Hacking the preconceptions

Hacktivism is the subversive use of computers and computer networks to promote a political agenda. With roots in hacker culture and hacker ethics, its ends are often related to the free speech, human rights, or freedom of information. Hacktivism has been, and still is, under intense debate as to whether or not it causes more good than harm. Whilst most hacktivism is non-violent and has been seen to have positive impacts on our political issues, it is still considered illegal, and ‘hacking’ still has the negative stigma of being wrong, intrusive, childish and selfish attached to it.

An example of a strong and well-known group of hacktivists are ‘Anonymous’. Anonymous have been seen to be involved with many social and political issues throughout the past few years and have successfully hacked into certain organisations and had powerful impacts. One example is when the group successfully took down more than 40 illegal child pornography websites. The hackers specifically targeted Lolita City, a file-sharing site used by pedophiles, and leaked the names of the site’s 1,589 active members to the public. This is just one of many examples where hacking is used for positive reasons. The meme below explores how hacking still has that negative preconception attached to it, a conception that needs to be changed when it comes to examples like ‘Anonymous’.

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Social media in a cape

It is clear that in an online environment, “participation is addictive.” It is much easier and less intimidating to be involved with a movement online than it is in other environments due to the fact that we are all so used to being behind a screen. Online activism is fast making a name for itself thanks to the chance for fast mobilisation and mass involvement. Anyone who has access to the Internet has the opportunity to be part of the social network revolution. With over 3.2 billion users constantly connected to this network of peripheries on a worldwide scale, you would think online activism would be quite successful, and this is the case in many examples, 2 of which detailed below. However, online activism has sometimes been coined slacktivism due to the fact that it requires very minimal effort for the individuals involved. Look through the infographic below to learn more about online activism and if you’re feeling inspired, check out this awesome program  http://www.doitinadress.com/ which would greatly benefit from your becoming involved online 🙂

social network revolutions

Looking back and looking forward: BCM240 reflection

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https://www.pinterest.com/pin/188166090657459928/

To reflect on my blogging experience over the past few months, I want to return to my introduction post for my university subject #BCM240. In that post, I referred to a quote by Nelson Mandela that I think of at least weekly: “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” This quote makes me stop and think every single time I read it, without fail. Even though I only wrote that initial post at the start of August, a short two months later I can look back at that initial post and realise how I myself have changed as a person, and also how I have changed as a blogger. Whilst the content of that post remains unchanged, the blog that it finds itself a part of has completely transformed. WordPress can be a bit of a maze (I don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent trying to get my widgets to work properly), and so Google became my best friend in terms of refining all the little details, but this post definitely helped in terms of layout. From a boring, impersonal and hard to navigate blog, I think I have now created a blog that represents me and helps me to interact with the rest of the blogosphere. All thanks to the knowledge of BCM240.

Again in that initial post, I spoke of standing at the top of a mountain at night and looking out over a city or the like, and only being able to see thousands of tiny orange dots. I used this to describe my place in the media space: I am a tiny orange dot. My place is small, insignificant, surrounded, yet bright. And this hasn’t changed much. I still don’t have the desire to own a large, successful blog. But my reasons for blogging have definitely altered. I now feel that I deserve to, and I am capable of, speaking and sharing my opinions on certain topics. I am proud to have my face on my blog and I am happy with how rounded and complete it feels.

When starting afresh with my blog this session, I made a real decision to actually read other people’s blogs, to comment on other posts, to use my blogging opportunities to leverage other university opportunities; this session I am working on a project called UOW Wanderlust in partnership with UOW Goes Global and it has been great to be able to leverage that project with my established blog and vice versa. But by far the best thing about blogging this session has been the content.
The most enjoyable and most enlightening aspect of this subject was definitely the collaboration aspect. I had the opportunity to talk to my mum and family about things that we had never really had an in-depth conversation about. I learnt things about her childhood that just don’t come up in everyday conversation – hearing about her experiences with the television and cinema and being able to compare that to my upbringing was actually incredible, and it was really nice to set out that time almost every week. As well as the enjoyment it brought my mum and myself, I think it also produced some of my most engaging content – the family stories and personal insights are the posts that I don’t cringe at every time I read them over, they are much more entertaining to read. These experiences also taught me a lot about the power and importance of collaborative research and how often I engage in it without even appreciating or acknowledging it.

Something that acted as a bit of a barrier for my blogging experience was readership and growth. Whilst I have never blogged for the purpose of gaining a wide readership, receiving views and feedback is something that greatly advantages my writing and my blog and so I worked to grow my blog this session. One of the main ways I did this was by reading, liking and commenting on other people’s blogs. From there, people responded to my comments and would often end up viewing or liking one of my posts. I used other platforms such as Twitter to share my posts for all my university subjects and followed a lot more accounts on Twitter, hoping that they would see my tweets and go on to read my blog. I found this article to be a massive help in terms of growth – and it comes directly from the pro’s who know how to blog like a boss. Whilst my readership was not hugely widespread, it has definitely grown throughout the past session, reaching to a total of 24 countries – something I am hugely proud of.

My biggest challenge when it comes to blogging is finding the motivation to do it. Whilst I do enjoy writing once I start, I really struggle with the starting part. There is a quote by the author Anne Tyler that states, “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” And this describes me perfectly – I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people that decides they feel like blogging, and I’m starting to think that that’s okay, because it is simply not one of my passions, even though I by no means don’t enjoy it. One thing I found hugely helpful is to find things that inspire me. Before I would write each post, I would set up a music playlist that gives me that goose bump, inspired feeling and I would look at incredible photos from around the world (Chris Burkard, thank you for making me blog). I found that once I was inspired, the words sort of fell out, and I could just go along and clean them up later on. So that is what I have learnt and that is what works for me. I’m sure that every public writer has some other method of madness, and that’s awesome, because it is this diversity of opinions, personalities and styles that makes up our incredible blogosphere.

The tail/tale of Netflix

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Chris Anderson states that “the future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream.” This is a fact that Netflix is well aware of and has utilised successfully within its company to appeal to a wide range of audiences and gain worldwide success.

The concept of the Long Tail is based around the knowledge that “our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail”

Click through this prezi to explore deeper into the subscription video on demand (SVOD) service that is Netflix and gain an understanding on how the long tail effect has been intrinsic to Netflix’s success.

A buffet of distractions to feed our short attention spans

I think it’s pretty safe to say, based off personal experiences and the flood of research on the topic, that our attention spans are getting shorter. There are too many distractions nowadays to keep the same level of attention that was most likely experienced 10 years ago. When our attention wavers, we reach for our mobiles. So when we are tempted with a buffet of devices to feed our short attention span, can we really be blamed for getting a little bit distracted? If I’m being completely honest, I’ve reached for or looked at my phone after finishing each sentence in this introduction. It’s a serious issue.

To delve a tiny bit into this concept of attention spans, I asked a friend of mine who I attend most of my lectures with to count how many times I check my phone during one of our weekly lectures. I asked her to not tell me which lecture out of the 3 we attend together she would be watching me in and I also asked her to not make it obvious that she is watching or counting. Whilst a very small and relatively unreliable experiment, I just wanted to get a rough understanding of how often I get distracted when I should be concentrating. Correspondingly, there has been quite a bit of conjecture recently around the effectiveness of lectures and whether they deserve a place in university education. Perhaps the design of this experiment is evidence enough of how little attention is given to lectures: my friend could literally spend an entire lecture watching me get distracted and it didn’t bother her at all.
Moving on, the biggest flaw in this experiment I thought would be the fact that I was aware I was being watched. But surprisingly, after half an hour of a marketing lecture that makes no sense to you, you forget about everything and only focus on the world of Facebook, which is good because that happened to be the lecture she decided to watch me in. Embarrassingly, and worryingly for that matter, I looked at my phone approximately 56 times over a 2 hour period, whether that meant just clicking a button to see if I had any new notifications, or picking up my phone for a longer amount of time. After my friend told me that number, I had a think about what I would be touching my phone for. Since my friend was somewhat trying to pay attention and also not make it obvious that she was watching, she rarely saw what I was actually doing on my phone, so it was up to my conscious mind to remember what subconscious zombie ash does on her phone during lectures. Most of my time I think was spent responding to messages or emails, followed closely by Facebook and Instagram scrolling, endlessly refreshing trying to find something new, like looking in the fridge for a second time even though you know there’s nothing good in there. But after looking at my phone Internet history, I actually spend time doing things that I need to do (yes, I need to shop), but shouldn’t be doing in a lecture – things like submitting my work timesheets, shopping, researching holiday details and looking for things to do this weekend.

Even though this was just a small experiment, it is undoubtedly clear that we are surrounded by distractions and perhaps before the time of personal devices we had much longer attention spans – however I’m sure people found ways to get distracted during school long before iPhones.

Citizen Journalism: getting the whole story

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Image watching the news back in the 1970s. Imagine how difficult it would’ve been to receive the full story, fast, when we were all so disconnected from each other around the world. I can imagine how the only stories that were covered in-depth with on-scene footage and first-hand interviews would’ve been the stories that happened within a close proximity to the television station. The only opinion or perspective you would see would be that of the news editor and the only footage we would see would be that captured by the designated cameraman. Now fast-forward to today and think about the type of news broadcasts we see everyday. Just within one single news story we may hear from 4 different perspectives, we would get the opinions of people all around the world, we would see a minimum of 2 different camera shots of the one scene and we would most likely have some form of viewer-submission in there too. Just within one minute. Now combine this with the breaking news exposure we receive as a result of social media and it is overwhelming to think about how much more we learn than the news-watchers 40 years ago.
One phenomenon that has surfaced as a direct result of technological advances is citizen journalism. The concept of citizen journalism is based upon public citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information.” Any ordinary person can pull out their smart phone in the street and film the breaking news that is happening before them and then share it to the world through social media. This has obviously led to a huge influx in the perspectives and opinions we see surrounding a particular story and we are at high risk of receiving incorrect or ill-informed information. However this is where the concept of bridges made of pebbles comes into importance. Yes, one pebble (social media post) will not have the strength to act as a bridge and tell a complete story, but when you have thousands of pebbles all in the one place (social media platform) it is clear which pebbles are repeated and can build a bridge that holds the entire weight of a story.
The meme above explores how anyone can be a citizen journalist and how technology has changed traditional news media forever.

Can I take a photo of you?

source: http://www.richardhartley.com/2012/05/what-to-see-at-london-festival-of-photography/
source: http://www.richardhartley.com/2012/05/what-to-see-at-london-festival-of-photography/

As a pretty open and sharing person, the topic of ethics in photography is something I don’t put a lot of thought into. In my opinion, and after chatting to a close photography friend, most of the time the best photos are the candid ones where strangers don’t know that a photo is being taken – honestly, stop and think about how weird it is that we all stop what we are doing, smile and pose to capture a moment when really the best way to remember a moment is to have a photo of exactly what that is. Out of every photo I have ever been in or taken, my favourites are by far those when no one is looking at the camera. And so for this post, even though it is a struggle, I’m going to try to adopt an open mind and try to see both sides of the ethical dilemma of public space photography.

When public space photography is okay:

For Art’s sake: I am forever in awe of art, and so I am definitely in support of this argument. There are times that public space photography is incredibly powerful in telling a story or evoking emotions, times where a staged or posed photo just will not send the same message. And it is not just artists who are in support of this; the law seems to agree with the use of public space photography for art. An example of this is the case of Arne Svenson and his exhibition, ‘The Neighbors’. Svenson took photos of New York residents inside their Manhattan apartments without their consent and after stumbling across the photos, two subjects filed a complaint against Svenson since the photos featured their children half-naked and were used to promote the exhibition where they would be put up for sale, thus constituting advertising and trade. However, the court ruled in favour of Svenson since the photos were works of art.

Journalism: It is clear that citizen journalism has had a huge impact on the way we connect with, and the insight we gain about stories around the world. Public space photography in terms of citizen journalism is in my eyes the most acceptable form of public space photography. Without smartphones we wouldn’t have on-the-ground evidence of events that occur around the world, evidence that if not for public space photography and citizen journalism might not ever be seen by the public due to mainstream media control and also the safety of standard journalists being in certain locations. And so, when it comes to journalism, public space photography should be acceptable, however, there are definitely instances where blurring of faces or caution may need to be implemented.

Others: Through personal experience, there are other circumstances where public space photography is acceptable. Such as people taking photos to showcase people doing the wrong thing, like damaging or stealing people’s property or behaving inexcusably in public.

When public space photography is not okay:

Consent: There are too many instances where people have been left feeling embarrassed or violated after a photo or footage of themselves is viewed by many in the public domain without their consent. One example that comes to my mind is when mainstream news outlets far too often take footage of overweight people walking in a public space and use that footage in a story. Now I’m no channel 7 cameraman but I can almost guarantee that consent is not received to film them for a fat shaming story. Building on that, footage of people looking at their phones too often, listening to music when crossing the road, being too drunk at a festival, etc. all depict the people in a negative light and consent would never be given – and so the subject could be watching the news at home and suddenly see themselves on a million-viewer program looking awful. To me, this is where unconsented public space photography becomes an issue. However, according to this article, when taking images of groups of people in public spaces or at events, “it is [sometimes] not practical, or indeed necessary, to obtain consent from people present.” The critical factor, according to the article, is whether or not a person is identifiable.

Getting in the way of the moment: Admittedly, this argument has less to do with public space photography and more to do with public space media use, but I think the two go hand-in-hand. We all know what I’m talking about – the habit of pulling out an iPhone and putting it in between the moment and ourselves. We are a technologically immersed culture that feels the need to document everything we do and share it with the world – I’m not saying that I’m not thoroughly guilty of this too – but when the public space media use gets in the way of the real world and the real moment, this is when it becomes an issue. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been brave enough to do this, but not taking your phone to something – for me, it’s when I hike – makes the moment all the more special. Sure, take a camera to capture the memory, but there is something about being alone at the top of a mountain looking at an incredible view and only keeping that moment to yourself for a while that makes you feel so ridiculously insignificant, in the best kind of way.

So that’s where I stand in terms of public space photography and media use and the ethics of it all. Whilst my indecisiveness didn’t really achieve anything, I think we are all capable of knowing right and wrong to an extent anyway. Eric Kim and Bruce Gilden hold a similar view, they say that ethical feels right. Exploitative doesn’t. We are capable of deciphering this.

Who do you choose?

The long fought battle. iOS vs. Android. But why has the battle been fought for so long? Why are people always so strictly and firmly either team Apple or team Android, what is it about the two that makes them worthy of backing?

It is because the two are so completely different. If the two softwares were similar, people wouldn’t be so fussed on which phone to use since they act in similar ways. But this is not the case when it comes to iOS and Android: to change from one team to the other, you have to entirely change the person you are. I am proud to say that I am, and will always be (I think. We’ll see.) on Team Apple, and I say that with some authority because I have owned Androids in the past. For me, I enjoy having a simple phone that I can tailor to myself a tiny bit – I do not need to be able to modify every aspect of my phone like other people do. And for me to become team Android, I would have to gain an intense interest in spending hours modifying the phone exactly how I want it, and then a few more hours so the perfectionist in me is satisfied. The below infographic, created with Jayden Cross, delves deeper into this burning battle and highlights aspects of the systems that make a person either Team iOS or Team Android.

iOS vs. Android

Between four walls

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Medieval times, most believe, saw the Lord have total control of the land you owned – you pretty much needed permission for anything to do with the land, even though you were the owner. These medieval ways have followed us into the 21st century in the form of digital feudalism. Many platforms attempt to, and succeed in, keep users within their walled garden that is their product. An example of this is Apple, which keeps users tied to their platforms by restricting transferring across different brand platforms; for example, if you purchase an app on your iPhone, it can only be transferred to other Apple products. In this way, Apple has total control and keeps users attached to their products. Within these walled gardens, information flow can be used for surveillance if the data is within a walled garden. Facebook is an example of this; it uses cookies of browsing history to examine your likes, social connections and what you talk about. This data can then be used for strategic target marketing such as a targeted advertisement down the side of your newsfeed.

The above infographic explores the concept and transition of medieval feudalism to modern digital feudalism in slightly more details and allows us to see the control a walled garden creates.

The end of the drive-in: the cinema from the 70’s to now

I couldn’t possibly count how many times I’ve been to the movies – but considering I saw Twilight 10 times at the cinemas, I’m going to go with a lot. There is something so much more exciting about watching a movie on the big screen rather than on my bedroom television. Maybe it’s the mass of people all enjoying the same thing at the same time as you, maybe it’s the incredible sound and image quality, or maybe it’s the suspense of waiting for a movie to finally come out and the satisfaction when you finally see it for the first time. Whatever it is, obviously cinema is a much-loved thing, and has been for quite a while.

source: http://watvhistory.com/2011/09/wa-history-from-telegram-to-tv-part-3-of-5/
source: http://watvhistory.com/2011/09/wa-history-from-telegram-to-tv-part-3-of-5/

When planning a cinema trip however, it is clear that Torsten Hägerstrand’s constraints play a pretty substantial role in deciding whether or not to make the effort. These constraints are:

  1. Can I get there?
  2. Can I get there on time?
  3. Do I have the authority to be there?

The first two constraints are the those that have the greatest impact on my cinema-going. If I was to plan to go to the movies within the next few days, the biggest things I’d have to consider would be is it worth the money and can I justify wasting a few hours out of my intense schedule just to watch a movie – probably not.

It is interesting to compare my struggles to the experiences my mum has growing up with the cinema. I sat down with mum to hear about her prime cinema-going days and unfortunately some stories about her drive-in dates.

image source: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/05/where-are-australias-drive-in-theatres/
image source: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/05/where-are-australias-drive-in-theatres/

My mum spent a lot more time at the drive-in than she did at the cinema, simply because the drive-in was closer to her house and her uncle worked there so she never had to pay. She also just enjoyed the drive-in experience more than the cinema. With a smile, she remembers almost every weekend she would spend her days at the beach with friends and then head to the drive-in at night. In this way, there were no restrains on what people could wear – in fact, mum doesn’t remember there being many rules at all, except that every person had to pay for a ticket – of course this wasn’t abided by all the time and people used to sneak in car boots to avoid the fee.
When she did attend the cinema, it would be a big trip to the city with her relatively large family. This trip seems relatively excessive when I consider how easy it is for me to just randomly decide to go to the cinema that is 20 minutes from my house, check what is showing and buy tickets online in minutes.
When I ask mum about how much the cinema has changed since her teenage years, sound, seat and image quality are the biggest improvements in her eyes. Other than that and the use of a roll of film, the cinema has remained relatively consistent throughout the years: the seating layout is almost identical, the standard cinema food is the same (hallelujah), there are still those few people who won’t stop talking and there is still that couple making out up the back.

To end our conversation, mum has hope for the future of the cinema. She believes that it has been around for such a long time and really acts as a sort of right of passage for when a teenager first goes to the cinema by themselves. Whilst obviously, and excitingly, the technology, storylines and quality will improve, mum and I believe that the cinema is too important to loose, regardless of Hägerstrand’s constraints.