Course examines social media

By Gary Hermann

Students are being tracked.

Governments, corporations and anyone in the world can know where you are right now. This is not the plot for a new Michael Bay movie. This is modern technology.

Google Maps, Facebook Places, foursquare and similar applications have added the concept of space to social media.

Dr. Mathew Zook will examine these topics and others in his Wired Worlds: Global Information Geographies class.

“In a nutshell, it’s how information technology is allowing changes in our society,” Zook said. “The thing I’m particularly looking at, since I’m a geographer, is the increased use of location with these kind of applications.”

Zook’s class is part of UK general education reform and is an A&S 100 course.

“My research is essentially being condensed down into this class,” Zook said.

These new technological developments are allowing for a better understanding of people and their movement, which can revolutionize such things as advertising and traffic engineering.

“Space has been a missing component from a lot of information technology,” Zook said.

These new technologies are posing many questions on privacy issues.

“If anyone wants to track you down, people are very easy to find lots of information about on-line already, but (before) they didn’t know where you were,” Zook said.

For Zook, this new technology is not a question of good or bad.

“For me it’s about how this data might get used,” Zook said. “What are we comfortable with? How comfortable are we with the government knowing where we are? Corporations knowing where we are? People we don’t know knowing where we are? These things are developing and it’s not a simple answer.”

In the modern world, single entities have control over millions of people’s personal information and have the power to put in place privacy settings.

“There are some concerns about how these systems are being set up right now and the degree to which there are some entities, generally companies and corporations, who have an enormous amount of power over how this information gets shared,” Zook said.

Undecided freshman Ross Bishop said he is intrigued by the topics the course will cover this semester.

“It will be interesting to see how this technology has changed the ways we communicate,” Bishop said.

Zook wants his students to understand how important this moment in history is for technology in the years to come.

“There are decisions being made right now that are going to have huge implications for how we move forward, how we live our lives in the future,” Zook said.

Zook also wants the students to understand this new technology can be used for many purposes and that it is not as simple as a question of good or bad.

“There is no such thing as a standard path for the adoption of technology,” Zook said. “This technology can be used in many different ways. The same systems that allowed a group of people to come around the world to organize relief to the Haitian earthquake is the same technology that allows drug cartels or political terrorists to organize.”

Regardless of one’s personal beliefs on this spacial technology and how it can be used, Zook said it is ingrained in our everyday lives.

“Your cell phone knows where you are located at all times because it needs to be able to get the signal to give you the cell phone call,” Zook said. “It makes it very easy to track people. “