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Opening Up: The Privacy of Cyberspace

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Cyberspace is everywhere. Entering this writing seminar I thought I knew everything there was to know. I’d grown up with the Internet, buying computer games from school as a kid to “study” at home. But, what I failed to see was the lack of privacy – the amount of yourself you project onto the internet. Even our class presents itself to the world; we had a debate whether to open the blog to the public, which we quickly accepted and began broadcrasting ourselves to cyberspace. Each of us unknowingly create and develop our “cyberspace personalities” (alexiepoch). We open our fleshly bodies to the cold metal of the world of cyberspace, just as Cobb Anderson opens up his new robotic, empty chest in Software.

Sasha discussed this lack of privacy, one that companies often fail to show us, in his blog post titled iHaveNoPrivacy. Sasha had discovered the invasive, almost creepy, ability of iPhones to follow their owner’s location through its wi-fi system. This is similar to the new innovaiton of Facebook – Facebook Places – and the location setting on Twitter. We constantly have the ability to broadcrast not only what we want people to know about us, but where we are, what we’re doing, and create subconsciously our new personality. “When you and your phone’s location are one…you can be broadcasting a lot more about yourself, through the device, than you may know” (daddehs1).

Alexie further discusses this concept in her post “FaceTime: Bringing Us Together or Apart?” when she demonstrates the blurring of your personality in cyberspace. This blurring occurs through “throwing away old social conventions” and creating ones of the 21st century, where you are both in meatspace and cyberspace. Alexie warns that “we can only hope that society will continue to be aware of the social dangers of technology” (alexiepoch). Are we degrading ourselves and making communication over cyberspace as important as meatspace? Yes or no, we don’t let our lack of privacy affect us, we continue on in our cyberspace interactions, our displays of personality, and, as Christina talks about, our creation of a new identity.

 

 This aspect of privacy and identity has been a constant discussion point in the class this past semester, for its a concept that reaches each person that has ever uploaded themself, consciously or unconsciously, to cyberspace.  Futurama showed our lack of sensitivity to our “cyberspace personalities”,Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch demonstrates humanities grasp for other identities and other lives, such as with their use of Can-D and Chew-Z, and even Videodrome displayed our need to identify and use television as our reality. This class has made me more aware of not only cyberspace, but the faults that it has. I’ve begun to more consciously realize my privacy, my created identity, and my interactions that open me up to the freedom of information in cyberspace.

Categories: Uncategorized

Our Blog and Control

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

When I first heard that our class would be starting a blog at the beginning of the year, it seemed that some of the class along with myself were skeptical about how useful or rewarding it would be.  I had never been part of an informal blog and I really didn’t understand the purpose of it all.  Even after looking through a number of other blogs to get a feel for them, I felt that they lacked real creativity and purpose.  However, as the semester wore on and we got our first batch of blog posts, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of them.  Now, looking back through all the posts we’ve had this year, I realized that we’ve covered so many different aspects of technology and we’ve displayed some part of their essence.  Each post is not standing alone, but instead it is somehow connected to the rest through the intricate web of information.  Any strain of information you find interesting in on one post can be followed up by similar info in another post.  Needless to say I was very impressed about what we had done with the blog.  Looking back though I also

noticed something else; so many of the posts, including mine, had something to do with control. To name a few, three posts dealing with Privacy, College ACB and Simple Miscommunications seemed to center on this idea of control.  One dealt with not being able to control our privacy, the next about not being able to control what is said about us and finally not even being able to control what we write out in a text.  I then began to think about technology and control and it started to make sense.  Technology can make us feel connected to the world in ways that very few other things can.  However, it also has the ability to have control over us when we dont truly understand its function and purpose.  After reading about so many different types of technology and how people feel about them on this blog it seems that opinions about technology actually revolve about how much control we can have over them.  In a boiled down version, we like technology we can control and we don’t like technology that we can’t control.  Unfortunately, as technology becomes more advanced and more useful, it seems that we are also losing control and that idea appears worrisome to many people.

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Friday, Friday: A New Age in Communication

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Rebecca Black’s video for her song “Friday” is one of the most widespread internet memes of all time. At this point, I’m sure our whole class (aside from Professor Rejack… perhaps) could easily sing along to the mindless lyrics of this unintentionally hilarious and addictive new formulaic pop song. According to Youtube, “After attracting less than 1,000 viewers during its first month, the video went viral on March 11, kicking off a bizarre media craze that dominated national news for weeks. Before the month was up, “Friday” had cracked the Billboard charts and racked up more than 64 million views on YouTube, despite an almost universally negative response from media outlets.” And now, just a few weeks after this craze peaked, Rebecca’s song has nearly 120,000,000 views.



While certainly humorous, this video’s popularity says a lot more than just that “everybody’s looking forward to the weekend.” Rather, it sheds light on the growing power of social media in global communication. How could a piece of information – even if it is just a terrible, formulaic pop song – spread to reach 120 million people so quickly?



Social media and networking websites like Twitter and Facebook played a huge role in the spread of this video. In the past decade, these types of social media websites have evolved and grown to encompass much of the world’s population. As Kaitlin discussed in her blog post on social media, “Anyone who was anyone in middle school had a Myspace,” and even though Myspace has decreased in popularity, “through Myspace failings came new social networking sites that remain popular today.” With each new social media site more popular than the previous, it seems that online dispersal of information – through Tweets, Facebook posts, or other media – will only continue to grow as it becomes the leading form of communication.

Of course, while the accessibility of information online is certainly powerful, it comes with inherent costs. Katie remarked in a post about twitter, “It is somewhat creepy to me how much we can quickly learn about each other through the Internet.” Most people have become aware of this (through Facebook stalking, for example), and have in response learned to limit or at least think twice about what they share online. However, in this new digital age in communication, we are not always in control of what information about us is shared online or who it will reach. Certainly Rebecca Black did not anticipate 120 million people around the world seeing her video (or 2 million clicking the “dislike” button), but at least she was responsible for this video being released into the public internet realm. With websites like CollegeACB, dark truths or fictional (and dangerous) rumors about a person may spread across a campus without the subjected individual even knowing, much less consenting. In her post about CollegeACB, Christina concluded that “The internet (in the form of CollegeACB and other sites like it) is becoming the virtual avenue for the collegiate-level bullies, where they can gang together to pick on their fellow classmates. However, the internet becomes even more dangerous than the playground because no “time-outs” are ever handed out.” This dangerous anonymity is inherent in the nature of online communication. Overall, this all shows how technology shapes culture and human relationships around the world. As online communication has become the leading medium for spreading information, new risks and benefits have emerged that have changed the way humans communicate forever.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Dangerous Future

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Anonymous compliments? and bullying?

Throughout this course, we have focused on both the positives and negatives of technology through literature and film. However, even more concerning, is the twisting path technology is taking towards the future. Though at any moment we can hop on search engines such as Google for information or switch on our Xbox for a few moments of fun, there are also destructive forms of technology that we use in our lives everyday. For instance, in Christina’s post “If You Have Nothing Nice to Say…”, she talks about CollegeACB, a site for anonymous college users to post forums on ranging from topics such as “What is Rites of Spring?” to “What is the worst fraternity?”. Because any user can post anonymously, without any responsibility for the content, the comments can be vicious and cruel. Considering it has an addictive quality, many college students visit the site and the information spreads like wildfire. For all of the positive impacts technology has made in the past few decades, this certainly seems like a huge step backwards that promotes damaging and dangerous cyber bullying.

            Yet, the Internet is not the only place that can indicate technology’s turn for the worst. Dustin in, “The Blame Game”, shows us that even videogames are advertising themselves as a game your “mom would hate”. Usually advertisers try to pick affirmative slogans that are proactive and leave the consumer feeling good about their purchase. This video game, on the other hand, preys on the consumers desperate desires to play something forbidden, something hated by all parents. What kind of message is this sending to society? That technology has evil tendencies that your mom would hate? That you should disobey your mom to play these games? It seems as if the producer of these games was disobeying his mom when she told him how awful and idea this product was.

Not only can technology be a source of online danger, but it can also translate into real life. In “Online Orgy Cult”, Katie tells us a story of how she met a friend’s potential roommate online and formed a friendship that ultimately led her to visiting him for Lollapolooza. Luckily, everything worked out for the best, but she could have been in an extremely threatening situation. Meeting someone in person is extremely different than meeting them online considering the internet gives you the ability to be whoever you want. What if she had gone, only to find he was a crazed serial killer preying on children through social networking sites? Though that seems extreme, there are stories like that on the news more and more everyday. Unfortunately, though the internet connects people from around the world and brings us closer and closer, it also…brings us closer and closer. This means that though the benefits of a smaller world probably outweigh the negatives, we must be extremely careful on how we present ourselves online and how we translate our online relationships to real life. As Katie said, “the friends you make on Facebook are not supposed to fall into your real life.”

As we move further into the twenty-first century, we will continue to be awed with the progress technology makes and the seamless integration it will have into our lives. While this happens, we must be aware of the direction technology is taking, and make sure that it continues to grow in a positive, constructive way, and that we do not get trapped by the allures of sites such as CollegeACB, videogames your mom hates, or social networks that do not translate to real life.

Millions of Facebook "Friends"

Categories: Uncategorized

What side are you on?

It is crazy to think how far technology grows in the world of cell phones. I can’t seem to finish out my 2-year contracts before another revolutionary smartphone hits markets and I regret my decision to upgrade so soon. Although we have already discussed the demanding market for the next best thing. It came to my attention that we have hit a sudden slump in the world of smartphones. This year when my contract went up in February I decided to hold out and snatch the newest smartphone as soon as it hit the market, the problem? There hasn’t been a new one.

I currently am a blackberry user and was looking forward to their newest creation but after such a long lag in new product releases, I decided I would switch over to the new iPhone 5 because it had been so long since the iPhone 4 was released.  Here I am in April and still stuck with my old blackberry.  There have been a lot of speculations why there is a sudden stalemate in the smartphone war. Some blame it on the issues iPhone had with the iPhone 4 release and the antennae problem while others claim it is the new competitor in the Android causing Apple to step up there game. Instead of the usual Blackberry vs. iPhone war a new player as been added to the shuffle. Google Inc. has entered the world of smartphones with the Android.  Google’s phone has had so much attention some claim it is even better than the iPhone and will knock blackberry off the market for good.  Now, with the added player to the smartphone fight my decision to get a switch just became twice as hard. With Android being compared to Windows PC and the iPhone obviously representing Apple systems, where does the blackberry stand.  Not many people remember the Palm Treo in early 2000 that has faded from the smartphone market because blackberry stole their thunder with a better operating system that provided more user friendly capabilities and more reliable technology. Now that there is a new phone to compete with the iPhone, is the blackberry a thing of the past?

I feel a consumer obligation to the blackberry after two years of satisfied use, but what can I do if the Android and iPhone provide a new generation of smartphones and Blackberry fails to rise to the challenge.  For now I am team Blackberry with a strong inclination to switch to iPhone if they are able to release the new iPhone 5 any time soon. But the increasingly positive reviews of the Android with its very consumer friendly advertising campaign makes a strong argument to forever abandon the Blackberry. With smartphones that already start cars, turn on security alarms, scan credit cards and display HD movies, it is hard to imagine what our phones will be doing in 10 years.

The Singularity Is Near

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I have always been fascinated by technology and I have also always put significant amounts of faith in the fact that technology will be able to solve all of our problems. Nothing better captures my views than that of the Singularity movement that we learned about early on in the course. The singularity is used much more colloquially to describe a point at which technology will solve most of the major problems that humans struggle with, even death.However, the basic concept of the Singularity movement is actually that technology is advancing so rapidly that eventually humans will create a superintelligence so advanced that from that point on it will be impossible to accurately predict the future, just like scientists lack the ability to see beyond the singularity of a black hole. One of they keys to the singularity movement is that this superintelligence will be so advanced that it will actually be able to rewrite its own code or even create other more intelligent entities, just like humans are doing. Proponents of the singularity argue that this will lead to an intelligence explosion at which point the advancements could continue to accelerate until the laws of physics are the only limiting factors.

Now many people think that proponents of the singularity happen to be crazy. The advancement of AI and other technology begs to differ however, and suggests that the singularity might be approaching much more quickly than we might think. Take Nicole’s post on the Geminoid for example. This generation of robots created by a tech company in Tokyo look so human that it is difficult to tell that they’re actually robots. Not only that, but they are able to carry on conversations with each other and with human participants. To make things even scarier take a peek at Sasha’s article on the new wikipedia for robots which creates a compiled source of data specifically for use by robots. Creating a central data source that robots wirelessly have access to can only accelerate the coming of the singularity. Just as wikipedia has consolidated the knowledge base of human beings and increased our access to information and learning, the RoboEarth system could do the same for robots. This system is slightly reminiscent of the Viki system in iRobot that wirelessly controls all robot actions. Lastly, the Watson system that Chris describes could be the scariest of all. The superintelligent Watson was able to easily beat the best human competitors in Jeopardy history, which begs the question as Chris asks “How long will it be until future generations of super computers exceed human ability at other tasks?” It seems that the answer is not very long at all.

My feelings about the singularity are very mixed however. While many fear that superintelligent robots will be the bane of human existence(I do too), I am excited to see the effects as humans reach the pinnacle of their creativity and intelligence. I truly believe that with such rapid technological advancement, humans might be able to as Ashlee Vance argues in Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday, to stave off death for hundreds of years.

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The Pros and Cons of Technology

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

So we’ve finally come to the end (termination), and I’m sure that I speak for the entire class when I say that this class has taken me on a road I had never travelled. However, the ideas that we have discussed are not only interesting, but also relevant in today’s society. Technology is the ever-changing enigma that we have explored, and there is only speculation as to what technology will become. Its potential is endless, and that fact excites some, and frightens others (Professor Rejack and co.). But both sides have valid arguments. Being an analytical thinker (Thanks “Writing Analytically”!), I like to break things down into pros and cons. Facebook is a perfect medium through which we can examine the pros and cons of technology’s relationship with humanity.

Let’s begin with some pros:  In Katie’s blog post, Online Orgy Cult (appropriate title), she examines the idea of a Facebook “friend” with an anecdote of her “officially form[ing] my first Facebook ‘friendship’.” Her post acknowledges the difference between a Facebook friend and a real friend, but interestingly joins the two ideas of friendship into one. Through Facebook, Katie made a real friend. She even took a picture with him…

Katie’s post exemplifies one of the positive attributes of Facebook. Additionally, Facebook allows people to keep in touch with old friends, and acts as a medium for “stalking and talking about yourself” (kbrown92).

However, with all of the great social advances gained by using Facebook comes the issues–ranging from privacy to the reduction of personhood. The great Jaron Lanier inspects and scrutinizes these concerns in his manifesto, “You Are Not a Gadget.” In short, he concludes that Facebook reduces what it means to be an individual by forcing its users to adapt themselves to the same template. With regard to privacy, he alludes to Facebook’s campaign to attract advertisers; their platform consisting of giving advertisers user information in order to help advertisers specialize and zone in on their target victims. In her blog post, “Facetime:  Bringing us Together, or Apart?” Alexie argues that technology “is a force of depersonalization,” and exemplifies this claim with the facade  of “cyber personalities.” Facebook is a perfect model that allows “cyber personalities” to exist. Alexie goes even further, blaming technology for our society’s lack of “social etiquette, how to interact face-to-face with others, and overall social skill.” And there is a lot of truth to her argument.

So here we are, stuck in the middle. Technology, such as Facebook, has such extreme positive and negative qualities that it is very difficult to pick a side. Most of us end up going with the flow. We can only speculate the direction that Facebook is moving in, for it is taking a road not yet travelled. Hopefully, that path doesn’t end too badly.

Categories: Uncategorized