, second screens are becoming a common television viewing habit. Mobile devices are changing the way people watch and interact with TV.

Engaging with a show and other viewers can now be as simple as using a smartphone or a tablet. The latest Nielsen survey shows that 46% of smartphone owners and 43% of tablet owners are choosing to be connected with their devices while watching TV. During the first quarter of 2013 two-thirds of tablet and smartphone owners said they were using the second screens multiple times a week.

But what are viewers really doing on their devices while watching television? Well, everything really. Majority of tablet owners are simply making general web searches and browsing.

But the survey shows that people are also using the second screens for contents that are related to what they are viewing, 13% of tablet and smartphone owners use the device to interact with the show or post about it on social networking sites. About 15% of users admit to watching a show because of something they have read on social media. And 20% of viewers with tablets are shopping on their devices during advertisement on television.

According to the Q1 2013 Cross-Platform Report, smartphone users can spend up to nine hours each month using social media on their phone. Tablet users average around four hours each month.

Multi-screen entertainment is a product that both television producers and digital device marketers are expecting to grow. Whether we are using it out of boredom or curiosity, the fact is that more often than not we are engaging in the second screen experience. And as social networks sites such as Twitter and broadcast companies such as Bell and Shaw develop more avenues for second screen, viewers and device users alike will continue adapting to the changing world of entertainment.