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The WELL, Community, Social Media, and Yogi Berra

// Posted by on 05/23/2015 (3:58 PM)

The WELL was an online space where like-minded people could go and discuss a variety of topics whether they agreed, disagreed, or just had a general interest, they could go there to connect and to share ideas without physically being… Read more

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The WELL was an online space where like-minded people could go and discuss a variety of topics whether they agreed, disagreed, or just had a general interest, they could go there to connect and to share ideas without physically being in the same space. While I know forums of this nature are still very much a part of digital culture today (the guy with the cubicle across from me almost always has some sort of gun discussion forum open), the communal nature of the WELL made me think about the groups I’m a part of on Facebook.

I’ve been provided an opportunity to be a part of a group discussion about a specific topic, in my case mostly craft beer, where we all have a similar interest, but we don’t all agree on everything. This leads to some lively discussion! Similar to the WELL, these groups have moderators, you can choose to not see posts from people if you don’t find value in what they are adding to the discussion, and the point of it all is to share ideas. I don’t know if it’s necessarily sharing ideas in a scholarly, Socratic sense, or like the prompt mentions “sharing” to score cool points, but it’s sharing nonetheless. Social media is a good example of this. I have managed to seek out others who share my interests on Facebook through Groups. I’ve certainly tried to use Facebook groups, or even just my “wall” as an outlet for scholarly debate, but it often just turns into a mess. Often it gets off topic, disrespectful, offensive, full of bots postings ads, or just plain old trolls. Not helpful.

I think that this ease that we connect with people is what gives the Internet the ability to make us feel united. You can see it in grassroots movements that need to raise awareness or gain support. You could see in in 2008 in President (the Senator) Obama’s election campaign and then after having such success he went in the same direction for reelection in 2012. I looked into this a little bit and I found some research done by The Pew Charitable Trusts that stated that while both candidate in 2012 utilized this method of communication to get their messages to their supporters, they didn’t really engage in the “social” part of social media.

http://www.journalism.org/2012/08/15/how-presidential-candidates-use-web-and-social-media/

I wonder why this is? I can only assume it’s because sifting through all of the comments and responses, finding which were legit and which were not, and then actually responding would have taken an amazing amount of time, money, and people.

We’ve also seen people unite internationally through social media. Twitter has been used to raise money for disaster relief. Social media was used last month to raise awareness of violent attacks on foreigners on South Africa.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/17/africa/south-africa-xenophobia-social-media/

 

I think we feel this unity because it social media offers an emotional outlet for whatever a situation might be — disaster, human rights, politics, whatever — and in doing so, leaves people feeling empathetic. The ability to understand another’s emotions will often lead to the desire to act, and sometimes even change.

I don’t think we “almost” need social media to feel like part of the world, but rather I think we absolutely need it. 90% of my news and information about what’s going on in the world comes from social media, not traditional news outlets. Granted, some of it comes from traditional outlets just via social media. TV news has commercials. Social media news is in real time, and users are provided more firsthand accounts. I don’t have TV, and, for me, I’d feel entirely disconnected without social media.

While this is normal for me, as with much cultural change, this could be entirely foreign and daunting to say my grandmother. While my grandmother is no longer with us, she got her news from The Washington Post twice a day and from Walter Cronkite in the evening. The 24 hour news cycle and the constant flow of information over social media would have likely terrified her. Further, if she wanted to talk to someone she would go to their house or vice versa. All the neighbors would get together and some would smoke cigars and drink scotch, some would gossip, and some would just talk. There is a tone of value in that, but with the rise of digital everything, a lot of that sense of physical community is gone.

Social media has likely led to a lot of what Robert D. Putnam discussed in his book Bowling Alone:

“In this alarming and important study, Putnam, a professor of sociology at Harvard, charts the grievous deterioration over the past two generations of the organized ways in which people relate to one another and partake in civil life in the U.S. For example, in 1960, 62.8% of Americans of voting age participated in the presidential election, whereas by 1996, the percentage had slipped to 48.9%. While most Americans still claim a serious “religious commitment,” church attendance is down roughly 25%-50% from the 1950s, and the number of Americans who attended public meetings of any kind dropped 40% between 1973 and 1994. Even the once stable norm of community life has shifted: one in five Americans moves once a year, while two in five expect to move in five years. Putnam claims that this has created a U.S. population that is increasingly isolated and less empathetic toward its fellow citizens, that is often angrier and less willing to unite in communities or as a nation. Marshaling a plentiful array of facts, figures, charts and survey results, Putnam delivers his message with verve and clarity.” 

-Publisher’s Weekly

Where with me, if I don’t know about something the moment it happens, it’s old news by the time I do find out. Just like in the YouTube video it’s fast. Information is fast, news is fast, baby pictures are fast and you have to keep up or you get lost…whether you think you are or not.

I bet this is not just me – when I’m at work and something big happens – someone famous dies, Boston Marathon bombing, royal baby has a name – it almost seems like a competition to be the first one to blurt it out to the office.

I’d like to end by saying that rambling was encouraged.

Not really, I’d like to end with a funny Yogi Berra quote that I found looking up some info on Bowling Alone (it’s been a while since I read it):

The Publisher’s Weekly reviewer who wrote the above stared his/her piece using the great Yogi Berra’s quote to “articulate the value of social networks.”

I’ll leave you with that.


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Can Community Exist Without Physical Beings?

// Posted by on 05/22/2015 (12:07 PM)

First, I want to apologize. I have violated one of the key discussion rules. I posted late. Not last minute, but late. I can assure you that this is a one-time occurrence and I will not make it a habit.… Read more

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First, I want to apologize. I have violated one of the key discussion rules. I posted late. Not last minute, but late. I can assure you that this is a one-time occurrence and I will not make it a habit. I ask you for forgiveness. I think I got so wrapped up in choosing the right alias to use in our chatroom experience that I simply got behind.

Now that this unpleasantness is behind us, my real post:

I found the quotes and ideas espoused by Howard Rheingold to be rather thought provoking. First, his idea of virtual community. This term, which I find to be simple and self-explanatory, is actually the basis for much of what was happening online in the 70s and 80s, as it is now. On then, as the book states, it was new. At that time, it was text only, but today anything goes – text, images, videos, anything. Does this deviation from text only diminish the community or does it strengthen it? I honestly don’t know.

Something the book notes is that the text-only approach lent itself to the ability to connect with others “without encountering body-based forms of prejudice.” While adding prejudice to the mix certainly detracts from the experience, isn’t it inevitable? It was already noted that at the time, the differences between how men and women interacted with the internet and with each other was different.

 Next, the debate Rheingold started about the authenticity of “online interpersonal communications,” is something that I often wonder about. For example, my Facebook “friends.” Maybe 10 people plus family do I ever encounter in person. Does that make the interactions I have with the 80 others any more or less valuable? Do I really care what the kid I was in 3rd grade with had for dinner on his vacation with his 3 kids and 3rd wife at Disney World? I don’t, but what if I did? If I engaged him in conversation about his experience and I found our conversation meaningful, is that communication/relationship and more or less valid than if we had it in person? I don’t know.

Another experience: I took the required SPCS (then SCS) Interpersonal Communication class online. I thought this was an odd concept from the time I saw it, but I went forth. We did a lot of reading and some discussing, but I still didn’t understand. This was an online class, an online community, and also as stated in the book this “computer-mediated communication” made it so that our “bodies…ceased to matter.” This made it even more difficult for me to comprehend this particular course existing online. Does anyone else see this as being paradoxical? Is it possible for effective interpersonal communication to exist online? Without qualifying it as “virtual” or “online” can you have a community with face to face, interpersonal, communication?

 

 


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Utopia this way =>

// Posted by on 05/21/2015 (11:06 AM)

This weeks readings reflected on the transitions of The Whole Earth Catalog. The Whole Earth Catalog was envisioned as a way to bring about a ‘wholeness’ of the earth and all its systems. It resembles an old mail order catalogue,… Read more

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This weeks readings reflected on the transitions of The Whole Earth Catalog. The Whole Earth Catalog was envisioned as a way to bring about a ‘wholeness’ of the earth and all its systems. It resembles an old mail order catalogue, and contained information on how to maintain communes; the necessary tools that would be needed, and offered items such as potters’ wheels. The Catalog transitioned into the WELL, which is described as one of the first online communities. This shift marks a point in the separation of the utopian values from material practice.

Throughout the readings I felt myself rooting for the counterculture ideal of a shared consciousness, despite essentially knowing the anticipated outcome. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, if this ideal had triumphed how different would our lives have been? Would we have achieved utopia? I believe the potential was there. We can achieve so much as a group with a collaborative mindset; thinking about the sharing of knowledge that this counterculture was pursuing leaves me feeling like a great gift was just thrown aside.

The idea of alternative communities of kindred souls that could express themselves and develop and learn equivalent to a homeostat was profound. The belief that machine and man could coevolve to benefit each system, as a whole, was intense and inspiring.  As I was reading this, I was cheering them on and hopeful for their success. It was also interesting to read about the role of women on the WELL and the empowerment they felt as they glided across gender divides.

I don’t believe that the cyberculture revolution was completely unsuccessful in getting their ideal’s across as we do have the Internet. The Internet allows huge numbers of people from all over the planet to communicate and share knowledge. Relevant examples that come to mind are Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. In these realms people seem eager to share what they know and not claim ownership.  This shows that many of the same values of sharing and free information within the online community managed to carry over, and this online utopia is very different from the material practices that inspired it.


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The Politics of Social Media

// Posted by on 04/21/2014 (6:27 PM)

My project focuses on how social media has affected the ways we think about and engage with politics in the United States of America.  Essentially up until the most recent presidential election, the majority of political material was conveyed… Read more

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My project focuses on how social media has affected the ways we think about and engage with politics in the United States of America.  Essentially up until the most recent presidential election, the majority of political material was conveyed to the general public through news and print media sources (both online and directly).  However, as we become increasingly entrenched in the digital age, the best practices for campaigning have shifted to accommodate a greater concentration on social media advertisement.  In my initial research, I found that 76% of the sitting members of congress have some sort of social media account that they use to relay information to voters.  In many ways, this can be considered a positive development because it allows both current politicians and prospective politicians to deliver a message directly to the voting population, as opposed to relying on the media to properly portray their political stances.  But nonetheless, there is evidence that the integration of social media has done much more than simply expose the general public to a new source for political news.  By increasing the emphasis placed on social media campaigning, the criteria for a successful campaign and the ways in which political standpoints are communicated to a voter base have also been altered.  For example, a recent study released in the journal Social Abstracts states, “Social media like Facebook and Twitter place the focus on the individual politician rather than the political party, thereby expanding the political arena for increased personalized campaigning” (Enli and Skogerbo Social Abstracts, 1).  This is mainly due to the fact that individuals have different expectations regarding the type of information they will pay attention to on their social media pages.  Generally, social media posts are intended to be immediately enticing, and if a given post does not meet this criterion, then it is often quickly passed over without being absorbed by the users.  Thus, in order to be effective politicians must not be long winded and dry.  Rather, they are expected to post material that will instantly grab the attention of the social media user, which in many cases pertains closer to their personal lives than their actual legislative goals.  As a result, best practices for a successful campaign aimed at the average voter has drifted away from the nuts and bolts of a political standpoint and shifted towards the characteristics of the individual politician.

My investigation has shown that this shift is especially critical when campaigning to younger individuals.  PR week stated in regards to the most recent presidential election that “Republicans, with 31%, are also more likely to get their election news on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter than Democrats, 19%, and independents with 25%.”  This information shows that every political group in the United States has a key demographic that relies heavily on social media sites to receive election news.  As a result, posting material that will stand out to these individuals amongst the thousands of other tweets and posts each day is critical in attaining their votes.  And this change in direction also extends to news journalism companies which are also trying to adjust to the needs of this growing social media population.  Especially given the increasing drop in the actual purchase of newspapers and magazines, media outlets are beginning to rely heavily on social media posts to draw a customer base.  They engage in this practice of developing catchy posts that will grab social media users’ attention because otherwise they continue to scroll through a seemingly endless newsfeed without choosing to click on the displayed news link.  However, I interrogate whether this is a beneficial practice, in regards to both politicians and news sources.  It seems that it may be detrimental to our understanding of politics to diminish our political investigation to 160 characters of a catchy Facebook posts.  In many ways, it seems that our political decision making could be better facilitated through sources that fully explicate a candidate’s political plan, as opposed to focusing on details of a politician’s personal life or enticing political anecdotes through social media services.  Thus, in my project I am pinpointing the exact changes that this growing concentration on social media has brought to American politics, while critically analyzing these changes and determining how exactly we should choose to engage with social media when attempting to be well informed voters.

My research problem is primarily in regards to determining how we should view the effects of social media on our political culture.  Initial questions I’ve had in regards to this process starts with wondering how influential social media really is on our understanding of American politics.  The changes that social media have brought to politics are clearly documented, but I still wonder to what degree this shift is actually influencing our political decision making.  Furthermore, I wonder how much more likely Millennials are to use social media as their primary source for political news in comparison to older adults (roughly ages 35-50).  I believe that these social media services can be a valuable supplement to our political understanding, but perhaps the real danger is allowing these services to be one’s primary source for political news.  And finally, I have consistently found myself questioning how whether social media is chiefly responsible for this fascination with the individual politician.  Although some of my sources have argued that is the case, it seems that Americans have concentrated on the individual politician long before the rise of social media (such as one of my sources discussing Bill Clinton’s 1996 presidential campaign).  As far as road blocks to answering these questions go, it seems that I have struggled to provide solid statistics regarding the effects of social media on political culture.  I need to find polling more specific to a certain presidential election in order to strengthen my final claim.  Also, I have struggled with acquiring tweets from differing news sources to compare head-to-head in order to display how catchy titles developed by news outlets can be misleading.  This is mainly because these news sources all tweet and post so frequently that I have run into a bit of information overload and found it difficult to pinpoint particular stories.  However, these twitter and Facebook accounts still provide extremely beneficial supporting media, and now it is more so a matter of narrowing this media down to a couple particular stories.  It has also been useful to look at politicians social media accounts for additional supporting media.  For example, Joe Biden has just recently opened an Instagram account and Barack Obama posted a selfie with the Vice-President to his personal Instagram account in order to help Joe generate followers.  These social media sources, in addition with television news reports on the growing phenomenon should provide ample evidence to support my claim.

What would be most beneficial to receive from my classmates is the following:

  • Please answer the following poll questions:

Question 1: Is social media your primary source for acquiring political news?  If not, please state what you would list as your primary source.

Question 2: Do you believe that social media can adequately serve as a sole source for political news?

Question 3: Do you believe that social media can serve as a valued supplement for political news?

Question 4: When selecting a political candidate to vote for, are you interested in knowing the personal life of the candidate (i.e. their past, family, interests, hobbies)?

Question 5: Specifically in regards to social media, do you think you’d be more prone to pay attention to a post that addressed a politician’s personal life as opposed to their political standpoints?  Be honest, and elaborate if possible.

Question 6: When reading political news reports on social media sites, do you generally click on the link to the full story, or just read the headline displayed in the post?  Possible answers: a. Always b. Frequently c. Rarely d. Never

Question 7: Do you follow any political news outlets or politicians on any of your social media accounts?  If so, please list which ones.

Open ended question: If you voted in the most recent presidential election, what is it that led you to go to the polls?  Any feedback you can provide would be greatly beneficial.

  • Barack Obama recently went on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis in order to prompt more younger individuals to sign up for ObamaCare.  His efforts were actually pretty successful, but this approach to political progress was somewhat unorthodox.  The success of this appearance was largely correlated with the idea of “going viral,” meaning Barack Obama’s interview spread rapidly over the web and through social media sites.  Do you agree with using this sort of political tactic?  Also, what do you think it says about our culture today that it takes “going viral” to generate a spike in younger individuals participation in a political initiative.
  • The Barack Obama administration has been accused of being very closed off in regards to White House photography.  This angers various news sources because they only have the opportunity to use photographs provided by White House officials.  In many circumstances, these images provided by White House officials are taken very strategically to convey a certain line of thinking regarding the President.  Especially in the age of social media, how do you feel about the White House using such a closed off approach to presidential photography?
  • Can you think of any stories you saw on social media sites that we portrayed differently in the specific post than they were in the full story?  Any stories of this type you can lead me to would be great.
  • Can you think of any stories that were portrayed very in different lights by two different media sources?  I’m struggling somewhat with pinpointing specific examples, so once again, any stories that come to mind would be greatly appreciated.
  • And finally, how do you feel about social media’s relation to politics?  I know this question is extremely open ended, but I’d love to just get some ideas about how other Millenials view social media’s growing role in political campaigning.

Moving forward in this project, I really just need to turn my focus to more specific examples of social media and its effects.  I feel like I have done a pretty good job outlining the theoretical/big picture issues of my subject, but now I need to start analyzing specific pieces of social media.  Furthermore, I really think that I need to get some statistics to post to my blog page.  Hopefully classmates responding to the poll I posted will make that possible.  Once I select a few specific instances of social media to focus on that relate to my more general evidence, then I believe my project will come together nicely and paint a solid picture of social media’s role in our political culture.  I still have yet to answer how exactly Millenials feel about social media becoming a crucial campaign tool.  Furthermore, I still have yet to pinpoint the likelihood of individuals using social media as their sole source for political news.  In many ways, this project has morphed from simply observing social media in the political realm to critically analyzing their influence on our overall political culture.  Instead of just identifying these changes, I have begun to interrogate the effects social media has had on political campaigning and news consumption. Due to these advancements in my project aims, I believe that I will be able to develop a definitive standpoint on how exactly I believe social media should be utilized as a political tool by the close of my study.  Please refer to my blog to take a look at what I have been working on so far.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

http://kcdigitalamerica.wordpress.com/


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The Rise of Social Networks Might be Making People More Private

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Articles:

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

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


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No Time Like the Present

// Posted by on 03/30/2014 (8:13 PM)

According to Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist and author of Present Shock, everything happens now.  So, what does that really mean?  In the first two chapters of Rushkoff’s novel, we are introduced to the meaning of “present shock”.  Rushkoff argues… Read more

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According to Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist and author of Present Shock, everything happens now.  So, what does that really mean?  In the first two chapters of Rushkoff’s novel, we are introduced to the meaning of “present shock”.  Rushkoff argues that individuals have lost their capacity to take in the traditional narrative because the future has become “now” and we are constantly adapting to the new and unpredictable challenges it presents.  As a result, he continues, we have developed a new relationship with time on a fundamental level.  We are so preoccupied with living in the technological now, which is always active and changing constantly, that individuals are increasingly losing their sense of direction, personal goals, and future altogether.

This idea of a widespread narrative collapse is a significant aspect in the idea of present shock.  The traditional use of linear stories to attract viewers through a sort of shared journey has been replaced with unintelligent reality programming and TV shows.  I think Rushkoff’s argument is a completely accurate one.  In my generation, individuals have lost their ability to fully absorb information through this kind of story / narrative form.  We constantly feel the urge for a change, a new piece of information, a distraction.  Although it is easy to relate this to our current and most popular social media networks, we can perhaps look at something a bit different.  Take music for instance.  Even a decade ago, the process of purchasing and listening to an album or CD was an experience in itself.  You waited for the release of this album, maybe even in line at a local music shop.  After, you might go home and listen to this album with friends or alone and listen to it from beginning to end.  When is the last time you did this? You saw a friend do this? You witnessed anyone doing this?  This imagined visual might even seem abnormal or even weird in our current world.  I believe this is why mashups were created and became so popular within the last decade.  Why would you listen to one song when can get pieces of a few of your favorites within only 2 and a half minutes?  Digital technology is responsible for this ongoing change among individuals attention span and ability to be present in a moment.  In our generation, there is a sort of tangible anxiety and impatience among us that is only perpetuated by digital technology.  Think about how many people you see daily, scrolling through their Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter every few minutes waiting, almost yearning for something to grab their attention or excite them. This never-ending digital feed has caused a lack of appreciation for quality over quantity.  In turn, it depreciates our ability to focus and separate our real lives from our digital ones.

With the creation of the Internet, it was largely assumed that individuals would have more time to themselves, not less.  People might be able to work from home, from their bed even, and complete tasks that they would normally have to go into work to take care of.  This assumption, however, was based on the idea that technology would conform to our lives when, in actuality, the exact opposite happened.  As Rushkoff suggests, human time has become the new modern commodity.  People can no longer extract themselves from our overpowering digital world—they are always at its beck and call.  Whether it is a buzz from a tweet, call, or text, the interruption of technology is a common and constant one.  In turn, face-to-face conversations and meaningful opportunities are diminishing.  These shared experiences are being replaced with the “shared” experience of being distracted by technology and our devotion to it.  This relates to Rushkoff’s coined term “Digiphrenia”: this idea that because technology allows us to be in more than one place, individuals are overwhelmed until they learn how to distinguish the difference between signal and noise information.  Again going back to this idea of quality vs. quantity, it seems as though we are starting to value quantity at an ever-increasing rate.   I found this idea of being able to live in two different worlds to be particularly interesting— not only are we able to dip into different worlds at any given time, but we are able to project a different “self” as well.  As we have previously discussed, individuals can create and advertise any sort of identity they choose to and shift worlds at any point in time.

In my opinion, technology has caused us to be increasingly absent from the real “now” in order to be present in the digital ever-exisiting one.  We are collectively sharing a moment of “not sharing” that is deemed acceptable under the guise of  technology.   In turn, individuals’ ability to be completely present, mentally and physically, in any environment or situation is becoming increasingly rare.  Rather than experiencing what is happening in the moment, we find ourselves wondering what is going on in another moments, moments somewhere else with different people.  This “present sock” syndrome is only propelling feelings of constant anxiety, impatience, and seemingly unattainable satisfaction in our world, especially among my generation.  We are letting technology dictate our lives and consume our real and valuable time in exchange for mere seconds of shallow excitement, gossip, or news.

 


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It’s Just a “Boyish Hoax” Ladies, Relax!

// Posted by on 03/24/2014 (6:53 PM)

After our class discussions last week, I wanted to continue to focus on the topic of women and the Internet.  After reading Amanda Hess’ article, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet, it became just how important this issue truly… Read more

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After our class discussions last week, I wanted to continue to focus on the topic of women and the Internet.  After reading Amanda Hess’ article, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet, it became just how important this issue truly is in our current society.  In our digital age, it is far more likely for individuals to feel comfortable expressing themselves more freely than they normally would in face-to-face conversation.  This is, simply put, because we are able to hide behind a screen.  We do not feel the direct affect our words have on others, have control over who sees what we post, and do not have to take the risking our confidence.  Although this ability for open expression does yield various positive results, it is also poses very serious threats to individuals’ emotional and physical safety.  Where do we draw the line?  When is a threat made online taken as seriously as one made in person?  Whose responsible for this content and what shall be the repercussions for it?

One set of statistics in Hess’ article really stood out to me: Feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day while Masculine names received 3.7.  Similarly, she references a survey that Pew conducted gathering data from 2000 to  2005 which showed the percentage of internet users who participated in online chats and discussion groups.  Participants dropped from 28 percent to 17 percent, “‘entirely because of women’s fall off in participation’” (Hess).  After receiving both morbid death and terrifying rape threats, it is understandable why a woman would turn away from the Internet- delete her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Should women really be so uncomfortable to the point where they have to do so?  Where they feel there is no other option than to “digitally disappear”?  This position women often face does not seem fair to me.  The use of the internet will only continue to expand and women should not have to choose between using the Internet and feeling safe.  The Internet is a crucial resource for work and social communication between family and friends.

A big part of this dilemma is the lack of law enforcement in regards to digital threats.  Hess discusses the experiences of numerous women who had been continuously threatened on the Internet.  Even after consulting the police, however, the situations largely remained unresolved.  As Hess asserts, “the Internet is a global network, but when you pick up the phone to report an online threat, you end up face-to-face with a cop who patrols a comparatively puny jurisdiction” (Hess).  With police dismissing online threats as non-immediate and therefore not serious, women are left alone with no real resolution or justice.  With this common pattern of police response, it seems as though they are suggesting that women should take online threats lightly.  Obviously, a woman can experience harassment anywhere, not just on the Internet, however, as our society continues to increasingly depend on the Internet, it is no longer something we can overlook.  Today, harassers are able to remain anonymous and target women for no reason whatsoever.  Who is to tell women that their fear and anxiety is not real?  Why is the seemly discrete message seen to be, just forget about it and move on?  Something is fundamentally wrong with this picture…

The Internet is not a safe place, and even less safe of one for women.  Although there have been various efforts to prevent online harassment and bullying, there are no laws that allow women to bring claims against individuals.  This is because the Internet is not an official workplace, but a never-ending universe that lacks individual accountability.  Even if multiple users attack an individual, there is no way to group them into one and take action.  The Internet allows a sense of mobility and liberation that causes—even encourages— individuals to say whatever they want to without any repercussions.  Although I understand the challenges of holding anonymous screen names accountable for their words, I think that it is something that needs more focus as it will only continue to have an effects on our society, on an individual level and on a larger scale.  The Internet has become real life and we need to start treating it accordingly.


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Jaron Lanier and The Disappearance of the Middle Class

// Posted by on 03/23/2014 (11:56 PM)

Timberg’s article “Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class,” includes a very interesting interview between Timberg and Lanier about his book, “Who Owns the Future?”, and the… Read more

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Timberg’s article “Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class,” includes a very interesting interview between Timberg and Lanier about his book, “Who Owns the Future?”, and the problems that arise when the concentration of wealth and power is in the hands of very few people.

One of Web 2.0 intellectual Jaron Lanier’s main arguments in his book, “Who Owns the Future?”, is that “free” information on the Internet is leading to the disappearance of the middle class. Lanier criticizes big Web entities, such as Facebook and Google, and their business model. One of the examples he gives in the interview is that Kodak (now bankrupt) employed more than 140,000 people, while Instagram employs 13. Where did all those jobs disappear? This concentration of wealth leads to an intense concentration of formal benefits.

Many of his arguments are also highlighted on The Colbert Report, where Lanier suggested the concentration of wealth is “unhealthy,” because “real wealth” is dependent on everyone else’s wealth– a community of wealth. If there is a concentration of wealth, then that is not real wealth, it is “fake, brittle, phony, it falls apart.” Open economy is a new development, and it is not sustainable.

Lanier argues that we have talked ourselves into a weird double-economy—if material things are what’s being distributed, then we believe in material markets, but if it is information, creativity, the work of comedians and journalists etc., we think it should be shared and open. But, there is danger in that, as this shift from a formal economy to an informal economy puts all the information and workers into one area, so regular people are not getting credited for their information and value their work provides. In the formal economy, people who make contributions to the system receive formal benefits such as salary and pensions. Therefore, Lanier’s proposed solution is that those people involved in the informal economy facilitated by the Internet be “rewarded in micropayments when their data enriches a digital network.” An example Lanier continues to highlight is the issue of online translators. The algorithms that make up the online translators take away people’s jobs, as these corporations “mine” peoples’ skills without crediting them.

Lanier does not completely discredit the development of the informal economy. He believes that there is beauty in the trust that these systems work on, but in a world that is still in most ways a formal economy, one cannot rely on informal benefits, such as cultural capital, to pay for rent or raise kids, etc., “it is not biologically real.”

In Lanier’s view, the benefits of reinstating the middle class distribution of wealth and power are huge—“democracy is destabilized if there isn’t a broad distribution of wealth.” This idea of democracy and the Internet is one we have been grappling with throughout the whole course, and is one that continues to be questioned as we explore further.


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Is the internet too large?

// Posted by on 03/23/2014 (6:47 PM)

In Ron Rosenbaum’s article, “What Turned Jason Lanier Against the Web?” he talks about Jason Lanier and his beliefs that the internet is becoming to vast. Lanier helped create Web 2.0 and was one of the inventors of our current… Read more

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In Ron Rosenbaum’s article, “What Turned Jason Lanier Against the Web?” he talks about Jason Lanier and his beliefs that the internet is becoming to vast. Lanier helped create Web 2.0 and was one of the inventors of our current digital reality. He used to be a large supporter of the internet however he now wants to “subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to “social catastrophe.” Lanier views the internet as this database that everyone and their mom wants to be a part of and socially locked in.

Everyone today is on the internet. No matter what form, we are all digitally dialed in. It is the way our world works now, but do you think the internet is becoming too large? Is it so big that we cannot control it anymore? Lanier believes that if the internet continues to expand the repercussions could be catastrophic. He fears that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are expanding at too fast of a rate. I agree with Lanier. I believe that the Web is getting out of control and if the internet is not given restrictions the results could be incredibly harmful.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/aug/16/facebook-riot-calls-men-jailed

After doing some research, I came across an article about a riot that was first constructed on Facebook. Two men, ages 20 and 22 were both sentenced to four years in prison due to the casualties of the riots. It is an example like this that justifies Lanier’s reasoning that the internet is becoming too large. People are using the Web to create more violence. But what step needs to be taken to prevent future crimes? I think Facebook needs to somehow create a code that can read your post before it is uploaded. If there is any sort of violent language in the post or comment than it cannot be uploaded. I do not know how that would be created but I think it could prevent many more hateful crimes. Do you agree with Lanier and his argument or do you think the internet should continue to expand? Even if we tried to control the internet, is it just too late?


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Dating in the Digital World

// Posted by on 03/02/2014 (11:45 PM)

By: Caroline Andryc, Eliza Breed, Piper Brighton, Allie Deering and Mia Webber

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9zNvamo5z4

http://youtu.be/Y9zNvamo5z4

For our group project, we decided to focus on the impact of digital culture on romantic relationships.  As seen in the video, social media… Read more

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By: Caroline Andryc, Eliza Breed, Piper Brighton, Allie Deering and Mia Webber

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9zNvamo5z4

http://youtu.be/Y9zNvamo5z4

For our group project, we decided to focus on the impact of digital culture on romantic relationships.  As seen in the video, social media and technology are very present forces in our society and seemingly necessary for a relationship to function.  In order to explore this complex topic, we looked into the ways in which social media and technology both negatively and positively affect relationships. Advances in technology have allowed people to connect and communicate in new and incredible ways.  Applications such as Facetime, Skype, Twitter, and Instagram provide people with the opportunity to communicate 24/7,  regardless each individual’s environment.  According to Pew Research Center’s article  Couples, the Internet, and Social Media, young adults are more likely to report feeling closer to their spouse or partner thanks to technology.  According to their survey, 41% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner due to online or text message conversations and 23% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships report resolving an argument using technology that they were having trouble resolving in person.  At the same time, young adults are more likely to report tension in their relationships over technology use, as 42% of cell phone-owning 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together.  It is evident that digital culture can affect romantic relationships in multiple ways.  The aim of our project is to investigate its various influences while taking into account the recent Pew survey on how American couples use digital technology to manage life, logistics, and emotional intimacy within their relationships (Pew).

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

The following skit illustrates the positive impact of technology on relationships. The beneficial effects of digital communication are particularly apparent in long-distance relationships, as it allows the couple to connect regardless of their individual environment.  Through the mainstream digital networks such as: Facetime, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, couples are able to maintain a constant connection. These technologies have allowed couples to breakaway from the impersonal and monotonous phone calls to the face-to-face emotional video conferencing calls. Especially present in long-distance relationships, couples now have the ability to electronically see each other everyday, which can contribute to a stronger relationship. Technology only continues to grow exponentially, as subscribers to the new iPhone 5 have witnessed, people can now use Facetime without WiFi, a feature that was only recently released. This has allowed couples to communicate via video conferencing even more and be a part of each others lives no matter where they may be. Current technology helps with the logistics and communication of a relationship, making it easier to strengthen the bond between two people.

As the Huffington Post declared in the article, “Long Distance Relationships May Benefit From ‘Hug Shirts,’ Other Technologies,” romantic relationships are now not as challenging as they used to be due to the abilities of mainstream social media: “As communication technology has improved over time, it’s helped long-distance couples stay in real-time contact and enjoy conversations almost as if they were sitting face to face.” With applications like, FaceTime and Skype which now have the capacity to work wherever the individual may be, relationships no matter the distance have the opportunity to evolve and become even more closely-knit. Without the assistance of video technology, couples would not be as eager and enthusiastic about long-distance relationships. USA Today’s article “More young couples try long-distance relationships,” supports this statement, as Sharon Jayson discusses how common and popular long-distance relationships are becoming. She interviews a couple, Rachel Goldstein and Ben Kuryk who met in college and have now decided to continue their relationship no matter the distance between their new post-graduate jobs. The 1,055 miles between Goldstein and Kuryk does not seem so far while they’re communicating via FaceTime and Skype three to four times a day. As Goldstein declares, “”We’re professionals at this.”” A recent study in the journal Communication Research discovered that “as many as half of college students are in long-distance relationships, and up to 75% will be at some point.” Due to the vast capabilities of technology, couples no longer have to put their relationships on pause. Goldstein and Kuryk have been together for six and half years and in more than four different cities. Their relationship has lasted and ceased to perish solely because of the innovation of technology and the vast opportunities presented within social media. As seen in the USA Today article, it has proven that couples can withhold the long and grueling weeks and months of being apart, because of technology. Without the remarkable aptitude of technology, couples like Goldstein and Kuryk would not have the ability to maintain their relationship and ultimately see what direction it takes in the future.

It is obvious that without technology many relationships, long distance or not, would not last as long as they do today.  Social media and technology places that connection with one’s significant other in the palm of their hand, literally.  In our current society, it is beyond just phone calls.  The visual elements that modern technology incorporates, such as facetime and skype, allow couples to communicate face-to-face, which arguably fosters a deeper connection.  Conceivably, one could be in a long-distance relationship in which they are always “with” their partner.  I say “with” in quotations because although facetime offers far more connectivity than a mere phone call, the relationship without physical contact is limited.  Still, with apps like Facetime you could technically sleep, eat, dance, watch tv, and engage in sexual foreplay.  This type of relationship is not for everyone, but for those that adhere to the cultural norms of the use of technology in relationships, a long-distance relationship would be much easier to maintain.  It is not surprising that long distance relationships are on the rise, our generation is accustomed to being able to communicate with their significant other whenever, wherever.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP56OBQ6yiA

http://youtu.be/VP56OBQ6yiA

In this scenario, the two girls are demonstrating the anxiety that technology can create in a relationship. Texting enables fast and instant connections between people, therefore, we expect quick responses: “As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers” (Turkle, Flight From Conversation). Our lack of patience in this matter can cause issues, as anxieties can amount if one sees that the message has been read, but a response has not followed fast enough. Additionally, texting allows us to “edit” what we want to say and consequently hide our feelings and true expressions to “present the self we want to be.” (Turkle). Social Media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have enabled people to “connect” with others indirectly; to gather “sips” of information about others that might not tell the whole story.

Zuckerberg claims Facebook was built to “accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” however, “connection” should not replace conversation (Techcrunch; Turkle). With Facebook’s mission in mind, we take what we see on social media to be the true representation of peoples’ lives. In this scenario, access to Peter’s Facebook allowed the girls to make judgements and perceptions about his life and relationships, that might or might not have been accurate, which can lead to unnecessary anxieties as trust can become questioned.

Trusting social media as the primary source of information can become dangerous, as catfishing has become more prevalent. A catfish is someone who creates a false online identity, usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you or to scam people into giving you money, credit, or other gains. Just recently, Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o claims he was a victim of a catfishing scam. Even more terrifying is the idea that catfishing is not exactly against the law. While some states can criminalize those that impersonate an actual person, there are currently no laws that punish those that create a fictitious person (Merritt Web). The ability of social media to enhance relationships is evident, as we discussed earlier, which makes it much more emotionally difficult for one to realize that they’ve been duped by a catfish considering the amount of time and effort that was probably invested into the online relationship.

The videos that we created showed people using social media to connect with others, either to enhance a long-distance relationship or to decode someone’s actions. But, because we rely on social media to connect with others, we can choose who we connect with. For example, if a relationship ends between two people, one can “digitally delete” that other person from their lives by de-friending them on Facebook, unfollowing them on Twitter and Instagram, and deleting them off your Snapchat friend list. Additionally, the act of breaking up with someone or ending a friendship can be made easier by texting and messaging that person instead of dealing with messy, emotional, face-to-face conversations; Turkle argues this point as well: “Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology.”

It is virtually impossible in this day and age to find an example of a relationship exempt from the influence of digital culture. Because it has become such a widespread and mainstream mode of communication, it can be implied that the use of technology is inherently good, otherwise it would not be in constant use. Couples can use technology to keep in contact on a fast and consistent basis, which can lead to a deeper emotional connection. Technology gives couples in long distance relationships the opportunity and the choice to maintain the relationship they are in, and continue to see how it goes in the future. Yet the huge influence of digital culture on romantic relationships does not come without its downfalls. While technology can be a huge help in the search for a relationship and the maintenance of a relationship, it is not the sole factor that makes a relationship work. Websites such as Match.com and OKcupid may facilitate the search, but it still takes human initiative and eventual personal contact for a relationship to develop. And while constant communication may aid in maintaining a relationship, it can also set individuals up for unrealistic expectations on response times or the openness of their partner. Social media adds another layer of sharing to a relationship that can either facilitate the relationship or cause anxiety or a feeling of exclusion for one’s significant other based on what one shares with one’s friends on social media. While technology is a huge factor in modern relationships, its use and outcome is still greatly rooted in how an individual uses it. Technology may help with the nuts and bolts of a relationship, but it cannot create in-person chemistry and it cannot act as a substitute for emotional love.

Works Cited:

1. Dodson, Lauren, “Catfish and the Law.”

http://www.merrittwebb.com/b2-catfish-and-the-law/

2. Turkle, Sherry, “Flight from Conversation.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?pagewanted=all

3. Shaw, Lisa. “What is Catfishing and Why You Should Care.”

http://parentingtodayskids.com/article/what-is-catfishing-and-why-should-you-care/

4. Constine, Josh, “Facebook’s S-1 Letter From Zuckerberg Urges Understanding Before Investment.”

http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/01/facebook-ipo-letter/

5. Couples, the Internet, and Social Media

http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/11/couples-the-internet-and-social-media/

6. Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/12/long-distance-relationshi_n_1271210.html

7. USA Today:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/mentalhealth/2010-09-09-longdistance09_ST_N.htm


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Occupy Wall Street

// Posted by on 02/23/2014 (5:35 PM)

This week we read an article by Jeff Sharlet called, “Inside Occupy Wall Street.” Sharlet shed some light on what Occupy Wall Street (OWS) really is and the enormous impact it has made around the world. I was never educated… Read more

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This week we read an article by Jeff Sharlet called, “Inside Occupy Wall Street.” Sharlet shed some light on what Occupy Wall Street (OWS) really is and the enormous impact it has made around the world. I was never educated or award of the magnitude of OWS and the amount of people involved in the movement. At first after reading the article and developing my knowledge on the situation, it is still difficult for me to really understand the whole purpose of the protest. Why are thousands of people camping out in this park for months trying to get Wall Street’s attention? Do they want business professionals to walk out of their building and hand these people jobs? I just did not see the end goal all of these protesters were aiming for. However after the class discussion, I am starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together a little more now. I understand that all they want is for them, “the 99%” to have a level playing field with the 1%, Wall Street businessmen and women. However, is that a realistic goal, to make everyone equal? How will the economy appreciate and grow overtime if no one is trying to work his or her way up the professional latter?

The first sentence of Sharlet’s article also blew my mind, as I was completely unaware that this global/universal movement came from one simple Tweet and hashtag, #occupywallstreet. It is events like this that truly show the world how incredibly powerful technology is becoming. Social media has changed the world forever. Would OWS been as big if people tried to form it in the 40s? There is no way. People around the world would not have heard about this protest without the type of technology we have today. It is due to things like Twitter, Facebook, online newspapers, etc, that these events get the media’s attention all throughout the world. With the knowledge of the movement through technology, more and more people began showing up to the park to help protest. Technology allowed Occupy Wall Street to reach the magnitude it did. Without it, the movement would not be talked about today and would have sizzled out long ago. It would not have become such a global sensation the way it did. Technology, with the help of social media allowed for all of these people to join together and be part of something larger than themselves. The dedication from these people, I will say, impresses me. I cannot believe some stayed for weeks, even months at a time to prove to the world things need to change. The efforts from these people are incredible.

After reading Sharlet’s piece and again seeing the powerful of technology and how persuasive it can truly be, scares me. Anyone has the capabilities to tweet whatever they want and develop millions of followers. This is exactly what happened when a male teenager posted on his Facebook page that he had a good idea to raid a mall and begin shoplifting and hurting people. The post received many comments and likes. Many of his friends and their friends began joining the group and were eager to help in his horrific act. Without the power of Facebook and the abilities it has to reach millions of people, this would never have happened. This is why when technology and social media falls into the hands of the wrong people it can become incredibly scary and harmful. But is there anyway of stopping it?


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I Have Nothing To Hide… But I Guess Nobody Likes To Be Spied On: A Response to Steven Levy’s Feature Article in Wired Magazine February 2014 Issue

// Posted by on 01/29/2014 (5:49 PM)

In the most recent installment of Wired Magazine, Steven Levy writes a feature article outlining the NSA spying issue, which highlights the effects the recent Edward Snowden debacle has had (and still continues to increase) on the way individuals… Read more

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In the most recent installment of Wired Magazine, Steven Levy writes a feature article outlining the NSA spying issue, which highlights the effects the recent Edward Snowden debacle has had (and still continues to increase) on the way individuals throughout the globe view the internet.  Essentially, Levy makes the case that the future of the internet is put at risk if individuals lack trust in their online security.  Given the NSA’s newly revealed ability to  access online records, many individuals are losing faith in their privacy when storing information on internet mega-giants such as Google, Yahoo!, etcetera.  Without this line of trust between internet service providers and consumers, the thriving success of the internet is at risk of being stalled, or worse case scenario, destroyed.

Levy does  a pretty good job of staying relatively detached during the piece.  He does not outright attack the NSA for their selected security measures, and he does not attest that internet giants should be doing much more to fight the government and keep all information private.  However, what he does do is bring to light an interesting issue in American society today in regards to the importance we place on the safety of our nation as opposed to our individual security.  If the answer to this question was purely that we want our individual information secure over anything else, then the internet would undoubtedly collapse.  No one would trust these gigantic company’s servers with their information because then their information would be at risk of being sent to the government.  However, that has not happened yet, and Levy in no way suggests that this will happen any time soon.  Losing faith in the internet is something that could happen after a long period of time, as individuals slowly decide that they cannot trust personal information over these servers that may be forced to release information to the American government.  This is especially a concern from civilians living outside of the United States, seeing as using services like Gmail and Yahoo! mail may result in a foreign government receiving their information, which appears as a large violation of their privacy.

In my opinion, I do not believe that there is any reason for anybody to get worked up about this issue and lose any faith in large companies such as Google and Yahoo!.  These companies have been at the forefront of American innovation for years, and have done nothing but provide the world with consistently better services.  ”But I don’t want to use a service that may leak my information to the government!  That is a violation to my privacy!” someone might say.  Well, yes, I suppose it is a violation to your privacy.  However, I don’t think that the United States Government has any interests in the selfies you took with your dog, nor the relationship troubles you’ve been emailing your friends about.  Whether its these subjects that you are using internet services to discuss is irrelevant.  Basically what I am trying to say is: If you have nothing to hide, then the government is not reading through your information.  And by “nothing to hide,” I don’t mean a small skeleton in the closet.  Of course everyone uses internet services to discuss somewhat sensitive, personal information; but the only sort of skeleton that the United States government is interested in is something of the atomic bomb, terrorist attack nature.  These NSA is not even tracking in-country criminal activity of any sort.  And even if they were, they could never convict anyone in court of any non-terrorist oriented crime because that would denote improperly obtaining evidence.

I do understand, however, that no one wants to be spied on.  I feel the same way, and of course the idea of the government having access to a large amount of information makes me nervous.  However, the question I couldn’t help but ask myself while reading this article is: If the government having access to my information could stop a terrorist attack, would I give it to them?  And the answer is always yes.  I know they have no actual interest in looking at my information, but simply receive a bulk of information in order to narrow it down to possible threats within the country.  As stated by US Army General, Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, “We recognize that if we do [give away our power to monitor information], our nation now is at greater risk for a terrorist attack.  So we’re going to do the right thing; we’re going to hold on to it, let people look at the options.  If there is a better option, put it on the table.”

Frankly, I would have to agree that there is no better option.  Unfortunately, America is a country susceptible to threats, and I for one would like to take all measures necessary to make sure that innocent Americans do not die from a terrorist attack.  If that means the NSA receiving my personal Gmail information in a gigantic lump with thousands of other individuals (including individuals from other countries), then so be it.  I have nothing to hide, and I know they won’t be interested in anything available on my account.  As long as you have nothing to hide (Note: Again, by nothing to hide, I mean no terrorist plots to threaten national safety), then the American government will have no interest in looking at your personal information, whether they have it on file or not.


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Technology and Self-Esteem

// Posted by on 01/20/2014 (2:49 PM)

I personally find the digital age in America to be somewhat sad and depressing. Interactions are less meaningful and the emphasis placed on technology is way too large. I worry about the future of the united states in many regards.… Read more

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I personally find the digital age in America to be somewhat sad and depressing. Interactions are less meaningful and the emphasis placed on technology is way too large. I worry about the future of the united states in many regards. The first being how our generation is far too obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, and in general bragging about experiences by uploading photo after photo. It has been proven that using these social media websites daily can contribute to lower self-esteem. We have been robbed of face to face (and in my opinion, more personal) relationships. Second, this reliance on media through the use cell phones, televisions, ipads, computers, etc. has created a divide in the relationships we have developed. It almost seems as if friendships and relationships are fake. Technology serves as a mask that we are all able to hide behind when communicating. We are so engulfed in social media that it is now a representation of who we are (or maybe rather who we want to be). I also have come to the conclusion that social media is a contributing factor to the failure of marriages. It is now MUCH easier to cheat through the use of technologies that connect us to anywhere in the world. We meet someone at a bar and can now pursue that person through phones, the internet, etc. In addition to this, social media/technology has given men the opportunity to be lazy. No longer do men pursue women and make an effort, it is as easy as sending a simple text. Compared to the courting men used to do, which involves meeting familes/parents, etc. technology has created an easy way out of having to do so. Lastly, technology has largely contributed to low self esteem and body image issues. Technology enforces an “ideal” but impossible standard of beauty through advertising models, makeup products, etc. This automatically has caused the world to be an unhappier place than it used to be. We cannot deny that we are all addicted to technology, and it is now a NECESSITY in our daily lives and routines. I don’t think it would be possible to live a day without it, which is quite sad and quite frightening.

These two links are articles about the possible repercussions using facebook can have on self esteem:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/facebook-addicts-may-have-lower-self-esteem-says-study/

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/10/04/facebook-happiness-and-self-esteem/

While technology has generated disadvantages in the world, I do think our country has benefitted as well. The progression of technology and technological devices is amazing, and has given us the capacity to do/research just about anything. It is incredible that we can connect with someone in Australia, or research online about an event that happened hundreds of years ago. Our culture has evolved into an extremely intelligent one, and we can accredit some of that to technology.

One thing I have found very interesting so far about the book is the protest and objection of technology by college students. You would think that they would embrace something so new and exciting, as it turns out they were very closed off to the idea. Talking about the advancement of technology with my parents has really put it into perspective. Life was so simple and to my surprise sometimes I think I would prefer to be technology free, and to be able to experience the simplicity they did. We are so often caught up in the lives of others, when we really should just be concerned about our own. It is troubling to think about what the future holds for our children. Will there be flying cars and cell phones programmed into our arms? It is scary to think about, but the fact of the matter is is that our parents’ generation had no idea what was coming, and we won’t either. I hate that I use expressions such as “fired up” and “strung out.” I don’t like the describing our living human bodies as a computerized, inanimate machine. It should not be this way.


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The Beginning of The End

// Posted by on 01/17/2014 (5:23 PM)

The opening chapters of Fred Turner’s, From Counterculture to Cyberculture, explore the historical context of  the utopian vision of computing technology as well as the metaphors, language, ideas, and movements that are linked to it.  He largely focuses on… Read more

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The opening chapters of Fred Turner’s, From Counterculture to Cyberculture, explore the historical context of  the utopian vision of computing technology as well as the metaphors, language, ideas, and movements that are linked to it.  He largely focuses on Stewart Brand, a networker who founded the Whole Earth Catalog and WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) which were both focused on creating an openminded and flexible kind of culture.  Brand was an important figure in the idea of the Merry Pranksters as well as in the MIT media Lab.  From the 1960′s through the 1980′s, he experienced diverse environments and sought to link projects and people and promote new ways of thinking.  Brand’s enterprises over those two decades of “shifting politics”, Turner suggests, appear as precursors to the World Wide Web.

Turner also discusses the public perspective in 1967 and the fear and unrest that arose as computers were viewed as technologies of dehumanization, centralized bureaucracy, and the rationalization of human life.  Computers were an overt symbol of the military and the centralization of power.  People feared the creation of an automated society that was a potential threat to their freedom.  In the 1990′s, however, computers had served as the defining devices of cold war technocracy and emerged as the symbols of its transformation. Two decades after the end of the Vietnam War and the fading of the American counter culture, computers somehow seemed poised to bring to life the countercultural dream of empowered individualism, collaborative community, and spiritual communion (2).  It is interesting how in just thirty years, the cultural meaning of information technology shifted so drastically.  The power of computing, once seen a threat to freedom and a individuality, was soon perceived as encouraging to personal freedom, collaboration, dispersed authority, and knowledge.

After learning about the shift in perspective of technology from the 1960′s to the 1990′s, it is interesting to consider the view of the subject in my generation.  It is overly evident how ingrained technology is in our society today, particularly among the youth.  Walking around campus, it is almost rare to see a student hands-free, head up, taking in their immediate environment and the individuals who occupy it.  It is not hard to understand technologies’ massive role in influencing the world around us.  iPhones have replaced the need for face-to-face conversations and computers are now the popular substitute for books, newspapers, and magazines.  Seven-year-olds are asking for cellphones and computers as birthday gifts instead of bicycles or games.  Dinner conversations have taken a backseat to technological entertainment and car rides are often silent as everyone is “plugged-in”.  It is undeniable; we live in the digital age.

I often find these observations to be depressing, only reminders of how genuine social interactions have seemingly diminished into thin air.  It is almost as if someone’s texting or Facebook/Twitter/Instgram page is more of a representation of who they are than the individual him/herself.  For the majority of young people, technology is their primary device for communication and expression.  In my opinion, this only hinders their personable development as they spend increasing amounts of time focused on their digital appearence as well as the personalities portrayed by others.  Technology can often limit the imagination and creativity of young minds as they are bombarded with distractions on the web that are more often than not- well, garbage.   Some might argue that I have a biased view on how our generations technological networks have influenced our social interactions and that is probably accurate.  My opinion is formed by personal experience, however, and I tend to see technology today as a tool for a shallow interconnectedness that, ultimately, isolates us from one another. To me, this is where the irony lies.  A device created to connect humanity on a broad scale has the effect of distancing us when we are, physically, the closest.

 


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Skype me!

// Posted by on 02/11/2013 (11:28 AM)

“When you become a verb, you know you’ve made it.” -Doug Amoath, Time Tech

Today we have options far beyond just a cell phone. Even years ago, Skype offered a cheaper alternative to a landline. How did they… Read more

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“When you become a verb, you know you’ve made it.” -Doug Amoath, Time Tech

Today we have options far beyond just a cell phone. Even years ago, Skype offered a cheaper alternative to a landline. How did they do it? Like Kazaa and Napster, Skype is founded on a peer-to-peer network. The more people that use it, the better the connection, which was particularly useful in sparsely populated areas. Then, people in cities wanted to be connected also and the network grew. Ebay bought Skype for $2.6 billion, which seemed like an astronomic number at the time (2006). In 2011, Microsoft then purchased Skype for $8.5 billion. Experts speculated about the sanity of Microsoft; whether the investment would prove to be monumental and profitable…or a colossal waste of money. Skype is referred to as a “disruptive” technology; whereby people are able to call across the world for free, instead of signing up for an expensive cell phone plan. Microsoft is now integrating Skype into many of its products, proving that the purchase was a smart one. From Xbox 360 to Outlook, all users will be able to take advantage of Skype capabilities. Microsoft owns a large share of Facebook also, meaning that you can expect to see Skype starting to penetrate the social network realm even further.

As a dedicated user of Skype, I have only ever spent $10 on the entire product. That has lasted me through numerous international phone calls and saved me significant amounts of money from using a landline. What are the implications of Skype expanding more into other arenas? Even now from my cell phone I can Skype my friend in Africa on WiFi for free. The possibilities seem endless, and as a consumer I feel like I’ve definitely gotten the most out of the application. Now we’re seeing the rise of WhatsApp and Viber, applications that let you call and text literally for free (well, WhatsApp is $.99). Even so, both these applications have really outdone themselves. The only trick to the app is that your friend on the receiving end needs to have it also. Seems easy enough right? I wonder what the long term effects on cell phone companies and plans will be, since as things become free, less people are willing to pay for services.


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“Digging” Into The Past

// Posted by on 02/03/2013 (10:43 PM)

I was going to do a brief history on the rise of Reddit, but I felt that a description of its predecessor, Digg, is in order. While they are unrelated in terms of ownership and development, Reddit… Read more

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I was going to do a brief history on the rise of Reddit, but I felt that a description of its predecessor, Digg, is in order. While they are unrelated in terms of ownership and development, Reddit and Digg heavily influenced each other and fought for prominence on the internet.

Digg was an very revolutionary website when it came out in 2004. While Google and Bing have the ability to look up information based on keywords that users type into a search box, Digg allowed users to stumble upon (no pun intended) links and articles that they weren’t necessarily looking for, but were deemed interesting by other Diggers. Four entrepreneurs started the website with a $6,000 investment in 2004 and used the name “Digg” because Disney had already taken www.dig.com. By mid-2005, the website had secured $2.8 million in funding from investors. That year, TechCrunch.com posted a profile of Digg on their website, claiming that the startup “is a very cool site and we are now behind it 100%…we’ll definitely be coming back for a look on June 26 for the new 2.0 Beta!”

In 2006, a number of important updates were added , such as profanity filters, the ability to flag things as “inappropriate,” podcasts, videos, and a large number of new categories. In 2008, Digg netted $28.7 million, which would end up being the last big moment for the company.

In their next update, Digg launched a completely re-designed website and extensive Facebook integration. An interview with Digg CEO Jay Adelson appeared in Wired Magazine in 2010. The writer says, ”Digg has offered a first glimpse of its new website design, a radical reboot that not only alters the entire look of the site, but also ditches Digg’s rigid taxonomy in favor of user-selected tags. It also taps into the broader social web to help users discover relevant news stories.”  As a bit of foreshadowing, the article says, “It’s a major overhaul of the site, the kind of radical change that risks alienating longtime users even as it takes advantage of the powerful social tools that have revolutionized the internet’s flow of information.”

The update was terribly buggy and glitchy. Users were furious over the changes, and most of them flocked to Reddit in retaliation. In addition, Facebook’s implementation of the “Like” system across the internet ruined Digg’s chances of successfully using its Facebook integration and “Digg” buttons. In a CNET article from June 21, 2010, Digg attempted to get back some of its users, traffic, and fame with a new update, but apparently their grave had already been “dugg.” The article says, “The social-news aesthetic that was once unique to Digg and a few other sites has now been co-opted by Facebook, which now offers “like” buttons that many publishers run alongside the Digg buttons that have been placed there for promotion for years; and TweetMeme, which aggregates Twitter links into a Digg-like interface.” Simply put, other websites were doing what Digg originally set out to do, and they were doing it better than Digg.

It’s amazing to think that in 2008 Digg was up for sale for a potential $200 million to Google, who never acted upon the deal. In July of 2012, a big chunk of Digg was sold to Betaworks for $500,000…that’s $199,500,000 less than it was valued four years ago. A combination of a shoddy website update, bad implementation of social media integration, and a desperate attempt to distinguish itself from its competitors spelled the end for Digg, once the darling of the internet community. StumbleUpon faced a similar fate due to Facebook’s “Like” buttons, but that company is still commanding a large section of the internet.

Reddit was the overwhelming victor after the demise of Digg. In 2012, the website had 37 billion page views and 400 million unique visitors. 30 million posts were written, and 4 billion votes were cast on posts over the past year. Through its subreddit communities, users are able to connect with like-minded individuals and can enjoy their interests with others. In addition, the r/IAmA (The “I Am A _____” subreddit) has brought in a lot of celebrities who have wanted to connect with the Reddit community, most importantly President Obama (that day, 4.4 million unique visitors visited Reddit).

The story of Digg is the story of a company who had it all and lost it all in a span of eight years. For other companies, Digg can serve as a reminder that bad decision making and the alienation of a loyal user base can ruin a company’s chances of surviving in an age where users, not corporations, can decide a website’s fate in a flash.

 

Main source for the timeline at the beginning: Mashable’s “A Brief History of Digg”


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The Girl Who Cried “Fire”

// Posted by on 01/28/2013 (10:27 PM)

This weekend, a terrible fire occurred in a Brazilian nightclub called “Kiss.” The club was filled far beyond its capacity, which lead to further chaos when the fire broke out. It spread faster and was difficult to contain. Over 230… Read more

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This weekend, a terrible fire occurred in a Brazilian nightclub called “Kiss.” The club was filled far beyond its capacity, which lead to further chaos when the fire broke out. It spread faster and was difficult to contain. Over 230 people were killed and the scene described in related articles is disturbing and tragic. Could the fire have been saved by social media?

The Huffington Post published an article about a 20 year old in the club who posted a Facebook status within an hour of the disaster. The post read “Incéndio na KISS socorro,” which translates to “Fire at KISS help.” The post received many comments, including one that said “the last check-in.” The girl who posted the status died in the fire, alongside hundreds of others. The fire appears to have been started as a result of pyrotechnics used in the band’s performance.

Another article in the Huffington Post about the incident says that the band that performed on this night feels threatened through social media sights.  People have been making claims that they will have to pay and the band fears retaliation.

In this instance, we see social media for good and for bad. Well, the victim’s post could have been better if her Facebook friends had perhaps reacted in a more urgent matter. Does this stem from that people make over-dramatic statuses? Then there is the flip side, that the band is now receiving threats through social media outlets. How will they keep themselves safe when (probably) all their activity is live-posted and geo-tagged thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare…

I find the situation simultaneously hopeful but discouraging. Social media is such a powerful tool, even has the power to save lives; in the physical and the metaphorical sense (think about FB campaigns that raise money). That being said, so often it is used for harm or for scheming. It’s so vast and basically impossible to control. If people could learn to harness the positive potential of social media outlets, the internet could become a less threatening space. What if you could tweet @911 (or the equivalent emergency hotline) and get a call or help immediately? Or text your location to a “HELP” line if you are in a situation and unable to make a phone call, i.e. a crowded club or the back of a kidnap van? The possibilities are there.

Facebook Post

Brazilian Nightclub Fire


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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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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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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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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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Anonymous = Weak

// Posted by on 04/02/2012 (5:55 PM)

Chris Poole, the inventor of 4chan, stated in a TED talk that anonymity allows people to “be themselves” online, but this is not at all what it actually does.  In actuality, it allows people to do whatever they want… Read more

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Chris Poole, the inventor of 4chan, stated in a TED talk that anonymity allows people to “be themselves” online, but this is not at all what it actually does.  In actuality, it allows people to do whatever they want and to hide behind the wall of anonymity.  There are no repercussions, there are no limits, people can do whatever they want, but they are not actually themselves; they are anonymous.

Rather than being proud of themselves and owning up to their own opinions, they can hide behind the mask of anonymity.  Rather than standing up for themselves, they are weak and cannot put their name with their thoughts.  And this separation of their thoughts and their name, their identity, demonstrates that they are not themselves.

Mattathias Schwartz, a NY Times writer asked in an article, “Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it?”  Of course free speech moves towards the truth; when people have the ability to say what they want, when they want, where they want, they are more likely to state what they believe to be true and pertinent.  Free speech moves towards the truth, until people have the mask of anonymity.   When there is no knowledge of the identity of the author, no authenticity of authorship; the writer can write whatever.  This ability is free speech, but it allows for the dissemination of lies without repercussions.

This topic was something I had thought about for a while, but it was not until learning about 4chan that I began to see what anonymity truly brings.  Maybe 4chan isn’t for me, maybe I should just stick with Facebook, which is all about identity and censorship, rather than the freedom to post anything anonymously.

Is there a benefit to anonymity or does it truly just give weak people a mask to hide behind?  Why don’t users of 4chan share their names with their posts?  I guess I would be ashamed of posting most of the things on that site too.


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Twitter and Trolls and Cultural Shifts, Oh My!

// Posted by on 03/28/2012 (11:42 AM)

I guess I’ll be one of the brave souls to mention trolling in a post because recent class discussions have caused me to consider the impact of technology on our culture (our Digital America, if you will). Throughout the semester,… Read more

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I guess I’ll be one of the brave souls to mention trolling in a post because recent class discussions have caused me to consider the impact of technology on our culture (our Digital America, if you will). Throughout the semester, I have read articles that argue that social media sites have changed our culture for the worse; we choose to interact with people through computer screens instead of in person, we are distancing ourselves from “real” human interaction, we are forgetting how to socialize, etc. These articles make a compelling and significant point in that nothing can replace the interactions we have in person that make us humans, and the new digital culture we live in is moving us away from this. One counter point to this argument is that social media sites are new tools that actually improve our connections with people, both from close up as well as from far away. Using a site like Facebook or Twitter allows people to share more of their lives with both those directly around them as well as those possibly oceans away. It is the times when people sit next to each other and are constantly on their smartphones, however, that causes this question of whether or not social media is making or breaking our new cultural age of communication.

I recently read an opinion in mashable.com written by Josh Rose. Rose attempts to argue that social media has a positive impact on our culture by describing the way in which he interacts with his son, whom he only gets to see occasionally because he and his wife are divorced. Rose says that the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast this morning” argument against social media may apply to some people, but in his case, he dies for the moments where his son tells him exactly that. Rose notes how confusing social media can be for those who engage with it: “Social media simultaneously draws us nearer and distances us.” People feel both pulled closer to the people far away from them but sometimes distanced from those in their physical proximity. Rose makes an observation from the coffee shop he is writing in: four people are reading newspapers while four people are on their laptops. He observes the “juxtapositions of physical and digital going on,” and observes that “people aren’t giving up long-form reading, considered thinking or social interactions. They are just filling all the space between.” This is an interesting idea, “filling the space between.” People who interact with social media aren’t moving away from their cultural surroundings, they are merely filling the gap between interactions. After all, as Rose puts it, “the Internet doesn’t steal our humanity, it reflects it. The Internet doesn’t get inside us, it shows what’s inside us.” Social media gives us a medium through which to share our thoughts, feelings, goings-on, etc. instead of replacing them in some way with something less real. The internet is the medium which the message is conveyed, it is not becoming the message itself.

 

After reading Rose’s piece, I began to think about how this positive impact on our lives he cites contrasts with the impact trolling has been cited to have. For those who are unclear on what exactly “trolling” is, knowyourmeme.com gives a comprehensive definition of trolling to make it more clear. The New York Times simply defines it as “manipulating other people’s emotional equilibrium.” There have been many stories about how trolling has caused not just emotional distress, but emotional destruction to its victims. One man in the UK was arrested for “trolling” about a girl after she committed suicide because she was bullied. (Read the article here). This is only one example of a story like this, but there are many others out there. I then came across an article called Top 10 Trolls in Internet History, which details 10 results of “trolling” that, while causing annoyance and frustration, do not go as far as to insult a child who has ended their life. Either way, trolling seems to have only negative consequences for its victims; a point that makes sense because its intention is “emotional distress.” Further down in the knowyourmeme.com article on trolling, the “Rules of the Internet” on trolling, beginning with the statement “We are anonymous” and continuing down to “Nothing is sacred” and “The more beautiful and pure a thing is- the more satisfying it is to corrupt it.” What, now? Nothing is sacred? The more beautiful and pure something is… the more fun it is to ruin it? These ideas play into the theory of psychology that we all have a little evil in us, and under the right circumstances it can come out. It is what was seen in Philip Zimbardo’s 1971 prison experiment at Stanford University in which participants were randomly assigned to part of “prisoner” or “guard” and the guards became sadistic, causing so much emotional distress to the prisoners that the experiment had to be shut down early. The “Rules of the Internet” begin with the statement “We are anonymous,” significant because psychological distress of those who troll seems to be the gasoline on the pile of wood while anonymity is the match. What causes people to want to cause harm to loved ones of those who have died? In the New York Times article “The Trolls Among Us”, Jason Fortuny says that trolling will only stop when people stop taking it seriously. This may be true, but this type of bullying would not and is not tolerated in person; there is a word for it, and it is harassment. Anonymity makes people more likely to troll and too resource-consuming for authorities to track.

 

 

Taking both of these perspectives into mind, do you think the internet has created possibilities for more positive or negative impacts on our culture? How do you personally think our culture has been impacted by this digital age?


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Hackathons

// Posted by on 02/27/2012 (9:46 PM)

In the March issue of Wired, I read an article about hackathons. If you’re like me, you had never heard of a hackathon until not, but these are competitions of just a few days when groups of individuals attempt… Read more

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In the March issue of Wired, I read an article about hackathons. If you’re like me, you had never heard of a hackathon until not, but these are competitions of just a few days when groups of individuals attempt to create an app or software or something else and present it to the judges. The winning team can win anything from a trip to several thousands of dollars. Below is a short clip about a hackathon sponsored by Facebook in Madison, WI.

These are interesting events, because the people who have entered take an idea and bring it to fruition in anywhere from 12 hours to a few days, depending on the competition. Often they take code that someone else has written and work with it so that they may improve it or make major changes to it.

The whole idea of hacking is interesting to me. While in any other field you must cite your sources and there are strict rules about plagiarism and copying, this does not seem to be the case. It made me wonder, should there be some way that people can “publish” their code so that others may use it, but give them credit? Based on the answers given my many of the people entered into hackathons, it appears that they do not think so. Publishing software and apps is a race and the common belief is that whoever publishes first is the winner.

What do you think? Should it simply just be a race to see who can finish something first or should there be a way to protect your code from being copied without credit being given?

 


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Addicted to Facebook?

// Posted by on 02/20/2012 (6:19 PM)

I read this article earlier today and thought it was really interesting. I believe it was last week we talked about being addicted to social media and someone had brought up the possibility of going a day without technology.… Read more

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I read this article earlier today and thought it was really interesting. I believe it was last week we talked about being addicted to social media and someone had brought up the possibility of going a day without technology. Honestly, I do not think this would be possible or feasible for many of us who have part-time jobs in addition to taking classes, have leadership roles on campus or off that require constant updates, or have long distance relationships and technology is the only way to stay in contact. That was one topic in this story that I thought was interesting, but it was not the main reason that I am writing.

The real reason that I wanted to post this link was the idea of rehab for those who are addicted to Facebook. What constitutes being addicted to Facebook? I don’t think I would consider myself addicted, though I do check it often.

So what constitutes a Facebook addict? Are you one?


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Safer Distracted Driving?

// Posted by on 02/12/2012 (3:00 PM)

The discussions about a car that drives itself and the potential need to “unplug” from all technological sources in our lives piqued my interest about the war the United States seems to have going concerning cell phone use while driving.… Read more

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The discussions about a car that drives itself and the potential need to “unplug” from all technological sources in our lives piqued my interest about the war the United States seems to have going concerning cell phone use while driving. Would a car that drives itself be more safe from the standpoint of leaving us to be free to engage in whatever technologies we want while “driving”? How could we ever be sure that the car could really drive and react the way a person would? Is it really safe? All of these questions are still at the forefront of my mind. However, after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about things called “Connected Cars” that are now being designed to be able to tweet, check Facebook, purchase movie tickets, etc., I can’t imagine that a car that drives itself could be less safe than a car which is inviting its driver to engage in touch screen controls for social media sites while driving. Joe White, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, gives an interview on these new cars:

 

 

In the interview, Joe White states, “This technology race that used to be around safety is moving around into this arena of connecting your car to the cloud.” The fact that people are no longer capable of “unplugging,” even if just for a 15 minute drive, is also discussed in the context of this new realm that car companies have entered in which integrating technology into the driving experience is crucial for success. It is described as “safer distracted driving,” but safer than what? I am skeptical that looking at your phone screen is much less safe than fiddling with a touchscreen in front of you that is built into your car. Why grant people the ability to tweet or check Facebook while driving at all? I think this technology may be enabling more people to engage in distracted driving because those who may not be likely to check their phone may be tempted to begin using the technology that is built into the car. The interviewer in this video describes this new integration of social media into cars as “like groups who give heroin addicts clean needles…and at least with that you can say that it’s a real addiction, this is just feeding people’s need to tweet, it seems a little excessive.”

 

I can’t say which mode of engaging in technology while driving is “safer,” but this new race to integrate it into the driving experience poses an important question: why do you think, despite so much backlash about cell phone usage while driving, corporate America is giving in to this craving for technology? I guess making money is the obvious answer. Why is it that, despite knowing how much more likely we are to get in an accident while using a cell phone, we still refuse to let go of them? Why do we insist on finding different ways to integrate technology instead of giving up and accepting that driving is simply safer without it? Why is society “willing to absorb that cost, that safety risk, because we view this as important for the way we live our lives”? Why is it so important?


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Does the entertainment industry have reason to complain?

// Posted by on 01/20/2012 (11:58 PM)

The backlash over SOPA/PIPA is nothing new, however it seems to be the most potent protest that internet copyright laws have seen. To fully understand what the entertainment industry is asking it would seem logical to mention and explain the… Read more

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The backlash over SOPA/PIPA is nothing new, however it seems to be the most potent protest that internet copyright laws have seen. To fully understand what the entertainment industry is asking it would seem logical to mention and explain the current copyright laws. Laws include the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and the No Electronic Theft Act

The DMCA says

  • It is a civil offense if you even try to bypass copyright devices
  • Harsher penalties for copyright infractions
  • Illegal to make technologies capable of pirating videos (even if that is not the intention of the device)
  • Holds users responsible, not Internet Service Providers(ISP)
    • However, the ISP must immediately block access to the content in question. Otherwise they can be held responsible

ACTA

  • ISPs will also be held accountable for what their users post
  • If copyrighted information is sent your access to the internet could be cancelled
  • To prevent the above monitoring of those who purchase copyrighted material will be increased
  • Purchased content under copyright cannot be shared with anyone since you are the only one who paid for it.
  • Applies in the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.

NET Act

  • Allows for criminal prosecution of individuals who have infringed on a copyright regardless of whether or not it has been used for financial gain. (5 years in prison/$250,000 in fees)

Stop Online Piracy Act/Protect IP Act

  • Anyone found streaming copyrighted content without permission 10 or more times within six months should face up to five years in prison.
  • Websites could be sued for “enabling or facilitating” piracy. Which is where the risk of an entire website being shut down is found because it contains a link to a suspected site.
  • Advertisers could be outlawed from doing business with alleged copyright infringers. SOPA also calls for search engines to remove infringing sites from their results, PIPA does not include this
  • Outlaw sites from containing information about how to access blocked sites.

So, the internet changing as we know it may not be such an outlandish claim. The interesting thing is that most of the entertainment company’s copyright issues are with websites run in foreign countries. Call me crazy but I don’t think our laws apply in foreign countries making all of this a moot point in the first place. Granted, theft in any case needs to be dealt with but these laws are the wrong way to go about it as puts our freedom of speech at too great a risk. Plus, the legal actions to be taken when copyright is infringed upon, are already quite effective at both removing content and punishing those who broke the law they just need to be enforced, megaupload being a prime example. It may be frank to say but, it seems that the entertainment industry needs to suck it up and stick with the protective laws they already have and leave the freedom of the internet alone.


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Not just for sharing photos anymore

// Posted by on 01/16/2012 (7:52 PM)


When a person takes a picture with their mobile phone, they often want to share it with the world around them. There are dozens of ways to do this (Facebook, Twitter, email, print and send, carrier pigeon,… Read more

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When a person takes a picture with their mobile phone, they often want to share it with the world around them. There are dozens of ways to do this (Facebook, Twitter, email, print and send, carrier pigeon, etc.), but one used by millions is called Instagram. The mobile phone app used by many has not only become a popular way to share photos, it has affected the way people take pictures.

The author of this article in the January edition of Wired, wrote that when scrolling through the site, there are the typical pictures that would be suspected: cats, pictures of oneself, etc., but what was surprising was what else had been posted. The app and its filters allow and encourage its users to become artsy. Users are not simply taking pictures for documentation purposes, but because with the filters, they can make something ordinary, extraordinary. What they are using their cameras for has changed as well as what they are taking pictures of.

One simple app, constructed by six people, has allowed millions to share photos online and has changed the way many of them take pictures and even the way they look at their world. This article makes one wonder what else apps can do. Sure, apps can make communication simpler, can be used for entertainment, and allow us to connect with the world around us, but how often do they change the way we view the world?

Personally, I’ve never used Instagram. I have looked at friend’s pictures that they have posted, but have never used it for myself. After reading this article, I was intrigued and am curious to see what I can do with it, to see what kind of photographer it makes me. Have you ever used it? Has it affected the way you use your cameraphone or more importantly, how you view the world? We are becoming increasingly attached to our technology and it interests me, but also makes me worry about the future. Will there be more apps such as Instagram that benefit society or will new apps simply draw us closer to technology.

For now, I leave you with a couple of pictures I found on their site of stairs, different viewpoints on ordinary stairs. It sure will make me look at the next staircase I ascend differently.


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Rulers of…the Internet?

// Posted by on 01/15/2012 (11:31 PM)

The internet, mass media, social networking, and communication have reached new levels in the past ten years. Here in Virginia it takes approximately six seconds to download a 4-MB music file according to WIRED magazine. Within seconds information about anything… Read more

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The internet, mass media, social networking, and communication have reached new levels in the past ten years. Here in Virginia it takes approximately six seconds to download a 4-MB music file according to WIRED magazine. Within seconds information about anything can be pulled up on the smallest of deceives. Thirteen year old children carry around IPhones, main newspapers have apps in which you can get instant current events, and television shows can be streamed through the internet. The world is connected in every way possible and who is at the center of this? Us. This generation that has grown up in the age of technology and new media is leading the way. We have become authors of the internet; we have changed the face of how information travels.

Websites like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Foursquare, and Myspace have changed the way we communicate in between people. We no longer pick up a telephone and call someone when we want to spread news. We simply post a status, send a tweet or long in at our location. You can become the King of Gold’s Gym after logging in multiple times, you can become Tumblr famous after gaining thousands of followers. People like Taylor-Ruth Baldwin a 17 year old high school student created a blog showcasing her chronicle of high school angst one summer as a way to vent her pent up frustration. Now today she has over 15,000 followers. She has become Tumblr famous. High school and college students are becoming rulers of the internet. They are creating trends and running with them. Twelve year old, Thomas Suarez is creating IPhone apps and developing programs to teach other middle school students how to do the same.

But what makes you a ruler of the digital world? Is it your ability to gain followers and friends? Is it you’re content? Are you funny? Are you something fresh and new? What if it’s just the simple fact that you know a little more than the older generations about the internet and this new technology? What if there is nothing extraordinary about you and you are just like every other person your age? If that’s the case then how do we find the balance between these competing generations, both trying to find their place in this new age of technology? How do we find out who is controlling this vast internet world?

We don’t. We will never know who controls the internet because there isn’t anyone who controls the internet, it’s an open vat of information that people can put in whatever they want and take out whatever they want. The internet is what we want to be. People use it connect all over the globe. A stranger picks up a person’s layaway bill out of a simple gesture of kindness, they do this because someone else did it and posted about it on the internet. We are interlinked all over the world because of the internet. We are all rulers of this new digital age where everyone accesses the internet on a daily basis.

If we have sixth graders developing apps and high school students are gaining thousands of followers on blogging websites, are we teaching the right things in school? Should students be learning how to code? Should we be integrating this technology into school systems or should we continue keeping things how they are?

 

 


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