The advancements and shortcomings of technology

Today was a day where I both hated and loved technology and its abilities to change my job.

  Let me break this down into two experiences I had with it today.  Experience 1 – I did video conferencing with some people from UVA (University of Virginia).  I love technology’s ability to connect me to people I would otherwise never be able to work with.  We used Tokbox to video conference.  You can see me it using it to the right.  It doesn’t look as sophisticated in this photo because most people were out of town, but Tokbox’s best feature is that it allows for multiple users to video conference together.  Although I am a huge fan of Skype, it is limited in that it can only connect two users at a time.  Tokbox, alternatively, has allowed myself, a professor from California, researchers from Europe, and other individuals to all come together and have a video conference call simultaneously.

  However, I really felt the limits of it today.  We went through some very detailed and complex statistical analyses syntax in SAS, and because I was one of the distant collaborators, this meant I could not see the computer screen that the person leading the meeting was using.  Translation – I felt a little bit lost.  I tried to follow along in my own screen with her verbal cues, but I could not help but feeling frustrated and behind the group.  It was, however, better than communicating solely through email.

  Experience 2 – I have collected data from 97 participants in less than 24 hours by using Amazon’s MTurk.  Ordinarily, this amount of data would take several weeks to gather if I collected it in a college sample.  MTurk is designed as a place to both get your projects done and to get paid to do other people’s projects.  You ordinarily pay about 5-10 cents for 5 minutes of work OR you can be paid to do people’s work.  A lot of the opportunities are asking people to comment on your blog or research a website, etc.  However, some social psychologists have started putting brief personality surveys up on it to collect data.  It’s a win for us – I can get 200 people’s data from a representative, varied U.S. (or International) sample for about $20 in about a day or two.  That is insanely amazing compared to the normal time lag involved in collecting data!

  Despite my excitement about these tools, it’s amazing technological advancements like this that make me worried that life will just continue to get busier and busier to a point where I can no longer keep up.  I already struggle with feeling behind in my field and possibilities like this sadly not only open doors but keep them so far open that everyone expects you to walk through a thousand of them.  Even if data is easier to collect, it’s still difficult to analyze and write them up into journal articles to get them published.  Nevertheless, I can feel the field is moving towards expecting more and more of myself and others (as far as publishing is concerned).  I ask myself – when is enough enough? 

 So I sit here thankful and hopeful for what technology is doing to higher education and research but leery of its limitations.  Only time will tell.

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About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too. View all posts by Megan Johnson Shen

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