Click Is the New Clap With the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT), while hard to define, captures the idea of a world where everything is connected and communicating. Techopedia explains it as a computing concept where someday in the future, everyday object will connect to the Internet. These “things” will have the ability to identify themselves to other devices, making them worth more than the object by themselves, establishing an “ambient intelligence” when these objects work in unison (Janssen, 2014).

Movies such as In Time and Her, are predicting this future of an IoT world, with electronic life countdowns inserted into humans wrists and operating systems that can communicate and feel emotions. While these may be extremes that seem unlikely to exist, the Internet of Things is very present today.

Beginning as a Kickstarter project, LIFX have created Wi-Fi enabled LED light bulbs, that are controlled with your smartphone. The click is the new clap where users have the ability to change the colour of the light, dim, and turn off and on their household lights from a single device, without having to move. While these lights seem like more of a novelty than anything else, they also have the ability to naturally wake you up with the lights slowly increasing in the morning, and dimming off at night to improve the quality of your sleep (LIFX, 2014).

Another example of the Internet of Things, created by Fuseproject, is the Kernel of Life. The concept is that the wearable device allows people in developing countries to test themselves for symptoms of chronic illnesses such as Malaria. Users would test their saliva, urine, blood or breath using the device, and transfer results to doctors via a smartphone app.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 10.05.18 PM

Fuseproject developer Yves Behar stated, “When the nearest doctor is days away, both treatment and diagnosis can be accomplished through the cloud-based and embedded medical test that Kernel offers.” The reusable device can be worn as a necklace and can also measure the users temperature. While the technology required to make the Kernel of Life is currently too expensive and not durable enough for its intended use, Fuseproject predicts it could be perfected in five to ten years (Griffiths, 2013).

Through the rapid growth of the Internet of things, the word “product” no long applies to tangible things only. According to an article in Forbes by Dan Woods, “Product can mean a device, a service powered by software or other technology, a service provided by people, a flow of data, a software application for monitoring, automation, or analysis, or in many cases all of the above.” (2014). The LIFX and the Kernel of Life are both examples of this change. It is not just the physical product itself that is key to its use, rather its connection with the Internet.

While many fear the inevitability of the Internet of things, I find it exciting. Some argue these creative innovations might only be making us lazier because the object does all the work. This may be the case for some “things”, but certainly not all. Wired editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly established the term “quantified self” describing it as using technology to collect data on aspects of a persons life, such as food intake, sleeping patterns, exercise, etc. (Lupton, 2013). Designs such as the Kernel of Life support the quantified self and have the potential to improve lives and solve many issues; it would seem to be a step backwards to not embrace the Internet of things.

Sources

Griffiths, Alyn 2013, ‘Wearable device could detect disease “when the nearest doctor is days away”’, De Zeen Magazine, 28 November, viewed 24 October 2014, < http://www.dezeen.com/2013/11/28/fuseproject-designs-wearable-device-that-diagnoses-disease/&gt;.

Jenssen, Cory 2014, Internet of Things (IoT), Techopedia, viewed 24 November 2014, <http://www.techopedia.com/definition/28247/internet-of-things-iot&gt;.

LIFX 2014, The Lightbulb Reinvented, LIFX, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://au.lifx.co&gt;.

Lupton, Deborah 2013, ‘Understanding the human machine’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 25-30.

Woods, Dan 2014, ‘How the “Internet of Things” Is Transforming the Meaning of Product’, Forbes, 25 June, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/danwoods/2014/06/25/how-the-iot-is-transforming-the-meaning-of-product/&gt;.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

In my last post, ‘Hacktivists: The Hero or villain’, I looked at the rise of hacktivism, with people like Julian Assange using this technique of retrieving information online for social and/or political reasons. While this is the larger issue at hand, it is necessary for us to be aware of our risks as Internet users, because hackers don’t discriminate when they choose their targets.

In late August of this year, an anonymous hacker posted nude photos of over 100 celebrities on 4chan. These images were illegally obtained though iCloud, being a major invasion of privacy. Many of the victims as well as other celebrities have spoken out about the incident on twitter such as Mary E. Winstead.

While many offered support and sympathy for those affect others took to social media to shame and blame these victims for the invasion of privacy.

Less then two months after this incident, another anonymous hacker took to 4chan to release thousand of nude photos from snapchat. Known as “the snappening”, this release was not just targeted at celebrities but anyone who used apps such as SnapSaved, that lets users save snap chats. Snapchat issued the following statement after the leaks:

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks. Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users’ security. We vigilantly monitor the App Store and Google Play for illegal third-party apps and have succeeded in getting many of these removed” (Snapchat, 2014).

I’m sure many others, like myself, didn’t stop to check these terms and conditions when we downloaded the app. While this doesn’t give hackers the right to infiltrate personal information, but it does make it a lot easier for them to get away with it.

I in no way, shape or form blame the victims of these hacks, but rather the technologies we are so trusting of. Whether it’s snapchat or iCloud it seems as though the content we put online or on our devices, no longer has the ability to remain private. Mashable has released an article, ‘How to Protect Your Photos (Nude or Otherwise) From Hackers on iCloud’ and the Independent have posted an article, ‘How to keep Snapchat pictures and videos private’, both worth a read. As it stands, the answers to this problem are not yet known, and we haven’t outsmarted hackers, so it doesn’t hurt to take precautions.

Sources

Halleck, Thomas 2014, ‘Snapchat Hack: Snapsaved Claims Responsibility For ‘Snappening’ Nude Photo Scandal, But Questions Remain’, International Business Times, 13 October, viewed 22 October 2014, <http://www.ibtimes.com/snapchat-hack-snapsaved-claims-responsibility-snappening-nude-photo-scandal-questions-1703992&gt;.

Reader, Ruth 2014, Snapchat blames users of ‘illegal third-party apps’ for nude photo hack, Venture Beat, weblog post, 10 October, viewed 22 October 2014, < http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/10/snapchat-responds-to-nude-photo-hack-passes-blame-to-users/&gt;.

2014, ‘Timeline of the Celebrity Nude Photo Leak–Everything You Need to Know’, Glamour Page, 3 September, viewed 22 October 2014, <http://www.glamourpage.com/timeline-of-the-celebrity-nude-photo-leak-everything-you-need-to-know/>.

Hactivists: The hero or the villain?

We live in a world that is consumed by the Internet. It is embedded into our daily lives so much so that when it fails us we feel as though our world is crumbing. While the Internet may give us the freedom to do what we want, whenever we want, it does not guarantee our privacy, as many of us like to forget. This opens the door to an array of ethical issues surrounding the Internet and our right to access it all.

Online hacking is any technical effort to infiltrate, extract and/or manipulate networked data (Mitchell, 2014). Any news headline including the word “hacker” immediately brings thoughts of malicious activity and disaster, however there are many who argue this movement is not necessarily bad, rather a new form of whistleblowing.

Wikileaks is a prime example of this new age, known as ‘hacktivism’, breaking into computer systems, for politically or socially motivated reasons. The website, created by Julian Assange and his team, publishes secret footage, documents, emails and anything else of value from their thousands of sources who have the ability to remain anonymous. In Raffi Khatchadourian’s New Yorker article, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, he describes Assange’s mission as “a way to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events” (2010). Not everyone will like what it is posted but Assange feels as though it is information society needs to be aware of.

Many see Assange’s work as a harmful act against society for self gain. In an article for The Sydney Morning Herald, Gerard Henderson wrote that hacktivism is a form of treachery. Traitors like Assange, “are alienated individuals who detest their own society and wish to see it overturned. [They] are openly proud of their alienation and do not seem to regard any nation or any leader as better than any alternative. Moreover, both show evident signs of narcissism” (Henderson, 2013)

On the other hand there are many who see Assange as a new age hero, his super power being the ability to share the truth. 85% of respondents believe Assange should receive government assistance because he is fighting for humanity. An anonymous author made the point that, the information that WikiLeaks has shared with the world is information we have a right to know. It is information that governments don’t want us to know – and for that reason it is even more important that we do” (Green Left Weekly, 2012). Similarly, Bruce Sterling believes that Assange has, the initiative in a world afflicted with comprehensive helplessness” (Sterling, 2013).

I find it hard to define Assange as the hero or the villain as there are still so many aspects of his story I am unaware of. It is also hard to determine how good something has to be for it to outweigh the bad. While the arguments against Assange are supported, the fact remains he has brought the worlds attention to serious issues that we would not be aware of if Wikileaks didn’t exist.

Sources

Anonymous 2012, ‘Why we must support Wikileaks and Julian Assange’, Green Left Weekly, 1 June, viewed 16 October 2014, <https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/51189&gt;.

Henderson, Gerard 2013, ‘Assange’s acts of defiance have narcissistic edge’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June, viewed 16 October 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/comment/assanges-acts-of-defiance-have-narcissistic-edge-20130617-2oeic.html#ixzz2WVCUW9tA&gt;.

Khatchadourian, Raffi 2010, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, New Yorker, 7 June, viewed 18 October 2014, <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/07/no-secrets&gt;.

Mitchell, Bradley 2014, ‘What Is a Hacker?’, About Technology, viewed 18 October 2014, <http://compnetworking.about.com/od/networksecurityprivacy/f/what-is-hacking.htm&gt;.

Sterling, B 2013, The Ecuadorian library or, the blast shack after three years, Medium, weblog post, 2 August, viewed 18 October 2014, <https://medium.com/@bruces/the-ecuadorian-library-a1ebd2b4a0e5>.

Tools for Change: The role of social media in activism

How many times has a picture of a starving child, living in poverty come up on your news feed with a caption reading, “1 LIKE = 1 PRAY and $1 DONATED” come up on your news feed? I have personally lost track of the times I have continued scrolling past said posts without stopping. But that didn’t change the fact that these pictures have thousands of growing likes.

This idea of using social media to create positive change is known as clicktivism. After recently being added to the Oxford English Dictionary, clicktivism is officially defined as “the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.”  Social media is changing the way we communicate and is giving a voice to the voiceless. You don’t need to be famous, rich or powerful to tweet, just Internet connection. Many, like Malcolm Gladwell, believe Twitter will not be saving the world any time soon. Gladwell stated in a New Yorker article, “Social media is build around weak ties…where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools” (Gladwell, 2010). While examples like the one I gave above emphasise the idea of ‘slacktivism’, which is participating in online activism with no effort or involvement truly put in, there are many cases that have proved these theories wrong.

Take for example the recent activity in Ferguson. In early August, an unarmed African American teen, Michael Brown, was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, a suburb in St. Louis in the U.S. While the circumstances of the incident are in dispute, the African American community of Ferguson felt as though it was a clear example of the continuing racial discrimination existing in the 21st century so they began to protest, physically and online. With the use of social media, the story spread and gained attention and support all over the world. Twitter was overflowing with tweets using #Ferguson to show support for the people of Ferguson and the issues at hand.

The following link shows the explosion of the #Ferguson on twitter across the world, over the 11 days after the shooting.
http://srogers.cartodb.com/viz/4a5eb582-23ed-11e4-bd6b-0e230854a1cb/public_map

So did social media help the cause? While it didn’t stop protests or bring an end to discrimination, it started a conversation. How easily Ferguson’s “small town” issues could have flown under the radar. Social media gave the people of Ferguson the ability to get their story out. Brittney Packnett, the executive director of Teach for America – St Louis, stated “This movement is not about an organisation, but rather about giving young people in Ferguson an outlet to channel raw energy to be productive and have their concerns be heard” (2014).

There will always be positives and negatives to social media. It has strengths and weaknesses like anything else and I believe this is the key to successfully using social media for activism. Like Gladwell said, “we are defined by our tools” (2014), but these tools are connecting the world together to create a community open to change.

Sources

Buchanan, L, Fessenden, F, Park, H, Parlapiano, A & Wallace, T 2014, ‘What Happened in Ferguson?’, The New York Times, 22 August, viewed 1 October 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/13/us/ferguson-missouri-town-under-siege-after-police-shooting.html

Gladwell, Malcolm 2014, ‘Small Change’, The New Yorker, 4 October, viewed 1 October 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-3

Moffitt, Kelly 2014, ‘How social media is playing a role in Ferguson’, St Louis Business Journal, 14 August, viewed 1 October 2014, http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/blog/2014/08/how-social-media-is-playing-a-role-in-ferguson.html?page=all

Zak, Elana 2014, ‘How #Ferguson Has Unfolded on Twitter’, The Wall Street Journal, 18 August, viewed 1 October 2014, http://blogs.wsj.com/dispatch/2014/08/18/how-ferguson-has-unfolded-on-twitter/

Searching, Gathering, and Presenting: Media Made Easy

Data aggregation is a process where information and data is searched, gathered and presented in a report-based, summarised format (Janssen, 2014). While it does not provide much information, the most important aspects are given. As social media is becoming more dominant in our everyday lives, the traditional communication of news is dramatically changing. News is being aggregated across social media, establishing a new form of gathering and disseminating information.

Take for example Twitter. There is a limit of 140 characters therefore; users must be selective in how they choose to make a statement. Many newspapers tweet links to their stories and specifically write a tweet that intrigues the reader whilst giving details of the story. According to Johnson, we live in a tech fast world, where we seem to prefer to read a tweet than something in excessive detail. He describes this phenomenon as “ambient awareness” (2009).

With over 271 million active users on Twitter, it is hard enough deciding whom to follow, let alone process everything on your Twitter feed. This is where data aggregation steps in. Twitter aggregator and trend websites use formulas and methods to filter every tweet to basically determine what’s hot and what’s not. Retweets are one of the many ways users can determine if a tweet is popular and gaining attention. By connecting your twitter account to aggregation sites like Digg, can analyse your personal twitter feed and activity to determine when you should be alerted to a particular tweet. For example, if you follow lots of people, and a lot of them retweet a particular tweet, Digg will connect you to it. In doing so, you have the ability to find, read and share the best tweets for you.

Another example of data aggregation is Benard, a company that specialises in social curation and visualisation, who collects and gathers information through social media. Benard was chosen to create the official info-graphic for the worldwide, Social Media Week. Combining their efforts with companies such as Nokia and The Guardian, Benard aggregated and curated over 235,225 mentions for 12 cities across 4 continents.

“Our platform was built to serve as that middle layer which solves big social data issues surrounding aggregation and relevancy with easy plug-in-play interfaces that enable the creation of amazing user experiences for any agency, content management system or blogger. The true innovation is that you can now leverage social media on your terms, not the platform’s,” – Benard founder Vincent Mota.



The process of aggregating is not a new concept but it is definitely of value in the 21st century. Social media is becoming a part of our every day life, and we are receiving more information than ever before so like anything, organisation is the key to control and data aggregation is the key master.

Sources

Janssen, Cory 2014, Data Aggregation, Techopedia, viewed 21 September 2014, <http://www.techopedia.com/definition/14647/data-aggregation&gt;.

Johnson, Steven 2009, How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live, Time File, viewed 21 September 2014, <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/245672/mod_resource/content/1/Johnson%20-%20How%20twitter%20will%20change.pdf&gt;.

2012, ‘Benard Powers the “Social” in Social Media Week’, PRWeb Newswire, 22 February, viewed 21 September 2014, <http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9217428.htm&gt;.

Competition is not so bad when there’s support on both sides

If you’re part of the smartphone community you’re well aware of the Apple vs. Android debate. Some are loyal to one company while others have switched between the two. But the reason for this competition comes down to the type of platform each phone type works on.

An open platform is a program or software in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge (Beal 2008). With an open platform, programmers can improve and further develop a code in a collaborative effort with the community. As a result a more useful and bug-free product is established, as there is little or no concern with propriety ownership or financial gain. Android runs on this mobile platform, allowing anyone and everyone to modify Android codes, as well as creating apps with no limitations. According to Daniel Roth, they make their money by “selling support for the system — security services, say, or email management” (2008).

On the other hand is the closed platform. There are restrictions in the usage, modification, copying or distributing of software. It is exclusive property of the developers or publishers and is not shared with the public for people to look at or change (Beal 2008). Jonathan Zittrain describes Apples closed system as a way to maintain control. For example, Apple users can only purchase apps through the App store. While anyone can make an iPhone app, Apple must approve it before the app is added to the database. Apple creator Steve Jobs felt this system made the iPhone more reliable and trustworthy.

“We define everything that is on the phone. You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work any more.” – Steve Jobs

While I can see why many people are against a closed platform system, for some it is more beneficial. In my case, I like having a smartphone, as it is everything I need in one place. However, as I am not a tech genius, I have no desire to change or develop any of the software myself. I have been a proud owner of an iPhone since 2010 and have no plans to stray from Apple. I trust that the people who create Apple codes know what they’re doing and have the best interests of the company in mind, so they will create something that works and consumers like myself will like.

I believe that while there remains to be a choice between open and closed platforms the competition between the iPhone and Android will continue. We are not locked into a certain platform, and there are no rules against switching between Apple’s closed system or the Androids open system. Everyone has their own opinion on which is better, but ultimately, the two companies are catering for everyone. Therefore, unless another competitor joins the fight, people will continue to buy both iPhones and Androids. While the companies may disagree, I see this competition as a healthy one, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Sources

Beal, Vangie 2008, Proprietary Software, Webopedia, viewed 10 September 2014, <http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/P/proprietary_software.html&gt;

Beal, Vangie 2008, What is Open Sourced Software?, Webopedia, viewed 10 September 2014, <http://www.webopedia.com/DidYouKnow/Computer_Science/open_source.asp&gt;.

Roth, Daniel 2008, Google’s Open Source Android OS Will Free the Wireless Web, Wired, viewed 12 September 2014, < http://archive.wired.com/techbiz/media/magazine/16-07/ff_android?currentPage=all&gt;.

Zittrain, Jonathan 2010, A fight over freedom at Apple’s core, Financial Times, viewed 12 September 2014, < http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/fcabc720-10fb-11df-9a9e-00144feab49a.html#axzz3DM3V7t2a&gt;.

Copy + Combine = Create?

According to the World International Property Organisation, intellectual property (IP) is creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Law protects it, by creating a balance between people’s innovative ideas and the interests of society to use their material. It offers recognition or financial profit to the owner when the work is used.

While IP encourages creativity and innovation in a fair way, it is being challenged by the “remix culture”. Amateur creators believe in their right to use existing works to create new and unique works. “The Internet has made it even easier to re-use and remix the existing store of knowledge and culture, producing a new dimension of creativity” (Fitzgerald & O’Brien, 2006, p. 1). However, these creators do not often have the legal right to create these remixes.

A product of the remix culture is mashups. These are a combination of content from a number of different sources to produce something new and creative (Fitzgerald & O’Brien, 2006, p. 1). Most common forms of mashups are videos and websites but there are many other types that can be found on the Internet. Take for example fan fiction. These are fictional stories written by fans that include characters and sometimes themes of television series, movies, and other creative works without authorisation from the original author. They are combined with original ideas and characters of the author to create a new story. There are websites dedicated to Harry Potter FanFiction, with thousands of stories essentially ‘copying’ J. K. Rowling’s characters and ideas. According to Ernest Chua’s Murdock University eLaw Journal, In Australia, fan fiction arguably is an infringement of copyright laws. However, using the ‘fair use’ defence, fan fiction can be identified as a review or criticism of the original work, which is legal (2007).

In Kirby Ferguson’s TED Talk, Embrace the remix; he argues that everything is remixing, a process of copying, transforming and combining. I think these are the basic elements of all creativity. I think everything is a remix, and I think this is a better way to conceive of creativity” (2012).

The rise of the Internet and digital technology has allowed for many people to prosper creatively by allowing them to be their own producers or publishers. While many people will continue to debate over copyright and remixing I agree with Ferguson, we encourage one another to be creative by feeding off each other’s ideas. I still think creative rights are important, but the Internet is a weird and wonderful place that has given us more opportunities than ever before, so the last thing we want to do is put a stop to it.

Sources:

Chua, E 2007, ‘Fan Fiction and Copyright; Mutually Exclusive, Coexist-able or Something Else-Considering Fan Fiction in Relation to the Economic/Utilitarian Theory of Copyright’, eLaw Journal, vol. 14, no. 215, pp. 215-232.

Ferguson, Kirby 2012, Embrace the remix, TED, viewed 6 September 2014, <https://www.ted.com/talks/kirby_ferguson_embrace_the_remix#&gt;.

O’Brien, D. S., & Fitzgerald, B. F. 2006, ‘Mashups, remixes and copyright law’, Internet Law Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 17-19.

2014, What is Intellectual Property?, World Intellectual Property Organisation, viewed 7 September 2014, <http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/&gt;.

A Pot of Gold at the End of the Tail

YouTube has approximately 1 billion visitors each month with over 100 hours of footage being uploaded a minute. With so much content, it is hard to believe videos can gain as much attention as they do. With the ability to post whatever, whenever, people are becoming celebrities at the click of a button.

This situation can be explained by the long tail effect. Established by Chris Anderson, it is a niche marketing technique that shows if a distribution channel is large enough, products in low demand can exceed and/or rival the few bestsellers and blockbusters (2004)

Creating and producing a successful and professional video is very difficult, but YouTube gives anyone and everyone the opportunity to share their work, with no limitations on the content or quality. YouTube can therefore be seen as the distribution channel, with the variety of videos establishing countless niche markets. As the Internet offers unlimited space, more and more content can be added to each niche market, representing the ‘long tail’ that is continuously growing. The more specific the niche market is, the further is goes down the tail.

Take for example Rebecca Black and her infamous ‘Friday’ music video. Her parents had paid for the song and video to be created, which was then shared on YouTube with no anticipation of the reaction it would receive. While the majority of the reception was negative the video hit 100 million views after 63 days. When asked his opinion Simon Cowell said, “Whatever she’s done has worked. Whether you like her or not, she’s the most talked-about artist in America right now.”

Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are both signed to one of the largest music labels in the industry, Def Jam Recordings, and both artists had fewer views for their official music videos than Friday (Kaufman, 2011). It wasn’t a large music labels that made Rebecca Black famous, it was the viewers that clicked, shared, liked and disliked the video that made it viral.

The long tail has expanded opportunity. While quality is still valued it can certainly be overlooked by quantity. As in the case with Friday, no matter how untalented you are, if you can get your material out there you have a chance at success.

Sources:

Anderson, C 2004, The Long Tail, Wired, viewed 31 August 2014, <http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html >.

Kaufman, G 2011, Rebecca Black’s Friday Beats Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber on YouTube, MTV News, viewed 31 August 2014, <http://www.mtv.com/news/1661773/rebecca-black-friday-youtube-views/&gt;.

Why We’re Working 24/7

We live in a networked society where we are often more active in cyberspace than in real life. This change has moved into the workforce, where the growth of technology has changed the way many businesses function. M. Gregg describes it as the “always on…wireless world of the contemporary office.” This movement can be described as ‘liquid labour’, that is the flow of information due to the breakdown of networks. Businesses work in a network based arrangement rather than a hierarchical one, allowing fast communication between everyone.

With technology becoming more mobile, you can now carry and access your work almost anywhere. In this sense, liquid labour has allowed workers to be more flexible when and where they work. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1 in 12 workers did more hours at home than any other single location in their main job. For many office workers with family’s, the ability to work from home means they can adapt their work hours to suit their lives better while still maintaining their work duties.

While there are many benefits to technology in the workforce, there are also many negative impacts to consider. As the line between home and work lives are blurring, people are not living balanced lifestyles. Our unlimited access to Internet often gives the impression communication is instant. For many workers, having access to their emails on their smartphones means they are checking them 24/7 because they feel if they don’t, they are not doing their jobs properly. Workers are not switching off, they are attempting to do everything all the time. Whilst discussing the negative affects of multi-tasking through technology, Christine Rosen believes there will be consequences to this change. “When we force ourselves to multi-task we’re driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run, even though it sometimes feels like we’re being more efficient” (2008). Similarly M. Gregg highlights the point in his work that with this constant access comes an expectation that employees will put in more hours. In order to compensate, “work takes prominence in daily life to the detriment of the few remaining obstacles, such as holidays, children and sleep.”

While I can see both the strengths and weakness of technology impacting work, I think it is important for people to maintain a balanced lifestyle. The temptations to access work and the Internet will only increase, therefore we must use some self-control to do the unthinkable, and switch off our devices once. After all, there’s a great big world out there, beyond our screens.

Sources

Gregg, M. ‘Function Creep: Communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace’

Rosen, C. (2008). The myth of multitasking. The New Atlantis, 20(Spring), 105-110.

Fishing For Our Freedom

“On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather” (Barlow 1996).

This opening line of John Perry Barlow’s 1996 work, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” encapsulates his view on the freedom of the Internet. That is, Governments have no right to control a space that is completely free. Barlow describes cyberspace as a place without “privilege or prejudice”, a place free of fear as thoughts can be expressed liberally (1996).

Ahead of its time, Barlow’s writing projected the current issue of net neutrality. On 15th May 2014, America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an open commission meeting to discuss the introduction of open Internet rules. Following the idea of net neutrality, content providers would have the ability to pay for faster services. But what happens to those that can’t afford these high prices? Companies such as Netflix and Facebook are in favour of net neutrality as they have the funds to come out on top.

The following video by the New York Times explains the functioning of net neutrality, looking at both sides of the argument. Speaking to media columnist David Carr, he makes the point that if you are receiving one message fast and another slow, it is obvious which one will be heard (2014).

So what does net neutrality mean for us as Internet users? If companies have to pay to speed up their services, they might potentially begin charging consumers to cover the costs. While various video-streaming services may become more reliable, there will eventually be fewer services available. Smaller providers may shut down, as they cannot afford to keep up with larger providers.

With a lot of this information being foreign to many, Internet users have come together to create ‘The Net Neutrality Teaching Kit’. The site provides various links to videos and articles to explain net neutrality and assessments to test your knowledge and understanding. While you may not know where you stand in this debate yet, it is important for us to be aware of this issue. It is our responsibility to discover, create and take action around Net Neutrality” (Braybrooke & Sansing 2014).

Sources

Barlow, J.P. (1996) A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, <https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html>.

Braybrooke K., Sansing C. 2014, Net Neutrality Teaching Kit, Makes.org, viewed 17 August 2014, <https://keyboardkat.makes.org/thimble/LTQzNjIwNzM2MA==/net-neutrality-teaching-kit&gt;.

Wyatt, E. 2014, ‘F.C.C. Backs Opening Net Neutrality Rules for Debate’, The New York Times, 15 May, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/16/technology/fcc-road-map-to-net-neutrality.html?_r=0&gt;.