Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Final Post

If 1984 was re-written to be 2084 I strongly suspect that 'Big Brother is watching you' would be changed to 'Big Business is watching you' or perhaps just 'We are watching you.' After reading Andrejevic it is hard not to imagine a future where the big information and technology businesses, secure in the fortified Googleplex HQ will monitor the generation of an entire world worth of information in real time, all the while supplying the government with information it might require. How could real freedom exist in such a system?

This is a bleak outlook, and not the only possible future, but it is disconcerting how far we have already gone down this road without even noticing. How much farther will we get before enough people notice that change is possible? The college I work for just switched over to Google Apps to handle all our e-mail and communication needs on campus - all students, faculty, staff and administration are now on Gmail all day every day. I wonder if the people in the upper echelon even stopped to consider the possible implications of it - more likely they are unaware of them all together.

Sorry for the burst of dystopia, a lot of what we discuss brings it out in me. There is always a chance that it will all work out. That Google and others will use their powers for good and not evil, right?

Is the fact that this is the second time I have referenced 1984 in these discussions indicative of something?

I very much enjoyed my time in this class. I will admit that I felt a little out of my depth at times, but overall I think that I was given a great deal to think about and the things I have read and discussed here will influence the rest of my time in grad school and, hopefully, my career. I think that overall, the modules I appreciated the most, the ones that I think I got the most out of in practical terms, were 3 and 4 dealing with copyright laws. I learned a lot about a subject that I had been previously ignorant of and that is very relevant to my future goals. If I had to pick a favorite discussion though, including my personal favorite post, it would be the WikiLeaks module. It was a perfect and timely way to examine so much of what we had discussed and learned about in class and it brought up a lot of complex feelings and ideas. Much like this course as a whole.

Thanks for a great semester everyone and happy holidays.

Last Week

While reading Andrejevic’s article (or rather skimming it after I saw the word “ubiquitous” a handful of times), I was surprised at how much Big Brother is watching. The story of his friend with the DVD in Australia was a bit scary in that the computer knew where the friend was and wouldn’t play parts of the DVD. Why not? Does Australia have restrictions on their information? In some ways, it is nice because then the news that people receive can be tailored to where that person is. In other ways, I don’t like that people know what I’m looking at online (not that I have anything to hide, but that it is none of their business). But see, there we go again. If a terrorist is looking at information, wouldn’t we want to know it so we can stop him before he kills anyone? So, I guess it’s a fine line there on whether to allow this or not.

My favorite topic would have to be the Challenged and Banned books topic. I felt that this topic was the most relevant to my library work. I wasn’t too impressed with the Wikileaks discussion as I felt that he had no right to post any of the information he did. I’m almost glad that he’s been caught and put into jail. I had a feeling about him and it wasn’t good and the fact that he ran and tried to hide from authorities just helps to make it so. But that’s just my opinion…..

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

its been a trip

Everything in moderation…

It’s a maxim we learned as children…to be observant and circumspect of excess. Like my classmates, I’m often concerned about the seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent nature of electronic surveillance. But then I remember that the computer…the Internet…is just a tool (albeit a culturally significant tool…). And when one realizes the ease at which a step back can be taken, and how the scene widens with a little distance, one can possibly realize then too that it is a tool we wield. I would argue that the Internet does not control us…but that we control it. If become concerned with the availability of personal information - like buying habits, topics of interest, relationship status, etc – then we have wandered into the realm of observation and understanding. We can moderate what we provide – there is no rule stating otherwise. You know me as Tecumseh – a name that I’ve never used on the Internet before – and a name I will never use again. And though I’m a bit more suspicious than some, there is a rebelliously empowering feeling one gets by relying on cash rather than credit – on the postal service rather than Google – in an attempt to tread lightly without leaving behind a trial. The power has always been with us.

I learned a lot and was enticed to venture out of my ‘comfort zone’ by many of your posts and responses. One thing about a blog I find interesting is the ability to retrace one’s steps and relive specific topics. I look forward to re-reading the posts, this time backwards - from most recent to the very first. Its been a trip! thanks

Monday, December 6, 2010

Well, what do you know...

I thought my previous post was my last. Lo and behold, I was doing some headline scanning and found this post on the FTC's proposed online privacy plan.


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.

Wrapping Up

I agree with my other classmates thus far about Andrejevic, this issue doesn't seem like such a big deal. Giving up something like my shopping history to Amazon doesn't bother me at all. I just do not believe they would ever do anything malicious with it, for one it'd be bad business for them to do such things and for two I just doubt they care for me as an individual beyond my buying power. In fact I find it helpful, just today I was doing a chunk of Christmas shopping and found recommendations for other things to purchase very helpful. I suppose it's someone who is looking out for us all, but even for me as someone who is mildly paranoid about my internet privacy, I like the advances in cloud technology and other things and to give up a bit of info about me to make it better seems a good trade off.

Having someone looking out for us relates well to my favorite part of the class, WikiLeaks. I was surprised how interested and yet interested I was in it. On one hand, it seems very important, but since it's just a big fat dump of information without any good organization I can't get excited about sifting through it. That said, following the story that has been developing recently has been very interesting to me. I just read today how Amazon and Paypal have cut off WikiLeaks, things certainly are changing at a rapid pace.

T-Voh and 1984 - The Last Post!

[sarcasm] Oh the wonders of technology…thank goodness that a company keeps track of our actions online so that a company, any company, can tell us what to buy or how to think because we may have purchased Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol from because we checked the ILL waiting list and were like number 278 in line…and we didn’t feel like waiting several months to read the tomb of mystery and fictitious controversy which every Dan Brown book brings, apparently. [/sarcasm]
Actually, I am somewhat concerned that companies can track us wherever we go and see whatever we do online….all in the name of profit. It’s not the “1984” motif that scares me…it’s the realization that people actually purchase items based on the suggestions presented by the companies…sometimes in frightening blind faith. However, the advertisement strategy must be working or they wouldn’t be doing it. What does it say about our collective psyche as a society? “Please tell us what to buy/watch/think?” Frightening.
One of my friends is a TV addict and has this thing called T-Voh (sp?) which he can use to record tv programs and play them back later. Sounds great! He was all “T-Voh is awesome!” Then, after a few days, T-Voh began making suggestions and telling him what to watch. He tried to turn off the “make suggestions” function but T-Voh wouldn’t stop. Many times it pre-recorded its suggestions allotting no free space to the programs my friend wanted to record. Way to go T-Voh.
Maybe the digitized world will become like T-Voh. A world where nothing that is suggested is what we want and where there are so many suggestions that it becomes impossible to find what we actually need. For example, I have a heart condition and may need another open heart surgery. In the digitized world, I may be looking heart surgeons but, because I have my teeth clean every year, all I find are “suggested dentists in my area”. How the bleep does that help me T-Voh? ;)
Kidding aside, it is for us to decide scenario would make the world a better place? Which is more likely to become the reality? With luck, those two questions have the same answers.
My favorite post this semester was Daniel’s Ban Hammer Blog. I especially like the comment “I keep thinking about how it seems many people are of the opinion that if a library possessing a piece of material it also means they agree/approve of said piece of material.” I am also a fan of the picture. It reminds me of a D&D character I played once…I realize that this may not be the most “academic” of comments, but it is the one truest to my personality. GEEKS UNITE!!!!!
Thanks for a wonderful semester and a great finish to my grad degree!!! Good luck Everyone!