Monday, December 6, 2010


The Andrejevic article made some interesting points. However, I couldn't help but wonder if I might have gotten more out of it if I was more up on my Marx. The central point I took away from the article is that many of the applications and services on the web that many of us have come to expect to use for free, aren't really free at all but come at the cost of us surrendering some of our personal data. This isn't a surprise to me, and I find it hard to get overly upset about this type of transaction. After all the companies that develop applications and are making massive R&D investments in computing and networks must recoup these expenses somehow. If we were to pay a true market cost for some of these services, I'm not sure many of us would think it to be affordable. For example, none of us had to pay a subscription fee to use Blogger this semester, even though the costs to Google (i.e. hosting, tech support, etc.) to maintain Blogger are not insignificant (well maybe to Google they are). For now, at least, I think the trade-off is a worthwhile, though slightly worrisome, one.

For anyone interested in a dystopian vision of where "ubiquitous computing" may be headed in the future, I strongly recommend the book Feed by the excellent YA author M.T. Anderson. It imagines a world where humans have a device implanted in their heads that allow them to have the Internet in their field of vision 24/7. It is a nightmarish book and Anderson makes some startling points about the Internet and the commercialism it has become associated with.

It's hard to pick out a favorite unit because I found the subject matter every week to be engaging and contemporary. The units on copyright were particularly interesting for me being a long time music geek. It was nice to take a peek behind the curtains and to think about the ways in which copyright can negatively impact artistic expression.

However, I have to say that the WikiLeaks unit could not have been better timed and I've found myself swept up in the ongoing drama surrounding WikiLeaks these past couple of weeks. As an aside, does anyone else think it strange that this leak of diplomatic cables brought far greater blow back than did the Iraq or Afghanistan document dumps? Since Cablegate, WikiLeaks has suffered DoS attacks, been chased from Amazon's servers (at the apparent request of Joe Lieberman) their bank accounts in Switzerland have been frozen and some on the right (Sarah Palin & Newt Gingrich in particular) have called for the US to treat Assange as an "enemy combatant." I find this to be slightly curious.

Also, in relation to WikiLeaks, and tangentially related to our topic this week of the shifting notions of privacy in our digitally connected world, did anyone else see that Colombia University's School of International and Public Affairs warned its students not to discuss WikiLeaks on social networks, such as, Twitter or Facebook. Apparently, the concern was that doing so may impact students' prospects for government jobs. Colombia has since walked back that advice, but my initial thought when I saw the story was, "I hope no one in class has an application pending with the State Department."

For those interested here's the link:

My favorite post was Barriers to Access. Because I got to use the words defecate and micturate.

Good night, good luck, Happy Holidays. It has been a pleasure to discuss these topics with everyone.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with what you said about the timing of the WikiLeaks discussion. It was on my mind as well when I was writing those posts. I’m not sure if it was pure luck, mysticism/fortune telling, or some sort of brain control. BTW, I assume that all college professors have some sort of Marvel-esk super powers. lol. But, the association of the topic and current events diffidently gave an extra punch to the debate