I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I’m kind of glad that there is some censorship online. I’m glad that censorship exists. Obviously I don’t want people taking it too far, but there are some things that I just don’t want to ever see.
But it’s always about balance. I think that China might have over done it. The Great Firewall is a little frightening a concept for me who can generally just do whatever I can think of when I want to go online. It cuts people off from Facebook, form looking up their own country’s history and both of those are things that are important to me. The Chinese government is using the tools it has to retain it’s power (Zhang, 2006) and to make sure people don’t find things they find offensive.
These guys have taken the complete polar opposite approach to the Australian government which basically say “If you’ve got a problem let us know and we’ll sort it out.” (ACMA, 2013) They rely on complaints made by their populace rather than actively seeking out things that are offensive or outright dangerous.
And I think there’s a healthy balance to be attained here. The Chinese system is quite oppressive (in my opinion). The Australian system means that people can hide the really scary stuff as long as they don’t spread it around too much publicly. There should really be a middle ground, with censors taking a more active role in blocking things deemed universally offensive while keeping their ears open to the complains of people if something went under their radar. I have no idea how the hell to do this. In 2001 CSIRO investigated automated filters and found that they were severely lacking. Maybe that needs to be investigated again, maybe something else could come up. At the moment though, online censorship is about as good as it’s going to get in Australia.
Lena L. Zhang. “Behind the ‘Great Firewall’: Decoding China’s Internet Media Policies from the Inside.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 12.3 (2006): 271-291
Australian Communications and Media Authority: Internet. http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/About/The-ACMA-story/Regulating
Lucky us, we live in a world with media and self publishing everywhere. There isn’t a second going by in silence online, opinions from everyone about everything fly through the ether. Except work. You’re not allowed to complain about work. It’s 2015, everyone and their mums and unfortunately their workplace is on the internet. Since businesses are slower to adapt to new media in part because of their bureaucracy and in part because they’re businesses trying to make the most of every new platform. In an effort to avoid damage to their reputations in more permanent discourse platforms (anywhere online) businesses create digital media policies: extensions to workplace contracts that cover employees conduct online even while off the clock.
One of the more extreme examples of this, which didn’t go into effect so don’t grab your torches and pitchforks just yet, was the Commonwealth Banks first attempt at a social media policy which basically requested employees report anyone who they saw saying slanderous things online. Failure to do so would result in disciplinary action (Hannan, 2011). This is kind of insane but I understand why the business thought it could get away with this. If you’re on their payroll it’s in your best interest to make sure that the business keeps running optimally and i mean, they’ll call you at home anyway to do work; might as well report people complaining about the bank while you’re at it.
But it didn’t go through because turning your workforce into your own online police force is just a little terrible.
By contrast, Cisco only requests that you distinctly separate yourself from Cisco. They even provide the exact sentence on how to do this on different platforms. For me that seems like a bit much too, telling employees exactly what they can say. But what else are you going to do? The business doesn’t want people to represent them without the proper training or without the proper planning. Again this ties in to them just wanting to have control of their image and every facet they can control is definitely good for them. It’s just a matter of how exactly to do this moving forward with each and every new platform that will inevitably spring forth. Cisco can’t have a sentence for every platform that will arise, they just need to be prepared more than Commonwealth Bank was.
For those of you who weren’t aware, hackers weren’t always the keyboard warriors that you think of today. The first hacker was not Neo. It was a guy who was a fantastic whistler. It started with people experimenting with the first automated telephone switchboards and the way they received data. Gabriella Coleman attributes the birth of this phreaking to Joe Engressia who worked out at a young age whistling at certain frequencies would disconnect the line. He was televised and inspired others to experiment with their own devices (2012).
These people were curious about how their technology worked and the modern hackers started off the same, they were probing the depths of their new toys and enjoy breaking things apart to to piece them together and see how they work.
In class we were discussing this topic and it became apparent from the presentations that hackers have evolved into trolls. Trolls, the unsavory name for those who see themselves as online pranksters, became synonymous with hackers. Hackers use their greater than average access to systems to play pranks and antogonise others. There’s also been people connecting hackers and trolls together with Anonymous, the organisation that fights for the internet and information freedom. But are they really trolls?
Trolls do thing because they are funny. They do things “for the lulz” (Coleman, 2014), just because they are funny and find the results entertaining. Trolls serve their own sense of humour first and as I said above, hackers are more concerned with exploring things and finding how they work and maybe exploiting things for personal benefit.
Now it’s a little blurry who’s doing what. If Anonymous are breaking into government websites and changing them to spread their own political message, which group do they fall under? Are they hackers, looking into the system and fiddling with it or are they trolls, doing it because they think it’s fun and it antagonises their target?
The distinction isn’t clear by an stretch but I think any individual could fall on a spectrum. If we had trolls and one end and hackers at the other, an individual could lean more to one side of the other but it’s nearly impossible to make a clean distinction.
This cybercultures class is really interesting. Cybercultures sounds like a term used to describe stuff that’s happening in the future, like the cyberpunk world I wrote about last week. Sometimes, you touch on something much closer to home, like interactivity.
Interactivity, on the scale we have it today, hasn’t really existed before. It’s not the best word for what people are describing though. You could always write letters to the editor or phone up and make requests on your favourite radio show, but today, you can tweet out to your favourite YouTube personality (who you’re paying through Patreon) and tell them exactly what you thought of their latest playing of Happy Wheels. And maybe they’ll tweet back!
Interactivity as it’s used today is more about the ease of access people have to their media and it’s producers. And over all it’s a good thing. People have more control and influence over the things that they care about. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re one of 10,000 people trying to get the attention of the celebrity du jour then you’ll likely get ignored or drowned out. The principle is solid, it’s just a matter of breaking the boundary and standing out.
I think the thing that makes today’s interactivity stand out and above the old forms of interactivity is that it’s much more open. Letters to the editor are not only selected behind closed doors, but no one should be reading them except the writer and the selection team. If I leave a comment on a public video, or the appropriate reddit thread, everyone can see it and respond including the author and their staunchest defenders. People communicating in this way should lead to a healthier discussion on pretty much every topic, so long as everyone agrees not to spout their beliefs in a similar manner to a hose.
Seeing as I had such a fun time writing before about the memex I thought I’d continue talking about what people thought of the future. Isn’t it a dark and dreary place…
Sometimes the future is dark and scary
Sometimes it’s green
from the hopefully upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game trailer
Screenshot with appropriate quote from Deus Ex: Human Revolution (and sometimes the future is orange)
All of these worlds are referred to as being cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is the dark and dirty future that technology would have enabled if laws and regulation didn’t catch up to them. Also it’s raining and everyone wears leather trenchcoats. These stories were, and continue to be a sort of almost cautionary tale of the evils of letting technology take over the world. God forbid that happens.
Tomas refers to the people in these types of worlds, inspired by Gibsons writings, as “technophilic”. Peoples lives revolve around, depend upon, aspire to be more technological. But the part that confuses me is that that’s almost where we are today. Okay, we don’t have blades coming out of our arms but we have the worlds information in our pockets. We have smart watches and smart glasses and smart food.
Every day we move closer to the world that is cyberpunk, just with more rules; Hopefully no one will be able to break into my brain and ruin me. I’m just glad that no one is too keen on the silly leather trench coats anymore.
Source: David Tomas. “The Technophilic Body: On Technicity in William Gibson’s Cyborg Culture.” The Cybercultures Reader. Ed. David Bell and Barbara Kennedy. London: Routledge, 2000. 175-89.
So in all honesty this should have been up earlier but I’ve been slack and didn’t plan ahead. What I should have done on Monday after my DIGC335 (Cyberculture) class was write about what we did and the readings for that week.
We were looking at the ways that different ages have predicted the future. In 1945 Vannevar Bush wrote As We May Think in which he proposed devices such as the “memex” which acted remarkably like a mix of tumblr and reddit on a giant paperback locked into a desk.
What’s interesting to me is that this device was thought up in the early 20th century but only really came to fruition in the past decade just with more electricity powering the machine and its display. Which leads to the question, do these predictions guide us? The mobile phone was originally displayed to the public as the “communicator” in the television show Star Trek. And it acted like a mobile phone but it still wasn’t the same.
The communicator, just like the memex, was a simple prediction that was functionally similar to the tools we have today. And even then the way that they were presented was as a product of their time. The memex still used sheets! Things were hooked up via cables! It was sized and shaped like a desk.
That last paragraph was typed on glass that detects my finger on a virtual keyboard.
There are some glaring differences but the end result is still quite close. When people predict the future, it is in no way set in stone but writing these things gives them more weight than just an idea. What would be interesting to see is if the people working on advancing technology look for predictions to fill or if they see a need and simply try to fill it.
That’s definitely something too look into.
Alrighty then, been a while so I did this and I might be a bit rusty but here I go…
To all the new people (yes all two of you) welcome to my blog! What started out as something slightly personal that shouldn’t have been public has now transitioned, perhaps poorly, into my ramblings and some assignments related to my uni work studying my Communications and Media degree. To start us off in this new year I’m studying two courses. One titled Cybercultures and the other Digital Game Cultures. Despite my writing practice I don’t think words alone can describe how keen I am to be studying these subjects.
I am far too keen to see the way technology is evolving and will continue to evolve in Cybercultures. Both the technology itself and the way that society adapts around it is fascinating to me as someone who was born slightly too late to fully understand the way the internet changed things. This should be a fun subject.
Digital Game Cultures is, to put it simply, my life outside of university. I play games. I try to play lots of games. If I like a game one of the first things I’ll do is go to reddit to see if other people liked it or appreciated the same aspects that I do. And this subject encourages us to make our own game and our own community. I imagine it’ll be a hectic ride but one that is important to my personal growth as well as my university education.
Like I said, this should be a good university session.