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Author Archives: Cassaundra

The Separation of Work and Play

// Posted by Cassaundra on 04/23/2014 (1:13 PM)

By Cassaundra Fincke, Kevin Carney, Emily Narduzzi and Sarah Crawford

 

Rushkoff & the Separation of Work and Play

Many aspects of Rushkoff’s argument in his first two chapters are reminiscent of Turkle’s idea that technology is putting us… Read more

By Cassaundra Fincke, Kevin Carney, Emily Narduzzi and Sarah Crawford

 

Rushkoff & the Separation of Work and Play

Many aspects of Rushkoff’s argument in his first two chapters are reminiscent of Turkle’s idea that technology is putting us in an age of “being alone together.” We try to keep up with the impossible pace set by technologies that are constantly trying to keep up with us, and we fear that if we do not pay attention to every notification from Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, etc. that we will lose touch with this imagined present. A very relevant area where this need for notifications comes into play is in the ability of employers to contact their employees constantly through the ease of ability to check e-mail from smartphones, laptops, etc. Rushkoff offers a solution to the problem of digiphrenia by saying that “instead of succumbing to the schizophrenic cacophony of divided attention and temporal disconnection, we can program our machines to conform to the pace of our operations” (Rushkoff 75). However, this is much easier said than done. We have built a culture of acceptance, and even dependence, on constantly checking our devices that allows employers to view it as acceptable to contact workers whenever they deem necessary. The act is seen as beneficial to a business or company as constant communication could prevent problems from escalating, provides immediate answers, and allows companies to stay ahead. Yet this behavior further blurs the lines between one’s professional and personal life.

This unclear division seems to perturb only some more than others. Of the 52 responses to our survey, sent to both students who have held an internship and faculty, 44% of respondents feel compelled to regularly check their e-mail for work-related messages once they have left the workplace. 39% say they check their e-mail frequently, 28% check somewhat often, and 33% say they check every once in a while for such messages. This is all done through their personal phones as their work e-mail addresses are linked to these phones rather than having a separate phone for work, thus further blurring the lines between work and personal life.

 

When asked if they feel it is part of their job responsibility to check their e-mail after hours, 44% said yes, and 35% said sometimes.

With these high percentages surrounding communication outside the workplace, the responses to the following two questions are both surprising, yet understandable. When asked if they would  feel comfortable not being able to send or receive work-related messages once they have left the workplace, 54% responded yes and 46% said no- an almost even response! However, when asked if they would support the enactment of a law banning work-related communication after hours, 58% said no, and 42% said yes.

 

These results seem to suggest that while correspondence with the workplace after hours is very prevalent, not as many people are upset by it as one might think. The practically inverse answers to the last two questions discussed indicate that Rushkoff is correct in saying “we really want access to both: we want to take advantage of all the time that has been bound for us as well as stay attuned to the real world feedback we get from living in the now. While they often seem to be at odds, they are entirely compatible, even complementary, if we understand the benefits and drawbacks of each” (Rushkoff 139). In order to enjoy the benefits and drawbacks, it is necessary to examine why, despite any impact it may have on one’s personal life, most people would not support the enactment of a law banning work-related communication after hours, yet the majority would be comfortable not being able to send or receive work-related messages after hours.

 

Popularity of Technology in the Workplace

Technology is increasingly becoming part of our lives whether we like it or not.  Most of us walk around with cell phones and laptops and are capable of reaching the Internet at any point in the day.  It has become an integral part of not only our social lives but also our work lives.  In order to succeed today in any job or workplace it is necessary you use a smartphone or laptop to do your work as well as stay connected with bosses and coworkers.  Businesses must stay up to date with recent technology and means of communication if they want to prosper in today’s world.  It allows a business to expand at a quicker pace and in a more efficient way while targeting a wider customer base. Jobs and tasks are being completed faster due to technology and along with this every employee and employer is able to stay connected through more devices than ever.

There are numerous ways in which technology improves businesses and one of the most important of these aspects is that it improves communication within a business.  Co-workers, employers and clients can now contact each other through e-mail, which allows instant communication without necessarily having to interrupt business.  People can now not only reach their co-workers from different offices or cities but they can reach an array of people from across different countries and different sides of the world.  Think about it: in the past if a company wanted to expand globally they would have to invest large sums of money as well as time and human capital.  A company can now easily communicate among different branches in different parts of the world as well as with potential customers or clients.  Video conferencing and phone calls allow for large meetings at the press of a button.  Along with these new possibilities it also can provide more personal freedom for individual employees.  In the past workers would have always had to trudge through the snow or find a last minute babysitter, instead now that worker or new mom can call in and communicate with bosses from home while doing work from a personal computer.  There is no question that technological innovation has allowed for a wider range of communication within businesses across the world and has changed the way we work today.

 

The Threat of Technology After Hours

There are clearly many benefits to company productivity provided by technological devices.  However, the benefits of these devices come with several drawbacks, especially when considering their use for work-related communications after the end of the work day.  The constant ability to email, text, and call coworkers muddles the separation between professional and personal life, which in many ways can be mentally, physically, and socially detrimental to workers.  This issue continues to grow rapidly, especially in the United States, where a recent survey sponsored by the mobile software company “Good Technology” found that more than 80 percent of individuals in the United States continue working after leaving the office.  Furthermore, these individuals were found to be adding, on average, roughly 7 hours of work per week that translates into a month and a half of overtime each year (Bryan).  This practice places the majority of American individuals under far more stress than regular job hours are intend, which negatively impacts their ability to manage a reasonable work-life balance.

This threat to personal life does not end at the individual need to be available to work colleagues and bosses.  Since the upside to technology is its ability to communicate and finish jobs faster, the subsequent downside is that clients expect any questions and concerns to be addressed immediately (Thurston).  Thus, even if one’s business has completely ceased operations, employees feel the need to be constantly available to any current clients, primarily because their clients are aware that they can always receive communications through their smartphone.  Essentially, this pressure to stay connected does not end with the needs of coworkers, but often is also facilitated by the personal fears of the employee.  Ms. Riley-Grant, a 35 year old marketing executive for the Dockers brand, states, “My job is fast paced and demanding.  If I’m not paying attention during the off-hours, things could go south” (Meece).  Americans placing themselves in this constant state of anxiety limits their ability to establish a distinction between work and personal life.  As a result, these individuals are less likely to stay truly present when spending time with friends and families, which makes personal time less relaxing and meaningful relationships more difficult to maintain.

Several studies have shown that these effects of the twenty-four hour work cycle may also add serious health complications.  The constant fluctuation of work-related anxiety is largely considered detrimental to personal health because unending work availability forces the body to frequently shift from relaxation to stress in a way that can be very taxing on the heart and brain.  Occupational physician Dr. David Allen is among many professionals who argue that the constant stress of staying connected with the workplace after-hours may increase the risk of early heart attack (Bryan).  The separation of work and play allows individuals to keep their bodies on a consistent pattern and also benefits mental health by allowing time for personal reflection and regeneration.  However, we continue to raise expectations for constant availability in a way that is making the twenty-four hour work cycle all the more prevalent and expected by both employers and clients.  Although our personal devices have raised productivity greatly within the workplace, it has also raised the standards for productivity itself.  Individuals no longer get the luxury of leaving work and allowing all incoming calls to be greeted by the answering machine of their landline work phone.  Rather, we have pushed ourselves to remain productive around the clock, increased anxiety by constantly concerning ourselves with work related matters, and developed a connection with our personal devices that can result in negative mental, physical, and social consequences.

 

Labor Laws

In 2013, Germany’s employment ministry has banned its managers from calling or emailing staff out of hours except in emergencies in order to prevent employees from “burning out.” First and foremost it is ironic that they use that term, as we have discussed numerous times in class that we have begun to identify ourselves with terms that describe computers. This article is a step in the right direction. An additional rule is that “Contact is only allowed if the task cannot be postponed until the next working day.” One of the main issue our group has been discussing/addressing throughout this project is the idea of  separating “work and play.” Are we able to “turn off” from our work responsibilities after leaving the work place? It is hard to say because our society (America) it has become so normalized to bring work home. This new law is also interesting because Volkswagon stops forwarding emails to staff from the company server half an hour after ending the work day, and other companies have even given workers complete freedom by not expecting them to check emails on weekends or during their free time. The purpose of setting this rule in place is to protect workers’ mental health.

A correlation between mental health/wellbeing and overworking yourself has been established. If you type into Google, ‘being overworked to death’ multiple articles come up, which leads me to the story of Moritz Erhardt. Erhardt was a 21 year old intern at Merrill Lynch in London. He was also an American student at the University of Michigan. Before the night of his death, he worked through the night eight times in two weeks, including three consecutive nights. It is reported that he collapsed in his apartment, suffered from seizures, which possibly could have been invoked by exhaustion. This further signifies the importance of implementing laws such as the one recently established in Germany. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that applauds overworking and there has been “a shift from the well being of the worker to the well being of the bottom line.” Not having enough hours in the day has become normal, and the American job industry has become so competitive that if you don’t want to put the time and effort in, someone else will.

It is unsurprising that U.S. workers spend more time at work than anyone else in the world. However, it has continued to increase over the years. In 1970, the average work week for an American worker was about 35 hours. Today, it has increased to 46 hours. Interestingly enough, the average American worker spends 378 more hours working per year than the average German worker, whose economy is still going strong. Additionally in a recent survey, the average American worker reported spending an extra seven hours per week on work tasks such as answering phone calls or checking and responding to emails after normal work hours have concluded. A few interesting questions to think about is 1) Is our economy actually getting worse because of the mental health implications overworking can have? 2) Do you think establishing out of hours work laws could actually work in our favor? 3) Is Germany’s law enough to create a domino effect in this area to possibly encourage other countries to follow suit? And if so, should they follow suit?

In light of this topic—everyone should check out this link to #100happydays! The challenge is basically to take a picture of something that makes you happy for 100 days in a row. It was created because everyone is so obsessed with working and keeping themselves busy, we forget to appreciate things that make us happy.

http://100happydays.com

 

Video Component:

Technology Today on Work and Play

 

Works Cited

 

Bryan, Amanda. “Smartphones Not so ‘smart’ after Hours.” The Sydney Morning Herald.  1 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/management/smartphones-not-so-smart-after-hours-20120925-26iq2.html

 

Meece, Mickey. “Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Feb. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/business/06limits.html?pagewanted=all

 

Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.

 

Snyder, Michael. “Americans Are Literally Being Worked To Death.” The Economic Collapse. The Economic Collapse, 23 Sept. 2012. Web. . <http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/americans-are-literally-being-worked-to-death>.

 

Thakkar, Pooja. “America is the Most Overworked Nation at the Cost of Health (Infographic).” American is the most overworked nation at the cost of health. Technology Digital, 13 July 2012. Web. . <http://www.technology-digital.com/web20/america-is-the-most-overworked-nation-at-the-cost-of-health>.

 

Thurston, Robert C. “The Technology Threat to Work/Life Balance.” American Bar Association. Sept.-Oct. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2012/september_october/technology_threat_work_life_balance.html

 

Vasagar, Jeevan. “Out of hours working banned by German labour ministry.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 30 Aug. 2013. Web. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/10276815/Out-of-hours-working-banned-by-German-labour-ministry.html>.


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Oversharing on Social Media- Another Case of Fractalonia?

// Posted by Cassaundra on 04/15/2014 (9:50 PM)

After reading Deirdre’s post this week on the Wired article, “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online,” I was struck by an opinion piece on Wired.com. The piece, entitled “Science Says: The Baby Madness on Your Facebook Feed is an Illusion,”… Read more

After reading Deirdre’s post this week on the Wired article, “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online,” I was struck by an opinion piece on Wired.com. The piece, entitled “Science Says: The Baby Madness on Your Facebook Feed is an Illusion,” (http://www.wired.com/2014/04/babies-on-facebook/ ) serves as a case study on whether oversharing on social media is a legitimate of perceived trend. Many people tend to complain that new mothers are constantly posting photos of their newborns, and it escalates to the point where photos of someone’s new baby are all over one’s newsfeed. However, “Morris discovered, new mothers post less than half as often… Photos grow as a chunk of all postings, sure—but since new moms are so much less active on Facebook, it hardly matters.” Based on your experiences, do you believe these findings to be true? If these claims are valid, then why do we still hear people complaining that others overshare on social media sites?

The answer can be linked to our perpetuation of the phenomenon and Rushkoff’s notion of fractalonia. According to Rushkoff, we try to see patterns and make links between things with such fervor that we sometimes end up drawing links that have no truth. Morris first cites algorithms as a probable cause indicating that “viewers disproportionately “like” postings that mention new babies. This, she says, could result in Facebook ranking those postings more prominently in the News Feed, making mothers look more baby-obsessed.” From what I have observed on Facebook, posts that highlight a significant event in one’s life tend to get the most “likes.” Such posts could be about a college acceptance, an internship, a job, an engagement, and yes, a new baby. We look to link the perceived increase in posts to the fact that the baby is new and the parents are excited, yet in the process, we lose sight of the reality that more “likes” on a photo makes Facebook advertise it to friends of the poster more ubiquitously. Thus, we fall prey to fractalonia by making a link between a cause and effect that is not necessarily the case, and we further perpetuate the perceived “oversharing” of the photos by continuing to show our support by “liking” them.

Another cause cited by Morris is a frequency illusion. A Frequency illusion occurs as “once we notice something that annoys or surprises or pleases us—or something that’s just novel—we tend to suddenly notice it more. We overweight its frequency in everyday life.” Again, we are guilty of fractalonia by engaging in this thought as we are drawing a link that does not exist in an effort to make more sense of things. Based on our class discussions on overwinding and present shock, I believe we commit fractalonia because in this day and age, “any and all sense making must occur on the fly” (Rushkoff 201). Information is linked in order to constantly create new information as we live in an age of multitasking and constantly being “plugged in.” It forces one to question what would happen if everyone cut back even just slightly on the number of times they logged into Facebook. Would we still think people are oversharing? Or would we see a photo of a newborn, like it, and continue scrolling without a second thought because the same or a variation of the photo has not already been seen the other six times we logged in that day?

It is important to recognize “the value of observing the world around us like a scientist—to see what’s actually going on instead of what just happens to gall (or please) us.” Rushkoff seems to agree in his statement that fractalonia “doesn’t mean pattern recognition is futile. It only shows how easy it is to draw connections where there are none, or where the linkage is tenuous at best” (Rushkoff 202). Based on this case study and the nature of fractalonia, do you think that oversharing on social media is actually a phenomenon? Or are we so consumed with checking social media sites multiple times a day that we begin to perceive a few photos as ubiquitous?


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Do Copyright Laws Protect Ideas or Limit the Sharing of Knowledge?

// Posted by Cassaundra on 03/06/2014 (5:26 PM)

I found our readings and discussions about copyright laws and infringement this week to be some of the most interesting and intricate material we have tackled to date in this class. I agree with many of the ideas set forth… Read more

I found our readings and discussions about copyright laws and infringement this week to be some of the most interesting and intricate material we have tackled to date in this class. I agree with many of the ideas set forth in Rip: A Remix Manifesto. The first point of the manifesto, that the present always builds upon the past, can hardly be disputed. Everything we enjoy today can most likely be traced back to developments made over time on an original idea: types of clothing, types of houses, the way we read and conduct research, etc. After watching the documentary in its entirety and reading both the “GoldiBlox” and “Beauty and the Beast” case studies, points two and three of the manifesto (“the past always tries to control the future” and “our future is becoming less free”)  are also difficult to deny. Brett Gaylor’s main point in his documentary is that the intimidation factor imposed by large companies prevents many creative ideas from ever materializing as people are too afraid of getting sued and having to pay large sums of money in legal fees and copyright fees. While Girl Talk has not been arrested, he and his family live with a constant sense of nervousness that it could happen at any moment. Copyright laws were originally created with the good intention of protecting one’s ideas. However, it is my personal belief that the laws now impose too much control over the freedom and exchange of ideas, and while they should not be eliminated, there should definitely be some regulation. In the case of music, I do not believe that mash-ups such as the ones Girl Talk produces should be slammed for copyright infringement. While the songs he produces mix popular songs together, the song he makes is a completely original work and should therefore be considered to be his own. Furthermore, many mash-up artists and listeners do not hear a mash up and suddenly disregard the work of the original artists. During the documentary, Gaylor shows a Girl Talk concert without playing the music as his fair use argument had expired. He expresses how much he wishes the viewers could hear the show as Girl Talk “dropped ACDC in the middle of the Black-Eyed Peas. People were blogging about it for weeks.” Many people, myself included, clearly hear mash ups and still credit the work of the original artists while appreciating the originality of the mash up as well. This goes along with the way Girl Talk compares what he does to science. Copyrights, patents, and the like “hold back knowledge exchange” as they limit the ability of ideas to build off of each other. In science, this is particularly detrimental as collaboration is necessary to achieve discovery. A scientist might be close to developing a cure for cancer but cannot proceed if part of his or her idea is patented. In my opinion, copyright control to this degree is detrimental to our society.

There are cases, however, wherein it is right to impose copyright. One case of this might be when someone tries to take an idea that stands for a clear message and manipulate that same idea to represent something completely different. This happened in the case of Mickey Mouse, as discussed in the documentary. Walt Disney is considered to be brilliant because he “took work that was in the public domain and updated it, and made it relevant for our age.” His work “continued the conversation of a culture.” One of the most famous examples of this is the creation of Mickey Mouse, which stemmed from Steamboat Bill. Walt took the idea of Steamboat Bill, but made it completely different as a mouse played the main character, and Mickey soon became the symbol of Disney as a company that produced wholesome family fun. Because Mickey so clearly stood for a company with a wholesome message, it is not right for someone to take Mickey and try to turn him into a “drug dealing revolutionary” as a comment on society. While they had Mickey stand for something different than the original, using the exact same character to convey a quite opposite message than intended by the original is stealing a character. Looking at the case of GoldieBlox and the Beastie Boys presented in Wired, I believe the Beastie Boys are in the right due to the company’s overreaction and the original intent of the Beastie Boys. In their letter, the remaining Beastie Boys wrote that they

“were very impressed by the creativity and message behind your ad. We strongly support empowering young girls, breaking down gender stereotypes and igniting a passion for technology and engineering.” However, the letter continued, “your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product, and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads. When we tried to simply ask how and why our song ‘Girls’ had been used in your ad without our permission, YOU sued US.”

Under the fair use clause, it is alright to use copyrighted material in the name of exercising free speech to make a point. The song is used in the ad as background music clearly trying to appeal to a generation of adults who listened to the Beastie Boys as teenagers, who now likely have young children. As this is an appeal rather than an argument, it would not be considered fair use. The main area where I agree with the Beastie Boys over GoldieBlox is when they state that they agreed to never permit their music to be used in product ads. As the original creators of the song, it is their right to include that provision and it should not be violated. GoldieBlox overreacted by suing the Beastie Boys in response to their innocent question.

What do you think about these cases and copyright regulation? In our group, we discussed artists only having to pay fees if they begin turning a profit from something that incorporates someone else’s work. Do you think this is plausible? Or are copyright laws succeeding at keeping ideas safe?


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Response to “Internet Security: Privacy vs. National Security” by Ana Isabel & Sánchez Meléndez

// Posted by Cassaundra on 02/19/2014 (1:56 PM)

 

 


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Snowden, Wikileaks, and Global Debate (Tec Collaboration)

// Posted by Cassaundra on 02/14/2014 (3:12 PM)

By Cassaundra Fincke, Kevin Carney, Sarah Crawford, and Emily Narduzzi

“The War on Wikileaks and Why It Matters,” written by Glenn Greenwald for Salon Magazine, provides an interesting analysis of the work being done at Wikileaks, and what our… Read more

By Cassaundra Fincke, Kevin Carney, Sarah Crawford, and Emily Narduzzi

“The War on Wikileaks and Why It Matters,” written by Glenn Greenwald for Salon Magazine, provides an interesting analysis of the work being done at Wikileaks, and what our government trying to stop their existence says about our national privacy as a whole.  Essentially, Greenwald supports Wikileaks for their efforts to expose classified government information because some of the safety nets to expose improper governmental activities have been largely derailed.  He makes claims regarding how the media has been “co-opted” and “crippled by financial constraints,” which has affected our ability as citizens to see investigative reporting regarding the dealings of the government.  Furthermore, he states that our Congress provides almost no meaningful oversight in regards to regulating the secretive work of other government organization, and moreover, the Congress is largely controlled by the individuals who wish to maintain the secrecy of these governmental organizations.

According to Greenwald, this is where Wikileaks comes into play.  In the midst of an age gone digital, he attests that Wikileaks protects the American public because the government has secrecy “at an all time high.”  Wikileaks is essentially intended to keep the government honest because as long as they exist, they cannot act in secrecy without fear of being exposed to the general public.  Julian Assange, the editor of Wikileaks, claims that “the information which is concealed or suppressed is concealed or suppressed because the people who know it best understand that it has the ability to reform.  So they engage in work to prevent that reform…”  Greenwald applauds these efforts to expose information put forth by Wikileaks, and repeatedly commends the group for doing what the media and Congress fail to do for the American citizens in this day and age.  However, I raise the question, what do you mean by reform, and why are we seeking this large scale reformation?

I do not doubt that the US Government may be “at an all time high” with secrecy, but I do not believe they can really be blamed for being in such a state.  As a world power, the United States is susceptible to many threats, and we are also still within a time period where 9/11 is glued in the minds of every American citizen.  As a result, the American government takes steps to make sure that they can preserve our safety.  I do not know of a single government in the world that does, or should, keep military operations and top security items in the open for the public.  This is not even because I do not trust the American people, but more so because once information is in the open to the American people, then it is in the open to anyone with an internet connection.

As Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore discuss in their article, “The End of Hypocrisy,” this new lack of privacy also threatens all foreign policy of the United States.  Many governments and citizens around the globe have observed that the U.S government doesn’t always stick to its word, but because of the level of involvement the U.S has in global affairs there have been many blind eyes.  After Snowden’s disclosure these governments had the right and the obligation to address the hypocrisy of the U.S. So this disclosure has two possible effects on our foreign affairs.  It forces the government to face its hypocrisy and may force to government to remain steadfast in its policies and reconsider going against these policies for our self-interest.  The leaks could also possibly steer different nations to address the occasional hypocrisy of our country’s government.

From here arises questions regarding the leaking of our governmental information.  Are the leaks putting our foreign policy in jeopardy?  If so, how should the U.S go about fixing this?  As mentioned before total transparency in our government is not practical.  The leaks may force the U.S to disclose more foreign policy information and act in accordance to this.  Wikileaks not only brought up the issue of security and privacy but also the issue of foreign relations and the trustworthiness of the U.S. Is being a reliable country worth giving up the pursuit of self-interests?  The answer, I believe, is yes.  Now how much of this requires American transparency?

There obviously has to be some semblance of privacy in order to ensure effective military operations and a strengthened ability to protect our American way of life.  And returning to my question prior asked, I feel no need for this “reform” that Assange mentions.  I am extremely happy as an American citizen, and I am proud of the measures the American government takes to keep me safe.  I respect Wikileaks attempts to keep the government honest by knowing that they cannot do whatever they want in complete secrecy, but I worry about the harms Wikileaks poses to the American public.  One day they could choose to leak a piece of information that is truly determinantal to American society, and then their efforts to provide a system of checks and balances has turned into a very hazardous situation.  My opinion, if you really want a better way to keep our government accountable for their actions, then lets find a more structured way to do it.  Wikileaks is an independent organization with their own agenda, and I do not feel comfortable with them trying to keep our government honest all on their own accord.  I do not trust someone who states, “I enjoy crushing bastards, I like a good challenge.”  This all seems fine and well until something overly sensitive gets leaked and it affects our country’s ability to effectively respond to a dangerous situation.  You raise a good cause Wikileaks, but let’s be more structured about this, and please keep your independent reformation to yourself.

Additionally, the statement that “The NSA has become the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever,” is pretty ironic. The NSA’s job is essentially to protect our government who can therefore protect our country. With the intense secrecy, you would think that they would not be able to do their job. However, on the contrary, it does make sense that certain things need to be kept under wraps.  Our country would not operate as well as it does if everything was constantly exposed to the general public. It is quite interesting and confusing still, considering the wikileaks ethicality and role through the process. How do they choose what information to publicize? What is worth it to them to relay to the general public? Often times these outings can create situations of panic and can potentially cause more harm than good. It is hard to know the difference between crossing the line and posing genuine concern for our country’s safety. It is also extremely difficult for authority to step in and respond in these situations. As discussed in the riot article, at least at the moment, it would be extremely difficult (perhaps close to impossible) for police to keep an eye on these social media sites. “Police would need to monitor social media with a level of intelligence—attuned to popularity, cognizant of slang, filtering for location—that right now is beyond the reach of even sophisticated tech startups, let alone cash-strapped police departments.”

From reading the “Edward Snowden” article by Greenwald, MacAskill, and Poitras in The Guardian, it is clear that Snowden is of the cyber liberation school of thought. Snowden says he does not view himself as a hero for exposing the government because “what [he’s] doing is self-interested: [he doesn’t] want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.” The cyber liberation view argues that information wants to be free, meaning everyone should have the right of free speech in what they post on the internet, and have the assurance of privacy from companies and the government. As we all know, this is not the case today. As a high school student, you are constantly warned that college admission officers can easily hack onto your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts, and use what they see against you in the admission process. Once getting to college, this fear is even further instilled in us with higher stakes: potential employers will easily look up your social media accounts to screen them for things that may reflect poorly on job applicants. I was shocked to learn in class on Tuesday that some employers will even make you log into your Facebook in the middle of an interview, which many of us believe is a total violation of privacy and very unethical. The founding fathers of our country originally regulated government control in areas such as the right to privacy so that the government would not overstep their bounds. In this sense, Snowden is right to call the spying a “threat to democracy,” however some problems could arise with total internet freedom as well. For example, it has been said that the government is notified whenever someone Googles “how to make a bomb.” In cases like this where potential terrorists could be Googling these things, government surveillance and intervention could be seen as a positive thing. The fact that one can so easily Google search how to make an explosive bomb as well as many other harmful things is a scary thought in and of itself. However, I believe government regulation becomes too invasive when they start tapping phone lines and e-mail accounts. Where do you stand in this debate? What are some of the positives and negatives of cyber liberation you see?

I also noted a quite paradoxical aspect of this article. Throughout the beginning of the article, there are many quotes from Snowden saying things such as, “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” However, the rest of piece focuses completely on Snowden’s background, job history, and how he came to the decision to expose the truth. This, along with every conversation I’ve had about government spying since this story broke, leads me to the conclusion that it is difficult, if not impossible to discuss this case without talking about Edward Snowden. Despite his intentions, he will forever be linked to this scandal (it is often even referred to as the Edward Snowden case). Having a person linked to political scandal gives the common people a hero as they can praise Snowden for exposing the truth about how their government is deceiving them, while also giving the government a scapegoat. Snowden has also remained very in control of how the story is told.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was

legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that

would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t

my goal. Transparency is.” He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to

journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should

remain concealed.

Snowden arguably chose to speak to Greenwald because he knew Greenwald also believes in cyber liberation, and would thus tell Snowden’s story and information in a favorable light. In that sense, one could argue that even though Snowden is exposing the truth, there is still a level of regulation at play in terms of what documents he discloses, and to whom he’ll tell his story.

Given that this is a collaboration week, we can have some great discussions about the effects of this scandal. Snowden cites his travels to Geneva as part of what prompted him to eventually speak out. He says, “much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.” What are some differences between the U.S. and Mexican governments? What did you think of the Snowden case/ government spy leaks from an international perspective? Do you think government regulation is a good thing, or should we be pro- cyber liberation?

 


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Social Media as a Supplement to Conversation, and Why Bots are the Actual Threat

// Posted by Cassaundra on 02/01/2014 (6:01 PM)

This week, I have found the question of whether or not social media makes us lonely to be of particular interest. Most of us agree that we are generally too “plugged in” to our devices- we are constantly checking our… Read more

This week, I have found the question of whether or not social media makes us lonely to be of particular interest. Most of us agree that we are generally too “plugged in” to our devices- we are constantly checking our e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to name a few. This need to reach for our phones particularly occurs when we are actually sitting alone somewhere or if everyone else is on their phones as well. Doing this make us feel more in control of the situation and less like an outsider. So is social media isolating us or bringing us closer together? The following link is to a Ted Talk given by Sherry Turkle that I watched last semester for my “Advanced Theories of Interpersonal Communication” class, which discusses many of the points she makes in her New York Times article, “The Flight From Conversation.” http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html While I understand Turkle’s main argument that we are in a culture of “being alone together,” I agree more with Tufekci’s argument that social media is just one aspect of communication that is meant to enhance connection, not replace conversation.

I agree with Turkle’s claim that the “sips of connection” we get through texting and social media do not substitute for real conversation, but I do not believe they are meant to do so. Indeed, forming a true relationship of any kind with someone via social media would be futile as you do not get an understanding of one’s true character strictly through those types of interactions. However, it cannot be denied that social media and texting have enabled us to maintain our relationships with friends, family members, and significant others while we are separated by distance. Even though we may look at their Facebook pages while we are apart, that does not mean that once we are reunited we do not engage in conversations about things that happened since we last saw each other. For the most part, I believe Tufekci is right in saying that “the people Turkle sees with their heads down on their devices while on a train somewhere are … connecting to people they deem important in their lives. They are not talking to bots.” Turkle also claims that social media and texting ruin our ability to self-reflect as we can edit and delete things before posting and sending them as opposed to fumbling in real time and exposing our true selves. I find several things puzzling about this claim. If we are taking the time to think about our responses to texts and editing pictures to post online, I believe there is a certain degree of self-reflection happening through that process. Personally, I do not post photos to Facebook or Instagram purely because I want others to see them, but rather because I can look back on the pictures to serve as a nice documentation of my life. In this sense, having photos online and writing tweets can be compared to having a modern diary of sorts. Also, taking a bit of time to think through a response to a text can be a good thing as sometimes it can save you from overreacting. The ability to reflect and think about an appropriate response is a learning process that can foster maturity. While Turkle notes that people are taking the time to edit responses, she also says we are demanding responses much faster due to these technologies. Features like read receipts that tell you when the other person has read your message or text can drive one crazy if they do not get an immediate response. Thus, there is a paradox in Turkle’s argument as she claims we take the time to edit ourselves so we can’t fumble in real time, but we also demand quick responses. Surely we are bound to expose our true selves if we are responding quickly to someone, thus maintaining that element of real time.

Turkle and Tufekci both address the prospect of bots in the future, and whether technology and social media should be lumped into the same category. Having just read From Counterculture to Cyberculture, I think it is undeniable that the culture fostered by these advances in technology has prompted people to wonder how far we can take it. However, I do not think it is right to place social media and technology in the same category. To me, technology is the actual iPhone, iPad, laptop, etc. It has many capabilities, however these would be meaningless if people did not want to access social media. Social media sites are websites, whereas iPhones, iPads and the like enable us to access these sites on the go. One could argue that the rise of social media made smart phones and iPads more appealing as there was now a need for their capabilities. When the iPhone first came out, I thought it was silly. I wondered why I needed to have my camera, phone and iPod all in one when I already owned each of the separate goods. However, now that I’ve owned an iPhone I don’t know what I would do without it. Bots, on the other hand, seem like a very strange concept to me that I do not believe would be healthy. After every quote in Turkle’s article from people saying they want to learn to have a real conversation, or would like a bot to get love and life advice from rather than a human, I could not help thinking how weird they sounded. Technology and social media are not a substitute for real-life relationships and conversations. I agree with Tufekci’s claim based on her research that correlation does not equate to causation. Those who are dependent on technology and social media to the point that they are lonely or prefer it to actual interactions are probably more introverted people who would be socially awkward even without social media. I believe social media was created with the intention of it being a supplement to in-person communication, and a way to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones despite distance. Conversely, bots would be created with the intention of being a substitute for human interaction, and I think this is where technology crosses the line into becoming dangerous to human interaction.


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The Paradoxical Freedom of Technology

// Posted by Cassaundra on 01/19/2014 (11:11 PM)

Cassaundra Fincke

 

The first two chapters of From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner address some interesting historical events that have heavily contributed to today’s culture surrounding technology.  One of Turner’s discussions which I found particularly interesting deals with… Read more

Cassaundra Fincke

 

The first two chapters of From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner address some interesting historical events that have heavily contributed to today’s culture surrounding technology.  One of Turner’s discussions which I found particularly interesting deals with the student stigma surrounding computational terms. In the 1960s, the advances in technology, particularly concerning the military, gave this new technology a sense of power. As such, people began likening human functions and states to terms used to describe machinery. For example, the term “networks,” which is an operating system in a computer, began to be used to describe the inner workings of the human brain. Students in the 1960s presented a backlash against this movement as they did not want to be thought of as merely one bit of functionality in an overall machine. However, this idea is not completely extinct in present times.

Although people still use computational terms, I do not believe they have the same negative stigma or frequency they once did. In my personal experience at college, I find the times that I tend to think of my brain as a computer or calculator are linked to certain subject matters. For example, when I am working on an analysis such as this, I feel that my brain is more humanistic in that it perceives things differently than others thus allowing me to have a different opinion or perception than someone else. This is because an analysis is very opinion-oriented, and thus unique for every individual. Conversely, I have always felt a bit more mechanic and like part of a process when working on a math or science equation as there is usually a designated way to solve these problems making people just a part of the equation. For someone like me who is not very gifted in these areas, it can be comforting to know that there is a specific method I need only “plug into” my mind to carry out. However, I would be just as troubled as the students who revolted if this mentality permeated into all areas of life. While power is something virtually everyone seeks and values, it is dehumanizing to associate this power with such a rigid piece of technology, like a computer.

Interestingly enough, we now tend to believe that technology has freed us rather than constrained and dehumanized us. But is this really the case? Technologies like cell phones and computers, which were originally meant to keep us connected can often now do just the opposite. All too often people are glued to their phones while in the middle of an in-person “conversation” only contributing to the topic by mechanically muttering “yeah” at the appropriate times. We tend to Google search answers to opinion questions rather than thinking through things for ourselves. Sometimes people even text or call each other from different rooms in the house. By engaging in this behavior, I believe we are dehumanizing ourselves in a manner of speaking in that we are abusing our technology (freedom). Technology can offer much assistance in our quest for various levels of power. However, we all too often let it turn us into mindless, “plugged-in” machines who are on auto pilot in our daily lives rather than being fully engaged.


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