DIGITAL AMERICA

Tag: Power


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Case Studies in Power Concentration and Being President Snow

// Posted by on 03/02/2014 (3:01 PM)

A lot of this week’s reading, and a lot of the ideas we’ve touched on, have to do with concentrations of power, and how digitization, the Internet, and processes like high-frequency trading allow greater concentrations of power in the hands… Read more

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A lot of this week’s reading, and a lot of the ideas we’ve touched on, have to do with concentrations of power, and how digitization, the Internet, and processes like high-frequency trading allow greater concentrations of power in the hands of those who, probably, already had a decent amount of power to begin with.

The Internet and network technologies seem to reinforce existing power dynamics as they relate to our understandings of education (formal over informal knowledge), or allow for further concentrations of wealth in the hands of the wealthy, while a growing portion of the population can’t afford the devices and data/broadband necessary to access the Internet or learn basic computer literacy skills.

This all got me thinking about a video I’d seen a few months back.  The video, “I am President Snow,” talks about how in a world that has massive inequality, while many people instinctively point to inequality as the result of greed or bad people, the fact is that our world does have massive amounts of inequality, but that it is less the result of greedy people doing bad things than the simple fact that the system supports, through no fault of anyone’s, a world in which those with access to resources can use those to get further and further ahead.  The idea is not that inequality happens because of bad people doing bad things, but that it happens because it’s the path of least resistance for most people.

The video is available here: I Am President Snow

I’d love to hear what you all think.


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Occupy Wall Street

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

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

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

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

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


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Digital America: knowledge is power

// Posted by on 02/21/2014 (4:46 PM)

Samantha Dalaí López

The internet being relatively new is rapidly becoming a political ground where the absence of physical frontiers allows the spread of data at incredibly fast rates. The appearance of organizations such as Wikileaks… Read more

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Samantha Dalaí López

The internet being relatively new is rapidly becoming a political ground where the absence of physical frontiers allows the spread of data at incredibly fast rates. The appearance of organizations such as Wikileaks where people can share information that otherwise would be kept secret by the governments and institutions that control it all is a necessity. Why are things kept in secret in the first place? Well, because the government doesn’t want you to know what they’re doing to say it briefly. They say that it’s because then national security would be threatened but when you look at the information that they don’t want the public to know it becomes obvious that rather than being issues of security they are issues of politic and economic interest.  Whistleblowers, wikileaks and this information sharing centers, have uncovered many documents that report of the abuses committed by the governments which include human right violations such as the conditions at Guantanamo bay facilities, civilian deaths at Afghanistan and other places where U.S. has deployed military forces, the reports also include environmental crimes and economic corruption such as the practices that lead to Iceland’s bankruptcy and NSA’s illegal practices and overspendings. Of course this is to name a few, but obviously knowing this does not threaten ‘national security’ but instead reveals the abusive acts committed by governments.

 If the civilians cannot know what their governments are doing and if they knew and wouldn’t approve then there’s something wrong. Government is acting against the will of their people.

One of the questions that arises from this unjustified secrecy and lack of transparency on part of the government is, whose interests are they acting for?  Some of the organizations vouching for dismantling Wikileaks include banks and credit card companies…. That means economic entities that in no way should be that linked to government issues.

This is one side of the issue, the lack of transparency on part of the governments, but the exact opposite happens on part of the civilians. The NSA and the government in general have total access to civilian information. One of the recent leaks revealed how the U.S. government has access to a grand part of online information.  This is rather unjust, they won’t give away information but are capable of saving every single conversation on the internet, organize them, search for keywords and then spy on you because your conversation topics aren’t of their pleasure.  I’m not saying that they’re doing that to everyone, but they have the ability to do so and in my opinion that represents a threat on liberty and freedom of speech.  I believe that discussing ideas and sharing them with others that think the same way is a way of organizing but with governments watching over there’s no real freedom. There’s also the issue that the internet does not belong to a country, so the NSA can spy all over the world and not be stopped because they contract non-government companies (to whom they pay a lot) to do so. Recently it was confirmed that the US government spies on other governments which caused anger on part of many presidents and governments, so the threat is real. So civilians can’t know this information but entities outside of the government can do so and use the information in their favor. On the bright side, this is how information gets to us by whistleblowers.

I believe that the inequality on access to information is the main problem with this issue, while governments and secret organizations have all the information (and hence the power to use it for their own benefit), civilians have zero access to it, are being spied on and have no real liberty of organization or action. For example the boycott of wikileaks from these huge organizations like banks is an abuse and simply means that they don’t think people deserve to know what is really happening in the world, power is concentrated in a few hands and they’re not willing to give it over a bit.

 I believe in transparency and freedom, governments and their actions should be subjected to the will of the citizens and serve their interests.  If there’s any form of censorship on the internet and access to information it’s as if they were blindfolding and ignoring us. On the other hand I believe in privacy, the government shouldn’t know all what their citizens do because as an institution it has a lot of power that could be used against the individuals that don’t conform and this threat diminishes freedom of action and speech. In conclusion, the internet giving us access to information and the opportunity to organize ourselves offers a great weapon against the abuses of power. All of us should be watching over the powerful not the other way around.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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