DIGITAL AMERICA

Category: Discussion

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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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.


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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”.

 


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Experience #1 – 90s chat room and nostalgia

// Posted by on 09/08/2014 (12:20 PM)

Logging on to LALive, I was immediately taken back to my childhood. The format of the site, with its minimal text and now primitive graphics, reminded me of my early experiences with the Internet and computers in the late 90s… Read more

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Logging on to LALive, I was immediately taken back to my childhood. The format of the site, with its minimal text and now primitive graphics, reminded me of my early experiences with the Internet and computers in the late 90s and early 2000s. Having grown up with the Internet and thus easy access to an abundance of differing social networking sites, I assumed that this experience would largely be the same. However, it didn’t take long for me to realise that the multitude of differences, no matter how small, had a significant impact on the way I interacted online and my perception of online communication itself.

The first thing that took me by surprise was just how swiftly the conversation moved. While we almost exclusively kept within the realm of the predetermined theme of 90s and early 2000s nostalgia, the format of the site made it incredibly difficult to keep up with the particular point at hand. Having constantly to hit ‘reload’ ensured that I was always frantically scrolling back down to see the previous responses, only to find after reloading again, that the conversation had taken a completely new direction. Iscream4icecream perhaps most succinctly noted this frustrating limitation of the site when they responded, “I said that earlier!! no one appreciated it” (see end of post) upon the new focus of the conversation on Tamagotchis, a toy they had mentioned in an earlier post. Moreover, anytime I switched tabs to Google something that another user had mentioned, by the time I returned I found myself about five topics behind, so that my newly sourced information was no longer relevant. By doing so, I was also alerted to the ease at which I was able to switch back and forth from the chat room to other sites, a feature of contemporary computers that would have been largely non-existent in the 90s. The experience would have thus been far more immersive than instant messaging today, where one always has their eye on multiple pages and conversations. Given this restriction of early online forums, it isn’t difficult to see why the WELL was perceived as a mode of recreating the counterculture ideal of a shared consciousness.

Although I could not have anticipated the difficulties posed by reloading, I was far more surprised by some of the issues I faced in the early stages of the conversation. For instance, for about the first twenty minutes, I simply forgot that I could copy and paste. Instead I was laboriously retyping each username that I was directly addressing. Strangely, it seems as though being on an old-fashioned chat room made me forget about contemporary computer shortcuts, as if for some reason they wouldn’t apply. Here too, the advances in online communication became apparent in that I was unable to ‘tag’ or initiate a private conversation with just one user. Everything that I posted was essentially public to anyone who logged onto the chat room. Thus, although at certain points I responded to one particular user, with so many other active users the point soon was lost, left behind as others moved on. Had this been the case today, I would have simply created a new, private message to that user whether it was through iMessage, Facebook or even Snapchat, and continued the conversation in greater depth. Further, if you did not include the username to whom you were responding, confusion could again arise. For instance, in screenshot #2, Lux replied ‘Such a good show’ yet looking at the previous posts it is not clear which show they are referring to. It could have been an afterthought to their earlier post “’Oh Lizzie McGuire’ or to ‘Air Bud was the shit’ or even to Heisenberg’s post regarding ‘Courage the cowardly dog’. Consequently, I began to wonder just how substantial a conversation could be on these types of online forums in the 90s, particularly given that the price of the Internet was far more expensive than it is today. If conversations were only brief or constantly disrupted by differing streams of thought, was the notion of a ‘shared consciousness’ online ultimately undermined?

The inability to add links to videos or post images was another stark point of difference with how I communicate online today. While I had never truly considered how convenient this tool is on contemporary social networking sites, it certainly became apparent on LALive. At certain points, I would have liked to include an image or link to emphasise a point or add another level of interest. This restriction of the site meant that I had to think more carefully about what I wanted to say and just how clear it would come across to the other users.

However, one feature of the site that I would be interested to see make a resurgence is the anonymous username. Not only was it entertaining to come up with our own handle, but it also provided a sense of freedom. By having no profile image or personal information attached to your posts, there was no risk of being forever associated with your comments or statements. There was, for instance, no need to be embarrassed by admitting your love for Britney Spears. While Turner asserts that some subscribers on the WELL, such as Carmen Hermosillo, felt like they were performers, ‘…selling themselves to other readers…’ I did not notice this play out on LAlive. Of course I only logged in for the hour, but certainly in comparison to how individuals harness social networks today it seemed like a more genuine and less edited space than say an individual’s Facebook or Instagram profile. Again I believe this distinction can be attributed to the anonymity that the site enables and the absence of images, filters and other editing devices. After logging off, I wondered if in today’s society, which has witnessed, as Norberto Gomez, Jr. notes, the ‘commoditization of one’s own identity’ an anonymous online presence would be as effective? Would the separation between one’s identity and their words be considered too radical or would it provide welcome relief from the constant influx of private information being made public?

Ultimately the hour flew by. Despite the inherent limitations of a now out-dated site and the difficulties in adjusting to such differences, I found my time online to be a genuinely enjoyable experience. After all, at its core the site enables users to communicate and share ideas with other individuals, and if the conversation is good then everything else is secondary.

Screen shot #1:

Screen shot #2:

Note: Given that the conversation required my full attention due to the rapid pace at which it was moving, I chose primarily to take screenshots as a means of documentation. By doing so, I was able to go back and reread at least parts of the conversation as it occurred which, in turn, served as reminders of my experience. However, I also took the occasional note using the ‘stickies’ application on my computer in order to ensure that I remembered some key points I found interesting along the way. Further, the inclusion of two screenshots in this post emphasises some of my key points relating to the challenges the site presented, with the visuals providing the reader with a more vivid image of the chat room itself.


Categories: Assignments, Blog, Discussion
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The Paradoxical Freedom of Technology

// Posted by 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

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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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Can we all live the American Dream?

// Posted by on 03/30/2013 (1:58 PM)

A population within the immigrants in America are called the DREAMers, but who is counted as one? Quoted from the immigration policy, it defines DREAMers as immigrants ‘who are under the age of 31; entered the United States… Read more

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A population within the immigrants in America are called the DREAMers, but who is counted as one? Quoted from the immigration policy, it defines DREAMers as immigrants ‘who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.’  They meet the requirements for the DREAM act in which DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. The immigrants who are considered to be DREAMers are mostly Mexican and often live in the southern states California and Texas.

The children who meet these standards often did not have a choice to come to the United States, since they were often too young to know what was going on and came with their parents. What one could question is whether the parents made the decision to come to the U.S. to see if they can live the ‘American dream’. Coming from the Netherlands myself, I am foreign to the ‘American Dream’, the only way that I get my information and read stories about it is online.  

The ‘American dream’ has been around since 1932, when John Trislow Adam described it in his book ‘The Epic of America’. It was the idea that anybody could work his way to the top, but only through hard work. Regardless of what social class one was born in, everybody had the opportunity to grow to better circumstances. 

What I have read is that it is mostly immigrants who try to go to the United States in order to pursue their American Dream. They might come from poor countries and give up everything so that they can live a better life economically. The question is, whether the ‘American Dream’ still exists, even now after the economic crisis and the difficulties that came with it. In the Netherlands there are still some people who would like to come to the US in order to ‘make it’, but these people are mainly artists and musicians. I cannot speak for the whole Dutch population, but to me it seems like our vision of the ‘American Dream’ slowly disappears, yes there still is social  mobility in America, but mainly because of the crisis they view the idea of the ‘American Dream’ being achievable more pessimistic. 

Coming back to the fact that since I am not from here, my only information comes from the (online) media. The media does portray a certain idea of the ‘American Dream’, as soon as there is a story of someone who became successful in America the media will link it to the ‘American Dream’. I personally think the spirit of the ‘American dream’ still exists among Americans, however it seems like the chance of getting to the top and become real successful is smaller for people who grew up in poor neighborhoods. There seems to be luck involved next to the hard work to achieve the dream.

The End of the American Dream?

This video is an example of online activism, that try to argue that the American Dream does exist and should be reclaimed by the working and middle class.  It seems that the middle class is slowly decreasing and the gap between rich and poor become bigger. Change to win therefore tries to unite the ‘ordinary people who work’ in order to show that the ‘American Dream’ does exist and should be pursued. It can be critiqued whether the ‘American dream’ does exist or if it is not just a myth.

How is the concept of ‘American Dream’ viewed in Mexico?  Do people think it still exists? Or is it just a myth? Also, does digital media demystify or strengthen the ‘Dream’?


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Modern Warfare

// Posted by on 02/25/2013 (8:38 PM)

Thinking back about a discussion in class about the modern age and warfare. We read an article on Stuxnet which showed us that there was a cyberattack on Iran by the US government. Also, reading back on different WikiLeaks… Read more

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Thinking back about a discussion in class about the modern age and warfare. We read an article on Stuxnet which showed us that there was a cyberattack on Iran by the US government. Also, reading back on different WikiLeaks articles it made me think more about if countries go into war with each other, what will the war look like, is it old fashioned fought by the military or is it maybe more fought online?

The Stuxnet article showed that nowadays people can actually get into machine systems by the internet. Both have different coding, however people found a way to get into the system by a virus which used a zero-day exploit to spread. So, if it is possible to manipulate a working machine, in this case centrifuges that were enriching uranium, do we still need physical troops to go to the country? In the case of Stuxnet they did have an insider in Iran which delivered the virus via USB. Then still it would be possible to just send one guy undercover instead of troops.

Even if it might be possible that wars will be fought via the Net, there is still the terorrism threat. The Internet is nowadays also often used by extremist groups who starts forums in which they can express their opinions and hope to find other extremists. One of these forums, the Shumukh forum, which is one of the major jihadist forums, say that there is a conspiracy to destroy Syria. The countries involved in this will be the US, Iran and Israel. It predicts that everyone will be exhausted, all weapons will be destroyed and  civilization will go back to the time of Stone Age. If this is true, it means that instead of a cyber war the alliance of US, Iran and Israel will actually have an intervention to destroy Assad’s regime.

Interesting to see is that the Stuxnet mission was from the US government who tried to stop Iran’s nuclear plant, and this mission was actually intervened by different antivirus experts who worked together to actually stop the virus and thereby going against the US government. Thus on a cyberlevel, different countries can work together easily by getting experts to work out of their home, which also shows that boundaries actually vanish in this cyberworld. Now it was against one government, but what if on both side multiple countries join..

The article about the intervention in Syria, shows that even though there is the use of the internet by these different extremist groups, countries still think about getting their physical troops involved. I would think that maybe in the modern age the internet or just computers in general will be a way in which countries will be able to intervene in their local politics. Looking back at WikiLeaks, government secrets leaked so other countries knew about their plans, their secrets and other issues that were going on. If every country knows about the government plans and ideas of other countries it seems like there will be a world in which everybody knows what will happen.

Will this increase a threat of global warfare, or will it remove any threats. Governments know then that whatever they plan, will be out in the open..

 


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Safer to drive?

// Posted by on 02/17/2013 (10:20 PM)

Post 9/11 a lot changed about the airport security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was set up to strengthen the security of transportation systems, which is evident in many airports where there was a large increase in security checks… Read more

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Post 9/11 a lot changed about the airport security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was set up to strengthen the security of transportation systems, which is evident in many airports where there was a large increase in security checks before even going into the different gates. New technologies are used, for example instead of the metal detectors there are now the large scanners which make a full body scan of you in order to check if you do not have any metal on you. Also, before going into the airport attendants check your passport and picture, and nowadays they also often ask for your fingerprints.

Coming from Europe myself, it is always interesting coming into the United States from outside. One has to go to immigration where they take your fingerprints, take a picture with a webcam and ask question about your destination and aim of your trip. If they even think you are not serious and joking around, they might take you back into a small investigation room. In Europe people do not have to take off their shoes for security and they only make use of a metal detector and X-ray machine for hand luggage, there are attendants who ask you a few questions whether you packed your own luggage and if you did not receive anything from someone and then you go on to the gate.

So, do these security measures make us safer or is it too exaggerated? Also, why do security procedures differ per country, is there a different threat of terrorism?

An interesting point in an article in Businessweek was that airport security actually makes people less safe. Many Americans decide to drive for their family holidays instead of flying, this has increased after the security procedures increased post 9/11. Even though the procedures changed because of the fear of terrorist attacks, researchers showed that the chance that the death of an American citizen is because of a terrorist attack is 1 in 3.5 million. So, people did not want to go through the hassle of airport security however it does not even have to be such of an hassle as that the TSA made it.

Something to think about, are the technologies good enough to find all suspicious objects, like bomb(parts) and is the full body scan really better than the old school metal detector, or is it just slowing down the security checks?  Why do I, as European, have to give my fingerprints every time, is it not better to save all the information in a worldwide database?  What do you think?


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GoogleTube

// Posted by on 02/04/2013 (1:12 AM)

 

M&A

As an aspiring corporate lawyer, I’ve done a good amount of research into how companies and corporations split up their legal departments. A large part of most every legal department is mergers and acquisitions (m&a),… Read more

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M&A

As an aspiring corporate lawyer, I’ve done a good amount of research into how companies and corporations split up their legal departments. A large part of most every legal department is mergers and acquisitions (m&a), which, according to the WikiPedia definition, is an aspect of corporate strategy, corporate finance and management dealing with the buying, selling, dividing and combining of different companies and similar entities that can help an enterprise grow rapidly in its sector or location of origin, or a new field or new location, without creating a subsidiary, other child entity or using a joint venture.”

We all know how wildly successful Google has become- not just as an internet search engine, but as a nearly ubiquitous “brand of internet.” To “google” something has become a real part of the English language, and the word has become nearly synonymous with internet use. Counterculture to Cyberculture told us that “like the rural landscape of the 1960s, Barlow’s cyberspace would stand beyond government control.” Google, however is certainly not beyond government control.

The company has grown to outrageous proportions through mergers with and acquisition of over 120 different entities, among them YouTube (bought for a steal $1,650,000,000 in 2006) and DoubleClick (online advertising firm bought for $3 billion in 2007) to Motorola Mobility (bought for $12.5 billion in 2011). These acquisitions have been rendered into such household names as Google Maps, Google Docs, Gmail, Google Analytics, Android, Google TV, and the list goes on.

These transactions are by no means maverick in nature. The Farlex Legal Dictionary tells us that “federal and state laws regulate mergers and acquisitions. Regulation is based on the concern that mergers inevitably eliminate competition between the merging firms. This concern is most acute where the participants are direct rivals, because courts often presume that such arrangements are more prone to restrict output and to increase prices. The fear that mergers and acquisitions reduce competition has meant that the government carefully scrutinizes proposed mergers. On the other hand, since the 1980s, the federal government has become less aggressive in seeking the prevention of mergers.”

So, yes, ”The online masses have an incredible willingness to share. The number of personal photos posted on Facebook and MySpace is astronomical, but it’s a safe bet that the overwhelming majority of photos taken with a digital camera are shared in some fashion. Then there are status updates, map locations, half-thoughts posted online. Add to this the 6 billion videos served by YouTube each month in the US alone and the millions of fan-created stories deposited on fanfic sites…Operating without state funding or control, connecting citizens directly to citizens, this mostly free marketplace [the internet] achieves social good at an efficiency that would stagger any government or traditional corporation.” (The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society is Coming Online). That’s all valid. In fact, it’s just peachy. But the truth remains that the internet, no matter what we are able to share, is pretty well guarded. It’s not Barlow’s maverick cyberspace anymore…

http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/17-06/nep_newsocialism?currentPage=all


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A Case For A Faceless Internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Andrew Jones


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Paradoxical Power of the Internet

// Posted by on 01/20/2013 (7:29 PM)

The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens? (video)

Professor Rosatelli tweeted a link to an RSA Animate adapted from Evgeny Morozov’s talk on the internet in society. The video exposes myths about the freedom and transformative power of technology – specifically the… Read more

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The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens? (video)

Professor Rosatelli tweeted a link to an RSA Animate adapted from Evgeny Morozov’s talk on the internet in society. The video exposes myths about the freedom and transformative power of technology – specifically the internet. Morozov agrees that the internet and connectivity can promote reform, change and ultimately democracy but he argues that people ignore the fact that the internet is also a place that dictators and authoritarian governments can for their own benefit. He calls us to consider the intended uses of technology v. the actual uses of technology.

This video led me back to this week’s class reading on “The Shifting Politics of the Computational Metaphor”. The chapter gives a history on the paradoxical power of the internet and technology; Free Speech Movement thinkers such as Dyson and Barlow believed that technology empowered the people and was an outlet to overthrow bureaucracy even though it was simultaneously being used by the Government for purposes of military command and control. Turner poses an important question: “How was is that the informational economy came to be seen not as an oppressive force, but as a site of political and cultural change?” (16).

This issue of the paradox of the internet (and technology as a whole) is still ongoing as we see authoritarian governments, such as China, not only censoring the internet but using the internet for their own propaganda. China is currently paying people, often referred to as “50 cent armies”, to put out pro-government messages and create anti-democracy bots. So what does this mean for the future of the internet? Is it really a source of social change or is it being used for more bad than good? When looking not just at how politics have polluted the internet but how social and digital media outlets have been used to bully and promote negative lifestyles, I believe that there were high hopes and aspirations for the internet but that the reality of it isn’t as positive or pretty as we had intended.

sources:

Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/12/31/twitter_bots_for_democracy_could_combat_authoritarian_governments_50_cent.html


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Who are you?

// Posted by on 01/20/2013 (5:20 PM)

In a course that I took, called Cultural Studies, we had to read articles about shaping one’s identity. One of the articles talked about how social media, for example Facebook, on one hand helps to shape or improve your own… Read more

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In a course that I took, called Cultural Studies, we had to read articles about shaping one’s identity. One of the articles talked about how social media, for example Facebook, on one hand helps to shape or improve your own identity but also to create a new identity.

The show ‘Catfish: the TV show’(MTV) reminded me of this topic. The show is about online relationships between people who met each other via Facebook. The question remains whether the person that one has been talking to is the person he says he is or whether he made up a fake profile on Facebook.

Personally, I think it is interesting to see how social media influences the way people think about themselves, not only that, it also makes people want to be a certain way.  In the show, the reason that some of the people have a fake profile is that they are not happy with the way they look and they use someone else’s photo as their own. This shows that nowadays our society is really focused on looks, every advertisement you see will have ‘beautiful’ people in it, which most of the time means thin and flawless skin.

Every person is different. However, with Facebook it is possible to create a person that is more attractive, in looks but also in personality. The argument of the article that I read was that most people who create a profile want to be likeable. Even though they use their own name, pictures and interests. Most of the people do not post every picture; embarrasing pictures will often be left out. Also, petpeeves or interests that are uncommon, will probably not be posted on Facebook.
Why do people not show their whole personality? Are they not pleased with how they are?

An answer to that question will have something to do with the fact that you do not have to show everything about yourself, you could only post the good characteristics and the common interests. This makes people in a way ‘improve’ who they are. Often, people find it easier to talk online, since one does not have to respond immediately and one does not see the reaction of the other person. Since social media is used by many people, there is a big chance of talking to a fake profile; someone who pretends to be a certain way.

Do you think people show their true selves on Facebook?

If not,  should they?

A fun little video about this topic:

Is Facebook Changing Our Identity?


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Need a lyft?

// Posted by on 01/18/2013 (10:58 PM)

As cities become increasingly crowded, finding taxis and getting around can be quite a task. Especially if you do not have a car of your own. Now, thanks to a few startups, navigating cities has become easier and more pleasant.… Read more

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As cities become increasingly crowded, finding taxis and getting around can be quite a task. Especially if you do not have a car of your own. Now, thanks to a few startups, navigating cities has become easier and more pleasant. Just look at the Lyft service in San Francisco. Founded on the platform of friendliness, Lyft offers a ride with a smile that is supposed to be an experience that parallels a “friend with a car on demand.” (Lawler, 2012) In order to become a Lyft user, you must download the app. The app works with GPS in the drivers phone to trace the cars and find a lyft near you. You can then request the car to bring you from point A to point B. Another service similar to Lyft is Uber, which started in San Francisco also but has moved to Boston, New York, Washington DC and more. Uber is slightly more luxurious and offers cars with the town-car/limousine effect. Lyft offers a rate similar (and sometimes cheaper) to hailing a cab, while Uber’s prices equate to about a cab and a half. Both are iPhone operated and working on Android apps. Uber faced backlash from city governments that argued against using GPS as a commercial mechanism as well as stating that the cars are not licensed cabs. Some critics claim that because the drivers are unlicensed, the user is at a higher risk. The truth is though, that the services use a multi-step, intensive background check to scan and test its drivers. In every city so far, the controversy has settled and Uber deemed officially legal.

With new startups like Lyft and Uber changing the way people move around cities, what will happen to the yellow taxis of New York City? Will there still be a need? As the app-run car companies become more popular, the influence on the existing street cab economy is unclear. Lyft and Uber offer more personal relationships with drivers and each user and driver has the chance to rate the other on experience, friendliness, cleanliness and more. This rating is then used for your profile and for example, someone with a higher score is more likely to get picked up than someone with a lower score. Convenience is a key factor; users have existing accounts, making the transaction cash/credit card free because the fee is just added to the account. People will theoretically no longer need to wait in the rain for a car, or run to the ATM to be sure to have cash for a cab. These small conveniences make a meaningful difference to a lot of users.

In my personal experience, both of these services have come in extremely useful in different situations. While Uber’s service is somewhat pricey in comparison to a normal taxi, I was able to get a car right outside of Grand Central Terminal in NYC around the holidays, a feat that is nearly impossible. In San Francisco, I took the Lyft service multiple times because street taxis were few and far between. In every instance, the driver was friendly and chatty. One driver even offered beverage and snack services! My experience with both services was more pleasant than an average taxi service and I would endorse both of them (if you’re willing to spend the extra dollars on Uber). It will be interesting to see how the industry of app-operated taxi service expands over the next couple years and how that growth influences street taxis.

Sources:

http://techcrunch.com/2012/08/25/lyft-san-francisco-launch/

http://www.wired.com/business/2012/08/uber/?utm_source=Contextly&utm_medium=RelatedLinks&utm_campaign=Previous


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Safer than hiding it under the floorboards…

// Posted by on 01/17/2013 (11:24 AM)

Let’s play with some verbal association: when you hear the word “bank,” what comes to mind?

For me, its pretty easy: I see a heavy, stately two-story stone building with four granite doric columns and intricate stonework above the thick… Read more

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Let’s play with some verbal association: when you hear the word “bank,” what comes to mind?

For me, its pretty easy: I see a heavy, stately two-story stone building with four granite doric columns and intricate stonework above the thick brass doors. The facade might have an inscription like “FIRST NATIONAL RESERVE” and have V’s instead of U’s–you know what I mean. According to the Mostly Economics blog, “The architecture is not merely about aesthetics, of course; banks are designed to convey strength, stability, and security to would-be depositors.”  The form of a bank has always fit its function: back in the day, they were built to embody the ideas of strength, integrity, and security. People wanted brick-and-mortar assurance that their money was in good hands. Apparently, that mode of thinking has been completely phased out…

Today, more banking happens online than in person. Aside from just commercial markets, indexes, and global trading, more and more personal banking is happening in cyberspace. It’d be difficult to find a major bank today that does not offer an iPhone app to “bank on the go.” This author alone has made use of Citizens, Citibank, and Wells Fargo apps. These apps, however, are more like extensions of physical branches rather than self-sustaining online banks.

Here’s a video demonstration of the GoBank app:

According to Wired magazine, the banking industry has evolved even further to include GoBank, a “new bank that has no branches, just an app.” (Wohlsen) The article details a new venture by Green Dot, the popular prepaid debit card company that is popular among those with no bank account, to create a completely online bank that is accessible only through the app. “Our bank was created from scratch,” Green Dot founder and CEO Steve Streit said at GoBank’s San Francisco unveiling. “It’s not a mobile app that was bolted onto an online version of a brick-and-mortar bank…the GoBank app offers all the features and services expected of a 21st-century checking account, from paying bills to checking balances to depositing checks by smartphone camera. But Green Dot hopes GoBank’s single-minded focus on the mobile user experience will peel away customers who manage most of their day-to-day lives through their phones and are tired of waiting for their current banks to catch up with that idea.” Sam Altman, Green Dot’s VP of mobile services, says the market for the app, which is comprised mostly of people under 40 who have an iPhone or Droid and are dissatisfied with their bank, is larger than one may think.

So, is GoBank a good idea? Are there any serious societal implications that we can extrapolate from people using GoBank? Will people start switching their banking to a completely online service or simply use it along with their existing bank accounts? Do you trust cybersecurity enough to invest your entire paycheck into an exclusively online bank? The economy has always been intangible, a figment of the imagination necessary to make the world turn…

 

Sources

http://www.wired.com/business/2013/01/go-bank-pay-what-you-want/

http://mostlyeconomics.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/history-of-commercial-bank-architecture-design/


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Phase Two

// Posted by on 04/24/2012 (9:39 AM)

My personal blog: http://amstproject.wordpress.com/

The theoretical foundation to my project was JCR Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis Theory. The focus lay in the technologies that seemed to embody Licklider’s theory and to assess how close American society is to achieving Symbiosis as Licklider… Read more

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My personal blog: http://amstproject.wordpress.com/

The theoretical foundation to my project was JCR Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis Theory. The focus lay in the technologies that seemed to embody Licklider’s theory and to assess how close American society is to achieving Symbiosis as Licklider imagined it and whether or not this would be a good think for American society.  Based on the analysis of the technology I chose: Sixth Sense, Project Glass, iLimb, and Proto 2, and their individual capabilities I concluded that we are close to achieving Symbiosis but that it would not be beneficial to society.  That conclusion was based on my reading of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, as he enumerates the effect the internet has already has on the brains of internet users. Internet is as ingrained in American culture as baseball and apple pie. And Symbiosis with computers at this stage would not doubt include a symbiosis with the internet. The hours America spends on the net now is doing damage to our capability to think deeply and focus for extended periods of time. If America were to be constantly connected to the internet deep thought, focus, and creativity would no doubt become archaic things of the past.

Anyway, enjoy the blog and start with the posts at the bottom or go by the list at the side. The order in which they should be read are as follows:

The Project

The Research

Feed by M.T. Turner

Narrowing the Project

Discoveries Thus Far

A Switch from Shirky to Carr

Analysis: How close are we?

Ultimately

CITATIONS:

Anderson, M.T. Feed. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2004.

Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.

Licklider, JCR. “Man-Computer Symbiosis.” IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, Volume HFE-1. March (1960): pages 4-11. Found online at <http://groups.csail.mit.edu/medg/people/psz/Licklider.html>

Mistry, Pranav. “About.” Sixth Sense: Integrating information with the real world. Accessed April 23, 2012. <http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense/>

“NPR Books” NPR. April 23, 2012. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11280318>

The feedback from my classmates lacked citation but did provide some links as follows:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGwGTh3grco

http://www.touchbionics.com/products/active-prostheses/i-limb-ultra/

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/breakthroughs/4224764

http://www.oandp.com/articles/2007-11_02.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto_2#cite_note-0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SdwVCUJ0QE

http://www.seoboy.com/product-review-google-goggles/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9c6W4CCU9M4#!

http://nvonews.com/2012/04/05/google-project-glass-or-google-goggles-expected-features/


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MIT’s Tetris Hack

// Posted by on 04/22/2012 (3:05 PM)

 

We all know the students at MIT love a good hack, but what’s better than playing a game while doing it? Last night, a team took over the side of MIT’s Green Building and turned it into a giant,… Read more

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We all know the students at MIT love a good hack, but what’s better than playing a game while doing it? Last night, a team took over the side of MIT’s Green Building and turned it into a giant, playable, multi-color Tetris game.”

The Full Article Here


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Phase One: Man-Computer Symbiosis

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (11:23 PM)

I am exploring  J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis theory, the implications it had when Licklider published his 1960 article, where we stand now in our relation to technology, and based on research whether or not society seems to be fulfilling this… Read more

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I am exploring  J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis theory, the implications it had when Licklider published his 1960 article, where we stand now in our relation to technology, and based on research whether or not society seems to be fulfilling this theory.  Licklider’s theory states that “man-computer symbiosis is a development in cooperative interaction between men and electronic computers. It will involve very close coupling between the human and the electronic members of the partnership.”

The research questions I started with were; what is the historical significance of Licklider’s theory?  What technological advances are fulfilling this theory? How close is this to happening as Licklider imagined it? Is Man-Computer symbiosis a good thing for humans?

The natural roadblock to this is the fact that my project is capable of going in a lot of different directions.  So it was a little difficult to narrow down what I wanted to focus on.  When I was exploring another theory over the course of the semester, whose name escapes me, I was looking around on youtube for applicable videos. I found what I need but as I read through the comments I came across a recommendation for the book Feed.  It was described as an example of where our digital age is taking us. Because I had an oceans worth of information I could explore I started with Feed, I knew it would apply in some way and might help me to narrow down my topic.(The following video discusses Feed briefly but portrays the essence of the book nicely.)

I was also told of a TED talk by my suite mates that described a new way of using computers.  Seeing potential for this to apply to my project I investigated.

With Mistry’s Sixth Sense Technology, Feed, and Licklider’s theory I figured out how to narrow my project. I initially planned on researching Sixth Sense Technology but decided I wanted to expand that and explore prosthetics as well.  This is where my classmates come in.  I picked four pieces of technology; the google goggles, sixth sense technology, i-Limb, and Proto 2 by DARPA. I asked them for an explanation of what the technology is and does? How does it embody Licklider’s theory? What kind of innovation can you see happening that would  further exemplify Man-Computer Symbiosis? I also found a senior thesis from MIT titled Pilot: A Step Towards Man-Computer Symbiosis that I asked for feedback on as well.

For the second half of the project I intend to learn more about the technology I have chosen and to finish Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky so that I can hypothesize the effects of Man-Computer Symbiosis on our society. Having read Feed it will be hard to keep that from giving me a bias however, Shirky should help counter that.  In general, the project hasn’t changed much in theory, it was just difficult to put into reality.

 


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Islam in Christian Social Media

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (9:59 PM)

4/24/2012 UPDATE: So my project has made some major shifts since I made this Phase 1 post, but I believe they were all for the better.  I studied the differences between Godtube, Islamictube, and YouTube,… Read more

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4/24/2012 UPDATE: So my project has made some major shifts since I made this Phase 1 post, but I believe they were all for the better.  I studied the differences between Godtube, Islamictube, and YouTube, in relations to Islam/Christianity relations and what this indicates for American culture.  You can read my blog HERE.

 

In a small section of the social media world, are Christian social media sites.  These are sites that are committed to Christianity and its users commit to posting information and media that is family-friendly, uplifting, and of course, Christian.  For my project, I have been looking mostly thus far at Godtube, because I just recently had Faithbook approve my application to become a member and have not had time sufficient time to look around there yet.  I have looked through Godtube and watched many videos about Islam, looking at the messages that lie in them.  There are hundreds of videos on Godtube that fit within the search guidelines of Islam.  Of the ones that I have watched, the messages have been strongly negative, focusing on how Muslims are told in the Quran to murder Christians or any other non-believers.  These are often coupled with images of Middle Eastern looking people holding signs about killing Americans, Christians.  While the messages that are present are threatening, there is usually some reference to September 11, 2001, which makes it clear that the Americans may fear Muslims now more than ever because of the terrorist attacks.

I have listed the links to a couple of the strongest videos below (unfortunately I am unable to embed Godtube links into WordPress):

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JE01BMNU

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=CFMCCNNU

Both of these videos, and many more like them, have strong messages about Islam being anti-Christianity and therefore, anti-American.  And the vast majority of the comments on these videos on Godtube are supportive of the messages in the videos.  What is difficult about this project is it can be boiled down to a he said, she said argument, and it is very difficult to tell which side is correct.

For my question to the group, I asked them to think about the big picture and see if there was anything that I was missing in my research, any other avenues they thought I should look down.  And then I asked them to poke around on Godtube and see what they found and to comment on anything interesting/unusual. (I did not ask them to go to Faithbook, because it would take too long for them to be approved by an administrator). Most of the responses that I received suggested that I look at the Muslim side of the issue, to look at Muslim social media sites and see if I can find anything similar.

This is a fairly large change in the project because instead of just looking at the one side of the issue, I am going to look at what the other side is saying too.  No longer is this project devoted to Christian rhetoric about Muslims, but not Muslim rhetoric about Christianity and a comparison of the two.  I hope that this will be a beneficial and fruitful change, but time will tell.

For the second half of the project, I plan to do just that.  As I continue to explore Godtube and start looking through Faithbook, I will look at Millat Facebook, which apparently is the Muslim Facebook and see if there are any posts, forums, or any other content about Christianity.  I will compare the messages that each sends with the way that they portray themselves and attempt to explain what this rhetoric says about American culture.


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Slacktivism (Phase 1)

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (9:29 PM)

The focus of my project is slacktivism. In recent years, activism is changing as a result of the use of social media. Thus, I had many initial questions:

Does a shift in how activism is carried out, change activism all… Read more

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The focus of my project is slacktivism. In recent years, activism is changing as a result of the use of social media. Thus, I had many initial questions:

Does a shift in how activism is carried out, change activism all together? On a very basic level, what is activism today? Since it is so easy to become an “activist”, do individuals know what they fighting for? If activism is usually described as vigorous campaigning, is this new activism through social media too easy? What does pure activism lose when social media becomes part of the equation?

Obviously, these initial questions are very large brushstrokes when exploring slacktivism (a new theory in and of itself). Still, they have been very helpful in engaging slacktivism as each individual question acted as a jumping off point.

Like anything, my project has faced some roadblocks. First of all, slacktivism is a huge topic so I had to find a way to reframe my project on some more specific questions that were relevant to the notion of “Digital America.” My research was spawn by the eruption of the Kony 2012 campaign. Kony seemed to be a prominent example of how formal “take to the street” mentalities of protest have morphed into “click (or like) to support” campaigns. Thus, I engaged in Facebook and Twitter to understand the nature of this new activism, slacktivism. I then took it a step further and looked into three websites that encourage virtual protests, petitions and activism:

  • Change.org
  • MoveOn.org Civic Action Center – SignOn.org
  • ai50.ca/smac (Canada’s Amnesty International)

Each of these three sites have a clear culture. Change.org seems to be the easiest to navigate which suggests that it is more accessible to the generationally-diverse public. You sign petitions on Change.org, but the site also provides tips on how to rally through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Trayvon Martin Petition Goes Viral on Change.org

Canada’s Amnesty International has a Social Media Action Center which “gives you the opportunity to take a simple action for justice every two weeks from May 2011 to May 2012. These actions link with Amnesty supporters from across the globe.” Thus, becoming part of the action center for AI takes a little more commitment since you have to sign up, but its nature is the same in terms of social media. The site explains that virtual events are online protests, which “take the idea of a traditional protest and [bring] it to the digital world. Virtual Events bring people together at the same time to speak out about the same issue. Each event is made up of digital actions, like signing a petition or posting a Facebook message. On [the day of the release] everyone’s posts, tweets and emails are sent out at the EXACT same time. The result? Networks and inboxes are flooded with the same message at the same time. Pretty powerful!”

Social Media Action Center

It seems that MoveOn.org and SignOn.org are the least accessible and mainstream. Of course, both have users, but unlike AI and Change.org the users seem to be a much more specific group. Unlike the other two sites, it does not encourage its users to share in the same capacity (e.g. Facebook and Twitter).

SignUp.org

Through this semester, much of what we have read has contributed to the theory in which I have based my research. The shift in activism suggests Marshall McLuhan’s idea that the medium is the message—without the medium of Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites, slacktivism would not be possible. The fact that individuals can instantly organize and support throughout the world at the same time is another example of how powerful the medium is with regard to slacktivism. Additionally, Poster also suggest that multiculturalism or diaspora leads to global understanding which is turn can lead to the sort of activism we see today. On each of the sites I have engaged in, the causes are not located in any one location, the causes effect various and diverse places in the world. Like the causes, the supporters are more all over the world. This suggests that borders have begun to disappear relative to the increase in protest social media. The notion of feedback is also key. It is much easier to get an individual to support a cause, when their feedback shows that their friends also support the cause. This is the power behind the AI SMAC and sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Shirky’s theories are also immensely powerful in this discussion. Through my research thus far, it seems that it is important that “Everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody knows” when it comes to slacktivism?

For my group assignment, I asked the group to look into one of the three above sites with these questions as a framework to look into one of the three sites: Is it “American” to want low-risk, low-cost, technologically mediated participation/activism? If it’s not “American” what is it? What are the positive and negative outcomes of such participate (slacktivism)? I felt as those these questions would be crucial in reframing my broad research of slacktivism to fall more in line with the focus of the course. However, I also provided the group with my initial research questions to give them a background of my project. So far the feedback I have received has fallen in line with what I myself had found on the sites.

Phase 2 of my project will be focused on the questions I provided to my group for feedback: Is it “American” to want low-risk, low-cost, technologically mediated participation/activism? If it’s not “American” what is it? What are the positive and negative outcomes of such participate (slacktivism)? I am going to really engage more of Shirky’s theory to better address these questions. The following parts of Shirky’s theory from Here Comes Everybody will be particularly helpful:

“[B]ecause the minimum costs of being an organization in the first place are relatively high, certain activities may have some value but not enough to make them worth pursuing in any organized way. New social tools are altering this equation by lowering the costs of coordinating group action.”

“Information sharing produces shared awareness among the participants, and collaborative production relies on shared creation, but collective action creates shared responsibility, by tying the user’s identity to the identity of the group.”

“Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society, they are a challenge to it.”

 

Here’s the link to my final blog!


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Collective Intelligence

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (8:17 PM)

As a final project for this class, I have created this blog which focuses on the theme of collective intelligence, specifically in scientific research. The blog represents several weeks worth of research exploring how CI currently works in science… Read more

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As a final project for this class, I have created this blog which focuses on the theme of collective intelligence, specifically in scientific research. The blog represents several weeks worth of research exploring how CI currently works in science and what are the problems/prospects of CI in the future.

The initial questions which shaped my research were:

  • What is collective intelligence?
  • What can we learn from the history of CI?
  • How does digital media amplify our abilities to work collectively?
  • How has AIDS research utilized CI? Where was AIDS research before CI?
  • Is AIDS research possible without CI?
  • What is the relationship between CI and American capitalism?
  • How has CI changed the business landscape?
  • As social beings are we naturally inclined to think/work collaboratively?
  • Have we created a social system that goes against our own evolution?

Using the game Foldit as a case study, I examine how Collective Intelligence can enhance science. Foldit was a game created by professors at the University of Washington to utilize the human brain’s problem solving abilities in order to find the lowest energy structure of a given protein. Similar to the game of Tetris, gamers reshaped proteins and were awarded points for finding correct arrangements.  In my description and analysis of Foldit, I incorporate different types of media by using screen shots from the game, a video of MSNC coverage of the results, as well as a video about the game made by the University of Washington.

Foldit is a great example of collective intelligence because over 200,000 players downloaded the game, many of the top players had no background in biochemistry ( in fact one player who excelled was a 13 year old boy who played under the name Cheese), and players could communicate and build off each other’s solutions.  In addition, Foldit is a great example because without the game, scientists may never have found the solution. Scientists worked for twelve years, exhausting numerous different approaches. Once they opened the problem up collectively and tapped into the spatial reasoning abilities of volunteers, gamers found the solution in a mere ten days.  I then talk about how digital media enhances the ability of collective intelligence by provided a third space that is free of time constraints, geographic limitations, age, gender, or sex qualifications, and provides access to a multitude of resources.

The next part of my argument deals with why collective intelligence is so difficult in science. My original intention was to talk about collective intelligence in business but I ended up talking about science because Foldit was more applicable. I may still extend the scope of my argument to include business as well.  I use an article published in the Boston globe as well as the scholarship of Michael Neilson to argue that currently, scientists have a disincentive to share their research with others because they are competing to be the first to make a discovery and to publish their work. Publishing papers results in known benefits such as credit for their discoveries and securing grant money for future research. On the other hand, although sharing data is highly beneficial, the rewards of doing so are so far unclear and undefined.  To date, the most successful examples of CI in science such as Foldit have been conservative in that they used collective means to find a solution but their final result was still a traditional academic paper. The rare exception is the Human Genome Project, which was successful only because top scientists in the field came together and formed an open data agreement which was backed by the grant agencies.

In response to the current structure, Neilson imagines a future where all scientific data can be made open and available through the use of the internet.  He, and others who support CI, are the leaders in the Open Science Movement. They propose that any publicly funded science should be open science. According to Neilson, this can be changed in two ways. Firstly, scientists can get involved in open science programs, start an open science project, or encourage and give credit to their colleagues who are doing open science. Secondly, non scientists should create general awareness about the importance of open science to pressure the scientific community to work openly. These methods should be successful because the only current barrier to open science is the way that conservative scientists currently look down on CI as lacking prestige and being beneath them.

I then briefly engage psychology theory which demonstrates that our brains are designed to work collectively. And this leads me to the biggest question of my research which I will tackle during phase II. Given the fact that our brains are naturally designed to work collaboratively, and the system we currently work in does not encourage collaborative efforts, have we created a system which goes against our own evolution?

In contrast to my argument that science is structured away from CI, I would like to discuss how some businesses have realized that it is in their self interest to adopt collective intelligence practices. Perhaps as this becomes a larger trend in business (i.e. grant companies) it will become a more accepted practice in science as well. In addition I would like to use both Howard Rheingold and Clay Shirky to talk about the current state of CI and the prospects for the future. What CI projects are being created/implemented today and what is the potential of future projects? How far can we take CI in science or in other words, how open can we make science and what kind of discoveries could be possible?

For my group assignment, I have asked my classmates to help me format my blog.  I have asked for advice on themes or formatting techniques which would make my layout reflect the theme of collection intelligence: i.e. less heirarchical and more web-like.  So far the advice that I have received has pertained to specific themes to try out and a website that generates custom themes. I plan to test drive each of these themes and attempt to create my own.

 


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Digital Politics- Phase 1

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (6:04 PM)

My final blog can be found at:

Digital Politics

 

Digital Politics

Research Problem

For this project, I wanted to look, generally, at digital politics, and specifically at the reciprocal relationship between the two. Although my original research question dealt… Read more

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My final blog can be found at:

Digital Politics

 

Digital Politics

Research Problem

For this project, I wanted to look, generally, at digital politics, and specifically at the reciprocal relationship between the two. Although my original research question dealt with the influence of American politics and the American political process on the rest of the world with the role of networked, digital technology, I decided to first dissect the tole of networked, digital technology and its influence on American politics and the American political process. Since this is such a broad topic, my research focused mainly on the influence of networked, digital technology on major political elections

Theoretical Foundation

My arguments were formed, for the most part, after reading  the chapter “Citizens, Digital Media, and Globalization” in Mark Poster’s Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines. Mark Poster made a number of points in Information Please that I feel no longer represent the nature of digital politics. My research began, then, by attempting to highlight these points, and then to understand in what ways these points no longer hold true.

Initial Questions

My first question came from the following passage on page 71 of Information Please:

“Critical discourse currently locates an antagonism between globalization and citizenship. The deepening of globalizing processes strips the citizen of power, this position maintains. As economic processes become globalized, the nation-state loses its ability to protect its population. The citizen thereby loses her ability to elect leaders who effectively pursue her interests” (Poster, 71).

My problem with this statement stems from the last sentence. In my opinion, American citizens have gained, rather than lost, the ability to elect leaders who effectively pursue their interests. My argument here is that the internet has afforded the American citizen unprecedented access to potential leaders, coupled with an extraordinary change in this relationship, from one sided (the potential leader speaks to the citizens) to bidirectional (through digital technologies like social media, the citizen now has a fast, easy, and efficient method in which to talk directly to their potential leaders; see: Obama’s Google+ Hangout)

My second question came from the following passage on page 73 on Poster’s Information Please:

“Self-constitution of consumers spills over into politics as citizenship becomes an extension of consumption. What is more, as consumption has become more political, so politics has become a mode of consumption. Candidates in elections campaigns increasingly rely on media t o reach their constituents. Political advertisements are the chief means of conducting campaigns. The primary means by which citizens obtain information about candidates is the television set, bring politics to individuals in the same way they experience entertainment. The deep consumer culture of the television medium is merged with the electoral process. And celebrities from the domain of entertainment, a major aspect of consumption, become credible candidates for high office with no particular training or experience, as evidenced by the election of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger as governors of California. We are indeed in a postmodern world of the consumer citizen” (Poster, 73).

For the most part, Poster is actually helping me support my argument, in that he points out that politics has become a mode of consumption. My problem with this passage lies with the sentence “the primary means by which citizens obtain information about candidates is the television set.” While statistics obviously vary depending on the source, I’ve noticed a general trend over the last ten or so years that illustrates a shift from television to internet in terms of where people in our generation get their political information. Furthermore, I would argue that culture of the internet medium is far more merged with the electoral process than the television ever was, given the ability of the citizen to access information whenever they want online, versus whenever an advertisement happens to play on television.

From these general questions, I was able to somewhat narrow the scope of my research question. By looking at the newer, bidirectional relationship between the citizen and it’s potential leaders, and by realizing that the average American between the ages of 18 and 29 has officially moved from relying on the television for information to relying on the internet, I decided to look at how effectively the American political process is using networked, digital technologies, and what the consequences of this relationship might be. Poster begins to answer this question by looking at some existing political formations:

“The objection to the argument for the netizen might be raised that the Internet promotes, even enhances, existing political formations. The Zapatistas and the neo-Nazis alike further their political ambitions by means of Web sites, Listservs, blogs, e-mail, chat rooms, and so forth. In heavily mediatized societies, political candidates of all stripes deploy the Net to their advantage. Reform movements in China and Eastern Europe depended on the Net… to spread their word and foster political change. Countless experiments could be named, such as the City of Santa Monica’s Public Electronic Network, which use the Net to extend democratic processes. The demonstrations in Seattle early in the year 2000 against the WTO and the World Bank, as well as the general process of globalization, benefited in addition by the ability of the Net to aid the work of organizing political protest. These examples all bespeak the ways in which the Internet can function within existing political structures” (Poster, 79).

Lastly, Poster hints at the fact that the consequences of the relationship between networked, digital technology and the American political process is a break down of American Politics and the creation of newer political structures:

“There is, then, at least one political novelty specific to the Internet that I choose to highlight. The internet holds the prospect of introducing post-national political forms because of its internal architecture, its new register of time and space, its new relation of human to machine, body to mind, its new imaginary, and its new articulation of culture to reality. Despite what may appear in the media of newsprint and television as a celebration of the Internet’s harmony with the institutions of the nation-state and the globalizing economy, new media offer possibilities for the construction of planetary political subjects, netizens who will be multiple, dispersed, and virtual, nodes of a network of collective intelligence. They may resemble neither the autonomous agent of citizenship, beholden to print, nor the identity of post-modernity, beholden to broadcast media. The political formation of the netizen is already well under way, bringing forth, as Heidegger, might say, a humanity adhering not to nature alone but also machines, not to geographic local identity alone but also to digitized packets of its own electronic communications. The import of these speculations is… to call to attention to the possibility for the establishment of global communications, one that is more practically dispersed across the globe than previous systems, one that is inherently bidirectional and ungovernable by existing political structures” (Poster, 84).

This passage aided in the construction of my final research question by bringing up the idea of collective intelligence: networked, digital technology is made up of both the citizens who use the technology and the technology itself, begging the question of not only how this online collective intelligence will influence the American political process, but how American politics influence the network? Embedded within this question are several key points, including the effectiveness of this utilization, the consequences of the relationship, and the future of digital politics.

Roadblocks

Politics is a touchy subject, with a wide spectrum of views and beliefs. For this reason, a major roadblock in my research has been subjectivity. Any published research on the subject, despite a necessary need for unbiased analysis, has the risk of being somewhat opinionated or swayed. When attempting to gauge the effectiveness of various online campaigns, every analysis must be taken with a grain of salt, and I’ve discovered that I have to constantly fact-check many of the articles I’ve read and videos I’ve watched. Unfortunately, twitter has been one of the biggest roadblocks for this project. As a massive social media site, I have spent a long time browsing political twitter users and the responses to their post. Being a personal-use site, however, there is a lot of bias and it is often difficult to sort through the opinion to find the facts. If anything, however, this roadblock will most likely end up becoming a part of the answer to my research question.

Supporting Media

For this project, I have utilized a variety of social media websites, focusing on the networked aspect of digital technology. The sites I spend the most time on are Twitter, YouTube, and various political blogs and websites, such as Politico, the Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post. Of these, one of the most valuable resources has been YouTube’s political section, which organizes videos by candidate and also compares each candidate by the number of videos on their channel and the number of subscriptions to their channel:

Group Assignment

For the group assignment, I wanted to try to eliminate some of my own bias in researching these questions. Because politics is such a polarized subject, I asked my group members to pick a candidate (Obama, Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum), and to do some general browsing of these candidate’s digital presence, such as on twitter, youtube, Facebook, etc. I was interested in how effectively or ineffectively these candidates have been using their online space, and what some of the pros and cons of their use were. I was most interested at this time in Santorum, considering the day I assigned this project was the day he suspended his campaign; I was interested to look at a possible correlation between a failed digital campaign and this suspension.

Cameron chose to look at Ron Paul’s digital campaign. Cameron pointed out that Ron Paul has an extremely active online presence, on websites such as twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Specifically, it seems as though Ron Paul’s supporters are the most active online when compared to other candidate’s supporters. In contrast to Ron Paul, Natalie reported that Newt Gingrich’s online campaign has not been going so well, and has been struggling to utilize the Web in an effective way. Lastly, Renee looked at the online campaign of Mitt Romney, and discussed how his online videos rarely speak to the issues, but rather either attack Obama or promote himself as a “family man.”

From this assignment, I plan on focusing in on specific ways in which the candidates use these websites. Natalie pointed out that many tweets relating to Gingrich were very wordy or linked to other websites, something that is seemingly detrimental to getting his message out there. I would like to compare specific uses such as this between the candidates as a possible way in which a lack of understanding of how people use social media may negatively impact a campaign, versus very tech-literate supporters, such as those that Ron Paul has, positively impact a campaign.

Future Research

I feel as though the phrase “Digital America” takes on an enhanced meaning when speaking about politics. With an increased online presence of candidate campaigns, the election truly has moved online, and America that results from this presidential race will truly be one that, I think, will be decided in a completely digital way. The final phase of this project will require a much more in-depth analysis of the remaining presidential candidates, and how effectively they use networked, digital technology. Furthermore, I want to look at the opposite side of this relationship, and analyze how the networked, digital technologies utilized effects how the candidate’s shape their campaign. Lastly, I want to fully connect the theoretical points Poster made about the relationship between politics and the Internet, by more fully understanding the applications of networked, digital technology for the American political process and American politics; this will require diving into the scholarly research of the effect of the Internet on politics, and using my research of the candidate’s online presence as supporting media.


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The US Message Board & Online Anonymity (Phase 1) With Link to Final Project Blog

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (5:09 PM)

Click here to visit my final research project blog…

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Throughout this semester the topic of online anonymity keeps resurfacing in different avenues of the digital landscape. In my project, I have immersed myself in the US Message Board website.… Read more

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Click here to visit my final research project blog…

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Throughout this semester the topic of online anonymity keeps resurfacing in different avenues of the digital landscape. In my project, I have immersed myself in the US Message Board website. The US Message Board is an online political forum that includes many different categories of politically related topics (such as: politics, religion, healthcare, conspiracy theories, race/racism) as well as more miscellaneous/general topics (such as: sports, food and wine, etc). While some users can choose taglines that reflect pieces of their assumed-to-be-real names, most choose fictional tag names, incorporating to some extent the idea of anonymity.

Many people critique the educational value, or lack thereof, of discussion forums like US Message Board. During my digital travels, I have been reading discussions while thinking about the following questions: What causes people to feel this way? Do users accredit their posts’ information or educational background? How do users interact and are discussions advanced? How does the idea of anonymity play into the discussions? Would they be different without it?

When I began my immersion in the US Message Board (USMB) site, I began by reading their “Rules & Regulations”. While the overall tone of the page at times appeared humorous and sarcastic, there were basic rules that they regularly enforce. Among them: linking information to sources (citing), no pornographic/obscene/indecent images, all users share the right to express their own beliefs/faiths/opinions, and every user must not reveal personal contact information about themselves or others (full name, address, phone number, and e-mail address). This page ends with, “Currently whipping the hamsters to keep things running.” In a way, USMB acts a little like 4chan – except it doesn’t tolerate porn. Every user utilizes an anonymous identity, and they can say whatever they want (though USMB doesn’t tolerate as much language as 4chan does). After reading these rules and concluding USMB members might be like 4chan users, I braved myself for some low-level educational value in the discussions. However, the topics on USMB actually hold relevance and importance; unlike say the “Sexy Beautiful Women” category on 4chan.

Since the USMB features so many different discussion topics, I decided to narrow down my investigation to the current debate over taxes. The discussion titled, “So people who earn a million a year pay a lower tax rate than the middle class” has been my latest investigation. While the first post presented how much a person earning a million dollars a year would pay in income tax versus a person earning fifty thousand dollars, shutting down the seemingly naïve claim of the discussion topic. Then you get someone commenting about how most Americans do not pay their fair share, then comes a user commenting “Obama bin lying…”. This combination of substantial, “fact” filled posts with random comments that don’t seem to add anything has appeared to be a common pattern in USMB discussions.

However, I have found (much to my surprise) many posts that seem to contain factual, relevant information that sparks questions and feedback that advance the conversation (not always the original discussion topic, but the current conversation of the board). Contrary to the USMB’s Rules and Regulations, many of these statistics, “facts”, or quotes ever appear to be cited to referred to another source. How can I accept these claims to be true? Many of the USMB users seem to either agree with other users’ uncited claims – perhaps by either knowing them to be true (if it could be considered general tax knowledge) or by blindly accepting and trusting their community’s members.

That being said, there are some comments by users who seem to have the untrusting reader in mind. One user provided links to various news articles, providing a point of information he summarized below each. While you didn’t have to agree with his conclusions, the sources he was basing them off were there for you to see. This brave user was consequently shut down immediately by the next user who picked specific points from the various articles to dismantle the other user’s claims. Poor guy.

While people like Stewart Brand envisioned online communities to be a place of trust, growth, and educational expansion, I cannot confirm this ideal for the USMB – at least not yet. While many opinions are made on the site, the replies seem to most often spark a back and forth bashing of different viewpoints, never opening up the table for compromise or an understanding of opposition.

In a series of negative reviews of USMB, retired users explain how much the site has changed since they initially began using it. The changes described remind me much of what many of the hackers we read about in Vanity Fair. Many of the USMB users became trolls and hackers who threatened other users via private messages with physical violence – including rape. Other threats were made verbally (well typed) with obscene language, which is tolerated on the site due to users’ protest for “freedom of speech”.

As of now, it seems my original doubts about anonymous online communities being a place for positive educational growth have been mostly confirmed. While I, like retired users, admit to many discussion posts containing educational, worthy information, sometimes it seems these posts are overshadowed by the hackers who use it for harm or uneducated users who post solely to undermine opinions not aligned with their own.

In the next phase of my project, I want to explore more discussions on taxes in other digital spaces. I will compare discussions utilizing anonymous identities versus real ones. How will the discussions be different? Will people be more concerned with citing their sources in an effort to legitimize their comments? Will people be able to criticize other posts as easily as they do in the USMB? My thoughts now are that when people post under the anonymous mask (and without source references), they feel much more confident and free to write whatever they wish, while users utilizing a true identity take more precaution in their online posts.


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Phase 1: Running Through Media

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (2:47 PM)

See my completed research project at Run. Tweet. Blog. 

Research Problem

Before starting my research I hypothesized that the intermingling between the strong emotional tie that runners have with running and the massive connectivity that new media offers has… Read more

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See my completed research project at Run. Tweet. Blog. 

Research Problem

Before starting my research I hypothesized that the intermingling between the strong emotional tie that runners have with running and the massive connectivity that new media offers has led to the growth and popularity of running.  After hours of research it appears to me that the online running community is bigger than I would have ever imagined. Fitness and health is continuing to rise as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.  One of the least expensive hobbies and ways to exercise is running. How has new media instigated this culturally change?

Initial Questions: New Media Leads to Rise in Popularity of Running; Digital Road Race

Initially I was particularly focused on how new media stimulated the increase in popularity of running. I was interested in the idea of a Digital Road Race as that seems to me the epitimy of use new media impacting the sport. A person would sign up for the race, receive a T-Shirt in the mail, and on a specific date and specific time runners would go for a run wherever they were located. This concept completely takes away the physical barriers needed to participate in a run.  With this concept it is clear that new media has broken the physical barriers to runner a race. People can run in the same race at the same time all across the globe. Therefore, while new media brings people together in conversation, it appears that it can also break physical contact. So does media bring us together or pull us a part? Ultimately, I think it brings people together. I don’t know many people who participate in digital road races. Most people sign up for races do so for the community experience—to be with people, to test yourself, to bring out your competitive edge.

Roadblocks: How does the online running community connect with American culture?

Professor Rosatelli prompted this question on my proposal and it completely changed the shape of my research. As I read blogs, running boards, various websites dedicated to running, scholarly articles, and even perused Pinterest I realized that there was a call from the American people for discussion about fitness and running.  Currently, more than one third (35.7%) of adults and 12.5 million children and adolescents in the United States are obese. This reality is tragic, yet social media has brought this American struggle to the forefront of many people’s lives.

Several of the blogs that I found are written by people who either currently struggle with weight loss or began writing their blogs as a testimonial to their success in maintaining physical fitness. Some bloggers even blog about their struggles with disordered eating and how running has helped them handle and even over come their negative eating habits. In my research I discovered that food is one of the primary topics in all aspects of runner’s social media. Bloggers and forum users a like suggest the best fueling techniques for optimal performance. No longer do you need to see a certified nutritionist to tell you how to fuel your body, you can simply read people’s blogs to see what has worked for them! Recipes sharing is also a major component of runner’s blogs. In fact, many of them even have a separate tab viewers can click on to just view their recipes.

Perhaps most surprisingly, I discovered that there appears to be a shift in what makes a beautiful body. Typically people think of women as desiring to be super model thin, but with the overwhelming push towards physical fitness in America is seems to me that it is becoming more desirable to be strong and fit.  Pinterest’s Fitness page for instance is littered with images of women with strong bodies and workout regiments with an emphasis on weights lifting.

 

Supporting Media

In my research I have looked at numerous blogs including Twenty Six and Then Some, Run Eat Repeat, Chic Runner, and Runner’s Rambles. Most of these bloggers also use Twitter so I followed them and found that most of the tweet about their workouts and recipes they enjoyed. I think that keeping a public documentation of their work holds them accountable. I have also perused Pinterest (yes—it’s research!) Read the message board at Letsrun.com and perused Flotrack.com and digitalrunner.com. I even came across a great collection of Lululemon motivational youtube videos!

 Theoretical Foundations

I am primarily focusing on Hansen’s theory of interdependence of content and form—essentially how runner’s use the new media and for what purpose.  In his book Hansen discusses McLuhan’s theories about how the adaptation of a particular medium impacts the experience at a greater rate that it used to.  This relates directly to runners because as they use new media to document and communicate their experiences the feedback is instantaneous. A runner can blog about his or race experience, ask a question about fueling or shoes and he or she will get inundated with responses from readers.  As Hansen’s states “By taking full advantage of the many to many connectivity facilitated by the internet, the explosion of user-generated digital “content” had refocused the function of computational media from storage to production, from archiving of individual experience to generations of collective presence of connectivity.”

 What did I ask from my group?

I asked my groups to look at some of the media sources that I have been using my research and give me feedback about how they viewed the information. I wondered if they saw any connections to some one the theory that we have been studying. I asked them to do this because I felt that I had become so immersed in it that perhaps I wasn’t seeing the full picture anymore. Just like when you’ve lost your keys and you search the entire house for them with out any luck, but once you ask a friend to help they are right in front of your eyes!

Molly looked into two well read blogs, Twenty Six and Then Some and Run Eat Repeat. She too noticed that they were both primarily about running and food yet one seems more personable than the other—something I had not realized. However, she does point out that the lack of anonymity makes the blogs much more personable than if you did not have a name or a face to put to the author.  Both of these bloggers provide pictures and some details about their daily lives outside of the running world. In that sense, the reader truly feels like he or she personally knows the blogger.

What will I continue to explore? What questions are left to answer? How has the project changed thus far?

While I was originally interested in how the popularity of running soared because of the internet, I am know more focused on how the American culture and Digital World—Digital America—have come together to shape the existing running culture. I still need to dig more into the theory, especially some of Shirky’s ideas about social media.


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Online Support Communities: Digital Networking Cancer Patients

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 


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Electronic Dance Music and American Culture (Phase 1)

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (12:17 PM)

Skrillex, a popular producer of EDM, at a live show

Here is the link to my final project!

My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it… Read more

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Skrillex, a popular producer of EDM, at a live show

Here is the link to my final project!

My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it would. Initially, I wanted to explore the similarities and differences in the hippie culture of the 1960s-1970s and the rave scene that is becoming a part of mainstream culture today. While trying to connect these cultures to theories that discuss digital media, I realized that the idea might be too broad to fully explore in the amount of time that we have. Simultaneously, I learned that electronic dance music, the epicenter of rave culture, is so deeply rooted in the Internet that without the technology we have today, the genre wouldn’t exist. EDM exists through the production, sharing, and reproduction of music on the Internet through podcasts, blogs, and artists’ websites. Additionally, the blogs that the genre relies on to spread the word about new music are technically illegal because they rarely pay for their music. Many popular EDM blogs have been shut down for posting links to illegal downloading websites, an issue that has been growing in the past few years.
My research problem is to discover what EDM says about American culture and how it gets the message across. In this aspect of culture, the medium is very important and the way that music is both produced and spread is essential to understanding what it is saying. Also, I want to further explore what each DJ or producer brings to rave culture and what that will do for it in the near future.
To start my research, I interviewed a few University of Richmond students who have EDM blogs and understand how music gets from the producer to the general public. My initial questions for my research were answered in these interviews and allowed me to continue on with a little bit more knowledge of how the genre works to generate music. I learned how people with these blogs find new music from producers, obtain the music (legally or illegally), publish the music to their blogs, and how they decide what is worth the legal risk and what is not. I hoped that the last of my initial questions would be answered after observing one of the biggest EDM festivals in the world firsthand. This experience helped me understand rave culture and what aspects of it are helping American culture as well as what aspects may be a threat in the future.

Rave clothing at Ultra Music Festival

I haven’t encountered too many roadblocks since refocusing my project. One of the major roadblocks in the beginning of my research was not having the informal knowledge that I needed to fully understand the process of downloading and publishing music. Once I was able to interview a few people who could explain the initial process, I was able to understand what I was actually looking for. Another roadblock that I encountered is that the EDM that I am studying and is discussed on blogs is fairly new. There are very few scholarly articles in online journals so I had to find some reliable sources that weren’t necessarily published articles on a certain database.
My most useful supporting media for my project is artists’ and producers’ websites. From there, I am able to find additional information from their blogs, twitter, and facebooks. I am also following popular music blogs that are affected by the legislation that will be forming laws for digital media. One of the blogs, Electronic Life, is a guide to almost all aspects of rave culture and EDM.
The theoretical foundation for my project is coming from a few different theorists. Lawrence Lessig’s theories on the music industry today support the innovation of electronic music and blame the music industry for restricting culture. This theory is the foundation of the EDM genre and is the future that many of the producers hope for. Shirky’s writing on social media is applicable to the artists’ pages because they direct their fans to their other social media. Many of Poster’s theories apply to this genre of music and the idea of innovation in place of invention. Almost all of EDM exists in Poster’s “third space” that has created its own culture. Poster’s critiques of the music industry are almost exactly what many individuals involved in EDM are saying about the music industry. The theory of a consumer becoming a producer and therefore a user is also a foundation of the EDM genre. Consumers of the music often become producers because the genre has a feeling of a community and many people feel that they can participate and contribute to it. Applications such as Figure are promoting the idea of easy-to-create music. This participation changes people who were once consumers into producers and creates a cycle of contribution to the genre and the culture as a whole.
My plan for the second half of my project is to go deeper into my research of the music industry to better understand what role EDM is playing in it. I think this research will lead me to better understanding the role it is playing in American culture and where it may take it in the future. Additionally, information about copyright laws and newer laws that are being created to restrict illegal downloading will help me further understand the future of the genre of digital music.
I still have many important questions to answer such as: what will happen with illegal downloading in the future? How will these laws affect the genre of EDM? How will these laws affect both rave culture an American culture? How could ideas from theorists such as Lessig and Hansen be applied to this genre of music and make a difference? One of the biggest questions in the future of EDM is what will happen to it in the future and who’s hands will it fall into. This New York Times article explains what may happen to EDM in the future and who will try to control its growing popularity.


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Hive Mentality or Individual Worker Bees? (Phase 1 and 2)

// Posted by on 04/13/2012 (1:21 PM)

My final blog can be viewed here. The background information posted below is also overviewed on my blog.

 

For my final project, I decided to explore further the idea set forth by Jane McGonigal in her Read more

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My final blog can be viewed here. The background information posted below is also overviewed on my blog.

 

For my final project, I decided to explore further the idea set forth by Jane McGonigal in her TedTalk “Gaming can make a better world.” When watching her talk for the first time, I found myself considering our current United States culture and society today and whether or not these problem-solving ideas were applicable to all issues, no issues, or just some. We are all taught to be individuals from a young age: getting ahead is about individual goals and individual skills, and the goals or aspirations of a group mentality are not focused on when being taught how to problem solve. This issue kept coming back into my head, and I began to apply it to greater walks of our society. I found myself wondering if individualism was so ingrained in us that it could never be replaced, or if a movement towards collaborating with others was possible. I thought about these issues on small and large scales, whether it be from the teachings of a kindergarten class to our economic system as a whole, how it functions, and what values it promotes in us as citizens and as workers. I wanted to explore whether implementing a system of teaching young children to work collaboratively instead of individually from an early stage would be beneficial later on, or if there are some issues which are simply too polarizing to be solved by groupthink and all that could be done with it already is. To explore these issues, I searched further into what McGonigal has published about her theories and explored the frameworks of those she has drawn from in her exploration.

 

Throughout my search, I came across (once again) one of the most exciting examples of collaboration used to solve a major issue to-date. McGonigal introduces the idea of collaborative intelligence in her case study Why I Love Bees as a way of demonstrating how problems are solved with group work. Collaborative intelligence could be applied to solve anything: but could it? An example of success is the scientists who, after grappling with a problem that had stumped them about AIDS for 10 years, decided to develop a program called Foldit which allowed users to download, play, and solve problems they put in front of them. The users took this program and solved the 10-year battle scientists had been waging in just 10 days. (More about this here). This is one of the most perfect examples of collaborative intelligence: gamers came together, formed groups, and solved a major, previously un-solveable issue. After exploring the Foldit website further, I came across their “Groups” section. The groups are ranked from highest-scoring to lowest, and each has a profile that describes their methods and ways of working as sort of an advertisement to join. One of the top groups is called “Contenders” and its mission statement reads: “We are a team of like-minded individuals, interested in discovering new methods and philosophies about folding, and doing things a little differently. There is no hierarchy; we have no dedicated soloists or evolvers or even a team ‘captain’. We possess a range of experience and ability, and recognize that each of us can ‘bring something to the table’. Encouraging discussion and questions, all are free to express themselves. We play our soloist games our own way; but if someone finds sudden success, it’s posted for the benefit of the group, detailing what was done to get there.” Collaborative intelligence at its finest: having no “dedicated soloists” and recognizing that “each of us can ‘bring something to the table’.” In a collaborative group, “all are free to express themselves” and one person finding success is “posted for the benefit of the group.” Below is a video about Foldit, who uses it, how they use it, and why it was developed:

 

 

I was sad to realize that, while reading the Contenders mission statement, I found myself a little surprised that people advertise working this way. I’ve considered many times the fact that, when in the “real world,” group collaboration is essential to success, and the benefit of whoever you are working for is the group goal to be achieved. But it has been so ingrained in us from the beginning of our schooling that collaboration just isn’t the way to get ahead; you get ahead individually, not moving forward in a hive. You get the promotion, you and your 6 coworkers do not. I had this mindset in full force when I read McGonigal’s article “SuperGaming: Ubiquitous Play and Performance for Massively Scaled Community.” Supergaming, McGonigal says, consists of “experiments in massively scaled, public collaboration” which create “an emerging constellation of network practices that are both ludic, or game-like, and spectacular--that is, intended to generate an audience.” Supergaming “Harnesses the play of distributed individuals in a high-performance problem-solving unit,” or the “hive mentality” set forth by Kelley in Why I Love Bees. McGonigal overviews arguments set forth by Clay Shirky (hey, that name sounds farmiliar…) in an essay he wrote called “Communities, Audiences, and Scale.” Shirky argues that these supergames create massively scaled communities which collapse due to the inability of humans to maintain more than a certain number of connections with others. Shirky argues that once this number is exceeded, the community becomes an audience, which is “typified by a one-way relationship between sender and receiver, and by the disconnectino of its members from one another- a one-to-many pattern.” Communities, however, are set up so that people “send and receive messages, and the members of a community are connected to one another, not just to some central outlet- a many-to-many pattern.” Shirky argues against the ability of these new supergames to create massively scaled communities. He writes, “Because growth in group size alone is enough to turn a community into an audience, social software, no matter what its design, will never be able to create a group that is both large and densely interconnected.” Massively scaled group collaboration as a way of problem-solving, therefore, is not looking so good.

 

For the next phase of my project, I will explore McGonigal’s theoretical foundation even further and apply it to our society in ways I’ve come up with throughout my research. I will continue my academic search of articles on education and how groupwork is both useful and detrimental and come up with an answer to the question of whether or not it would be beneficial to implement programs to promote the hive mentality in youths. I will explore the question of whether or not those who tend to play games are just more open to group work than those who do not: is it a psychological difference? Is there no difference at all? Is McGonigal’s suggestion that we spend 21 billion hours a week playing games going to improve the collaborative efforts we’ve already learned from games, or are some issues still on the table to be solved just too polarizing for collaborative efforts in coming up with solutions? How is the digital media that we use today making this movement towards collaboration easier? Is it potentially making it more difficult? Have we developed types of technology that make it more possible on a massive scale? Does collaborative intelligence put the world on the verge of an “epic win,” as McGonigal puts it? Will all our faces look like this in a few years, when we discover that working collaboratively really can save the world?

 


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What’s Next? (Final

// Posted by on 04/11/2012 (8:27 PM)

Research is done, a conclusion has been met now new questions are raised read more here.

Social Media has grown. Immensely. Facebook is the third largest country.  Ninety Percent of… Read more

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Research is done, a conclusion has been met now new questions are raised read more here.

Social Media has grown. Immensely. Facebook is the third largest country.  Ninety Percent of people thirty and younger are on a social network sites like Facebook and twitter. That’s half the population of the world. Social Media isn’t a generational thing, that will become old like parachute pants or perms. It’s a revolution.

But is it a good one? Are we fighting for our freedom of speech, are we expanding are social horizons or are we simply just throwing all of our time into useless internet roaming? Everyone has something to say on the internet but do we say these things out loud in a room full of people or do we tweet about it followed by the all too common #hashtag?

Is there a reason we are looking into the future through the pages of Facebook and Twitter?

In Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, he writes about how social sharing relieves some of the burdens when it comes to developing interest groups and sharing thoughts and ideas. But is it to much? From this comes my question of how much is too much and does it really help. After watching the Social Media Revolution 2012 video I took a hard look at the questions they asked and wanted to know if they could have an supporting truths.

One of the most thought provoking points of the video is when you see a quote from Erik Qualman, the quote simply reads “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media; the question is how we do it.” We are all somehow apart of the new age of social media; we have Facebooks, Twitters, email accounts, and LinkedIn Profiles. We tag locations is statuses, tweet about annoying professors, and Instagram every photo we snap.

But why? Why would we tweet about our annoying professor instead of turning to the person next to us and saying “Hey, his lectures are so annoying”? Why is it appropriate to tweet “Professor Han makes me want to ram my head into a wall #annoyinglecture”? Is it wrong to say these things out loud? Have we lost our ability to communicate?

My initial question started off as Is Social Media hurting the social skills of Americans or protecting the rights as Americans? As I’ve researched and looked more and more into Social Media and what it has become my question has changed with it. It took 38 years for 50 million people to have a radio. In one year, Facebook had 200 million users. So now my question has changed into where is this going to take us next, is it going to further our social education or are we going to become a world like the one depicted in Disney’s Wall-e?

Is this where social media will take us or will we use it to flourish in creating new ideas and reaching people across the country?


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Internet: The Next World War?

// Posted by on 04/09/2012 (11:35 PM)

My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a… Read more

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My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a simple question, the answer is rather loaded. Interestingly enough, the article brought most of what has been discussed on this blog full circle.

The question over who will control the internet has come to the forefront of any debate regarding the internet. At the end of 2012, there will be a negotiation between 193 nations to revise a UN treaty pertaining to the Internet.

“The War for the Internet was inevitable—a time bomb built into its creation.”

There is no doubt that the question of control would eventually arise. However, it seems that no one is ready to answer it on a global scale now that the question has come knocking. The article clearly explains that the “Internet was established on a bedrock of trust: trust that people were who they said they were, and trust that information would be handled according to existing social and legal norms. That foundation of trust crumbled as the Internet expanded.” The issue of trust arises because of four crises regarding the internet: sovereignty, piracy and intellectual property, privacy and security. From PIPA to SOPA to Anonymous to MegaShare and WikiLeaks, the initial trust which the internet was founded on has begun to crumble.

Thus, the world of the internet lies in the midst of two polarized notions: Order v. Disorder and Control v. Chaos. The article explains that “the forces of Order want to superimpose existing, pre-digital power structures and their associated notions of privacy, intellectual property, security, and sovereignty onto the Internet. The forces of Disorder want to abandon those rickety old structures and let the will of the crowd create a new global culture, maybe even new kinds of virtual “countries.” At their most extreme, the forces of Disorder want an Internet with no rules at all.” What would the Internet be like with no rules at all? Would it function? Would the users of the Internet truly be able to self-govern? Could the entire Internet run like Wikipedia, where every contributor checks and ultimately balances every other contributor? Or is such a notion idealistic?

When thinking about the Internet and thus, control over the internet, why the internet was created must also be address. The Internet was intended to deal with a military problem, it was not intended to does what it does today. Vint Cerf a “father of the Internet” and the “Internet Evangelist” (his actual title at Google) along with Robert Kahn created the TCP/IP protocol which allows computers and networks all over the world to talk to one another. However, the development was initially created to help the military, not for you or I. Since it was designed to be undetectable in terms of a center, the Internet has no center.

Internet has no center

The testament to the nonexistence of a center for the internet was the creation of ICANN in 1998. ICANN “signaled that the Internet would be something akin to global patrimony, not an online version of American soil.” When thinking about the Internet, many people, especially Americans, think of the Internet as an extension of American culture. While American culture is widely dispersed throughout the Internet, it is not the only cultural that is shared. There exists a multiculturalism through the Internet that does not make it merely an online version of America. This perhaps is the reason why the Internet economy was grabbed globally. The Internet economy was not just an economy for American, it was an economy for everyone. However, with a shared Internet economy, nations lost old ideals of governance.

While it seems that the battle for control is driven by corporate ambitions, the real war is driven by governments. Cerf explains that “If you think about protecting the population and observing our conventional freedoms, the two [the Internet and Government] are real­ly very much in tension.”

The DefCon Hackers Conference intended to bridge the gap between hackers and the government. Jeff Moss (or Dark Tangent), DefCon’s founder, uses DefCon to promote conversation between the Internet’s forces of Order and Disorder. Moss has become the go-between who translates his subculture’s concerns to the culture at large, and vice versa. Each year, increasing numbers of law-enforcement, military, and intelligence personnel attend Def Con. This is one unique way that the bridge between the world of the Net and the world of government have successfully and peacefully (without war) converged.

Among the things that are explained by Moss are the nature of hackers. Collective hackers, like Anonymous work as a hive. There allegiance is to the hive above all else. It is not to a government or corporation. Such a notion of a hive speaks directly to Jane McGonigal’s belief in the power of the hive. Perhaps the power of the hive is the true power of the internet. The truth that allegiances have shifted from nations to hives.

 “Everybody always calls it rebuilding the airplane in flight. We can’t stop and reboot the Internet.”

Since the internet can’t be stopped, its challenges must be addressed. Vanity Fair suggests that there will be three issues on the table at the negotiations in Dubai at the end of the year: taxation (a “per click” levy on international Internet traffic), data privacy and cyber-security (no more anonymity) and Internet management (global information-security “code of conduct”).  The article suggests that anonymity has contributed to, if not created, almost every problem at issue in the War for the Internet. Is anonymity really the issues? Would we need control if our real names were attached to over Internet habits? Vanity Fair suggests that currently “the task at hand is finding some way to square the circle: a way to have both anonymity and authentication—and therefore both generative chaos and the capacity for control—without absolute insistence on either.” Perhaps the greatest challenge with the internet is that there is no real absolutes. Black and white issues are much easier to address than those with shades of grey.

Many believe that the Domain Name Systems, the Internet’s only central feature, must be shielded from government control however, through organizations like ICANN governments will still be involved without controlling it. Arguably, the most important issue when debating the control over the internet is the need to preserve “network neutrality”. One thing that many agree on: The Internet is open to everyone, service providers cannot discriminate and all applications and content moves at the same speed– this should not change. If the Internet is one thing, it ought to be fair.


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Anonymous = Dangerous

// Posted by on 04/09/2012 (10:22 PM)

One of the biggest news stories that has been circulating for the past month is the story of Trayvon Martin, a story that gained momentum around a month after it actually happened. Now its front page news in every… Read more

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One of the biggest news stories that has been circulating for the past month is the story of Trayvon Martin, a story that gained momentum around a month after it actually happened. Now its front page news in every newspaper and website. President Obama spoke of the case saying that Trayvon reminded him of his children, that if he “had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Representative Rush was removed from the floor of the House of Representatives for wearing a hoodie while speaking on the subject of Trayvon. The implications of a young unarmed black youth being killed by a neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman have made Americans everywhere rethink their feelings on racial prejudice and assumption. One of the most interesting articles that’s been posted on this subject focuses on the act by the Miami Heat where they all posed in hoodies, to create an image (above) which the article describes the effect it has upon a viewer: “…a devastating image. Thirteen men with brown skin and black outerwear, not looking at you. Your pulse quickens when you see it. Your heart stops. Your skin pimples — at the mournful sense of peace and containment of agitation. Your brain twists.” This description reveals just what we automatically associate this garment with: a type of street cred and a distinct identity. The article discusses how the appearance of someone dressed in a hoodie likens back to the 1950s when white kids were wearing leather jackets to emulate the rebellious Dean, Brando, Elvis and the Fonz.

This entire discussion of appearance and in this case prejudice made me think of how we construct our internet identities. Are interactions hurt or helped by their sometime anonymous nature? This concept is reminiscent of 4Chan’s Christopher Poole vs. Mark Zukerburg on anonymity on the internet. Is prejudice avoided by this anonymous nature? I found this case to be so interesting because of our constant discussions on how digital identities are created, mostly through choices that we make. Our digital identities seems to more complex that the things people assume about me if I wore a leather jacket to class versus a suit. Just as we spoke about how digital identities are constructed, perhaps the true appearance of certain identities are different in reality than how we construct them, such as George Zimmerman as the vigilante. That article discusses how Zimmerman’s case is similar to Bernhard Goetz, a vigilante in New York in 1984 who shot and killed four black teenagers he said were trying to mug him. Indeed, Zimmerman may have to thank Goetz’s caser (which was heavily involved in by the NRA) for his right to carry the very firearm he used to kill Martin. The article most poignantly says: “…we celebrate the vigilante on our screens, we tell ourselves it’s because of our healthy mistrust of corrupt structures, or because we’re genuinely vulnerable — not because of our more shameful tendency to sterotype others based on fear or hatred.” This news story seems to encompass many of the different concepts that are at the forefront of the creation of the digital age and in the theoretical base that we’ve used for this class.


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Everyone is Visible

// Posted by on 04/09/2012 (4:11 PM)

 

Over the past few months, discussions of security have always been coupled with discussions of the goings-on in our new digital age. It seems that with the progression of Digital America has come a progression of decreased personal… Read more

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Over the past few months, discussions of security have always been coupled with discussions of the goings-on in our new digital age. It seems that with the progression of Digital America has come a progression of decreased personal security of information when it comes to anyone who uses any kind of technology at all. The WIRED article about the new NSA data center being built in Utah (dubbed simply the “Utah Data Center”) both shocked and worried me. Anything about a person’s life, down to a phone conversation with their grandmother on her birthday, is subject to review by members of the NSA. Further, after the Utah Data Center is built, virtually ALL communications made over the internet, phone, basically any technological medium possible, will be recorded and available for future evaluation. My idea of constitutional rights, as pointed out in the WIRED article by the former NSA official William Binney, is being seriously challenged with this new practice. While the NSA has made statements (like in this article from Fox News) about how the Utah Data Center is “designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation,” I have not been convinced that what we as Americans are afraid of happening really is. I’m both disturbed and challenged by this Orwellian state that the WIRED article is depicting: the days of NSA being called “Never Say Anything” seem to be coming back, and everyone is a target.

 

In this Fox News Interview, the center is first and foremost called a “spy center,” a claim that is defended by a former CIA officer and current president of a global intelligence and security firm, Mike Baker. He argues that the size of the facility is what is creating the stir, because this new center is not the only physical holding that the NSA has. Baker claims that the number one threat to the United States is not Iran, but cyber warfare and the “daily, astounding number of attacks” directed at our country. He also says, surprisingly to me, that “there is a tendency…for the average American to think that their life is fascinating enough for the government to want to surveil them all the time, to collect information on them.” I guess I have never thought about it this way; that we, as average Americans with no terroristic tendencies, only fear the government spying on us because we think they would be interested. Why would they be interested, after all, in my birthday conversation with my grandmother? What Baker does not do a good or even mediocre job of defending is that, despite the government’s disinterest in personal conversations that pose no threat to national security, they still have access to them. If they wanted to know what Nanna and I were saying, they could. That ability is, in my opinion, a violation of my right to freedom. The interview can be watched in the video below:

 

 

Another article I recently read revealed an operation of the NYPD to “infiltrate” the lives of Muslim students in the Northeast. The article says that the mission was, reportedly, “part of police efforts to “keep tabs” on Muslims throughout the region, as part of the department’s anti-terrorism efforts.” If this isn’t a blatant violation of constitutional rights, I don’t know what is. The article goes on to claim that “The FBI is sending out pamphlets to military surplus stores, saying anyone who buys matches and a flashlight is a potential terrorist. Paying cash is suspicious. Shielding your laptop screen is suspicious. Lowering your voice if you’re having a phone conversation in public: also suspicious.” So, while Baker’s point about how the NSA simply doesn’t care about average Americans’ goings-on, I’m not totally convinced this is true. If I can’t buy a flashlight without being watched or having my “file” pulled at the new Utah Data Center, then how is this still the land of the free? Are we not living in a time where this ideal is still possible? Do you feel violated by these new happenings?


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Facebook Buys Instagram

// Posted by on 04/09/2012 (2:03 PM)

Mark Zuckerberg just announced on his Facebook page that Facebook agreed to buy Instagram for $1 Billion. In light of the recent WIRED article about how going public for companies such as Facebook could be detrimental rather than beneficial, I… Read more

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Mark Zuckerberg just announced on his Facebook page that Facebook agreed to buy Instagram for $1 Billion. In light of the recent WIRED article about how going public for companies such as Facebook could be detrimental rather than beneficial, I am wondering if anyone with greater insight might have a sense of how this purchase will effect their stock?  I imagine it would cause the value to increase, but I could be wrong! After all I would have imagine going public would be beneficial to the company in the first place. Any thoughts?

Check out this New York Times article for more information.


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4Chan’s got nothing on this…

// Posted by on 04/08/2012 (1:56 PM)

Throughout the past couple weeks of class we’ve been discussing the fact that most of us feel we have nothing to hide from trollers but that we’re also apprehensive to risk pissing anyone off and getting our site hacked.  The

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Throughout the past couple weeks of class we’ve been discussing the fact that most of us feel we have nothing to hide from trollers but that we’re also apprehensive to risk pissing anyone off and getting our site hacked.  The article we read in Wired called Inside the Matrix makes the threat of anonymous 4chan trollers look like nothing.  Sure you could be subjected to viruses and hate mail or something for years but now the government is building a facility that is capable of spying on basically anyone and can store yottabytes worth of data(10^24 bytes).  This could mean encrypted codes from China and Iran to the emails we sent this evening about the paper due tomorrow morning at 9:00.
It was again mentioned that the average citizen’s email is not something the new $2 billion NSA base will really be after but the fact is they are capable and they have enough memory to store years of emails, text messages and phone calls, just in case.  Can anyone else imagine Ben Franklin turning over in his grave? It’s almost cliche to bring up his quote anymore but the man had a point; “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It is true that as long as you’re not a terrorist, planning to be one, or phrasing things in such a way to make the government think you’re a terrorist there really isn’t anything to worry about but, there is the argument about the principle of the matter.  Our country won a war for independence sparked by a matter of principle.  Our newly imposed taxes were nothing compared to England’s and it’s only fair to pay for a war that was waged to protect us from the French and Indians. But, by principle we disagreed.  Since 9/11 and the fear that ensued from that terrible day we have lost that sense of principle and allowed our government to spy on us illegally and to eventually pass laws that make it legal.  This fact led William Binney, a former senior NSA crypto-mathematician to leave the NSA when the agency started “violating the Constitution.”
It is highly unlikely that any opposition to this data center will arise and even if it did the government is not going to shut it down, especially after dropping $2 billion dollars to make it.  Ans until it is operational the repurcussions of its existence remain open to speculation.  Perhaps it will focus on what it is advertised to do, break encrypted codes, or to spy on American citizens or something in between. Maybe this will be the institution that can enforce the new law Arizona is likely to pass that will punish internet harrasment.  They are certainly capable of it.  I wonder if the music industry has suggested an area devoted to those who chose to illegally download music?
In case it wasn’t clear, I oppose this data center because it gives too much power to the NSA with no real check and I find that it violates the founding principles of our country.  What are your reactions as a citizen? Reactions as a netizen? How will this change the dynamic of the internet and how we communicate with each other? Will we see a resurrgence of snail mail? Do you think Anonymous will try to do something about this?

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Apple Computers Susceptible to Virus’

// Posted by on 04/07/2012 (12:53 PM)

It was once thought to be utterly impossible for your Apple computer to contract a virus.  The Apple website  boasts– “Why You’ll Love a Macbook? It doesn’t get PC viruses.”However, just last week over half a million Mac users discovered… Read more

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It was once thought to be utterly impossible for your Apple computer to contract a virus.  The Apple website  boasts– “Why You’ll Love a Macbook? It doesn’t get PC viruses.”However, just last week over half a million Mac users discovered that their computers had a virus. The virus, known as the Trojan Horse, does not even require the user to click on a link or open up a contaminated file in order for the virus to spread. It simply downloads itself.  Even more frightening is that once the virus has been downloaded, the hacker has access to all of the information on your computer.

 

 ABC News reported on the subject, suggesting that the growing popularity of Macbook’s gave reason for hackers to  invest time in breaking the barrier. Even last year, Macbook users were infested with smaller scale viruses that simulated users clicker on ads so that those companies would get larger kickbacks.
So is the reason why Macbooks users did not get viruses simply because hacking criminals were not targeting them because their population of users was smaller? Now that more people use Macbooks, it is more worthwhile for hackers to tackle Macbooks because the audience is larger. Is it not that they were built with a strong protection system? Apple claims that their built in defense system, OS X Lion, will stop hackers in their trackers. Now that it has been hacked, is it fair to say that no protective system will ever be good enough? If someone is intelligent enough to create the system, someone is intelligent enough to hack it.
As it becomes more and more apparent in today’s world that anything can be hacked and ultimately that none of our information is entirely safe, I wonder if our culture of privacy will change? It seems that in some ways it already has. Members of the younger generations are much more comfortable with the government listening in on our conversations—after all we have nothing to hide. Yet many other people feel that even though they have nothing to hide the government should not be listening in on their private conversations simply as a respect for privacy. Will future generations to come have an even weaker sense of privacy that we do? How will we be protected? Perhaps it’s possible that hackers will not be as enthused with hacking if it becomes less novel and everyone’s information is easy to access. Part of the drive for these hackers is the endorphins they feel when accomplishing  a task or the “lolz” they receive. How will this culture change in the years to come?

 


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Internet Culture Then and Now

// Posted by on 04/07/2012 (12:25 AM)

I found a collection of videos on one of WIRED Magazine’s blogs called Underwire. This particular blog on WIRED.com describes itself as “Working the Wired culture beat, from movies and music to comics and the web.” Last week, author… Read more

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I found a collection of videos on one of WIRED Magazine’s blogs called Underwire. This particular blog on WIRED.com describes itself as “Working the Wired culture beat, from movies and music to comics and the web.” Last week, author Angela Watercutter posted a few videos made by web editor Jo Luijten. The videos are of what Luijten imagines the social networking sites and video games of today would have looked like in the 80s and 90s. I think these videos are funny, informative and a great way to wrap up a semester of exploring digital America. The videos are meant to show progress in web culture as well as to preserve the memory of an earlier, less advanced internet. In order to create the videos, Luijten had to create a program to mimic what he believed an older version of these websites would look like. Ironically, he wouldn’t have been able to create the videos about a fictional past without modern technology. Here is a link to Jo Luijten’s video, “If Facebook were invented in the 90s.

 

 

After watching a few of Luijten’s videos about social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, I realized that we are part of a generation that will barely remember the days of AOL, floppy disks and dial-up internet. My reaction to these videos is similar to watching a home video of my younger sisters and thinking, “they grow up so fast!” From the image quality to the few extra seconds it takes to load a page in “If Facebook were invented in the 90s,” I began to recognize how normal today’s internet has become to me. An unclear picture seems obnoxiously old fashioned and it frustrates me when a web page takes over a second to load. Normalcy is a photo on my computer as crystal clear as seeing the image in real life and an instantaneous change when I click on a link.

 

 

For something that has become such a significant part of our daily lives, we rarely remember that the Internet has just recently grown to be what it is today. I cannot imagine going back to Luijten’s Facebook of the 90s and feeling excited about the idea of it, if it were the way it is in the video. However, I quickly remembered that in the 80s and 90s, future social networking sites were the unknown that propelled the constant innovation and desire for improvement. Curiosity and imagination made internet culture what it is today. Though it is difficult to fully grasp the progress we have made from the 90s to the internet we know today, it is even more amazing to think about what will happen to web culture in the next 20 or 30 years.

Our generation looks back on Luijten’s fictional videos much like a child looks back on the toddler version of itself riding a bike with training wheels. It is mind-blowing to think that we will one day look back on our bike-riding selves, free of training wheels, happy with Facebook, Angry Birds and Twitter, and think: “Remember the days when we couldn’t drive!?”

 


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China Hacking Our Government’s Secrets

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

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

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


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“I share therefore I am”

// Posted by on 04/03/2012 (11:31 PM)

My friends and I accuse each other of being attached to our phones on a daily basis. Someone is always asking someone else to repeat a sentence, or an entire story, that they missed when they were paying attention to… Read more

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My friends and I accuse each other of being attached to our phones on a daily basis. Someone is always asking someone else to repeat a sentence, or an entire story, that they missed when they were paying attention to a text. I’ve never understood what is so addicting about my cell phone or why other people seem to share the addiction, but I am well aware that a problem exists. Cultural analyst Sherry Turkle , has been studying technology and how it changes our lives for decades. In her TEDtalk she discusses how communication through a device, such as texting on a cell phone, has changed who we are. I have read articles and heard other people talk about ideas that are similar to Turkle’s, but her TED talk was by far the most interesting and easiest to relate to of them all. There were several statements in her talk that made me rewind, listen again, and think: “That is exactly how I feel.”

Turkle discussed the emotional attachment we have, not to the physical device, but to what it provides. One of the most interesting portions of the talk was when she discussed the “three gratifying fantasies” that texting creates.

1. We can put our attention wherever we want it to be
2. We will always be heard
3. We never have to be alone

The third fantasy was most interesting to me because Turkle elaborated on that idea and explained that constant connections through our technology create the illusion that we are never alone. Though this seems like a comforting fact at first, she explained that if we never feel alone because of our cell phones, we feel lonelier when we are actually alone. Our inability to be alone becomes a deeply rooted issue that forces us to confront the problems in our relationship with technology.

There were many points in Turkle’s argument that, like the aforementioned, startled me and made me realize that I possess this troublesome relationship with technology. Further proving her point, I took comfort in the fact that I was not alone and that almost everyone I know with a cell phone shares my problem.

 

 

I think this is one of the most important TED talks for our generation to watch because it addresses some issues that are serious, but fixable. Towards the end of her talk, Turkle makes it clear that she is not suggesting we turn away from our technology or view it as an enemy. She suggests that we act as we would if we were trying to fix any dysfunctional relationship: put in some quality time and effort to sort out the problems.

Do you agree that these problems exist between our technology and us? Do you think they are as fixable and Shelly Turkle suggests they are? If these problems exist, could they develop into emotional weaknesses for future generations?


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Outlaw Internet Trolling?

// Posted by on 04/03/2012 (6:53 PM)

I stumbled across an article, titled “Arizona Looks to Outlaw Internet Trolling,” about a bill in Arizona stating “It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend,

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I stumbled across an article, titled “Arizona Looks to Outlaw Internet Trolling,” about a bill in Arizona stating “It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.” Although the bill has a pretty noble goal, to stop cyberbullying, and having already passed both legislative houses only needs the approval of the governor, I agree with the author that this probably won’t end up being as effective as lawmakers would like.

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