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A Publication of WTVP

It may very well be impossible to find a single occupation or industry unaffected by technological change. At this moment, I’m unable to think of one. Today’s cell phones are full-blown computers, putting the power of yesteryear’s mainframe in the palm of your hand, and according to the FCC, there are more than 280 million mobile subscribers in the U.S.—that’s just about all of us.

Technology has been the driving force in the productivity gains of the last two decades. Many of us couldn’t do our jobs today without it. More information is more accessible to more people than ever before. There are obvious upsides to the technological revolution, but there is a darker undercurrent as well.

Computer viruses are the obvious pests. We’ve dealt with them for years and will continue to do so. Beyond the havoc they wreak on your computer—and your workday—their impact can be frighteningly real. “Malware implicated in fatal plane crash” read one recent headline, referring to a 2008 incident in which a computer used to monitor technical problems on the aircraft was infected with a virus.

But life-and-death cases like these are quite rare. More common are the privacy concerns associated with the rise of social media. We continue to give up significant levels of privacy online, in seemingly innocuous ways. It’s quite possible that the digital photo you just posted to your Facebook wall carries, embedded within it, a timestamp and geographic coordinates. “Checking in” to location-based social networking sites like Foursquare or Facebook Places has given rise to PleaseRobMe.com and ICanStalkU.com, two websites that are drawing attention to the potential perils of oversharing. In this issue, Bradley University’s Edward Lamoureux offers a number of compelling reasons for why he recently deactivated his Facebook account. It’s a trend you will likely be seeing more of.

Another of today’s big buzzwords, “cloud computing” promises to leverage your technology resources and save your company significant dollars. And it most certainly can and will. But privacy and security are legitimate concerns here as well—many businesses are still wary of placing sensitive data on servers outside of their own organizations.

Once seen as child’s play, video gaming is now a $20 billion dollar industry in the U.S. Bradley has begun offering classes in interactive video game design, and social theorists are examining how businesses can learn from the gaming world. The centerpiece story in this issue highlights the simulator technology being developed to train heavy equipment operators—“serious gaming”—which offer a host of significant benefits, foremost among them operator safety.

The implications of all of this dizzying change are food for thought. While its promises are being fulfilled in many ways, technology marches on, oblivious to our very real concerns. Many believe that electronic media is shrinking attention spans and lowering the levels of thoughtful discourse. So while it’s good, perhaps even essential, to put technology to work for us, a little bit of device-free downtime is just as beneficial. More than ever, it’s essential to be an informed consumer and understand the implications of these powerful tools, both positive and negative. iBi

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