Last week, our On Tech Editor, Hanna Ingber, shared the story of her child who stumbled upon a design app that revealed her incredible taste in interiors. We asked for your own stories of the surprising ways technology has helped you unleash your creativity or discover new joys.
You guys (sniff) the responses were lovely. Today we share a selection with you.
The mission here at On Tech is to explore the ways technology is changing the way we live, who we are, and the world around us. We can’t ignore the harmful effects, but I don’t want us to lose sight of the wonder either.
How cool is it to be able to share knowledge gleaned online with a parent or easily swap songs from our favorite decade? Also, BIRDS! The birds are so big. Here are edited excerpts of what some On Tech readers had to say:
Enjoy the magic of birds during a daily task:
My morning walk down the aisle to retrieve the newspaper was transformed by the Merlin Bird ID app.
A daily chore has become a joy. Now, instead of ignoring the sounds around me, I can focus on and identify the birdsong I hear. Birds vary in their seasonal migration patterns, so the sounds are constantly changing. It became a kind of meditation.
Ann McLaughlin, Carmel, CA.
Link to Reading Lists:
Sharing music and playlists on Spotify with my kids has been very connected. They hear the music I grew up with, and I hear the last one they listen to. Surprisingly, we listen to a lot of the same music, old and new. So much easier than creating mixtapes.
They’re now 17 and 18, but we’ve been doing it since they were around 13 — ages when it can be difficult for parents to find ways to connect with their teenagers.
Jason, Corvallis, Ore.
Take the pressure off of perfection:
I was one of those kids who could never peel off a sticker immediately. I always had to wait a few moments, even days, before deciding that my sticker was still with me. Likewise, I hesitated to sharpen new pencils unless absolutely necessary, and I reserved my markers for only the most important drawings.
You will never find quick doodles in my sketchbooks as these have been put aside until I am ready with a full vision. I always collected and saved these items for a special day or a big idea, and eventually my stickers got wrinkled, my markers dried up, and my sketchbooks joined another pile of unused and unloved things.
And then I bought myself an iPad as a graduation gift. I discovered the wonders of drawing, note taking, doodling and coloring, all digitally.
I had an endless supply of stickers at my disposal, ones that could be retrieved and replaced at any time. I encountered endless colors and combinations.
Soon I found myself writing daily journal entries, experimenting with digital scrapbooking, and keeping memories in one place. If I made a mistake, I could immediately clean it up with a virtual eraser. I could adjust the stickers and letters to my heart’s content. My iPad became an outlet for me to do what I wanted, without being afraid to take a wrong step.
Sydney Lin, sophomore at Vanderbilt University majoring in Civil Engineering
Schooling Dad on DIY Repairs:
Years ago, my pre-teen son observed my growing frustration as I unsuccessfully tried to attach a new lawn mower blade. I assumed he was bored when he came home. Instead, he watched YouTube on his mother’s iPad.
A few minutes later, he emerged and quietly asked, “Can I try?” He accomplished in less than a minute what I had been trying for half an hour. “Until then, I thought YouTube was just for cat videos.
He’s the same kid who learned to play his new ukulele on YouTube, along with so many other unexpected skills.
Doug McDurham, Waco, TX
Classroom learning transformed by audio production:
I have found that introducing students to podcasting opens new doors.
Students who were reluctant to participate in class discussions took the opportunity to share their ideas on topics that interested them or research new topics. The students chose between three formats for their podcasts: narration, interview and investigation. Few projects, if any, have ever offered this kind of freedom.
Even though video apps have been around for a while, the freedom to record just their voice was liberating. They didn’t have to worry about how they appeared on camera – they could convey their thoughts and ideas just by voice. The groups were able to share audio files and edit them simultaneously to create a final product. What was once a class relationship has been redefined.
Lisa Dabel, a fifth-grade teacher in San Jose, California.
Opera, not so intimidating after all:
For most of my life I have respected opera as an art form that required incredible levels of training and discipline. But, as far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t for me.
Sometime in late March or early April 2020, friends told us about the Metropolitan Opera’s recordings of past opera performances – free, a new one every day – via the company’s website and app. . Within days, we had a new nighttime routine: dinner, reading for an hour, then settling in for an opera.
Within weeks, we had begun to learn the names and styles of some of the opera’s leading performers. Within months, we had learned the technical details of opera music, voice training, set and costume design, and formed preferences regarding composers. (Sorry, folks: Wagner, no; Glass, yes.)
We thought deeply about the conflicts that arise when old mistaken beliefs (misogyny, racism, etc.) embodied in “the canon” encounter various casting choices and new ways of thinking. We were exposed to modern composers and librettists who challenged our assumptions about melody, story construction and plot, character development, and more.
Who knew there was so much to discover about such a venerable art form? I certainly didn’t – and I’m very happy that technology has brought opera into our homes and our lives.
David Moore, Sequim, Wash.
The Met Opera has ended its nightly streams, but you can now watch and listen to past performances on the online streaming service Met Opera on Demand, which offers a free trial period.
Tip of the week
Set your Google data to self-destruct
Brian X. Chenthe consumer technology columnist for The New York Times, co-wrote a article this week on digital breadcrumbs that could reveal personal details about people seeking abortions. Brian is here with suggestions for extracting some information from Google, which has digital databases on almost everyone.
Google said this month it would automatically delete location data when people visit places deemed sensitive, such as abortion clinics and drug treatment centers. For example, if you set a destination in Google Maps to “Planned Parenthood” or “Alcoholics Anonymous”, the company will remove those entries.
Google critics said the company could have, but didn’t, also erase records of other types of location data, like GPS coordinates and routing information. (Google declined to comment.)
But you can control how Google stores data about you. A few years ago, I wrote a column explaining how to use Google’s automatic deletion controls, which include settings to delete web and location search records after a certain period of time. The tips are worth reviewing.
Here is an example of changing location data settings:
In Google’s My Activity tool, located at myactivity.google.com, click Activity Controls, scroll down to Location History, and click Manage History.
On the next page, look for the nut-shaped icon, then click Automatically delete location history. You can set data to be deleted after three months or 18 months.
For those who don’t want Google to create a record of their location history, there’s an option for that as well. On the My Activity page, click Activity Controls, scroll down to Location History, and turn the switch off.
Amazon tells regulators that may change: In an attempt to end a three-year antitrust investigation in Europe, Amazon has offered to stop collecting non-public sales data on independent merchants who sell through Amazon and let them sell through the Prime program without using logistics services. from Amazon. My colleague Adam Satariano reported on Amazon’s proposals and why Europe has become the focus of Big Tech review.
Human trafficking behind fraudulent online scams: Vice News reported that online schemes that offer business or romantic partnerships as a pretext to drain victims’ money sometimes stem from industrial-scale scam centers in Southeast Asia that imprison and abuse workers.
More: Nikkei Asia wrote last year about abused workers in online gambling and fraud operations in Cambodia.
Instagram has so many features: It’s a place to see what friends are up to, watch short videos of strangers, buy NFTs or gizmos from influencers, message others, and maybe soon write notes ( for some reason). The Garbage Day newsletter wrote that Instagram is an “app that no longer knows what it’s supposed to be.”
Related to On Tech: What is Facebook? Another Meta Overloaded App!
Hugs to that
Lemurs! Lick the honey! Of fruits! These little guys really know how to enjoy their treats.
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