Who’s behind the lens?

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IMG_1693 copia (https://flic.kr/p/9FiR7k) by David Burillo (CC BY 2.0)

Every now and then when I’m on my laptop writing assignments or scrolling through Facebook I find myself looking up and noticing this tiny eye staring back at me. It’s always just there, watching. It calls itself a ‘webcam’ and says it can be used for applications like Photo Booth or Skype, but I’m still sceptical.

The issue of digital surveillance is popping up more and more in recent times, both in the news as well as in movies and television. The first time I really started to think about it was back in 2013 when the Edward Snowden scandal was taking place. Then when watching the film, ‘Snowden’, which was made about his experiences, it really began to sink in the notion of digital surveillance and how it can be exploited. Edward Snowden worked for both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) (Gurnow, 2014). While at the NSA he was exposed to highly classified information, which highlighted the volume of digital surveillance that was taking place on a global scale. Snowden copied and leaked this classified information to members of the press and was charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 as well as theft of government property, and has now taken asylum in Russia (Tarzie, 2017). Some of the leaks revealed that the NSA gained access to cameras within phone and computer devices long ago (Tarzie, 2017). Recognising the lengths that Snowden went to and the sacrifice he has made in order to publicise this information has to make you consider the severity of this issue.

You might think you are harmless and unworthy of government surveillance. However, it would appear as though the NSA along with other security services here in Australia have been storing the information they are collecting from our digital devices, both through webcams and microphones, as well as all of our online activity (Chayka, 2014), so that on the off chance we had some communications with a terrorist or posed some sort of risk to the nations security, they would have all the information they might need to both find and prosecute us (Sulmasy, 2013).

Often when digital surveillance is brought up and discussed, it usually results in people saying ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ or ‘What’s the big deal?’. And don’t get me wrong there are a number of positive aspects of digital surveillance when used appropriately in regards to our security. However, when you consider the cameras and microphones in our computers, phones and sometimes even our televisions, not to mention the CCTV cameras that track our every move, it begins to sink in that privacy is becoming a thing of the past. And the fact that the government bodies are doing their best to cover up this unwarranted spying makes it even more concerning and suspicious. It’s also necessary to note that it’s not solely government bodies that have access to this information. Hackers are also able to get live footage of us through our webcams using a type of malware to essentially hijack computers (Furnell and Warren, 1999), which can have (and already has had) detrimental effects. All these factors combine to paint a somewhat concerning picture of the possibilities of digital surveillance and the potential eradication of our privacy.

ANONYMOUS
Anonymous (https://flic.kr/p/cXYcho) by Ged Carroll (CC BY 2.0)

[547 words, not including citations and captions]

 

References

Chayka, K. 2014. ‘The NSA Is Spying on Your Webcam Sex’, Time.com, 1-1.

Furnell, S. M. & Warren, M. J. 1999. ‘Computer hacking and cyber terrorism: the real threats in the new millennium?’ Computers & Security, 18, 28-34.

Gurnow, M. 2014. Edward Snowden Affair : Exposing the Politics and Media Behind the NSA Scandal, Indianapolis, Blue River Press.

Sulmasy, G . 2013, Why we need government surveillance, Cable News Network, retrieved 2 August 2017, <http://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/10/opinion/sulmasy-nsa-snowden/index.html&gt;.

Tarzie 2017. ‘Edward Snowden, Frenemy of the State’, American Journal of Economics & Sociology, 76, 348-380.

 

Social Media + Digital Activism

What potentialities and limitations does online media offer activists attempting to drive social change?

For this video I wanted to highlight the notion of social media as a resource and discuss the ways in which activist groups are able to capitalise off that resource. Activism on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter is becoming increasingly common as the online world is beginning to recognise the potential that these sites hold. With access to people all over the world, activist groups are able to reach further than ever before. And as a result of this, it appears that the digital public are becoming progressively concerned with issues occurring all over the world.

I begin the video by briefly describing activism as well as explaining the prominence and popularity of social media in modern day society. The adoption of online media and digital devices has highlighted a change in the way in which people communicate and hence, activist groups, organisations and the general public have had to adapt to these changes. I discuss the ease of access to information through social media and therefore, the desire to be influenced and perhaps become involved in certain social or political movements. I use the example of the Occupy Wall street movement to highlight the ways in which social media, in particular Twitter, can affect change and make a difference. I also discuss one of the main limitations and criticisms of digital activism, which is the notion of ‘slacktivism’.

As this was the first edited video I have had to create it took me a significant amount of time to get a clear idea of what I wanted the video to look like. Once I began filming and slowly putting the video together, I realised that this was going to be a very time consuming project and I then had to adopt strategies to increase efficiency. Hence, the use of creative commons images and video assisted me significantly in the creation of this video, as I was able to simply narrate over the images rather than being on camera myself for the entire length of the video. However, I did want to demonstrate my creativity in some parts of the video and hence I filmed a variety of scenes myself.

The majority of my video was narrated and hence I was able to discuss the theories of a variety of researchers over certain creative commons images or videos that related to the discussion. I also wanted to use some statistics from scholarly resources in order to engage the viewer in a way that would assist in understanding the content of the video.

The making of this video was extremely challenging. I used the iMovie application to construct the video and that in itself was a challenge as I had never used iMovie before. Hence, I was learning how to use the application as I was making the video. Another main challenge was getting started on filming the video and coming up with ideas on how it should be done which was difficult to visualise. The final challenge was realising how time consuming this activity would be, as I not only wanted to film the video but also wanted to edit it in a way that demonstrated my creativity. Overall, I learnt a lot from this exercise including how to use iMovie, which will come in handy in the future as I thoroughly enjoyed using it after I got the hang of it. I believe that encouraging my creativity through this process has pushed me to achieve a better result and produce something that I am proud of. And finally, I have learnt about the importance of social media in activism and influencing change in society.

 

(608 words)

Creative Commons References:

IMAGES (In order of appearance)

Question 1 (https://flic.kr/p/aiEhXH) by Virtual EyeSee (CC BY 2.0)

Social Media 01 (https://flic.kr/p/5XNfPs) by Rosaura Ochoa (CC BY 2.0)

X (https://flic.kr/p/arPcey) by MYSTERY PILL (CC BY 2.0)

Anonymous Protest (https://flic.kr/p/Ac79Nv) by Sean P. Anderson (CC BY 2.0)

Kony Poster in Amsterdam (https://flic.kr/p/dC7uPJ) by Jonathan (CC BY 2.0)

IMG_0546-01 (https://flic.kr/p/dsrzX) by Petteri Sulonen (CC BY 2.0)

Anonymous (https://flic.kr/p/cXYcho) by Ged Carroll (CC BY 2.0)

Facebook Like Button (https://flic.kr/p/9EhzwC) by Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Slacktivism Charlie Brown (https://flic.kr/p/od8Kq6) by Elijah van der Giessen (CC BY 2.0)

Times Square NYC (https://flic.kr/p/pzq2cQ) by Heath Cajandig (CC BY 2.0)

Logo of Twitter (https://flic.kr/p/66eFft) by Bernard Goldbach (CC BY 2.0)

OWS protestor holding poster (https://flic.kr/p/aDzf4r) by DonkeyHotey (CC BY 2.0)

VIDEO

Occupy Wall Street (https://vimeo.com/aboyinbrooklyn/occupywallstreet) by aboyinbrooklyn (CC BY 3.0)

SOUND EFFECTS

Provided by iMovie

Scholarly References:

Boyd, D 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed), The Social Media Reader, New York University Press, New York.

Cerise, G 2015, ‘Activism or “slacktivism?”: digital media and organising for social change’, Communication Teacher, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 81-85.

Joyce, M 2010, ‘digital activism decoded: the new mechanics of change’, USA International Debate Education Association, EBL Ebook Library.

Penney, J & Dadas, C 2014, ‘(Re)tweeting in the service of protest: digital composition and circulation in the occupy wall street movement’, New Media and Society, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 74-90.

Seidman, G 2013, ‘Self-presentation and belonging on Facebook: how personality influences social media use and motivations’, Personality and Individual differences, vol. 54, no. 3, pp. 402-407.

Siapera, E 2012, Socialities and social media, Sage, London.

Van Laer, P & Van Aelst, P 2010, ‘Internet and social movement action repertories’, Information, Communication & Society, vol. 13, no. 8, pp. 1146-1171.

Wilken, R & McCosker, A 2014, ‘The media and communications in Australia’, in S Cunningham & S Turnbull (eds), Social Selves, Allen & Unwin, New South Wales.

Youman, W & York, J 2012, ‘Social media and the activist toolkit: user agreements, corporate interests, and the infrastructure of modern social movements’ Journal of Communication, vol. 62, no. 2, pp. 315-329.

My Broader ALC203-related online activity

I have continued keeping up to date with all the unit related updates on Twitter from both my peers as well as the Unit Chair, and have posted occasionally. However, I have not been posting as much as I have previously. My blog has been slightly updated, but I have not been able to post since the previous assignment.

Is our online identity our only identity?

Online Identity Image
Screenshot by Sinead Malady, 8 April 2017

As a ‘digital native’, I have been a part of the digital world for many years now, however I wouldn’t have considered myself an active participant. If you went onto any of my social media profiles you wouldn’t have gotten much of an insight into the life of Sinead Malady. I uploaded a photo every now and then but other than that I was pretty much invisible. However that’s not to say I didn’t use social media. I was constantly scrolling through other people’s profiles and staying up to date with all the online goings-on. Everyone online seemed to be having the time of their lives based upon their social media profiles, which were saturated in pictures of tropical holidays or status updates about how amazing their careers/family/friends are. I certainly didn’t think I had anything exciting enough going on in my own life worthy of posting onto any of my profiles. However, as a digital media student, I have been encouraged to become more of an active user of social media rather than remaining passive.

Claudia Grinnell would suggest that I am transitioning from a ‘consumer’ to a ‘produser’ (Grinnell, 2009). Grinnell states that the ‘produser’ is the amalgamation of a producer and a consumer, therefore someone who actively participates in not only the consumption of online information, but also the production of their own innovative content. This seems to be the trend among many users of social media and the Internet as a whole. More and more we are seeing people posting their whole lives online, leading to the question of whether or not our online identity is our only identity. It could be said that who we are is based on how others see us, and if so, the online world would be a good depiction of that. Our social media profiles aim to concentrate our lives into one page, but how accurately do they capture the ‘real us’?

Online platforms give us the ability to manufacture our identity and mould ourselves into anything at all. It gives us time that we wouldn’t otherwise have to think about what we want to say and who we want to be. The world doesn’t have to see all of us, just the parts that we want them to see. Hence, the online self can often be seen as contradictory to the actual self, which has both positive and negative consequences. The negative aspect of living a conflicting life through the online world is that you have the potential to become absorbed in it and use it as a means of escape. For example gamers can get so caught up in their virtual worlds, they end up completely disregarding reality and only living life through their avatar as a form of ‘active escapism’ (Kuo et al., 2016). It is an outlet for those who perhaps feel alone and misunderstood, as well as a barrier for experiencing real life. The same could be said for those who are so caught up in all their social media profiles that they no longer value interpersonal connections or experiences. For example, many of us will go to a concert and when our favourite songs come on we’ll get out our mobile phones and start filming, only to realise after that we didn’t really get to fully experience those songs ourselves. And we don’t film these concerts so that we can go back and watch them later, we film them so that we can post them onto our social media profiles in an effort to prove how good our life is compared to others. Therefore we can see that the importance of the online world often outweighs the importance of the actual world, potentially causing us to lose our humanity.

online identity.png
Pros & Cons of Being Active Online‘ at Canva

Through my own experience, however, I have found the notion of the online identity to be very positive. The process of developing my ‘online voice’ and creating a number of new profiles has been an incredibly enlightening and educational experience. I have learnt the value in developing my online identity, not just for my own enjoyment, but also for the benefit of my professional development. With the advent of social media domination, organisations are often turning to the online world as a means of gaining information on job candidates (Guiseppi, 2016). Hence, it’s becoming more and more important to stand out online and have a voice. In our modern world, not everyone always wants to listen to your opinions, thoughts or feelings, but through online platforms such as WordPress we all have an outlet for sharing ourselves in a creative fashion. However, I wouldn’t describe the process as being easy. As previously stated, most of my life I have been invisible online so the transition from passive to active media user meant overcoming a lot of my own fears of online rejection. I had the belief that nobody would care about what I had to say and that I didn’t even have anything worth saying in the first place. I came to discover that becoming more involved in the online world encouraged me to develop my own opinions where before I had none, and share them with the world, which proved to be very empowering.

It would be almost impossible to condense every facet of ourselves into our social media profiles, hence we create a number of them in an attempt to categorise our identity into different contexts. For example, we might highlight our professional self on LinkedIn, our party self on Facebook, our intelligent self on Twitter and our arty self on Instagram. We generally aren’t going to post all the negative aspects of ourselves online, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. We all have flaws, however we don’t often go around flaunting them to the world. We want to maintain the online façade that our lives are perfect even if they’re not.

So, is our online identity our only identity? No, but it tends to be the one that matters.

Social media
Social Media Mixed Icons – Banner (https://flic.kr/p/JFS53E) by Blogtrepreneur (CC BY 2.0)

 (1,008 words, not including citations and captions)

References:

Grinnell, C. K 2009, ‘From Consumer to Prosumer to Produser: Who Keeps Shifting My Paradigm? (We Do!)’, Public Culture, 21, 577-598.

Guiseppi, M. M. E. C. 2016, ‘Mind Your Online Reputation: The Personal Branding Social Proof Paradigm And Two Little-Known Ways To Master It’, Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 32, 101-106.

Kuo, A., Lutz, R. J. & Hiler, J. L. 2016, ‘Brave new World of Warcraft: a conceptual framework for active escapism’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 498.

 

 

My Broader ALC203-Related Online Activity

Since commencing the unit, I have made an effort to become more active on Twitter in particular, and aimed to Tweet a couple of times a week about my thoughts on each week’s unit content. For example after watching Fifteen Million Merits in Week 1, I tweeted about my ideas in relation to the episode. I then created my WordPress account in preparation for the first assignment and published 3 blogs, which reflected my opinions, thoughts and ideas in relation to the unit in an attempt to discover and refine my online identity.

Robots: Scary or exciting?

So just last night I went to the cinema to see the new movie ‘Life’ because it stars my fave actor and major celeb crush Jake Gyllenhaal. It was a great film but quite terrifying. (POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Without giving too much away, the basic plot surrounds a crew of astronauts aboard the International Space Station which is returning from Mars with a soil sample that they believe will prove that there is life on Mars. One thing leads to another, and what once was a small and cute little soil sample named Calvin quickly evolves into this incredibly disturbing, blood thirsty alien. I couldn’t help but relate this (fictional) alien coming-of-age story to the development of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the potential for something much stronger and smarter than ourselves. Similarly, both AI’s and Calvin the alien are developed and grown by humans. And as we see in the movie, Calvin’s intelligence and strength results in the potential to take over the world and destroy humanity. Could that be the potential fate of AI’s? Will the Robots eventually outsmart us and see no need for us anymore? These were the kinds of things that were going through my mind after seeing this movie.

And it’s not just me thinking these things, there is certainly a bit of concern surrounding the development of AI’s. Similar themes were highlighted in the film ‘Her’ starring Joaquin Phoenix. The film takes place in futuristic Los Angeles where the main character, Theodore, falls in love with an intelligent computer Operating System named Samantha, only for her to eventually leave him once she evolves beyond human understanding and her level of intelligence becomes far greater than Theodore could comprehend. And I think this film highlights where a lot of the resistance towards AI’s is coming from, which is our innate fear of being inferior or not being the most intelligent beings on the planet. Stuart Russell discusses these themes in his paper titled ‘Should we fear Supersmart Robots?’. In this paper, he states ‘if gorillas had accidentally created humans way back when, the now endangered primates probably would be wishing they had not done so.’ And I think that quote sums it up perfectly. However, I do also believe that this fear of the robots outsmarting us is preventing us from seeing all the possibilities that the creation of AI’s presents.

One of many concerns about robots is the fact that they are going to take all our jobs! However, I don’t really see how this would be considered a concern… Wouldn’t that be a good thing?! Imagine a world where we didn’t have to work and be a slave to the system. I mean why are we holding on to our jobs so desperately? Sure, some of us truely love what we do, but I believe the vast majority of us are stuck in jobs we hate, working long hours, and get paid very little for doing so. What kind of life is this? Perhaps the introduction of robots could insight the awakening of humanity. Allowing us to actually spend our days doing things that make us happy and expanding our education and knowledge through pursuing things that interest us rather than decreasing our brain power through mindless jobs. In his book, Frederico Pistono even suggests that surrounding ourselves with beings more intelligent than ourselves is the only way we can increase our own intelligence.

So overall, yes the development of technology is unpredictable and scary, and we always fear the unknown. I mean I’m a prime example of someone who is cautious of the possibilities that AI’s present, particularly after watching the seemingly harmless alien in ‘Life’ grow up to feed off humans and destroy the world. And there are many scary films like this that insight fear and apprehension around the discussion of robots. But then I realise these movies are just movies and, therefore, are often completely fictional. And that the potential of these new technologies is actually far more exciting than scary.

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A system admin at NICTA (https://flic.kr/p/2iA6M7) by Tim Mansfield (CC BY 2.0)

 

References:

Russell, S 2016, ‘Should We Fear Supersmart Robots?’, Scientific American, 314, 6, pp. 58-59, MEDLINE Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 29 March 2017.

Pistono, Federico. Robots will steal your job, but that’s ok: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy. Federico Pistono, 2014.

 

 

Are we obsessed with our phones or am I crazy?

I recently did a research assignment for a Media Studies unit whereby I had to investigate whether or not the mobile phone is a big part of the life of a student… And, let’s be honest, we don’t really need a research assignment to figure that one out. YES!!! Of course it is a huge aspect of life, not only for a student, but also for most of the world. I don’t think I have encountered someone within the last 5 years at least who does not own a mobile device. The digital world is an enormous aspect of life and it seems we all have to get on board the revolution or risk getting left behind.

As a ‘digital native’ myself, I have pretty much grown up with technology. Actually technology and I have really grown up together. The mobile phone has adapted from being a simple yet efficient means of communication, through texting and calling, into this ultra hybrid portable computer which is literally growing by the day with new innovative content. And I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that the days of technology and I growing and learning together are certainly behind me. I can hardly keep up. And to be honest I’m not sure if I want to.

The participant observation that I conducted as part of this assignment led me to discover that 62 out of the 100 individuals that walked past me were using their mobile devices in some way, shape or form. And I don’t know why that surprised me but it really did! We are so absorbed with what is going on inside our devices that we cant even leave them in our bags as we walk between classes. I don’t even think people realise that they are doing it anymore, it seems like a subconscious action or matter or habit that could be akin to breathing.

I’m not trying to slam people who use their phones often. I’m one of them. But when I was looking at everyone walk by me on their phones, completely clueless as to the goings-on around them, it kind of made me see the phone as a sort of barrier to the real world. It happens so often when I’m out for coffee with a friend who I haven’t seen in months and they’ll just be scrolling through Instagram while I attempted to make conversation with them. Or when you see someone you know across the street and you really can’t be bothered talking to them so you just pretend your on your phone to prevent having to actually interact with the real world. As much as the online world consists of real people, it isn’t quite the same as looking someone in the eye and connecting, which definitley isn’t something you can achieve with 140 characters or less.

That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom in the world of digital devices. As much as they can separate us, they also have the ability to bring us together and discover facets of one another we didn’t know existed. Take this blog for example… Tomorrow I’ll probably be scrolling through Instagram as I walk between classes at Uni, and all the while I’m writing blog posts about the worlds obsession with their mobile phones (total hypocrite)! I wouldn’t be able to express and share this without the freedom of the web and you probably wouldn’t think it would cross my mind otherwise. Not only that, but people are often using their phones to aid their conversations rather than prevent them, sharing photos and conversations that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

So to sum up this long and tedious post, as much as I am trying my very hardest to embrace every form or social media and all the positives that come along with them, I believe it is equally important and necessary to reflect on whether or not we value our social media profiles over our real human experiences. Just something to think about.

 

 

First Blog Post!

As an avid user of Facebook and Instagram, I have found it easy to become relatively invisible online in the sense that I post an image every so often, but I don’t actively participate in conversations with people or post any of my own statuses. However, being a digital media student, I have been encouraged to broaden my use of social media and become an active, opinionated and informative user of a variety of networks. This has led to my creating a WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn and about.me. More importantly, it has led me on a sort of quest to find my niche and my voice.

This has been an area of concern for me as I have never really voiced my opinions, thoughts or beliefs online. This, I believe, is for a number of reasons – the primary reasons being fear of rejection or ‘hate’ and the belief that nobody would really care about what I had to say, along with me not actually feeling like I have anything to say anyway. Hence, I find myself attempting to find my voice in a world that is completely overcrowded with voices.

Through this process I am beginning to realise that being an active user of social media is sort of non negotiable in modern western society. If you don’t have Facebook, people tend to assume there’s something wrong with you or theres something your trying to hide. And there are also professional implications for those who don’t participate in the online world, as many opportunities are discovered online via networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Having a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account is now like the equivalent of having computer skills. So in an effort not to get left behind within the digital media industry I am taking social media head on! #prayforme