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Untitled Document William S. Beachley
Assignment 10
Due: 3/3/04

source: Fischer, G. (2002) Beyond 'Couch Potatoes': From Consumers to Designers and Active Contributors, in FirstMonday (Peer-Reviewed Journal on the Internet), at

1. what do you consider the main argument of the article?
The main message of the article is that our culture is centered around consumers who perceive technology as something that magically makes progress over time. Consumers are forced into this role because they believe that the technology is way beyond them and that they could not possibly contribute to its development. The idea is to change this perception by providing tools for end-user modifiability, seeding and reseeding. This article went into practically every subject we have talked about so far. It talks about a major cultural overhaul including reforms in education/learning, DODE's and EDC's and social economics.

2. do you agree or disagree with the main argument? give a answer based on your own experiences?
I definitely agree. I think consumerism is drilled into people in this country from day one. We learn that we are not good enough if we don't have the latest and greatest. We want things bigger, better faster, more of them and we want them right now. Designing things takes too much time. In my experience, I would much rather buy a video game that design one. This is how I feel about most things, but I do love to write software, especially web applications. Daniel Quinn coined the term "taker" to represent people of our culture. It fits perfectly because most Americans take and never contribute to the production of more of what they are taking except in a monetary way because they have to pay for what they are taking.

3. enumerate in which situations

3.1. you acted as a designer/active contributor
I have worked in projects in school such as mock design projects in software engineering and 3d game programming. I designed a web application at work so that students and alumni can register for the Greater Denver Teacher Fair online. I have also gotten the source code for a PERL web forum / bulletin board and modified it to meet the needs of my cousin, Seth, who works in the field of interactive computer art. I was motivated here be the experience of understanding thousands of lines of PERL code and making it do what I wanted it to do. I also contributed to the forum set up by that particular bulletin board program which was called YaBB or Yet Another Bulletin Board. I had spent so much time with it that I felt obligated to help others so they wouldn't have to go through the same frustrations I did. I try to engage in prjects like this every once in a while to improve my programming experience and knowledge so that my transition into the real world won't be such a shock. The Greater Denver Teacher Fair project has been a huge learning experience as I have learned about the Jakarta Tomcat servlet container, the incorporation of SSL into a web application, the Jakarta Struts framework, Enterprise Java Beans, Java Server Pages, and the Java programming language in general. What I love about it is that the Struts framework is really designed so that building new functionality into a current system is very intuitive. The application has grown exponentially over the last couple of months and the code is still very manageable.

Our group is planning on doing a project where students can ask questions in the classroom using their laptop computers with the possibility of extending it to PDA's. The teacher would have a Tomcat server running on their laptop and students would submit questions which would be grouped by time slots. The professor could set up tables in a database which are named for the various topics to be discussed during the class. Questions would be submitted to this database and entered into the correct database table based on the time they were submitted. Then we would provide the teacher with queries and actions that he/she could perform to analyze and group the questions quickly so that teacher/student collaboration could be improved.

3.2. you acted as a (passive) consumer
I would say I act as a consumer whenever I am not acting as a designer or sleeping. I watch Television, play video games, etc, but I find that when I get involved in designing and creating things, I am much happier. I love when I get so involved in a project that it doesn't feel like work anymore. I am creating for the sheer joy of doing so.

3.3. situations in which you believe you should have acted differently
There are many times where I have given in to my addictive nature and played a video game for hours when I could have been doing something more constructive, but I need that every once in a while. I do experience guilt when I do it, though. In the realm of computer science I always feel like there is something I should be doing to improve my skills and knowing this causes a lot of anxiety when I am wasting time as a passive consumer.

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