Where Do We Go From Here?

When we started this semester and the guidelines to the class were given to us, I didn’t know what to expect.  At first, I questioned my own abilities.  While I felt relatively comfortable with my own ability to navigate technology and social media, I was still on the older side of being a millennial, where I didn’t grow up in a world where the Internet and smartphones were ubiquitous.  My first exposure to the Internet (and what could be considered the early iterations of social media) was AOL.  Not AOL Instant Messenger, which stayed popular for far longer, but actual AOL.  You’d get an AOL installation CD in the mail, install AOL on your computer, then connect to AOL using a dial-up modem.  That’s how you got onto the Internet in the mid to late 90’s.

After connecting to AOL, you’d go through their portal to access various parts of the Internet.  You could open a web browser, check your e-mail (through the AOL client), access AOL forums/chat rooms (I rather enjoyed chatting with random people when I was 13, which is retrospect probably wasn’t super safe or smart).  For more context on what the AOL experience looked like, please see here.  It’s actually quite astonishing how far we’ve come.  But I digress.

So, I was confident that I had some experiences with technology that most others in our class hadn’t, but how would that help me keep up when my classmates were likely far ahead of me in awareness of where social media was today?  I hadn’t used Twitter prior to this class, had virtually no understanding of what Snapchat was, and hadn’t even posted on Facebook for several months.  Needless to say, I think I started off slow in our class.

However, what ended up happening once I began to get in the groove of interacting on Twitter, reading about the various interesting topics that we all blogged about, and bringing all of that information to the classroom to discussion was that I felt like I was holding my own pretty well.  What I found was that many of the topics that came up were less about knowing in-depth about the technology and moreso about taking a reasonable understanding of the technology and using that to gain a better understanding of some of the real world implications of that technology.  A good example of this would be blockchain.  I still don’t fully understand much of the tech behind blockchain (like most of the class, I’m guessing), but I do have work experience in an industry that will likely be disrupted by blockchain: finance.  More specifically, I worked in trading operations on Wall Street for a few years and understand how convoluted and silly the trade settlement and trading processes are.  The type of ubiquitous ledger that blockchain can provide to asset management firms  and investment banks has the potential to eliminate many, many jobs.

More importantly, I’ve begun to view my own job and career through what we’ve learned in class.  Through learning about the ways in which other companies are using technology to improve various aspects of their businesses, I realize the ways that Boston College still has room for improvement.  The in-class presentation from the Boston College social media team was a great example of the difference embracing new forms of technology can make.  But, when reconciling the efforts of the BC social media team with the ways in which areas in which Boston College lags technologically is sobering.  Class registration at BC is a good example of this, where almost every student has had some negative experiences dealing with BC’s UIS system that is literally from the 1990’s.  Seeing these two diametrically opposite ways in which my employer uses technology can be both heartening and frustrating.  However, having that type of perspective can only help me in the future.

The other aspects of the changing digital landscape that this class has exposed me to is likely to help prepare me for a future that may look radically different from where we are today.  Learning about artificial intelligence has helped me understand that I’ll have to learn new skills for jobs and industries that won’t become obsolete when AI makes the necessary advances.  Having an understanding about virality the ways in which it’s possible that almost anything I do on social media or even in my daily life can affect me has made me more cautious about my own interactions at work and in my own personal life.  Even having a rudimentary understanding of blockchain has helped me envision the potential societal impacts that we’ll see years down the road.

Image result for blockchain is confusing

So where do we go from here?  In my first blog post, I wrote “My hope is that in the future I’ll be able to directly use what we learn in class to contextualize what is happening in the world and to further my career in some respect.”  With what I’ve learned and taken from the class the past three months, I’m confident that I’m going to do just that.

 

5 comments

  1. Here’s where I started in 1986 (ish)… Quantum Link, which eventually changed it’s name to AOL.

  2. That’s crazy, I haven’t seen anyone mention AOL this entire semester until this last concluding post and now I wish I did a blog post on what caused the extinction of the giant Internet player. Perhaps I still have some sort of attachment to the company since I did make my first email account via their platform. But in regards to your post, I’m glad you were able to come in and learn more deeply about topics relevant to your job, especially with block chain (which I’ll admit I still don’t have a complete grasp on). I found myself completely surprised at how many topics could relate to social media and tech that I never would have researched myself such as farming and techniques in preventing food-waste. Thank you Danny for your continual contribution during in-class discussions, it was a pleasure hearing your opinions!

  3. Great post Danny. Some of those AOL screenshots made me nostalgic for the first Windows 3.1 system I remember as a kid. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on Twitter and SnapChat. I have been an enthusiastic, but conservative (in the cautious sense) user of Twitter for a number of years – I have probably tweeted 1,000 times in total over the course of 5 or 6 years, but I primarily use it as a news aggregator and a local search engine (e.g. why is the T delayed). I would be curious to know if you think you will continue to use Twitter after the class. Really enjoyed your comments about Blockchain. I also worked in operations for a financial services company, so I share your sentiment on the silliness of parts of the trade settlement and trading processes, and see great potential for Blockchain. As an employee of BC, I also can relate to your point about the variance in adoption of social media and digital technologies across functions. I think that any CSOM subject/course professor could probably use examples at BC for what works well and what does not.

  4. Loved the inclusion of the AOL throwback in your final post! Your perspective on how the BC social media presentation contrasts with other forms of lagging technology on campus was really interesting and something I had not considered prior to reading this. Contemplating this made me wonder how BC decides which areas they should introduce new technology in and if they are prioritizing those appropriately.. for example, this year they introduced mobile ordering ahead at Hillside but failed to address how outdated the UIS system is? interesting move.

  5. Wow, your explanation of AOL is honestly the first time I learned about what the original AOL interface looked like. I do remember CD ROMs like Reader Rabbit, but I think Internet Explorer was my first browser. You phrased it well by saying this class is not about mastering technologies, but understanding their real-world implications. You’re right about how sometimes BC is remarkably advanced, and sometimes their technologies are woefully outdated. The BC website itself is a perfect metaphor: while on the homepage it’s beautifully formatted, once you click on a more obscure part of the website, the design is a blast from the past.

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