The Situationist

Archive for February 11th, 2011

Uncovering the Situation With Technology

Posted by Adam Benforado on February 11, 2011

I have a distinct memory of coming home from school one day in seventh grade and announcing to my parents that the Fairfax County Public School System had gone off the deep end.  Why?

They were forcing all students to learn how to touch-type!

How utterly useless!  I was never, ever going to need this skill — being perfectly happy using a pen or pencil.  What a waste of time!  And computers?  Please — like those were ever going to catch on.

Fast forward to the present.  Of the skills that I developed in my K-12 education that I use the most in my life, touch-typing is near the very top of the list.  And every day I find my world changed, infiltrated, and dominated by computer technology.

That sounds bad, but, really, it can be amazing and wonderful.

Indeed, it can be situationalizing.

Take three new Internet offerings that show the future promise of technology to reveal worlds that have, to this point, remained hidden to most, if not all, of us.  I strongly encourage readers to check them out:

1.  The idea behind the Google Art Project is to create an interactive environment allowing visitors to “[e]xplore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share [their] own collection[s] of masterpieces.”  Say that you are an art lover living in a small town in Latvia and lack the resources to travel to the United States.  You can still visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and “virtually” stroll through the different galleries, stopping at works that catch your eye.  Have a look around by clicking here.

2.  The Guardian’s football section is my go-to for news about the Premiership and one of my favorite offerings is the Chalkboards section.  Within 30 minutes of the final whistle in a match every shot, pass, tackle, clearance, foul, and goal (among other events) is mapped onto the system for each player in the game.  With great ease, an interested fan can then analyze player performance across matches or compare players.  It’s an eye opening tool that has shown me how much of each game I miss.  For an example of the types of insights the chalkboards can provide, click here; to give it a whirl yourself, click here.

3.  President Obama has made it a priority to increase the “effectiveness and efficiency” of the government by bringing more information about the regulatory state to the American public.  As he explained in a recent memorandum to agency heads, the idea is to “make readily accessible to the public, information concerning . . . regulatory compliance and enforcement activities, such as information with respect to administrative inspections, examinations, reviews, warnings, citations, and revocations (but excluding law enforcement or otherwise sensitive information about ongoing enforcement actions).”  As a result, the EPA has set up Enforcement Compliance History Online (ECHO), which allows visitors to  search EPA and state data of nearly a million regulated facilities.  Want to know if there have been any violations of the Clean Water Act or hazardous waste laws within a ten block radius of your home?  Check out the site here.

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