Tweeting for Democracy?

 

This week in DIGC202 we looked at what has become known as the “Twitter Revolution” – the Arab Spring and the debate about whether social media has the power to drive political change and activism.

The Arab Spring is a series of protests and demonstrations occurring in the Arab world which commenced in December 2010.  The Internet and social networking sites are being used by citizens in countries such as Syria, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia during the Arab Spring for three main purposes: to mobilise protests quickly; to undermine the legitimacy of a regime; and to increase both the national and the international exposure to a regime’s atrocities (Sanders 2011).

There are two main opposing views about the role that social media has the ability to play in a revolution. The two sides are headed by:

CYBER-REALISTS: These people discredit the claim that social media caused the revolutions in the Arab World.

CYBER-UTOPIANS: By contrast, cyber-utopians are ‘adherents of the view that digital tools of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter can summon up social revolutions’ (Morozov 2011).

Morozov (2011) notes a common conclusion that is come to by journalists and activists:

“Tweets were sent. Dictators were toppled. Internet = democracy. QED.”

He believes that declaring causation between social media use and the achievement of democracy during the Arab Spring and other political uprisings is technologically deterministic and inaccurate.  Morozov considers his school of thought to be that of ‘cyber-realism’; he argues that technology is ‘not enough to cause a revolution and in some cases new technologies can actually be counterproductive to the goal of regime change’ in terms of surveillance and censorship (Al-Jazeera September 1 2011).  In this way, according to Morozov, social media affords dictatorships and authoritarian governments greater power to control citizens.

On the opposing side, many people believe that Twitter and other social networking sites have been a major cause of the revolutions in the Arab world.  It is undeniable that social networking sites have been used to organise protests and have led to increased awareness both within involved countries and around the world about the events occurring during these uprisings.  Popova (2010) believes that the strength of social media lies in the progression of its three capacities: to inform, to inspire and to incite.  The Internet has the ability to generate a level of awareness that Popova deems has the power to overcome injustices. Twitter has been used to mobilise people to action on the streets and as a tool for activists to distribute valuable to-the-minute information.

Is social media a legitimate weapon in the fight for democracy? The reaction of Arab governments to this phenomenon demonstrates a governmental fear of the power that citizens with an Internet connection have against governmental control and authority.  The Syrian government has employed tactics such as ‘periodic shutdowns of the internet and mobile phone networks, intensified filtering of websites, and various sophisticated means of monitoring and tracking internet users’ online activities’ (Freedom House 2012).  Syria, Libya and Egypt also experienced total Internet shutdowns, and many dissidents have been arrested and several killed due to their online activities. Syrian citizen journalist and blogger Abu Hassam was targeted by regime forces and burned to death in his own home after actively filming and reporting on the events of the revolutions (Greenslade 2012). The murder, which occurred in September of 2012, was reported by Greenslade as being ‘the latest in a string of killings and kidnappings of citizen and professional journalists in Syria since the outbreak of the revolt in March 2011’.

So what do you think? I think social media has many characteristics that mean it can be a powerful tool when utilised properly. I believe it does raise awareness and can be a useful organisational tool to mobilise citizens and keep them informed. However, my opinion is that social media did not cause the revolution; I agree with Sultan al Qassemi (quoted by Flanagan 2011) who stated:

 

“It did play an important role. But social media facilitated – it did not cause [the uprisings].”

 

Thanks for reading!

Katie

References:

Al Jazeera 2011, Cyber realism versus Cyber-utopians, September 1, accessed 13/10/2012 via <http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/cyber-realism-versus-cyber-utopians>

Flanagan, B 2011, ‘Facebook revolution ‘a myth’, critics say’, The National, May 18, accessed 11/10/2012 via <http://www.thenational.ae/business/media/facebook-revolution-a-myth-critics-say>

Freedom House 2012, ‘Freedom on the Net 2012 – Syria’, accessed 30/9/2012 via <http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2012/syria>

Greenslade, R 2012, ‘Syrian blogger burned to death’, The Guardian, 21 September, accessed 10/10/2012 via <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2012/sep/21/journalist-safety-syria>

Morozov, E 2011, ‘Facebook and Twitter are just places revolutionaries go’, The Guardian, March 7, accessed 10/10/2012 via <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/07/facebook-twitter-revolutionaries-cyber-utopians>

Popova, M 2010, ‘Malcolm Gladwell is #Wrong’, Design Observer, accessed 14/10/2012 via <http://changeobserver.designobserver.com/feature/malcolm-gladwell-is-wrong/19008/>

Sanders, T 2011, ‘Twitter, Facebook and YouTube’s role in Arab Spring (Middle East uprisings)’, Social Capital Blog, January 26, accessed 10/10/2012 via <http://socialcapital.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/twitter-facebook-and-youtubes-role-in-tunisia-uprising/>

Image sourced from here.

The Dark Side: Wikileaks and Anonymous

This week in DIGC202 we looked at the darker side of the Internet – the world of hacking, hacktivism and online whistleblowers. This was a really relevant week for my group as the topic is directly related to our research project on the hacktivist group Anonymous.

Wikileaks is an organisation known for releasing sensitive political documents and other content both to traditional media outlets as well as on their website; Khatchadourian (2010) quotes Assange as describing the site as “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis”. The aim of Wikileaks is to expose corruption and injustice through the freedom of information. Benkler (2011, pg 7) notes that whilst Assange, the head of Wikileaks, considers himself a journalist acting in the best interest of the public, the US government views Wikileaks as ‘dangerous to the U.S. military’ as the release of highly classified information makes the nation vulnerable to threat.  For a democratic nation, certain information is necessary to keep secret from public knowledge in order to ‘protect legitimate policy’ (Khatchadourian 2010).

I think the main point of the discussion about Wikileaks is about how our networked society may have a negative impact on the system of control that keep our society running, impeding their ability to ensure that press organisations are ‘not only ‘free’ but also ‘responsible’ (Benkler 2011, pg 16). We can argue that the activities headed by Assange are beneficial as they allow the public to be fully aware of what their government is doing, with the defence that the truth is something that should be known by all. The other side of the argument is that there is some information that must be kept confidential as its secrecy is what our national security and protection is reliant upon. The big question is whether Wikileaks does more harm than good – and this is difficult to measure.

Our research project is on the hacktivist group called Anonymous. This group utilises hacking and other forms of technological sabotage as a means of protesting and raising awareness about causes which they feel strongly about. An example of Anonymous actions in Australia is ‘Operation Titstorm’, which consisted of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks on Australian government websites as a form of protest against ‘forthcoming internet filtering legislation and the perceived censorship in pornography of small-breasted women (who are thought to be under age) and female ejaculation’ (Moses 2010). Operation Titstorm was driven by an ongoing desire of Anonymous to protect Internet freedom, a motivation behind a number of their activities.  But is hacktivism such as this morally justified? Himma (2005, pg 14) suggests that this decision must be made on a case-by-case basis as cases of hacktivism ‘vary with respect to morally relevant characteristics’. Some of the factors that Himma suggests are relevant include the amount of harm caused by the actions  whether hacktivists are prepared to accept responsibility, whether the political agenda is credible and supported by sufficient reasons, and do hacktivists have a plausible justification for the positions motivating their actions.

I would have to agree that the justifiability of hacktivism must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. We can argue that activities such as ‘Operation Titstorm’ caused little harm to the government department involved, except for their website being down for a short period of time. However, the real impacts of electronic civil disobedience are hard to measure. Assange has in place a ‘harm minimisation policy’ to reduce the impacts on innocent third parties; however, he acknowledges that instances may arise where Wikileaks members may get blood on their hands (Khatchadourian 2010). It is impossible to determine the political impact of the actions of Wikileaks and how many innocent lives may have been lost due to the release of government documents.

How can freedom of speech and freedom of the press be upheld whilst simultaneously punishing those who use technologies to expose issues that they believe are of public importance but potentially putting our security at risk?

Thanks for reading.

Katie

References:

Benkler, Y 2011, ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, accessed 21/9/2012 via http://benkler.org/Benkler_Wikileaks_current.pdf

Himma, K E 2005, ‘Hacking as Politically Motivated Digital Civil Disobedience: Is Hacktivism Morally Justified?’, in Internet Security: Hacking, Counterhacking, And Society, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2007, accessed 21/9/2012 via http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=799545

Khatchadourian, R 2010, ‘No Secrets’, The New Yorker, June 7, accessed 21/9/2012 via http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/06/07/100607fa_fact_khatchadourian?currentPage=all

Moses, A 2010, ‘Operation Titstorm: hackers bring down government websites’, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 10, accessed 21/9/2012 via http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/operation-titstorm-hackers-bring-down-government-websites-20100210-nqku.html#ixzz27IElctnC

Image sourced from here.

 

Citizen Journalism – The Debate

This week in DIGC202 we looked at how Web 2.0 and ‘New Media’ have impacted the field of  journalism, specifically focusing on the rise of citizen journalism.

Bruns (2009, pg 2) states that ‘conventional models of media production, distribution, and consumption are no longer relevant’ due to our networked society and the many-to-many information flows that can now occur.  This has resulted in what Bruns describes as a ‘more equitable media environment’ as we all have the ability to send and receive information, which is the driving force behind the rise in citizen journalism and the movement away from the traditional gatekeepers of modern media conglomerates.

Citizen journalists utilise social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogging sites such as WordPress.com, to create and publish news content.

Debates about the value of citizen journalism surround the following opposing questions:

  • Does citizen journalism democratise news media and should the content created by citizen journalists be considered a valid news source?

OR

  • Does citizen journalism result in an excessive amount of inaccurate and improperly researched news reports of poor quality which clutter the Internet?

——————————————

FOR: Citizen Journalism is a valid form of journalism

The main arguments in favour of citizen journalism suggest that citizen journalism democratises news media as every person has the ability to disseminate news content.  Whilst traditional news media must consolidate reports to fit time restraints, and act as gatekeepers by deciding which stories to print, there are few restrictions on citizen journalisms; this allows citizens to have access to a wide variety of news stories, each contributing a small part to our overall understanding of a news event.  In addition, it is argued that citizen journalists hold traditional news outlets accountable. As Bruns (2009, pg 10) states,  citizen journalists have become ‘watchdogs for the mainstream media, identifying and correcting misunderstandings, misreporting, and misinformation’; he cites Singer (2008) who suggests that citizen journalism be considered ‘Estate 4.5’ .

 ——————————————

AGAINST: Citizen journalism is not “real” journalism

The arguments against citizen journalism centre on the perceived lack of quality and accuracy of citizen news reports.

Ron Steinman (2009), a critic of citizen journalism, claims that citizen journalists lack the training required to publish quality news content. He defends the notion of the traditional media  ‘gatekeeper’, suggesting that they serve an important function as they ‘impose standards that make for good journalism’. His views directly align with that of Keen (2007), who vehemently argues that amateur content producers are clogging up cyberspace with inaccurate and low quality material. Both Keen and Steinman believe that content creation should be left to the professionals. News-reporting was once considered a skill that required years of training; however, Web 2.0 has given billions of citizens the ability to imitate professional journalists without the code of ethics or the regulatory environment that official journalists must operate within.

So what do you think? Is Citizen Journalism Estate number 4.5?

Thanks for reading!

Katie

 

Academic references:

Bruns, A 2009, ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, accessed 15/9/2012 via [http://produsage.org/files/News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf]

Steinman, R 2009, ‘Citizen Journalism: A Recipe for Disaster’, accessed 15/9/2012 via [http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0912/citizen-journalism-a-recipe-for-disaster.html]

Keen, A 2007, ‘The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values’, Broadway Books

Image sourced from here.

Pareto Principle No More

 

This week we looked at the concept of the “Long Tail’ – this is the idea that we as a society are changing from a focus on a smaller number of ‘hits’ (the mainstream range of products) towards a focus on the incredibly large amount of niche products (Anderson 2004).

In the past, the marketplace was seen as being dominated by a small number of top-selling products. It is in the best interest of bookstores, for example, to only sell popular books that have a high number of sales.  This is known as the Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule), which states that 80% of a business’ sales come from 20% of their products.  Anderson (2004) notes that the reason that this principle suited businesses before the Internet and online sales were possible was the ‘tyranny of space’ – a bookstore only has so much floor space and the radio has a restricted amount of stations, for example.

However, with the rise of Web 2.0 there has been a trend away from the Pareto Principle towards a new theory which values the wealth that can be achieved through the large amount of niche products that exist – the Long Tail theory.  In the realm of books, for example, an online stockist like Amazon can stock a incredible number of books that cannot be found in bookstores – whilst each book individually may not receive a large number of sales, the combined value of the sales of all of these niche products produces a large return for the company.

Basically – making fewer sales on a wide variety of products can produce a quantity of sales that compete with making more sales on a narrower range of (mainstream) products.

I think the Long Tail is an exciting concept because it finally acknowledges that we as consumers have interests that are much broader than the mainstream; there are many niche interests that may not have a large audience, but there IS an audience nonetheless. So how does this impact the entertainment industry? Businesses need to respond to these changes by stocking a wide variety of products, as a reflection of the incredibly diverse taste of consumers. Anderson (2004) also acknowledges that is important for retailers to stock  mainstream products as well as ‘Long Tail’ products – consumers need a ‘familiar point of entry’ from which to begin their search.

I think the most interesting question to arise from this dramatic shift is how retailers with no online presence will be able to compete with online stores.  Physical stores have space restrictions that make it impossible to compete with the large warehouses of online retailers such as Amazon, and therefore they are unable to reap the benefits of the Long Tail.

Thanks for reading!

 

Katie

 

Image sourced from here.

References:

Anderson, C 2004, ‘Long Tail 101’, The Long Tail, 8 September, accessed 8/9/2012 via http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/faq/

Anderson, C 2004, ‘The Long Tail’, Wired Magazine, issue 12.10, accessed 8/9/2012 via http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

The Benefits of Convergence

“Welcome to convergence culture, where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways.”

Henry Jenkins – Introduction to ‘Convergence Culture – Where Old and New Media Collide’

This week in class we looked at the growing phenomenon of convergence, a phenomenon which Jenkins (2006, pg 7) describes as ‘the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the coorporation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want’.

It is now possible for consumers to access the content they wish to consume on a multitude of platforms; books can be read online or on mobile devices such as an iPad or iPhone,  television shows and movies can be watched on the Internet or downloaded through the television,  the majority of newspapers and magazines have an online counterpart and the sales of CDs has dropped with a corresponding increase in the sale of digital songs on iTunes and other online music sellers.  There has also been a convergence of platforms; modern smart phones are aptly described by Jenkins (2006, pg 5) as ‘the electronic equivalent of a Swiss army knife’, allowing the owner to perform activities normally conducted on separate and distinct platforms to be undertaken on a single device.

Whilst media corporations have been using new technologies to distribute media content through various platforms, consumers are also using these technologies to take control of the media flow (Deuze 2007).  However, as the amount of control that we have as prosumers (consumers with the ability to produce) has increased,  concentrated media ownership has also intensified.

Before, television as a medium was controlled by TV stations, the film industry by film companies and the music industry by record companies – corporations focused on a specific media

Now, massive media corporations no longer put all of their eggs in one basket, investing in all areas of the media realm.

These media conglomerates need to understand the ways in which a modern user consumes media.  I believe that a rewarding relationship between media producers and consumers can be created if these corporations utilise the collective knowledge of the people who access their content. The case studies provided by Deuze (2007) illustrate the benefits that companies who listen to their customers receive – for example,  instead of discouraging user modification of game content, games such as Half-Life and Counter-Strike actively promote collaborative authorship, resulting in games which intensely appeal to the ‘prosumers’ who were involved in their creation.

Overall, we need to understand that things have changed and consumers are no longer passive – they are hyper-connected and have the ability to produce content online without the risk and financial cost associated with traditional media. Encouraging a participatory culture has benefits for both the corporation and the end-user.

Thanks for reading!

Katie

Image sourced from here.

References:

  • Deuze, M 2007, ‘Convergence culture in the creative industries’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, pp 246-263
  • Jenkins, H 2006, ‘Introduction: “Worship at the Altar of Convergence’, in Convergence Culture: Where Old And New Media Collide, pp 1-24, New York: New York University Press

Fan Fiction & Copyright Law

This week in DIGC202 we looked at Intellectual Property and copyright, and how creators and producers have been turning to the legal system to seek protection for their unique ideas.  Boldrin & Levine (2010) state that there is a general agreement that “some protection is needed to secure for inventors and creators the fruits of their labors”. I agree with this notion but suggest that the real question is the amount of protection that should be provided, and the reach of this protection.

We have to be cautious about the amount of protection afforded to works, as there is potential for an intellectual monopoly to occur – this is when creators have total control over how purchasers use an idea or creation, which leads to a monopoly over the idea (Boldrin & Levine 2010).

The discussion in classes this week had me thinking about how often everyday people breach copyright in their online activities. Specifically, the article by Lessig (2004) discussed derivative works which immediately brought “fan-fiction” to my mind.  As I have been a reader of fan-fiction in the past, I began to wonder about how copyright covers the use of characters, settings and plotlines from movies, books and television shows in stories written by fans.

Lessig notes that it is an infringement to “make a copy or a derivative work without the original copyright owner’s permission”.  I took a look at US copyright law, which defines a derivative work as follows:

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works,such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion  picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole,represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.

So, with this definition in mind,  works of fan-fiction would generally be defined as “derivative works” as they are based upon pre-existing works.  However, according to US copyright law, if the fan-fiction work is considered to be ‘fair-use’, then this makes it exempt from copyright – making the line between legal and fair fan-fiction and copyright infringement very blurry.

Referring back to US copyright law, the considered criteria for defining fair-use are as follows:

  1. “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

As each work of fan-fiction is different and would meet varying criterion,  assessing fair-use on a case-by-case basis is logical (e.g. the majority of fan-fiction works are non-commercial, however the extent that they utilise the copyrighted material of the original work varies). However, this means that a blanket rule cannot be applied.

Most fan-fiction sites respect the wishes of authors to not have derivative fan-fiction stories based on their original work published on their site; for example, fan-fiction site FanFiction.Net publishes a list of authors who do not want fan-fiction based on their works to appear on the site.

What do you think? Does fan-fiction constitute a breach of copyright? Or, should these works by fans be considered “fair use”?

Thanks for reading!

Katie

Image sourced from here.

References:

Boldrin, M  & Levine, D K 2007) ‘Introduction’, in ‘Against Intellectual Monopoly‘, pp 1-15,  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press accessed 25/8/2012 via http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/papers/anew01.pdf

Lessig, L 2004, ‘Creators’, in ‘Free Culture: How Big Media uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Strangle Creativity‘, pp. 21-30, New York: Penguin, accessed 24/8/2012 via www.authorama.com/freeculture-4.html

This Modern Liquid Life

There is no denying the incredible impact that technology has had on industry, the economy, and the workplace. Advancements in technology have enabled mass-production, mass-communication and have made the manipulation and storage of data quick and easy.

However, this week in DIGC202 we have been looking at how the workplace has been transformed by digital technologies – in more of a detrimental sense. The reading by Gregg studied the phenomenon of workers using these technologies to keep up with their workload out of office hours, eroding the distinction between work and home life. With the pervasive use of email, social networking sites, collaboration platforms and mobile technologies, it has become easy for employees to work from home; a physically presence is no longer required at the workplace to engage in work. Deuze (2006) describes this phenomenon as a ‘liquid life’ where work and life patterns have converged.

It is so easy to see how technology allows this liquid life to occur.  With my iPhone, I have the ability to check my work emails and engage in work communication from a café, the kitchen bench or even during a holiday.  For many employees, this is combined with an expectation from employers to keep up with increasing workloads and to enter the office in the morning up-to-date with workplace happenings. These expectations place an increased pressure on employees to maintain a connection with their work from home.

In my opinion, technology has given companies the ability and power to let the workplace invade our personal lives.

An article by Bardoel (2012) discusses the challenges that technology has caused for the work-life balance.  She acknowledges that we need to strike a balance between allowing technology to be a useful tool and having a negative impact on our lives by not allowing us to detach from work.  Bardoel notes that companies such as Volkswagen have recognised the threat that technology is having on the work-life balance of their employees, deactivating emails outside of work hours except for half an hour before and half an hour after the work day.

I think the trend of working outside of office hours is concerning.  It is getting to the point that employees are like the little stick man in my picture at the top of this post – almost constantly working around the clock!  This liquid life may have benefits from a business perspective, but I definitely think employees are losing out.

Thanks for reading!

Katie.

References (excluding subject readings):

Bardoel, A 2012, ‘Tool or time thief? Technology and the work-life balance, The Conversation, 30 July, accessed 14/8/2012 via here

Image sourced from here.

The Civilisation of the Mind

This week in DIGC202 one of the main themes we looked at was cyber-utopianism – the belief that the Internet has the power to democratise and change society for the better.  I found the concept of cyber-utopianism a little bit difficult to get my head around, but I found this YouTube video where Evgeny Morozov explains cyber-utopianism with cool animated drawings as support:

In this video, Morozov explains that cyber-utopians believe that if we are all connected, then democracy is inevitable, which is a very deterministic view of technology. He dispels what he considers to be the naive belief that technology is emancipatory and has the power to free society.

I would have to agree that many people give too much weight to the democratising power of the Internet.  Among the youth, at least,  the Internet is mainly used for entertainment and communication between friends, rather than political activism.

The utopian mindset that Morozov is combating is what is expressed in Barlow’s Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which declares the Internet as a place independent of external governmental control – no government can silence the voices online.  He believes that the Internet can liberate our world, transcending governance leading to a united civilisation.

Amidst reading about all of these pro- and anti- cyber-utopian views, I started reading the book ‘The Cult of the Amateur’ by Andrew Keen. It’s making me realise that I am not exactly a cyber-utopian. Keen does not believe in the all-mighty democratising power of the Internet. His book definitely challenges Web 2.0 utopians, arguing that the overwhelming use of blogs, YouTube and other social media sites which allow for the creation and promotion of user-generated content are having negative consequences on our creative and financial economies.

I think Keen has a point. Yes, we are a networked society and we all have the power to blog, tweet and voice our opinions about political and social issues. But I believe the majority of us do not do this – and even if we did, our voice is merely one of the billions of voices screaming across cyberspace, trying to get attention.

Thanks for reading!

Katie

 

The Environment of the Space, and Hacktivism

This week of DIGC202 began with an interesting lecture which helped us place our understanding of the Internet into a historical context.  This was a really important thing for us 1990s kids who take the Internet as a network for granted – rarely do we think about the development of communication over time.

However, what resonated with me the most this week was the reading by Lessig, specifically when he spoke about the virtual world Second Life and the concept of virtual spaces.  I’ve always found virtual worlds fascinating, as  I was a member of various online worlds throughout my teen years, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking a closer look at Second Life when I studied DIGC101 back in 2010.  Lessig explores how in cyberspace, ‘technology constitutes the environment of the space’, governing how interactions function within that space.

When I played Second Life as part of my studies, I noted how there were various rules and regulations in terms of ownership, specifically of land and items, which in many ways reflected the laws that govern our own world. However, as Lessig points out, the difference is that in virtual worlds there is the ability to ‘code away’ any problems or issues that may arise – such as the disagreement over poisonous flowers between Martha and Dank.  It’s basically like ‘God Mode’ – the ‘rules’ that govern Second Life can be changed or removed in a way which is reminiscent of some all-mighty power. Thus, whilst the architecture of the game shapes player interactions within the game,  online worlds have the potential to be whatever they are coded to be.

In tutorials this week we formed groups for our research project. My group has decided to research hacktivism; more specifically, we will be looking at the hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’.  Hacktivism is a form of activism that utilises digital tools and technologies in an illegal or questionably legal manner for a social or political purpose.  It is an interesting topic as the democratising effect of the Internet is a commonly discussed issue; however, hacktivists use the Internet in a more unlawful manner to attempt to achieve what they consider to be a democratic outcome.  Fairly recently,  hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’ overtook some Australian government websites in protest against government plans to ‘force ISPs to store user data and make it available to security services’ (Chubb 2012).  Along with case studies such as this, some of the issues we will be exploring will be the effectiveness of hacktivism, whether hacktivism is morally justified, and how the practice has developed over time along with technological advancements.

Thanks for reading!

Katie.

———————————-

The article I referenced:

Chubb, L 2012, ‘Hacktivist’ group Anonymous take down Australian government websites in cyber attack’, TNT Magazine, July 24, accessed 3/8/2012 via http://www.tntmagazine.com/news/australia-news/hacktivist-group-anonymous-take-down-australian-government-websites-in-cyber-attack

Image from here.

The Power of Connections

This semester in DIGC202 we will be exploring the concept of the ‘global network’; we will discover how new media and modern technologies have transcended the boundaries that previously structured society, changing the way that society is organised.

One of the main points that Castells makes in his afterword ‘Why networks matter’ is that power lies in the networks that organise society and our lives. In today’s society, the rapid rate of technological advancement has created a networked, interconnected society characterised by real-time communication. Our society is not bounded by geographical restrictions; we have the ability to transfer a wealth of information across the globe almost instantaneously. Communication across the world occurs around the clock in a global space provided by the Internet.

I think that these networks are powerful because as a connected society we have the power to disseminate information worldwide in such a way that the world loses its boundaries and becomes a cohesive space. An article by Mathew Ingram (2011) discusses how the Internet, specifically social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, played a significant role in the uprisings that occurred in both Tunisia and Egypt. He notes that critics of this notion believe that too much power is afforded to these platforms in a form of ‘cyber-utopianism’. However, it is impossible to deny that the Internet has provided a means for rapid communication, which inevitably is a powerful force in political uprisings. Ingram notes that the ‘real weapon is the power of networked communication itself’, and I think this is the main point that Castells makes. The structure of our society has changed immensely due to technology, and it is within these communicative networks that the power lies.

In terms of DIGC202, my areas of interest in digital media are in social media and online gaming; more specifically, I am interested in the impact that new trends in digital communication have on society and the  social interactions between people. Academics may state that we are a networked and highly communicative society, however it is interesting to discuss whether this ability to digitally communicate afforded by the Internet has had a diminishing affect on our communication skills face-to-face in the real world.

Thanks for reading!

Katie

 

Image courtesy of this page.