May 1, 2009

AIM and AOL, MSN Messenger and MSN

I think it's interesting to think about the functionality of America Online's AOL Instant Messager and Microsoft's MSN Messenger. Each one is very similar, yet distinctly different. In the era where online instant messaging completely exploded onto the scene for 12-year-olds to discover, each one brought something to the table. It's especially interesting to find out which kids used which IM device. From my experience, it depended on where you went to school. The greater majority of the kids in my school in southern Minnesota used MSN Messenger and hardly anyone used AIM. My cousin, from (more or less) central Minnesota, close to the Metro area, used AOL with all her friends and not many used MSN.
I think this would offer an interesting case study to see where kids are using AOL and MSN. Each corporation, America Online and Microsoft, are huge corporations and don't have any less strength in either area. In my honest opinion, I think it came down to one kid discovering one or the other, learning how it works, telling all of his/her friends and getting them hooked. It spreads from a select group of kids to virtually the entire area. That is the unique thing about information among kid; it doesn't take long for anything to be announced to the whole audience. As more and more young people started using these IM devices, personal information and gossip flooded the dialogue boxes like a waterfall of potentially dangerous information. Photos, files, and links could be sent directly to someone by the touch of a button, which offered up a whole new idea of friendship and relationships over long distances.
Harmful or harmless, instant messaging exploded onto the scene of adolescent life and brought forth a new concept of interaction without having to speak face-to-face to someone. As we read in Instant Identity, flirting and rumors (gossip) were passed effortlessly among peers, making the physical act of attending school and interacting directly mean something completely different than before.

April 30, 2009

Riggin' Elections

So, the film that we watched in class on Monday and Wednesday called Hacking Democracy shed some light into the world of fixed/tampered voting and how it affects us in the larger scheme of things. First of all, when I think of voting "screw-ups" and hassle in regards to vote counting, I undoubtedly think of Florida in the 2004 Presidential Election with President George W Bush and Senator John Kerry. I think we all heard from the news that somewhere in Florida there was a discrepancy with the way in which votes were cast and counted. Because, from what I can remember, the votes were cast with a "punch card" style method, there were obvious invitations for problems to occur when punching a hole in a piece of paper and counting it as a legitimate vote. For one thing, some people could not grasp the concept of how this process worked and punched multiple holes or something really ambiguous.
The video definitely made you think a little bit as to how and where your vote gets counted and by whom. The primary example of Diebold voting machines was used and exploited by the main woman in the film. She used all of her networking skills, friends, and resources to completely exploit the disturbing truth of how easily it is to change votes and alter elections by the lack of proper security on these systems. The part in the film where she went dumpster diving seemed a little extreme at the time, however she did find evidence and leverage which brought forth breakthroughs in her case.
It's shocking to think how easily one person could hack into the system and completely change an entire election from his basement. All of the people who took the time to exercise their democratic American right to vote would be completely spat on because their efforts to elect a leader collectively would have all been for nothing. This is a huge cause for concern because the overall outcome of American history (a little dramatic, yes) could be altered by a computer programmer or teenage genius-hacker (and it really doesn't even take someone THAT tech-savvy to do it) sitting alone in his basement.

March 11, 2009

Online Dating for Dummies + Internet Addiction

Our unit/ discussion on Internet Addiction was something that I hadn't looked at that carefully until I read the article about the rehab center in China for Internet addicts. If you're using the Internet so much that you're legitimately "addicted" to it, I suppose rehab is the only logical answer. Looking at this from a standpoint coming out of today's culture, it doesn't seem TOO far of a stretch, although developing a literal dependency on the Internet (as in, you NEED it to function daily) seems pretty extreme. With how often most people use the Net for business purposes and even casual daily conversation, I can foresee the average amount of use increasing exponentially over the next decade and beyond.
When I think of Internet addiction, I can't help but think of the thousands of kids playing World of Warcraft. I think most people can agree that it is the most popular online game available at the moment (perhaps aside from Halo, which I don't think really counts in this instance). I don't have statistics, but it's unhealthy how much time some of those kids spend on that game. I think that pertains to the whole concept of kids becoming anti-social also. In that one video we watched, a boy's dad said that he needed to send his son an email just to get his attention. That's a bit extreme when total interaction within a family is silenced because of the Internet.
The whole "online dating/ cyber relationship" thing seems pretty touchy as well. For some people, they make it work and some have a healthy relationship over the Internet. Yet others have very bad experiences with online relationships and sexual predators. Because the Internet is so vast and (nearly) limitless, this gives way to limitless possibilities for horny, single, old men to spy and creep on the Internet to find young, innocent girls to prey upon. It may sound a bit disturbing, but that's only because it is. It may not seem like a grand problem statistically, but it does affect many young people each year. Myspace is probably the most prominent of these social networking sites that have experienced numerous cases of sexual violation due to "shading guys" luring young girls to believing they're someone else.
You want to feel bad for the girls, but in a lot of cases, they respond right back to the comments and solicitations. When it gets to the stage where the girls are actually asked to meet up with the "guy", some are actually "gung ho" about driving or flying wherever to meet with their online flings. This has to be extremely troubling for parents to learn about. The very types of people that they teach their kids not to talk to on the streets or in other public places are the same ones only disguised as younger males on the Internet. Myspace really has no way of filtering these guys either. Their profiles are run by actual people, so it's following the rules. They have yet to be able to authenticate the information with the person whose profile it falls under.
Not Myspace's fault because they no one has perfected the system yet. Especially not music downloading, but that's another story...heh.

Globalization and Friends

I feel as though globalization has numerous benefits and some drawbacks.
Benefits obviously include more people being more connected. Connectivity is one of the cornerstones of globalization. It's essentially the spread and connectedness of production, communication, and technologies across the world (word for word from the notes). That being said, each of those terms (production, communication, and technology) have experienced dramatic changes and immense advancement over the past decade. The newest phases of technology allow us to interact with people all across the world on a level that has never before been experienced so easily. YouTube videos can be viewed by people in Europe and Asia and Australia in addition to the United States and Canada.
However, globalization can be seen from the negative side as well. In my opinion, the idea of having politics market-driven seems like a shallow judgment from people that couldn't comprehend big politics in the first place. So, if Barack Obama can't fix the economy back to the way it was, he failed as the 44th President of the United States? I don't follow. I realize that our economic status is a huge part of what's going on right now, but I think there's plenty more that he can accomplish too.
I was also fascinated by the idea of "corporatization" in terms of recreational facilities. I was always aware of them, but never really stopped to think about them in that way until now. Even off the top of my head, I can name a bunch of recreational facilities that are sponsored by corporations: Target Center, TCF Bank Stadium, Coors Field, Staples Center...are just a few. Nearly every professional basketball center is corporately sponsored. Even in the near future, with the construction of Target Field, the future home of the Minnesota Twins, we'll continually see these arenas popping up everywhere with a great big ol' corporate logo on the side. Most, if not all, of the other major arenas are named after some type of important historical figure or contributor. The "Hubert H Humphrey" Metrodome, Williams Arena, Mariucci Arena...there are many more.
Basically it just sparked my interest as to how strong of a grip corporations have on landmarks all over. Naomi Klein's whole scene was very interesting as well.

February 20, 2009

The Medium Is the Message - McLuhan

"For the content of the medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind." It is comments like these that are truly the epitome of how media is perceived in today's day and age. Marshall McLuhan makes an interesting comparison of media to light/light bulb. He says that a light, by itself, is not communication because there is no content. Yet when it is delivered through a light bulb, it reaches the area it inhabits. In the same way, media acts as the same type of content. By itself, it is just "floating around" in society, but with "light bulbs" or newspapers and other types of media, it has the potential to reach people and be heard. Media, as McLuhan says, "creates an environment by its mere presence". I think that this is very much true. The presence of media, whether it is in newspapers, on television, or in a blog on the internet, shapes the environment by the content of the media. For example, news of a possible terrorist attack or school shooting creates an atmosphere of panic and anxiety no matter what the credibility of the source (well, in most cases). In the same way, TV has massive effects on the viewers who spend countless hours in front of it watching diligently, taking everything in. Different news stations are all slightly biased to some small degree and depending on which you prefer, you will start to shift towards to that bias based on habit. Your opinions are affected by those of the news station. Some people believe everything they are fed from the television, while some other people don't believe anything that comes from a television.
The older generation of citizens living today are more likely to pick up a newspaper or listen to the radio based on how they received media when they were growing up. In the same way, the newer generations of people, the younger citizens today, are more apt to accepting new technology with open arms and embracing the blog, email, online newspaper and other forms of media that are brought forth by Web 2.0.

Keen and his "Cult of the Amateur"

Throughout Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur", he takes a lot of stabs at the way new media is developing. He discredits amateur journalists who shouldn't really count as journalists to begin with. He also attributes many things like the decline of music and the new age of identity theft to the Web 2.0 and new media world. What is unclear about Keen's assertions is whether or not he's truly being serious throughout his destruction of new media. At times, he seems like he is writing in a satirical and comedic manner by the way he just tears down the new music and journalism industry with no hesitation. I can understand his point of view through most of it, and some of it I even agree with him on. Yet, I don't feel as though these "amateur" bloggers and journalists should not receive some type of recognition for their efforts. Some actually provide legitimate and semi-professional material all without earning a formal degree. I can understand that professional journalists do much better and more polished work, but it is nice to hear from the entire range of consumers of media and news. The younger generation can contribute just as much as the older and more experienced generation.

I do agree that music should seek new and innovative ways to salvage the things that we used to treasure about how music was distributed and listened to a decade ago. Peer-to-peer file sharing makes music way to accessible to get without paying for. I have fallen victim to this just as nearly everyone else who is a consumer of music. Nearly our entire generation is falling into the trend of music theft and such. The artists, the ones who we treasure and rely on to put out this music, are suffering because of it. This leads me to question why something hasn't been done about it to put an end or to slow it down. We need to see it from their point of view at least.