DIGITAL AMERICA

Category: Pictures

Connected, but alone? – Final group experience

// Posted by on 11/25/2014 (11:29 PM)

In the digital age, we are constantly connected. Whether it be via email, Twitter, Facebook or texting the rapid advents in technology has made it extremely easy to remain in touch with friends, family and even strangers. Consequently, these… Read more

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In the digital age, we are constantly connected. Whether it be via email, Twitter, Facebook or texting the rapid advents in technology has made it extremely easy to remain in touch with friends, family and even strangers. Consequently, these social networking tools have become a mainstay in many of our lives. Heaven forbid if the Internet was to momentarily lapse. However, as we become increasingly connected via these sites, are we actually becoming isolated from one another? This is a fascinating question and problem that has been the focus of much debate in the 21st Century.

After meeting with my group we delineated about how to construct an experience around these pertinent issues. While I for one was under the impression that it would be easy coming up with an idea, given our constant use of the media, it proved more difficulty than expected. The requirement that our experience would have to take places at the James River also proved problematic. How would we emulate the notion of “connected, but alone” there? And what about the weather…November is not exactly an ideal time to spend an afternoon by a large mass of water. However, we drew links between being out in nature (a natural environment), and how it stood in stark contrast to being online (a man-made, constructed environment).  Thus, our idea of a ‘Picnic Potluck at Pony Pasture’ was born. Building upon the concept “connected, but alone” we essentially decided that we were going to sit, have a picnic, and talk to one another for about twenty minutes. However, in order to assess whether there were in fact any differences when you remove technology altogether, we would then collect everyone’s phone, meditate for about two minutes to get them “in the nature zone” and continue the conversation. The ultimate goal was to test Turkle and Tufekci’s theories. Would the conversation deeper in the absence of phones? Did people have more to talk about when they were able to bring things on their phones into the conversation? Was anyone anxious about not having his or her phone, and did that anxiety impact the quality of the conversation?

While we had worried that the cool (or worse rainy) weather would somewhat derail our experience, the sun was out in full force! We couldn’t have asked for a better day. As we sat near the river eating the spread of snacks it was interesting to note the lack of phone usage. I had anticipated greater use, but as Damian noted afterwards, because we were still technically in class, he felt that he shouldn’t be using his phone. In fact, the only ones to use their phone at all during the first twenty minutes were my fellow group members. Personally, I wanted to snapchat and take photos. Not only do I generally take many photos on my phone, but I felt that having a picnic by the river for class was such a novel thing to do that I wanted to share it with my friends both in Richmond and back home in Australia. The beautiful day only made the pictures even more attractive!

One of several snapchats I took

Just a quick photo

Nevertheless, all class members chatted freely and the conversation that emerged was engaging and interesting. We discussed a whole range of subject areas and there weren’t any noticeable lags. Our ability to maintain a conversation with one another both with and without our phones would seem to affirm Tufekci’s argument that social media and technology is not hindering our ability to communicate IRL. After all, she claims that there is no difference between online and offline, everything is real life.  However, at times our conversation did seem to jump around quickly from one topic to another. It was as if the nature of our conversation mimicked the very nature of how we communicate online. That is, in short spurts rather than in depth discussions (think of the limited 140s characters on Twitter or the innumerable threads on blogs). Thus, Turkle’s assertion that social media is having a real effect on how we interact is fare more persuasive.

Moreover, when the phones were taken away, even though I had not been using it constantly, I did feel strange and oddly unsettled. I found myself double-checking every so often to see where it had gone. In fact, had the food not been there, (acting as somewhat of a distraction) perhaps I would have become even more restless! Again, my behavior certainly affirms Turkle’s view that not only are we becoming increasingly reliant on technology, but also it is, along with social media, changing the way we act and think. As she notes, “We want to be with each other but also elsewhere.”

The goods

In terms of documentation, I was heavily reliant on my iPhone. As previously mentioned, I took photos and snapchats in the first twenty minutes of both the surrounding environment and (I’m ashamed to admit) of the spread of food (see images below). As New Media theorist (and a member of the Turkle camp) Nick Carr would argue, I was essentially looking to my devices to offload my experience and memories rather than actually putting these cultural and interpersonal experiences in long-term memory. However, as the conversation progressed I found myself documenting less and less. After all, when a conversation is engaging one doesn’t feel the need to check or use their phones. As a result, I did not document as much as in previous experiences, particularly once our phones were taken away!

Ultimately, the nature of constant connection in the digital age raises some troubling questions and presents serious issues regarding how we communicate. Despite Tufekci’s compelling and valid argument of the positive role of this new technology, I do find myself leaning closer to the mindset of the Turkle camp. While our experience may not have truly highlighted the changes in our communication, as a young adult immersed within this world I have definitely noticed the shift in the way my peers and I interact. It is a shame too, because as this experience reminded me, being out in nature surrounded by good company and good food trumps chatting online any day.


Categories: Assignments, Blog, Discussion, Pictures, Uncategorized
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Final Project: Digitisation and the Film Industry

// Posted by on 11/14/2014 (2:02 PM)

Now that my final project idea has been approved, I must somehow try to narrow my area of interest (the changing nature of film and television in the digital age). I think that the best way to do this… Read more

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Now that my final project idea has been approved, I must somehow try to narrow my area of interest (the changing nature of film and television in the digital age). I think that the best way to do this is to focus on just the film or television industry. I’m leaning towards the film industry but I am still conflicted…there have just been so many radical changes to the nature of television within the past several years!

Also, it was suggested that I chose a few key case studies examples to analyse in relation to my topic. Perhaps I could look at some cases involving huge Hollywood blockbusters, some that were successful and others that weren’t and see why this was the case? Or if I was to focus on Television then I could choose a few key shows that demonstrate how social media helped to generate a huge following or how the very nature of how they are made and released is a result of digitalisation.

Hopefully as I continue to research this area my ideas and approach will become clearer!

Below are a few articles discussing box office that have proved useful in providing an idea with the current state of the industry.

  • http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/30/movies/movies-have-worst-summer-since-1997.html
  • http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/executive-roundtable-6-studio-heads-748102?facebook_20141114

And a slightly different perspective from acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert:

  • http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/ill-tell-you-why-movie-revenue-is-dropping
19th November 2014
As I’ve been thinking more about the role of social media in reshaping the nature of the film industry, I’ve started researching not only what that impact is, but also how it is being used by the industry itself. Thus, I came across the following article, ‘How Social Media is Revolutionising the Flailing Movie Tracking Industry’, which essentially identifies how social media sites such as Twitter are now being employed to track and, consequently, predict the success of a film.

It was interesting to note in the article that, “Silicon Valley is eager to prove it can help. Google, for example, released a study last June that found that searches for movies — and especially trailers — can help predict box-office performance with 94 percent accuracy.”

  • http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/can-social-media-revolutionize-flailing-tracking-industry-107646/
Another article I found attributed the lack of success of Interstellar to bad word of mouth, reaffirming my own position regarding the crucial role that social media plays in determining the financial success of a film. While Chris Lee notes how some argue that Interstellar’s long running time can be attributed to its lack of ticket sales at the box office, Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarbedian argues that “…there are many other factors affecting the box office and this [length of a film] is just one piece of the puzzle. And there have been a host of long running time films that have done well.” Rather, “Word of mouth really hurt Interstellar,” says one veteran box-office tracker. “There was a backlash against it. A lot of people liked it. But the people who didn’t like it were very vocal about it. And that word of mouth spread like wildfire.” While Lee does not explicitly point to social media in the negative word of mouth, it isn’t unlikely that where people were “very vocal about it” was primarily on social media sites such as Twitter. Again, this reinforces my thesis that the in the digital age, digitisation of word of mouth via social media sites has had a significant impact in determining the success of a film.
  • http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/11/11/big-hero-6-interstellar-box-office/

 

23rd of November 2014

Below are a few more articles I have found pertaining to the impact of social media on the entertainment industry. At the moment, I am trying to narrow my focus, but it is easier said than done!

  • https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/blogs/025bf606-020a-48e9-89bf-99adda13e9b1/entry/by_the_numbers_social_media_impacts_the_entertainment_industry?lang=en
“How Social Media and Viral Marketing are Saving the Film Industry”
  • http://mashable.com/2012/12/19/social-media-viral-marketing-film-industry/
Although a short piece, author Anita Lee does highlight some key points regarding how the film industry is utilising social media to increase box office revenue. As Lee notes, “…the silver screen has managed to stay afloat because of the very thing that undermined it in the first place: the Internet.”

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The following article by Britt Michaelian looks at Independent cinema in particular. I’m not sure if I will look into this realm in my investigation as it may be too much to get through with a limited amount of time. Nevertheless, it is an interesting facet of the whole shift in the film industry.
  •  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/britt-michaelian/social-media-is-a-major-g_b_4284162.html
Some quotes from the article:
->“For indendepents who tend to have limited financial resources, social media is the key to connecting with engaged audiences.”

->“Independent filmmakers who are looking to produce low budget films can utilize social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram not just to promote films, but also to cast, staff and fund projects.”

->“In the Video on Demand forum, emphasis was placed on utilizing social media in every stage of the filmmaking process – pre-production, during filming and in post production as a means for independent films to stand out from the studio films that dominate 80% of views on VOD platforms like Netflix and Hulu.”

-> “…with a savvy social media strategy, it isn’t just the studios who can build a massive following for films.”

Possible case studies…
Dr. Rosatelli suggested that I might like to look at particular cases that reveal the significance of word of mouth through social media in determining the success of a film. While I am still undecided which ones to focus on in particular, I have come across a few examples that could prove effective in supporting my argument.
Sharknado (2013)
Released as a made for TV movie, Sharknado (a film about a tornado of sharks that destroys a Los Angeles community…) proved wildly successful. It’s success has been largely attributed to the use of social media.
  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/dinagachman/2014/07/29/how-sharknado-transcended-its-genre-and-became-a-pop-culture-phenomenon/
  • http://mashable.com/2013/07/12/twitter-sharknado/
  • http://www.popmatters.com/column/178634-what-does-the-success-of-sharknado-reveal-about-social-media/
“On 11 July 2013, the night on which Syfy’s made-for-television movie Sharknado premiered, the hashtag “#Sharknado” was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. Within two hours of its initial airing, the program was the source of 5,000 tweets per minute, making it television’s most social program of the evening, and Syfy’s most social telecast ever.”
“According to Craig Engler, Senior Vice President at @Syfy digital, the network used Twitter to build buzz for the Sharknado premiere. As Engler said in an interview, “Hours before the movie even aired we were retweeting the fans talking about how much they were looking forward to watching it and also tweeting out Sharknado ‘warnings.’”
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TV and social media
Although I don’t think I will focus on Television, I have come across several articles, such as the one below, that do emphasise my argument.
  • http://www.indiewire.com/article/how-scandal-and-hannibal-are-winning-the-social-media-game-20141023
-> “Nielsen studies have proven that the more a show is tweeted about, the higher its ratings go. This comes as an addition to the increasing web socialization of television viewing shaped with the help of “second screens” – that is, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Whether through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr, the idea of sharing one’s viewing experience live and through hashtags is a trend that’s quickly defining what this “golden age” of television excels at: amplifying the fan experience.”
-> ”Twitter lends itself more to the real-time conversation of live-viewing where as Tumblr is more about the extended conversation — beyond the time that a show is airing”
->“People love to talk about television and that’s why TV drives so much conversation on Facebook and Twitter,” Goldsmith said. “It’s a way for viewers to extend the couch and have more people to talk with, share with and make comments. I think as new platforms emerge, you’re going to see even more unique ways to do that.”
*****
In order to bolster my argument I need not only facts and quotes, but also concrete statistics and figures that illustrate the shifting nature of the film industry in the digital age. Thus, I have started to source articles that include such information.

‘By the Numbers: Social Media’s Impact on the Entertainment Industry’

  • https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/community/blogs/025bf606-020a-48e9-89bf-99adda13e9b1/entry/by_the_numbers_social_media_impacts_the_entertainment_industry?lang=en
From the article:
“The poll found that a majority of Millenials (those aged 18-to-34-year-old) believe using social media while watching a movie in a theater would add to their experience, and nearly half would be interested in going to theaters that allowed texting and web surfing. Users were asked what they do on their mobile device, if they use it in a theater. About 55% text, 27% visit Facebook, and 19% make a phone call.  And YET 75% of people (all ages) on social networks in this poll say that being able to use their phone in a theater would make the experience less satisfying and more distracting.”
  • http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/gallery/facebook-twitter-social-media-study-302273#9-social-media-made-critic
Taken from the study:
 
December 3rd 2014: Final post

The influx of big, blockbuster films and sequels is by no means coincidental. Hollywood studios are deliberately placing greater time and effort into producing these types of films. In fact, not only are these films now a mainstay, but there is also a growing scarcity of original stories coming from Hollywood. I’m sure we’ve all seen a preview and asked ourselves, “Another sequel?” “Another superhero movie?” And yet it’s still staggering to take a step back and see just how dire the situation has become.

In order to assess why these changes have taken place, I’ve posed the following question:

Q. What is the role of digitization in determining the types of studio films being made?

In response, I will argue that:

A. Digitization plays a crucial role as the advent of social media has made word of mouth much more of a decisive factor than it ever was before.

In order to support my argument, I’ve decided to focus on two fairly recent case studies. The Lone Ranger reveals the impact of negative social media buzz in determining box office success. The film failed to generate buzz and given the now immediate judgement of a film, it lost an incredible amount of money. Conversely, I will look at another Blockbuster (and a superhero film) The Guardians of the Galaxy to highlight that if used effectively, social media plays a crucial role in determining a film’s box office success. Even a less familiar idea like that of Guardians, if it gets the right buzz and anticipation (and generates a big initial weekend), can be a huge success. Moreover, I will assess the manner in which studios are now attempting to hedge against the threat posed by social media. Namely, the marketing strategies they employ. This will include the role of the actor, who has become paramount in generating buzz for a film. In order to keep my paper focussed, I will use Vin Diesel as an example given that he was extremely active in promoting The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Feedback

After my presentation/pitch I was provided with some useful feedback. For instance, Dr. Rosatelli suggested looking into consumer theories to support my argument, which I intend to do. Several of my classmates also inquired into areas of this topic that I had begun to consider. For instance, the impact that online streaming is having on the film industry was one issue raised. While I did consider discussing this shift in my paper, I’m not sure whether I will have enough time to do so. I may just briefly mention it as a factor, but I will primarily focus on social media as playing a greater role. Moreover, the resulting impact that digitization is having in terms of the actors and their salaries was also mentioned. There are articles being written at the moment discussing the future of the enormous star salary (i.e. paying an actor $50 million for a film) and whether is needed in the digital age with the advent of social media. While this is an interesting question, I do not think it is imperative to the line of argument I am making. Rather, I will focus more time on the current role of the actor in assisting with generating buzz for their film.

Everyone loves a survey!

I decided that the best (and simplest) way for my peers to assist me was by taking a survey. I created the survey in order to find out what draws the target demographic of Hollywood (18-29) to see a film. Is it reviews online, such as those in the New York Times? Do you go and see a movie based on the trailer and marketing? Is it the result of word of mouth? And if so, is that in person, or digitized via social media? By doing so, I hoped that role of social media would become more clear. While many did not adhere to the norms that were reported in a recent poll conducted by The Hollywood Reporter, their responses were nevertheless interesting. Only one affirmed my thesis, stating that the online reviews/buzz via social media are the most decisive factor in why they going and see a film in the cinema. The same individual also was prone to using their phone while watching a film, namely to look up a films imdb page while watching.

Perhaps most telling were the responses I received to the following questions:

  1. What type of film you most likely to see in the cinema and why?

Interesting (but not surprisingly), of those surveyed it was the men that preferred to see the larger budget, blockbuster films. For instance, Joe (20) noted, “… if I am going to spend my money on a movie ticket when I could easily see it free online in a few weeks, I want a real movie experience that is can only be experienced at the cinema. Brendan (20) echoed these sentiments, “Mostly high budget films that make use of sound, and grand visuals the most. I watch most films outside the cinema, so when I go to see a film, the cinematic setting should have contribute substantially to the experience of viewing said film.” These responses further support my claim and the growing trend that given Hollywood’s desire to target this core demographic and thus reap financial gains, they are producing more of the same. In other words, blockbuster films, sequels of those films and so forth.

What’s next?

Aside from now bringing my argument together, I still think that I could strengthen my theoretical framework. Whether that means extracting more information from social media theorists such as Danah Boyd or finding other sources (such as consumer theories) I will have to see. I will also continue to draw some conclusions from the surveys I received to assess whether any of the responses will be of use or shed new light on my paper topic.

 


Categories: Assignments, Blog, Essay, Pictures, Uncategorized
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The Great Divide – Experience #3

// Posted by on 10/15/2014 (12:37 PM)

Divisions exist in many facets of society, whether it is racial, economic or political. However, I had never truly considered the digital divide to fall into the same category. Nor did it occur to me that the effects of… Read more

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Divisions exist in many facets of society, whether it is racial, economic or political. However, I had never truly considered the digital divide to fall into the same category. Nor did it occur to me that the effects of this divide were so far reaching and could potentially inhibit a large portion of the population from engaging with society itself.

Given this extremely significant component of the digital age, I was eager to see what was in stall for the group experience. Assigned to group ‘A’ I was told to simply bring in a charged smartphone. Easy. I am very familiar with my iPhone – I use it to text, call, log on to various social media sites, take photos and so on. I was thus relieved that I would have access to my phone as opposed to members of group ‘B’ who were unable to use theirs whatsoever. However, as the rules of the experience were outlined my initial confidence began to falter. I have never used it to complete an assignment. I, like many other students with the means to afford laptops, solely rely on them to submit any written task (no matter how lengthy).  Consequently, I soon discovered the difficulty of completing the set task.

While I was able to research the question of digital copyrighting quite easily on my phone, several unexpected factors hindered the speed at which I could work. For instance, accustomed to typing on a laptop keyboard primarily using a Word Document, I struggled to type quickly or efficiently on the Notes app. As Emily or Joe dictated, I constantly found myself asking them to slow down and repeat sentences. Moreover, while we were able to access journal and academic articles online it was certainly not easy. Reading such dense material on a relatively small screen was quite exhausting, especially given the limited time frame and my familiarity with the larger screen of a laptop. However, perhaps most notable was that several sites took an incredibly long time to load. Here the efficiency of the Wi-Fi was bought to my attention. Although I did have connection, the server was simply not fast enough to complete an assignment within a limited time. If I found the experience difficult enough working in a group of three, I can only imagine the strain and stress of completing assigned tasks by oneself. As Jessica Goodman (2013) notes in her study of Newark students, ‘…many students have found it impossible to perform the same quality of work on a smartphone that they might be able to on a personal computer.’ Thus, despite Vinton G. Cerf’s claims that access to the Internet is not a human right (2012), it is clear that restricted access does pose serious issues. Now, having experienced these limitations first hand, it is clear that having restricted access does prevent individuals from both participating in, and completing a set task.

Waiting for the page to load…

Forming our argument using the ‘Notes’ app on my iPhone

Interestingly, not one of us went to a book or any other physical material to assist in our research. Although we were literally sitting in a library we nevertheless relied solely on our smartphones, our  ‘…portals to the web’ (Goodman, 2013). This choice speaks volumes for how we access information in the digital age. In fact, our group used the University of Richmond’s app to access the Boatwright Library’s catalogue rather than taking advantage of the librarians or the library itself. While it was thus a faster way to complete the task, it did make me wonder whether the quality would be as thorough…

Accessing the library catalogue via the UofR app

However, what I was most concerned about was whether we would actually be able to get on a computer. Having worked in a library, I am astutely aware of the difficulty of accessing one given that so many other individuals are constantly on them. Again, this is another setback that individuals without easy access to technology must endure. Luckily we managed to grab the last remaining one in the assigned area (therefore avoiding what could have been a highly dramatic scene). With only ten minutes remaining Emily quickly typed up our group response on a word document. We had (miraculously) managed to submit our assignment. Of course, whether or not it was a quality piece of work remains to be seen.

Moreover, the question we were asked to answer as part of the experience proved challenging given the highly divisive nature of the topic itself. After much deliberation (Digital divide audio) we decided to tackle the question by arguing that “rather than perpetuating inequality, digital copyrighting inhibits expression and creative freedom.” While we found relevant cases and recent examples to support our claim, I still am not entirely sure where I stand on this matter. On the one hand, given my interest in films and television (and that I make my own short films), I am completely aware of the difficulty of using any existing material – even the briefest clippings. As someone who is also unable to pay for the rights to use existing material, I agree that these copyright acts seriously limit the freedom of creative expression. Yet, at the same time, if someone has produced a creative piece of work (that they’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating) then the idea that of someone else taking it and using it as they please, without asking for permission, seems utterly wrong. What is the difference between this act and theft? Is it acceptable because it isn’t a physical act of theft as say stealing an artwork is?  Perhaps one solution is the Creative Commons (CC) site that has been established to encourage interaction between the creative communities. That is they are “…devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.” The site acts as a mediator for individuals to ask for permission to use an artist’s work as opposed to just taking it.

In terms of documentation, I took a few photos before and after the experience as well as several screenshots on my phone (and of my screen). However, given the frenzied pace at which we were working, I was not able to document as much as I would have liked to. Thankfully, Dr. Rosatelli was also documenting the experience, providing us with access to additional images and video footage. The video footage was particularly useful as it captured all group members actively engaging with the task and thus also helped to jog my memory of what we were thinking during the process itself.

Ultimately, this experience raised some interesting questions and certainly challenged my own experiences with technology. While I have grown accustomed to having easy access to laptops and high speed Wi-Fi, there are innumerable individuals with limited or no access whatsoever. This gap is startling. It is imperative that there are actions taken to reduce it, or we risk living in an increasingly divided society.


Categories: Blog, Discussion, Pictures
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Big Brother is watching you

// Posted by on 09/21/2014 (10:34 PM)

Mass surveillance. Hacking. Whistle-blowers. The interconnected world of technology and national and international governments is complex, fraught with illegal activity and dubious justifications. At times is hard to believe that these occurrences aren’t merely a storyline of a Hollywood… Read more

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Mass surveillance. Hacking. Whistle-blowers. The interconnected world of technology and national and international governments is complex, fraught with illegal activity and dubious justifications. At times is hard to believe that these occurrences aren’t merely a storyline of a Hollywood film, but our reality. Nevertheless, given the task of conducting an immersive experience drawing upon the core components of this largely hidden world, I along with three of my classmates began deliberating what we would do.

At first, we were somewhat perplexed. How would we draw upon our studies of this topic area given that it is so entrenched in technological practices that are not only difficult at times to understand, but also virtually impossible to recreate? Even Fred Turner states that it is a language very few can understand! One suggestion was to infiltrate the University of Richmond’s security room, and somehow incorporate this means of mass surveillance into a game of hide and go seek, monitoring our classmates every move. However, we soon realised the inherent difficulties of this lofty ambition given the various codes of conducts put in place by the University to protect student’s privacy (If only this were the case outside of UR!). After a few more somewhat unrealistic suggestions that required skills beyond our reach (hacking our classmates Facebook profiles), we finally arrived upon an idea. Taking inspiration from our quiz, I had begun thinking of a sort of role-playing game in which each classmate would assume the identity of one of the prominent figures we have been studying (Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, the NSA, etc.) That is, a simulation on a micro level of what has and is taking place in the digital world. By doing so, we would each essentially be walking in their shoes, trying to understand these events from their perspective. While initially we imagined the experience taking place outside, whereby everyone would stand up and move around to discuss tactics to other characters (in a way emulating the ability of such worms as the STUXNET in manipulating physical things), the logistics of doing so proved tricky. Thus, we agreed to remain in the classroom (in a model UN fashion) and utilise a PowerPoint that would act as a visual aid, guiding participants though our experience.

Let the games begin…

Having drawn out characters in the previous class, it was wonderful to see that everyone really jumped on board with our role-playing concept. The props/costumes were great and I felt that they added both an element of playfulness and enhanced the notion of getting into the mindset of one’s character. For instance, as Russia, I decided to draw upon the nation’s relationship with Edward Snowden to inform my visual cues (see image below).

Snowden’s Russian passport (with an additional sign reading ‘+3 years’ in reference to the recent extension of his immunity), a welcome sign and a typed sheet of notes on Russia for the experience.

After debating “Which is more valuable, cyber freedom or cyber security?” (Part 1) in the guise of each character, the experience shifted into part 2: Simulation. Again, we wanted everyone to remain in character to reinforce the notion of thinking and seeing these situations from their point of view. However, given the structure and layout of the questions there were two possibilities offered each time. There would always be a more logical response of the two (see example below). However, in order to avoid a simple yes or no answer, we added a guideline that required a justification of one’s decision.

Simulation question

This segment of the experience revealed the vastly different mindsets of the players. As Glenn Greenwald noted, Snowden sees his role as a whistle-blower as a matter of principle, one that isn’t informed by a motivating factor such as money. Thus, during the experience it was interesting to note the contrast between this highly moral mentality and that of Silicon Valley. For instance, when posed with a choice between giving the government its customer’s information and having to pay an incredible fine (a simulation of the 2007-08 Yahoo case), Silicon Valley ultimately sold out in order to ensure the continued success of their business.  (Click the link below to hear audio)

Digital America Experience – Sound recording

Having successfully journeyed through the simulation, we arrived at our conclusion: the hypothetical simulation (part 3). Essentially an extension of part 2, here the aim was to encourage more creativity and freedom in responses to the hypothetical questions we created (i.e. “Snowden is tracked down and captured by the NSA…. What do you do?”). There would be no right or wrong answers. Although questions were still directed at a particular player, we hoped that they would only initiate the response with others contributing as well.

While for the most part the experience ran smoothly, there were at times lags in the conversation. This required a bit more prompting from myself and my other team members in order to enhance and develop the topic at hand. Also, given that some characters were more prominent in the events, this meant that certain class members were provided with a greater opportunity to become immersed in the experience. Nonetheless, we managed to sustain our experience for the hour – a task that is much harder to achieve than one would expect! The experience also revealed just how difficult it truly is to navigate this murky area of technology and mass surveillance, affirming Mark Poster’s assertion in Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines of how traditional forms of power are becoming more complicated and less reliable. I found that it was often hard not only to justify my decisions as Russia but also to ensure that those decisions would ultimately further my own objectives. Moreover, I’m sure many felt victimised during the experience, particularly the NSA who constantly had to defend their actions to multiple parties. It was not difficult to understand how sovereignty could be ‘opened up’ to new and intense forms of critical public scrutiny (‘Leaky Geopolitics: The Ruptures and Transgressions of Wikileaks’).

In regards to the documentation process, we decided to try and emulate the covert techniques favoured by such government agencies as the NSA. Thus during the experience I, along with other group members, recorded the whole conversation using the voice memo app on my iPhone. By doing so, we hoped to emulate the invasive technology employed as a means of mass surveillance by the American government and their affiliated bodies (listen here for another snippet of the experience recorded -> Digital America Experience -Sound recording). Moreover, the audio proved useful in triggering my memory of how the experience played out. I also took profile shots of each participant before the experience commenced as a means of enabling the reader to see how everyone approached their prop assignment (pictures can often be more telling than text alone -see end of post for images). Of course, the additional effect of black and white helps to recreate the air of mystery and tension that has always surrounded the world of espionage. Yet, in using my iPhone I was reminded of the opposing forces between freedom and transparency in our digital age. Although my phone provided a sense of freedom in recording the experience in a multitude of ways, I too was essentially using it as a means of surveillance.

Class members as their assigned ‘character’

Ultimately, despite ebbs and flows in the conversation, the underlying ideas coupled with the enthusiastic participation of all involved brought our experience to life. While Edward Snowden argued his position stating that, ‘You can’t wait around for someone else to act’, perhaps only those with his level of intellect and know how can indeed act within this dangerous environment. After all, as our experience revealed, at the end of the day the NSA/US government will stop at nothing in the name of “protection”.

 


Categories: Assignments, Discussion, Pictures
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I-Campaign Funding?

// Posted by on 02/11/2012 (8:08 PM)

Imagine being able to accept credit card payments from anywhere. Imagine holding a bake sale to raise money for a charity and being able to take donations straight from your phone. Well that’s what Read more

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Imagine being able to accept credit card payments from anywhere. Imagine holding a bake sale to raise money for a charity and being able to take donations straight from your phone. Well that’s what Square does. With the simple device and a easy to use app, you can take credit card payments/donations from anywhere. The entire setup is completely free you get the device and the app for free but there is a percentage taken out of each card swipe that the company keeps. The money is deposited into your account the next day and then you are good to go. Kevin Rose gives a quick demo just to show the pros and cons of the device.

But not just everyday people are using this app. Politicians are jumping on this bandwagon and using Square to start funding there political campaigns. President Obama has always been campaigning in new and upcoming ways. In his 2008 campaign he had an app designed to let his voters read news about the campaign, check local events, and help with campaigning. Now these presidential campaigns are adopting this new technology where supporters can download the app and collect donations for the campaign from anywhere they want. The use of social technologies like twitter, facebook, and myspace have only made the switch to the anywhere donations so much easier. Supporters can follow links and donate straight from there, but now with square anyone can collect donations for these political campaigns.

So what does this change? Campaigning has changed so much over the years and in so many ways. It has become more dependent on technology to spread the word and find more supporters. Is this a good thing or has it become to easy. Are Politicians getting let off easy in there campaigning? Do things like Square make it better for the supporters or easier for the candidates? Is it still a political race and not a popularity contest? Are we voting for people because they have apps and facebook pages or are we voting for people because their views coincide with ours?


Categories: Blog, Pictures, Video
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