May 1, 2009

Voting Machines

I think that the recent discussions about voting machines and their accuracy especially hit close to home considering that Minnesota is in the middle of a debate over votes between senator candidates Al Franken and Norm Coleman. The movie, Hacking Democracy, made me think more about the voting process we have in America and whether or not I agree with it. The movie found numerous examples of program flaws and opportunities for deceit and corruption within the voting process. I do feel that there are changes that need to be made, however I don’t think that is a nation emergency as it is portrayed in the film. It is important to remember that no election or voting process will be 100% accurate. When people are involved there is human error and when machines are used there is always the change of a technical glitch or malfunction. The electronic voting machines and paper ballot counters do allow for new technology and techniques to be used if someone wants to rig or change the outcome of an election, but similar problems to the ones discussed in Hacking Democracy occurred before the use of technology in the voting process. The main point that Hacking Democracy discusses that I agree with completely is the need for transparency with Diebold, the company that manufactures and distributes electronic voting machines. While I understand the government’s want to distance themselves from the company to avoid accusations of corruption, by doing so they are actually doing the opposite. No company should be allowed to keep the machines that they produce completely secret and unable to be checked to verify their accuracy by an outside company, especially when those machines are used in elections. If Diebold has nothing to hide, like they say, then they should not be refusing or resisting attempts to check the accuracy of their machines. In their press statements Diebold defends the accuracy and technology of their machines and claims that the accusations against them are completely false and unfounded. If this is true and Diebold is as confident with their machines as they say, then not only should they not resist these attempts to test their machines, they should welcome them. The fact that Diebold is not allowing these tests to be done gives the implication that Diebold in fact is hiding something and perhaps they may have faulty equipment. I think that implication gives probable cause for an investigation of Diebold by the government to see if there is any illegal activity occurring within the company.

Myspace Suicide case

The Myspace suicide case raised many questions in my mind concerning internet laws and the legality of the case that was brought against Lori Drew. I am in no way saying that what Lori Drew did was acceptable, but I feel like the case against her was based on moral beliefs rather than a crime or laws.
Missouri police investigated the case and found that Lori Drew had broken no laws. That should have been the end of the case. Instead, Thomas P. O’Brien, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, decided he would prosecute the case because Myspace is based out of Los Angeles where the website houses its servers. This seems completely unfair to me, the “crime” itself was not committed in Los Angeles, it was committed in Missouri. Although Lori Drew was connected to Los Angeles through the internet, she was physically in Missouri, which is where she should have been prosecuted. It also appeared as if Thomas P. O’Brien had a personal vendetta against Lori Drew because in a statement in the New York Times article Brien stated, “If you are going to attempt to annoy or go after a little girl and you’re going to use the Internet to do so,” he said, “this office and others across the country will hold you responsible.” This statement implies that because the victim in this case was a girl and a minor that the case is worse than if the victim had been a boy who is a minor or a girl who is of legal age. As far as the law is concerned age and gender should not be a factor in determining whether or not it is a crime. Had this “crime” been committed against somebody else, whether it be a boy or an older individual I don’t believe that the case would have been prosecuted. I believe that the case was also prosecuted because of the media coverage generated by the victim’s mother, Tina Meier.
While I don’t believe what Lori Drew did was acceptable, nor do I deny the fact that her actions did contribute to Megan Meier’s decision to commit suicide, she cannot be completely blamed. The New York Times Article states that Megan Meier had a history of depression and suicidal impulses. If Lori Drew had not done what she did, that does not mean that Megan Meier would still be alive today. With the history that Megan Meier had, anything could have set her off and led her to the same decision; suicide.
Also, because there are no laws in place that are specifically targeted at cases like these that involve social networking site, I don’t believe that means that law enforcement officials should bend existing laws in order to include these cases. Clearly existing laws are out of date and need to be changed. Law enforcement officials first need to create laws concerning cases like these before they begin prosecuting.

March 13, 2009

Labor changes

I think that the labor changes that are happening currently could be possibly beneficial but they could also be very harmful to employees.
The changes that are occurring could be beneficial to the group of younger employees who seem to be more A.D.D. than previous generations. The change allows people to switch jobs more often. This I hope helps people avoid being trapped in a job that they don’t enjoy. Typically in television shows and movies you see the image of a man coming home from work exhausted, his wife asks him how his day was and he describes it as being horrible and he wants to relax and de-stress from his job. By having more freedom to change jobs, it could potentially allow people to lead happier lives. At the same time it could keep people from settling down because they are always looking for something better. Some people may want a job that they love everything about and that kind of job might not necessarily exist so they could spend their entire life switching from job to job searching for something that they will never find.
This change in labor could also be harmful because it would lose employee and employer loyalty. By not having a traditional contract to work for an employer and move up in a company, to only be employed for a certain amount of time or for a certain project could negatively impact relations within the workplace. Because an employee has no job security they may not be against backstabbing or going behind the back of their employer to work with competing companies in order to ensure that they will be receiving a paycheck in the future. It could also cause employers to provide employees with less training and workshops that can help the employee improve their skills because the employer can just replace that person with a more qualified person or somebody who has the skills that they are looking for at any time.

Digital Divide

After thinking about the digital divide and suggested solutions on how to close the gap between haves and have-nots I have come to believe that the world will never exist without a digital divide. With that being said I do believe that some of the proposed solutions could be beneficial to helping the problem.
The digital divide, in my opinion, will continue to exist just as other divides also exist. As long as people have different income levels, people will have access to different things including technology. The same way that there are people who have cars that cost $500,000 and there are people who take the bus, there will be people who have access to the most up to date technology and there will be people who have older more out of date technology. Believing that one day everybody will be equal and have the same access to technology is just unrealistic. With that being said, of the list of proposed solutions to the digital divide we talked about in class there are certain things that I feel could help close the gap and some that would not help at all.
I think that a combination of laptops in public schools and digital technology centers with free computer classes would be the smartest option when trying to provide everybody with the opportunity to learn how to use technology. Laptops in schools would teach children how to use computers, and as everybody knows it’s better to learn things when you are young because it is easier for you to learn, and also because it gives you plenty of time and opportunity to continue your learning. I also think that technology centers with free computer classes would also be beneficial in teaching older people who did not have the opportunity to learn how to use computers in school about newer technologies.
The main idea that I thought would not help at all was the one child per laptop program. The main reason that I don’t think this program will be beneficial is because it is being done in underdeveloped countries. This doesn’t make any sense to me, the laptops themselves for the one laptop per child program were described to have a screen that doesn’t get damaged from direct sunlight because some places they are distributed the children learn outside. In my opinion it’s more important to build buildings and get a town set up before you begin introducing technology. To me there’s no point in giving people technology that they will be unable to sustain.

February 20, 2009

The History of the Future

One of the main arguments made in they Carey/Quirk article “the History of the Future” is that privileged class of people have the time, energy, and knowledge to imagine the future. I somewhat agree with this argument, but at the same time I disagree. I think that everybody has the ability to imagine the future, regardless of what class they are in. I think that more privileged classes of people have the ability to make a reality out of the things that they imagine. Obviously the advantage that more privileged classes have is their access to more technologically advanced systems such as computers as well as more time to use those systems. This brings about the debate over whether a small group of people should be in control of basically deciding the nation’s future. If the richest people in the world are in charge of envisioning the future and making those visions become reality, then things that are invented are going to be geared toward people of higher classes, leaving behind lower class people. I think as of right now there is a divide between “haves” and “have nots” especially concerning technology. I know people my age who do not own computers and they have a cell phone from 2001, and I also know people who have a laptop, a desktop, an ipod, and an iphone. It’s kind of ironic that there’s a debate over websites that allow a small group of users to decide which videos will be featured on their homepage, yet it’s not a problem that a small group of people are deciding what technology people will be able to use to access that website in the future.

The Cult of The Amateur

As I read Keen’s book “The cult of the amateur” I found myself torn between agreement and disagreement with Keen’s arguments. Two chapters that especially interested me were the day the music died [side a] and the day the music died [side b]. In these chapters Keen discusses the impact that downloading music, both legally and illegally has on the music industry.
For a large part of the chapter the day the music died [side a], Keen talks about the “new” idea of getting music for free by means of downloading. On page 108 Keen says, “For 98 percent of today’s ‘consumers’ music is now freer that electricity or water.” This is a part I felt I was in disagreement with. I was not in disagreement with the idea that many people are getting music for free, because they are, but rather the idea that this is something new. When cassette tapes were the most common format for listening to music it was not uncommon to have a large collection of mix tapes, which are cassette tapes that contain unpaid for music recorded from either the radio or another cassette tape.
Getting music for free is not a new concept; the way in which it is done has changed with the invention of new technology and change in the format most commonly used for listening to music. In his argument however, Keen seems to make the argument that while there are similarities between mix tapes and mixed cds via downloading music, that downloading music is worse. Keen argues that downloading music allows you to mass produce and distribute more easily than other formats, but I don’t find that to be true. In my house I have a double cassette deck cassette player that my parents bought in the early 90s, they bought it for the purpose of recording from one cassette onto another so that they could share music with their friends. What they did was basically no different than downloading music, they borrowed a cassette from their friend that they enjoyed, recorded a copy for themselves, and then they made copies for other friends. The only difference was the format.
Throughout most of his arguments Keen appeared to be focusing on the technology, instead of focusing on the main problem. Stealing music is a problem, but it is not a new problem, the problem just continuously camouflages itself in new forms of technology when they are created.