DIGITAL AMERICA

Tag: Information Please


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Assange & Snowden: whistleblowers of the internet (Tec Collaboration)

// Posted by on 02/14/2014 (5:01 PM)

By: Molly Reilly, Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, and Claire Hollingsworth

You can be in your own home on your personal computer or tablet, yet there are people out there who can see everything you search, watch, and do. When you… Read more

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By: Molly Reilly, Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, and Claire Hollingsworth

You can be in your own home on your personal computer or tablet, yet there are people out there who can see everything you search, watch, and do. When you visit certain websites they install a “cookie,” which is a piece of data kept in your browser to track your activity once you’ve opened that web page. The purpose of this is to store information for your convenience (added items in a shopping cart, edits to your facebook page), however it seems crazy that numerous websites can then access your personal information. Tracking and third-party tracking cookies can be used to get hold of your long-term history; even beyond when you had authorized a site to put a cookie on your computer (created a username or account).

This lack of privacy and lack of regulations were just a few of the reasons Edward Snowden felt an obligation to the American people to expose the NSA. His core beliefs of freedom of privacy and freedom on the internet lead him to make this massive sacrifice and turn over confidential documents. Snowden was quoted in the guardian article Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations, as saying “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” The lack of privacy at the corporate level through cookies and data tracking is a source of great concern, however the fact of government sponsored tracking is of much greater concern.

While it might not be completely ethical, corporations have gotten around the laws in order to capitalize on the data available on the internet for their own personal gain. The government, on the other hand should be there to set guidelines helping to protect us from these very corporations, not utilizing the same tactics they implement. Snowden exposed these policies in hopes of forcing government officials to rethink how they gather data and making a more transparent U.S. government. While we will never really know the extent to which Snowden made an impact on NSA policy, it has made everyone in the U.S. more aware and wary of the policy regarding privacy. We could say he has successfully completed his goal of transparency to a small degree, allowing this information exposed and analyzed.

The article “Leaky Geopolitics” looks at the unprecedented reactions of the “free world” in attempting to take down WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.  The author’s bias is evident from the very beginning: any charges against Assange were trumped up by a capitalist-governmental elite class to attempt to discredit him after the leaks began.  The way this article looks at the idea of crime — outside of formal charges, in the court of public opinion — seems to be a pretty accurate way of representing how people are perceived on the internet.  But the court of public opinion seems to be pretty divided on WikiLeaks: groups like Anonymous that prize freedom of information have stood behind the site, but other groups point to a security risk that can come from leaking government documents.

The idea that WikiLeaks and the public reaction to it can have such profound impacts on the geopolitical order –that it can lead people to question the authority of the state, and to think critically about issues of transparency and privacy — leads me to question if, in some ways, Assange and Snowden may have really won, regardless of the threats on their heads.  If the goal was to spur a conversation about these limits, it seems impossible to say that they didn’t achieve that goal with flying colors. The article also takes on the question of the government-industry connection in looking at the corporate responses of MasterCard, PayPal, etc, in taking on the role of protector and enforcer: roles usually reserved for the government, after extensive trial.  The success of WikiLeaks in exposing this portion of the problem also seems pretty undeniable.

In another article, “The War on Wikileaks and Why it matters” Author Glenn Greenwald illustrates the ways in which the U.S. Government has responded to the wikileaks. Wikileaks and Snowden have been a topic of great controversy and debate.  This has surely set the stage for political and public conversation surrounding privacy and regulation of the internet. As government officials the army and its supporters consider snowden to be a criminal and traitor, supporters of Snowden and the wikileaks revolution, see these actions as efforts to expose the government in the name of freedom of information.  Those opposed to wikileaks consider it a threat to American national safety, while Greenwald suggest sites like wikileaks are vital to Americans to provide information where the media is becoming more unreliable at “exactly a time when U.S. government secrecy is at an all-time high, the institutions osensibly responsible for investigation, oversight and exposure have failed”.  This is mostly because media and journalism are generally co-opted outlets controlled and regulated by the U.S. government more so than ever  as “private efforts to manipulate public opinion has proliferated”. Wikileaks, who consider their work to serve as the intelligence agency of the people, see the governments efforts to harass and ultimately destroy them altogether as a result of feeling threatened.

This provokes the idea, is information free?? If its not, should it be? Do we as citizens have the right to know information considered “classified”?  Wikileaks also exemplifies the rise of the term “netizen” in which people are turning to the web as a medium to facilitate social and political change. Is this a good thing? or potentially detrimental?  Setting aside personal views and opinions on the ethical side of wikileaks, it is undeniable that it has opened up the door for conversation as to whether digitization and diplomacy is helpful, or harmful.


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A World Without Internet

// Posted by on 02/10/2014 (9:06 PM)

After reading Mark Poster’s Information Please and watching Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” I found myself trying to examine the ways in which the internet has shaped the world as we know it, and what I would do if… Read more

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After reading Mark Poster’s Information Please and watching Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” I found myself trying to examine the ways in which the internet has shaped the world as we know it, and what I would do if there was no internet at all. Certain people, in countries like North Korea, only see the information that the government wants them to see. I recently read an article in which the author referred to these countries as “black holes” of the Internet, in which the people have no access to what we now know is one of the strongest tools for social and political change.

We’ve talked a lot in class this week about revolts inspired by social media and how easy it is to begin these riots via Twitter, BBM, Facebook, etc. Now it has become clear that there is a disturbingly stark contrast between our power as citizens and people who live in places like North Korea. In his book Information Please, Poster states that “the speed, the rhetorical traits, and the connectivity of the Net can be used to organize social movements…the Net affords the possibility of new forms of political mobilization” (Poster, 80). Our ability to share information and communicate so quickly with one another has given us tremendous power to change conditions of society that we disagree with, even for those of us who think we have no real political power other than voting in elections. Seeing the Frontline video about North Korea was troubling because it shows us what we take for granted and gives us insight into how different our lives might be without internet access (which allows us to see information about almost anything we desire). The people of North Korea are desperate for exposure to other cultures and even simple information about their own country and its ruler.

Many of us complain that social media and the internet are lessening our social skills or creating a reliance on technology. Seeing one alternative, though, puts into perspective how lucky we are to live in the US, a place where we can spread information freely about whatever we choose. Although some parts of the internet are regulated, we can certainly begin to appreciate the freedom and ease with which we gain access to information and communicate with each other. In seeing the conditions in North Korea, it is clear  how horrible it would be if the rest of the world was evolving and getting access to the internet and social media while we were left behind. Looking at the map of the “black holes” of the internet, I thought of how strange it would be to live in one of those places. While I do agree that many of us rely on technology too much, I appreciate it for what it is: a tool to spread information without which I would be lost.



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The U.S invading the ‘Third Space’

// Posted by on 02/09/2014 (9:48 PM)

When reading Poster’s book “Information Please” one idea really stood out for me, the concept of the third space. Poster defines the third space as ‘ the cultural encounter between the colonizer and colonize happens in an ‘indeterminate space of… Read more

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When reading Poster’s book “Information Please” one idea really stood out for me, the concept of the third space. Poster defines the third space as ‘ the cultural encounter between the colonizer and colonize happens in an ‘indeterminate space of the subject(s) of enunciation’ (Information Please). This third space is where cultures interact and are exposed to the mannerisms and quirks of the opposing culture. The Internet has allowed us to gain access to an enormous amount of information and in the process opens our eyes to new ways of life.

What Poster seems to be articulating is how this access to other cultures will eventually break down the walls of prejudice and will allow the shock value for different culture, we have never been exposed to, decrease dramatically. The Internet could completely revolutionize the way we interact with other cultures and the way we gather information about relationships and learned interactions.

 

One example brought up through our class discussion was the introduction of relationships through the broadcasting of Sex and the City to other nations outside of the U.S. Many Arab countries are fascinated with the show and the fashion that is portrayed and this obsession exposes them to the American structure of friendship and the ‘single girl lifestyle.’ This exposure could lead to changes in their friendships and how they view their own relationship in their communities.

 

However does this give the U.S a distinctive advantage over the ‘third space’? The U.S has a large control of the media that is being broadcasted worldwide and in return U.S society has the power to use that influence to sway the opinions and actions ofother countries. In a New York Times article it even mentioned how the use of ‘soft power’ through the media was seen as a strategy to gain a better public perspective abroad. While it stated there were no tangible results there is no denying American media is taking over the world. In the article some proof of this was ‘ the televisions program “CSI” is now more popular in France than in the United States.”

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/business/media/01soft.html?_r=0

 

Is the sheer amount of power the U.S seems to have going to influence the third space and then in turn the societies the third space is touching? While many Arab countries are broadcasting Sex and the City and being exposed to U.S culture, as Americans what are we getting exposed to? We rarely see the widespread popularity of another nations media in America. We have to seek out other cultures in order to get that exposure and thus weaken our prejudices and reduce our shock value. While the concept of the ‘third space’ does seem accurate, I feel like it might not have as great of an effect on the U.S as it does on other countries around the world. We need to not only diversify our thinking but also diversify our media in order to gain the complete benefits that Poster is explaining in “Information Please.”


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It’s Hard Being a Girl on the Internet

// Posted by on 02/09/2014 (10:51 AM)

One thing that really struck me about Mark Poster’s Information Please was a quote from his chapter on the “Information Empire.”  In it, he argued that

The world has turned upside down, with many of our assumptions about time and space,

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One thing that really struck me about Mark Poster’s Information Please was a quote from his chapter on the “Information Empire.”  In it, he argued that

The world has turned upside down, with many of our assumptions about time and space, body and mind, subject and object, gender, race, and class (51).

This idea seemed to hold up to the ideas that the New Communalists had about many of their communes: that these structures could exist outside of current cultural norms and create a safe and welcome space.  But, like Turner noted that many of these communes returned to existing social hierarchies and gender roles, I have to wonder if Poster might be falsely over-idealizing the neutralizing power of information technologies.

Particularly, I wonder if networked computing has done all that much in terms of subverting our ideas about gender.  Certainly, it provides a space to bring about discussions of gender, but the internet is rampant with a “Tits or GTFO” mentality when it comes to women in what is largely considered a male’s playground.

Digital America actually just ran a piece about women in gaming, and I can attest to the fact that YouTube is not particularly welcoming to female content creators outside of certain realms (beauty and lifestyle videos).  Emily, the host of the Brain Scoop on YouTube, actually made a video about the lack of women with science and math based YouTube channels, and about how she is treated as a female content creator.  You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRNt7ZLY0Kc

So what do you all think?  In particular, I’d be interested to hear Kevin’s point of view, since he’s the only non-female in our class.  Is it really that hard being a girl on the internet?  Or is Poster more right than I’m giving him credit for?


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Is Identity Changing?

// Posted by on 02/18/2013 (12:26 AM)

Can ones identity truly be stolen? It seems comical to say that someone can steal your identity, no one can take your features, your personality, your network of friends and family away from you. Someone  can however steal information about you  that is online,… Read more

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Can ones identity truly be stolen? It seems comical to say that someone can steal your identity, no one can take your features, your personality, your network of friends and family away from you. Someone  can however steal information about you  that is online, such as pictures, government documents, credit card info, and more.  Mark Poster brings up an interesting point in his book “Information Please” when he states, “Since the crime of identity theft is quite real, we need to account for a change in the nature of its identity,  its exteriorization and materialization, its becoming vulnerable to theft, its emergence as insecure-within the ideology of individualism” The increasing rates of identity theft are proof that the nature of an online identity is changing.  Where no one can steal away your identity as represented in relationships, actions, and personality.  Your online identity that is made out of documents, credit card info, and pictures is subject to theft from online criminals and hackers.

Identity theft is a growing issue in the modern world. As the internet expands so does the opportunity for criminals to access others information and use it to their advantage. An article published by ABC speaks of rising identity theft rates and the difficulty of stopping them. “The problem is there’s way too much information about us floating around out there,” says Adam Levin, CEO of the security firm Identity Theft 9-1-1.” The amount of information about a person continuously  accumulates as they use the internet more and more. As the internet expands and advances as does the information that can be stolen. So when companies like twitter, Facebook, youtube, and Skype grow so does the information that users supply in the process.  The rising rates of cyber crime are due to businesses and government agencies not being able to monitor such mass amounts of data in time to stop cyber crimes from happening.

It is a very interesting idea that someones identity can actually be stolen. It opens up new meanings behind the world identity that can only exist in cyber space. This change in identity is more evidence of the internets increasingly dominant in the role of our daily lives. It is an interesting topic that leaves many questions dealing with an increasingly digital age that has deep roots in our non digital culture and identities. While answers to those questions may be hard to achieve, there are somethings that are true. One truth is that as the internet continues to expand so will the need for increased security in your digital life. Agencies such as the IRS will be hard pressed to stop the criminals in an infinitely big internet world, this leaves the big question whether they can evolve to deal with issues or let cybercrime rates expand with the internet?


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Siri: Bonding Humans and Machines

// Posted by on 02/11/2013 (12:19 AM)

After reading the introduction to Mark Poster’s book “Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines” I immediately thought of one thing…Siri. In the introduction Poster tells a cute story of a little boy who… Read more

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After reading the introduction to Mark Poster’s book “Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines” I immediately thought of one thing…Siri. In the introduction Poster tells a cute story of a little boy who made friends with a telephone operator that fed him information. Poster follows up the story by saying “Increasingly one retrieves information not from a person, such as a telephone switchboard operator, but from an information machine, especially from networked computers. And thus we are ever more normally brought into contact not with other humans directly but with information machines. ‘Information Please,’ as the post reminds us, was once a person; now it is a machine” (3). Surely we can agree with Poster as we are constantly faced with pre-recorded machines when call our doctors offices for example. But what now would Poster have to say about Siri, Apple’s new virtual personal-assistant application? Yes, Siri is a “machine” but some would argues she is much more than that. As quoted in the Huffington Post article, “This, after all, was no ordinary iPhone app, but the progeny of the largest artificial intelligence project in U.S. history: a Defense Department-funded undertaking that sought to build a virtual assistant that could reason and learn.” Siri operates in multiple languages and can do anything from send a text to research a question to make reservations or buy a ticket. But it is Siri’s sense of humor, I think, that perhaps gives her her most “human” quality. Siri, notorious for funny/witty remarks, has joked with her users about things such as weakness (ask it about gyms, for example, and Siri sends back a mocking, “Yeah, your grip feels weak.”) and their need for therapy. This kind of humorous reaction makes the interaction between the user and Siri appear to be more “real”, ultimately bonding humans and machines. “We’re moving more and more towards an interface like the interface we have with each other,” says Saffo, a technology forecaster and associate professor at Stanford University. “Our whole trend is toward ever more intimate interactions with machines [...] and with each phase, machines are doing something ever more central to our lives.” What do you think comes next?

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/siri-do-engine-apple-iphone_n_2499165.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/fashion/when-your-phone-humors-you-noticed.html?_r=0


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Digital Politics- Phase 1

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

My final blog can be found at:

Digital Politics

 

Digital Politics

Research Problem

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

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My final blog can be found at:

Digital Politics

 

Digital Politics

Research Problem

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

Theoretical Foundation

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

Initial Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roadblocks

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

Supporting Media

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

Group Assignment

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

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

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

Future Research

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


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The Evolution of the Public Sphere

// Posted by on 02/17/2012 (2:49 AM)

The public sphere is the community in a society where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.(Compliments of Wikipedia) This sphere extends back to the beginnings of ancient Greece… Read more

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The public sphere is the community in a society where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.(Compliments of Wikipedia) This sphere extends back to the beginnings of ancient Greece in 8th century BC, it was called the agora, Greek for ‘gathering place’. The agora was the center of town and is where the culture of the city existed. Displays of arts, athleticism, spiritual activities and politics were all taking place here. However, in the political realm only free-born male land-owners were allowed to participate. As the agora formed into a marketplace rather than a place solely for free men, others were certainly apt to hear the discussions and rulings of the king or council but they could do nothing about it.

The town hall is the place in which the governing of a city takes place. These buildings often house a more formal sphere of elected officials but it is still a gathering place for the community equipped with libraries and space for entertainment. In colonial America this was the center of democracy. Once more, land-owning, white men came together to discuss and ideally solve the political problems of their community.

-Coffee shops and taverns in cities and towns of all time periods have been a place to gather and discuss politics and town issues. Before technology was around this was the only way to gather information outside of one’s personal bubble, if you will. Travelers could be key parts of this by bringing in news from other places.

 

Even something as cliche as a barbershop has been a source of political information and influence. And for most of history it was the free, rich, white men with the ability to inform himself and others as well as the ability to take action if they saw fit. However, we have seen throughout the 20th century the expansion of the political sphere to include the apparent spheres of all races, religions, and genders. And here we are, with a growing sphere of voices and with it, a new and constantly adapting medium with which to influence politics, the internet.

The internet is the agora of today’s political influences, or influencers I should say. It started with the counterculture movement, we saw the first blog space in the Well, throw in a decade of hacker innovation, and some dorm room ideas that spawn into things like facebook and you get the feedback systems of today that can organize things like the Arab spring, some truly volatile riots, or an occupy wall street movement. It can completely revamp the way political polls are taken, instead of cold calling and letters through good ole’ snail mail, we have access to numerous surveys online that take in the same information in virtually no time at all!

 

 

In his book Information Please author Mark Poster argues that this age’s public sphere really isn’t like the public sphere’s of old because of the personalities one creates online in what Poster calls the digital public sphere. “My argument is not that the digital public sphere destabilizes the full presence of face-to-face meetings but that it constructs the subject though the specificity of its medium in a way different from oral or written or broadcast models of self constitution…The digital self that participates in the Internet public spheres is different from the individual speaking in the agora or the coffee shop, as well as from the representative of individuals speaking in democratic institutions like parliaments.”(41)

In essence, Poster is saying that the person we create on the net is different from who we are in reality but, the digital public sphere still has the capability to influence political actions on the part of our representatives. Case and point being the outcry against PIPA and SOPA only weeks ago. Ultimately, the public sphere has been a highly influential space for those who were allowed to participate and eventually for those who chose to participate in it. The digital public sphere allows this generation to take that influence to an entirely new level that I don’t think we fully understand. It is very easy to express our opinions and to share them on a large scale with our friends and with our representatives. How far we take that ability I think will be revealed in the coming presidential election as we weed out the Republican candidates and take stock of how influential the internet is at publicizing where our candidates stand and why we should vote for them.


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The Internet’s Role in Developing Countries

// Posted by on 02/11/2012 (12:14 PM)

One of Mark Poster’s arguments in Information Please is that the net provides a forum for political resistance and promotes growth of the individual. In some aspects he goes onto say that this happened by accident:

“The culture… Read more

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One of Mark Poster’s arguments in Information Please is that the net provides a forum for political resistance and promotes growth of the individual. In some aspects he goes onto say that this happened by accident:

“The culture of computer programming developed consequently with no attention at all to such basic questions as who is authorized to speak, when, to whom and what may be said on these occasions” (51)

He continues on to say that while this aspect of the internet leads to the serendipitous evolution of human communication and personal liberties it has also created a tool for capitalism. Several people have found a way to harness this as a tool to make money and profit off of others use of the internet. This has adds a new dimension to the power of empires and their imperialistic tendencies, because now we can work in markets in a digital space.

What is most unusual about this new digital market is that anyone can hypothetically join into it. Poster emphasizes throughout his book that “to speak on the Internet there are no age limits, no gender limits, and no religious , ethnic or national requirements” (42). In this new world, where power is becoming decentralized and there is a new “planetary democracy” (47) how does it pan out that certain empires continue to dominate this new digital space? Sure we can all blog about our feelings and share videos for fun, but only a select few in the online world are profiting from the various business opportunities available.

I began to think about how these principles applied to developing nations and poor, rural areas without connections to this new digital, world. First I will say that I was naive in assuming that third, world countries were isolated from these opportunities. I was taken aback after I found two different blogs in which travelers discussed how widespread internet access is in these developing areas. One of the blogs I read even claimed that in terms of cell phone access, mobile providers are more prevalent in these countries than we believe. He contends that Canada has less access to mobile servers than Rwanda. Then I began to ask myself the level of access to computers and phones. If there is such a high level of wifi access in these countries, do they have computers and phones to physically log-on to this world?

I have always known about Kiva; however, I realized that this organization is an excellent example of how these developing nations are using the internet to access business opportunities online. According to the website there are over a 1, ooo,ooo Kiva users and over $284,000,000 dollars that have been lent to help individuals in poorer nations start businesses and share their commodities through the web.

I realize that there are a lot of people who have still not have been able to tap into these types of opportunities, but I think that this does provide proof that Poster’s claims are true to a certain extent. The internet is fast, digital way for people to communicate and share and it is not just for the first world nations. The internet truly is opening a planetary democracy. While it is in its beginnings we should look more into these issues to see that the access is evenly spread to everyone. I have seen several commercials for the project for “One Laptop per Child” which provide computers to children in developing nations to promote education. This is one solution that is helping to provide access and diminish the digital gap.

After doing a brief search about this topic online I realized that there are various opinions on this matter. Some people contend that there is a high level of access in these developing nations, while others argue that we are advancing to fast for them to keep up with us. Is the internet helping these nations meet us or is it helping us to outcompete them at an even faster rate? Do Poster’s theories on planetary democracy translate to these developing areas or are they only applicable to the empires of yesterday?

 


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