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The Internet is a Friend Who Has Always Been There for Me

// Posted by on 05/15/2015 (8:40 PM)

The Internet has always been there for me.

Perhaps anthropomorphizing the Internet, as I did in the title, isn’t the best way to go, perhaps it even makes me sound as if I have some sort of mental illness,

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The Internet has always been there for me.
Perhaps anthropomorphizing the Internet, as I did in the title, isn’t the best way to go, perhaps it even makes me sound as if I have some sort of mental illness, but it really has always been around and available when I’ve needed it. Thanks to Blogspot and Myspace, it was even there to listen to me when things weren’t great.
 When I, my dad, first loaded Prodigy onto our computer  I was hooked. It was really just chat rooms and such at that point, but it was still fun! Then it was quickly onto AOL from there (oh AOL, how much time I wasted with you), then Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Reddit, and so on. It’s always been there for me for one thing or another. While I’ve made it sound like my best friend, I’ve really always perceived it as more of a tool. It’s a tool that helps me when I need to know a random fact about anything (or serious information when I’m doing research work), it’s a tool that helps me get from place to place, it’s a tool that helps me to make informed purchases, it’s a tool that lets me keep in touch with my family, and it’s really so much more.
However, the conversation in class the other night did prompt me to consider the possibility that the Internet could also be a place. This is something that I had never considered before — never thought about it. The example I used in class is when I get home after a long day and after I’ve made dinner, put my son to bed, and talked to my wife about her day, I sometimes escape to the internet. While it’s true that in this example it is very much a tool being utilized for leisure, but it’s also very much a place. This is a place where I sometimes go to get lost in the mindless, vast, (cyber)space that is the Internet.
Even though I’ve accepted the Internet as a place, I still see it as more of a tool.
With so many people using this tool to do just about everything they do throughout the day, it has also increasingly become a tool for malevolence. It’s so easy. With all of the information users willingly put out there, it’s not hard for those with ill intentions to take advantage of Facebook users with limited security settings, the elderly with email scams, or even an anxious soon-to-be high school graduate waiting to hear from the school of his or her dreams.
Regardless of how it is used, it’s a tool, and I’ve always seen it that way.
Rules of Engagement:
So far, I think we’ve done a good job. It does appear that I might go over the 500 word limit that I stated that I saw as a good idea. However, I maintain that it is a good idea. I think setting a reasonable deadline for initial posts is a must for facilitating discussion, but I’m also willing to bet that we have an opinionated bunch that likely won’t have too much trouble posting early. I don’t know that requiring a specific number of replies is necessary provided that everyone has at least one thoughtful reply to an initial post that encourages further conversation. It’s possible that I am alone in this thinking, as I have seen a couple other post suggestions that conflict with this statement. Beyond that, I’m just happy not being in Blackboard. While the blog certainly bears a resemblance to Blackboard it seems less static. Also, I’m a fan of pictures and videos. I don’t think we should require the use of media in posts, but I would encourage it (this one is a little selfish).
At this point, if I say much more I think I’d cross into rambling territory. There a good rule: no rambling.

 


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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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The Modern Manhunt: Boston

// Posted by on 04/21/2013 (11:44 PM)

One week ago, the United States was rocked by a tragedy that Obama stated was the worst act of terrorism since 9/11. The Boston Marathon Bombings occurred in the afternoon at an event with thousands of people congregated for celebrations… Read more

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One week ago, the United States was rocked by a tragedy that Obama stated was the worst act of terrorism since 9/11. The Boston Marathon Bombings occurred in the afternoon at an event with thousands of people congregated for celebrations and accomplishments. Nobody anticipated such a horrible act on such a cheerful occasion. Once the explosions occurred, the witnesses were instantly floored to find answers. Who did it? Why? How did they get away with it? Spencer Ackerman, of Wired, said in the aftermath of the bombings the law enforcement agents were left with “a huge problem and nearly no leads.”

The law enforcement agents used the only information available to them: The Crowd. The explosions took place near the finish line in Copley Square, one of the busiest and most congested areas of the day. Aside from the implications of the space for injuries, the space also provided an arena under  surveillance by bystanders’ smartphones and retailers’ camera. There was an abundance of photos and videos ready to be explored. Despite some reluctance in using these digital media tools, the police went ahead with pursuing leads provided by the public. Because the police and FBI allowed civilians to help formulate a case, within days they had their suspects. Thousands of videos and photos of the area were submitted and agents had to dig through for patterns of suspicious behavior.

What happened in Boston was truly horrible, but the events that followed were just as inspiring. The city of Boston unified as a collective unit to solve a time-sensitive and dangerous situation. Google launched Person Finder to assist in finding missing persons or submitting information about someone. The Boston Globe created a GoogleDoc to provide housing to those in need after the tragedy. In a city with millions of people, one tragedy instantly transformed strangers into coworkers as the hive mind worked to solve the crime and apprehend the suspect.

I think the events in Boston show the future of security in a positive light. At some points throughout the class I have felt like we are moving into an age of “organized anarchy,” where the Internet is so vast that security could not possibly cover all realms. The Boston Marathon Bombings were an encouraging symbol of the American spirit and the potential benefits of collective intelligence. The large-scale problem solving through such a large crowd was only made possible by the help of police, FBI, and the public. Looking forward, how can the public and collective problem-solving concepts help avoid these situations? Multiple cameras caught the bombers on camera, but it wasn’t until after the event that the activity was noticed as suspicious. We must work to develop a means of preventing these acts of terrorism through collective intelligence in order to prevent deaths and tragedies.


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Internet to Take Over the World?

// Posted by on 04/18/2013 (4:50 AM)

Is it possible that the Internet could grow so large that every living human being, all 7 billion of us, would be online? In a recent article the possibility is introduced by  Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google.… Read more

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Is it possible that the Internet could grow so large that every living human being, all 7 billion of us, would be online? In a recent article the possibility is introduced by  Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google. Mr. Schmidt states that approximately 2 billion people in the world use the Internet today, he then goes on to hypotheses that all 7 billion people will be on the Internet as early as 2020.

This idea seems almost absurd to me. Is it really possible that the entire world, quite literally, will be able to connect to each other truly creating one globalized earth? Although there is no definite answer just yet I find it interesting to imagine what life would be like. The Internet is already a driving factor in the way I live my life, I am constantly using it to find information and communicate with others. The Internet is an amazing 3rd space that is already capable of producing amazing ideas and advances in the world today. I can only image what we will be capable of if the Internet reaches every person possible.

Of course with any radical idea there will be obstacles and set backs. The article seems to bring Schmidts dream to a screeching halt when it asks “With poor and developing nations around the world isolated by crumbling or nonexistent Web infrastructures, and others hindered by factors ranging from remote geography to government censorship, is Schmidt’s vision overly optimistic?”

At first I had no answer to this question but then I began to believe once again in the power of the Internet. As the Internet expands new capabilities arise that used to be non existent. I believe that the solution to this problem of limited Internet access will be answered by the Internet itself as it continues to grow and create new networks and advances in technology. And already we are starting to see possible solutions to this problem. Geeks Without Frontiers  is an organization that donates computers and “related technology” to 3rd world countries. In addition the article introduces another very interesting project backed by Samsung. This project is working to open solar powered schools in Africa.

I am very interested to see if Mr. Schmidts claim that 7 billion people will be connected to the internet by 2020 comes true. I am even more interested to see what happens after that, what great advances occur and how life will change when the whole world is available to you from your lap.


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GoogleTube

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

 

M&A

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

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M&A

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

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

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

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

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

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


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The Rise of Google

// Posted by on 02/04/2013 (12:15 AM)

The Google stock has reached its all time high as of February 1st , the stock rising 2.6% to reach $775.60. The Google stock price is itself a testament to the Internet giant that is Google. What is… Read more

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The Google stock has reached its all time high as of February 1st , the stock rising 2.6% to reach $775.60. The Google stock price is itself a testament to the Internet giant that is Google. What is particularly spectacular is how Google came to fruition.  Google is a household name today, accounting for about 2/3rds of the Internet search market in the United States and closer to 90% in Europe.  It has taken over the Internet reaching over 1 Billion unique visitors a month. This is a number that is staggering, as there are 7 billion in the world, meaning one out of every seven people has used Google in the past month.

While Google is known around the world today, it came from humble beginnings. It’s start came in 1995 and was the brainchild of creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  Page was born in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan. Brin was born in the Soviet Union and graduated from the University of Maryland.  The two met at Stanford, both of whom were computer science graduate students. What brought these two vastly different people together to build Google? It was an idea.  An idea to, as Sergey Brin stated,  “tackle the internet, which represents human knowledge.”  Their shared passion for creating something new that had the opportunity to change the way the internet worked was the driving force of the co-founders to craft Google into what it is today.

Google began to gain recognition after it was mentioned in PC magazine in October of 1998.  “The site has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results. There’s much more to come at Google!, but even in its prototype form it’s a great search engine.” PC magazine was spot on in their predictions when they wrote there is much more to come from Google.

Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Douglas Edwards, who was Google’s 59th employee wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal called “The Beginning.” This piece is a first hand look at how the company was run and how a group of misfits were able to create the most used search engine in the world. They did this while maintaining the ability to stay true to themselves and their ultimate goals. After reading this article I gained more respect for Google and the people running it. The masterminds behind Google started this company with a vision and despite any negative feedback they were able to build a Internet sensation from the ground up. From humble beginnings in a garage to a fortune 500 company Google was a pioneer at the turn of the internet age. As technology continues to evolve I look forward to seeing how Google adapts and if they are able to continue their reign as supreme in the Internet industry. Google is taking over the Internet and it all started from the ideas of two graduate students. Some argue that the success Google has had is due to pure luck, while there is no clear answer Google continues to grow. As new Internet companies are being introduced into the web, I am interested to see how Google continues to adapt to new challenges and hardships. 

 


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The Free Encyclopedia

// Posted by on 01/31/2013 (11:03 AM)

Growing up, the “Encyclopedia” was an extensive set of 20 or so books that lined our family bookshelf in alphabetical order. I could look up basically anything I wanted and find at least a paragraph about the topic. The books… Read more

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Growing up, the “Encyclopedia” was an extensive set of 20 or so books that lined our family bookshelf in alphabetical order. I could look up basically anything I wanted and find at least a paragraph about the topic. The books were easy to use and exciting. I loved projects that required me to look things up.

Enter 2001 and the “Encyclopedia” now had a new definition: Wikipedia. It started with an idea and 100 volunteers on a mission to create thousands of entries about pretty much anything. The pages also included the option to edit now, giving all users the option to contribute to the existing information. The concept challenged human interaction in a public forum; the pages were supposed to maintain unbiased and just communicate the facts. The pages were constantly changing, for better or for worse. Wikipedia.com was the first fluid Encyclopedia. Then, it became the Free Encyclopedia.

The evolution of the Wikipedia logo ^^ (from Wikipedia.com)

The creation of Wikipedia strikes me as similar to Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog  whereby it represented a collection of various tools, items, and products compiled in a manner to appeal to the “New Communalists” and the “cowboys and nomads.” Both Wikipedia and the Whole Earth Catalog strike me as conglomerations of products and theories of their decades. Brand’s Catalog offered new ways to approach the computer. Wikipedia embodies an example of a fresh approach to personal computing, communal knowledge, and social forums.

An article in the New York Times published Septemeber 20, 2001 was used for the factual pieces of this post. The article can be found here.


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Reinventing Your Memory

// Posted by on 01/24/2013 (11:50 AM)

Looking at digital media and social networking today, it seems like human memory is almost unnecessary at times. Facebook remembers what day and year every photo was taken, and can usually even tell you where you were at the time.… Read more

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Looking at digital media and social networking today, it seems like human memory is almost unnecessary at times. Facebook remembers what day and year every photo was taken, and can usually even tell you where you were at the time. iPhones and other camera-phones have replaced (in many cases) the conventional disposable or digital camera, making it easier to document every moment. The need for post-its feels like its even decreasing, since now you can just take a picture to remember. With the technological advances, many human memories are accompanied by a picture, video, text message, or email to ensure you do not forget them. Forget what time you have a meeting next week? Not to worry, your phone will probably send you a reminder to make sure you don’t have to do any remembering (assuming you utilize your calendar function). “A Sense of Place,” an article in the February issue of Wired magazine, outlines the differences between retrospective and prospective memory. Retrospective memory deals more with the memorization of facts from the past, such as a peers names or hometowns. Prospective memory is trickier because it represents tasks, as exemplified by the calendar reminders that are necessary for some people to avoid slip-ups. Google is now searching for a way to further aid people in remembering the tasks that always seem to slip away until its too late. The tools that exist now are hardly perfect, based on GPS data that is not always accurate enough. The article “A Sense of Place” mentions that there is hope for a system that can remind you to remember your keys or have a “floating message” waiting outside the office telling you to go to the supermarket.

The idea of this seems somewhat surreal; in the way that conventional responsibility would be altered. If you forgot a meeting because there was no reminder, would it be your fault or the program’s fault? I would go as far as to say it almost adds another level of accountability whereby you have to ensure the system is running at 100% all the time. Unless someone reveals that the human memory is physically overextended, impairing ones ability to remember more, I think conventional memory and sticky notes is still the best method for making it anywhere.


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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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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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Internet: The Next World War?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Internet has no center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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The Positive Side of Hacking

// Posted by on 02/28/2012 (7:50 PM)

Given the tremendous amount of attention hacking has received in the last couple years, especially due to groups like Anonymous and the Stuxnet virus last year, hacking has come to inherit a pretty negative stigma. Just tonight, Interpol released a… Read more

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Given the tremendous amount of attention hacking has received in the last couple years, especially due to groups like Anonymous and the Stuxnet virus last year, hacking has come to inherit a pretty negative stigma. Just tonight, Interpol released a statement describing the arrest of some 25 individuals associated with the hacker group Anonymous, in a coordinated international operation across four countries in Latin America and Europe. The statement goes on to quote Bernd Rossbach, Acting Interpol Executive Director of Police Services: “This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted.” The article seems to me to imply that all hacking is necessarily criminal, which is somewhat misleading.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the good guys, who use their powers for good and not evil. People like Charlie Miller, winner of the 2011 Pwn2Own hacking competition held at the annual CanSecWest security conference (and I know, how dare I link to wikipedia… but it gets the job done with only 1 link).

At the competition, hackers are offered cash incentives to exploit various software and browsers on both computers and mobile phones. But why would companies willingly let people hack their products, let alone pay them to do so? Basically, because these companies are then provided with information about the vulnerability that was exploited, so that the company can then attempt to correct the problem and prevent as much harm as possible from malicious hackers.

In fact, since nobody has been able to successfully hack Chrome yet, Google is offering an additional $1 million in “hacker bounties,” on top of the money already offered at the 2012 CanSecWest conference next week. Google wrote on its blog, “We require each set of exploit bugs to be reliable, fully functional end to end, disjoint, of critical impact, present in the latest versions and genuinely ’0-day,’ i.e. not known to us or previously shared with third parties.”

**Update**: a group of french hackers while finally able to hack Chrome at this years Pwn2Own

The point I would like to make is that, while hacking for monetary gain or to take down competition is usually the wrong thing to do, these same skills can be used to help companies fix up and improve their products. Are there any other instances where hacking could be beneficial, as opposed to criminal? Or is hacking something that should be always be considered a malicious act, regardless of the hackers intent?


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Politics Online

// Posted by on 02/11/2012 (5:49 PM)

I don’t know if I paid enough attention to political ads before the last election (although I should have, since it was the first time I could vote), but the countless ads I just spend a couple hours going through… Read more

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I don’t know if I paid enough attention to political ads before the last election (although I should have, since it was the first time I could vote), but the countless ads I just spend a couple hours going through seem to me to play more like movie trailers than anything else. Towards the end, I found myself caring less about any “facts” (or opinions) the ads contained, and more about what type of music it was playing or whether or not the ad could hold my attention. In the end, however, I tried to narrow down the common themes in each candidate’s ads.

After watching Newt Gingrich’s ads, I got the feeling that most of the ads on Newt’s youtube page were geared at attacking specifically Mitt Romney by comparing him to Obama

After watching Mitt Romney’s ads, I got the feeling that most of his ads were geared at attacking a statement by Obama on his “one-term proposition”

After watching some of the videos on Rick Santorum’s youtube page, I realized that there really weren’t too many actual ads, but a lot of videos like this one depicting parts of his campaign

Ron Paul’s political ads were sort of unique in that the attack ads weren’t completely aimed at smashing his competition, but usually ended with a positive spin on Ron Paul and his politics, usually focusing on his “incorruptibility”

Of all the political ads I watched, however, the one’s that really stuck out to me were Barack Obama’s. I realized that his were different because he doesn’t really need to defend against any other potential democratic candidates, and can focus more on looking at this past term and what he has already done for this country. The main reason I liked these ads, however, had nothing to do with politics at all. My favorite example is this video, looking back at the last 5 years

I’ve realized that Obama, more than any other candidate, is embracing and utilizing the internet to a great advantage. Despite the fact that all of the political ads today are online, this ad takes it one step further by creatively moving back and forth between an email, a webpage, and youtube videos. If Obama’s use of the internet wasn’t already apparent, the ad makes sure it is by stating “he’s the first candidate we’ve ever seen that’s had an organization that brought together the internet and community organizing.”

An article on wired.com a couple weeks ago featured Obama and Romney’s adoption of mobile payments for donations. After briefly describing how this process works, the article goes on to state:

“The Obama campaign and administration has embraced technology to a much greater degree than most past presidents, and is also leveraging social media, a tool that wasn’t even available prior to the George W. Bush administration. In 2008, Obama complemented his presidential campaign with an iPhone app in order to help voters learn more about the then-senator. After he was elected, the president then began posting regular YouTube fireside chats, harkening back to FDR’s radio-transmitted fireside chats during the Great Depression. Most recently, Obama even took part in a Google+ Hangout.”

Since everything today is moving online, and we do in fact live in a “digital america,” I think that the use of the internet, among other forms of new technology, could very well make or break this upcoming election. My own personal political standing notwithstanding, Obama’s embrace of digital media is a big step, and a great way to reach a vast amount of people. When the pros and cons are compared, I tend to think that this utilization of the internet can do more good than bad for Obama, but could there be some negative consequences or unintended outcomes? Furthermore, I’d like to know what other people thought of the ads by the republican candidates, and any common themes or big points that I may have missed or misunderstood.


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For better or worse: Self-Driving Cars

// Posted by on 01/30/2012 (10:18 PM)

A couple weeks ago, I was headed out of town for the weekend. As I was driving on the 4-hour trip, I began to grow tired. It was at that point that I thought to myself how nice it would… Read more

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A couple weeks ago, I was headed out of town for the weekend. As I was driving on the 4-hour trip, I began to grow tired. It was at that point that I thought to myself how nice it would be if the car could drive itself. I would only have to enter my destination and the car would take care of the rest, while I could sleep, do homework, or work on a project.

In an article in the February issue of Wired, there are two different cars that are talked about. The first is Google’s self-driving car, which has logged over 100,000 miles driving around California. There are humans in the car to ensure that the technology works correctly, but they do not have to do anything for the car to go. The other car is the S-Class Mercedes-Benz with Attention Assistance function, which works while humans are driving.

While I believe that Google’s car is the more interesting and definitely the more advanced one, the Attention Assistance function on Mercedes seems to become widespread in the nearer future. This function tracks more than 70 different elements while the human is driving and makes adjustments or gives warnings as deemed necessary. This function fits well with our discussion in class last week of post-human. The car and the human are working together in this circumstance and this relationship is meant to protect the human and to be safer. These two parties are giving and receiving information so seamlessly, it can be difficult to notice.

There are definitely benefits to self-driving cars: they are safer, quicker, and can allow humans to be more productive. These cars are safer because the drivers would not be distracted by cell phones, radios, GPSs, children, etc and it has been demonstrated by Google that self-driving cars are more perceptive to obstacles and other vehicles than are humans. At the busiest times, only five percent of the pavement has traffic, so one would assume that with self-driving cars, more traffic would be able to move smoothly. Finally, if those people sitting in the driver’s seat did not have to drive, they could use their time in other ways and potentially be more productive.

As I was reading this article, I grew excited, yet worried. While self-driving cars sound awesome and could be very beneficial, there were some worries that came into mind. Although I am sure that the companies working on these prototypes are working against these, what happens if the car malfunctions? These cars can not reboot in the middle of the highway going 75 mph like a computer can sitting on a desk, so there must be ways to prevent this from ever happening. Is there a potential that these cars could be hacked and end up driving somewhere that the passengers did not want to go? This could cause some major backups or even worse issues.

In response to the thought of whether all of these technologies are simply to allow humans to not be taken away from their technology, the author of this article, Tom Vanderbilt, wrote “Maybe the problem is not that texting and Facebook are distracting us from driving. Maybe the problem is that driving distracts us from our digital lives” (124). He brings up an interesting point and one that I am victim of myself. Self-driving cars will allow us to do safely what many of us already do (often illegally) which is talk on our phones and text while driving.

Are self-driving cars just one of the next steps in technology that will become the norm or are they something we need to protect ourselves from? Will self-driving cars be beneficial or are they potentially dangerous and/or detrimental to society? There is no doubt that these cars will change society, but will it be for the better?


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