DIGITAL AMERICA

Author Archives: Natalie

Online Support Communities: Digital Networking Cancer Patients

// Posted by Natalie on 04/14/2012 (2:45 PM)

Below is part 1 of my project. You can see the final product at my blog HealthyLifelines.

 

I became interested in my topic after a family friend was diagnosed with Leukemia. My brother and I received online invites… Read more

Below is part 1 of my project. You can see the final product at my blog HealthyLifelines.

 

I became interested in my topic after a family friend was diagnosed with Leukemia. My brother and I received online invites to join her support page at MyLifeLine.org where we were able to follow her treatment and diagnosis and send her messages throughout the process. It was nice to have a link to her while she was so far away at home and I began to wonder how many other people seek comfort in these types of services. All of this inspired me to begin the project and led me to create my research problem:
How do online communities impact the recovery of patient’s suffering from cancer?
I chose to focus on my friend’s webpage with My Life Line and the website Cancer Support Community. I began visiting these sites on a weekly basis and created an account so that I could sit on discussion boards and read what members were saying. I chose a few guiding questions to direct my search.
- How are online communities different than other support groups for cancer patients?
- Does anonymity play a role in these communities?
- What ways do patients seek support, are they seeking guidance during their diagnosis/treatment or are they looking to make friends?
- Are there any negative repercussions to this style of therapy?
I continued to visit these sites on a weekly basis, to check in with my friend and visit the discussion boards. Cancer Support Community offers a news bulletin and a radio show that I also wanted to look into and make a part of my project; however, I found that there was less of a community dynamic with this aspect of their site. Consequently, I spent the majority of my visits looking at the discussion board.
One thing that I noticed over my weekly visits was the main discussion topics did not change much during the weeks. The threads remained active; however the number of views was always greatly disproportional to the number of posts that were made on each thread. This began to address my initial question of anonymity: obviously lots of people enjoy reading the posts on the site, which requires an account to be made, but not as many feel comfortable sharing in the conversations.

There were lots of posts where people shared their own personal stories, such as I’m in my 20s and just was diagnosed with breast cancer. Several of the comments would be inspirational, such as “just have faith and you can get through this” and others would be responses from other patients who were recovering form the same thing. I found a lot of posts made by younger people who were nervous about the social side affects of having cancer, such as dating, and wanting advice. The younger users wanted more guidance and support on these types of social issues, whereas some of the older users wanted expert opinions with medical questions, such as the best OTC drugs to help with pain or lotions to use on dry skin from radiation therapy.
Lots of patients use this platform to discuss the frustration that they have with their doctors and the medical system in general. This was refreshing to see because lots of the research I had done prior to this project surrounded studies done at hospitals on patients using a physician provided digital community called CHESS. They cited that this program exponentially helped patient’s recovery, even more so than in-person group therapy. What had intrigued me about the CHESS program as that it was set up by the hospital staff to reduce the amount of time physicians needed to spend with patients, so they could look up diagnostic information and therapy tools on the internet without monopolizing a doctors time. The side bonus was that there was the socializing and the community provided as well. I imagined that it would be difficult to talk about your physician in this type of network system; however, the sites I visited had lots of this type of discussion.
Another framework that I built my research off of was the WELL history that was discussed in Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture. His analysis of how housewives found a way to connect and discuss with others on an online forum made me think about the opportunities online communities provide for isolated individuals. It is a gateway for those who do not have an immediate link with others around them and can meet friends through an anonymous discussion board. Turner expressed how in the greater view of the WELL women were often discriminated by men so I did want to find answers about how these cancer sites could have negative repercussions. I was unable to find answers to this so this is something I’m still looking into.

One aspect of the community that I was surprised by was that the number of people who do not have cancer that utilize the site. Lots of friends and family members utilize these online forums to ask questions about their loved ones and provide support for others suffering. I suspect this allows them to have a space to divulge their fears and emotions without placing them on the people they love directly. They can get as verbal about their fears without stressing out the people in their life who do have cancer.
I asked my group for help researching the negative side affects of these sites. I gave them my log-in information so they could peruse for any potential negative repercussions. I also wanted to know of any other personal stories the group had from these types of sites. One person volunteered that they had used a site called “Caring Bridge” when a friend was going through treatment for cancer and they had found it useful. Some of the feedback said that the site does allow people to have pity parties for themselves, which is not always the best solution for depressed people. Since the site is not run by professionals, it does allow the users to feel they can speak uncensored about medical issues, but at the same times people crying out for help may not be seen.
In the future I want to look more into studies and see how these sites influence patient’s mental recovery. Is it safe to have a pity party online when you feel you have already overwhelmed your immediate family with sadness? These are issues I want to look into further. I want to find a direct link to a CHESS simulation if possible as well to see what the medical professionals are using for online therapy. I would like to find a therapist in the area with experience in online communities to see if they have any insight as well. I think that there are several obvious benefits from these types of sites but I have been unable to find any counter arguments, which I would like to make a larger focus on the future. I have seen all of the great sides of these sites, especially since I am biased with my friend’s webpage on My Life Line. I need to do more research to know if this is the reality of these websites. If anyone in group B has comments please let me know.

 


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China Hacking Our Government’s Secrets

// Posted by Natalie on 04/04/2012 (11:57 AM)

I found this opinion piece in the NYTimes yesterday about how China is hacking our government’s systems to steal our secrets. I thought it was interesting as it follows with our discussion of digital warfare and the Stuxnet article… Read more

I found this opinion piece in the NYTimes yesterday about how China is hacking our government’s systems to steal our secrets. I thought it was interesting as it follows with our discussion of digital warfare and the Stuxnet article we have been discussing.Recently we have been focusing on hacking on a personal level with groups like Anonymous and teenage 4chan users, but we have drifted away from hacking as more of a national threat.


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Anonymous Audiences

// Posted by Natalie on 03/29/2012 (10:04 AM)

After reading Chris Poole’s argument for anonymity online I began to wonder about the pros and cons. Anonymity has been able to bring people together to act benevolently, such as the efforts to catch the cat abuser. At the… Read more

After reading Chris Poole’s argument for anonymity online I began to wonder about the pros and cons. Anonymity has been able to bring people together to act benevolently, such as the efforts to catch the cat abuser. At the same time, anonymity permits us to act maliciously as highlighted by online bulling in Schwartz’s article. Why will we go out of our way to avenge cat abusers but we can’t call someone out for being rude online?

Part of this is propelled by the anonymity of the audience. Not only is the person who publishes this information anonymous, but so is the audience viewing the information. It makes it easy for people to enjoy reading these posts without the public conscious of worrying how others see you as a bystander. If you saw someone being beat on the street others around you would judge you for not stopping to help; however, online there is no incentive to step in. Instead you can sit and be a voyeur of the harassment without judgment.

There is a certain curiosity that we fulfill reading about these scenarios. It fascinates us to know about these relations; however, the minutes that we become the subject of the jokes and scrutiny we begin to feel differently about the abuse.  For those in the trolling community they feel a sense of pride in the amount of emotional disruption they can cause – sometimes to the extent that they can keep score:

“ “Lulz” is how trolls keep score. A corruption of “LOL” or “laugh out loud,” “lulz” means the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium. “Lulz is watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll who, like many people I contacted, refused to disclose his legal identity.” – Schwartz, The Trolls Among Us.

Oftentimes we don’t take the time to prevent these issues until something bad happens. Tyler Clementi committed suicide after he was the subject of online bullying. In response to his the death the “It Gets Better” project was started to inspire the young LBGT community. Online harassment occurs all the time; however, we normally nothing is done in response. Anonymously, we are all willing to be non-acting bystanders.  When Juicy Campus was popular at Richmond everyone was willing to read the gossip until the jokes and rumors were pointed at them.

We need to recognize our position as bystanders in situations. It is easy to be an “innocent bystander” but those days are over. We are now becoming more responsible for our actions even though we are not aware of it. Some groups have learned to take advantage of our role as bystanders. Anonymous used its voyeurs as a tool one of its schemes to take down the Department of Justice. Unknowingly several of the bystanders on their site were used in some of their illegal activities.  I think all of these examples serve as evidence that we need to be more conscious of our role online. We may be anonymous but it does not mean that people aren’t watching what were doing online.


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Solutions for OWS Movement

// Posted by Natalie on 03/16/2012 (5:53 PM)

A common criticism of the Occupy movement is that the group has proposed no solutions. There are a great number of supports willing to demonstrate for the anger towards the issues at hand. At the same time, it is… Read more

A common criticism of the Occupy movement is that the group has proposed no solutions. There are a great number of supports willing to demonstrate for the anger towards the issues at hand. At the same time, it is difficult to get political backing when there is no agenda to follow. Conversely, senators, congressmen and other politicians have aligned with the Tea Party movement because they have requested specific changes and made a plan to improve upon their demands. These political figures can work to enact these agendas and move them forward in policy because of this action.

Because these criticisms of OWS are so frequent, I began to wonder why no one has tried to provide a solution. I research solutions or groups that were working to provide answers. Two sites that I found, The Root and Reasonable Solutions, claimed that they were answering these questions. The Root discussed how they were seeking more jobs for people (which as we discussed in class is not a direct way of fixing the issues, many of the 99% have jobs they are unsatisfied with the inequalities rather). They also were working to get people to join groups across all congressional districts (groups being Planned Parenthood and Rebuild the Dream). Reasonable Solutions, an Occupy movement based in Philadelphia, provided more specific goals. They want to change policies of corporate personhood and repeal the Glass-Steagal law; however, they provided no direction or set plans of how they were going to achieve this.

Some of the success of the Tea Party is associated with the demographics of the group. Their tactics of protesting resemble the older ways of protest that we have claimed younger, more digitalized forms of activism lack. I do not believe that these techniques are solely for the old, conservatives. The digitalized, youth activism is capable of this as well.

Evidence of this can be seen in the recent debates surrounding abortion in Richmond. A bill was passed in the state senate that would require women to receive a trans-vaginal ultrasound before an abortion; an invasive tactic that could potentially deter women from seeking abortions. Even though the bill was passed it was repealed to the amounts of backlash:

“Though the state Senate approved it by a vote of 21-18, the House twice delayed a vote on it in the midst of intense media scrutiny, protests outside the capitol and a petition signed by 25,000 people” – TPM

Pro-choice activists do not usually fit the Tea Party stereotype. This group was able to achieve change through a hybrid of techniques. Through a series of demonstrations, like OWS, and active petitions signing, they were able to convince McDonnell to back down.

Activists need to take note of these examples and realize that there needs to be more of a plan of action in order for change to occur. When OWS returns this spring a more definitive agenda needs to be outlined. In this case they may see more support from politicians and they may even change the actions of those in power. The Reasonable Solutions group shows some promise; however, they still need a plan. It will be interesting to see how they progress into the future.


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Slow Jam the News: Super Pacs

// Posted by Natalie on 02/28/2012 (1:23 PM)

Hulu link

This is just for fun. I have a soft spot in my heart for Mr. James Fallon. He has a segment where he “Slow Jams the News” with Brian Williams and The Roots. Yesterday they slow-jammed about… Read more

Hulu link

This is just for fun. I have a soft spot in my heart for Mr. James Fallon. He has a segment where he “Slow Jams the News” with Brian Williams and The Roots. Yesterday they slow-jammed about Super Pacs. I thought I would share it for those you who enjoy news satire and Jimmy Fallon like I do.


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Stuxnet: Inspiration for Future Hacking, Both Good and Bad

// Posted by Natalie on 02/28/2012 (12:09 PM)

After examining the Stuxnet case I think it leaves a lot of questions unanswered for the future. Clearly, there is a new realm of warfare that can be used with hacking. In the case of Stuxnet it is something that… Read more

After examining the Stuxnet case I think it leaves a lot of questions unanswered for the future. Clearly, there is a new realm of warfare that can be used with hacking. In the case of Stuxnet it is something that American’s would view as positive because it’s goal was to shut down a nuclear weapons plant. The intriguing thing about this is the level of anonymity the creator/creators of the virus were able to achieve. This makes it easier for internal personal to revolt against the systems without being caught, the way protestors, demonstrations and riots have. While there is no evidence that someone from within the plant designed the virus, it is clear that the person who did had to know specific details about the location and daily processes in order to make it so effective.

Knowledge about code writing and programming is being disseminated across several cultural barriers. In the past this time of formal knowledge was not shared across social and geographical barriers as much, but with the prevalence of the online community this is now possible, as Saskia Sassen has explained. This is making these types of hacking skills readily available to more people, allowing for more types of internal revolt. While this seems inspirational, especially in the context of bringing down nuclear war lords, it is also scary.

One internal threat that I have been thinking about revolves around the upcoming elections. Much of today’s news focuses on the upcoming republican primary elections and the future presidential election. I have been thinking about the election process itself and how easily a hacker could infiltrate the system now that we are moving to 100% e-votes. In this case technology and hacking would serve as a threat to our democratic system. Thad Hall, a professor of political science at CalTech, researches e-voting and its influence on elections. In his book, Electron Elections: The Perils and Promises of Digital Democracy, he covers the pros and cons to e-voting. Overall, he appears to support e-voting as it increases the amount of access people have to voting booths and decreases costs. At the same time he does warn the public that it is possible for one person, to single handedly alter the elections if they were able to hack into the system and manipulate votes.

With Stuxnet as a former example, we can see how hard it is to trace hackers when the virus they create are complex enough. If a hacker is smart enough he/she can prepare their code with tricks to keep spyware from detecting them. In this world where we are transferring our entire lives to an online system are we more vulnerable than we were before in the paper world?


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WikiLeaks: making us question if ignorance IS bliss

// Posted by Natalie on 02/22/2012 (8:29 PM)

After watching “Why We Fight” I began to think about our country’s sense of nationalism. On a daily basis we criticize the motives of those who run the media and we check our sources to verify the facts; however, we… Read more

After watching “Why We Fight” I began to think about our country’s sense of nationalism. On a daily basis we criticize the motives of those who run the media and we check our sources to verify the facts; however, we rarely do this with our government. For the most part, as Americans, we accept what our nation’s leaders tell us to be the truth. Recently, more and more people have begun to investigate these truths. Insiders within these agencies have begun to come forth as well, as we see in the documentary, revealing to us that not everything we are told is true. Oftentimes the government misleads us and censors information to promote and internal agenda – especially when it comes to war.

In 2010 WikiLeaks became a sensation as several highly confidential, federal documents were released to the public. Some of these files revealed sensitive information regarding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, theWar in Iraq and the Afghan War Diary from the War in Afghanistan. A video released from a raid in Baghdad by the Apache helicopter fleet, which was titled “Collateral Murder”, received a lot of attention to the killing going on abroad. In the video I attached Stephen Colbert interviews Julian Assange about the video.

Colbert spends much of the interview asking Assange about his views regarding freedoms of speech. He chastises Assange saying that he has brought to light things that make American’s sad, reminding him of the phrase “ignorance is bliss”. Assange continues to say that several people were upset by the video from it’s title alone; however, 90% of the site’s visitors did not even watch the video. They accepted its content based on the title. This is indicative, to me at least, of our willingness to accept what is put before us. Even when we are being confronted with an alternative truth we do not take the time to investigate the lies that we have been formerly fed – we just accept the counterargument on face value (only 10% of us take the time to watch the Apache video and evaluate the evidence for example).

Americans have been raised to see our country as the land of the free and the home of the brave. If we fight go to fight a war it is because we are defending freedom and liberty – we do not ask questions because liberty is calling. If you do go against the grain you are considered unpatriotic and disrespectful of the founders who fought for your freedoms. While I do not believe that everything our country stands for is a farce I do believe that documentaries like “Why We Fight” and sources like WikiLeaks are necessary because they shed light on the questions we should begin asking.

Only limited amounts of information are released by the government and delivered to us by the media. By the time it reaches our ears it has been manipulated and dissected so many times it is hard to know the truth. Oftentimes we are told censored pieces of the truth for our protection and safety, but when is the line crossed and censorship becomes an issue of power and control? It all comes back to the main question of who has the power to speak and be heard. Oftentimes it is the government and as the power at hand they can control what message is fed to the mass public. As Americans we need to begin to ask more questions and try to reveal more of the truths.


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How Does New Media Effect Polls?

// Posted by Natalie on 02/14/2012 (10:45 PM)

Today I was reviewing political information on NY Times and realized that they publish a large volume and variety of polls, all of which are easily available at the click of the mouse on their webpage.This is the… Read more

Today I was reviewing political information on NY Times and realized that they publish a large volume and variety of polls, all of which are easily available at the click of the mouse on their webpage.This is the norm amongst several news sources. In previous decades polls were conducted over the phone, through the mail, or informal surveys conducted in-person. With the internet serving as a new medium during elections, journalists have a new way to survey the public beforehand. I wonder if this has made polls more or less reliable? Are they more influential on the public’s opinions about different candidates as they are more available now? How has the internet effected the way we survey upcoming elections and current issues?

 


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The Internet’s Role in Developing Countries

// Posted by Natalie on 02/11/2012 (12:14 PM)

One of Mark Poster’s arguments in Information Please is that the net provides a forum for political resistance and promotes growth of the individual. In some aspects he goes onto say that this happened by accident:

“The culture… Read more

One of Mark Poster’s arguments in Information Please is that the net provides a forum for political resistance and promotes growth of the individual. In some aspects he goes onto say that this happened by accident:

“The culture of computer programming developed consequently with no attention at all to such basic questions as who is authorized to speak, when, to whom and what may be said on these occasions” (51)

He continues on to say that while this aspect of the internet leads to the serendipitous evolution of human communication and personal liberties it has also created a tool for capitalism. Several people have found a way to harness this as a tool to make money and profit off of others use of the internet. This has adds a new dimension to the power of empires and their imperialistic tendencies, because now we can work in markets in a digital space.

What is most unusual about this new digital market is that anyone can hypothetically join into it. Poster emphasizes throughout his book that “to speak on the Internet there are no age limits, no gender limits, and no religious , ethnic or national requirements” (42). In this new world, where power is becoming decentralized and there is a new “planetary democracy” (47) how does it pan out that certain empires continue to dominate this new digital space? Sure we can all blog about our feelings and share videos for fun, but only a select few in the online world are profiting from the various business opportunities available.

I began to think about how these principles applied to developing nations and poor, rural areas without connections to this new digital, world. First I will say that I was naive in assuming that third, world countries were isolated from these opportunities. I was taken aback after I found two different blogs in which travelers discussed how widespread internet access is in these developing areas. One of the blogs I read even claimed that in terms of cell phone access, mobile providers are more prevalent in these countries than we believe. He contends that Canada has less access to mobile servers than Rwanda. Then I began to ask myself the level of access to computers and phones. If there is such a high level of wifi access in these countries, do they have computers and phones to physically log-on to this world?

I have always known about Kiva; however, I realized that this organization is an excellent example of how these developing nations are using the internet to access business opportunities online. According to the website there are over a 1, ooo,ooo Kiva users and over $284,000,000 dollars that have been lent to help individuals in poorer nations start businesses and share their commodities through the web.

I realize that there are a lot of people who have still not have been able to tap into these types of opportunities, but I think that this does provide proof that Poster’s claims are true to a certain extent. The internet is fast, digital way for people to communicate and share and it is not just for the first world nations. The internet truly is opening a planetary democracy. While it is in its beginnings we should look more into these issues to see that the access is evenly spread to everyone. I have seen several commercials for the project for “One Laptop per Child” which provide computers to children in developing nations to promote education. This is one solution that is helping to provide access and diminish the digital gap.

After doing a brief search about this topic online I realized that there are various opinions on this matter. Some people contend that there is a high level of access in these developing nations, while others argue that we are advancing to fast for them to keep up with us. Is the internet helping these nations meet us or is it helping us to outcompete them at an even faster rate? Do Poster’s theories on planetary democracy translate to these developing areas or are they only applicable to the empires of yesterday?

 


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Apple’s 1984 Commercial vs Kelly’s “New Socialism”

// Posted by Natalie on 01/31/2012 (4:23 PM)



 

After reading Kelly’s article last week I began thinking about how different political ideologies have been applied to the cybernetic movement in… Read more

 

After reading Kelly’s article last week I began thinking about how different political ideologies have been applied to the cybernetic movement in recent decades. I remembered a famous Apple commercial that was produced in 1984. The theme of the commercial was about “Big Brother’s” demise by the new Macintosh, ending with the phrase “you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984‘”. In theory, Jobs and others at Apple were promoting the idea that a Macintosh will make you unique and different from others. 1984, the novel, has anti-communism themes throughout the story. Having the heroine in the commercial take down Big Brother promotes this anit-communism mindset in the commercial. This would have been relevant during the 80′s with the Cold War progressing with a remaining fear of the Soviets and communism amongst some Americans. Jobs promoted his new computer as device that would be liberating; something that would make you an individual and unique amongst the others in the general, homogenous public. This is still an element that they strive for in their campaigning; however, their ads do not have the political undertones that this one did. I was interested in the way that Jobs’ and Kelly’s opinions about computer and cybernetics varied overtime. In Kelly’s article he promotes the internet and computers, telling us that they will unite us and allow us to collaborate to create a new socialism. Two decades earlier Apple was promoting the same technology to make us more unique and individual -- separating us from the crowd. It is interesting to see how our views of computers, the internet and technology in general have evolved overtime. Now we are working for a balance, to remain unique but maintain a community online. Time will tell how we see ourselves in this cybernetic world in the future.

*I found this article to be informative if you want to know the history behind the famous Apple commercial.


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Coevolution Leads Us to Collaborative Intellect

// Posted by Natalie on 01/24/2012 (10:58 PM)

Overtime we have changed our relationship with technology. Cybernetics has changed technology’s role from a tool to an extension of our personality and life. We have become so dependent on the network of services that technology and various software… Read more

Overtime we have changed our relationship with technology. Cybernetics has changed technology’s role from a tool to an extension of our personality and life. We have become so dependent on the network of services that technology and various software programs provide us that the line between computer and human is beginning to become blurred in our everyday interactions. For example if you received an e-card with flashy designs and graphics you may become just as focused on the electronic packaging as on the message itself. This follows with previous statements that the medium is just as influential as the message.

It was not always been this way because it was our culture that turned these oversized calculators into personalized networking machines. What intrigued me most about this weeks reading from Turner’s book was the theory of the human and computer coevolution. It was first mentioned by Licklider in his 1960 paper “Man-Computer Symbiosis” as he predicted a future where “human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought” (109). Today I believe this is a reality as we have begun to blur the line between machine and human when it comes to our online communities and systems. Sometimes people define us more by our alter-egos online than our real-world personalities – the differences can become confusing.

Since 1960 there has been a “coevolution” as Brand termed our development with computers overtime. The military machines of the Cold War were manipulated by the freethinkers and hackers of the New Left to share information and collaborate socially. I believe this is one of the most successful. The medium has evolved with us overtime to fit our need to share information. An article in WIRED discusses a convention that took place in 2008 to celebrate “collective intelligence”. I found this article to be proof of how the cyberculture revolution has been successful in bringing people together and improving the ability for us to share knowledge. Some of the original contributors, such as Wozniak and Engelbart were present at the conference. The advances we have made are evidence of the coevolution that has taken place between computers and ourselves. We have manipulated technology to better communicate and disseminate knowledge to the masses. It has become a tool geared with connecting and sharing. We have taken control of the medium and made it an extension of ourselves. I think that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are the most relevant example of this. We embody this idea of collective intelligence because for the most part we are eager to share what we know and not hoard it. The internet is one of the few communities where it is cool to exchange ideas and not claim total ownership. Concepts such as TED provide us with outlets to promote new ideas to the entire online community -providing new insights and exchanging responses.

My favorite part of this article was the map/timeline that was included. It was made by Engelbart and begins with inventions, such as his mouse. The mouse is emblematic of the first symbiotic device that connected machines to humans. The map continues and follows the sequence of events that make up the coevolution of humans and computers over time (at least until ’08). At the conference members were allowed to fill in missing gaps and add to the timeline. It would be interesting to see what we could add timeline today if were extended to 2012. Has the pace or volume changed? I definitely feel that the amount of people contributing to the evolution has increased and make the evolution more dynamic than before.


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Flash Mobs – Evidence of the Power in Mass Media

// Posted by Natalie on 01/14/2012 (1:03 PM)

I was very interested in the “Crowd Control” article in WIRED. The article describes how flash mobs are organized through mass media via text messaging, twitter and other personal messaging mediums. Flash mobs can swiftly be organized in a matter… Read more

I was very interested in the “Crowd Control” article in WIRED. The article describes how flash mobs are organized through mass media via text messaging, twitter and other personal messaging mediums. Flash mobs can swiftly be organized in a matter of minutes because of this communication style. These types of mobs can be both playful and dangerous as people gather for a variety of reasons, such as a group dance or a riot (I prefer dance flash mobs so I have attached a video of one). It is impressive how wide the message can be spread in such a short amount of time.

^Above is an example of Flash Mobs that have become popular around the world. Large groups of people get together and spontaneously break out in dance after the rehearse in private outside of the public location. Again, this is organized through mass media using websites, emails and text messaging. Certain websites allow you to put yourself on a waiting list for future Flash Mobs where they will contact you to be a performer.

I am from Kansas City and my parents were at the Country Club Plaza, the site of a flash mob, in April 2011. They were sitting outside on a patio of dinner when the riot began. According to them it took only a matter of minutes for the streets to be swarmed by hundreds of teens. Every store and restaurant was taken over by the teen mob. It had all been planned through a massive text message that was only a sentence long. Police gathered on the streets on horseback and were unable to control the group. Since they did not know how to manage the text messaging they decided to place a new curfew for minors in the area. Authorities in the area were shocked at how they were unable to control the riot and the mass media used by the teens put them in charge of the scene.

In Peter’s essay on Mass Media he explains how media has historically been controlled by those in power and can be bought over by the elite. Peter’s explains this saying that “ where mass media are, there is usually power. Kings have always jealously controlled the right to production and multiplication” (277). He also argues that different powers prefer different types of media. I believe that in our new digital world the power is slipping from these “kings” and has become more distributed amongst the general public. It is harder to manage and limit and the public is finding ways to take advantage of various mediums to spread the message without being censored by the powers at large. By increasing the access to these media sources more people can take advantage of them -- this is minimizing the control that one elite power can have over the media. Text messaging, BBM, emails and tweets are difficult to track and make it hard for powers at large to prevent communication amongst the masses.

The expansion of flash mobs is a perfect example of this. Text messaging cannot be censored the way that the internet can be. As the article in WIRED mentions, most of these group assemblies are organized through mass messaging used on Blackberries and other smart phones. This is harder to trace, making it difficult for authorities to stop group riots. By the time the message is sent and the group forms the police have had no time to prepare and the ability to prevent these groups is impossible. In this sense this type of mass media is both liberating for the public but has dangerous implications as well.

Another article I read highlights how more teen mobs have been organized through the use of Twitter. The capabilities of these social networks are enabling people to connect without the supervision of governments. The news of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination was spread around the world through Twitter, as people on scene were able to relay messages the word instantly. WIRED explains it also spurred the riots in the UK and Egypt, further evidence that these mediums are promoting group messaging and contact. TIME magazines person of the year for 2011 was the protestor. I think that part of the reason that this is true for today is that the public is finding a new voice through the liberties in mass media through text messaging, twitter and other social networking outlets. All of this is minimizing the divide between those in control and the lay public and redistributing the power.


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