DIGITAL AMERICA

Author Archives: Andrew

Relax.

// Posted by Andrew on 04/24/2013 (4:47 PM)

In order to start thinking about what I wanted to write for my final blog, I began to flip through the notes from our class discussions. On the first page of my spiral notebook, I’d written in big, bold… Read more

In order to start thinking about what I wanted to write for my final blog, I began to flip through the notes from our class discussions. On the first page of my spiral notebook, I’d written in big, bold letters: “THEORY OF THE END OF HISTORY: EVERYTHING IS RE-USED AND RE-HASHED DUE TO DIGITIZATION.”

I was struck by this. I’d written it in bold because I had initially agreed with that statement. I came into this class with the notion that we, as a culture, are currently going through a “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle regarding, well, everything that we consider to be important in our lives: fashion is being recycled, old films are being re-issued in Blu-Ray and 3-D releases of movies like “The Lion King” are breaking box office records, etc. In an age where everything seems to be new and state-of-the-art, the reality is that most of the things I’m encountering in life are very, very familiar.

After finishing the Digital America course, I must say that I disagree with the notion that the digital age is signaling the end of history. In my opinion, the sheer new-ness of everything that’s going on in the world regarding digital technology is occurring at such a rapid pace that most of us yearn to go back to the old days of pen and paper, radios, and Super Nintendo. Simply put, it’s hard to adjust to these changes. Who would have thought that stock market trading would run on micro-seconds? Who would have thought that a video game like Halo 2 could bring thousands upon thousands of fans together to uncover the mysteries of the game’s lore in real-time? Who would have thought that I’d be hearing about the “Boston Bombing” through a six-second Vine video on Twitter?

When cars were first being used in the United States, there wasn’t an immediate shift from horses to automobiles. According to MotorEra.com,

“The first practical, factory-produced automobiles were little more than motorized horse carriages. A tiny one-cylinder motor under the seat drove through a chain, and you steered with a “tiller,” like a coaster wagon. Nothing to it. It was enough to be getting around a little faster than a horse could take you. And the car didn’t get tired after a few hours.”

If you look at old photos from the early-20th century, you can see streets that are lined with both horse-and-buggies and primitive automobiles. The car was such a drastic shift in the way that humans approached traveling that it took several years to fully catch on. In the face of arguably one of the most important tools that would shape suburbs, employment opportunities, transit, highways, and NASCAR, early-20th century Americans held on to their inefficient, 1-horsepower, pooping animals for mobility. Sure, this can be seen as an issue where cars hadn’t been mass-produced and made widely available yet, and Ford’s production line wasn’t being used. However, I like to think that early Americans wanted to hold onto horses in a way that allowed them to stay connected with their past. Now THAT’s nostalgia.

The internet, and 21st-century technology as a whole, is my generation’s automobile. Even though we’ve been living in the digital age for a few decades, we’re still discovering uses for technology in ways that Americans literally never thought were possible a few years ago. High-tech prosthetics. Augmented reality. Self-driving cars. Google, for goodness sakes. It’s going to take us decades in order to figure out the implications of the things we’re just now discovering. To say that the end of history is near due to the impact of digitization is like a 1900′s newspaper writing that cars were death-machines on wheels bringing every American to his or her maker. It’s going to take time for us to become adjusted to the age we’re currently living in: the Digital Age.

So let people use Instagram to create photos that look like they’re from the 1890′s. Let people fill their closets with thrifted clothes from bygone eras. Let people “unplug” from their technological lives and take an occasional walk through the park. We’re living in a fast, ever-changing world, and it’s hard to keep up. Try to hold on to your pasts and embrace what you love, but don’t fear for the future. As I like to think, “Everything will always work out in the end…and if things aren’t working out yet, then it’s not quite the end.”


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A Voiceless Majority

// Posted by Andrew on 03/31/2013 (10:34 PM)

I’m from Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the United States and a booming town that has plentiful job opportunities, great schools, a world-class medical center, and large homes for small prices. We’re also well-known for our large Mexican… Read more

I’m from Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the United States and a booming town that has plentiful job opportunities, great schools, a world-class medical center, and large homes for small prices. We’re also well-known for our large Mexican population, a feature that directly affects almost all aspects of Houstonian society. According to a USA Today article, Hispanics accounted for over 65% of Texas’ growth since 2000, while the non-Hispanic white population grew by only 4.2% during the same period.

There are countless reasons for their move to Houston. Some have come to escape some of the border violence, many come for better economic opportunities, and a recent New York Times article said that many wealthy Mexicans have been coming to Houston because of inexpensive luxury housing and a chance to live in a safe haven that’s away from the violence and persecution against wealthy Mexicans in Mexico.

However, this isn’t an article about immigration. This is about cultural diffusion and the drastic change in Houston’s identity that is accompanying the massive Hispanic population increases. Almost everything that is printed is in both English and Spanish, and there are some areas near my house that have signs and billboards that are completely in Spanish. Our MLS soccer team, the Houston Dynamo, is primarily supported by Houston’s Hispanic population. I, personally, see more quinceañeras per year than I see average birthday parties taking place. The more I think about it, Houston culture is not just being affected by Mexican culture, it’s being shaped by it.

How does this tie in with activism? Well, for a city that’s steeped in Mexican culture, there is almost zero cultural or political activism in Houston. I have read numerous articles about this anomaly, but a 2003 story in the Houston Chronicle sought to answer this question: “Why would a city with so many immigrants have so little political organizing?”

One Mexican professor cited the border and zoning as being two reasons why so few Mexicans take part in directly affecting Houstonian society. While cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles have large sources for local activism, Houston’s proximity to the border allows for the Mexican population to travel to and from the two countries with ease. This creates a situation where is not a strong need for organizations to be established in Houston. In addition, the Houstonian urban sprawl spreads out communities and makes it hard to get together as a community.

The internet has become a forum for like-minded individuals seeking change and unity, and has been the backbone for movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. In the Southern United States, however, physical and geographic situations are what affect the unification of the Hispanic population. This raises some important questions: when it comes to activism, does Mexico prefer to work together by communicating through physical means? Is traditional activism–which used to be based on community building–impossible in today’s world, where information is primarily digital (which becomes a question of access) and people are spread widely across expansive cities? Most importantly to me, what is the most effective way to unify the voices of an entire community if digitization is not effective?

Here’s a scene from one of Houston’s Hispanic Heritage Month parades, held annually in downtown Houston.


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Occupy Earth

// Posted by Andrew on 03/25/2013 (1:51 AM)

At first glance, the Occupy Wall Street movement can appear to be an group of angry individuals who were “organized’ under a vague focal point. However, the sheer fact that the Occupy movement’s ideas spread around the world means… Read more

At first glance, the Occupy Wall Street movement can appear to be an group of angry individuals who were “organized’ under a vague focal point. However, the sheer fact that the Occupy movement’s ideas spread around the world means that this was no small, localized event. Social media helped to unify like-minded individuals, and an outpouring of support “through video, photos, text messages, audio and other messaging using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other online services” gave the movement “legitimacy.” In order for the movement to build up steam, it needed to become a literal movement, not just a figurative one.

According to the Wall Street Journal in 2011, the spread of the Occupy movement seemed almost “organic.” Copycat organizers studied the New York protests and created their own mini-movements in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, and they planned these protests via Facebook, Twitter, and other networking websites. This method is a 21st century phenomenon, for protesters are now able to share their grievances and complaints with other individuals instantly through the Internet and gather their own followings. Another interesting feature of the Occupy movement’s spread is the source of the spread. When studying the Vietnam War’s protest movement, some of the biggest and most well-known criticism came from actors, musicians, and artists. Americans latched onto the feelings shared by people they recognized in the news like John Lennon, Allen Ginsberg, and Frank O’Hara, and these celebrities gave the protests a strong backbone.

With Occupy Wall Street, however, the backbone was formed by (mostly young and jobless) Americans who were fed up with corporations paying executives extremely high wages, preventing workers from negotiating better and safer working conditions, etc. Celebrities heard about the movement in the news and then had to decide whether or not they wanted to side with the folks in New York. Some, like musician Tom Morello, Russell Simmons, Alec Baldwin, and Yoko Ono pledged their support (ironic, because they are not members of the “99%”). Simply put, for one of the first times in history, ordinary Americans were taking matters into their own hands and single-handedly forming a movement without any kind of leader or figurehead. They were, collectively, their own figurehead.

This may be one of the biggest reasons why the Occupy Wall Street movement spread like it did. Because the base was made up of the so-called 99%, almost all Americans were included in their movement. They were spreading ideas that millions of people understood and were against, and this is what unified people form around the world. It may have started out as a relatively small gathering in a park in New York City, but the ideas the protestors shared were significant enough to reverberate across the globe.

Here’s a brief video showing various movie stars being asked about their thoughts on the movement. What do you think? Should they not be allowed to “support” the Occupy Wall Street movement because of their “1%” standing, or are their voices needed to give legitimacy to the protester’s cause? I personally don’t think the protesters need any big names or stars to support the movement because, in many ways, that sort of thing can actually undermine what the movement is standing for.

Occupy


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A Little Here, A Little There…

// Posted by Andrew on 03/03/2013 (11:12 PM)

My first thought when I saw that our weekly topic was “consumerism” was the impact that micro-transactions have had on our culture. Simply put, micro-transactions (or micro-payments) are transactions of small sums of money, usually less than… Read more

My first thought when I saw that our weekly topic was “consumerism” was the impact that micro-transactions have had on our culture. Simply put, micro-transactions (or micro-payments) are transactions of small sums of money, usually less than $12. They are widely used on digital platforms for applications as well as purchases of credits (like on XBOX Live).

The transfer of small sums of money has always existed; however, the transfer of money for intangible, digital goods is a relatively new phenomenon. Have you ever gotten an app from the Apple App Store that has costed around $0.99? That’s a micro-transaction. What about buying 800 Microsoft points on XBOX Live for $9.99 in order to buy a game? That’s another example.

The use of micro-transactions exploded mainly because of the music industry. In the past, people had to physically walk into stores to buy one CD filled with songs. With the advent of digital music downloads, though, those very same people now had the ability to buy individual songs through micro-transactions. They were saving money, because they were only spending money on the tracks they wanted to hear.

There is a problem, though. The occasional $0.99 purchase is not bad, but the accumulation of many $0.99 chunks of money equates to surprisingly large amounts of money being spent on things that are not tangible. At the end of the day, all of that money equals bits and pieces of data behind a screen. Plus, most apps that are both popular and free on Apple’s App Store usually require a small fee to get rid of ads, get more features, etc. This changes the way that consumers interact with their purchases; for just a little more money, they can get just a little bit more out of their products. This can result in developers only releasing partially-completed or restricted apps, knowing that people will be willing to pay even more to get the complete product.

There are a ton of examples of micro-transactions in today’s news. Here is one that pertains to a very popular survival-horror videogame, Dead Space 3. Electronic Arts, or EA, implemented a micro-transaction system to the game that lets gamers buy new weapons, armor, etc. Despite EA’s optimism that the implementation of micro-transactions is going to be a good thing, public response has been almost completely negative. Here are just a few comments from this thread:

“Parents who have no idea what their kids are doing with their credit cards are enjoying and embracing that way of the business.”

“Honestly, I wouldn’t mind micro-transactions so much if it meant the actual game was cheaper or free. But that’s not going to happen, is it?”

“I remember when unlocking items/characters/levels was due toplaying, not paying.”

“We will vote with our wallets.”

This is just one example. My question to you is: is this a bad thing? 20 years ago, would you have been willing to buy a book at a bookstore and then pay a little bit more to “unlock” the conclusion? How far are we willing to let micro-transactions take over the way digital commerce is run?


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Flame On!

// Posted by Andrew on 02/24/2013 (10:14 PM)

After our discussion about Wired Magazine’s Stuxnet story, I became interested in the new piece of malware that was discovered in Stuxnet’s wake. It’s called Flame, and its size and complexity dwarfs its news-making predecessor. Read more

After our discussion about Wired Magazine’s Stuxnet story, I became interested in the new piece of malware that was discovered in Stuxnet’s wake. It’s called Flame, and its size and complexity dwarfs its news-making predecessor. According to Wired, the program’s ”complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals.” For those who followed news about Stuxnet, this should come as no surprise since the United States is an alleged creator of that malware (among other suspects). Flame’s main mission is to infect targeted computers and to spy on them, extracting specific bits of data that is useful for the creators. Because of its incredible size and complexity, cracking the puzzle could take years. Among the many functions of flame, these are the ones that stand out:

“…one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer’s near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and e-mail communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers’ command-and-control servers.”

There are a lot of lines in that quote. However, the main takeaway is that an incredibly skilled group of individuals has the ability to completely take over a computer from thousands of miles away, and the complexity of their code can take people wanting to fight it years to solve. This sort of espionage is taking place all around the world, and it represents a new type of war that is being fought: an invisible war that is not necessarily resulting in bloodshed, but rather the theft and capture of digital data. While there may not be any losses of life on either side of the conflict at the moment, the real danger lies in how the stolen data can, and will, be used.

According to Mashable, “Flame is a covert operation in cyber-space and without a doubt, it’s been commissioned by a nation-state or nation-states…global governments are investing more and more money in so-called offensive capabilities, and it’s a lot easier and cheaper than traditional espionage and warfare.” Is this the way that wars will be fought in years to come? Although regular computer users are not the intended targets by any means, should we as consumers and United States citizens choose to condemn or praise this kind of behavior? Even though we, personally, are not affected by Flame, it is possible that our permissiveness is what leads to governments (like our own) that support this kind of cyber espionage.

Here’s a video describing how malware, like Flame, spreads from user to user.

 


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An Invisible War

// Posted by Andrew on 02/18/2013 (12:06 AM)

We mentioned in class that the United States is constantly under cyber attacks from other countries, even though it does not make the news very often. According to The Washington Post, China is one of the main… Read more

We mentioned in class that the United States is constantly under cyber attacks from other countries, even though it does not make the news very often. According to The Washington Post, China is one of the main instigators of cyber warfare, aiming at “commercial targets linked to military technology” for gains that aren’t always connected to economic interests.

What’s more interesting is that companies in the US are reluctant to admit that they have been attacked from abroad. Whether their silence is due to the need to conceal security vulnerabilities or to not scare investors remains to be seen. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, wrote in his book that China is the most prolific source for hackers in the world and that “it’s fair to say we’re already living in an age of state-led cyber war, even if most of us aren’t aware of it.” It’s happening every day, too. Just two weeks ago, news mogul Rupert Murdock Tweeted that his various businesses had been jeopardized digitally: ”Chinese still hacking us, or were over weekend.”

Because the attacks are coming from an outside country and can be potentially perceived as a national security threat, should the security issues be handled by the attacked companies, private security corporations, or the government itself? President Obama’s administration has rarely discusses cyber crime in the past, but government officials recently decided to conduct a full assessment of the pervasiveness of the cyber attacks coming from China. Not only is the government concerned with the threat to the American economy, but they are also studying whether or not the cyber attacks can be seen as forms of “espionage.”

That was only the first step. Just this week, a “war on cyber war” officially began when President Obama made an executive order “to increase the volume, timeliness, and quality of cyber threat information shared with U.S. private sector entities so that these entities may better protect and defend themselves against cyber threats.” His order has been perceived as mostly beneficial, but the other part of Obama’s plan, CISPA, has generated a LOT of criticism. CISPA “allows the sharing of information in both directions – from government to business, and vice versa,” and it provides “broad legal immunity to companies that collect and share CTI with the federal government, as long as they do so “in good faith” – which might mean businesses can’t be sued or charged with crimes for collecting and sharing CTI under CISPA.” This has been seen as a threat to our basic rights to privacy because we won’t be able to punish organizations that we think are “stealing” personal information, and we won’t know when they’re taking it. The government is giving private corporations the right to use our personal information, as long as the corporations uses it in a responsible way (responsible, according to the corporation itself).

This brings me to my final point. With the Chinese security threat attacking us relentlessly from overseas and our proposed rules being received as breaches of national privacy rights, where is the middle ground? How do we combat a severe security threat without jeopardizing our own rights to privacy and security? I think that while it is definitely important for the federal government to acknowledge the significance of cyber attacks, private corporations should not be given the incredible powers that CISPA bestows. They need to work with the corporations they defend to seal loopholes and fix breaches, but not at the expense of the average American’s personal safety.


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“Developing” A New Culture

// Posted by Andrew on 02/10/2013 (10:46 PM)

In Mark Poster’s book, titled Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, he presents an interesting theory: because people have increasingly shared their thoughts and ideas through the internet, “individuals no longer form identities exclusively through… Read more

In Mark Poster’s book, titled Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, he presents an interesting theory: because people have increasingly shared their thoughts and ideas through the internet, “individuals no longer form identities exclusively through local practices.” This is because people’s opinions are much harder to censor online, and their beliefs and understandings of the way the world works is not tethered to their particular village, city, or town. The endless sharing of ideas thus creates a unified internet culture that is separate from one’s own local culture.

I was intrigued by this notion. Poster is not merely referring to message boards like 4Chan, Reddit, 9Gag as mean of sharing information and stories, but rather the internet as a whole as a means of diluting (for lack of a better word) one’s own culture and bringing it closer together with another internet user’s to create something new altogether. His India example referred to workers in India adopting American accents for call-center jobs and their ability to keep close ties with each other across great distances.

This got me thinking about one of the greatest modern technologies that we take for granted: video calling. Skype has managed to do what the telephone could not: convey real human emotion through digital face-to-face interaction. This was not a concept created by Skype; however, the company has become a pioneer in the field with their free video calling abilities that are accessible to the public. My nanny, who has been with my family for over 21 years, regularly communicates with her Eritrean family in Africa via Skype, bringing their cultures together in ways that letters and phone calls cannot achieve. The service boasts over 250 million monthly users and 663 million registered users worldwide, an incredible feat considering how young the technology is.

How does Skype tie in with Poster’s theory of a unique, unified culture? By communicating with each other through a service like Skype, people around the world are connecting themselves into a network of other individuals to communicate and share ideas. This technology is brand new, and yet it is revolutionizing the way people think and interact with each other. Whereas the telephone brought voices together over 100 years ago, video calling has brought people together across great distances for the first time.

At no other point in history nas a person been able to say, “I’m going to call my mother in Kansas from my apartment in Australia so that I can see her new dog.” I am extremely interested in seeing where we as a culture can go from here: what’s next, now that we can see and hear other people who are miles away? Smell? Taste? Touch? The implications are scary…very soon, unique and individual cultures may no longer be able to survive the digital age without joining the rest of the world in unity, for better or for worse.

Source: Engadget Article

 


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“Digging” Into The Past

// Posted by Andrew on 02/03/2013 (10:43 PM)

I was going to do a brief history on the rise of Reddit, but I felt that a description of its predecessor, Digg, is in order. While they are unrelated in terms of ownership and development, Reddit… Read more

I was going to do a brief history on the rise of Reddit, but I felt that a description of its predecessor, Digg, is in order. While they are unrelated in terms of ownership and development, Reddit and Digg heavily influenced each other and fought for prominence on the internet.

Digg was an very revolutionary website when it came out in 2004. While Google and Bing have the ability to look up information based on keywords that users type into a search box, Digg allowed users to stumble upon (no pun intended) links and articles that they weren’t necessarily looking for, but were deemed interesting by other Diggers. Four entrepreneurs started the website with a $6,000 investment in 2004 and used the name “Digg” because Disney had already taken www.dig.com. By mid-2005, the website had secured $2.8 million in funding from investors. That year, TechCrunch.com posted a profile of Digg on their website, claiming that the startup “is a very cool site and we are now behind it 100%…we’ll definitely be coming back for a look on June 26 for the new 2.0 Beta!”

In 2006, a number of important updates were added , such as profanity filters, the ability to flag things as “inappropriate,” podcasts, videos, and a large number of new categories. In 2008, Digg netted $28.7 million, which would end up being the last big moment for the company.

In their next update, Digg launched a completely re-designed website and extensive Facebook integration. An interview with Digg CEO Jay Adelson appeared in Wired Magazine in 2010. The writer says, ”Digg has offered a first glimpse of its new website design, a radical reboot that not only alters the entire look of the site, but also ditches Digg’s rigid taxonomy in favor of user-selected tags. It also taps into the broader social web to help users discover relevant news stories.”  As a bit of foreshadowing, the article says, “It’s a major overhaul of the site, the kind of radical change that risks alienating longtime users even as it takes advantage of the powerful social tools that have revolutionized the internet’s flow of information.”

The update was terribly buggy and glitchy. Users were furious over the changes, and most of them flocked to Reddit in retaliation. In addition, Facebook’s implementation of the “Like” system across the internet ruined Digg’s chances of successfully using its Facebook integration and “Digg” buttons. In a CNET article from June 21, 2010, Digg attempted to get back some of its users, traffic, and fame with a new update, but apparently their grave had already been “dugg.” The article says, “The social-news aesthetic that was once unique to Digg and a few other sites has now been co-opted by Facebook, which now offers “like” buttons that many publishers run alongside the Digg buttons that have been placed there for promotion for years; and TweetMeme, which aggregates Twitter links into a Digg-like interface.” Simply put, other websites were doing what Digg originally set out to do, and they were doing it better than Digg.

It’s amazing to think that in 2008 Digg was up for sale for a potential $200 million to Google, who never acted upon the deal. In July of 2012, a big chunk of Digg was sold to Betaworks for $500,000…that’s $199,500,000 less than it was valued four years ago. A combination of a shoddy website update, bad implementation of social media integration, and a desperate attempt to distinguish itself from its competitors spelled the end for Digg, once the darling of the internet community. StumbleUpon faced a similar fate due to Facebook’s “Like” buttons, but that company is still commanding a large section of the internet.

Reddit was the overwhelming victor after the demise of Digg. In 2012, the website had 37 billion page views and 400 million unique visitors. 30 million posts were written, and 4 billion votes were cast on posts over the past year. Through its subreddit communities, users are able to connect with like-minded individuals and can enjoy their interests with others. In addition, the r/IAmA (The “I Am A _____” subreddit) has brought in a lot of celebrities who have wanted to connect with the Reddit community, most importantly President Obama (that day, 4.4 million unique visitors visited Reddit).

The story of Digg is the story of a company who had it all and lost it all in a span of eight years. For other companies, Digg can serve as a reminder that bad decision making and the alienation of a loyal user base can ruin a company’s chances of surviving in an age where users, not corporations, can decide a website’s fate in a flash.

 

Main source for the timeline at the beginning: Mashable’s “A Brief History of Digg”


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Money For Nothing

// Posted by Andrew on 01/27/2013 (10:33 PM)

“You break into any system that you are not authorized to enter, you should be willing and able to face the consequences. The Age of the Merry Pranksters and a Bus going Further are long gone. I loved it then… Read more

“You break into any system that you are not authorized to enter, you should be willing and able to face the consequences. The Age of the Merry Pranksters and a Bus going Further are long gone. I loved it then but this time is not then. Too many scammers and info-terrorists are running rampant so Hacker Beware.”

That is an individual’s comment on a New York Times article concerning the Aaron Swartz situation. In his eyes, Swartz illegally downloaded millions of copy-written files and was completely responsible for his actions. This is certainly a valid point; after all, the documents WERE held on a secure subscription-only server, and he TECHNICALLY broke the law. However, are today’s piracy and copyright laws outdated and incapable of properly policing online illegal activity? After all, Swartz’s potential punishment was “35 years and $1 million in fines,” a punishment rivaling that of armed robbers and individuals who commit dangerous, face-to-face crimes.

Although JSTOR opted to not press charges against Swartz, other organizations have taken ineffective and costly approaches to “punish” those who have illegally downloaded products online. The RIAA is notorious for suing people of all ages (as in, from children and the elderly) for thousands of dollars per illegally downloaded song. In this article research shows that out of $64 million spent on lawsuit campaigns, they only brought in about $1.4 million in settlement money. That’s only 2% of the money they spent that they’re getting back.

I’ve done a ton of research on copyright laws and the media in the past, and from my research I’ve concluded that today’s laws are inadequate in the face of the vast amount of technological changes that have occurred since they were written. For example, is it illegal for an individual to buy a game or a movie legally and then pirate the same copy just so that he or she can get around the pesky always-stay-online” DRM included in the paid version? That’s what happened to Shawn Hogan, who was sued after illegally downloading the movie Meet The Fockers via BitTorrent. His case was unique because he provided evidence that he owned a legitimate copy of the DVD, and the case was settled.

I am not an opponent to strict copyright laws. After all, people deserve to be paid for their work. However, I think that the laws need to be revamped, thrown away, or replaced in order to accomodate a world in which law-abiding people are being sued for thousands of dollars for “illegal” activities that, under scrutiny, aren’t worth the pain and suffering that they cause. If someone wants to both buy a copy of Diablo 3 and a pirated version just to play the pirated copy offline, who are they actually hurting? If Aaron Swartz takes JSTOR articles and posts them for others to read, should he be imprisoned for 35 years? Where does it END?

By: Andrew Jones


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A Case For A Faceless Internet

// Posted by Andrew on 01/20/2013 (9:24 PM)

Internet anonymity is very important to me. If I have an awkward question, I want to ask a group of like-minded people on Reddit under a pseudonym like “LaxPlayer22″ and not under my real name. It’s simply a privacy issue.… Read more

Internet anonymity is very important to me. If I have an awkward question, I want to ask a group of like-minded people on Reddit under a pseudonym like “LaxPlayer22″ and not under my real name. It’s simply a privacy issue.

Recently, Google has been working towards a complete removal of any kinds of anonymity with their products, which started with Google+ and the inability to use anything except a verifiable name. In fact, YouTube now shows a prompt every so often that asks people if want to use their real name. Actually, “asks” isn’t the right word, because there isn’t even an option to click “no”; you must hit a button that says you’ll “think about it later” in order for the message to go away. Google claims that it is a way to potentially deter people from making obscene, rude, or hateful comments. While this may sound nice in theory, the ability to post anonymously is also one of the best features the internet has to offer.

I did a little bit of research on the subject of anonymity and came across a definition posted on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website. The page is mostly descriptive, but I found this passage to be particularly striking: “[the] long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a ‘pamphleteer’ or ‘a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.’” Our ability to converse anonymously on the internet is extremely important because it PROMOTES openness. People are able to share and converse with ease, knowing that their voice is virtually disconnected from any living body. If the internet were to suddenly turn upside down and require individuals to use their real names or revealing titles, entire networks and forums would collapse. The open communities that Brand references in Turner’s book would cease to operate due to the inability to share with mental ease. Millions of people would also find themselves in legal trouble, since their Pirate Bay accounts and other forms of Torrenting usernames would be connected back to them.

The ramifications of the removal of anonymity are endless. The main point is that being able to post and share on the internet is a gift that, while safe for now, is something that the public must fight for if they want to continue operating under aliases (yes, I know that last word sounds a bit sketchy; I’m just tired of saying “anonymous”).

I know Professor Rosatelli said we’d be talking about 4Chan later on in the semester, so I may be jumping the gun with this video. However, I think it’s an excellent TED talk that reveals the pros and cons of anonymity by using 4Chan as an example. It’s incredibly funny, and for those of you who don’t know what the website is, this should be eye-opening.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_1UEAGCo30

By: Andrew Jones


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