Archive for the ‘Global Networks’ Category

I come from a country where equality has an important place in society. Class, sex, gender, age or race; it is important that we are all treated alike in Norway. It has not always been this way, and we must be grateful and pay respect to the ones that have fought for these rights in past times. Despite the fact that it is important, it is sometimes hard to balance such issues in politics. Many would suggest that we are not being just to immigrants or that we are not successful in treating the elderly well, but when it comes to equality for women we have come a long way. Or have we not?

Young women today take an equal pay, or a right to work or vote for granted. If a girl were to be denied employment on the grounds of her gender or if she was sexually harassed at work it would reach the media in no time and the organization would be named and shamed for their actions. In recent years there has been an unfortunate ‘wave’ of rape in some of the big cities and therefore we now have parades to spread awareness of the issue and several campaigns arranged to follow girls safely home at night. It looks like it is going the right way, but an article by Clementine Ford gave me second thoughts.

Ford (2013) brings about the point that perhaps the media and even the public do not care as much about justice for ‘the others’ as we do about justice for ourselves. In Norway, for example, we proudly show our statistics that demonstrates that both women and men occupy leader-positions, that we are free to decide who stays home with the kids and that women are encouraged to take a place in man-dominated work forces, but at the same time we have a huge amount of sex-workers that are beaten and raped daily, and we have affiliations with trafficking where innocent girls are forced into prostitution. Many of these women may not be Norwegian citizens but it takes place in our country.

So why is it that we do not fight for these women’s’ rights? Why is there no parade for them? I cannot help but think that if most of our prostitutes were Norwegian or if women were being trafficked from Norway the whole nation would be joining a parade. I believe Ford (2013) to be right that because these women are different, or not ‘like us’ they do not get the same coverage in the media and are therefore also being marginalized.

Feminism therefore still has an important place in our countries, but perhaps we should try to open up our focus to include all women, and not only the white, middle-class women ‘like us¨.

References:

Ford, C 2013, ‘How did we let Adrian Bayley happen?’, Daily Life, 14 June, viewed 30 April 2014, http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/how-did-we-let-adrian-bayley-happen-20130613-2o67f.html

Is there a future for journalism? Are the declining advertising revenues and the declining readership (in particular for print) a glance at the slow death of our once dedicated 4th estate?

Part of the problem for present journalism is in the sentence above; “our once dedicated 4th estate”. Where did the dedication and persistency go? What happened to investigative journalism?  Our somewhat trustworthy public sphere? I feel that all the points here mentioned have been washed away in a digital mix of instancy, citizen-journalism, and personal opinions.

After smartphones and social media flourished it seems like journalists and the creative newsrooms found it too hard to follow and just gave up on their leading role as news reporters. Instead of coming up with a new innovative strategy of how to shape their business-model into one that suits the digital age, they sat back watching everyone else take over. If this attitude continues, there is no doubt that they will end up where book-shops, video-shops and photo-shops are today.

I am all for digital technology and the public’s right to take part in the news, but I still believe that some part of traditional journalism is needed for at least two reasons; ethics and quality control.

Tailoring of news on the basis of advertisement is annoying, but is it better with Google’s algorithms? Digital media is sorting the news to us in accordance with what we have previously shown an interest in, not according to what we ought to know and hear about. News should not only be about interests, but also about what is important for us to know.

Citizen journalism may be instant, but in regards to quality, how can we trust that what some citizen wrote from somewhere in the world is true? How can we know what is fictional, actual or manipulated? Journalists must follow certain codes of conduct which at least strengthen the trustworthiness of their news. Actually, their codes of conduct also enforce them to think ethical, a point that Pavlik (2013) suggests to be one principle necessary to include when considering innovative and sustainable journalism. How are witnesses protected by citizen journalists? “I promise not to provide a picture of you..Cross my heart”. News content comes in all shapes; comment-threads, geographically tagged photos, opinion pieces, videos and more, we need a code of conduct to ensure “strong and transparent privacy policies” (Pavlik 2013). Only traditional journalism can provide this (so far).

The problem is that we need journalism to pick up its backpack and take on the journey into the future of journalism. Be innovative, think outside the box and take the lead as reporters once again. Technology, the Internet and social media has so much to offer and for journalism there is much to be discovered.

If you had asked me a year ago if I thought objects were able to communicate with other objects and with humans, I would have said no. An alarm clock is only an alarm clock, it cannot possibly know that I must get up 15 minutes earlier today because there have been an accident on the road, and therefore I must drive a longer way to work. Well guess what, I have just been told and convinced, that this is today a fact. How incredible is that?

Through the use of radio frequency identifiers (RFID) and networked sensors, objects of all sizes can now be connected to the Internet and contribute to the flow of information online. Once an object is connected it will be branded with its own unique IP address so it is identifiable as well as locatable, it will register changes in its environment through its sensor which it can store and process, and it will be able to communicate this information to humans and initiate action (Mitew 2012).

I see so much potential in this! There is the fun and practical aspect of it, like the example of the alarm clock which communicates with the car, which knows that it needs gas, and therefore you are woken up 10 minutes earlier. There are visions of having a whole smart-house where everything communicates with each other as well as with you through your smartphone. There is no doubt that it can be done, but I am not convinced that I will adopt this life-style where I am literally stripped of responsibilities; my coffee is finished when I wake up, the dishwasher goes on automatically when it is full, the fridge tells me when I am out of milk, the vacuum-cleaner has cleaned my house.. well I will probably conform to the latter.

But this technology can also be used for many good things. Julian Bleecker in “Why Things Matter” talks about “pigeons that are equipped with some telematics to communicate on the Internet wirelessly, a GPS device for tracing where its been flying, and an environmental sensor that records the levels of toxins and pollutants in the air through which they fly.” What he is saying is that through this technology we can learn very much about our environment, important facts that can help us predict future issues. Imagine doing this with fish, plants, or even buildings, imagine all the valuable information we could retrieve.

The Internet of Things has truly come to grab my attention. But I take notice of one more thing. We invent and develop new technologies all the time, most of it today in relevance to the Internet, everything goes online, but when are we going to see changes in our privacy laws? With these tiny censors on cell-phones, t-shirts, pets, cars etc. we are more than likely to be traced and recognized wherever we are. So although I enjoy the exciting ride of new technology, I will not truly enjoy it before someone steps up and develop a privacy law which is adapted to our new digital age.

Reference: Mitew, T 2012, The internet of things, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 22 October.

 

The ongoing battle between Google and Apple is more important to us than I think most of us realize. “Apple is suing Samsung for copyright infringement”; so what? Is it really our problem? I think that if we gave it some thought, we would see that this battle is not just about copyrights and market-share, this is a fight that will determine the future of the mobile-web.

The very architecture of the Internet enables a free flow of information without any central hub, every node is equal, and no one is there to decide what we can and cannot do. It is decentralized, and very democratic in its philosophy. With this in mind, I want to go back to Apple and Android (Google) and look at their different ideologies.

The beautiful design of the IPhone, as well as it being very easy to manage has made it a worldwide sensation. Having an IPhone has almost become some sort of trend; a fashion that everyone has become very fond of. One of the many arguments that are used to complement the IPhone is exactly that of it being easy to handle, but this pleasure comes with a price: Centralized computing. Unlike Androids, Apple let’s no one explore and play with their hardware or software, the applications on an IPhone has been approved by Apple, some call this a “walled garden”, others call it a sterile disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers.

Apples’ vision is to be able to control the user, the content, and the platform being used. Although the company offers to the public a brilliant piece of technology, this product grants the Apple company extreme powers. I think the ideology of Apple is one incongruent with the Internet. Instead of being decentralized it is centralized, instead of allowing, it denies, and instead of keeping every node equal, it constructs a hierarchy.

I am personally very happy with my Android, but sometimes I find that things do not work on my phone because it has only been adapted to the IPhone or the IPad. To me, this is a sign of one company’s control and powerful deals made with other companies sharing its’ ideology. I also find Apple’s patent-raid to be a terrifying example of how one company can kill innovation by limiting creativity.

Google’s Android may invite a few viruses from time to time, and in some cases people find it harder to manage, but I value their philosophy enough to learn. Android vision is participation, collective intelligence, and distributed control to all users. As an open source technology it can be liberally extended to incorporate new cutting edge technologies as they emerge. [It will] evolve as the developer community works together to build innovative mobile applications. The way I see it, Android is maintaining the very architecture of the Internet, encouraging creativity and innovation.

So the future of the mobile-web is important to us. We all enjoy the Internet, we all react when we hear of bills like SOPA, PIPA or CISPA which threatens our online freedom, so maybe we should start reacting a little stronger towards Apple and their IPhones as well.

The Arab Spring was revolutionary in one way or another. The question being debated is; what role did social media play in the revolution? Social media is relatively new to us, and therefore I think that none of us are educated or experienced enough to know what it will come to mean to us yet. We have no history or similar technology to compare it with, and so we are not in the position to give any scientific or academic views on the matter. We are “guinea-pigs”, creating history and experience for the next generation’s academics.

When looking at it from this perspective, social media’s role in the Arab Spring becomes impossible to define just yet. It feels like jumping to conclusions without having the evidence. It becomes a discussion between cyber-utopians and those critical to the power of the Internet.

The Internet has come to be our new public sphere. It is a space in which everyone is welcome to participate, and so it may facilitate a perfect place for political debate. During the Arab Spring I believe that social media became a major hub for exactly that. People who had been suppressed for a long time finally found a way to communicate with each other as well as across borders. There is no doubt that social media made is possible for peripheries to make a central (Mitew 2012).

I think we need to ask another question; what would have happened if social media networks did not exist? Would we then have witnessed the Arab Spring? I think that if the Tunisians were not able to share videos, tweets, pictures and blogs in real time, it would not have spread to Egypt, Algeria and other North African countries in the same way, at least not in the same pace. The communication between and within the different countries became a trigger for the different protests. The anger and desperation have been present for a long time, but I think communication through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sparked cooperation, comfort, support and information. Social media networks presented to them a new possibility and potential to be heard.

So I believe that social media played a big part in the Arab Spring. Why else would the Egyptian government censor the Internet? Individuals like Wael Ghonim and Asmaa Mahfouz exploited the potential of social media at its best. Using it as a tool for information sharing they managed to create awareness of the situation worldwide.

The Internet is indeed a political space, but we have still much to learn about its potential. The Arab Spring leaves us one experience richer for further knowledge.

 

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, #mena #arabspring, the social network revolutions, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 8 October.

In a true democratic society the public should be able to make correct and informed decisions about what their views of the world are. To make these informed decisions the public is dependent on a true and transparent public sphere where ideas and information can be discussed and debated, and for a long time this has been the role of the mass media. The Internet which has grown to be an alternative public sphere, proves to be even more transparent and has in many occasions put the “4th estate” in a bad light; it has come to our knowledge that many of these news organizations have strong ties to Governmental members and are for that reason being edited to suit their needs and wants. One example is embedded journalists during warfare, which are only exposed to the “good” side of the army, and only given stories that justifies their reason for invading a country such as e.g. Iraq. Another example is news organizations like “Fox News” which suffers from gatekeeping through its’ biased owner Rupert Murdoch.

So who reveales these truths? What makes the Internet more transparent? One obvious reason is that every one of us (which are able to connect to it) can participate and share, but an even more significant part has come to be websites such as WikiLeaks. The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is a man with many titles; editor, activist, publisher and journalist, but he is also a hacker-activist, which evokes questions of ethics. Assange has, one can say, specialized in revealing Governmental and military top secret information to the public which have in many cases weakened the ground on which authorities walk on. One of the releases he is most known for is the “collateral murder” video which depicts U.S soldiers killing a number of people, including two journalists and two children.

Hackers have different missions and the activity can be used with both good and bad intentions, but no matter the reason it is still an illegal activity. But when hacking comes to show us that we are victims of propaganda and being manufactured to give our consent to warfare, it is hard to say that it is wrong. This is why I find Assange’s motives especially hard to judge. How can we make our informed decisions when we are clearly being kept in the dark?

So in a way I lean towards supporting Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but when that is said, other questions come lurking; is one man in the position to judge what we should and should not know?  WikiLeaks has also come to publish documents which potentially can threaten the lives of individuals or even put the national security as risk, so clearly some information is kept from us for security reasons. Who is Assange to decide whether or not this should be published? In a way that is our exchange deal with our Governments; we trust them with a good portion secrecy in exchange for a promise that they will protect us and our nations.

Should hacktivism be an approved form of political protest? This is a question that I came across this week and I am going to leave it here for you to reflect on. This reading also provides a thorough analysis of WikiLeaks and the controversy around Julian Assange if you are looking for more information.