May 1, 2009

IM: A Help or Hindrance?

Another one of our assignments was to read the book Instant Identity, which explores the world of instant messaging and how teen girls use it. Some of the things the girls said to one another were embarrassing and awkward, but the more I read their conversations and the more I read the insights of the book, the more I found myself nodding along and realizing how true everything was that the book had to say.

The way young girls interact on the Internet is so different from in real life. The people they talk to (especially boys), the things they talk about and the way they say things can be so different from the way they are in real life that it’s almost like they are entirely different people. This leads to the idea that the Internet is a place where these young girls can experiment with different identities and personas without the fear or being judged or inhibited by physical barriers.

To an extent, I think that IM and the Internet are very beneficial in this way to young teen girls. Being able to explore identity freely is great and with the Internet they are able to explore much more than girls would have before the Internet was invented. However, I think that this is also a huge drawback. Establishing an identity on the Internet is one thing, but how will it be carried on in the real world? These girls shouldn’t be using the Internet as a crutch and hiding behind a computer screen in order to show their “true” identities. It’s a hard call to make, whether the Internet is a help or a hindrance to these girls, but as this medium grows ever more popular we are sure to see the consequences.

April 30, 2009

Hacking

We recently watched the documentary “Hacking Democracy” in class. It caught my attention and I was stunned at the things the show revealed. Not only does she show how easy it is for someone to get in and change numbers around, but all of the dishonest things election officials were doing was appalling too. They were throwing away vote receipts and presorting ballots. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at that, but I am. I don’t understand why you would volunteer to be an election official, or whatever they are called, and then not take the voting as seriously as it should be. That is terrifying to think that these people can mess things up so easily. And it’s scary to think about some of the elections in the past that have been a lie.

Just the fact that it was so easy for Bev Harris to find the Diebold security information and log into their systems is mind boggling. If she could accidentally come across this information and use it what could someone who is actually looking for it do?

And this makes me start thinking about other security systems. For example, my online checking account. You have a log in name, a password, and a security question. I was logging into my account the other day and I realized how DUMB the security questions are. “What is your mother’s maiden name?” “What was your high school mascot?” “What is your pet’s name?” These are questions anyone could ask in passing and you would never think twice about answering them. How in the world are those questions supposed to secure my money?? If someone is trying to hack into my account, those questions are a joke and just a phony step in between a hacker and his prize.

So, I guess hacking is an issue I’ve never given much thought to, but the more I think about it, the more I think it should be an issue that more people are concerned with. Whether it’s electronic voting or banking or whatever, the fact of the matter is that if people want to get into something, it seems like no one is very protected electronically. And that is a super scary thought.

March 12, 2009

Second Life = Losers' Paradise

So…Second Life. Somehow, this creepy virtual world has escaped my attention until recently. Maybe because I have a life. The more I learn about it, the more I’m disgusted with it – it may be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. The fact that 30 million people world-wide spend their time online in this fantasyland is beyond anything I can comprehend.

These people create these characters to represent themselves (it’s funny how everyone on the site has a slammin’ body) and as these characters they build houses, get jobs, go shopping and date other users. WHAT!?! What do these people do for a living?? Where do they find the time to create and upkeep a whole other life? And if they do have that time, why would they spend it in some make believe fantasyland? Read a book, take a walk, volunteer, SOCIALIZE with real people! These are not real people! According to a survey done by Nick Yee, a graduate from Stanford University, “nearly 40% of men and 53% of women who play online games said their virtual friends were equal or better to their real-life friends.” Well, that’s probably because these people don’t have any real-life friends due to the fact that they play make-believe.

We have come so far with technology and it’s only going to get more intense as time goes on, and that’s scary and frustrating to think about if this is what people are using it for. I don’t care if it’s a release for some people, or that it’s the only way they can communicate their true feelings because they’re shy in real life. Isolating yourself in a fantasy world is going to nothing for your social skills, sorry.

The truth is, the creators of Second Life have honed in on the losers of the world and found a way to make them the opposite of what they are in real life. They’ve given them the opportunities to be the buff, rich, well-endowed (it’s true, you can purchase certain body parts…) citizens that they aren’t. And now they never will be, because why would they put any effort towards a real life, when logging onto a website is so much easier? These people are lazy, non-contributing, wastes of human lives.

March 11, 2009

The Internet Should Belong to Everyone

So, one thing that I recently learned which I thought was pretty interesting is that Minneapolis is one of the first cities in the country to begin city wireless. I’ve never really thought about it before, but it seems so sensible and practical to make wireless available for everyone. But even though it will be available throughout the city now, it still won’t be free – which I think is wrong.

I mean, how can someone OWN the internet?? How can you charge people to go online? It’s bizarre to me. I think everyone should have the ability to access the internet for free from anywhere. Whether or not they have a computer is another story, but wireless internet should not be owned by someone.

Not making wireless internet free and available for everyone just stresses the digital divide. According the class lecture, income is the greatest determining factor in why people have limited or no access to digital technology. I feel like the internet is such a huge part of my life that I really don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have access to it for longer than a week. And to think that some people rarely or never go online is crazy to me. The internet is just so full of information and is so useful that I think everyone needs to have free access to it.

I thought the quote Peter Fleck included in his lecture by Joshua Breitbart was very interesting: “Digital inclusion is like saying poor people, people of color, and non-English speakers are allowed to shop in white neighborhoods.” We shouldn’t be including people in this technology, it should be everyone's to begin with.

February 19, 2009

Newspapers...

An interesting topic that’s been brought up in class is the shift that media is making from print format to online format. I feel kind of torn about this topic. On one hand I feel that getting the newspaper is an American tradition. It’s a part of our daily ritual and is something that’s always been done and I don’t want to see it fade out; in a way, I guess it’s sort of romantic.

On the other hand, I try to do my part in taking care of the environment. I recycle, I always turn off the lights, I don’t run the water while I’m brushing my teeth – you get the idea. So hearing that newspapers are starting to make the switch to online is awesome. I think it makes sense economically and environmentally – if we have the resources to make the planet a better place then why not make the change?

I kind of like what the Minnesota Daily is doing by switching their Friday paper into an online only form. I’d like to think that newspapers will never make the full transition to online only, but really, who can say.

One thing I do know that will never happen is something that we watched in class earlier this week on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart invited Walter Isaacson (former editor of Time Magazine) to talk about how to save print newspapers and magazines. Listening to him wasn’t quite as bad as listening to Senator Ted Stevens (if you haven’t heard it, here it is: http://www.spikedhumor.com/Article.aspx?p=editcomment&cid=520750&id=40375&tid=3 – although it is almost painful to listen to), but I still couldn’t help but laugh and think that this guy is exactly what he looks like: an out of touch old man with money signs in his eyes.

Isaacson’s idea is to start charging people to read the news online. I love Stewart’s reaction to this, “Sir, the Internet is free, I think everybody knows that.” I’m sure there are a few people out there who value “real reporting” and would probably pay for their news. But, honestly, the majority of people would never go for this. There will always be somewhere else you can get the news for free. And if not, well, I guess people will just stop reading the news. Then we’ll really be in trouble.

February 18, 2009

Blogging...

So I have to start a blog for my class this semester, which seems fitting since it’s a new media class, but I’ve really never been into blogging. I don’t read them and I don’t write them, so this will be interesting. I’ve never been interested in writing a blog because I guess I don’t really feel the need to put my thoughts on the Internet for anyone to judge and comment on.

I just finished reading The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen. It was actually one of the more interesting and easy-to-read books I’ve been assigned since I started college. Even though Keen came across a little snobbish, I thought he was pretty entertaining. He’s very witty and I agreed with him on a lot of things, especially blogging.
Keen cites the New York Times as reporting that “50 percent of all bloggers blog for the sole purpose of reporting and sharing experiences about their personal lives” (p.7). I found this very interesting and true. Most of the blogs I have come across (which, to be honest, is not very many) have seemed pretty self-absorbed.

I came across one, which seems kind of cute – she talks about her kids and being pregnant – but in a way that’s kind of weird. I would be nervous about putting that kind of information on the Internet – who knows what kinds of creeps are reading it. And I guess I don’t understand why anyone would want to write about being able to blow their nose – or why anyone would spend their time reading stuff like that: http://www.ishouldbefoldinglaundry.com/. In cases like these, I’m curious to know who they are hoping is going to read their blog.

The more I think about it, blogs are not all that different from Facebook, which I am guilty of being an avid user of. People are constantly updating their statuses (“____ is laughing!” “_____ is sick of coughing”). And the information people put on their profile page is along the same lines of a blog: pretty self-absorbed. Keen is dead on when he says that these sites “exist so that we can advertise ourselves: everything from our favorite books and movies, to photos from our summer vacations…or recapping our latest drunken exploits” (p.7).

I do think there are blogs out there that have intelligent and interesting things to say and share with others, but then there are some that are almost like an awkward diary that should have been left under the pillow.