Friday, 5 April 2013

What Does the Future Hold for Citizen Media

Now that we are completely surrounded by ways to become involved in the media, what does this bode for the future? In a world where nearly everything has become interactive it's hard to avoid becoming involved at some point, whether it be through the internet or maybe sharing a video of an event to a friend, we are always showing our involvement on a larger scale than previously. This idea of the "global village" coined by Marshall McLuhan has almost reached a peak in that we've become so connected that really the only step forward can be physical teleportation since we can essentially travel anywhere in the world through the internet in a matter of seconds.
  
But does this necessarily mean the future will be bright participatory media? If we're going off of  the majority of YouTube comments then you'd think we're actually going in the opposite direction, but arguments, "flame wars", and hate filled comments should be expected when dealing with anonymity on a global scale. This doesn't mean that it is representative of everyone on the internet, everyone knows that as author Henry David Thoreau once said "the mass never comes up to the standard of its best member, but on the contrary degrades itself to a level with the lowest", as a group of people will collectively be at their worst. Fear not though! As there are plenty of things to negatively portray the future of citizen media, there are also plenty to show a positive outcome.
  
Dan Gillmor discusses in his article why citizen media is important and how far it has come, but he also gives 10 tips on how to make it become something worthwhile and a positive aspect of daily life. In short, although citizen media can have its drawbacks, the sheer fact that we live in a society that has access to these technologies and the ability to have our voices heard is astronomically better than any other era of civilization. The fact that each of us has our own personal digital camera in our own pockets would be mind-blowing to someone from 20 years ago and the ease of sharing these moments we individually capture greatly connects our world. With that being said, I'm really looking forward to seeing how we carry this knowledge into the future and what younger generations will make of these ideas.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Slacktivism: A Campaign for Change From the Comfort of Your Home

These days it's very easy to feel involved in issues when we can pretend that we care by ranting about it online or signing away on empty petitions from the comfort of our own chair. This term has come to be known as slacktivism which is essentially someone supporting a cause with little to no actions behind their actual 'activism' making them feel as if they've done something right. This has become a major part of Internet activities in recent years as one can very easily feel like they have done something towards a cause when in reality all they've done is click a button or change their profile picture like in the recent Pink Equal sign campaign for marriage equality. It is the immediate satisfaction of feeling involved but in reality is it really making a change or is it just shooting blanks?

Websites like change.org allow users to create petitions online for anyone to sign, and although they have had successes like the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the Travyon Martin murder case, unless something is spread through social media or people feel like it is a worthwhile cause, it often gets swept under the rug. I myself have even signed online petitions in the hopes of bringing back dead shows (still not over the loss of Firefly) and other things that interested me, but in the end unless it is something the public or the creators feel is worthwhile it largely becomes ignored. So how is it possible to make a change when we only seem to care about things that the masses want? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a petition?
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Probably the most prominent example of slacktivism was the KONY2012 campaign which spread like wildfire across social media platforms and around the world making the fastest viral video of all time. But just as easily as it became famous, people had forgotten about it. Aside from the fact that the creator went crazy and did some... interesting things in public, people had felt that by changing their profile picture or sharing the video they had done enough to spread the movement and let someone else actually do the work. But a movement is nothing without anyone bringing it into fruition, and this is ultimately where KONY2012 failed. They misjudged the power of the Internet in joining people in a cause but never committing to anything. So is slacktivism always a bad thing? Not necessarily.

Although the actual word itself sounds very condescending and derogatory, it actually has had notable examples of working, most specifically in the case against SOPA. Major websites like Reddit and Wikipedia as well as countless others took a stand by "going dark" in protest of the bill, but this idea came as a result of major user intervention. Because it was constantly on the front page of Reddit and discussed heavily amongst Internet communities, major websites took notice and decided in unison to stand against it. Even though people may have only participated by leaving a comment or simply changing their profile picture, it spread to levels that made it a worldwide issue so people were forced to notice it.

Does this mean that slacktivism actually works? Well, yes and no. Sure there is proof that slacktivism actually increasing involvement in movements and helps to get people interested in actual activism, but for the majority of us the sad answer is that we just really don't care that much. By clicking a button or signing our name we feel like we've contributed to a major issue by doing the least amount of work possible. "Someone else will take care of that" seems to be the mentality going around and if everyone says that then who's left to actually do something? Maybe one day people will actually get around to doing more than just spreading awareness about an issue, but until then i'm just going to wait here on my computer changing my profile picture every month.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Facebook Privacy: A Virtual Panopticon?

Ever since Facebook became part of our popular culture it has been continually criticized for its privacy options and what they can do with our private information. Although it has altered these settings it is still not completely private from the company as they own everything you put on the site and it is impossible to 'completely' delete your account. But more importantly, Facebook has changed the way that we view and present private information which begs the question; what do we consider private information these days? I'm sure as recently as the 1990s no one would have predicted or even wanted every aspect of their life to be made viewable to anyone we consider a friend or even more so any random person on the internet, but yet today we have no problem with putting up personal pictures and details about ourselves right down to who we're in a relationship with.
  
This brings up the idea of the panopticon which is a building designed by Jeremy Bentham where in an institution a building would be place in the centre of a circular room allowing the guards to be able to watch the prisoners at all times without them being able to see the guards causing them to be on constant alert. How this works with Facebook is that we can never tell when someone is viewing our profile and therefore it makes us feel like we should always present ourselves in a way we want to be seen as even if we are not online, our avatars are constantly there.
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Clive Thompson discusses in his article how the introduction of the Facebook news feed made people irate at first because they felt the things they were putting on their profiles were private and news feed allowed anyone to see it on their main page. Eventually people got used to it and felt that it was alright to give up our privacies because we could now view everything about everyone else. So even though Facebook is a public website, people still felt that what they were putting online was considered 'private' which makes us wonder what we really think of as private these days.
  
With our online avatars being accessible 24 hours a day even though we ourselves are not, it changes how we present ourselves to others so as not to show the full story of our lives but rather just what we deem to be acceptable and showing the good without the bad. In an age where we are constantly surveilled on a personal level it's hard to let up on our professional facade we convey, how much is it going to take before we finally realize Big Brother is close to being a reality?

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Blurring the Line Between Digital Native and Digital Immigrant

The idea of what a digital native truly is can be a heavily debated topic. A native in layman's terms is essentially someone who was the first to own or be a part of a place. So technically in that sense I myself can be considered a digital native. But when looking at various definitions on the internet, they believe that it is someone who has been brought up in this age without any prior knowledge which would therefore make me something known as a digital immigrant as I was born slightly before it and therefore "immigrated" into the world. Would you consider someone who is 40 to be a digital native? Of course not. Will the fact that kids nowadays have not lived in a time without digital technology become a problem in the future? What kind of effects will this have?
 
Take for instance the baby who doesn't know the difference between an iPad and a magazine. Although this may seem like an extreme example as they're only 1 year old, it's interesting to think that when that child gets to be a teenager magazines may not even exist. Something that seems so normal to someone like me would be an archaic piece of history to them in such a short span of time. With technology evolving faster and faster it's almost impossible for us to keep up, and like how someone born 50 years ago is having a hard time adjusting to the technology of today, my generation may have a hard time adjusting in less than half that time. Inventions since the 1950s have been extraordinary and that doesn't even show the incredible advancements we've made since 2004 like how computers have become so dominant in our everyday lives to the point where without them we are lost.
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The idea of history repeating itself, as in slowing down our technological progress to a plateau for a while, seems to be highly unlikely at the rate we're currently going. Notions of an AORTA (Always On Real Time Access), a term coined by Mark Anderson make us believe that sooner or later we won't be able to escape this technology and it will always be a present factor in our every day lives. What this means for digital immigrants is constantly trying to keep up with things that are expanding at a pace faster than they can learn. And soon enough, digital natives may even find it difficult themselves despite being surrounded by it since birth. CNN's Oliver Joy writes in his article that there are still many places in the world, like India, which are ever expanding their technological boundaries but plenty of the younger generation would not be considered "digital natives" due to their limited access leading to digital hierarchies.
 
The effect this can have on the world could be seen as a positive as we make our way past these supposed "primitive" technologies of the past, but at what cost? By constantly expanding our technological boundaries we are at once making ourselves better and outcasting ourselves at the same time. One minute you know everything there is to know at the time and suddenly you fall behind. At this rate it looks like the only thing that's going to be able to keep up with this growth are the machines themselves, and I'm not willing to let Skynet take over while I'm still around.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Fans Make All the Difference With the Internet

Earlier this week, the television show Veronica Mars which had been off the air since 2007 was in talks to start shooting a film to conclude the series. In order to fund their project and see if there was any fan support, they turned to Kickstarter which is a website that allows for people to show off their project idea and give incentives out, like if you donate $100 you get a signed t-shirt, for people to donate money to fund it. What's particularly interesting about the Veronica Mars film is that it reached its goal of $2 million within 24 hours and still has over a month before their donation period expires showing just how devoted the fans are to the franchise. What this really shows is just how easily the internet has made it for fans and artists/businesses to interact with their favourite shows or products. Not only could fans just interact with these people, such as through Twitter, but now they can actually influence the outcome of a products life.
   
Even though donations to support artists are nothing new, it's the idea and medium with which they do it that makes Kickstarter so interesting and fresh. With the added incentives for donating a certain amount, it makes the fans feel as if their donation means more than simply just throwing money at the idea and gives them a greater sense of involvement.
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The participatory media of the internet in general have garnered a lot of responses from fans and due to this cult favourites like Arrested Development have been renewed for more episodes through funders like Netflix. So what does this say about the future of the internet? It shows just how easily something can go from just an idea to a reality if enough people feel it is worth their time. In the past this could never have been possible because without any sort of sponsored backing it was nearly impossible to organize the public in a way to get to this point.
   
Through the likes of Kickstarter we are beginning to see things which may have never seen the light of day be put up on the web for all the world to see and decide if they want it to be a reality. We've gone from just having online petitions for change to having the actual thing put in front of us with our own money being the one responsible for deciding whether it happens or not. The question is, are you in or are you out?

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Death of Authorship on the Internet


With the internet being almost a necessity when it comes to our everyday lives, the notion of authorship becomes somewhat of a difficult term to define when it comes to the accessibility and free-reign of the web. How do we define what is ours and what is not if everything can be distributed and altered without interruption? Does this make anything truly original?
             
Authorship can be defined in its simplest form as the act of creating a piece of work. So in this sense, if someone takes something which has previously been creating and make any sort of alteration it can technically be considered their work as well. With redistribution, P2P and remixes being commonplace in an online sphere, it’s no wonder authorship becomes lost in the process.
            
To sum up Michel Foucault’s thoughts, he believes that the term of one’s “work” is hard to define and original ideas are non-existent. You cannot create something truly new because everything has been used at some point or another. This ties in to the internet because the work and the author must be connected, but if nothing is original then who’s to say that work isn’t theirs as well?
      
Mackenzie Wark brings up how intellectual property has caused information to be placed in chains in a world where information can be transferred easily and quickly. This means that authorship and the idea of individuality are stopping us from creating an informed world as intellectual laws hinder our knowledge and distribution of it at times.
             
A participatory culture is one we are in currently which allows anyone to openly participate via the internet either in a large or small scale way. This means that anyone can become an ‘author’ just by using available material and either changing it to your own or redistributing it.
             
Even major journalism chains have used other journalists writing  on their own sites bringing up the question of what is considered plagiarism and what is just reusing. Are there consequences for these actions? Does this mean even trusted news sources are no longer original either?
             
In our digital age, authorship is almost entirely dead despite intellectual laws which may say otherwise due to the ease of access of knowledge and through social media like Facebook or Twitter someone’s work can be redistributed quickly and effortlessly across the web causing the individual who may have originally conceived it to be lost in the process. At this point it is probably best for us as a society to drop the idea of authorship as it limits our access of knowledge and attempts to create an individualized society which goes against everything the internet has to offer us.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Will Citizen Media Eliminate Professional News Sources?

With the rise of citizen media and citizen journalism through social media and our use of the internet for receiving information at an exceptionally fast rate, it really begs the question: is professional news becoming obsolete?

Twitter is probably the best example of citizen media because it is fast and to the point and through recent events like Hurricane Sandy or even the Eaton Centre shooting (which was first reported by Blue Jays player Brett Lawrie) we've seen its potential to spread news from a wide variety of sources on a worldwide scale in so little time. But how accurate is this? And what kind of details are missing?

An article about Hurricane Sandy from a few weeks back has the author discussing how easy it was to have misinterpreted information amongst the chaos of the event where a Twitter user @ComfortablySmug tried to mislead people such as by saying the New York Stock Exchange was flooded. What this shows is that by simply saying one thing that 'could' be true and without any sort of sources to back it up, Twitter makes people jump on the bandwagon and start to spread it quickly without any real idea of where it came from. CNN in particular picked this up which goes to show that even mainstream media uses social networks to aid their news.
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Even though mainstream news uses these social media, it is still their job to fact check and pretty much weed through the noise to find actual information. Citizen media is good for getting a message out quickly and easily, but it often fails to offer any real insight into an event. Hence why pretty much 99% of the time you follow a major event on Twitter you won't see any specific details until it is tweeted by a mainstream news source. Mainstream media still does make mistakes however as seen with the Hurricane Sandy incident I mentioned earlier and in a more extreme case, that of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting where the killer was wrongly identified. The picture that CNN ran was actually the shooter's brother, Ryan Lanza, which shows that since mainstream news sources try to keep up with the speed of the internet they will make mistakes.

Just because they aren't as quick as citizen journalism though doesn't mean that it is nearly obsolete. Participatory media like Twitter are great for allowing the public to become involved and give different perspectives to an event which we might never see, but at the end of the day who are you going to rely on more; the professional team with proven results and years of experience, or a 17 year old kid who just happened to be there?