A look into participants of social media (Part 3- Data Mining)

Here is the final video of our three part series looking at the topic of Data Mining.

Data mining in general refers to the collection of large sets of data from various databases. Advertisers use data-mining as an effective tool to gather information from consumers on various social media websites like Facebook and transform this information into products which can be sold back to consumers.  This has become a controversial topic in today’s generation as many individuals who utilize these forms of social media are not fully aware of how their information is being exploited.

In this video we look to examine the level of awareness users have of data-mining and how they feel about their information being exploited by advertisers.


A look into participants of social media (Part 2- Usage)

Here is the second video that our group created, looking at the topic of usage. In Part 2 we explore how users interact with the various forms of social media that they use and how these platforms may be used inappropriately.

Why do we feel the need to connect with others online and post what we do? Feel free to comment, answer our questions or provide feedback below. Thanks for your input.

A look into participants of social media (Part 1- Privacy)

Hello everyone!

Please take a look at the video myself and a group of classmates put together.  Asked to complete a project that engages with some sort of citizen media, we created a series of videos that address three topics- privacy, usage and data mining.

After interviewing a number of our peers, we set out to explore the various opinions and thoughts that we received, to help us gain a better understanding of the topic at hand.

Below is part one of this three part series addressing the topic of privacy, and how it effects our relation to the online social world. Our questions look to address the ways in which our social worlds are mediated through privacy agreements and how we are constantly disclosing our information to those around us. The responses we got were fairly interesting and help to provide further insight on the subject. Please take a look at our video and feel free to comment on YouTube, answer the questions yourself or provide feedback.


3D Printing “Democratic Access to Commodities”

I recently came across this interesting video from PBS that takes an in depth look at the current state of 3D printing technology. I figured I would share this video with all of you and ask, what effects do you feel 3D printing technology will have on the formation of digital communities and social media?

What is now a ‘hot’ topic of discussion in the digital public sphere, new forms of cost effective 3D printing technology are opening up a world of possibilities for our future ‘gift economies’. A term coined by Wark McKenzie, he views ‘gift economy’ as communities which are formed through the interaction, production, and manipulation of information. With the addition of 3D printing technology, these gift economies now become collaborative vehicles which can move beyond the digital into the physical. While McKenzie states that gift economies make “the relation between digitally encoded information and the material in which you find it in” to be arbitrary, 3D printing technology poses somewhat of a contradiction to this statement. With a wide range of new creative possibilities offered to producers and consumers through this technology, the ‘digital form’ and ‘material form’ will become more closely related than they have ever been. While we often refer to the Internet as providing us with a ‘democratic access to knowledge’, 3D printing technology could also provide us with a ‘democratic access to commodities’.

This technology could become a vehicle supporting a level of innovation never witnessed before. It would now be possible for a group of designers from various regions of the world to collaborate together in real-time to have a product created almost instantaneously. This technology could also prove beneficial for individuals living in remote locations, who may not have easy access to transportation and certain resources. Granted they have a way to access the Internet, items such as replacement parts, tools, and possibly resources such as food and medical aid could be sent to these locations within a matter of seconds, helping save lives and increase sustainability.

As the video notes, 3D printing technology “is going to force us to think about, not only buying products….but how they are made”. Industrial designers or anyone looking to create a product can now bring that product to the market without any risk, allowing creators to become 100% owners of what they produce. This will also eliminate global supply chains as products no longer need to be transported in their physical form but can reach all areas of the world through the Internet.

As the PBS video effectively points out the world of possibilities offered through 3D printing technology, it make very little effort in addressing its possible threats and restrictions. Expanding on the topics discussed in my previous post Internet Piracy: Where Do We Go From Here?, policymakers are looking to stay one step ahead of this new 3D printing trend by issuing patents that limit the freedoms and possibilities of the technology. In October 2012, a patent was issued by Intellectual Ventures in an attempt to place a DRM system on 3D printing technology. DRM which is a term used often in today’s digital world, stands for Digital Rights Management and is implemented by large corporations to place restrictions on the use of digital content which they deem to be in violation of copyright or patent laws. In reality however, DRM is way for large conglomerates to keep ownership in the hands of the few rather than leaving it open to the public. Intellectual Ventures, which is a patent purchasing company, is looking to purchase patents on pretty much every particular aspect of 3D printing technology. Most likely backed by larger corporate interests, this patent proposes to place ownership on everything from the materials needed to the most minute details of the manufacturing process. Stating on their site that “we believe that ideas are valuable. We’re here to ensure a market for invention continues to thrive,” it seems fairly obvious that Intellectual Ventures is setting out to accomplish the opposite of that and capitalize off inventors.

While we can hope for 3D technology to provide a wide range of possibilities for inventors and consumers in the future, organizations such as Intellectual Ventures are looking to stint this process.  With websites like The Pirate Bay already making available a ‘3D printing category’ on their website containing over 26 active torrent files, it is likely that we will see a dramatic growth in piracy as this technology becomes more  affordable for consumers.

Internet Piracy: Where Do We Go From Here?

With the looming threat that authorities now pose to torrent websites and all forms of copyright infringement, sites like The Pirate Bay are taking proactive steps to combat this issue. Moving all of their data to cloud based servers, hosts for the The Pirate Bay can now operate from multiple points across the world, making them much harder to trace. This along with other movements in digital culture (listed below) are making the often slow paced war on piracy even more of an uphill battle.

As I am sure most of you reading this are well aware, internet piracy has become the prevailing topic of discussion and debate in the digital public sphere today. At the heart of this debate is what Mark McKenzie refers to as, ‘the freedom of culture’ found on the internet and how we define what is now part of the public and private domain. With the increased availability and usage of illegal content on the internet, governments and corporate institutions are now directing much of their attention towards combating the already popular trend of illegal downloading. While it would be naive to ignore the detrimental effects that illegal downloading has on intellectual ownership, the course of actions and laws proposed by those combating the issue seem to further distance themselves from any supporters.

While highly publicized legal attacks have been made against those involved with internet privacy, such as the attacks on the founders of The Pirate Bay in 2009, most of these cases have proven to be fairly insignificant. As shown in Jonas Andersson’s case study on the legal attacks against The Pirate Bay, these indictments appeared to be more of ‘spectacle’ rather than a revolutionary court case and ultimately led to increased traffic and popularity for the torrent website. Other missteps in the fight against piracy occurred in early 2012 when the internet community joined forces against the proposed initiatives of  PIPA and SOPA, which posed a threat to the underlying democratic structure of the internet. Piracy which was often perceived to a be a form of counterpublic was now, with the help of SOPA and PIPA’s outrageous proposals, part of a public in support of ‘internet democracy’.

As stated by Jaron Lanier in his manifesto You Are Not A Gadget, “ideals are important in the world of technology,” but the ways in which ideals are instilled in the community is much different than in the real world. These ideals need to come from a standpoint that is understood by both, corporate entities and the internet community. The manner in which PIPA and SOPA have conducted themselves however, clearly states to the internet community that their private interests far surpass their commitment to the general public. It can also be argued that the approach these legislative bodies are taking does not account for the fundamental differences between tangible objects and the digital form. As seen in the early 20th century with the introduction of the airplane, many deep-rooted American property laws had to be readjusted to usher in new forms of transportation. Similar to this scenario, the government needs to take initiative and adapt copyright laws to account for the current state of digital culture to have any success combating  internet piracy.

While PIPA and SOPA are taking their time to contemplate new ways to approach the issue of illegal downloading, technological innovation is continuing to move forward. Relating to Sherry Turkle’s article Who Am We? which refers to the “burgeoning cyberspace lives of children and teenagers”, the culture of illegal downloading is now something that younger generations are growing up with and in turn is effecting our ideologies towards it. As stated earlier, movements within digital culture are also being made to combat the growing threat from authorities. Aside from cloud based servers, all of the information from websites such as Wikipedia and The Pirate Bay can now be downloaded into a small compressed file and stored on a flash drive. Therefore, even if these sites were to be shut down by authorities, their information would still be accessible to users through magnet links stored in these compressed files. With that being said it is clear that the legislative bodies put in place to combat the issue of internet piracy have a long road ahead of them.

Well, Hello There!!

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it‘s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”― Dr. Seuss

Thank you Dr.Seuss for appropriately summing up this blog page to date. While a bit late to the game, it would feel improper to begin this blog without some sort of introduction. My name is Dan and I am enrolled in my 4th year of studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, majoring in Communication Studies. I have created this blog to explore the role of citizen and participatory media in the public sphere and examine the ways in which information and knowledge are disseminated in the Web 2.0 culture of today. I will offer my perspective on these topics through various blog posts and encourage all of you to engage in the discussion as well.