The Necessity of Anonymous in the Information Age

 

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Lack of transparency and advances in communications technology make the worldwide hacktivist network ‘Anonymous’ a necessary function of the twenty-first century. Society has entered the information age, where communication has become inherently associated with the economy and culture (McChesney 2015). New technologies allow for networked communication, providing a platform where the organisational aspects of protests, riots and social movements can occur (Fuchs 2014). Referring to forms of collective action motivated by political, economic or cultural objectives, social movements rely on the unification of individual members (Fuchs 2014). Organised online social actions, resistance movements and acts of hacktivism have gained popularity during the last few years (Dick 2012).
screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-3-23-31-pmDescribing itself as ‘the 21st century enlightenment’ (Fuchs 2014), Anonymous are an international collective of cyber activists (Hammer & Khalia 2013). Anonymous and similar initiatives have altered the landscape of the internet (Treadwell 2013). Providing anyone who agrees with the objectives the opportunity to become Anonymous, their actions demonstrate the power of a collective (Terzis 2011). Various Anonymous operations have advocated freedom of information (Treadwell 2013), counteracted abuses of power (Beyer 2014), and overcome ideological influences (Sorell 2015). Despite their ambiguity of purpose, their selective operations appear to be motivated by cases of social abuse (Klein 2015). Anonymous are commonly referred to as ‘hacktivists’ a term combining computer hacking and activism (Goode 2015). While many question whether hacktivism has a place in the information age and progressive digital politics (Goode 2015), it can be argued due to lack of transparency and advances in communications technology, Anonymous are a necessary function of the twenty-first century.

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 (Chrome.google.com 2016)

Since its arrival the internet has been adopted as a platform of political speech and social action (Dick 2012). Despite attempts of repression, censorship and surveillance (Dick 2012), new technologies are constantly increasing our ability to communicate, questioning the current freedom of communication protections (Duffy 2009). Many have expressed concerns regarding the political motivations of governments who pursue internet censorships (Duffy 2009). Dick (2012) argues implementing censorship compromises freedom of access to information and freedom of expression, leaving established democracies vulnerable and open to regression. The concept of freedom of information entails communications of all forms should not be supressed and that accurate public information is widely accessible, free from notions of censorship or punishment (Beyer 2014). This concept is aimed to increase government and corporate transparency, ultimately supporting democratic discourse (Beyer 2014).

Alongside other freedom of information advocates Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, Anonymous’ operations challenge powerful institutions and provoke reform through collective action (Klein 2015). An instance of this would be Operation Avenge Assange in 2010 (Mansfield-Devine 2011). Aiming to draw attention to the actions of WikiLeaks’ adversaries, who attempted censorship, Anonymous identified and attacked those responsible (Hampson 2012). Attacks were launched against organisations MasterCard, Visa and PayPal, who prevented payments to WikiLeaks, US senator Joe Lieberman and politician Sarah Palin (Mansfield-Devine 2011). Anonymous issued the following statement regarding the operation, “While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same: we want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we cannot say what we think and not express how we feel (Mansfield-Devine 2011).” Whenever Anonymous has appeared in the news or has trended online, individuals have inundated Anonymous community spaces (Beyer 2014), making their objective to raise awareness a success. Through actions and declarations, this operation proved Anonymous support freedom of information, freedom of expression and democratic discourse. Where governments and corporations were able to impose their will in the past (Bertola 2010), Operation Avenge Assange displays while institutions can abuse the power of the internet, online communities like Anonymous can counteract censure with collective action (Beyer 2014), making them a necessary function.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-3-27-05-pm

The internet has shifted power from governments and corporations to independent citizens (Bertola 2010). Historically powerful institutions were able to exert their will despite general opposition (Bertola 2010). However, globalisation of the internet has created a worldwide stakeholder group, giving power to individuals lacking it in the traditional sense (Bertola 2010). Using collaborative efforts, citizens of the world can provoke political action (Bertola 2010). And while individuals have strengthened from transitioning to networks, so too have authoritative powers (Krapp 2005). Krapp (2005) suggests ‘citizens of information society are governed less by concentrated coercion and more by ideological power.’ The internet’s networking and communication opportunities support democratic discourse and undermine any attempts of commercial or ideological influence (McChesney 2015). These platforms can leave governments and organisations vulnerable, rebalancing and shifting power (Sorell 2015).
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A direct example of Anonymous using the internet to enlighten individuals, rebalance power and counteract ideological influence was during Operation Tunisia in 2011. Anonymous learnt of a Tunisian marketplace vendor setting himself on fire after his goods were seized by the dictatorship (Kelly 2012). After investigating the dictatorship, Anonymous deemed the Tunisian government guilty of suppressing internet access to its citizens (Kelly 2012). Their response was to attack government websites as well as providing Tunisian citizens with software to counteract censor blocks (Kelly 2012). This operation demonstrated governments and organisations can become vulnerable to the actions of a small group (Sorell 2015). Anonymous exposed the vulnerabilities of a dictatorship, rebalancing power by providing Tunisian citizens with information free of censorship and regulation (Sorell 2015). The Tunisian government’s actions of restricting access to information and freedom of expression display how the internet can be used as a tool of control, conflicting with democratic discourse. The collective nature of Anonymous to confront issues such as this, make them a necessary function that counteracts abuses of power, balancing the ideological influences of governments and corporations (Krapp 2005). Operation Tunisia was a successful expression of hacktivism as well as political reform.

(YouTube 2016)

In today’s information age, hactivism has become a popular form of protest against perceived wrongdoings (Hampson 2012). Hactivism is when hacking becomes political, and rather than undertaking technical feats, objectives can be shifting public discourse, raising awareness or creating public pressure (Kelly 2012). Hacktivism can involve an individual person or many (Krapp 2005), and adequately resembles traditional forms of protest (Hampson 2012). Centuries old techniques including demonstrations, sit-ins, labour strikes and pamphlets have been refashioned into digital mediums (Krapp 2005). Tactics can include website defacement, exploiting security vulnerabilities, breaching networks and DDoS and botnet attacks (Goode 2015). The internet provides platforms where an audience’s attitude progresses from passive to active (Fuchs 2014). This system allows opportunities for minorities to take action, requiring no minimum approval from the collective to commence an operation (Kelly 2012). Hacktivists have committed themselves to protecting human rights and encouraging democratic discourse (Milone 2003). Their actions initiate reform, and without reform, the possibilities of an egalitarian, self-governing and humane society are unlikely (McChesney 2015). Given that anybody agreeing with the objectives can become a part of Anonymous (Terzis 2011), their movements have redefined the boundaries between collective and individual action (Fuchs 2014).

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(MintPress News 2012)

 

An example of Anonymous’ ability to initiate collective action and inspire an active public was during their 2008 conflict with the Church of Scientology. Operation Chanology begun when the Church attempted to supress digital publication of film star Tom Cruise frantically raving about the religion (Kelly 2012). More than six-thousand participants in ninety-nine cities over the world donned Guy Fawkes masks and protested in the streets (Kelly 2012). Scientology websites were raided and Anonymous succeeded in preventing the clip’s disappearance from the internet (Kelly 2012). This movement displays Anonymous’ ability to inspire others involvement and become a force of public action (Klein 2015). Anonymous have successfully taken hacking, an act of isolation and turned it into a political and moral statement (Kelly 2012). Their actions successfully provoked debates over control of digital information, counteracting another instance where an institution abused the power of the internet and attempted ideological influence (Goode 2015). Operation Chanology demonstrated Anonymous’ ability to channel the collective power of like-minded individuals (Beyer 2014) reaffirming Anonymous are a necessary function to counteract abuses of power.

(YouTube 2016)

In conclusion, this essay has outlined the importance of freedom of information, the internet empowering individuals and the purpose of hacktivists using and inspiring collaborative efforts. As evidenced, Anonymous both contribute and maintain these principles, making them a necessary function of the twenty-first century. Anonymous provide counterbalance to many social, political and economic issues. Operation Avenge Assange proved their determination to protect the concept of freedom of information, ultimately supporting democratic discourse by ensuring accessible public information and increasing government and corporate transparency (Beyer 2014). Additionally, this operation displayed that collective efforts can counteract censure (Beyer 2014). screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-3-15-02-pmIndividual citizens have strengthened from creating networks (Krapp 2005), rebalancing and counteracting ideological influence (Sorell 2015). Operation Tunisia exposed the vulnerabilities of a dictatorship and gave citizens information free of censure and regulation. Operation Chanology demonstrated Anonymous’ ability to inspire the active involvement of others and become a force of public action (Klein 2015). Successfully provoking debate over information control, Anonymous proved the collective power of like-minded individuals can counteract abuses of social power (Beyer 2014) and overcome ideological influences (Sorell 2015). These operations were acts of hactivism, which has gained traction during the information age, allowing minorities to take action (Kelly 2012) and initiate reform to promote an egalitarian society (McChesney 2015). Operations Avenge Assange, Tunisia and Chanology demonstrate in cases of social abuse individuals and groups of people can form a collective to respond, as anyone agreeing with their objectives can become Anonymous (Terzis 2011). As technology is now fundamental to society and continues to advance, Anonymous is a necessary function that balances lack of transparency, ideological influence and abuses of power by governments and corporations.

 

References:

Bertola, V 2010, “Power and the Internet”, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 323-337

Beyer, J.L 2014. “The Emergence of a Freedom of Information Movement: Anonymous, WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party, and Iceland”, The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 141-154

Dick, A.L 2012, “Established democracies, Internet censorship and the social media test”, Information Developments, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 259-260

Duffy, J 2009, “Toothless tiger, sleeping dragon: implied freedoms, internet filters and the growing culture of internet censorship in Australia”, Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 91-105

Fuchs, C 2014, Social Media, politics and the state: protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Routledge, New York

Goode, L 2015, “Anonymous and the Political Ethos of Hacktivism”, Popular Communication, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 74

Hammer, D & Khalia, F 2013, “Map Room: Anonymous Hacktivism”, World Policy Journal, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 20-21

Hampson, N.C.N 2012, “Hacktivism: a new breed of protest in a networked world”, Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 511

Kelly, B. B 2012, “Investing in a centralized cybersecurity infrastructure: why “hacktivism” can and should influence cybersecurity reform”, Boston University Law Review, vol. 92, no. 5, pp. 1663

Klein, A.G 2015, “Vigilante Media: Unveiling Anonymous and the Hacktivist Persona in the Global Press”, Communication Monographs, vol. 82, no. 3, pp. 379-23

Krapp, P 2005, “Terror and Play, or What Was Hacktivism?”, Grey Room, vol. 21, no. 21, pp. 70-93

Mansfield-Devine, S 2011, “Anonymous: serious threat of mere annoyance?”, Network Security, vol. 2011, no. 1, pp. 4-10

McChesney, R.W 2015, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times, The New Press, New York

Milone, M.G 2003, “Hacktivism: Securing the national infrastructure”, Computer and Internet Lawyer, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 1

Sorell, T 2015, “Human Rights and Hacktivism: The Cases of WikiLeaks and Anonymous”, Journal of Human Rights Practice, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 391-410

Terzis, G 2011, “For everything else there’s MasterCard: Anonymous and 21st-century hacktivism”, Kill You Darlings, no. 6, pp. 21-31

Treadwell, L 2013, “This machine kills secrets: How WikiLeaks, cypherpunks, and hacktivists aim to free the world’s information”, Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 121

References for images, videos and links:

Anonofficial.com. (2016). Anonymous Official Website – Anonymous News, Videos, Operations, and more | AnonOfficial.com. [online] Available at: http://anonofficial.com [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]

Chrome.google.com. (2016). Anonymous. [online] Available at: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/anonymous/iceilgfippckmaabaghcnfmieeccoipf [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016]

MintPress News. (2012). Anonymous: a new civil disobedience movement for the twenty-first century. [online] Available at: http://www.mintpressnews.com/anonymous-a-new-civil-disobedience-movement-for-the-twenty-first-century/20692/ [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016

Whitaker, B. (2010). How a man setting fire to himself sparked an uprising in Tunisia | Brian Whitaker. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/dec/28/tunisia-ben-ali [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]

Wikileaks.org. (2016). WikiLeaks. [online] Available at: https://wikileaks.org [Accessed 22 Sep. 2016]

YouTube. (2016). Tom Cruise – Scientology Rant (FULL). [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O2_rZIgrQI [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016

YouTube. (2016). ANONYMOUS – OPERATION TUNISIA – A Press Release. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFLaBRk9wY0 [Accessed 20 Sep. 2016

 

Essay research

I used ‘Bubbl’ to create the following mind map and get a bit of direction with my essay. Mapping it out like this helped figure out what each paragraph would focus on, and what points that I wanted to make. Having a visual of my research also made me aware that due to the broadness of the topic, I would need to ensure relevant and focussed points.

My argument will support the following: Lack of transparency and advances in communications technology make the worldwide hacktivist network ‘Anonymous’ a necessary function of the twenty-first century.

My essay will be structured in three main paragraphs that will outline the importance of a free internet (free from filters), the purpose of hacktivism and how the internet has shifted power by allowing collective actions. At the end of each paragraph I will provide a direct example of how Anonymous has achieved a purpose and contributed in each area. This method will both link and support my argument that Anonymous are a necessary function of the 21st century. I also believe that weaving examples throughout the essay will maintain relevancy, constantly reinforce my argument and make sure I don’t stray off topic.

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The following five references have been essential to my research and have given me direction as well as supporting my argument:

1: Fuchs, C 2014, Social Media, politics and the state: protests, revolutions, riots, crime and policing in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Routledge, New York

2: Kelly, B. B 2012, “Investing in a centralized cybersecurity infrastructure: why “hacktivism” can and should influence cybersecurity reform”, Boston University Law Review, vol. 92, no. 5, pp. 1663

3: Bertola, V 2010, “Power and the Internet”, Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 323-337

4: McChesney, R.W 2015, Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times, The New Press, New York

5: Krapp, P 2005, “Terror and Play, or What Was Hacktivism?”, Grey Room, vol. 21, no. 21, pp. 70-93

Internet Political Opportunities

As you know from my first post this blog was created for assessment purposes. This week I was tasked with completing a list while seeing if I can stick to my political beliefs. Since I found this interesting I thought I would invite you to do the same. I’ve provided the links below each task so you can follow, but depending on your whereabouts you may need to change a few things.

Task 1: Sign an e-petition

There are many e-petitions available online however, you can find all the current ones for Queensland Parliament here. Below is a snapshot of just some of the ones you can sign, I ended up signing a few.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 6.02.47 PM(Parliament.qld.gov.au, 2016)

 

Task 2: Respond to a professional blogger at a major news site

I like reading the conversation, so I commented on a few articles. Its really easy, the sign in options are pictured below.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 8.10.43 AM(The Conversation, 2016)

 

Task 3: What is Barak Obama up to today? Can you send him a message about the importance of freedom on the internet?

Surprisingly you can view the President of the United States daily schedule! To see what the President is up to today click here.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 1.48.39 PM(whitehouse.gov, 2015)

If you would like to send the President a message about the importance of freedom you can. The image below displays the different options, click here to go directly to the Whitehouse contact page.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 1.52.51 PM(whitehouse.gov, 2015)

 

Task 4: What are/were the Australian Government’s plans to censor the internet (the so called ‘clean feed’)?

On the 31st of December 2007, the Australian Minister for Communications announced that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be required to provide a ‘clean feed’ of Internet content to users (Simpson 2007, p. 167). A ‘clean feed’ means online material is filtered and then deemed appropriate or inappropriate, with inappropriate content then blocked at the ISP (Simpson 2007, p. 167).

After a lot of public disapproval, the Australian Federal Government announced it would no longer pursue the clean feed in 2012 (Falconer 2012). However, under the Telecommunications Act 1997, ISPs are still required to censor child abuse sites that appear on INTERPOL’s block list (Falconer 2012).

Task 5: What place does censorship have in democracy?

Ahhh, none if you ask me. Since almost its advent the internet has been a platform for political speech, activism and social networking (Dick 2012, p. 259), the Arab Spring is a perfect example. Digital communications have become an essential tool to social resistance and actions in the last few years (Dick 2012, p. 259). But recently the internet has been threatened with repression, censorship and surveillance (Dick 2012, p. 259).

And while the government has been upfront with its plan to filter, its less transparent about what content will be blocked (Bambauer 2009). This process is concerning because by accepting that material is blocked under the surmise its potentially illegal, ISPs and users may be accepting values without even knowing the possible harms (Simpson 2007, p. 180).

While aimed to protect, censorship will expose the entire community to a form of control without even knowing the exact extent (Simpson 2007, p. 181). Dick (2012, p. 269) argues that established democracies make themselves vulnerable by restricting access to information and freedom of expression. Having material censored and filtered may impact on the fullness of Australia’s democracy, as a mandatory filtering impinges on the implied constitutional freedom of political communication (Duffy 2009, p. 103).

Task 6: What are the benefits of the NBN? What potential form(s) will the NBN take when it is finally rolled out?

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(Optus, 2016)

The NBN is the National Broadband Network designed to connect ninety per cent of Australian homes, schools and workplaces with speeds of 100 Mbps (Cunningham 2011). Its most easily understood as an upgrade on Australia’s telecommunications that will revolutionise the way we connect (Godfrey 2012).

The NBN’s benefits will include:

  • Future proofing Australian homes and businesses (Hanlon 2016)
  • Faster internet speeds (Hanlon 2016)
  • More connections, even in rural areas (Hanlon 2016)
  • Reliable internet service (Optus 2016)
  • Supports multiple devices (Optus 2016)

The NBN will see the existing copper wire and hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) replaced with fibre optic cables (Optus, 2016), meaning that information data will travel at much faster speeds (Hanlon 2016). There are currently teams of installers connecting homes to the network, this generally means laying fibre optic cables under the street (Hanlon 2016). You’ll be notified when the NBNs coming to your area and then a NBN Utility Box will be installed on the outside of your house (Hanlon 2016). However if your a planner or just curious you can find out when the NBN are visiting your neighbourhood here.

 

Task 7: Find out who your local, state and federal representatives are. Send one a message.

My local member is Peter Young from division 5

My State Representative is Mr Sidney (Sid) Cramp

My Federal Representative is Hon Stuart Robert MP

I sent my Local Representative, Mr Peter Young an email, I used the AEC to find my electorate and members of parliament.

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Task 8: Look up the Queensland or Australian Hansard to find the last time your local member spoke in parliament.

The Hansard was easy to use, just search your Member of Parliament and away you go.Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.40.20 PM

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 9.07.55 PM(Aph.gov.au, 2016)

 

Task 9: Let your local member know what you think about their last speech

The email below is addressed to Mr Stuart Robert, the Federal Representative of Fadden.

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Overall I thought these tasks were interesting, but I don’t think I ever veered from my political beliefs. If you would like to comment whether or not you found the same please do so.

References:

Aph.gov.au. (2016). Search Hansard – Parliament of Australia. [online] Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/Search?main_0%24right_2%24btnSubmit=Go&ind=0&st=1&sr=0&q=stuart+robert&expand=True&drvH=0&drt=2&pnu=43&pnuH=43&f=28%2F09%2F2010&to=11%2F11%2F2013&pi=0&pv=&chi=2&coi=0&ps=10 [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Bambauer, D.E 2009, “Filtering in oz: Australia’s foray into Internet censorship”, University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 493

Cunningham, S. 2011, “Broadband, the NBN and Screen Futures”, Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, no. 140, pp. 16-21

Dick, A.L 2012, “Established democracies, Internet censorship and the social media test”, Information Development, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 259-260

Duffy, J 2009, “Toothless tiger, sleeping dragon: implied freedom, internet filters and the growing culture of internet censorship in Australia”, Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 91-105

Falconer, J. (2012). Australia’s Mandatory Internet Filter Has Finally Been Killed. [online] The Next Web. Available at: http://thenextweb.com/au/2012/11/09/finally-australias-controversial-mandatory-isp-filtering-is-off-the-table/#gref [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Godfrey, D. 2012, NBN to Crunch SKA, Control Publications Pty Ltd, Hawksburn

Hanlon, J. (2016). NBN Guide: What You Need to Know. [online] Whistleout.com.au. Available at: https://www.whistleout.com.au/Broadband/Guides/NBN-Guide-What-You-Need-to-Know [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Optus, S. (2016). NBN – Get on the national broadband network with Optus. [online] Optus.com.au. Available at: http://www.optus.com.au/shop/broadband/nbn [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Parliament.qld.gov.au. (2016). Current e-petitions – Queensland Parliament. [online] Available at: https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/e-petitions [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

Simpson, B 2008, “New Labor, new censorship? Politics, religion and internet filtering in Australia”, Information & Communications Technology Law, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 167-183

The Conversation. (2016). The Conversation: In-depth analysis, research, news and ideas from leading academics and researchers.. [online] Available at: https://theconversation.com/au [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

whitehouse.gov. (2015). The White House Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog#today [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016] 

whitehouse.gov. (2015). Submit Your Comments and Questions Online. [online] Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]

 

Are you in an Internet Filter Bubble?

Have you every noticed after making an online purchase, advertisements for the same company you made your purchase from, or similar ones appear everywhere? Maybe they’re displayed beside your Facebook or YouTube feed or other sites you frequent, but have you ever wondered why and too what effect?

Eli Pariser author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, calls it the ‘filter bubble’ the internet’s way of personalising and customising information (Pariser 2011). All your online activities are used in algorithms to recommend material that matches your ideologies (Pariser 2011). How many times have you bought or looked at recommendations from Amazon, YouTube, Netflix or Apple’s iTunes? These suggestions have an incredible influence on a consumer’s viewing and purchasing habits (Hosanagar, Fleder, Lee & Buja 2014). Netflix reports that over sixty per cent of its rentals come from these recommendations (Hosanagar, Fleder, Lee & Buja 2014).

While previously argued that the internet increases the availability of perspectives and ideas, a new argument is that algorithms used by search engines limit the diversity of information (Bozday & van den Hoven 2015). Users can now obtain different information using the same keyword, because information is prioritized, filtered and obscured according to a user’s previous interaction (Bozday & van den Hoven 2015). In an article titled Mind Control and the Internet, Sue Halpern compares the internet’s personalised search process to looking up the same topic in an encyclopaedia, only to find different entries. Rather than have a standardised search, your now directed to pages likely to reinforce your ideologies, rather than challenge them (Halpern 2011). Bozday and van den Hoven (2015) point out that in political situations, people potentially may never see contrasting material on a political or moral issue. This a serious concern, as functioning democracies depend on voters who are exposed and informed with a diverse range of political views (Flaxman, Goel & Rao 2016).

But some scholars like Benkler (2006) argue the internet provides choice and that social networks expose users to a variety of ideas. Through news media companies allowing people to share news content on social media, material from different news providers is displayed in a single location, increasing variety (Messing & Westwood 2014). These recommendations have the potential to share information and help users widen their interests and create commonality (Hosanagar, Fleder, Lee & Buja 2014).

So thinking about your own online interactions, are you own ideals reflected back at you? Or do your interactions encourage you to branch out and seek diversity? Just remember Pariser’s (2011) warning that once placed in a ‘filter bubble’ people are not even aware of or know what they are missing.

References:

Benkler, Y 2006, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Yale University Press, New Haven

Bozdag, E & van den Hoven, J 2015, “Breaking the filter bubble: democracy and design”, Ethics and Information Technology, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 249-265

Flaxman, S, Goel, S & Rao, J.M 2016, “Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Online News Consumption”, Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 80, no. S1, pp. 298-320

Halpern, S 2011, “Mind Control and the Internet”, The New York Review of Books, June 23 Issue, available at: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/06/23/mind-control-and-internet/

Hosanagar, K, Fleder, D, Lee, D & Buja, A 2014, “Will the Global Village Fracture Into Tribes? Recommender Systems and Their Effects on Consumer Fragmentation”, Management Science, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 805-823

Messing, S & Westwood, S.J 2014, “Selective Exposure in the Age of Social Media: Endorsements Trump Partisan Source Affiliation When Selecting News Online”, Communication Research, vol. 41, no. 8, p. 1042-1063

Pariser, E 2011, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Penguin Press, New York

Pariser, E. (2016). Beware online “filter bubbles”. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en#t-53894 [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016]. 

The Effects of Social Media Usage

For a variety of reasons, it seems many people would be lost these days without access to technology. My brother described an internet free week as ‘claustrophobic’ and I doubt he is alone in feeling this way. The video below provides an interesting and slightly depressing description of some of the effects of social networking.

(YouTube 2016)

Even without research to suggest it, most of us know or would agree that internet usage, gaming and social networking are addictive (Yu, Wu & Pesigan 2016). Pria reports that 13 million Australians spend over eighteen hours per day on the internet and one in five minutes a day is spent on social media (Pria.com.au 2016).

click for the Pria report

But does social networking make us more social? Or more antisocial? Social networking sites have been accused of providing ways to self-promote, post vanity photos and host a number of shallow relationships (Buffardi & Campbell 2008, p. 1303).

Twenge (2013 p. 11) points out twenty years ago, mobiles were rare, the internet was relatively unknown and very few people emailed. As these technologies are still relatively new, research on social media effects and the Internet is still in the early stages (Twenge 2013, p. 12).

But some research shows the Internet may help individuals who have difficulty forming and bonding with others (Bargh & McKenna, 2004). Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2007) suggest social media may encourage the formation of weak ties however, is unlikely to produce closely bonded relationships. While Facebook may allow users to expand their ‘friend’ network, it may lead to fewer in-person friends (Twenge 2013, p. 17). Twenge (2013) believes research indicates that spending time on social media results on individuals focusing more on themselves.

People with high social networking usage frequently report problems in other aspects of their lives, such as quality of sleep, poor academic performance and complicated romantic relationships (Yu, Wu & Pesigan 2016). A study conducted by Yu, Wu and Pesigan (2016) identified loneliness and negative outcome expectancies as risk factors for social networking addictions.

While much research is still being conducted, I made a small survey on social media usage. I am using social media to invite people to fill out the survey, if you would like to participate click the link below:

start the survey

Survey Results

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 10.12.58 PM

The information I gathered from my own survey was quite interesting. 66% of participants were registered to between 3-5 social media platforms and 50% checked social media between 10-20 times a day. All participants were worried about privacy and agreed that social media had quite an impact on their lives. 70% revealed they used social media for multiple reasons including sharing videos, filling up time and keeping in touch with friends.

References:

Bargh, J & McKenna, K 2004, “The Internet and social life”, Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 573-590

Buffardi, L. E & Campbell, W. K 2008, “Narcissism and social networking websites”, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 34, no. 10, pp. 1303-1314

Ellison, N. B, Steinfield, C & Lampe, C 2007, “The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Captial and College Students’ Use of Online Social Networking Sites”, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 1143-1167

Pria.com.au (2016) 13 million Australians spend 18 hours a day online – Public Relations Institute of Australia. [online] Available at: http://www.pria.com.au/industrynews/13-million-australians-spend-18-hours-a-day-online

Twenge, J. M 2013, “Does Online Social Media Lead to Social Connection or Social Disconnection?”, Journal of College & Character, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 11-20

Yu, S, Wu, A.M.S & Pesigan 2016, “Cognitive and Psychosocial Health Risk Factors of Social Networking Addiction”, International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 550-564

YouTube. (2016). Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016].

 

 

 

Cyberpunk, what is it?

 

(YouTube 2016)

Considered to be a subgenre of science fiction (Barnett 2000), cyberpunk is described as a pessimistic view of the future (Starrs & Huntsinger 1995). Cavallaro (2000), credits cyberpunk with questioning machine-human dynamics, exploring the implications of cyberspace, virtual reality and other technologies threatening the human race with extinction.

You may equate these descriptions with films like Bladerunner, The Matrix, Terminator 2: Judgement day and 12 monkeys, all generally categorised as cyberpunk. Unlike other fictional works, the protagonist in cyberpunk literature tends to be information (Starrs & Huntsinger 1995). Interaction between humans and machines is a central cyberpunk theme, and authors often share a fascination with ‘enhancement’, where the human body becomes less organic and increasingly artificial (McCarron 1995, p. 266). But despite technology facilitating the genre, cyberpunk is anti-technology, resistant to further deterioration between humans and machines (McCarron 1995, p. 271). Its central themes include the possibility of machines having minds and querying humanness when rivalled by inhumanness (McCarron 1995, p. 272). See the interactive timeline below for the evolution of cyberpunk.

cyberpunk timeline

References:

Barnett, P.C 2000, “Reviving Cyberpunk: (Re)Constructing the Subject and Mapping Cyberspace in the Wachowski Brothers’ Film The Matrix”, Extrapolation, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 359.

Butler, A.M 2000, Cyberpunk, Pocket Essentials, Great Britain

Cavallaro, D 2000, Cyberpunk and cyberculture: science fiction and the work of William Gibson, Athlone Press, London.

Cornea, C 2010, Science fiction cinema: between fantasy and reality, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh

Dinello, D 2005, Technophobia: science fiction visions of posthuman technology, University of Texas Press, Austin.

Dyens, O 2000, “Cyberpunk, Technoculture, and the Post-Biological Self”, CLCWeb: Comparitive Literature and Culture, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 1.

Geraci, R.M 2012, “Video Games and the Transhuman Inclination”, Zygon, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 735-756

Goicoechea M 2008, “The Posthuman Ethos in Cyberpunk Science Fiction”, CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 1-11.

Jones, S 1994, “Hyper-punk: cyberpunk and information technology”, Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 81-92.

McCarron, K 1995, “Corpses, Animals, Machines and Mannequins: The Body and Cyberpunk”, Body & Society, vol. 1, no. 3-4, p. 261-273

Starrs, P.F & Huntsinger, L 1995, “The matrix, cyberpunk literature, and the apocalyptic landscapes of information technology”, Information Technology and Libraries, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 251.

YouTube. (2016). Cyberpunk Documentary – 1/5. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQaOB44Iy5E [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016].

Do you trust your information is safe?

So just how safe is your information online? It’s a valid and common question for the average internet user and one that’s re-entered the news with upcoming the census. Every 5 years we each provide a descriptive account on our whereabouts, job, income and other various details in the way of the census. Since its compulsory, its either fill out the form or face heavy fines.

But this year marked the first the census would be conducted online and also the first time the ABS would keep the names and addresses collected (Berg 2016). While the ABS have ensured the identities will be kept separate from the census data, either tightly controlled settings or anonymised forms are needed to prevent identification (Marsh, Dale & Skinner 1994, p. 35) Understandably many Australians expressed scepticism over the security of their personal details, because really there is no absolute guarantee your information is 100 per cent safe (Berg 2016).

There are more than two billion internet users worldwide and each month the web increases by tens of millions of new users (Heickeroe & Peterson 2012, p. 10). The borders in electronic communications are non existent (Gori & Paparela 2006, p. 64), and as cyber space grows, so do the threats (Heickeroe & Peterson 2012, p. 10).

While seemingly obvious culprits like hackers pose a threat to your privacy, there is also the less obvious Government department employees. The Department of Human Services confirmed 63 incidents where staff gained unauthorised access to private information between July 2012 and March 2013 (The article is attached below).

So what makes the ABS employees any less likely to access your information? Author of The Dark Sides of the Internet Roland Heickeroe (2012, p. 78) confirms employees are one of the most serious threats, their motivation could be either financial or personal and most don’t understand the consequences of handing over information. Because essentially, access to information and the ability to use it are equivalent with power and control (Heickeroe & Peterson 2012).

Just the other day the abc.net.au published an online article titled Thousands of Australian computer log-ins up for sale on the dark web, written by Jake Sturmer. Its an interesting and compelling read that outlines just some of the threats to information.

References:

Berg, C 2016, ‘If you’re worried about privacy, you should worry about the 2016 census’, ABC News, 15 March 2016, available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-15/berg-census-privacy-threat/7244744

Gori, U & Paparela 2006, Invisible Threats: financial and information technology and national security, Ios Press, Amsterdam

Heickero, R & Peterson, M 2012, The dark sides of the Internet: on cyber threats and information warfare, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main.

Marsh, C, Dale, A & Skinner, C 1994, “Safe Data versus Safe Settings: Access to Microdata from the British Census”, International Review, Vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 35-53.

Sturmer, J. (2016). Thousands of Australian computer log-ins up for sale on dark web. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-30/cyber-warfare-the-australian-organisations-targeted-by-hackers/7795656 [Accessed 30 Aug. 2016].

Technological features you may or may not be aware of

My usage of technologies would be moderate. The things at the top of my list would be YouTube, email and my kindle. I don’t check Facebook all the time, I still have one and I enjoy using it however, I don’t like that the only reason I know what my friends are up to is because I saw one of their posts. I prefer spending time with my friends and catching up in person rather than online.

My favourite piece of technology would probably be my kindle. I’m an avid reader and having an entire bookshelf at my disposal is incredibly convenient, especially for travel.   I’m not completely technologically challenged however; I’m not incredibly adapt with using it either. So here are some things that I recently learnt you could do.

For students using two email accounts it could be handy and save time by linking them. I opt not to do this simply because I feel more organised having them separate for some reason. For those interested see the links below:

how to geek tutorial

make use of tutorial

Something I never knew I could do in word:

(YouTube 2016)

Its called track changes, If you’re an aspiring editor or author and you haven’t heard of Microsoft’s track changes you may want to check it out.  To turn it on simply:

  1.  Click on the Review tab
  2. Switch to on, the option is slightly to the left.

Now you can edit your document and any changes made will appear in red mark-ups, you can also leave comments. At the end of your editing process you can enter the Review tab and either accept or reject the changes or keep editing. To turn track changes off, use the same process you used to switch it on. Happy editing.

There are so many things you can do on google. To google like a superstar watch the video below:

(YouTube 2016)

References:

YouTube. (2016). How to use google search like a professional user. Tips & Tr. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DahGSReGx3M [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016] 

YouTube. (2016). Word tutorial: How to track changes in documents | lynda.com. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_knruAysnA [Accessed 1 Sep. 2016]