Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech’

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.

Introduction

Convergence is defined by Henry Jenkins (2006) as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences.” The ongoing process of convergence is creating a more participatory society for the user by changing the dynamics of media technologies and opens up for new business-models for the industries, like it did with the idea of Transmedia. New technologies enable us to take pictures, record sounds, write and film, and because of the Internet we also have the opportunity to upload, download, remix and share content that are already flowing online. We have become more like “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers.

The audiences’ future is looking bright, but convergence also carries negative baggage. With these new technologies we have started to act as we please online, and thus a fight for survival between audiences and industries has emerged. In this essay I argue that convergence has affected the audiences’ use of technologies and respect for copyrights, the audiences’ choice of technologies, and the emergence of censorship due to the audiences’ use of new technologies. I will use Flickr as an example of technology throughout the essay.

Copyrights

The Internet and our new media platforms enable us to create mash-ups and remixes of the content online, and currently we are actively taking advantage of this. At the same time the copyright rules we have today are very strict, and because of our increasing level of participation the Media Industry keep lobbying for even stricter laws. Many users are frustrated with the copyright regulations, because the things that they create are removed from the web and sometimes the user even gets sued, but we should not forget that copyrights are a necessity and that they are made to protect our intellectual properties as well from being used as others.

We should think twice about using copyrighted material and give the industry another reason to fight for their content, instead we should embrace the solutions that are already out there. Maybe the media industry softens as time goes by, and realises that we are only using their work for new ideas and creativity. It is actually interesting to see how some users complain on copyrights, but still their own work is guarded and cannot be shared or copied.

Trey Ratcliff (2012) says “a pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.” If we want to use other peoples’ content to create new material, we need to allow other people to borrow our content as well. By committing to Creative Commons (2012) anyone can use your content as long as they acknowledge you and ask for permission if it is for commercial purposes.

The photo sharing site Flickr has enabled Creative Commons licenses (Flickr 2012) for a long time and it shows how sharing and attribution can be practised. You can choose which images you want to keep as private and which ones you want to share with the public, this way you provide images and videos for other people to use freely. With an open sharing ideology your content can travel all over the world via other peoples’ blogs, newspapers and online albums, and can even result in actual revenue! Although there will always exist thieves we must believe that most people are honest and willing to pay for the work of others, and most importantly this must start with ourselves and our own ideologies.

Generative platforms

A media platform today is expected by the user to grant us constant and immediate access to the world. It must enable us to multitask, and provide a place where everything can be produced, stored and shared. If a media platform cannot follow up on all of these “minimums”, it will be replaced by a more innovative technology. These technologies have “become interfaces to the flow of content” (Mitew 2012) that comes with convergence.

What I think few people realise is that we should choose wisely when we decide which platform to use for participation. There are several industries that fight to regains control of both users and content, and thus construct the platforms to do so. Facebook and Apple are both examples of media platforms that are locked appliances. Everything you post on Facebook are owned by Facebook, and by using it you agree to give them the rights to distribute “your” content as they wish. Apple provide a “walled garden” (Mitew 2012) for its users, a garden where Apple has already decided which applications you are allowed to use, and it is not possible to explore anything else.

I believe that in an era where we are fighting for Internet freedom and milder copyright laws, we should we be aware of ideologies where the Industry controls everything we can and cannot do. There are other media platforms which operate in freer environments, where the users own their own material and are even welcome to explore and improve the operation systems. In a Top Ten (2012) review of Flickr it was said that Flickr “want to get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as [they] can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software [the users] are using to manage their content.” In addition to this, Flickr also invite users to construct their own applications via their Application Programming Interface (API) (Flickr 2012).

I believe that by choosing a media platform or technology which is open and generative, we build an environment for ourselves where the flow of content between us and our media platforms flow freely.

Censorship

We are “the people formerly known as the audience” (Jay Rosen 2006), and with our media technologies and platforms today we now have the ability to use these technologies to freely express our opinions and share our knowledge with the world, it is the closest we have ever been to democracy. Social media platforms are increasingly popular in our daily lives; even the industries are finding new and innovative ways to implement these platforms into their businesses. For advertisers sites like Facebook act like a buffet of what is popular and what is not (Li 2012), some newspapers welcomes citizen journalism through to their news via blogs, images and videos (CNN-IBN 2012), politically Twitter has been used efficiently to organize demonstrations in the world and lately news have travelled faster via social media sites than anything else.

As it get more difficult for the media conglomerates to maintain control, they now try to lobby our Governments for a more definite form of control; censorship. Bills like the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (CISPA)keep sneaking up on us, claiming that they are there to protect against online theft, but the intended result is to set us back as pure consumers by gradually blocking social media sites which will be blamed for hosting infringing links.

Our new media technologies and platforms can be used for creative purposes, but now more than ever we must remember what they are fundamentally constructed to do; spread messages. Several social media sites have demonstrated against these bills, Flickr for instance, was part of the campaign where they blackened, or censored, a lot of the pictures online to demonstrate what SOPA would look like. So far, the Internet and its users have won the battles, but given the different interests between the media conglomerates who wants to be the sole producers, and us who wants to participate, the war is far from over.

Conclusion

Flickr is a photo sharing site which enables its users to share “objects, knowledge and resources” (Weiss 2005). It was one of the first websites constructed to function in the web2.0 era, and for a very long time it was a revolutionary website. As a member on Flickr you create a profile, you connect with friends and people you choose to follow and you can comment on your own as well as other images. Flickr is a brilliant host for pictures; it is perfect for sharing and having your images discovered, but lately the photo sharing site seem to suffer by a lack of innovation (Dimech 2012). As the ongoing process of convergence continues, we are constantly presented to new technologies and innovations, and the contest is hard between the components. The one which is the most user-friendly and up to date wins the audience. I find it ignorant to choose a media platform or media technology solely on its design and functions, when there are many other important things that should be considered: Are you the owner of your own content? Are you allowed outside of the “walls” of your technology? Is your media platform supporting CISPA? Sites like Flickr, supports our freedom as users and that ought to be a strong argument for choosing it.

When you think about the internet, and especially social media, it is really perfectly made for women. Relationships, cooperation and communication are qualities that are almost implemented in women’s nature so one would think that the web could be a woman’s playground. In some cases it really is, like Pinterest, where 97% of the users are female! Despite this point, there has been an ongoing discussion about women’s place in the virtual sphere. Where are the women in the online decision making roles?

Today I was asked to mention as many influential online male persons that I could think of and several names came to mind; Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Sergei Brin and Larry Page (Google), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) and Julian Assange (Wikileaks). Just after that I was asked the same question again, but this time I was to think of female influential persons, and honestly, I could not think of a single name. There is a clear online gender gap today, but personally I choose to look at it more positively. We have a long history of women fighting for equality, and there are still reasons to debate, but I will say that women have had great success as well. The situation for women in the corporate world is strengthen and is still getting stronger. Gradually there is a change in people’s perceptions and ideologies of “the woman at work”, this is just something that does not happen overnight. It takes time, but I believe that in the future we will see several influential women competing with the men online. I believe that in 2012, women and men stand equally in their choice of education, I think that, in addition to the above, it is a matter of interest that men choose computer science, technology and engineering more often than women do.

But in connection to gender online there is a greater concern to me. Several female media personalities like Miriam O’Reilly and Nina Power, Karalee Evans and Melissa McEwan have lately taken a stand and expressed their frustration regarding misogyny online. As unbelievable as it may sound in our era, there are actually a few men out there who do not think that women should have a say in the world, they have a hate and a dislike of women. They express this by commenting on women’s blogs and other online platforms in a disgusting manner. The comments serve an attitude that bias to undervalue women. Their goal is to threaten women to silence, and in many cases the threats are violent and sexually violent.

A problem with an online world is that people can appear anonymous, this also an invite to an open domain where everyone can freely express themselves, but how open should it really be? We would not approve for misogyny to occur in the real world, so we should not approve for it online. Several women have closed their accounts in fear, some have chosen to remove the option of public commenting on their posts and others are moderating and filtering the comments. This is not right! What happened to the space which we talk of as the closest we have been to democracy?

Being a firm believer of user generated content I will again pt my trust in self-regulation. We have to remember that it is only a few men in the world who share these attitudes, the majority of both men and women would go against that kind of behavior, voting their comments down and away. Maybe if we considered having an even more open domain, where users are able to vote comments up and down, and even like and dislike them, these comments would end up in the bottom of the comment-thread, giving them no attention and displaying them as the least interesting comments. Although the comments may still occur, the self-regulation system would in itself act as online gatekeeper and diminish the credibility of the threats.

I have earlier discussed the major conglomerates and their goal to gain total control over media content and users. At that point I was referring to copyright and how our rights as participants are being restrained. Most people today own a mobile phone and the opportunity of being online is constantly there, “our phones become an interface to the internet” (Mitew 2012).

Since we use our phones to this extent, should not the restrictions built into them worry us? Many industries today try to regain control over the market after the Internet came, and we should be aware of some of their ideologies. Look at Facebook or products from Apple, these are media platforms used by millions of people, and no one think about how controlled these mediums are. They are closed platforms, with “walled gardens of applications” (Mitew 2012), meaning that the producer decides what you as a user can do. They have taken complete control over the media-platform and the content in it. If you post something on Facebook which they do not like they will remove it, keeping you from the right to express yourself. It reminds me of the big media conglomerates.

Android phones and Flickr are examples of open media platforms. They give the user full control of the content and allow them to participate. Take Flickrs API page as an example. API stands for “application programming interface” and gives the user the possibility to create its “own program to present public Flickr data (…) in new and different ways”. Wikipedia (2012) states:

“The practice of publishing APIs has allowed web communities to create an open architecture for sharing content and data between communities and applications. In this way, content that is created in one place can be dynamically posted and updated in multiple locations on the web.”

There is a backside of many users being able to create and control, viruses for instance, but the way I see it we have two choices: Open or closed? I also see two ideologies: “The industry controls you or you control you own choices” (Mitew 2012). Our lecturer asked us this question yesterday: Which philosophy empowers users the most?

We are afraid that the media conglomerates will take too much control over us, why are we not more worried about the philosophy of Apple and Facebook? They are doing the exact same thing! They want to control you, control what you say, what you share, what you can do, what you buy, what you listen to etc. In the long run this can be a matter of freedom of speech, and that is a something that ought to concern us all. Freedom of speech is a human right and in a way all that we have. Wikipedia defines free speech like this:

“Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s ideas via speech. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.”

This is exactly what some industries are trying to prevent us from.

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, Platforms, permissions & ideologies in technological convergence, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 19 March.