DIGITAL AMERICA

Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Voiceless Majority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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#WeAreAndiola

// Posted by Vicky on 03/31/2013 (6:31 PM)

Slacktivism is a relatively new term that combines the terms “slacker” and “activism” and is used to both represent and criticize digital activism for its lack of real, physical, and/or time-consuming action. Slacktivism is anything from tweeting, sharing a photo,… Read more

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Slacktivism is a relatively new term that combines the terms “slacker” and “activism” and is used to both represent and criticize digital activism for its lack of real, physical, and/or time-consuming action. Slacktivism is anything from tweeting, sharing a photo, or wearing a color or symbol that represents or supports a specific cause. Prominent examples of slacktivism are the Kony 2012 campaign and the Trayvon Martin case. More recently we have seen slacktivists take up the Mexican-American immigration cause.

This past January the police showed up to Erika Andiola’s house and both her mother and brother were handcuffed and detained in immigration detention centers, ready for deportation. Ms. Andiola is the co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that fights for the rights of immigrant children brought illegally to the United, as she was. Immediately after her mother and brother were hauled away Ms. Andiola posted a video on Youtube.

This video is a prime example of how digital media can turn local issues into global issues. As Ms. Andiola says in the tearful video, “this is not just happening to me, this is happening to families everywhere”. Ms. Andiola’s message was heard by the digital world and her family was released shortly from custody after the Obama administration was put under severe pressure from activists. Activists tooks on Ms. Andiola’s cause through phone calls, e-mails and online petitions, but primarily on Twitter, where they mobilized support under the hashtag, #WeAreAndiola.

The New York Times article argues that, “their swift releases underline the power of the youth-immigrant movement and their social media activism”. But slacktivism, or social media activism, such the movement on behalf of Ms. Andiola, is often highly criticized. Gabrielle Corvese, from the Brown Daily Herald, writes, “The vastness of social media makes these acts incredibly easy. You can share a picture to let your Facebook friends know you care. Twitter has a hashtag for every cause. But what is the actual effect of these actions? Though social networks allow the easy spread of information, a problem arises when the only support for a cause is a photo with a few thousand shares. While it is satisfying and convenient for the individual to show concern for an issue, those in need of support receive little benefit.”

To reply to Ms. Corvese’s statement I would argue that the Erika Andiola case clearly illustrates the power and effect of “slacktivism”. A single tweet alone may not cause change, but thousands and millions of tweets can attract enough attention and support to put pressure on our politicians to enact political and legal reform. Digital activism can more than often lead to actual, real life action.

While I take the side of these “slacktivists” arguing that any and all activism is positive there are still many, like Corvese that would not agree with me. What do you think are the positive and negative outcomes slacktivism? Do you slacktivism proves that our digital generation has become lazy? Or do you see it like me, as activism naturally transitioning alongside with our culture into the digital realm?


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Can we all live the American Dream?

// Posted by Jorien 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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Welcome Tec Students!

// Posted by Rosatelli on 03/29/2013 (11:03 AM)

Let us introduce ourselves…

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Let us introduce ourselves…


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Occupy Together, Globally.

// Posted by Jorien on 03/26/2013 (12:01 AM)

 

The Occupy Wall Street Movement spread quickly within the United Stated through the use of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. Another way of portraying their message on the web was by utilizing videos that… Read more

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The Occupy Wall Street Movement spread quickly within the United Stated through the use of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. Another way of portraying their message on the web was by utilizing videos that depicted the protests at that particular moment. The movement spread globally, all supporting the idea that there should be a change for the 99% against the 1% of the people.

Inspired by the Arab Spring, the protesters used Twitter to get their word out. Since all of it was online, more countries became aware of the tweets and YouTube videos.  Since there was no real leadership in the movements and the requests remained ambiguous, did the movements differ from each other? What is visible in the different protests around the world is that most of them take on the same form. Large demonstrations in which people were holding signs in important public spaces of the city. Mainly nonviolent protests by occupying the squares, but there were a few exceptions; such as protests in Rome and different violent arrests by the police. 

By spreading videos of ongoing protests, people could feel some of the same emotions as by the Occupy Wall Street and became inspired.  The Australian Alex Gard said that he felt empowered by seeing the videos, it made people feel united in the group even though the movement was not organized in a central way. The movement then spread further via Facebook; local groups formulated protest pages that got several followers. The largest pages were in Spain and Italy where the economic crisis hit.

In order for the people to be aware of the public meetings and general assemblies they could follow the different facebook pages, however another option was the local websites:  occupymelbourne.org, occupyamsterdam.org, or occupyitaly.org.  On these websites it explains all the ideals and where the next protests take place. Even though the movement does not convey a clear objective, it seems like it spread globally and made people motivate to stand behind these.

Do you think the lack leadership and the somewhat indefinite ideals made the movement less credible?  Or the fact that it spread globally, does that prove that the movement worked or did the protests only occur once?


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Strike Debt!

// Posted by Patrick on 03/25/2013 (9:24 PM)

A quick look at the image above offers some pretty shocking statistics about the amount of debt that our citizens face, these statistics show that a drastic change is needed in our governments to correct this growing debt problem.… Read more

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A quick look at the image above offers some pretty shocking statistics about the amount of debt that our citizens face, these statistics show that a drastic change is needed in our governments to correct this growing debt problem. The Occupy Wall Street movement looks to implement this dramatic change.

Every one has heard of the occupy wall street movement that swept the nation and brought millions together behind a common goal, to eliminate inequalities faced by the famed 99%. The Occupy movement used the internet to spread its message to the world and was the starting point for Occupy movements across the world, one such movement is an Occupy offshoot called Strike Debt.

Strike Debt is a non profit organization that was started as a result of the Occupy movement. On their official website they state “Debt resistance is just the beginning. Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits.” This grassroots organization says it has abolished over 1 million in medical debt, saying that the medical industry and debt in general is “an industry designed to confuse, overwhelm, and exploit.” The organization is a Rolling Jubilee project that buys debt for pennies on the dollar and then destroys the debt. for a more indepth explanation check out this short youtube video. By using donations this organization will try to abolish millions of dollars in debt caused by unfair wall street practices. For more information on this movement you can visit their facebook page, or their blog.

While the Occupy movement itself is impressive I believe that the use of a common goal to unite people thousands of miles away from another is a feat in itself. The Occupy movement was so successful itself, and at creating other movements, such as the Strike Debt organization, because of  the use of a 3rd space, the internet, to connect people in a common goal no matter their location or social standing. The use of internet propaganda and social networking is the main reason why this movement was so popular. As globalization increases and internet users are more interconnected it is an intriguing question to ask, whats next? Will the strike debt movement really be able to abolish millions of dollars in debt, and bring more equality to the 99%? To find out the answers we turn to the internet, just more proof that the internet is a 3rd space that brings the global community closer all the time.

 


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Virtual March on Wall Street and Online Activism

// Posted by Vicky on 03/25/2013 (12:27 PM)

On October 5th, 2011 thousands of people gathered in Lower Manhattan to take part in the Occupy Wall Street Solidarity March.  The march protested against the growing income divide and widespread unemployment due to the influence and corruption of large… Read more

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On October 5th, 2011 thousands of people gathered in Lower Manhattan to take part in the Occupy Wall Street Solidarity March.  The march protested against the growing income divide and widespread unemployment due to the influence and corruption of large corporations and big banks. But what about the millions of Americans not living in New York who were likewise outraged and suffering from the greedy bankers and unjust policies that wrecked our economy and undermined our democracy?  How could they get involved? How would they get their message across? Well on October 5th OWS joined forces with MoveOn and used the “third space” to gather nationwide support through a Virtual March on Wall Street. The virtual march allowed users to upload pictures of their own protest signs and tell their stories online. It added thousands of voices from across the country and showed just how widespread outrage at Wall Street really was. (Check it out http://civic.moveon.org/occupy/)

The virtual march on Wall Street is just one example of how the Internet and technology “a community of more than 7 million Americans from all walks of life who are using the most innovative technology to lead, participate in, and win campaigns for progressive change.” They have utilized the third space in numerous ways such as online-petition signing and online fundraising. MoveOn is a United States based and strictly American targeted group, but this is an example of how the internet and technology can be used to link issues from a small town in say Indiana to larger towns such as New York; it makes the local national. As Sassen writes, “Computer-centered interactive technologies have played an important role…these technologies facilitate multiscalar transactions and simultaneous interconnectivity among those largely confined to a locality” (366).

I believe the advantages of digitization and activism to be clear, but the disadvantages also need to be addressed. In traditional forms of activism: protesting, marching, journalism etc. there is always a traditional form of authority to maintain law and order. But on the Internet traditional forms of authority fall short, especially when things can be posted anonymously. Are we okay with activism that can’t be monitored or truly governed over? What happens if that activism turns violent or dangerous? What about “hacktivism”? We must remember while digitization and technology opens the door to many positive possibilities it likewise brings negative possibilities along with it.


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Occupy Earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Occupy


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Occupy London

// Posted by Celia on 03/25/2013 (1:24 AM)

The Occupy Movement that began in 2011 as Occupy Wall Street became an international call for mobilization of “the 99%.” Hundreds of websites around the world were created to represent the total movement along with individual branches of Occupy. The… Read more

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The Occupy Movement that began in 2011 as Occupy Wall Street became an international call for mobilization of “the 99%.” Hundreds of websites around the world were created to represent the total movement along with individual branches of Occupy. The feelings of social and economic inequalities were so strong that the movement continued for years, resulting in camp-outs all over the US and far beyond.

occupylondonday1

This is the video from the “About” section on the OccupyLondon website.

In London, the Occupy movement used the #occupylsx, #occupylondon, and #olsx as trending terms for twitter. Their website, occupylondon.org.uk, has all the information about events, social media, getting involved, and donating. On the homepage is a declaration of sorts that declares their 10 initial statements, agreed upon by the hundreds of people that gathered on October 26, 2011 in front of St. Paul’s. October wasn’t the only uprising though – in May 2012, Occupy protesters at the Bank of England were arrested on a global day of action. During this day, thousands of people in cities including Athens, Moscow, New York, Barcelona and Madrid rallied their forces in protest of inequality. BBC News referred to the event as a powerful symbol. Protesters named the march “visiting the 1%” and stopped at the largest banking institutions, including Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

Given all the so-called power of global influence, exposure, and support, how successful was Occupy London? Did the constant tweets, updates, and physical presence In a BBC article from after the removal of the tents, the sentiments are mixed. Overall, there is a sense that the movement was too disorganized, with too many ambitions and protesters with far ranging objections, which made the outcomes unrealistic. Occupy London focused on income inequalities, to which David Skelton, the deputy director and head of research at the Policy Exchange think tank, replied “Whether or not [the concept of the 99% and 1%] would have come about without the Occupy London camp is another argument.” (Cacciottolo, 2012) Another article from 2012, a year after the camps, found that the sentiments were mainly that Occupy London was ineffective in having real changes in attitudes and actions. The movement brought issues to policymakers attention, but further than that could not boast any tangible changes in feeling.

Right now, @OccupyLondon has 38,420 followers, almost 13,00 tweets, and thousands more re-tweets and tweets under their trending terms. @OccupyWallStNYC has close to 150,000 followers (for comparison). From the information I’ve uncovered in various articles, social media had a limited impact on the Occupy London movement. This is different from what I expected, considering that the London Stock Exchange is such an important piece of the global market.


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SocialFlow

// Posted by Sam on 03/24/2013 (8:36 PM)

The MIT technology review published this article on November 9, 2011 (right around the climax of the Occupy movement) brilliantly mapping out how the OWS movement used Twitter to their advantage. While TV cameras and newspapers have chronicled the so-called… Read more

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The MIT technology review published this article on November 9, 2011 (right around the climax of the Occupy movement) brilliantly mapping out how the OWS movement used Twitter to their advantage. While TV cameras and newspapers have chronicled the so-called Occupy Wall Street protest movement as it has grown into a global phenomenon, there had not really been a good way to document how it “looks” online? Thanks to a start-up called Social Flow, and tons of Twitter data, the public can literally see, on a map, how the idea propagated through influential people and organizations, and across previously invisible conduits to permeate vast expanses of Twitter’s network.” According to the Social Flow website, the product allows you to “see real time conversation flow on Twitter and Facebook to capture peak audience attention for your messages.” Though the website markets the app as a booster of ROI (return on income) for businesses, it was used to create social “maps” of twitter data relating to OWS and the #occupywallstreet hashtag, examples of which are shown below.

MIT tells us that the first ever use of the #OccupyWallStreet hashtag was in an Adbusters blog post, way back on July 13, according to Gilad Lotan, SocialFlow’s head of research and development. (AdBusters, by the way, is the Canadian “mother” organization to OWS-learn about it here). Here’s an example of a “map” created 10 days after the first #OccupyWallStreet hashtag was used:

As you can see, the network of tweeters using#OccupyWallStreet was small and sparse in the beginning, with no major media entities yet participating in the conversation. The larger and lighter the node, the more retweets it generated.

The above map shows the #OccupyWallStreet hashtags all over the “twitterverse” on October 13, the day NYPD planned to clean up Zuccotti Park, the original site of the protest. As you can see, entities like @HuffingtonPost and individuals like @KeithOlbermann were among the influential participants. According to researchers like Lotan, “To optimize the way that your message spreads, you really have to understand who is following you, and who tends to give you attention.” SocialFlow does just that, and will prove to be a valuable resource to future movements.


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Digital Wallet

// Posted by Tim on 03/04/2013 (12:11 AM)

The idea of paying for things with a phone instead of your wallet is still unfamiliar to most people, but now Visa and Samsung Electronics are working together to make mobile payments easier. The companies said that many new… Read more

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The idea of paying for things with a phone instead of your wallet is still unfamiliar to most people, but now Visa and Samsung Electronics are working together to make mobile payments easier. The companies said that many new Samsung phones would incorporate Visa’s payments software, called payWave. The software will come installed on all Samsung phones, which allows users to tap their phones against a payment terminal to exchange information.

As our daily lives become more and more reliant on technology the need for simple daily items such as carrying a wallet in your back pocket may be coming to an end.With the technology in place, the Visa payments app could potentially replace a customer’s Visa card. Outside companies, such as  retailers, could also choose to incorporate the payment system into their apps. Over the last year several companies have announced different attempts to mobile payment systems, but the technology has not caught on with American consumers. Analysts say that is in part due to the fact that businesses have not proved that paying with a wallet is more convenient than using cash or a credit card. But it is also because the tech companies, banks and carriers are competing to have their own system gain dominance, rather than working together.

For example, after Square formed a partnership with Starbucks to accept mobile payments, other retailers like 7-Eleven, Best Buy and Wal-Mart formed and alliance to make their own mobile payments network. AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have constructed their own mobile payments network called ISIS, while Sprint offers its own wallet system.

A partnership between major companies has the potential to break this pattern or just to add to the problem of an already ruptured market. Visa executives say there needs to be closer collaboration between companies supplying mobile payments, and the mobile wallet is still three to five years away from mainstream consumption. Jim McCarthy, Visa’s global head of product, said in an interview that working with Samsung, was a big step to helping mobile payments gain traction, given Samsung’s reach and the fact that consumers will not have to choose which payments app to download.


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A Little Here, A Little There…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We will vote with our wallets.”

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


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The New Face of Television

// Posted by Patrick on 03/03/2013 (10:58 PM)

Is it a fantasy to believe that in ten years more than half of all videos streaming on moblie devices will be live? Not according to Steven Levy, who wrote the article “Living onRead more

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Is it a fantasy to believe that in ten years more than half of all videos streaming on moblie devices will be live? Not according to Steven Levy, who wrote the article “Living on a Stream”. Levy explores companies like Skype and Color, two companies that deal with online video streaming. In this shifting digital age people are able to stream and share live video through the internet opening up new doors for social media and increasing the role of the netizen to provide information to their peers.  Koozoo is a leading force behind the expanding influence of video sharing. This company lets you turn your old cracked iphone or your brand new iphone into a 24/7 live streaming video camera. An article published by Wired speaks of how this video sharing is changing the way humans interact. These webcams are being used in place of typical news such as weather and traffic reports. Due to new companies like Koozoo you are able to see live feeds of anything someone finds interesting enough to record, such as city views, traffic, concerts, and anything trending.

The ability of the netizen to be able to share images around the world with groups of people brings up many ideas and questions. One interesting point brought up in Graeme McMillan’s article found in Wired is the possibility of a downfall of television due to live streaming on mobile devices. Mcmillan starts his article by stating “With its new array of online options for viewing media — not to mention the increasing amount of original content created for online audiences — the internet has become a disruptive influence on the traditional television business, plain and simple.” With live media sharing on the rise people will start to look to their iphones for information such as weather, traffic, and news, all of which will be provided for free by one netizen for another. Is it possible  this new network could potentially become more popular than television?

A big concern when dealing with video streaming is the rights to privacy and invasions of such rights. If one is able to stream live video from anywhere in the world to an open group the possibility for abuse rises. The possibility of invasion of privacy increases dramatically with this new social network of live video, as does the possibility of pirated materials. While there is no doubt that video streaming will become bigger in the future, possibly bigger than TV, the lingering question of privacy is one that is sure to be debated as this technology evolves and expands.

 


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The NYSE: if you’re not first, you’re last

// Posted by Sam on 03/03/2013 (10:49 PM)

 

This week’s blog theme is “High Speed Money;” I really think this might be the best theme yet! Much of the way we live our lives is dictated by the economy/means that we live within, and much of… Read more

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This week’s blog theme is “High Speed Money;” I really think this might be the best theme yet! Much of the way we live our lives is dictated by the economy/means that we live within, and much of that economy is dictated by digitally mediated forms of financial transactions. The New York Stock Exchange is one of the largest of these digitally run financial institutions, and this post will look into how the “NYSE” runs.

The worlds largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies (about $14.2 trillion), the NYSE averages a daily trading value (that is, how much money exchanges hands per diem) of hundreds of billions of dollars. While the NYSE itself is a physical building where trading happens, the trading floors are operated by the company NYSE Euronext, which was formed in 2007 when the NYSE merged with the fully electronic trading company Euronext.

The NYSE works by providing a means for buyers and sellers to trade shares of stock in companies registered for public trading. The NYSE is open for trading Monday through Friday from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm.On the trading floor, the NYSE trades in a continuous auction format, where traders can execute stock transactions on behalf of investors.

NYSE trading floor before the induction of digital trading systems and monitors

1995 marked the beginning of a digital trade process being used by the NYSE, through the use of wireless hand held computers. The system enabled traders to receive and execute orders electronically via wireless transmission. On September 25, 1995, NYSE member Michael Einersen, who designed and developed this system, executed 1000 shares of IBM through this HHC ending a 203 year process of paper transactions and ushering in an era of automated trading. *

 

 

According to this 2007 news article , as of January 24, 2007, all NYSE stocks could be traded via its electronic Hybrid Market (a combination of human and computer-driven trading). Customers could now send orders for immediate electronic execution, or route orders to the floor for trade in the auction market. In the first three months of 2007, in excess of 82% of all order volume was delivered to the floor electronically as opposed to just 19% before the induction of the Hybrid Market. The article goes on to say that “this is the harsh new reality on Wall Street, a world dominated by computers that execute trades not in seconds, but in thousandths of a second, or milliseconds…Speed has become the holy grail on Wall Street.”

Today, the NYSE (and thus much of our economy) is dictated by transactions that occur within the blink of an eye. Its merger with the all-online trading platform Euronext has broadened the importance and relevance of digital trading systems to the NYSE. This form of financial trading has never existed before, and has been found to create its own sets of issues. Now, the trader with the biggest technological advantage may be most likely to make money by being the first one to broker a deal within the four milliseconds instead of five. Is that fair? If so, is that the best method of trading? Should technological advantage really directly correlate with one’s ability to make money? In the NYSE? In life outside economic terms?

 

 

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyse


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‘Delivered today’

// Posted by Jorien on 03/03/2013 (8:42 PM)

eBay

Online shopping is very popular these days. For different reasons, some say it is just easier not having to go to the store and just order your clothes or even groceries online. It is less time consuming, if you… Read more

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eBay

Online shopping is very popular these days. For different reasons, some say it is just easier not having to go to the store and just order your clothes or even groceries online. It is less time consuming, if you only need a certain item, you do not have to drive to the store and back, which could take 20 minutes just for one item.

Statistics show that e-commerce grew from 72 billion U.S. dollars in 2002 to 256 billion U.S. dollars in 2011. The prediction is that for 2015 there the online retail revenue is 269 billion and that there will be 175 million online shoppers in 2016. What plays a role in these statistics is probably the fact that in 2012 114 million Americans have a smartphone. The increasing number of smartphones and tablets makes it even easier to participate in the e-commerce market.  People spend more time on the internet, so whenever you forgot to buy a present you can now order a gift anywhere and anytime of the day.

Ebay now has a service that makes that even easier. They designed an app, called Ebay Now, with which you can buy something and it will be delivered in an hour. An Ebay courier will get a message via the app that tells him what to buy and he will go to the store, buy the item you want, and deliver it to your house. Right now, the service is available in San Francisco, New York and San Juan, however it does not make money of of it yet. It is now just a service Ebay wants to try out, in order to keep their name in the running.

I think that nowadays people are so focused on their appearance that they always have to get the ‘newest product’. A part of your identity is shaped by what you own and therefore people are almost never happy with what they got. They are happy with it for a little while, but then there will be newer or other products that are ‘better’ than what they already have. I think that that is also a reason why online shopping is getting so popular. The newer products will be theirs quicker and more easily with the new technology that is around.


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Why Groupon Works

// Posted by Celia on 03/03/2013 (2:48 PM)

Why is Groupon so successful? Jonah Lehrer, a writer for Wired, believes that there is no neuroscience behind Groupon’s business model. Another Wired columnist, Steven Levy, refers to the company as an overhyped coupon distributor. The notion… Read more

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Why is Groupon so successful? Jonah Lehrer, a writer for Wired, believes that there is no neuroscience behind Groupon’s business model. Another Wired columnist, Steven Levy, refers to the company as an overhyped coupon distributor. The notion of collecting coupons has existed for decades, but the rise of the Internet has given the consumer a whole new way to forage for discounts. Groupon has sought to target the parts of the brain that worry about price and spending money, rather than targeting parts that respond to sensory stimulation, such as smell. For example, the zoom-in feature allows the shopper to see the product in even greater detail. In an experiment with undergraduate students, their exposure to an item triggered their nucleus accumbens (NAcc). An interest in the item revealed a spike in activity. The price tag of the item activated the prefrontal cortex and the insula. Using these different reactions form the brain, scientists were able to predict the subject’s decision before it was made. The thrill of getting something new often could not compete with spending the money.

 

Groupon (and other online retailers) could focus on stimulating the NAcc or on restricting the prefrontal cortex. The first is achieved through marketing and making the customer feel the need for an item. The second is a delicate process, making sure that the consumer feels like he/she is getting the best deal on an item, or the most benefit for the price. With so many retailers today, most people just open their smartphone and perform a quick Google-search to price compare and make sure it really is a good deal. Groupon competes with those discounts, but also gives the consumer a limited time frame for decision making.

Overall, Groupon has to make up for the lack of tangible contact available with their products. Detailed pictures, elaborate descriptions, and low prices all work to draw the consumer’s attention without activating the “buyer’s remorse” feelings. The company supports local businesses, but has also altered the way we look at list prices. Now because of Groupon, most services are available at a discount as long as you wait long enough. Massages, exercise classes, and salon services are just a few examples of products that appear on a daily basis on Groupon.

I have been a pretty satisfied Groupon user, with only a few complaints about their “fine print” being a little too restrictive. I think I definitely fall victim to the mindset of “it’s such a good deal, how could you not buy it?” While I was in Australia, I wanted to get my SCUBA license so I checked Groupon  Australia to see if there was anything out (because normally it’s about $5-700) and sure enough, within a few days I was able to get a coupon for $100. This example further illustrates my consumer mindset that I can find pretty much anything at a cheaper price than full. Groupon is even able to discount things that never go on sale, such as sunglasses, by offering “$25 for $75″ at a given store (aka Sunglass Hut). Think about how you have been impacted by discount retailers. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve fallen into vicious online spending habits given the convenience and (perceived) great deals.


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Security…the modern definitions

// Posted by Tim on 03/01/2013 (3:23 PM)

     What does “security” mean in America in 2013?  What is secure?  What is safe?  What is private?  In today’s digitally connected, always on, find it immediately culture we are seeing changes in the meaning of security happen right

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     What does “security” mean in America in 2013?  What is secure?  What is safe?  What is private?  In today’s digitally connected, always on, find it immediately culture we are seeing changes in the meaning of security happen right before our eyes. It is happening every day, in almost all aspects of our society.
     Less begin with the obvious and look at security from it’s traditional definition.  Personal Safety. In the past few months we’ve seen two stories that bring the modern definition of security/safety come crashing home.  One was the tragedy in Newtown, CT–less than 30 minutes or so from my home in New Canaan, CT.  Here we see a sad, sad story of a troubled kid, access to guns and murdered first graders.  We’ve seen this story in Columbine, in Aurora and with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  Security in the “personal safety” sense now means that we are all vulnerable anywhere,anytime. Perhaps there is a need for The Good News channel on TV–but for now death by crazy maniac with an AR-15 assault rifle defines one new definition of individual security  This week’s story about Oscar Pistorius killing his girlfriend due to his claims of fear of violent crime in South Africa are a case in point. Security ain’t what it used to be from Oscar’s perspective.  He shoots and asks questions later!  Preemptive security.  It’s what got the US into a war in Iraq.
     The next new definition of security is security from the privacy and digital sense.  This is security from the digital  Facebook, Twitter perspective.  Virtually all activities now have the chance to be digitally tracked.  Look at the news tonight and see how many crimes are now seen by surveillance cameras.  Today’s article in the New York Times on the record industry (“Music Industry sales rise, and digital revenue use gets the Credit”‘ NYT 2/2213) is fascinating.  Here we see the story of an industry decimated by digital piracy with news that revenues for the music industry is starting to rise for the first time in years.  Goodbye $15 CD’s, hello 99 cents a song!  Security from a digital privacy sense was supposed to kill the music business.  Has it?  Could it digital security be starting to give back? Security/privacy needs to looked at over a long term horizon, it seems.
     Finally, we have security from global, Armageddon perspective.  We see stories on the uses of drones for national defense, the stories in today’s papers about the six nation talks with Iran about their building nuclear weapons, the story this week about South Korea  testing a nuclear  bomb for the third time.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Zero Dark Thirty, etc.  Security has this kind of annihilation aspect today just like it did with nuclear bomb shelters and missile defenses that my Dad has talked about when he was a kid.  That definition I get.  So does he. I hope everyone does, particular some crazy jihadist who wants to take as many non-believers down with him as possible.
     So what is security in 2013?  The old definition remain.  The new definitions I may be capable of living with…but it will take some getting used to.

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