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My opinion on Snowden

// Posted by on 05/26/2015 (8:26 PM)

Edward Snowden is referred to as a whistleblower. We all know why he is a whistleblower and have our own opinions as to whether what he did was right or wrong. In my personal opinion I believe what he did… Read more

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Edward Snowden is referred to as a whistleblower. We all know why he is a whistleblower and have our own opinions as to whether what he did was right or wrong. In my personal opinion I believe what he did was right. He did what he did in order to protect our country and not let the government take complete control over our lives. He has no benefit in his decision, he really lost everything he had in order to try to save our country.

What the NSA was doing is against the law. They are invading innocent people’s privacy without any type of legal ramifications. I feel that the NSA thought what they were doing was for the good of our country by trying to stay on top of terrorists but they took it too far. They were abusing their power as a government agency and by paying computer technicians hack into illegal territories. The NSA knew that they needed a warrant for wiretapping but they did not obtain a warrants before wiretapping. It seems that they just got carried away listening to everyone’s conversations and looking at everyone’s emails and text messages because they were not only looking into the United States citizens information, but at people from all over the world.

Working in the legal field makes this topic especially interesting to me, especially with the advancement in technology. Technology is ever changing and growing but unfortunately the law does not change as fast. The law takes time to catch up with technological advances but people should be able to use their own judgment as to whether or not something seems to be illegal. In this case wiretapping without a warrant was against the law.  Probable cause was needed in order for a search warrant to be issued for the government to wiretap and this was not happening. According to the article from Wired after Snowden released his information the government put a hold of warrantless wiretapping of cell phone and email records, it also states this is one thing that would never have happened if it were not for Snowden.

Many people may think that Snowden did this to destroy our country; some even consider him as a terrorist himself. People have considered him a terrorist because he told other countries what we were doing to them, which could have in turn, caused a way between the US and other countries or caused a lack of trust and relationship. I do not agree with these peoples opinion because I still think Snowden was acting in our best interest when he released this information. The other countries deserved to know that they were being watched because it was uncalled for by the US. If we trust these countries and have alliances with them than we should trust they would not turn on us. Like I said before Snowden was not gaining anything out of this other than hope that the government will change for the betterment of his family and friends he left behind in the US.

Another reason I believe that Snowden was not doing this for his own self is because he carefully chose when he released to the public. He took a lot of time and go through documents in order to see what needed to be released. He took into consideration information with people’s personal stuff and tried to protect individual’s identity. According to the Wired article Snowden also tried to leave a trail of what information he copied and what information he just touched in order to give the government a better understanding of what he had taken and what they needed to focus on.

Snowden held out for a couple of years before releasing the information hoping that change would come and there would be a stop to the corruption. All of the articles we have read talk about how he though the Obama administration would be different but it was not. His last straw was when he found out about a new storage center in Bluffdale, Utah. This was going to be a place that would store so much date and essential be like a cloud of all date taken for the NSA. This was going to take the invasion to a whole new level and Snowden was not happy about it. I believe that if Snowden had not have come clean that there would be a lot of damage that would have been done at this new storage facility. People are focusing on the negative effects that Snowden brought but imagine if he had not come clean and so much information was accumulated in Bluffdale that could be even more damaging when released by him or another whistleblower. There is a time and place for everything and I think that Snowden was ready to get the guilt off of his chest.

Throughout my readings on Snowden from this class and other classes it seems that the reporters and media outlets have really worked hard to get the answers we want to hear. I can’t imagine being one of the reporters that was given all of this information and trying to figure out what to do with it. It seems like for the most part it was handled in the best way possible considering nothing like this had happened before. I am sure that it was hard for the average person to believe some random person that the government was doing these bad things but thankfully it was given to someone who had the knowledge to decrypt the information and figure out that what Snowden was saying was true. Overall I stick to my opinion that what he did was right and we now know that we have no privacy.

 

PS- I had two pictures to add but I could not get them to upload, I kept getting an error message.


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Final Project Research — Cyberutopianism and Politics

// Posted by on 11/12/2014 (4:34 PM)

12/2:

I have received some really great feedback via my survey and I am ready to begin finalizing my project. I have known that I would be able to leave early, not having any final exams, so I began work… Read more

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12/2:

I have received some really great feedback via my survey and I am ready to begin finalizing my project. I have known that I would be able to leave early, not having any final exams, so I began work on a rough draft for the final essay before the Thanksgiving break. At that point I had done enough research to be in a position in which I could begin laying the groundwork for a final piece. Much of the research below was done as I continued working on the piece and was tailored so as to fit the research that I needed to connect some of the puzzle pieces–metaphorically speaking. I submitted a rough draft to Dr. Rosatelli last Tuesday and she let me know that it was in good shape and that I would simply need to wait for feedback and keep updating the research. I did so, finding another counterpoint to Adrian Chen’s anti-Anonymous fervor, as well as the centrist angle from Time. I also needed updated figures for spending on the 2014 midterms, and that is reflected below. Besides that, I really wanted to wait and see what my classmates had to say about my presentation, which was largely my essay in a presentation format. Their responses were great. All five agreed that the topic was relevant to them, which was good. I needed to make sure that I expressed the fact that this matters for us, and I think it is apparent that I did. The second question is the one where obviously there is room for improvement, as 2 students felt that I only gave somewhat of a call to action. One commented that there wasn’t a clear idea of what our response should be, and the other said that he/she wasn’t sure how he/she could personally respond. I think I am understanding where these two students are coming from, and so I have a plan of action ready to fix this. I think that simply explaining that third party candidates have a better chance of winning doesn’t necessarily convince an audience that by rallying around an independent candidate and rejecting the corporatized two-party structure, we will make a difference. So I want to give a real example of a third-party candidate who had a great shot at winning and ultimately only lost because of higher-than-expected Republican turnout, and that is Greg Orman, who was such a dominant Independent candidate in Kansas that the Democratic candidate dropped out (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/09/the-mystery-candidate-shaking-up-kansas-politics/380856/?single_page=true). A third-party candidate, with no allegiance to either side and less financial backing than Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts nonetheless gave the incumbent a run for his money, claiming over 42% of the vote and, while still losing, proved that independent candidates will be a force to be reckoned with going forward. That’s something we have to keep in mind, and though it seems broad to simply advocate siding with third parties instead of condoning the actions of the Democrats and Republicans, I think that if we do engage to research independent candidates and if we engage actively in campaigning and getting out the word, and if those candidates can be afforded some semblance of resources, as was Orman, they’ve got a great shot. Politics takes a lot of work, and those answers aren’t always directly evident, and I think that’s a bit of a challenge in this instance, for students to understand HOW to make it work, but that would necessitate a lengthy political explanation that would probably detract from my central focus, so my hope is to provide a call-to-action to look to independent candidates while understanding that there is a real-world parallel, that this is not some over-idealistic message, and that we can elect third-party candidates if we put in the effort that Orman’s camp put in and if we can capitalize on the historically low approval ratings for the GOP and Democratic Party. I hope with a real example that becomes much clearer. But on an extra-political level, I understand that there was some confusion as to what I meant when discussing the formation of new organizations. Again, I cannot necessarily provide a handbook for how to create an activist organization, as I have never done so and am not really sure how you go about doing that, but what I can provide is an example of a real organization working today that is working against many of the evils of which I spoke, and that is the Free Press Organization. I recently found out about them while reading some random news and found the website for their “Free the Internet” movement: http://www.savetheinternet.com/sti-home … I was skeptical. This group, I thought, must be backed by some large corporations, but in fact, it refuses to take a cent from any corporations, from the government, or from political parties: https://freepress.actionkit.com/donate/single/ … I was still skeptical, so I turned to Opensecrets.org, and found that the group does a very small amount of lobbying, and looked into the two bills for which it lobbied: http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientissues.php?id=D000051085&year=2013 . One was a law that would allow TV service providers to provide a la carte programming and the other was simply a law that cemented how military spending would look for the year 2014: https://www.congress.gov/113/bills/s912/BILLS-113s912is.pdf and https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/2397. I’m not really sure why it would lobby for a bill that was pretty straightforward and simply established how military spending would be allocated for the year, and I will keep my eyes open for any information indicating why, but nonetheless, both seem like harmless pieces of legislation for which to lobby, compared to something like an Internet Sales Tax law. The group’s lobbying efforts are minor, however, compared to the grassroots movement it is leading in favor of Net Neutrality, and this is where I am truly impressed by the group. It is partially cyberlibertarian in nature, but by refusing to accept corporate cash (which I would believe since its lobbying is minor due to lower fiduciary reserves, as Opensecrets’ figures reflect), it reflects the balance of which I spoke in the presentation, balancing an understanding of the importance of an egalitarian Web (i.e. Net Neutrality) with the understanding that regulation–online and offline–is always necessary and that corporations are not inherently a force for good. That is lost in translation with a group like Anonymous, which while anti-corporate is so anarchic and contradictory that any positive balance is lost and the whole ideology comes across as horribly destructive, which it largely is. Hopefully with a real example of an organization that we could stand behind, it becomes clear that Free Press is one of countless organizations out there that we could endorse as citizens. I also, however, do want to emphasize the importance of the fact that perhaps the organization that we must support does not yet exist, and that’s where the self-exploration comes in. I cannot tell you how to start a successful movement, but I can tell you we’ve been given some of the keys to it thus far, and that becoming informed truly is the first step to understanding how to move forward in such an endeavor. In such  way, I think that providing real world examples will be the most appropriate response to the concerns raised, reminding students that my suggestions are not vague, idealistic fantasies, but realistic visions, that my call to action is to become informed, to learn what the next steps are, and to realize the foundation has been set for us to take those steps. All students agreed the material was obviously important, and for that I was thankful. They also all agreed that signs of research were abundantly evident, and that was great, because I have felt I’ve done well in that regard, but I wanted to make sure. The only other concern that was raised was raised at the very end, with a suggestion to define some of the terms of which I speak/write. I am not too worried about this, because I only cut out the definitions due to time restraints, since I had planned a 15-minute presentation but had to fit it into 10. I couldn’t allow for all of the exposition that I wanted and instead had to give a bit of a broader overview. The paper, I am sure, gives a much more thorough definition to the terms, even ones that we have discussed, as I always like to write a paper under the assumption that anyone who reads it would be clueless about the topic (this is not a jab at Dr. Rosatelli so much as a simple philosophy on writing!). I am immensely thankful for the feedback and will be making the revisions mentioned above to the paper. It will be all the stronger as a result, and I am very confident and pleased with how the final project will turn out. I cannot thank my peers enough for their responses and suggestions, and if anyone has any other ideas that they would like to share, I am receptive as always and would not mind listening. I hope that what I have outlined here makes sense as a reasonable solution to the concerns raised, and I am excited to submit a final product that has undone the errors of my earlier drafts and does justice to the topic at hand.

11/30:

http://www.businessinsider.com/good-hacks-by-anonymous-2013-4?op=1 … This is a bit of a rebuke of Adrian Chen’s anti-Anonymous spin, since it was suggested I try to get some differing opinions on the matter besides just Quinn Norton’s one example. It is particularly helpful in discussing the fact that the group took down white supremacist radio host Hal Turner in 2006 (yes, I know this was discussed in the documentary, but I forgot about it until I read this article). The article also notes that Anonymous took down the Westboro Baptist Church’s website in 2011, and that is a bit of a rebuke of the notion that Anonymous has a bad record on racial and LGBTQ issues (even though, for the most part, it does). The article gives eight examples of positive efforts from Anonymous, but those two are the most important and relevant for my paper.

http://time.com/3148925/ferguson-michael-brown-anonymous/ … This article is not entirely pro-Anonymous; it is more centrist in nature, simply explaining the situation with Anonymous and its involvement in Ferguson. It is significant for several reasons… 1. It notes that the group is intervening in Ferguson to push the federal government to pass legislation that would more strictly regulate police conduct (a good thing), 2. They don’t know how many Anonymous members are in Ferguson or working on behalf of the efforts in Ferguson (not necessarily a good thing), and 3. A group member had previously misidentified the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, so how can we trust information we get from them, and how do we know they are reliable in any respect?

https://www.opensecrets.org/overview/cost.php … This is an update of the spending on the 2014 midterms, since I didn’t quite update those figures as much as I could have; this will be very helpful and provide the timeliest, most accurate statistics.

11/23:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/01/21/how-citizens-united-changed-politics-in-6-charts/ … This is an important story from the standpoint that it informs my discussion of how cyberutopian faith in a deregulation economy would influence the deregulation of corporate involvement in the political system, and how each side is now exploiting cyberutopianism and the belief in the Internet and the “New Economy” as something inherently democratic to promote further a culture of corporatism and increased donations in an era in which corporate money is becoming all the more necessary to ensuring victory in elections. That then sets the stage for my discussion of the artificial, profit-driven exploitation of cyberutopianism versus the more genuine but more troubling digital utopianism of Anonymous and the political movement in which it is a central figure.

The way my paper should turn out at the moment is an introduction describing the shift of cyberutopianism ideals from left-leaning counterculturists to the right-wing, libertarian coalition of New Communalists and the New Right, and then explaining the culture of deregulation that was created by the notion of a “New Economy” and the inherently democratizing power of the Internet, then describing Citizens United in that context and how it changed the relationship between Washington and corporate powers, and explaining what that means for cyberutopianism as a political ideal and the fact that both sides use it merely as a means to a money-central end, and then moving discussion to Anonymous as a major digital-utopian force outside of the two-party structure and the troubling implications of standing by them. Ultimately the discussion will culminate in the question of which side we choose to stand on in light of the new political order created by the cyberutopian libertarianism of the New Economy and the excessive corporatism and contradiction of democratic values inherent therein.

11/22:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYqYkdyW0t0&feature=youtu.be … I found this video in a quick Google News search for Anonymous and saw that they are declaring a cyberwar on the KKK… This is very interesting because the Nation article I cited a few days ago clearly argues that the organization is NOT the anti-racist organization it purports itself to be. This would be interesting to juxtapose with a more realistic and thorough depiction of the group’s history…

http://web.archive.org/web/20080824174022/http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/Net_users_insist_its_joke.html… This is a description of the group’s Habbo Hotel raid in 2006, in which they sent messages like “Pool’s Closed due to AIDS” while playing as black avatars and forming a swastika, something they insist was not intended to in any way be racist, even though, as the article points out, its native 4Chan is “peppered with homophobic and racist comments.” In 2008, several Anonymous group members hung a sign with the same black Habbo avatar that read “Pool Closed” as a joke intended to keep black children away from the pool, even though the group insisted the joke was in no way intended to promote bigotry, saying that the joke was merely “an Internet fad.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasperhamill/2013/10/23/is-anonymous-suffering-an-identity-crisis/ … Further discussion of the multitudinous contradictions inherent in Anonymous and its “identity crisis.” It basically just bolsters most of the arguments I’ve made up to this point.

11/19:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/06/occupy-wall-street-protesters_n_999289.html … This article intrigues me from the standpoint that on a fiscal level, Occupy is taking a direct stance against both parties, insisting that both Democrats and Republicans have served to enhance corporate power. Now I am going to look for stories that relate to the concept of the “New Economy” in relation to the Democrats and Republicans and I’m looking for information that hopefully should pin down a trend of both sides actually feeding into New Economy ideals in some way, as I did to a lesser extent in previous entries.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/11/12/bad-news-for-amazon-as-boehner-kills-the-online-sales-tax/ … This is yet another interesting article from the standpoint that a bill putting in place an Internet sales tax was supported by Amazon as a means of competing against physical retailers, even though it would require Amazon products to be taxed, undoing the unfair advantage that online retailers have. It is a complicated economic reasoning, but long story short, the company knows that an Internet sales tax would hurt smaller online retailers more, giving them an advantage on the online marketplace. The article notes that most Democrats supported the Internet sales tax, which actually indicates that Democrats are not for a completely free and open Internet. In this way, I wonder if fiscally, in terms of the New Economy, our discussion of politics in the digital realm will make a bit more sense, as opposed to the ideas regarding cultural objects and the freedom thereof online. Republicans theoretically remain cyber-libertarians in terms of fiscal issues, with House Speaker John Boehner having shot down the sales tax legislation and other Republicans, like Ted Cruz (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-18/ted-cruz-wants-to-stop-bipartisan-internet-sales-taxation-bill.html) opposing it as well. But here’s where things get confusing, as always: Cruz insists that the legislation is a result of the lobbying of large corporations, and while it seems like a hypocritical excuse from a party with support from large corporations, it does offer a reminder that economically speaking, we have two parties that are very much taking support from corporate entities and this cyber-economics discussion isn’t even that clear-cut politically speaking. As the Bloomberg article above points out, this sales tax was also supported by Wal-Mart, and they are one of the largest lobbying organizations in the world (https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D000000367)… So economically speaking, this is a very confusing political discussion. While Republicans are taking millions of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart in their fight against the minimum wage, Democrats are taking millions from Wal-Mart in their fight for an Internet sales tax. Democrats seem to be playing hardball with corporations, but is that the full picture? Absolutely not. Each party’s platform seems to be in line with how we would assume they should vote on these key issues: Democrats support taxes online, and Republicans oppose it. The former is anti-corporation, the latter pro-. But that’s not an adequate picture, and while this reflects equally on politics outside of the digital realm, it has serious implications in the digital realm as well. And let’s move away from party leaders altogether and look at party members, because there are some interesting things to note here, as well, going back to some of my early findings on Net Neutrality, an issue with economic repercussions… http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/11/12/wonkbook-polling-shows-even-republicans-overwhelmingly-support-net-neutrality/ … According to this poll from The Washington Post, both Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly oppose Net Neutrality. And if that isn’t confusing enough, let’s consider why on earth the Republican Party would remain so firmly opposed to Net Neutrality if 81% of Americans disagree. It might seem that the GOP remains dependent on contributions from cable companies, but Comcast–by a slim margin–gives more to Democratic recipients than to Republican recipients (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/toprecips.php?id=D000000461&cycle=2014)… So whose side are they on? Well, both the easy answer and the complicated answer is the same: they’re on their own side. As the Forbes article–which is written by a conservative–explains, these corporations are simply pushing for any policies that benefit them. If a Democrat is going to support legislation that benefits their economic interests, they will reciprocate with donations and support. And that’s where the complicated nature of all this becomes abundantly clear. No longer can we simply say that one side is more pro-corporate than the other, because both are receiving millions upon millions of dollars from these entities. In many ways, the advent of the Internet and the digital sphere has merely complicated matters even more, with issues like Net Neutrality and the Internet sales tax elucidating the fact that fiscal politics in the digital age are no longer so black-and-white.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/response/protecting-our-artists-and-entrepreneurs-innovation-economy … This is a bit of a different issue altogether, but I just found this, and I think this is one of the more interesting points to make. This is an official White House response to a petition calling for more lenient copyright laws. The White House actually responds at the above link and calls for more regulations on copyright infringement and enhanced financial penalties for those who fail to comply with the law. This is so fascinating, because it affirms President Obama, a Democratic leader, as being in line with the GOP in opposing copyright infringement and further opposing any legislation that would make copyright more lenient. Both sides–or at least the leadership thereof–support enhanced copyright legislation and oppose the more cyber-libertarian approach embodied by Lessig. Again, this gets confusing because Lessig’s Mayday PAC gave mostly to Democrats, in spite of this support for copyright. It is also confusing because, as this Newsweek article (http://www.newsweek.com/art-steal-copyright-retreat-283118) points out, many Silicon Valley companies actually support free cultural objects online since it attracts consumers to purchase digital devices. So many of the largest corporations in the world have reason to support more lenient approaches to copyright, and do support more lenient approaches, but that isn’t reflected in the actions of the Democrats or the GOP. I suppose perhaps they can rely more on the support of other corporations. But really, that’s a key point here: principle isn’t guiding cyber-politics, let alone politics itself; money is. This cannot be defined in terms of politics because of the money that is guiding the decisions of each party. Each side takes the stance it needs to to ensure the continued support of the corporations upon which it relies for donations and lobbying cash. But what does that mean for a post-political organization like Anonymous? If anything, it reflects a sort of fatigue with corporate-led politics, and subsequently can explain some of the group’s anarchic proclivities, but it leaves us with a really tough question. As voters, who do we turn to? How can we turn to Anonymous if it so fervently stands behind cyber policies so lenient as to be considered anarchic, and if so many of its members have proven to be misogynistic, racist, homophobic, etc? Anonymous is one of the leading forces in the push against the government’s crony capitalism, but should we be siding with them? If we don’t, who do we side with? Both parties are making decisions based on money, especially in terms of digital issues. Neither is necessarily a defender of cyberutopianism on every issue, only the ones that can generate support and donations. Certainly no one could support that, so voters who oppose corporate influence on government are left in a position, very much reflected in cyber politics, in which we really can’t support one side or the other. Nonetheless, each side is leading us forward into a post-political age in which we see our beliefs not in a spectrum and we see conflict not taking place between two very different parties so much as we see two similar parties in a fight against cyber-libertarian groups that are so radically cyberutopian that they call for anarchy. At least that’s what I’m seeing in my findings… Alarming.

11/17:

http://www.thenation.com/article/158974/accelerated-grimace-cyber-utopianism … This is fascinating because it is an openly left-wing critique of cyber-utopianism from the viewpoint that it conflates things like “crowdsourcing” in the “New Economy” with digital sharecropping, or even digital plantations and suggests heavily that cyber-utopianism has its roots in libertarian ideologies, which it does, again making this issue even more confusing. How did cyber-utopianism begin as something advocated by libertarian conservatives like Newt Gingrich and end up wielded by Anonymous, a perhaps anarchic group that leans any which way but right? It is also interesting to note that Anonymous, while extremely averse to conservatism, in embracing anarchism, embraces a small-government (in their case, a no-government) approach to politics that is almost a form of extreme libertarianism, closer to the right wing than the left. Yet the actions they take, like protesting Arizona’s immigration legislation or fighting Ugandan homophobia, show that they are not on the right at all. It could simply boil down to the fact that Anonymous, one of the leading powerhouses in contemporary cyberutopian political thought, is an anarchic organization, or is post-political as I had first believed. I am starting to lean towards the former as opposed to the latter, which perhaps will cement my paper as an explanation of the evolution of cyberutopianism and the fact that we should be careful to buy into the ideology now that it may have anarchistic repercussions.

11/16:

http://www.thenation.com/article/190369/truth-about-anonymouss-activism?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow# … What fascinates me is the extent to which this article emphasizes the ways in which Anonymous is far from a liberal organization, even though you have people like Quinn Norton talking about the group like it is in this piece: http://newint.org/features/2012/12/01/anonymous-into-politics/ … Anonymous hacked the Ugandan government websites to protest its homophobic legislation, yet post horribly homophobic statements online… They also protested Arizona’s strict immigration laws, which could reasonably be viewed as a rather liberal move, since the legislation was from conservatives. And notably, some also insist they helped make Occupy what it was–another liberal movement. But actions taken and comments posted online show a refusal to adhere to even the liberal ideas that they sometimes defend. Yes, we must first consider the group’s horizontalism and the fact that there is no central leadership, but even so, the group almost seems to be anti-everything, except perhaps anarchy, which is a scary thing. This is where the idea of cyberutopianism comes in, as Anonymous seems to believe that with a free and open Internet, all people could coexist and perhaps we wouldn’t even need governments. Cyberutopianism as embodied by Anonymous has essentially manifested itself as something that places its trust so excessively in the Internet as to advocate perhaps for the dissolution of governments, if it is even fighting for any larger goal at all. And, ultimately, that is the question. Is Anonymous fighting for anything in the end, or is it just fighting AGAINST everything? But the group in general, so horizontalist as to offer a multitude of contradictions in its ideology, does indeed seem to be–if not anarchist–then firmly post-political, as the Nation article seems to intimate… “Coleman sees Anonymous as part of a great geek political awakening, along with Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party and Debian programmers, ‘clearly part of a wellspring of hackers and geeks who were taking political matters into their own hands and making their voices heard.’” … The common thread between them is digital utopianism, and if Anonymous represents anything about this new counterculture, this cyberutopian movement, it is the post-political nature of it all… Paragraph about Fred Turner’s argument is vital. The predominantly liberal counterculture marked a substantial change in American politics once the New Communalists put forth their vision of new societies away from the masses, in their return to nature. But as those communes collapsed, they turned to the Internet that they had begun to romanticize, and it’s easy to see that that is where Anonymous is now: they have set up camp away from the rest of society, in the confines of the Internet, hidden away in places like 4Chan, still holding that unending faith in the cyberutopian potential of the Internet, carrying on the message of Wired and other products of the New Communalists and their so-called “techno-optimism.” And this is where it gets really confusing, because they are indeed carrying on that message, which is starkly libertarian in nature. If Anonymous is anarchist, or apolitical, or even slightly left-leaning if you view it more ideally like Norton, how does that reconcile with its fundamental libertarianism? It doesn’t… Once again we come to the same sort of conclusion, that Anonymous, the 21st-century manifestation of the New Communalists and cyberutopian thought, is the embodiment of the post-political world.

11/12:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/10/statement-president-net-neutrality … This is very interesting from the standpoint that President Obama makes a statement that the Internet is one of the greatest gifts to our economy… That’s a very “New Economy,” cyber-libertarian stance from a Democratic President. He directly refers to the Internet as one of the most democratizing forces the world has ever known, which is fascinating because it takes the digital determinist stance of finding the Internet to be inherently democratic… Rather cyberutopian thinking.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/2014-elections-mayday-pac-larry-lessig-112617.html … I first heard about this PAC from a Politico story I had to analyze for my News Media and Society class and knew this would relate. Again, we see an instance of a cyberutopian individual–cyberutopian in the thinking that if reforms are made, the Internet can be a liberating force–who is standing by mostly Democrats (and in the context of this specific election cycle, failing as a result) and putting forth a pretty anti-libertarian message of “no big money in politics.” Lessig, who we have talked about in class before, was once a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, of which Esther Dyson was a member as well… The same Esther Dyson whose “Magna Carta” was endorsed by Newt Gingrich and accepted by the GOP… So Lessig, whose conception of a free Internet has a proclivity to fall under the distinction of cyber-libertarianism, has been pushing for a fiscally anti-libertarian policy, removing big money from politics. Is there a difference between libertarianism “IRL” and online? (Sorry, I’m thinking out loud and droning, but if people like Tufecki, a cyber-libertarian, insist that digital dualism is false, then cyber-libertarianism is no different from actual libertarianism… Correct? Does this make any sense? So is Tufecki wrong? This is pretty off-topic, but it’s just so complicated and confusing.)

http://time.com/3578255/conservatives-net-neutrality-poll/ … Here’s where it gets interesting, because after all this discussion of the fact that Democrats seem to be pretty cyberutopian and support Net Neutrality and such, we find this, from Time Magazine, and this suggests that the vast majority of conservatives in this country (4 out of 5) support Net Neutrality, even though their party leaders may not. So clearly, the cyberutopian ideal of a free and open Internet is not something that is isolated to one party or another, and that’s vital to understand if I’m talking about how cyberutopianism is no longer only endorsed by one party over the other, and it stands in stark contrast to the way things once were.

An overview of the shift I’m trying to portray:

As we studied in class, the Counterculture movement in the 60s was largely fearful of computers and digital technologies, fearing specifically dehumanization. That would eventually change as a result of New Communalist efforts (namely efforts like Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog) to show a path forward in technology as a transcendent force that could bring people together and serve not to dehumanize so much as to liberate mankind under Norbert Wiener’s theory of cybernetics. Indeed, the New Communalists, an ideologically liberal subset of individuals, were perpetuating a message of digital utopianism. As they grew older and began to inhabit the private sector, they would move to the right, under the theories of a “New Economy,” and standing behind organizations like the aforementioned Electronic Frontier Foundation in the 1990s. The “Magna Carta,”  which called for a free and open Internet that would act as a democratizing force and which represented the hopes of a laissez-faire digital economy, was in many respects the culmination of this shift, as it was endorsed by Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and became a major part of the GOP platform. The once-liberal counterculturists had become Republicans, taking their digital utopian ideas with them. The 21st century has brought with it immense change, however, as Democrats, too, are standing behind measures (like Net Neutrality) that are inherently cyber-libertarian and see an open Internet as a democratizing force, as President Obama insisted. The post-political aspect of all of this comes in when we consider the fact that for most conservatives to support Net Neutrality as well is to align themselves with people like Lawrence Lessig, who is most certainly not a proponent of laissez-faire economics. Though conservatives may not hew closely to his ideology on every last issue, Net Neutrality is only one of many issues on which it is clear that, digitally speaking, Republicans and Democrats share more in common than might normally be expected. In fact, on many of these issues, each party’s respective stance betrays a sort of contradiction with regards to the supposed core tenets of their ideologies.

Take the notion of cybersurveillance, for example. Conservative individuals on the right, like Ted Cruz, are fervently opposed to such measures. The government’s intrusion into users’ privacy is an interference in the free and open Internet that cyber-libertarian organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation seek to create. That is a cyberutopian ideal, in which a free Internet is looked to as a liberating force. But let’s consider the implications of an Internet which is not subjected to the surveillance of any force, and in which we see cases like that which is described in Amanda Hess’ “Why Women aren’t Welcome on the Internet.” Twitter is an entity that is firmly opposed to cybersurveillance and fights off government attempts to access its users’ information. As a result, law enforcement is crippled in its attempts to handle death threats, rape threats, and other misogynistic comments made towards women online. This stands in stark opposition to the “tough on crime” stance that Cruz and many other Republicans take (for example, note that he is on the record as wanting heightened monitoring of sexual predators… http://www.ontheissues.org/domestic/Ted_Cruz_Crime.htm … But can that be reconciled with his cyber-libertarian opposition to government surveillance?).

The lesson here, thus far, is that the issues we have discussed in class are markedly post-political. Does this argument make sense? And is cyberutopianism necessarily a core component of that argument? Sorry I wrote so much. “Excessively verbose” seems to be my default setting.


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Sailing into the Future

// Posted by on 04/18/2014 (1:04 PM)

Richard Jenkins and Dylan Owens have made history by creating the first Sailboat Drone, known as Honey Badger. This electronically controlled Sailboat was programmed to sail itself from San Francisco to Hawaii this past October. The 19-foot craft was… Read more

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Richard Jenkins and Dylan Owens have made history by creating the first Sailboat Drone, known as Honey Badger. This electronically controlled Sailboat was programmed to sail itself from San Francisco to Hawaii this past October. The 19-foot craft was set loose in the ocean for 34 days before completing it’s journey to Hawaii.

The Sailboat uses a unique technology developed by these two men that always it to remain balanced through large waves and heavy winds. The sailboat works in a similar fashion as a drone in the sense that you program the coordinates that you want to the Sailboat to sail too and it used the wind and it’s sail to stay on course and navigate to that location. There is no need for ropes, winches, or even sailors aboard this robotic boat.

What does this mean for our future?
Upon my initial read of this article I did not fully comprehend what the Sailbot technology meant for our society and our environment. After further exploration into the concept I was enthused and shocked by all the possibilities this technology holds for our world. One of the largest impacts this technology could have is in the field of shipping and transportation. Current huge freight ships use oil and fuel to ship goods all over the world. If that system could be replaced with the sailbot that used wind technology we could save money and natural resources in this field.

One other large innovation that is mentioned in the article is the transportation of humans. Instead of using ferries, we could convert this system to sailboats and have then electronically programmed to run routes. Ferry systems are very popular in coastal cities such as Seattle and New York City. The amount of money and fuel that could be saved by using wind power would make a large impact in the economy and in the environment. New environmentally friendly innovations in transportation are sweeping the world, and the Sailbot could very well be what is next for our society. While the developers acknowledge that this technology still needs a lot of refinement, I believe that this could be the future of transportation and shipping.


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The Rise of Social Networks Might be Making People More Private

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Articles:

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

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


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The Parent’s Dilemma: Screen Time for Kids?

// Posted by on 04/03/2014 (4:53 PM)

This month’s Wired contained an interesting argument.  It’s article “The Parent’s Dilemma” asks whether “screen time” (like letting your kid use a tablet to watch a show or play games) is a bad way to parent.

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This month’s Wired contained an interesting argument.  It’s article “The Parent’s Dilemma” asks whether “screen time” (like letting your kid use a tablet to watch a show or play games) is a bad way to parent.

“Leapster 1,” cc Belinda Hankins Miller

As a kid who was raised in front of a TV, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little personally invested in this argument.  Three kids and a single mom: you do the math.  The math ends with the TV and computer games.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the article, advocates for no screen time before the age of two and two hours a day, at most, for older children, regardless of whether the screen time consists of learning games, Angry Birds,Sesame Street, or eBooks.

The question is: are all these screen-based activities equally passive or brain-melting?  The slightly terrifying risk is that, especially with the advent of touchscreens, the impact of these technologies on this generation of children will only be measurable after you take the parenting gamble of letting them or not letting them use the tech.  Mat Honan, the Wired writer behind this piece, seems pretty heavily in the Sherry Turkle camp that these technologies make us “more connected and more isolated at the same time” (68).

Coincidentally, this article comes pretty close to a recent change to the iTunes store to make in-app purchases more difficult, because many parents have had problems with their children making purchases while playing games on their phones or tablets.  Whether these activities are good or bad, they certainly carry a unique set of risks.  (Do you KNOW how quickly buying boosters in Pet Rescue adds up? I don’t. Of course not. Nope.)  Which means more and more parents ARE choosing to let their kids play with touchscreens.

Honan suggests moderation in letting parents decide how much screen time is too much for their kids.  Personally, I think the better question is what kind of activities the kids are doing.

Research has said for years that kids experience real benefits from watching certain kinds of shows or playing certain kinds of games.*  Not all “eyeball hours” are created equal, especially when it comes to stimulating a child’s brain.  We may not know exactly how this particular iteration will perform relative to computer learning games or children’s television shows, but it seems pessimistic to assume this new tech will be more detrimental than its predecessors.

Of course, no screen will ever be a substitute for hugging your kid or reading a bedtime story, but there’s always a difference between supplement and substitution.  And if a little screen time now frees you up for some quality physical time later, I’m not sure I see what all the panic is about.

*http://www.sesameworkshop.org/what-we-do/our-results/literacy-numeracy/, http://www.teachthought.com/video-games-2/6-basic-benefits-of-game-based-learning/


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Refuge From the Internet: Does it Exist?

// Posted by on 04/02/2014 (2:03 PM)

This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship… Read more

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This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship with time before we a experience a future we didn’t expect. The constant use of technology and internet is stifling the creativity of our culture by making too much information readily available and holding our generation back from creating anything original. I agree with Rushkoff in a lot of ways; I think that we are extremely distracted from the present and that this could be hurtful to our generation.

I read a few articles from Wired that I think connect well with Rushkoff’s book and our class discussions about the constant use of internet all over the world. While it used to be hard to find a place to get internet connection and surf the wed, it’s now harder to find an escape from it. If we open up our computers to find that we don’t have wifi, we’re more shocked than we are if we find that we do have it. A long car ride used to be an excuse to sit back, relax, and listen to a few CDs. Now people have “hotspots” on their phones that allow them to get internet access on their computers and phones while in motion. It has even gotten to the point where certain people have anxiety if they don’t have access to their e-mails, texts, and tweets, even while they’re, say, in a plane thousands of feet above ground. This shows us that the places that used to be sanctuaries from the technological world and our always-on lives are now being invaded.

“[To get away] we go where it’s impossible to connect, no matter what. But quite soon those gaps will all be filled. Before much longer, the entire planet will be smothered in signal, and we won’t be able to find places that are off the grid” (Honan, 2013).

The quote above is from a 2013 article in Wired called “Can’t Get Away From It All? The Problem Isn’t Technology- It’s You.” The author talks about broadening internet access throughout the country, and how the places that we used to escape to are now places you can be completely plugged-in. Mat Honan, the author of the article thinks that if we can learn to resist the urge to go online, we can create these places of refuge for ourselves. But can these places even be considered sanctuaries from our internet lives if we can get in touch with anyone and search anything? Will we compromise our sanity in we continue down this road? Where can we get away from our online lives if we have internet access everywhere we go?

The image above shows the places that we have internet access in orange, and the places we don’t in dark red (as of September 2013). The places that aren’t orange are mostly uninhabited areas. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

The second article, by the same author, was about wifi on airplanes. Even if it’s possible, says the author, airlines might want to reconsider the degree to which we can access this. The article talks about how much we will probably disturb one another making phone calls, streaming movies, hogging the outlet plugs, or even skyping and facetiming with the people below. Is it really necessary to have access to these things while we’re flying? I know this might be convenient, but I still don’t think its healthy for us to have access to all of these in-flight gadgets.

“If you’re really looking to unplug, the connection you have to sever isn’t electronic anymore—it’s mental” (Honan, 2013)

I think that the novelty of the idea of having internet wherever you go has worn off, and just as soon as Americans realize the state of present shock we are in, we might all long to be in a place where we can’t have access to everything at our fingertips. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

 

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/honan-flight-risks/

http://www.wired.com/2013/10/honan/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/07/10/were-all-internet-addicts-and-were-all-screwed-says-newsweek/

 


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Drones Sailing Around the World and Delivering Our Mail: Is this Normal?

// Posted by on 02/28/2014 (12:34 PM)

In an article in Wired called “The Drone That Will Sail Itself Around The World,” Adam Fisher discusses the “sailing robot” that has been constructed to travel around the world by sea. Saildrone is “a wind-powered autonomous surface vehicle” that… Read more

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In an article in Wired called “The Drone That Will Sail Itself Around The World,” Adam Fisher discusses the “sailing robot” that has been constructed to travel around the world by sea. Saildrone is “a wind-powered autonomous surface vehicle” that is 19 feet long and made of carbon-fiber. It was released into the San Francisco Bay in October. The engineers of Saildrone programed it so that it would sail to Hawaii, 2,248 miles away, completing the world’s first “no-handed” sail in 34 days. In its journey across the pacific, the drone has been confronted with storms of gale-force winds and has battled fierce breaking waves.

“Above the waterline the boat is painted safety orange and emblazoned with the words OCEAN RESEARCH IN PROGRESS in all caps. The hull is black with bottom paint, and near the bow is the name in a fancy serif: Honey Badger.”

The engineering of Saildrone really mimics that of an airplane more than that of a sailboat. It has a tail just like an airplane does, it is designed to adjust to extreme angular changes, and it is powered completely by wind. Richard Jenkins and Dylan Owens, the engineers behind the Saildrone technology, hope that the structure will prove its sailing abilities so that one day it can be sent to vast, untravelled parts of oceans throughout the world to collect information. Jenkins and Owen both hope that once the technology of the structure is perfected it can be sent around to collect data that will prove that global warming is real. They would do this by monitoring changes in ocean acidification, which is the “key barometer of climate change.” And even beyond that the potential of ocean drones is huge:

“Drones could replace the world’s weather and tsunami buoys. The waters around oil platforms could be sniffed 24/7 for the first signs of a spill. Tagged sharks, whales, and other marine life could be followed and their locations patched into the international marine-traffic control system with a warning to stay away. Protected borders, coastlines, islands, and environmentally sensitive marine areas could be patrolled by drones programmed to photograph any interloping ships.” (Fisher, 2014, Wired)

What’s next for Saildrone? Jenkins and Owen hope to send the structure literally around the world. They have programmed it to travel about 25,000 miles around the South Pole and then in the direction of the equatorial Pacific. The engineers are constructing several more drones, now completely digital and constructionally perfected, to sail across oceans. Hopefully they will provide us with some valuable information about these bodies of water that we couldn’t know about without this technology.

Cleary Saildrone can offer the world a multitude of scientific and security uses; its potential is undeniable. Reaches of the world that are nearly invisible right now could be seen and researched, enabling the world to make infinite scientific advances. This article reminded me of our discussion about recent technology replacing humans. In the case of Saildrone, this is clearly not a danger to the world because people have never been physically able to travel to these places.

For research purposes I definitely support the use of drone technology, and Jenkins and Owens’ creation has provided a perfect example of the type of drone that can only be helpful to the world. I read another article, however, on other perspective uses of drone in mail delivery services for Amazon. USA Today reported in December that Amazon is gearing up to use small, unmanned drone aircrafts to deliver packages in a new program they will call “Prime Air.” The structures, called Octocopers,  would be programed to fly to their destination in 30 minutes or less.

It’s interesting that technologies like this are emerging, but I question whether or not this is a good thing. There’s nothing I like better than to receive my online orders quickly, but I would probably wonder how reliable and safe it is for automated machines to fly through the air delivering our packages. The Federal Aviation Administration would have to play a role in regulating the ways in which the drones operate, but even so I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this idea. The Amazon PrimeAir drone technology is several years away from being able to do this, but the company’s CEO swears that it will happen in the near future.

“Drones have mostly been used by the U.S. military to shoot missiles at enemy combatants in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the cost of these unmanned aircraft has dropped precipitously in recent years, making them more accessible to commercial users, such as companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs.” (Barr, USAToday, 2013)

There are laws that the government has passed that do not allow for the free use and construction of drones throughout the US, but many people believe that within the next few years the FAA will begin to allow drones for commercial use. How do you feel about the recent accessibility of drones to businesses and researchers? I personally believe that there should be very strict regulations on the uses of drones; they should be employed for military and scientific purposes, not for entrepreneurs and small companies. The Amazon CEO claims that the company will have a plan for safety and take extreme caution with the aircrafts, but I still wonder how safe this is. And beyond that, do we need our packages delivered in 30 minutes while AmazonPrime offers next day and two day delivery? Is this what our world has come to? Also, PrimeAir could potentially eliminate the job’s of Amazon workers and pose a threat to FedEx and UPS, which Amazon currently relies on for ground shipments. So the way I see it, drones (which people assume are helping businesses) could potentially be detrimental to others.

These articles reminded me a little big of our discussions about high frequency trading and technology taking over the roles of humans. We’ve created technologies to do certain things for us, but now we’ve turned a corner where it appears to me that we have taken it too far. While the Saildrone seems to be a positive use for drones (doing what humans can’t do themselves), the invention of PrimeAir seems to be an excessive use of drone technology. There are many ways to look at this and its hard to saying we should stop using drones altogether because they can be useful in so many ways. I do wonder, though, if one day they’ll be used for everything humans do and could replace us in many areas. That’s a scary thought.

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/02/saildrone/#slide-id-152781

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/01/amazon-bezos-drone-delivery/3799021/

 


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Hacking For Love <3

// Posted by on 02/25/2014 (11:23 AM)

Amidst all of the negative conversation we have had regarding hacking, it was refreshing to read an upbeat article on some of the positive uses of hacking. In this month’s issue of Wired Magazine, an article featured a young man… Read more

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Amidst all of the negative conversation we have had regarding hacking, it was refreshing to read an upbeat article on some of the positive uses of hacking. In this month’s issue of Wired Magazine, an article featured a young man who hacked the popular dating site, OKCupid, in order to find his true love.

The article, How a Math Genius Hacked OKCupid to Find True Love, by Kevin Poulsen was published in the February issue of Wired. The article tells the story of Chris McKinlay, a UCLA PhD student who after struggling with “traditional dating” for many years, hoped to find luck on the popular dating site OKCupid. This site, founded by Harvard math majors in 2004 by matching people based on which questions they answer out of a survey of almost 1,000 and how they rank those questions from most important to last. McKinlay’s original profile was not attracting very many matches with over 80 percent compatibility. So he decided to take matters into his own hands.

McKinlay hacked OKCupid’s database, figuring that if he could find out which questions mattered most to the types of women he was attracted to, then he could create multiple profiles that would be compatible with the women he was interested in. He ended up sorting women into seven different clusters of personality type, and created profiles that directly matched what these women were looking for. From these clusters he narrowed it down to two general types of women that he thought he would be most interested in. While this story seems like a nerdy hacker’s dream come true, his result show the limitations of technology in relationships.
While McKinlay had created a near perfect algorithm to find a women, he believed would be his soul mate, it wasn’t until date number 88 that he met the women whom he would marry. I think that this shows the true limits of technology in terms of relationships. Dating sites such as Match.com and Eharmony have created extensive systems for matching people based on multiple different categories of compatibility, but if McKinlay’s experiment proves anything, it shows that even when the science is tailored to meet the desires of a specific individual, that is not enough to make a true human connection. It took him nearly 100 first dates until he met a woman that he had a genuine connection with. After that many dates, a regular person who had not rigged the system most likely would have given up. There is something true and real about a physical connection between two humans that can only be experienced when meeting face to face. Technology has been used to make the searching process easier, but what truly matters with what happens after people have been paired. These sites can say you have 99.99% compatibility with a person, as it did for many people McKinlay was matched with, but it takes something more. It takes that spark that is described in movies and books, that can only be felt when people meet face to face.


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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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My Generation

// Posted by on 04/25/2013 (2:57 PM)

Being born in 1993 I am now 19 and have never known life without technology. As a student I use it daily in forms such as online textbooks, social media, music, group projects, a social tool, and even a… Read more

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Being born in 1993 I am now 19 and have never known life without technology. As a student I use it daily in forms such as online textbooks, social media, music, group projects, a social tool, and even a tutor, to name a few. This generation is one that will change the world. As technology advances it seems that I, along with my peers, advance alongside. My parents however are stuck in the past, asking me to do simple things such as record a video, download an app, or god forbid send a text. What does this widening gap mean for the future of my generation, for my future?

It is interesting to think of my parents as less capable than me in any instance of my life, seeing as they have had 40 more years than I have had to master life skills. However it is becoming more clear to me as new advances in technology occur that my generation, the digital generation, is willing and more than able to take charge of the world and push it in a direction that my parents generation couldn’t fathom at our age, one that they didn’t even know possible.

My generation, like every generation before is rebellious towards, and misunderstood by our elders. The fact that my parents used to scold me for having my phone out during dinner, or playing music to loud is now comical to the extent that everyone I know is face down in their respective Iphone, Ipad, or laptop. While my father had to go to his library and look for a book for information, advances in technology have made learning and obtaining information as simple as a Google search. While I go to school and take four classes a semester with my classmates, I am constantly learning about the world and various other subjects by myself, on my own schedule, and to my own fancy. This is the most exciting feature of my generation, the inability to feel accomplished. With unlimited resources at my fingertips, available to me in a fraction of a second, I never feel like I have truly learned all there is to learn, or uncovered all aspects of a topic. This longing I feel for more information at all times is felt by all in my generation.

Jerry Adler wrote an article for WIRED entitled 1993, Meet the First Digital Generation. Now Get Ready to Play by Their Rules.In it he addresses an interesting point about social networks and the risky business that my generation undertakes using social networking sites to make our social lives completely transparent over the Internet. In it he interviews a girl in her 20s about her Facebook life. “She is casual about what some might consider the risks of oversharing.” He writes, “In the future, she says, it won’t matter if you did post a picture of yourself covered in chocolate, because ‘the people who care will all retire and the world will be run by my generation, which doesn’t give a shit.’” This is a testament to the attitude of my generation. What my parents find totally unacceptable, I find normal.

What does all this talk of a digital generation really mean? To me it signifies a defining moment in time, a point of no return. Whether older generations agree with it or not, technology has taken over and is here to stay. My generation is the first to have advanced technology throughout our whole lives, leaving a bigger gap than ever before between us and our parents.

My generation will be the ones to take the world into the digital revolution and the next chapter of time. We are at the frontier of the exploration and expansion of the digital space, the fore fathers of a changing world.  Whatever happens next is up to us, we have the power. The only question left is what will we do with this power? To that question I have a simple answer, whatever we want.


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The New Face of Television

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Why Groupon Works

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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Flame On!

// Posted by on 02/24/2013 (10:14 PM)

After our discussion about Wired Magazine’s Stuxnet story, I became interested in the new piece of malware that was discovered in Stuxnet’s wake. It’s called Flame, and its size and complexity dwarfs its news-making predecessor. Read more

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After our discussion about Wired Magazine’s Stuxnet story, I became interested in the new piece of malware that was discovered in Stuxnet’s wake. It’s called Flame, and its size and complexity dwarfs its news-making predecessor. According to Wired, the program’s ”complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals.” For those who followed news about Stuxnet, this should come as no surprise since the United States is an alleged creator of that malware (among other suspects). Flame’s main mission is to infect targeted computers and to spy on them, extracting specific bits of data that is useful for the creators. Because of its incredible size and complexity, cracking the puzzle could take years. Among the many functions of flame, these are the ones that stand out:

“…one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer’s near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and e-mail communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers’ command-and-control servers.”

There are a lot of lines in that quote. However, the main takeaway is that an incredibly skilled group of individuals has the ability to completely take over a computer from thousands of miles away, and the complexity of their code can take people wanting to fight it years to solve. This sort of espionage is taking place all around the world, and it represents a new type of war that is being fought: an invisible war that is not necessarily resulting in bloodshed, but rather the theft and capture of digital data. While there may not be any losses of life on either side of the conflict at the moment, the real danger lies in how the stolen data can, and will, be used.

According to Mashable, “Flame is a covert operation in cyber-space and without a doubt, it’s been commissioned by a nation-state or nation-states…global governments are investing more and more money in so-called offensive capabilities, and it’s a lot easier and cheaper than traditional espionage and warfare.” Is this the way that wars will be fought in years to come? Although regular computer users are not the intended targets by any means, should we as consumers and United States citizens choose to condemn or praise this kind of behavior? Even though we, personally, are not affected by Flame, it is possible that our permissiveness is what leads to governments (like our own) that support this kind of cyber espionage.

Here’s a video describing how malware, like Flame, spreads from user to user.

 


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Hacked.

// Posted by on 02/17/2013 (11:31 PM)

Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried… Read more

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Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried to alter accounts. I have been fortunate enough for this to not happen to me, despite being somewhat naive with my accounts at times. The more I hear about these occurrences though, the more paranoid I get. An article in Wired from last year tells just one tragic story of a personal hacking victim. Mat Honan, a normal American with a family, a job, Apple products and an Amazon account, had his digital life erased for the sake of a practical joke. I found his story somewhat heart-wrenching and indicative of how scary the potential for collateral damage is. Honan’s hackers got access to his Amazon account and used the Amazon information to reset his Apple ID password. The two companies require different information to verify identity, allowing the hackers to get through without knowing the answers to security questions. With the Amazon account information, the hackers deleted Honan’s Gmail account. The Gmail account was only deleted after the hackers obtained access to Honan’s Twitter account. With the Apple ID information, the hackers remotely wiped all of Honan’s devices using the “Find My” application.

Once the Twitter account was taken over, the hackers used it to start trouble and send racist and homophobic tweets to Honan’s followers. Honan created another Twitter account and sent the hackers a personal message @ his old Twitter handle. As it turns out, the hack was not a personal attack, but rather a quest to gain control of Honan’s Twitter handle. In the process, Honan’s entire digital life was erased.

Interestingly enough, almost all of Honan’s frustration and anger about the situation was directed at himself, Apple, and Amazon. He was upset with himself for not backing up everything into the cloud and for using the same prefix for his email accounts, etc. Honan recognized that his accounts could have been more secure. The frustration with Apple and Amazon exposes both of the companies for having a weak security framework. The people at Wired were able to replicate the scenario with instructions from the hackers within minutes.

The implications of Honan’s story are scary. I found myself feeling emotional during the article and frantically thinking about where and how all my information is shared and stored. Just the mere thought of losing all of my songs, photos, documents, and emails is enough to send chills through my entire body. Today, we put so much trust in the Internet and associated entities, but how safe is that? I think it’s definitely too late to transition back to physical/tangible data storage, but how can we be sure that the companies we’re trusting with our “lives” are keeping our best interests in mind? The article made me feel like a slave to the system – just another pawn on the chess board. How can we (as the average consumers) protect ourselves and get the power back for security?

I really recommend reading the entire article!


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“Digging” Into The Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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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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Everyone is Visible

// Posted by on 04/09/2012 (4:11 PM)

 

Over the past few months, discussions of security have always been coupled with discussions of the goings-on in our new digital age. It seems that with the progression of Digital America has come a progression of decreased personal… Read more

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Over the past few months, discussions of security have always been coupled with discussions of the goings-on in our new digital age. It seems that with the progression of Digital America has come a progression of decreased personal security of information when it comes to anyone who uses any kind of technology at all. The WIRED article about the new NSA data center being built in Utah (dubbed simply the “Utah Data Center”) both shocked and worried me. Anything about a person’s life, down to a phone conversation with their grandmother on her birthday, is subject to review by members of the NSA. Further, after the Utah Data Center is built, virtually ALL communications made over the internet, phone, basically any technological medium possible, will be recorded and available for future evaluation. My idea of constitutional rights, as pointed out in the WIRED article by the former NSA official William Binney, is being seriously challenged with this new practice. While the NSA has made statements (like in this article from Fox News) about how the Utah Data Center is “designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation,” I have not been convinced that what we as Americans are afraid of happening really is. I’m both disturbed and challenged by this Orwellian state that the WIRED article is depicting: the days of NSA being called “Never Say Anything” seem to be coming back, and everyone is a target.

 

In this Fox News Interview, the center is first and foremost called a “spy center,” a claim that is defended by a former CIA officer and current president of a global intelligence and security firm, Mike Baker. He argues that the size of the facility is what is creating the stir, because this new center is not the only physical holding that the NSA has. Baker claims that the number one threat to the United States is not Iran, but cyber warfare and the “daily, astounding number of attacks” directed at our country. He also says, surprisingly to me, that “there is a tendency…for the average American to think that their life is fascinating enough for the government to want to surveil them all the time, to collect information on them.” I guess I have never thought about it this way; that we, as average Americans with no terroristic tendencies, only fear the government spying on us because we think they would be interested. Why would they be interested, after all, in my birthday conversation with my grandmother? What Baker does not do a good or even mediocre job of defending is that, despite the government’s disinterest in personal conversations that pose no threat to national security, they still have access to them. If they wanted to know what Nanna and I were saying, they could. That ability is, in my opinion, a violation of my right to freedom. The interview can be watched in the video below:

 

 

Another article I recently read revealed an operation of the NYPD to “infiltrate” the lives of Muslim students in the Northeast. The article says that the mission was, reportedly, “part of police efforts to “keep tabs” on Muslims throughout the region, as part of the department’s anti-terrorism efforts.” If this isn’t a blatant violation of constitutional rights, I don’t know what is. The article goes on to claim that “The FBI is sending out pamphlets to military surplus stores, saying anyone who buys matches and a flashlight is a potential terrorist. Paying cash is suspicious. Shielding your laptop screen is suspicious. Lowering your voice if you’re having a phone conversation in public: also suspicious.” So, while Baker’s point about how the NSA simply doesn’t care about average Americans’ goings-on, I’m not totally convinced this is true. If I can’t buy a flashlight without being watched or having my “file” pulled at the new Utah Data Center, then how is this still the land of the free? Are we not living in a time where this ideal is still possible? Do you feel violated by these new happenings?


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How secure are we?

// Posted by on 03/12/2012 (8:58 PM)

After doing some research on Stuxnet, I have begun to wonder how secure we really are. Now, I’m not talking about physical security, like the possibility of a nuclear war or getting mugged on the street, I am talking about… Read more

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After doing some research on Stuxnet, I have begun to wonder how secure we really are. Now, I’m not talking about physical security, like the possibility of a nuclear war or getting mugged on the street, I am talking about security on cyberspace, cybersecurity. If hackers can spread a virus that can wreak havoc on nuclear reactors, they can also hack into thousands upon thousands of websites and steal information. As our world continues to increase in the amount of and dependence on technology, the amount of information about ourselves that is entrusted to corporations through the Internet or is stored in the cloud, is also increasing. And it all makes me wonder, how secure am I?

A recent opinion piece on Wired states that with the exponential increase in cyber attacks within the past few years, something must change. These attacks have grown to being much larger than simply stealing a person’s credit card number, but stealing the information of thousands of customers or hacking the power grid may be more realistic threats, depending on whom you ask.

In this video, there are clips of President Obama saying that these threats are serious and possible, yet Jim Harper from the CATO Institute, states that these are not serious threats because they are not probable and even if they did occur, they would not last too long.

Which leads me to the question, do you feel safe? When I think about cybersecurity, I am not too worried about my information. I try to be responsible about choosing which sites I give my information to and ensuring that they are reputable and secure. Some websites have my credit card number so that I can check out quicker and not have to put it down each time (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), but am I naive to think that I am safe? Is there any way that we can truly be safe or are we all susceptible to an attack?


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Updates on Stuxnet

// Posted by on 02/28/2012 (3:26 PM)

Last week, we read a Wired article about Stuxnet and the havoc that it wreaked on Iran’s nuclear program. Although Stuxnet was found over a year ago and has since been removed from these computers, new information has come… Read more

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Last week, we read a Wired article about Stuxnet and the havoc that it wreaked on Iran’s nuclear program. Although Stuxnet was found over a year ago and has since been removed from these computers, new information has come out about it within just the past couple weeks.

 

Here is a video demonstration on how Stuxnet works:

While many, including this article in Computerworld, called Stuxnet the best malware ever, new research has come out to say that this may not be the case for much longer. In a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, recent research demonstrates that Stuxnet was just the beginning of a long line of malware that has specific targets and missions and can bypass all forms of detection. According to the article, there are going to be more examples of malware that have the possibility of being much more dangerous than Stuxnet was.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Fox News reported that Iran stated that 16,000 computers were attacked. Although it is unclear whether this was worldwide or just in Iran, either way, that is a large number of computers that were attacked and no one knew for a long time.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Stuxnet is awesome in the way that it is specifically targeted and can evade detection. It has been a break-through piece of malware that is incredible in its capabilities and ability to avoid detection and in the hands of people using it for good, it can be so beneficial. However, I can’t help but think what could happen if people start using this kind of attack for not-so-altruistic missions. A specific, pointed attack could be dangerous and cause serious harm to a number of vital industries in just the United States. An attack on the power grid, on air traffic controllers, or any number of other industries would not only be dangerous, but detrimental to our economy and our way of life. While I trust that these industries are protected as much as they can be (maybe I’m just being naive), I bet that the Iranians felt that their systems were secure. I believe it is the fact that I feel so defenseless against such an attack that makes me worried.

Are you worried about a possible attack on America? Do you think this is a possibility or am I just worried for nothing?


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Hackathons

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Stuxnet and the New Forms of Cyberattacks

// Posted by on 02/25/2012 (2:18 PM)

After reading this article on wired.com about Stuxnet, the most sophisticated malware ever produced, I started to consider the ways in which this type of attack is novel and why it has gotten so much attention. First, the people… Read more

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After reading this article on wired.com about Stuxnet, the most sophisticated malware ever produced, I started to consider the ways in which this type of attack is novel and why it has gotten so much attention. First, the people investigating Stuxnet were shocked at what exactly was being attacked. One of the researchers, Eric Chien, said, “We were expecting something to be espionage, we were expecting something to steal credit card numbers; that’s what we deal with every single day. But we weren’t expecting this.” The shock and awe had shifted from what was being attacked or stolen to how the attacks were being implemented. Below is a TedTalk by Ralph Langner, a German researcher who was heavily involved in decoding the virus of Stuxnet:

 

 

What shocks me the most is the process of discovering what exactly Stuxnet was setting out to do: a virus that had been specifically programmed to attack only certain computers in certain areas. The article from wired.com that details where Stuxnet was prevalent along with how it was choosing which computers to infect; essentially, it proves that specific, potentially extremely harmful attacks can be waged on just a simple USB stick. Still, however, the most shocking part about the article was the way in which Stuxnet accomplished its goal-- it was a slow, deliberate attack on certain physical components of Iran’s plant. Stuxnet was not only the most sophisticated malware yet (four zero-days? two stolen certificates??), but it was performing the most sophisticated cyber attack seen yet. It was introducing a hard-to-detect virus into certain computers, controlling certain functions, so certain physical components would malfunction over time. This clearly is much more than “stealing credit card numbers.” This malware had the ability to slow down the production of nuclear weapons. It slowed the nuclear arms race. All from a few lines of code.

 

This new form of attack has caused me to re-think not only the forms of cyber attacks, but also what exactly is becoming a target of attack. Are you shocked by what Stuxnet was attacking, as well as the impressive forms of attack it employed to get there? How do you feel this new form of attack fits in with the much-discussed globalization of technology? Do you think that putting a specific virus that is meant to attack a specific computer or set of computers has opened up a new form of warfare across the world?


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Iran: Even More of a Danger

// Posted by on 01/31/2012 (9:58 PM)

When we think of Iran being dangerous, most of us think of nuclear weapons, but according to a new article in Wired, we have more to be worried about. Iran, in addition to building their nuclear weapon program, is apparently… Read more

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When we think of Iran being dangerous, most of us think of nuclear weapons, but according to a new article in Wired, we have more to be worried about. Iran, in addition to building their nuclear weapon program, is apparently now a new threat to the United States. While nuclear weapons are a clear danger to our infrastructure and our cities, an attack on our networks could arguably create even more damage. Many hackers have been attacking U.S. networks recently, but simply for fun; however, if a country attacked us to wreak havoc, the devastation is imaginable. You can read the whole article here.


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Are Digital Technologies Really So Digital?

// Posted by on 01/31/2012 (7:36 PM)

In February’s issue of Wired, Clive Thompson asks an interesting, but often overlooked question: why are analog interfaces still being used in digital tools? If we have the capability of digital tools, shouldn’t our interfaces also be digital. While skeumorphs… Read more

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In February’s issue of Wired, Clive Thompson asks an interesting, but often overlooked question: why are analog interfaces still being used in digital tools? If we have the capability of digital tools, shouldn’t our interfaces also be digital. While skeumorphs (“bits of design that are based on old-fashioned, physical objects”) are effective in some new technologies e.g. the Kindle, they are outdated and rather unnecessary in others, especially calendars.

Unless we start weaning ourselves off [skeuomorphs], we’ll fail to produce digital tools that harness what computers do best.

Thompson argues that there is no reason iCal and Google Calendar should display weeks past when looking at January’s calendar. Instead, both should display what is to come. There is no efficiency is having these calendars display an analog calendar when a digital calendar would be much more pragmatic when trying to plan for the future not the past.

In with the new (& the digital)…

Thompson points out two digital developments that are on the vanguard of the switch to digital interface:

1. Soulver: A calculator for Mac designed by two 18-year-old Australians who wanted to design a less “derivative” calculator. Below is an image of what the pair came up with: a digital calculator that “dummies” can use.

 

2. Flipboard App: An iOs app used for browsing status updates, pictures & news. The real digital aspect is how the pages flip. Rather than flip like normal ebooks or emagazines with a pivot on the left. The pivot point of the flip for the Flipboard is at the center. Not only is this a more innovatie way for the page to change, it also is easier on the eyes. Thompson explains that the new position of the pivot “minimizes the rate at which material changes onscreen during the flip, reducing eye fatigue that comes from scrolling or making sudden full-page swipes.”

 

 

After reading Thompson’s article all I could think of is: why have such changes not occurred sooner? We have developed such advanced technologies in some aspects, but have left other aspects behind. Is it due to some sense of nostalgia of the past and the “old-fashioned” or did we become so excited with the actual new technologies that we forgot about the details? If we have the capabilities to digitize, shouldn’t we?

 

Click here to see Thompson’s full article in Wired online.


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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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Anonymous

// Posted by on 01/28/2012 (6:23 PM)

Hacking, according to Steven Levy and his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, can be traced back to MIT in the 1940′s, a decade before computer programming was even offered at the school. Back then, hacking referred to… Read more

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Hacking, according to Steven Levy and his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, can be traced back to MIT in the 1940′s, a decade before computer programming was even offered at the school. Back then, hacking referred to a particular work ethic: a “hack” was “a project undertaken or a product built not solely to fulfill some constructive goal, but with some wild pleasure taken in mere involvement.” Eventually, with the rise of computers, the hacking style of work could be applied to computer programming as well. Within the research community, hackers focused on the computer systems themselves, and worked at trying to see what they could do with them. In the beginning, hackers focused on the computer hardware and soon computer games, and their stigma was that of “semi-indpendent, creative individuals.” From this cultural movement of hackers came the hacker ethic:

  1. “Access to computers- and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works- should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!..
  2. All Information should be free….
  3. Mistrust Authority- Promote Decentralization…
  4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position…
  5. You can create art and beauty on a computer…
  6. Computers can change your life for the better.”

In this early hacker community, hackers made the programs they were working on available to one another, with the expectation that the program would then be added on to, improved, and made available again, because “the Right Thing to do was make sure that any good program got the fullest exposure possible because information was free and the world would only be improved by its accelerated flow.” Decades later, this same ethic would reemerge with the group and movement known as Anonymous.

Anonymous is a group that is particularly hard to define. While most people agree that they are hackers, the term hacker has been somewhat misconstrued over the years. At its core, according to a three-part series on Anonymous on wired.com by Quinn Norton, Anonymous is a culture. Says Norton, “It takes cultures to have albums, idioms, and iconography, and I was swimming in these and more. Anonymous is a nascent and small culture, but one with its own aesthetics and values, art and literature, social norms and ways of production, and even its own dialectic language. It is no wonder we in the media and the wider culture are often confused. Any study of Anonymous must be anthropological, taking into account the way people exist in different societies. The media has just been looking for an organization with a leader who could explain why Anonymous seems to do weird things.”

In tracing the history of Anonymous, Norton acknowledges the rise of computer culture in general throughout the 1960′s and 1970′s countercultural movement featured in Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture. In fact, in my opinion, Anonymous is perhaps the best, if not the most current, example of the blend between counterculture and cyberculture. However, while Turner illustrates the movement from offline counterculture to online cyberculture, Anonymous represents the logical next step: the use of widespread cyberculture and its ubiquitous presence in society today to spread its counterculture message. Norton says this in so many words in part 1 of the series by pointing out that “you’re never quite sure if Anonymous is the hero or antihero. The trickster is attracted to change and the need for change, and that’s where Anonymous goes… The trickster as myth proved so compelling that the network made it real. Anonymous, the net’s trickster, emerged like a supernatural movie monster out of the misty realm of ideas and into the real world…For the first time, the internet had shown up on the real street, en masse.”

Anonymous has most definitely evolved over the past couple years, but their goal and message has remained largely unchanged. “In the beginning, there were lulz, pranks and a culture of trolling just to get a rise out of anyone. But despite many original Anons best efforts, Anonymous has grown up to become the net’s immune system, striking back whenever the hive mind perceived that the institutions that run the world crossed the line into hypocrisy… It’s the culmination of a trend. Anonymous has gone from rickrolling the internet and mass-producing lolcats to hacking governments and corporations as a way to take on the systems that run the world, through means legal and illegal.”

Anonymous is perhaps most known for their attacks against Sony and AiPlex, the India-based company contracted to send out take-down requests to piracy sites, notably The Pirate Bay. Eventually the story morphed into legend; word spread that AiPlex was hired to perform illegal actions by the MPAA and RIAA. While this may or may not have been the case, it wasn’t specifically the actions that angered Anonymous, but rather the motives behind those actions. “For years those who cared about the effects of copyright laws on online freedom seemed to suffer one institutional defeat after another, with bill after bill pushed by the entertainment industry carving away rights, lawsuits shuttering innovative music start-ups and secret treaties proposing increased monitoring and control of people’s computers and internet connections. Most of these bills failed, but for the digitally political, Big Content’s pushes felt like a continual assault. Anonymous had no unified opinion on copyright per se, but when measures to stop piracy threatened to hamper the internet, the hive mind came together.” The chief complaint of Anonymous was the restriction of people’s access to the internet, because ” To threaten to cut people off from the global consciousness as you have is criminal and abhorrent. To move to censor content on the internet based on your own prejudice is at best laughably impossible, at worst, morally reprehensible.” In their own words, Anonymous “does not forgive internet censorship” and “does not forget free speech.” This video, with the computer generated voice so deeply a part of Anonymous’s aesthetic, sums up their point pretty well, and in their own words, about the state of the internet in December of 2010:

The actions by Anonymous most closely tied to the history of the hacker, however, was their attacks against Sony. Thanks to Anonymous, the Sony Playstation Network was down from April 20th-May 14th, and Sony’s stock dropped from $31/share to just over $25/share. “The Sony PS3 console had been a favorite of hackers, who used a jailbreak created by George Hotz (geohot) in 2010 to install custom firmware and run Linux and OtherOS. Running Linux was originally a feature used by Sony to promote the PlayStation, but later removed the feature with a patch. In January 2011, Sony sued Hotz and others for allegedly violating federal law against circumventing encryption. Hotz settled in April under a gag rule, but it didn’t stop him from blasting Sony on his personal blog and asking people to join him in a boycott of Sony products.” In the end, it comes back to the hacker ethic, of which Sony broke multiple rules (although especially 1 and 2).

Although I’m sure I don’t fully understand Anonymous and the true reasons behind their actions, I can’t help but side with them on multiple issues. While some of their techniques may be illegal and morally questionable, the results are often for the general good of society (namely the events that took place in Tunisian and Egypt; read the three-part series for a refresher). Of course, how the facts are interpreted varies from individual to individual. I consider Anonymous the heroes because they stand up and fight for free speech and the freedom of information on the internet. Are their techniques sometimes illegal? Absolutely. But so is speeding (which I do almost every morning when I need to get to campus because I’m late for class) and downloading music online (which I do because I feel as though an artist will ultimately benefit more from me downloading a song of theirs that I love and promoting it to all of my friends and convincing them to go see that artist in concert with me than from the small percentage of proceeds an artist gets from the record label). In other words, I can relate to Anonymous because I agree with their ideologies. I feel as though this culture is one that promotes and encourages values that I do as well. But I could be biased. So let me know what you guys think. Is anonymous just a group of internet terrorists? Or is Anonymous the Rosa Parks of the internet civil rights movement? Or is it really not as black and white as that?

 

 

 

 

 


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Technology and New Mass Media

// Posted by on 01/14/2012 (6:10 PM)

While browsing the Wired archives, I stumbled onto an article by Michael Crichton adaptedfrom a speechhe gave to the National Press Club in April of 1993. The headline of the article was “Mediasaurus,” and opened by… Read more

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While browsing the Wired archives, I stumbled onto an article by Michael Crichton adaptedfrom a speechhe gave to the National Press Club in April of 1993. The headline of the article was “Mediasaurus,” and opened by comparing the American media to a dinosaur in the sense that, like the dinosaurs, the American media as understood in 1993 was headed towards extinction. Importantly, Crichton states that the change necessary for the American media to survive this extinction is technology; from the printing press to the telegraph, and now to the internet, media have always been driven by technology. Furthermore, Crichton argues that technology changed the very concept of information to our society. Without stating it directly, Crichton has begun to describe new media, the immediate access to information via technology. Although Crichton believes that this rise of new and mass media will be the catalyst required for print media to change, how could he have known that almost two decades later, the new media he was waiting for wouldn’t manifest as print media evolved, but rather within the technology itself?

While Michael Crichton thought that print media would always retain its monopoly on information, Rupert Murdoch, an important, although recently controversial, member of the media elite, is embracing technology. In a 2004 interview, Murdoch stated “To find something comparable, you have to go back 500 years to the printing press, the birth of mass media – which, incidentally, is what really destroyed the old world of kings and aristocracies. Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment, the media elite. Now it’s the people who are taking control…. the internet is media’s golden age.” To continue with the dinosaur theme, the author of the article in which this interview is featured coincidentally writes that these days, “midtown Manhattan’s valley of old media dinosaurs is besieged by a Cambrian explosion of digitally empowered life-forms: podcasters, bloggers, burners, P2P buccaneers, mashup artists, phonecam paparazzi. Viewers are vanishing, shareholders are in revolt, advertisers are Googling for the exit.”

Although my grandparents still complain that technology is ruining society and reminisce about the newspaper, I find it ironic that they don’t go anywhere without their cell phones, kindles, and laptops (for Christmas, they just bought my 3-and-4-year-old cousins each a kindle fire… I still don’t even have one). Despite their nostalgia for print media, neither one of my grandparents can argue with the fact that the immediate and constant availability of information is something to be appreciated. To use an example of new mass media to illustrate the importance of the internet to information:

Sony Rep Eats His Words… with Cheese

First off, I’m not ashamed to admit that for most of 2010 and 2011, “The Philip DeFranco Show” on youtube was how I kept up with current events. Second, I agree with his interpretation of how important the internet is for information when he says that the internet is important for two important reasons, the serious one being “information accessible from everywhere.”

That video is an example of people taking control to show that the internet really is media’s golden age. This time last year, with the success of the iPad, I read a blog post titled “The New Mass Media is the iPad,” and thanks to the internet, specifically stumbleupon.com, I was able to quickly find this blog again. Back then, I didn’t really understand the importance of the term “new mass media,” or why the iPad was important for the mass media movement. So that point I want to make is that, although it’s kind of sad that newspapers and other forms of print media are in decline, I think that the pros of new and mass media more than make up for it due to the ease at which people can now get access to information, and information really is power (as evidenced by… history). This, however, is just my opinion, and since I am definitely biased due to my heavy reliance on the internet for everything I do (thanks Google), I’m interested to see what other people think.

 


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