DIGITAL AMERICA

Author Archives: Deirdre

Final Project: Technology Replacing Humans

// Posted by Deirdre on 04/29/2014 (12:00 PM)

the link to my final project:

dco1994.wordpress.com

the link to my final project:

dco1994.wordpress.com


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Phase 1: Machines Replacing Humans

// Posted by Deirdre on 04/21/2014 (3:25 PM)

So far this semester we have explored the many different effects of the growth of technology on our world. We have become a “digital America” in which people rely on various different machines and technologies to complete daily tasks. In… Read more

So far this semester we have explored the many different effects of the growth of technology on our world. We have become a “digital America” in which people rely on various different machines and technologies to complete daily tasks. In class we have addressed what lead us here and what the consequences have been so far of growing  reliance on technology. Our discussions about high frequency trading made me curious about the fast pace world we live in, and why we are so readily allowing machines to be responsible for so many actions. My project will focus on the increasing role of technology in our world and how it is stifling the roles of humans as the use of machines invades every sector of the global economy.

My project consists of an assessment of our present condition (explaining how we use these machines now) and my projections for the future based on my research. I intend to explore the physical, mental, and emotional capabilities that robots and machines have, and to consider both points of view put forth by experts. In many stores we no longer look to humans when paying, but rather we scan items ourselves and a machine spits out our change and a receipt. Our smart-phones speak to us and take commands from us through Siri. When you enter a retail store you might be helped by a kiosk rather than a real person. Vacuum cleaners operate themselves to clean our houses. Our cars can even park themselves. So what will happen next?

Many of our class presentations addressed the use of technology in ways we never thought possible. The use of robots and machines is becoming more and more a part of society, and it has become clear that they will soon be able to complete more human actions than we ever though possible. Things like drones (sailing and flying) and computer operations systems that talk are things that I never expected to see in my lifetime.

By 2013, there were already over a million robots in the industrial workforce. Why? They don’t require an hourly wage, their quality of work is consistent, and they don’t get bored. Technological innovations have left many of us wondering about what the capabilities of these robots will be as they start growing in numbers. My research has lead be to believe that in as little as 10 years it is possible that robots and machines will have invaded the job markets of pharmacists, doctors, soldiers, drivers, store clerks, pilots, and more. What they lack in social intelligence they make up for in efficiency and productivity.

In 2014 we face a future that could go two ways, depending on how we receive new technologies in the next few years. Many experts say that if we refuse to except how quickly human-like technologies are pushing into the workforce, many of us could be left jobless. We need to learn to work side-by-side with these intricate technologies and attempt to keep up. Many blue collar jobs have already been handed over to machines and it appears today that we benefit from not having to employ people to perform the most basic tasks that a machine could do. But robots can acquire smarts, and those that are programmed a certain way pose a threat to society: they could potentially push even white-collar employees out of the workforce.

Robots and automated machines have become more and more capable of completing human actions, and my project explores the conflicting views that experts have on how much they might be able to do in the future. Using various media and research articles, I explain the practicality that these machines might offer us– many people think that this will help American society and the job market rather than hurt it. On the other hand, I also explore conflicting views of experts. While some pro-tech authors from Wired might think that this could help society, others believe that automated machines will take jobs from real people causing unemployment to skyrocket and our economy to plummet.

A Ted Talk on this topic:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYIfeZcXA9U

 

What I have explored so far:

- our current state, what things they can do in 2014

- projections for the future, jobs that robots could potentially take, what fields will they invade, who could be effected

- how we might (be forced to) work together

What I will explore in phase 2:

- emotions, can robots have human qualities?, can they acquire social capabilities?

- what should we do? how our generation and the one after us might have to be more creative

- seeking alternate jobs, what can we do that robots can’t?

 

Questions for the class:

1. Do you think you would feel comfortable working side by side with a machine (as many expert’s predictions say we will have to in the near future)?

2. What types of “creative” jobs might you seek if robots enter the job market and limit your employment opportunities?

3. Do you trust these machines? (drones, electronic servers, surgical machines)

 

http://dco1994.wordpress.com/


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The Rise of Social Networks Might be Making People More Private

// Posted by Deirdre on 04/13/2014 (8:31 PM)

We all know that in recent years the use of social media has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon. Seemingly everyone uses all of these various networks and apps to connect with other people. So much of our private lives… Read more

We all know that in recent years the use of social media has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon. Seemingly everyone uses all of these various networks and apps to connect with other people. So much of our private lives have become public, and often is viewable to people we don’t even know that well. We can see thousands of personal photos of each other, our customized pages show all of our “likes” and interests, and we can even connect over a map that shows us the exact locations of our “friends” at any given time. Therefore, it would appear that privacy is dead.

Our generation is said to value personal privacy less than any group of people before us. In a Wired  article called “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online” Nathan Jurgenson talks about the explosion of personal information online and how our use of social media has changed our outlook on what is private and what is not. He suggests that kids of our generation post now with the intention of revealing something about themselves, but also with the intention of concealing things to leave a certain sense of mystery in our posts. Jurgenson also claims that Facebook has recognized a strange pattern among some teens:

“In a behavior called whitewalling, users post to Facebook—sometimes in great detail — but then quickly delete everything, creating a blank timeline. That’s a new form of privacy for the social media age: a mass release of information that eventually disappears.” (Jurgenson, 2014)

I agree that young people today are becoming increasingly wary of who might see what they release through social media, but I think that those who are majorly concerned with their privacy tend to hold back on their posts rather than, as the author suggests, adjust them to be more cryptic or delete them shortly after posting. Our generation is simultaneously public and private, but ultimately the influx of social media outlets throughout the past decade might have turned millions of us away from sharing. Furthermore, I think the pressure to participate in social media has even caused some people to be more public than they feel comfortable being in actuality- or for some people it’s the opposite.

I’m curious to see what happens in the future with social media. New networks could take off unexpectedly like they have in the past, or people could abandon this culture of publicity and sharing altogether. Sometimes I think that the moments I don’t document are more precious, and that participating in the excessive use of technology/social media is distracting me from the present. If you don’t document something you’ll never totally be able to relive it- but that’s kind of the point. ”It’s gotten to the point where choosing not to photograph something conveys respect for a moment, imbues it with significance. Pretty soon we might realize that one of the Internet’s favorite slogans can now be reversed: No pics or it didn’t happen,” says Jergenson.

Rushkoff’s book Present Shock talks all about how consumed we are with technology and these networks. His opinion on our generation is clear: we are in a state of shock and we better do something before it’s too late. The Wired article, on the other hand, suggests that our generation is indeed stepping back from certain social media outlets and technologies. A second Wired article by Mat Honan is mostly about messaging networks, but touches on Facebook and other social networks and their privacy flaws in the eyes of users. Honan says that Facebook has developed a “self-admitted” problem with young people: they are leaving.

“The generation that has grown up with social media is also wary of its permanence—that picture you post today may come back to haunt you when you’re ready to find a job. Even the site’s central design, a timeline that literally begins with your birth, emphasizes the notion that Facebook is forever.”

I think this idea is central to the argument that our generation might flee from social media. Its permanence has made millions of us resistant to it or less active on it. When posting on Facebook in particular, it is inconvenient to adjust your audience, and you might question who will see your post, how they might receive it, and if they will think it’s directed at them (which it may not be). Honon suggests that in the past few years, messaging networks have taken priority or proved more useful for some people than social media outlets have. This is because they are less public, more intimate, and can be used more easily on a tablet or smartphone.

Do you think the efforts of social media companies will backfire, causing members of our generation to become more private- maybe even abandoning the networks altogether? Or will we just be slightly more selective about what we post? Will messaging networks take over, and how do you think that might impact our use of technology?

 

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/privacy-is-dead/

http://www.wired.com/2014/02/ff_messagingwars/


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How the Digital World has Influenced Music

// Posted by Deirdre on 04/03/2014 (9:05 PM)

By: Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, Claire Hollingsworth, and Molly Reilly

INTERVIEWS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pzoSQNcixI&feature=youtu.be

THE HISTORY

There has been a long history of evolving copyright laws to get to where we are in history… Read more

By: Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, Claire Hollingsworth, and Molly Reilly

INTERVIEWS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pzoSQNcixI&feature=youtu.be

THE HISTORY

There has been a long history of evolving copyright laws to get to where we are in history today. The most notable dates with the evolution of copyrights with respect to digital media are listed above. The 1994 Conference on Fair Use was a venue for the discussion of issues on fair use in the electronic environment. One of the biggest obstacles to the internet and the creators of content on the internet is the lack of regulation regarding fair use. At this fair there were a number of guidelines proposed guidelines in areas such as interlibrary loan, electronic reserves, digital images, and distance education. The 1996 Database protection legislation introduced the Database Investment and Intellectual Antipiracy Act of 1996. This act helped protect intellectual property and helped start the framework of controlling piracy on the internet. 1998 Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act changed the  protected the life of the author plus fifty years to life of the author plus seventy years. One of the most notable laws for the protection of creative work is the 1999 digital theft deterrence and copyright damages improvement act of 1999. This law increased the maximum damages for digital theft to a 20,000 and 30,000 dollars.

While there were several notable court cases in the later 2000’s, few changes to copyrights laws were implemented with the changing times, or if there were changes in fair use laws it is happening slower than how technology is evolving. This is the problems many artists and online creators of content are running into. Music is evolving at the pace of technology however copyright laws can’t keep up. There have been several cases where congress has been attempting to crack down on illegally downloading music to make a case out of ordinary U.S citizens. In an article from RT.com “ Supreme Court Approved $222k Fine for 24 illegally downloaded songs. As a response to the settlement which is under appeals as of now was:

There’s no way they can collect,” she said. “Right now I get energy assistance because I have four kids. It’s just one income. My husband isn’t working. It’s not possible for them to collect even if they wanted to. I have no assets.”

The question we have to ask ourselves is what is the benefit to these trials and cases. As we can see from our survey the illegal downloading of music has consistently remained a part of our lives since Jammie Thomas-Rasset’s court hearings began in 2007. The biggest argument against the free sharing of music and information is that it hurts the artists that produce the music. But the question is, does it hurt the artists that create the music or the music industry and music producers as a corporation. In an blog entry from a site entitled “Record Labels: Behind the Glamour” it states “Internet music piracy not only doesn’t hurt legitimate CD sales, it may even boost sales of some types of music.” They go on to talk about how many consumers after illegally downloading a few songs will in many cases go to purchase the whole CD at another source. However it is crucial to mention this blog was written in 2004 where the quality and availability of downloadable music was much less.

Based on our survey most students go to the internet to illegally download music for a majority of their music collection. But we also have to evaluate the portion of an artist’s income that is really affected by record sales. Would artists be smarter to simply use their song releases as a form of marketing and to gain wider appeal with the general public. Artists, such as Beyonce, generates her 52 million dollar a year income with everything from sponsorships to tour dates to even a beauty skin care line. Beyonce certainly does not seem to be hurting from the changing technologies if anything she has harnessed the explosion of social media sites, even dropping her most recent album with no marketing or advertising at all. The availability of information and internet culture have allowed her to do that.

It will be interesting to see in the future how illegal downloading will continue to evolve and to change. As of right now the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) seems no closer to backing down. As of April 1, 2014 this was the their stance and punishment on illegally downloading music:

“Making unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings is against the law and may subject you to civil and criminal liability.  A civil law suit could hold you responsible for thousands of dollars in damages. Criminal charges may leave you with a felony record, accompanied by up to five years of jail time and fines up to $250,000.”

The CIAA also states that the annual harm coming from illegally downloading music comes out to around 12.5 billion dollars a year as well as more than 70,000 american jobs lost and 2 billion in lost wages to American workers. While these are staggering statistics is this just the way the music industry is going as the economy evolves and changes? We can go back all the way to the airplane where in Lawrence Lessig’s book “Free Culture” he references a court case involving Thomas Lee and Tinie Causby where the invention of the airplane had affected their farm when military planes flew too close the ground over their lands. In the end the judge ruled the farmers out of date with the current times and we had to keep up with the changing technologies. The case with the farmers is a more cut and dry case and the artists do have more rights to their intellectual property than the farmers did over the air above their land but we still have to think about how the landscape of the internet has changed the music industries environment. Will copyright laws evolving with times or will they be stuck in the past or will they take the internet as the disruptive innovation that it is and evolve and come out stronger for utilizing its power rather than fighting against it.

 

RESULTS FROM OUR SURVEY

There’s no denying it: people pirate music.  Most people know it’s illegal, and many feel at least a little conflicted about it, but it happens. The question is, why does it happen?  There are a lot of justifications offered about why people might choose to illegally download a song when they would be more hesitant to steal a physical album.

The first and most obvious reason is that pirated music is free.  This seems consistent with survey data we found that most respondents would be more willing to legally purchase their music if they could set the price.  This also seems consistent with the rise of sites like Bandcamp, which allow users to set prices for album, the popularity of Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, and the use of apps like Spotify which allow for free or cheap legal consumption.

Another idea that has been popularized is that people pirate music as a political statement or because they believe that the artists are not being harmed, since they already make so little off of their album sales.  This seems consistent with the data we found saying that people are more likely to pay for music from artists they really like and would be more likely to pay for music if more went to the artists themselves.

Finally, some of the interesting data had to do with the sources of piracy and the types of music people were more likely to pay for versus pirate.  The two genres most likely to be pirated?  Electronic/EDM and Top 40.

 

Sources:

http://rt.com/usa/supreme-court-massive-fine-569/

http://amh500.edublogs.org/illegal-file-sharing-enhances-the-future-of-the-music-industry/

http://www.forbes.com/profile/beyonce-knowles

http://www.riaa.com/physicalpiracy.php?content_selector=piracy_online_the_law

http://www.arl.org/focus-areas/copyright-ip/2486-copyright-timeline#.UzoYXRa2CnZ

Http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-004-5263-6#page-1

 


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Refuge From the Internet: Does it Exist?

// Posted by Deirdre on 04/02/2014 (2:03 PM)

This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship… Read more

This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship with time before we a experience a future we didn’t expect. The constant use of technology and internet is stifling the creativity of our culture by making too much information readily available and holding our generation back from creating anything original. I agree with Rushkoff in a lot of ways; I think that we are extremely distracted from the present and that this could be hurtful to our generation.

I read a few articles from Wired that I think connect well with Rushkoff’s book and our class discussions about the constant use of internet all over the world. While it used to be hard to find a place to get internet connection and surf the wed, it’s now harder to find an escape from it. If we open up our computers to find that we don’t have wifi, we’re more shocked than we are if we find that we do have it. A long car ride used to be an excuse to sit back, relax, and listen to a few CDs. Now people have “hotspots” on their phones that allow them to get internet access on their computers and phones while in motion. It has even gotten to the point where certain people have anxiety if they don’t have access to their e-mails, texts, and tweets, even while they’re, say, in a plane thousands of feet above ground. This shows us that the places that used to be sanctuaries from the technological world and our always-on lives are now being invaded.

“[To get away] we go where it’s impossible to connect, no matter what. But quite soon those gaps will all be filled. Before much longer, the entire planet will be smothered in signal, and we won’t be able to find places that are off the grid” (Honan, 2013).

The quote above is from a 2013 article in Wired called “Can’t Get Away From It All? The Problem Isn’t Technology- It’s You.” The author talks about broadening internet access throughout the country, and how the places that we used to escape to are now places you can be completely plugged-in. Mat Honan, the author of the article thinks that if we can learn to resist the urge to go online, we can create these places of refuge for ourselves. But can these places even be considered sanctuaries from our internet lives if we can get in touch with anyone and search anything? Will we compromise our sanity in we continue down this road? Where can we get away from our online lives if we have internet access everywhere we go?

The image above shows the places that we have internet access in orange, and the places we don’t in dark red (as of September 2013). The places that aren’t orange are mostly uninhabited areas. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

The second article, by the same author, was about wifi on airplanes. Even if it’s possible, says the author, airlines might want to reconsider the degree to which we can access this. The article talks about how much we will probably disturb one another making phone calls, streaming movies, hogging the outlet plugs, or even skyping and facetiming with the people below. Is it really necessary to have access to these things while we’re flying? I know this might be convenient, but I still don’t think its healthy for us to have access to all of these in-flight gadgets.

“If you’re really looking to unplug, the connection you have to sever isn’t electronic anymore—it’s mental” (Honan, 2013)

I think that the novelty of the idea of having internet wherever you go has worn off, and just as soon as Americans realize the state of present shock we are in, we might all long to be in a place where we can’t have access to everything at our fingertips. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

 

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/honan-flight-risks/

http://www.wired.com/2013/10/honan/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/07/10/were-all-internet-addicts-and-were-all-screwed-says-newsweek/

 


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Drones Sailing Around the World and Delivering Our Mail: Is this Normal?

// Posted by Deirdre on 02/28/2014 (12:34 PM)

In an article in Wired called “The Drone That Will Sail Itself Around The World,” Adam Fisher discusses the “sailing robot” that has been constructed to travel around the world by sea. Saildrone is “a wind-powered autonomous surface vehicle” that… Read more

In an article in Wired called “The Drone That Will Sail Itself Around The World,” Adam Fisher discusses the “sailing robot” that has been constructed to travel around the world by sea. Saildrone is “a wind-powered autonomous surface vehicle” that is 19 feet long and made of carbon-fiber. It was released into the San Francisco Bay in October. The engineers of Saildrone programed it so that it would sail to Hawaii, 2,248 miles away, completing the world’s first “no-handed” sail in 34 days. In its journey across the pacific, the drone has been confronted with storms of gale-force winds and has battled fierce breaking waves.

“Above the waterline the boat is painted safety orange and emblazoned with the words OCEAN RESEARCH IN PROGRESS in all caps. The hull is black with bottom paint, and near the bow is the name in a fancy serif: Honey Badger.”

The engineering of Saildrone really mimics that of an airplane more than that of a sailboat. It has a tail just like an airplane does, it is designed to adjust to extreme angular changes, and it is powered completely by wind. Richard Jenkins and Dylan Owens, the engineers behind the Saildrone technology, hope that the structure will prove its sailing abilities so that one day it can be sent to vast, untravelled parts of oceans throughout the world to collect information. Jenkins and Owen both hope that once the technology of the structure is perfected it can be sent around to collect data that will prove that global warming is real. They would do this by monitoring changes in ocean acidification, which is the “key barometer of climate change.” And even beyond that the potential of ocean drones is huge:

“Drones could replace the world’s weather and tsunami buoys. The waters around oil platforms could be sniffed 24/7 for the first signs of a spill. Tagged sharks, whales, and other marine life could be followed and their locations patched into the international marine-traffic control system with a warning to stay away. Protected borders, coastlines, islands, and environmentally sensitive marine areas could be patrolled by drones programmed to photograph any interloping ships.” (Fisher, 2014, Wired)

What’s next for Saildrone? Jenkins and Owen hope to send the structure literally around the world. They have programmed it to travel about 25,000 miles around the South Pole and then in the direction of the equatorial Pacific. The engineers are constructing several more drones, now completely digital and constructionally perfected, to sail across oceans. Hopefully they will provide us with some valuable information about these bodies of water that we couldn’t know about without this technology.

Cleary Saildrone can offer the world a multitude of scientific and security uses; its potential is undeniable. Reaches of the world that are nearly invisible right now could be seen and researched, enabling the world to make infinite scientific advances. This article reminded me of our discussion about recent technology replacing humans. In the case of Saildrone, this is clearly not a danger to the world because people have never been physically able to travel to these places.

For research purposes I definitely support the use of drone technology, and Jenkins and Owens’ creation has provided a perfect example of the type of drone that can only be helpful to the world. I read another article, however, on other perspective uses of drone in mail delivery services for Amazon. USA Today reported in December that Amazon is gearing up to use small, unmanned drone aircrafts to deliver packages in a new program they will call “Prime Air.” The structures, called Octocopers,  would be programed to fly to their destination in 30 minutes or less.

It’s interesting that technologies like this are emerging, but I question whether or not this is a good thing. There’s nothing I like better than to receive my online orders quickly, but I would probably wonder how reliable and safe it is for automated machines to fly through the air delivering our packages. The Federal Aviation Administration would have to play a role in regulating the ways in which the drones operate, but even so I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this idea. The Amazon PrimeAir drone technology is several years away from being able to do this, but the company’s CEO swears that it will happen in the near future.

“Drones have mostly been used by the U.S. military to shoot missiles at enemy combatants in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the cost of these unmanned aircraft has dropped precipitously in recent years, making them more accessible to commercial users, such as companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs.” (Barr, USAToday, 2013)

There are laws that the government has passed that do not allow for the free use and construction of drones throughout the US, but many people believe that within the next few years the FAA will begin to allow drones for commercial use. How do you feel about the recent accessibility of drones to businesses and researchers? I personally believe that there should be very strict regulations on the uses of drones; they should be employed for military and scientific purposes, not for entrepreneurs and small companies. The Amazon CEO claims that the company will have a plan for safety and take extreme caution with the aircrafts, but I still wonder how safe this is. And beyond that, do we need our packages delivered in 30 minutes while AmazonPrime offers next day and two day delivery? Is this what our world has come to? Also, PrimeAir could potentially eliminate the job’s of Amazon workers and pose a threat to FedEx and UPS, which Amazon currently relies on for ground shipments. So the way I see it, drones (which people assume are helping businesses) could potentially be detrimental to others.

These articles reminded me a little big of our discussions about high frequency trading and technology taking over the roles of humans. We’ve created technologies to do certain things for us, but now we’ve turned a corner where it appears to me that we have taken it too far. While the Saildrone seems to be a positive use for drones (doing what humans can’t do themselves), the invention of PrimeAir seems to be an excessive use of drone technology. There are many ways to look at this and its hard to saying we should stop using drones altogether because they can be useful in so many ways. I do wonder, though, if one day they’ll be used for everything humans do and could replace us in many areas. That’s a scary thought.

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/02/saildrone/#slide-id-152781

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/01/amazon-bezos-drone-delivery/3799021/

 


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Response to Tec Blog: “Freedom of Speech vs. National Security”

// Posted by Deirdre on 02/21/2014 (4:21 PM)

By: Deirdre O’Halloran and Cora Andryc

 

 

Snowden Quotes:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/27-edward-snowden-quotes-about-u-s-government-spying-that-should-send-a-chill-up-your-spine/5338714

By: Deirdre O’Halloran and Cora Andryc

 

 

Snowden Quotes:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/27-edward-snowden-quotes-about-u-s-government-spying-that-should-send-a-chill-up-your-spine/5338714


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Assange & Snowden: whistleblowers of the internet (Tec Collaboration)

// Posted by Deirdre on 02/14/2014 (5:01 PM)

By: Molly Reilly, Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, and Claire Hollingsworth

You can be in your own home on your personal computer or tablet, yet there are people out there who can see everything you search, watch, and do. When you… Read more

By: Molly Reilly, Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, and Claire Hollingsworth

You can be in your own home on your personal computer or tablet, yet there are people out there who can see everything you search, watch, and do. When you visit certain websites they install a “cookie,” which is a piece of data kept in your browser to track your activity once you’ve opened that web page. The purpose of this is to store information for your convenience (added items in a shopping cart, edits to your facebook page), however it seems crazy that numerous websites can then access your personal information. Tracking and third-party tracking cookies can be used to get hold of your long-term history; even beyond when you had authorized a site to put a cookie on your computer (created a username or account).

This lack of privacy and lack of regulations were just a few of the reasons Edward Snowden felt an obligation to the American people to expose the NSA. His core beliefs of freedom of privacy and freedom on the internet lead him to make this massive sacrifice and turn over confidential documents. Snowden was quoted in the guardian article Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations, as saying “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” The lack of privacy at the corporate level through cookies and data tracking is a source of great concern, however the fact of government sponsored tracking is of much greater concern.

While it might not be completely ethical, corporations have gotten around the laws in order to capitalize on the data available on the internet for their own personal gain. The government, on the other hand should be there to set guidelines helping to protect us from these very corporations, not utilizing the same tactics they implement. Snowden exposed these policies in hopes of forcing government officials to rethink how they gather data and making a more transparent U.S. government. While we will never really know the extent to which Snowden made an impact on NSA policy, it has made everyone in the U.S. more aware and wary of the policy regarding privacy. We could say he has successfully completed his goal of transparency to a small degree, allowing this information exposed and analyzed.

The article “Leaky Geopolitics” looks at the unprecedented reactions of the “free world” in attempting to take down WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.  The author’s bias is evident from the very beginning: any charges against Assange were trumped up by a capitalist-governmental elite class to attempt to discredit him after the leaks began.  The way this article looks at the idea of crime — outside of formal charges, in the court of public opinion — seems to be a pretty accurate way of representing how people are perceived on the internet.  But the court of public opinion seems to be pretty divided on WikiLeaks: groups like Anonymous that prize freedom of information have stood behind the site, but other groups point to a security risk that can come from leaking government documents.

The idea that WikiLeaks and the public reaction to it can have such profound impacts on the geopolitical order –that it can lead people to question the authority of the state, and to think critically about issues of transparency and privacy — leads me to question if, in some ways, Assange and Snowden may have really won, regardless of the threats on their heads.  If the goal was to spur a conversation about these limits, it seems impossible to say that they didn’t achieve that goal with flying colors. The article also takes on the question of the government-industry connection in looking at the corporate responses of MasterCard, PayPal, etc, in taking on the role of protector and enforcer: roles usually reserved for the government, after extensive trial.  The success of WikiLeaks in exposing this portion of the problem also seems pretty undeniable.

In another article, “The War on Wikileaks and Why it matters” Author Glenn Greenwald illustrates the ways in which the U.S. Government has responded to the wikileaks. Wikileaks and Snowden have been a topic of great controversy and debate.  This has surely set the stage for political and public conversation surrounding privacy and regulation of the internet. As government officials the army and its supporters consider snowden to be a criminal and traitor, supporters of Snowden and the wikileaks revolution, see these actions as efforts to expose the government in the name of freedom of information.  Those opposed to wikileaks consider it a threat to American national safety, while Greenwald suggest sites like wikileaks are vital to Americans to provide information where the media is becoming more unreliable at “exactly a time when U.S. government secrecy is at an all-time high, the institutions osensibly responsible for investigation, oversight and exposure have failed”.  This is mostly because media and journalism are generally co-opted outlets controlled and regulated by the U.S. government more so than ever  as “private efforts to manipulate public opinion has proliferated”. Wikileaks, who consider their work to serve as the intelligence agency of the people, see the governments efforts to harass and ultimately destroy them altogether as a result of feeling threatened.

This provokes the idea, is information free?? If its not, should it be? Do we as citizens have the right to know information considered “classified”?  Wikileaks also exemplifies the rise of the term “netizen” in which people are turning to the web as a medium to facilitate social and political change. Is this a good thing? or potentially detrimental?  Setting aside personal views and opinions on the ethical side of wikileaks, it is undeniable that it has opened up the door for conversation as to whether digitization and diplomacy is helpful, or harmful.


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A World Without Internet

// Posted by Deirdre on 02/10/2014 (9:06 PM)

After reading Mark Poster’s Information Please and watching Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” I found myself trying to examine the ways in which the internet has shaped the world as we know it, and what I would do if… Read more

After reading Mark Poster’s Information Please and watching Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” I found myself trying to examine the ways in which the internet has shaped the world as we know it, and what I would do if there was no internet at all. Certain people, in countries like North Korea, only see the information that the government wants them to see. I recently read an article in which the author referred to these countries as “black holes” of the Internet, in which the people have no access to what we now know is one of the strongest tools for social and political change.

We’ve talked a lot in class this week about revolts inspired by social media and how easy it is to begin these riots via Twitter, BBM, Facebook, etc. Now it has become clear that there is a disturbingly stark contrast between our power as citizens and people who live in places like North Korea. In his book Information Please, Poster states that “the speed, the rhetorical traits, and the connectivity of the Net can be used to organize social movements…the Net affords the possibility of new forms of political mobilization” (Poster, 80). Our ability to share information and communicate so quickly with one another has given us tremendous power to change conditions of society that we disagree with, even for those of us who think we have no real political power other than voting in elections. Seeing the Frontline video about North Korea was troubling because it shows us what we take for granted and gives us insight into how different our lives might be without internet access (which allows us to see information about almost anything we desire). The people of North Korea are desperate for exposure to other cultures and even simple information about their own country and its ruler.

Many of us complain that social media and the internet are lessening our social skills or creating a reliance on technology. Seeing one alternative, though, puts into perspective how lucky we are to live in the US, a place where we can spread information freely about whatever we choose. Although some parts of the internet are regulated, we can certainly begin to appreciate the freedom and ease with which we gain access to information and communicate with each other. In seeing the conditions in North Korea, it is clear  how horrible it would be if the rest of the world was evolving and getting access to the internet and social media while we were left behind. Looking at the map of the “black holes” of the internet, I thought of how strange it would be to live in one of those places. While I do agree that many of us rely on technology too much, I appreciate it for what it is: a tool to spread information without which I would be lost.



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