The digital world. Well, bear with me for a moment just to have some insights on what falls behind those 2 words. Science Focus estimates that Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook collectively store at least 1,200 petabytes (Mitchel, 2021). Putting things into perspective, a 3-minute song uses almost 3 megabytes of storage, which means that the 4 listed companies alone have more than 400 trillion songs, with exceeds 2.2 billion years of audio. Therefore in this blog, I will uncover my journey with the digital world and how I managed to be part of those 1,200 petabytes!
Building Up My Digital Skills
Going a little bit back in time, my first encounter with the digital world was through a huge desktop computer. At that time, we had no network connectivity at home so I didn’t have the chance to explore the cool stuff that was on the internet. However, I did spend some time playing the cards game that was installed by default, drawing random stuff on Windows Paint, as well as writing unmeaningful text on Notepad.
Years later, my parents gifted me a Playstation 2 as a birthday present. This was kind of a dream come true. I really started feeling myself when playing Winning Eleven, where I just imagine myself as a football manager that needs to prepare his players for the next game. The Sims is another great example of a game that I insanely enjoyed playing. That game enabled me to create entire families, build my dream house, open businesses and live out just about any other real-life experience within the fictional Sims universe.
AND FINALLY, INTERNET! In 2012, I was able to get my hands on a device that can connect to the internet, the Blackberry Curve 9320. At this stage, I started learning how to use the famous Blackberry Messenger (BBM), download and creating an account on facebook, as well as download games from the Blackberry Store. This device really helped me keep in touch with my friends and family, expose myself to different stuff on the web, as well as entertain myself by watching online videos and playing games.
When I got promoted to high school, I was required to get a laptop. Eventhough my parents went for a very cheat one, however it really served all my needs. I started familiarizing myself with Microsoft Word and Powerpoint, web surfing, and information gathering. This helped me in expanding my knowledge set, especially in English language. I began watching several online tutorials on how to solve specific problems related to math and science, which really helped me in scoring high grades. In addition, I also used it a lot for entertainment, whether it is watching movies or playing unlimited online games.
As soon as I got into college, I started doing more and more stuff (mostly academic) on my laptop and smart phone, thus the aggregate time I spent using digital devices increased substantially. Add to that, majoring in Computer Engineering obviously requires huge amount of time to be invested behind digital devices. I got exposed to more social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Reddit, where I had the chance to chat with and take advice from several experts in Computer Engineering. In addition, I started leveraging the huge amount of academic papers, tutorials and courses in order to learn new skills and enhance existing ones. Moreover, I began exploring the wonderful world of computer/application programming, making use of the huge amount of resources and documentation, as well as open source projects.
Transferring Digital Skills Into The Real World
Being a computer engineer, I regard myself not just a user of the different technologies and platforms that the digital world provides us with, but also as a contributor to the digital world by the means of developing various softwares and applications that serve different purposes. Throughout my time at college, I acquired a lot of knowledge and experience with computer programming whether it being through college courses, online books, as well as online courses taught on Coursera and Udemy (two largest platforms for online learning). As a result, I was able to work within different teams on developing various applications and softwares using a huge number of different technologies. Some of projects include weather forecast application, chat application, general purpose websites, and a website for my favorite TV-show, Breaking Bad. Below is a slideshow showing some snippets of the mentioned applications.
Later on and during the summer of 2019, I worked as a Computer Engineer Intern for 3 months at N3XT SPORTS where I had the chance to take part in developing a web application that helps clients identify their strengths and weaknesses through a questionnaire.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, all types of institutions around the world were forced to close, leaving people with no other option but to work/learn remotely. As a student, I continued my education from home, where I explored several ways in dealing with the problem of social distancing. Most notably, I used several online meeting platforms that I’ve never used before such as Zoom, Google Meetups, Discord in order to attend college classes and conferences, participate in competitions, and connect with friends and family. In addition, I familiarized myself with various online simulators, specifically Tinkercad, that mitigated some laboratory tools since university’s labs were closed. Hence, I was able to experiment and test my laboratory work from home.
While staying at home all the time, I started exploring ways to learn in-demand skills and technologies. Hence, I found out that according to Stack OverFlow Developer Survey 2020, Node.js and React.js are the most wanted/used programming frameworks in the market. As a result, I registered and completed 2 courses on Udemy that covered all the fundamental topics of both frameworks. This learning process helped me a lot in expanding my knowledge set and gave my resume a huge boost.
Therefore on a typical day during the pandemic, I would literally spend the whole day infornt of my laptop attending classes, completing assignments, and doing some side programming projects. As a result, the amount of screen-time ramped up from 5 hours per day (before Covid) to 10-11 hours (during Covid), and surprisingly, I really liked such a ‘geeky’ lifestyle
The Dark Side of the Digital World
With all that being said, I have to admit that the digital world opened a lot of opportunities for attackers to breach into devices and perform some unauthorized actions. I experienced this by accidently clicking on a dowload button that appeared while I was watching an online movie. A malicious zip file got installed on my laptop, whereby I immediately lost control over the laptop and my browser began transferring history data to some random place. Few hours later and after regaining control over the laptop, I started receiving random advertisement pop-ups on my screen related to things that I’ve recently searched for. Through this experience, I learned not to trust/visit any random website on the internet and that such security attacks can happen even with the presence of anti-virus programs. In addition, I figured out that such data is being sold to different companies for the sake of predicting user’s preferences, hence advertisements pop-ups become more effective.
Speaking of data, this final section will be dedicated to data literacy. According to Oguguo, Fadip and Okeke (2020), data literacy is the ability to engage in critical thinking to make useful deductions from data and make sense of abstractions. In this sense, and with the fact that data is hugely available nowadays (in peta-bytes), data literacy becomes something that is very essential and impactful. One good example would be the incident mentioned above in which the advertisement company analyzed my browser history data and deduced my preferences, hence targeted me with precise pop-ups. Another personal example would be the John Hopkins Covid-19 cases dataset which includes the number ofcases in every country from January 1, 2020. I installed the dataset and modified it using Microsoft Excel to get the cases in Spain during August, September and October (90 days period). Then, I built a machine learning model that used the truncated data to forecast the number of cases on a given day.
Finally, I believe that digitalization has positively impacted every aspect of our lives, and this is the main reason why I personally strive to learn more about the digital world. Our dependency on software and technology is increasing substantially every year, especially with the emergence of intelligent systems and automated softwares. In addition, due to Covid-19, people started realizing and appretiating more and more the importance of technology and digital systems. Therefore in my opinion, questioning the importance of the digital world is pointless, however the question becomes whether or not we are capable of catching up with the huge number of technologies and data that are being thrown at us every now and then. Let me know in the comments below what you think!
Mitchell, G. How much data is on the internet? Retrieved March 02, 2021 https://www.sciencefocus.com/future-technology/how-much-data-is-on-the-internet/
Oguguo, B., & Fadip, N. & Okeke, A. (2020). Assessment of Students’ Data Literacy Skills in Southern Nigerian Universities. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341909138_Assessment_of_Students’_Data_Literacy_Skills_in_Southern_Nigerian_Universities