If You Can Think of It – It’s About to Happen.

In the not-so-distant future, everyone and everything in the world will be connected to the Internet. This phenomenon is already in its early stages – and is known as the “Internet of Things” (Kevin Ashton, 2009). There are approximately 2 billion people using the Internet right now, however the Internet contains a larger number of data. Our ability to produce information has far exceeded our ability to control it. We know that the Internet has extreme potential, now it’s just a matter of developing an effective way to harness it. Technologist John Barrett states “Every major global government, and every major economic block, is investing heavily in the IoT”.

Since the emergence of the Internet, we’ve recognised a unique sense of harmony to the dimensions of life. Now, by accessing real-time data of the way systems are interacting, we can better understand global dynamics and thus make more intelligent decisions. From space, the world is visible as a neural network with cities as nodes, a literal image that we are a system of systems. We can see it, hear it, and capture it – the world has virtually developed a central nervous system, it is early days but the planet is speaking to us. Ongoing accessibility and innovations make for a very efficient society, and with the matrixing of services we will generate more resilient systems.

outer-space-internet-lights-planets-earth-europe-network-HD-WallpapersSource

The Internet of Things cannot be simply explained, so I recommend watching this lecture by Dr. John Barrett. Barrett describes the Internet as a digital cloud or universe, 4000 Exabyte’s in size (whoa). All of our lives are about to change – by merging the physical world to the Internet. We will be able to control and communicate with everything from anywhere – goods, objects, machines, appliances, buildings, vehicles, animals, plants, soil and even humans will become a part of the IoT (we kind of already are). The possibilities are only restricted by our imagination… so buckle your seat belts, hold your horses, and put down your Smartphones. Actually pick them back up, because soon you will be able to point your device at anything or anyone and learn as much as you can about it through embedded circuits. Barrett quotes, “Facebook will look like a minor event”.  So if you were concerned about privacy issues on social media… think again. One major concern regarding the IoT is the devalued notion of privacy. Google has the potential to become a real life search engine as everything will be tagged, locatable, and can give us information about itself and its surrounding environment (via RFID – Radio Frequency Identification).

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 1.07.05 PMSource

Another major concern is if everything in the world is connected, issues of terrorism and hacking will be magnified. The IoT will be extremely vulnerable, creating immense opportunities for the security software industry. This may seem frightening and preposterous, but it is a reality. Pre-schoolers are now learning on iPads – young children brought into this technologically dependent world will embrace the IoT effortlessly. However, I think it will take us (gen X & Y) some time to get used to.

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Social Media – A Revolutionary Tool

The Arab Spring is a term expressing the revolutionary movements in 2010, which began in the Arab region. What made the Arab Spring so unique was the utilisation of social media to establish and promote uprising agendas, as these were the first collective movements in the Middle East since Internet and social media revolutions. A journal article by Richard Lindsey explores the significance of social media during the Arab Spring, allowing individuals to influence public opinion and gain international support through the global distribution of news. Lindsey assures that techniques and procedures via social media will affect future revolutionary tactics in globalised societies, however the degree to which is questionable.

Sharing mass amounts of uncensored and accurate information through social networking significantly prompted the rise in Arab Spring activists. Not only did they obtain supremacy to overthrow powerful dictatorship, but also Arab civilians were now conscious of underground communities whom they can connect with. This may have not been possible without the significant role social media played, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests… Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” – Arab Spring activist from Egypt. Stories of shared grievances and hopelessness was overflowing over these networks. The use of digital storytelling through social media is what drew people into the streets to protest.

ArabSpring-Tweeter

Image source

A blog post on PolicyMic describes the use of social networks as assisting to remove the psychological barrier of fear for Arab civilians by connecting and sharing information. The consistent flow of news provided a sense of reassurance that they are not alone, and that there are others experiencing hardship, prejudice, and similar accounts of brutality. Professor of mass communications from Cairo, Hussein Amin, stated that social networks “for the first time provided activists with an opportunity to quickly disseminate information while bypassing government restrictions”. It is worthy to note that new social networking platforms were not the reason for the Arab Spring but function in serving future revolutions with regard to communication.

The Significance of Social Media

Interaction is a significant aspect of human culture. An article by Mike Laurie investigates the different ways social media has changed us. Over time many different forms of communication have evolved. From inconvenient, labour intensive technologies such as Morse code and carrier pigeons, to instantaneous connections through wireless devices. Rather than posting a letter or buying a newspaper we are now able to share, produce, and circulate endless amounts of information in simple and effective ways.

Skeptics consider social networking to be straining society with regard to social etiquette and identity. However, I would deem these to be issues within the media as a whole and not just social media. Consider a teenage girl reading a magazine – the collaboration of articles and images would produce something to the effect of: “Wear this. Wear that. Act like this around boys. If you’re thin and pretty you will be happy and popular”. In this sense, the consumer only has the option to do just that – consume. And while these same messages may be sprawled across the Internet, we are no longer lazy consumers of passive messages – we are active participants. Social media is about being connected, engaging with old friends and creating new experiences. Instead of being limited to the information in a 25-page magazine, we can now explore what feels like infinite amounts of content. Laurie describes time before the Internet to be when limitations of learning existed due to poor literacy and lack of access to books. If “knowledge is power” and you have access to continuous information distribution, your desire for knowledge is legitimately within fingertips.

iphone-and-social-media-icons

Image souce

An article By David Wallace outlines the statistics with regard to the influence social media has had beyond the notion of socialising. Employment, news, law enforcement, education, political participation, economy, music industries and marketing systems have all been prompted and enhanced through social media. A report by PEW suggested that social networks have encouraged younger generations to be more involved in political issues, a fine example of society being more interested and informed with the world around us.

Through citizen journalism comes the rise of “gatewatchers”, where user-generated content flows freely among platforms. Axel Bruns (2003) states that social networks fabricate participant communities through various understandings and interpretations. Bruns states that blogging should be recognised as a significant form of journalism. Online gatewatchers may actually compliment the mainstream journalism industry through the diversity of discussion and debate, no longer being limited by the “gatekeeper”.

Thanks evolution for the extra limb, I shall call it technology.

So the other day my stepdad was telling an old story and mentions that he was “running to get the phone”. One would only assume a landline connected to the wall, right? Well my 6-year-old brother interrupts innocently and confused, ‘Why would you get up and run to the phone? Why wouldn’t you just get it out of your pocket?’ even out of context, this seems to be an accurate depiction of society today. We actually have a home phone in our house, so I found it quite peculiar for him to presume it was a mobile.

As technology continues to evolve, so does the emergence of tech addicts. Does owning a smartphone make you an addict? I felt that what my younger brother said was a great way to point out the moral panics surrounding tech addiction – even though your mobile isn’t physically attached to you, he still observes that it is always on your person. It’s this device you carry around that acts as an extension of yourself, and into the wireless society. Results from 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits study indicated that 72% of respondents claimed their phone is within 1.5 metres of them most of the time.

While moral panics tend to surround media content, I felt it worthy to note that it is also media usage.  An example of this would be the emergence of “quiet zones” requiring a no mobile/device policy. Public spaces such as restaurants, Café’s and airport lounges are now introducing these quiet zones and are becoming more popular. Similar to the vigorous spread of “No smoking” areas once society became wise to the health risks associated with cigarettes. But how is being on my phone harming anybody? You may ask. Ha, this is where the moral panic is – anybody who has worked in customer service would agree that serving someone who is texting, on a call, or completely fixated on their phone screen during a transaction is rude and frustrating. It’s becoming increasingly apparent, and is a poor form of social etiquette. While (as far as we know) addictive use of hand held devices do not have fatal [physical] affects the way cigarettes do, there is a lot of psychological damage that should not be overlooked. Anxiety, stress, severe distraction and social breakdown are some of the mental health risks we all face on a daily basis.

iPhone-Cigarette

Research indicates that out of the 56% of Americans who own smartphones, 40% experience “Nomophobia” – fear of being without your mobile. Furthermore, studies suggest that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drink driving, with 55% of respondents still admitting they do it. Research from Versapak indicated that 51% of the UK residents who were surveyed (1,245) stated they suffered from ‘extreme tech anxiety… feeling a lack of control when separated from their gadgets’. Constantly checking and re-checking your device, coupled with feeling anxious when you can’t, is also a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In addition, if sometimes you think you’ve felt or heard your phone vibrate when in fact it hasn’t – this is known as “Phantom Cell phone Vibration Syndrome” which is another telltale sign of tech addiction.

Be aware of your behaviour with technology. Are you active in your surroundings? Do you lack focus? Is your work suffering significantly? Do you feel anxious? For many of us this behaviour may already be integrated into our lifestyle, but it is important to identify and minimize the risks.

However, it’s not all bad. Devices are used for productivity, entertainment and communication – I just think it’s important that we don’t depend every waking minute on it. The most common sentiment in relation to smartphones is the sense of “connectedness”, as humans, our natural instinct is to connect with others.

Below Property Line

Copyright is a big issue, especially since the rapid evolution of social media. Put simply, the most efficient way to avoid your intellectual property being appropriated online is to not upload it at all. While there are “safe” ways to share content, a lot of people just don’t do it. Typically, people don’t tend to feel they are doing something illegal if it is through their computer screen. There is no personal connection or affiliation with who you are “stealing” from. A couple of clicks and you are instantly breaching copyright laws. Piracy is a big one – while artists and large corporations missing out on millions from content they have created, there is little they can do to stop it. There is this general consensus of “if it’s on the internet it’s fair game” but really, it isn’t fair at all. You are legally responsible for all content you post or share online. Without crediting the original source or obtaining permission, you face the consequences.

Sharing someone else’s work online safely is when you only share from the original source. For instance, using the retweet button on Twitter. Sites such Facebook and Tumblr have “share” and “reblog” buttons for this purpose, but often users copy the content and post it without sharing directly from the source. This is a common example of somebody breaching copyright laws.

“A large, diverse society cannot survive without property; a large, diverse, and modern society cannot flourish without intellectual property.” – Lawrence Lessig

This quote from Lessig’s book Free Culture points out the importance of intellectual property. While copyright laws restrict the ways in which we can use previous creators’ work, it can stimulate individuals to generate new ideas. However, it is difficult to come up with something new. Most things we think of will have been done already in various ways. Subsequently, Lessig states that free cultures allow space for others to build upon, however with regard to increasing authorisations we are steering away from this. For example YouTube cases of people lip syncing/dancing to music, creating fandom etc are being sued for copyright infringement. It seems silly; as a lot of these cases include songs by popular artists that most people could identify without a reference. On the other hand, if the boundaries weren’t there I think prosumers would definitely take advantage of it even more than they do already.

The Network Society

The Internet has altered the way we work, socialise, create and share information. This transformation of social networking does not get the recognition it deserves. There’s been this massive transition in our lives, transitioning to a digital culture and economy.

In a 2011 report, Mckinsey Global Institute stated that in the past 5 years, the Internet accounted for 21 per cent of the GDP growth in mature economies. This technological revolution has assisted large enterprises and national economies, individual consumers and upstart entrepreneurs. Facebook and other social media sites have been some of the utmost beneficiaries from the powerful influence of the Internet – businesses can now interact with their consumers on a personal level. From a few thousand students accessing Facebook to over 1 billion global users today, Manyika and Roxburgh from the Mckinsey Global Institute stated that ‘If Internet were a sector, it would have a greater weight in GDP than agriculture or utilities’. The development and evolution of the Internet has been described as a ‘healthy Internet ecosystem’, boosting infrastructure, accessibility, and a competitive environment. This prompts innovators and entrepreneurs to flourish, nurturing human capital and in turn maximizing the ongoing affect of the Internet on prosperity and economic growth.

The vast opportunities we are provided with are being embraced and embedded into our lifestyle and culture, and it is truly amazing to be a part of it. We create, define and expand this online ecosystem at an astonishing rate. Communication is the foundation of our society, culture, humanity and identities.

‘Consisting of transactions, relationships and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live… We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth…We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity’ – John Perry Barlow

I loved one of this week’s readings, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’. Above are my favourite excerpts, which outline the online world we are (or choose to be) a part of. I found it interesting when he says (repeatedly) about our physical bodies not living in cyberspace. I loved how he separated an individual’s physical characteristics with cyberspace, presented in this sense that you are entering a utopian world.

References:

Barlow, JP 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Davos Switzerland, viewed 18/08/2013,
<https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html

Dyson, E, Gilder, G, Keyworth, G & Toffler, A 1994, Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, viewed 18/08/2013,
<http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/futureinsights/fi1.2magnacarta.html

Kelly, K 1999, New Rules for the New Economy, Kevin Kelly, viewed 18/08/2013,
< http://www.kk.org/newrules/newrules-intro.html

Manrika, J & Roxburgh, C 2011, The great transformer: The impact of the Internet on economic growth and prosperity, Mckinsey Global Institute, viewed 18/08/2013, <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_great_transformer

“Networks are the Matrix”

The significance of living in a network society is that networks provide fundamental structure to our lives. Only recently has the media become an influential public space of our time, forming and shaping shared societal experiences. In light of this, Manuel Castells from this weeks reading stated that technology does not determine society, however some social structures could not have developed without it. Communication comes naturally to humans and now the logic, interests and conflicts of this network society globally dominate us. It is not always the message we are sending, but rather the medium through which it is processed. For example, a common frowned upon message to send through social media would be the “break up”. Often in high school girls/guys would be offended and shocked if they were broken up with through social media sites, however if it was a phone call it seemed to not have that much of a detrimental effect.

Charles Arthur in an article for The Guardian referred to networks as the ‘Matrix’.  The first thing that came to my mind when seeing the words ‘network’ and ‘matrix’ together was Google. Google seems to be the center of the Internet. It monitors you closely through every use, pushing ads and even channeling results based on your browsing history. By purely signing up to a gmail (Google Mail) account you now have a YouTube and Google+ account. Regardless if you are actively using these accounts, Google can still track your every move just by being signed in. But it doesn’t stop there; artist Erica Scourti made a video called “Life In Adwords”. Scourti emailed a daily diary to her Gmail account for a year, and then created a collaboration of herself listing the suggested adwords made by Google. So even in what you think is a personal online space, the content of her emails were identified and turned into ‘sale-able’ advertisements. As we use sites such as Facebook and Google as a networking tool it is doing the very same thing by extracting our personal information for its benefit.

Another example would be that you now have to pay Facebook for your posts to reach all of your Friends – it only shows them to those who you interact with most. However, large companies and corporations can pay Facebook to share your post with everyone if you are to mention them in a positive way. For instance “My coffee from Gloria Jeans today was amazing” instead of only going to a handful of your Facebook Friends, Gloria Jeans will pay to have your status reach the maximum audience possible.

References:

Arthur, C 2013, Google+ isn’t a social network; it’s The Matrix, The Guardian, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2013/jun/04/google-plus-the-matrix

Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’ in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world?, pp. 221-224

Killalea, D 2013, Texting, Facebook are the worst ways to break up with someone,
news.com.au, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/texting-facebook-are-the-worst-ways-to-break-up-with-someone/story-fnet09p2-1226669481242

Outcasting 2013, Life in Adwords / Erica Scourti, Outcasting, weblog post, 23 April, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.outcasting.org/2013/04/life-adwords-erica-scourti/

Citizen Journalism

Media convergence has challenged the way journalism has been operating over the past few generations. Citizen journalism is when participants of information play an active role by gathering, analysing and distributing news. This is now integrated into our culture as society is changing the way we receive information by transferring from print media to digital media. Why? Because it’s convenient. Instant. Free. The best part about it all is – you can interact. We as consumers are becoming the producers through blogging, vlogging, and even social networking. Media platforms (i.e. YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress, SoundCloud, Vimeo) allow us to contribute to collective intelligence in the comfort of our own homes, if desired.

I like to receive my news online because it’s usually from people which I know personally. There is no thorough editing process for the information presented to the public. One click and boom. It’s there, online for EVERYONE to see, at any time. I feel information online can be more reliable because you can discover more about an issue by commenting on the source, and there is usually multiple web pages where the story will overlap, OR alternatively you may know the source personally. For example there was a car crash near my house a few months ago. Because many of my Facebook friends live in my area, or pass through here on a daily basis, I knew about this crash within minutes after it had occurred, before I had even gotten out of bed that morning, and before any news station journalist had written or even knew about it. I read details about the car and passengers on various status updates from people who had driven past, or knew the people in the accident. This is where citizen journalism differs from traditional journalists – reading about incidents online from locals you somehow have a connection to – whether it’s someone you knew from school, a colleague, a friend, a friend of a friend… you get my drift. Traditional journalists are struggling to keep up, and I am interested to see what citizen journalism can do in the future.