Week 12: The internet of things

The internet of things is the phenomenon of devices becoming more and more connected to the internet. Things like: lights, home assistant devices and coffee makers. The general rule being “anything that can be connected, will be connected” (Morgan, J 2014).

With the increase in connectable devices, and the growing market for such devices, “The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices” (Morgan, J 2014). The possibilities that exist with this growing network are endless, imagine a world where your car can tell your house you’re 30 minutes away, and the aircon can make the house a nice temperature for when you arrive. Or when you pull onto the driveway late at night, the house turns the lights on, no more need to waste electricity leaving them on as you go out, or fumble around in the dark when you come home.

Connected technology is an exciting prospect, but it does bring with is some risks of exploitation as mention in previous weeks. Hopefully we can manage that well as a society to ensure we can reap the benefits of this new technology, whilst maintaining privacy and security in our own homes.

References
Morgan, J 2014, ‘A Simple Explanation Of ‘The Internet Of Things”, Forbes.com

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Week 11:Dark Fiber

Edward Snowden is an infamous whistleblower who exposed the extent of the government surveillance capabilities in the US. He handed over these documents to the media and The Guardian released the information in 2013. Snowden was charged by the US government with theft of government property and fled to Russia where he currently resides.

The secrets exposed by Snowden revealed that the US government, through the National Security Agency (NSA), is collating huge amounts of personal and private data as it travels in and out of US servers. This includes email and phone records, even if the company moves the data from one server to another.

With all the information on the internet it’s not just the NSA that is after the information of private citizens. Bots and hackers are also present amongst the traffic of the internet, searching for information they can exploit. This ranges from the stealing of credit card information, to actions of LulzSec a hacking group that exposed the information of 73 000 X Factor US contestants, for the “lulz”.

A common way of hacking into personal accounts is using a bot to try every password combination until one of them works. Which is why the longer your password the safer it is. Edward Snowden talks about this in this video with John Oliver:

 

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Week 10: Digital Resistance

Hacktivism as the name suggests is the use of system hacking for activist reasons. These reasons are mostly driven by political or social motives. In most circumstances, and certainly in the most well known cases, hacktivism is used to bring to light government classified documents that the hacker believes should be public knowledge.

A well known example of this is Julian Assange’s website WikiLeaks. Launched in 2006 WikiLeaks is a site that leaks news stories, documents and information to the public which is posted by anonymous sources. The first video they released, known as Project B, was a “video taken by a U.S. attack helicopter, showing what sounded like a trigger-happy crew killing civilians alongside their intended targets” (Benkler, Y 2011). To this date they have released a total of 10 million secret documents, more than the combined total of all other global media outlets.

Benkler, Y. (2011) ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, p. 1-33

Week 9: The social network revolutions

#keyboardwarrior

Twitter in particular, can mobilise and represent the power of movement with the simple use of the # to collate the voices of millions of people around the world. This can enact raise awareness, spread news, and in some cases enable political revolution.

In Egypt in 2011, Twitter was used to arrange a protest on #Jan25. The protest was against the regime of  Hosni Mubarak, who’d been in power for 30 years. The protest was attended by thousands of people and the demonstrations had the desired effect when days later Mubarak stepped down as President of Egypt.

However as Fawaz Rashed pointed out in a tweet, this was not a revolution on social media. Social media was the tool that mobilised the people:

Social media activism is only effective to a point. Eventually the onus is on people to take real world action.

 

 

Week 8: Bridges made of pebbles

The bridge made of pebbles metaphor is an effective way of representing the way social media sites have changed the manor in which news is conveyed and consumed. Where it was once the norm for a few major news sources to be the conveyers of information, it is now more common that news is spread through a series of minor sources, i.e. millions of reddit, twitter and facebook users.

It’s much quicker to build a bridge of pebbles, than it is to craft a bridge out of a few stones. Social media is very quick at spreading the news of events because it doesn’t filter or sort facts. News reporters are slower because they take the time to gather sources and references so they can present a story that’s as complete as possible.

So with the internet we can spread news quicker than ever before. But is this a good thing or not? In some ways yes and in other ways most definitely not. Spreading raw facts allows for consumers to make their own mind up, in the age of “fake news” and a general distrust of “the other side’s” opinions, some could see this as a good thing. But when there is no filter, no measured voice of reason, you can get many wrong interpretations of the facts: such as when reddit played detective after the Boston marathon Bombings. Quicker than news outlets could piece together a story, reddit thought they’d identified the culprit (Sunil Tripathi), this lead to threats to his mother and eventually “Sunil’s body was found in the Providence River on April 23, 2013, and an autopsy revealed that he had committed suicide.” (Lee, T 2015)

Reddit was wrong.

We live in a world where we want all the facts as quickly as possible and we want to make our own minds up. This is okay, but we need to make sure we are measured in our assessments before making wild conclusions.

Sometimes we need to hear the other side.

References

Lee, T 2015, ‘The Real Story of Sunil Tripathi, the Boston Bomber Who Wasn’t’, NBC news.

 

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Week 7: iOS vs Android

When choosing phones, most people seem concerned primarily with camera quality, storage space and screen size before they are concerned with software accessibility.

Apple and Google have two vastly different approaches to software. With Apple, iPhone users are restricted within a walled garden, by contrast Google allows much more freedom of access to Android users. Apple however used to have this same philosophy, the Apple II was a revolutionarily open platform.

This all changed with the launch of the iPhone. Apple controls everything that can be put on the iPhone, any apps available for download have to be approved. Whereas with Android, any user can download any app they choose.

These two approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Apple’s approach allows for ease of use, you are guided through the software rather than left completely to your own imagination. For some people, for instance some older members of my family, this is helpful because they find other phones confusing. However others prefer to have complete control over their device and resent the feeling that a company should tell them how to use their phone, or indeed restrict them from using certain apps.

In the end it’s all a question of user preference.

Zittrain, J. (2010) ‘A fight over freedom at Apple’s core’. Financial Times, February 3.

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Week 5: The attention economy and the long tail effect

The internet has created a space where anyone can produce, distribute and access any from of media, or indeed product, as a result the niche market has grown and mass popular products are becoming less mainstream. Broadcast television for instance was a mass popular model of viewing video content, most people would watch the same shows, and the broadcast schedule dictated when audiences watched. However, sites like youtube are creating a place where small communities can gather around a particular brand of content, and view this whenever they desire. There are still mass popular channels with many over 10 million and the number one channel (pewdiepie) with 66 million subscribers. These channels are the minority and, niche channels make up the bulk of the channels on youtube.

“Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.” (Anderson, C 2004). This kind of idea is expanded upon by Tom Scott (a youtuber who himself represents the niche market) in his video ‘Why You Don’t Want To Go Viral’. In the video he explains why the ‘one hit wonder’ more often than not kills the career of an artist or band, because they can either never hit the heights again, or they are stuck playing the same song over and over. It’s much better to be known in a smaller crowd for all your music, than a larger crowd for one song.

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Week 6: Walled Gardens

The feudalisation of the internet refers to the comparable behaviour of internet websites and corporations and the medieval hierarchy of King, Barron, Peasant etcetera. An example of this is the manor in which Facebook, Google, and amazon etc. control the data of their users. Within this feudal internet system exist walled gardens, where users can exist in a pleasant environment whilst remaining confined by certain parameters.

Where feudal society was based around the control of land and resources, the feudal system of the internet is controlled by information. The one who controls the avenues of information controls the population and reaps the reward.

A great example of this is Facebook messenger, when I talk to friends and family in the UK, amongst them their primary messaging app is WhatsApp, however in Australia within my social circle Facebook messenger is the primary means of communication. I therefore exist within a walled garden whereby I obey the parameters set in place by Facebook, both visible and invisible, in order to communicate more effectively with my primary social circles. Similarly, because I already use Facebook in Australia, the way I communicate with friends and family in the UK is also through Facebook. However if for instance WhatsApp was more prevalent in my Australian social circles, I would have no need for my Facebook account and would delete it.

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Week 4: Liquid Labour

With the increasing dependancy of technology within working environments the 9-5 working shift is becoming less of a concrete formula for working hours. Instead, the internet and personal computers has given the ability for many people to work from anywhere in the world at any time. In this way the set 9-5 labour force is adapting to a more liquid labour force.

“One by one, each of the things that we care about in life is touched by science and then altered.” (Kelly, K 1999) Humanity has always been consumed with the idea of making things more efficient, from the very first tools, to the modern supercomputer, even language is constantly adapting to become more efficient at communicating information. Such is the natural fluidity of technological development and human evolution. As technology allows for more efficient and more accessible networks for occupational work, it would seem the 9-5 job is no longer the most efficient method of labour.

Kelly, K. (1999) ‘This new economy’. In New Rules for the new Economy.

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