The Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things. I’m currently undecided as to whether this phenomenon impresses me or scares me. Hopefully by the end of this post I’ll have a better idea about how I feel!

It’s predicted that by the year 2020, each person on average will have 6 devices connected to the internet – meaning a total of 50 billion objects will be online and reactive to our every move. Its an overwhelming topic, one that makes me excited for the future but also gives me a chill thinking about what new developments will mean for peoples privacy.

Like the above video points out, theoretically our refrigerator will be able to decide what we’ll be having for dinner, before we even begin to feel hungry. On one hand this is a huge step forwards in terms of efficiency and time management, but on the other it poses a very real threat to the laziness of our society and the priorities that technology deems appropriate.

It seems as though the world’s current ideas are in turmoil. Again using the refrigerator example, what will that mean for franchises like television cooking or advertising? If our refrigerator is making all the important decisions, who will advertising be targeting? It surely wont be me if there are no choices to make!

This idea that everything will be controlled by sensors hooked up to the internet for quick and easy information access is a great one in theory. It’s a step in the right direction for sure, but to what extent do we need this kind of technology in our lives? I think that the above video depicts a world null of decisions and spontaneity; a world where choices are made on your behalf based on previous behavioural algorithms.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I was undecided as to the success of ‘The Internet of Things’… well I’ve reached my verdict. Theoretically this is a fantastic idea and one that, in moderation, will definitely make life easier for many people, specifically those with a disability for example. However, I can’t help but feel as though the essence of life is being dragged away by online servers and real-life sensors. I guess in 2020 we’ll have some real answers!

ily Apple <3

Whatever it is…the streamlined design, user-friendly layout or the superior social status it provides, owning anything apple just makes me feel good.

Apple products are sheik and perhaps the most user-friendly devices in the world. This has always made me feel uneasy about Android owners… why wouldn’t they want to be a pat of this beautiful community called Apple? I know a few people who own androids and I usually come to the same conclusion about each person – they don’t have an apple purely out of principle. From experience, the only types of people who don’t want an apple are the ones who have been hurt by iOS in the past.

It comes down to personal preference and experience with a device but I personally find it a very real struggle to even play music from my friend’s Android mobile (Samsung Galaxy SIII for those curious George’s out there). This is in stark contrast to the ease and familiarity I feel when navigating my iPhone, a phone that can be explored with ease by almost anyone (except my mum).

Despite being briefly educated on the amazing technology that is Android, I feel hesitant to say that I myself would veer from my comfortable Apple bubble and purchase something of such daunting capabilities. After all, the abilities that seem to be such a huge selling point for Android devices are ones that the everyday user would struggle to understand let alone utilize daily. Cadie Thompson, of CNBC, has some tips for those iPhone lovers looking to make the switch.

It’s the overwhelming possibility of non-apple devices that provides me some solace, feeling as though the security and ease of my trusty iPhone is enough to keep me happy… at least until something mind blowing comes along.

I recognize that the Android movement is hot on our heels, in fact it’s so hot that our heels are sizzling! Here is a discussion of  the pro’s and cons of each operating system (iOS vs. Android), revealing that globally, Android greatly outsells iOS is smartphone sales.

[Say Whaaaaat?! http://techland.time.com/2013/04/16/ios-vs-android/%5D

They’re impressive statistics but I don’t feel as though the technology Android provides is necessary to the everyday person like myself, with my gleaming iPhone screen keeping me more than occupied.

#Revolutionary

I’m of the opinion that social media is a wonderful and often underrated tool, capable of maintaining the stability and organisation of various groups. This can be seen particularly in the case of the Arab Spring, with revolutionaries numbering the hundreds of thousands, seen specifically in the mass protesters that assembled at Tahrir Square in Egypt, 2011.

It is here that the conflicting opinions lie – was social media the cause of the Arab Spring or was it merely a catalyst in assisting the already surging revolution?

Often referred to by scholars and journalists as the ‘Twitter Revolution’, the Arab Spring is unique due to its strong dependence on social media to facilitate meetings and assemble the revolutionaries involved in the uprising. A report composed by scholars from Harvard University and George Washington University “analyses… the impact of new media on political movements”. It concludes, “Where Twitter and other new media clearly did matter is how they conveyed information about the protests to the outside world. Traditional media were at a disadvantage in covering events inside Iran because of restrictions placed on journalists, and thus ended up relying on new media for content.” (Aday, S et. al, 2010). This clearly establishes the roles of the citizens directly involved in the revolution and those on the outside world, revealing the importance of social media for both citizens and reporters alike. This example sees social media depicted as an infrastructure for citizens to communicate their revolutionary work, rather than a place to start the revolution itself.

Saleem Kasim, in his article “Twitter revolution: How the Arab Spring was Helped by Social Media”, outlines the usefulness of social media and how its presence during the revolution helped many people to cope and find support, “Through social networking sites, Arab Spring activists have not only gained the power to overthrow powerful dictatorship, but also helped Arab civilians become aware of the underground communities that exist and are made up of their brothers, and others willing to listen to their stories” (Kasim, S 2012).

Kalim also adds that during the revolution, users were able to share “an immense amount of uncensored and accurate information throughout social networking sites”. This is perhaps one of the most important points to make about the role of social media: It’s easy, quick and free! An activist in Cairo during the rebellion tweeted, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world”.

A Tweet takes mere seconds to write and upload and is done so on a very public platform, providing outsiders with a candid view of the situation from people who are actually there in real time. Social media offered citizens the opportunity to get their thoughts and stories into the public sphere freely via social media, effectively bypassing government censorship. I am of the firm belief that without social media, the uprisings in Egypt etc. would have still gone ahead, however it is clear that platforms such as twitter, YouTube and Facebook played numerous roles in assisting citizens and journalists alike at the time.

Wiki-what?

The words ‘Hacker’ and ‘Wikileaks’ are two that immediately shift my focus elsewhere. The mere thought of the Wikileaks phenomenon is enough to bore me to tears. However, that’s the beauty of University – forcing uninterested little punks like me to discover new things and form an informed opinion. I’d like to add that I’m glad to have researched this topic… here’s just some of my new found thoughts about online activism.

Wikileaks emerged as a non-profit organisation that aims to broadcast information to the public. Using a complex string of untraceable websites (and other cool internet stuff), the organisation aims to anonymously reveal wrong doings that appeal to the public’s interest.

Officially launched in 2007, Wikileaks made headlines globally, with it’s founder and publicly recognised figure-head, Julian Assange at the forefront of the publicity. So what made the Wikileaks debacle so newsworthy?

In 2010, Wikileaks published a video (amongst various other revelations) that showed the crew of a United States helicopter laughing as they killed a dozen people in Baghdad. The video was accessed, downloaded and passed onto Wikileaks by then US military Private, Bradley Manning. 25-years old at the time, Manning saw the wrong doings of his own colleagues and countrymen as newsworthy and deemed the horrific actions to be in the public’s best interest.

I am of the firm belief that the men in the video deserve the appropriate punishment. Not only were they allegedly [I can’t speak definitively as the video has been removed by ‘The Guardian’] laughing as they killed unarmed citizens, but were also heard saying “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards” and “hahah. I hit ‘em”.

So, were private Manning’s actions justified? Understandable even? I think yes – but the court thinks no. On one hand, the men featured in the video deserved to be publicly shamed but on the other, Manning illegally accessed restricted government material.

Unfortunately the courts did not share my opinion and Manning has been sentenced to jail for 35 years – Private Bradley Manning’s story serves as a harsh deterrent for any future whistle blowers who might strive to somehow make a difference.

So it seems that Wikileaks isn’t quite as complicated and shady as I previously assumed. It’s work to try and uncover wrong doings within large corporations and government sector’s is bringing many important issues to the public’s attention. The example of Manning demonstrates the unfortunate reality that is now facing someone purely for displaying honesty and integrity.

#HomeTweetHome

If you’ve been under the impression that traditional media outlets are at war with a rising population of citizen journalists; I really can’t blame you. There’s always been a tussle between how the 5 o’clock news is perceived in contrast to the conventional citizen journalist. The perception that the news reporter is a personified pool of knowledge and the average blogger sits at home in their underpants writing about the “Top 10 things that annoy me” (or something just as mundane along those lines) is a common misconception. But I am here to tell you that these views are quickly being thrown out the window, with the global community quickly realising that maybe (just maybe), the ‘professionals’ and ‘citizens’ could unite forces and make the news world a better place.

The current trend we’re seeing is an emergence of “Pro-Am” journalism. This concept works on the premise that ‘professionals’ and ‘citizens’ can combine their strengths in a bid to create a more holistic sphere of media coverage. This technique eliminates the issues that each respective media outlet faces individually – for example, traditional (industrial) media outlets are limited by human power and physical space, only enabling them to cover large-scale stories. Whether it comes down to the amount of words allocated to a page or a limited number of employees, traditional media cannot compete with the unlimited space and extent of information that the Internet can facilitate via citizen journalism.

Axel Bruns puts it best, “The very terminology we use to describe both sides creates the impression that professionals are not also citizens, and that citizen journalists are incapable of having professional skills and knowledge, in reality, of course, the lines between them are much less clear” (Bruns, A. 2010)

Bruns suggests that there has been a paradigm shift between news organisations and audiences, with those previously being fed the news, now actively participating in its distribution.

Social media plays a huge role in the dissemination of news stories, specifically twitter, a platform that allows the quick and simple distribution of information to a mass audience.

In fact, platforms like this are often used in the analogy, “a bridge made of pebbles”, with each pebble representing an individual news source (in this case a tweet). It would be foolish to believe one tweet without sourcing other information to gain a broader understanding of a story. Therefore, the value lies not in that tweet alone, rather the ‘bridge’ of information that is formed upon reaching a conclusion from multiple factual sources.

For many, twitter has become their ‘go-to’ news source in times of celebrity mishaps, global issues and current events, suggesting that people enjoy being part of the discussion and having their say when it comes to opinion driven news stories. Hashtags have revolutionised the way news is broadcast on twitter, and makes finding information on a specific topic easy and fast. Not only does it make sourcing information easy but also connects people in a global conversation, and are most interestingly facilitated by people that may have never actually met face-to-face.

So go forth! Tweet to your heart’s content because most likely, there’s someone out there just waiting to talk to you…just make sure you’ve sourced it from the right places 😉

Sources:

Bruns, A. (2010) News Produsage in a Pro-Am Mediasphere : Why Citizen Journalism Matters. News Online : Transformations and Continuities. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

The Long & Short of it.

I could write an ongoing list of the things I love about the Internet. It’s fast, informative, and whilst it isn’t without fault, I know I can always rely on it to be there when I need it ❤

It’s hard for me to imagine living in a world without Internet. Revolutionizing the way we communicate, our behaviour and the speed at which we can perform daily activities, the world we live in is no longer physical, but spaceless and immediate. Bruce Sterling describes the Internet phenomenon, “The Internet’s pace of growth in the early 1990s is spectacular, almost ferocious. It is spreading faster than cellular phones, faster than fax machines. Last year the Internet was growing at a rate of twenty per cent a ‘month’… The Internet is moving out of its original base in military and research institutions, into elementary and high schools, as well as into public libraries and the commercial sector” (1993).

This primary source demonstrates that at the time the Internet was being introduced commercially, it was marvelled at and almost revered. Merely 20 years ago the Internet was an emerging technology, now it’s a necessity that many people would struggle to go a day without. It is impossible to know exactly how many people have access to and use the internet on a daily basis, but sources figures suggest that 30-50% of the worlds population have or continue to use it. This info graphic by the Culture-ist visually demonstrates the spread of the Internet and how people around the world use it.

Interestingly, according to the ‘Culture-ist’, 58% of Internet users utilize online shopping (2013). Being able to purchase goods online now offers a multitude of benefits to not only the customers but also the retailers. Major draw cards that Internet offers to shoppers is the fact that product shelf life is no longer an issue and retailers are not limited by space (the Internet doesn’t have a limited number of shelves for stores to put things on – its very much infinite).

Chris Anderson’s writings on ‘The Long Tail’  demonstrate again how the Internet has played a role in the evolution of shopping and our behaviour as customers. Amongst others, Anderson uses the example of Amazon.com using “algorithm-fueled recommendations” to boost sales. After the success of a book called “Into Thin Air”, buyers were directed to another publication. “Touching the Void”, published first but not gaining popularity until later, ironically now out sells “Into Thin Air” by more than double. It can be derived from Anderson’s work that the Internet has revolutionised sales and especially our exposure to products.

Previously, for example, if you wanted to buy a CD, the range of stock in a few stores would limit what music you could buy and be exposed to. Anderson describes the age of pre-Internet sales as, “an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created…” (2004). Now, however, online retail enables a place of infinite space and abundance of stock, to cater for everyone’s needs and wants. Now, online retailers such as iTunes, eBay and Amazon offer personalised recommendations based on products that would be of interest to you. This is Long Tail – a technique that not only effectively sells more products but also exposes customers to niche products (such as music or movies) that they otherwise may never have found in a world without the internet.

It’s a phenomenon that just keeps growing and one that provides benefits to its users on a daily basis. Online shopping, in conjunction with regular retail stores are enhancing our attitudes towards shopping and creating an immediate, limitless world for its users.

I think that’s a really nice thing.  🙂

Sources

Anderson, C. (2004). The Long Tail. Wired. 12.10Sterling, B. (1993) ‘A Short History of the Internet’

Converging on the ridiculous

In recent years, media and their respective ‘mediums’ have converged. Mobile phones have evolved into devices capable of performing multiple tasks that were previously (in the not-too-distant-past) considered impossible.

Discussions with my peers have brought me to the conclusion that the mobile phone is no longer purely a communicative device. It’s a book, a distraction, a gaming console, a mirror, a television, an email inbox, a jukebox…the list goes on.

No longer purely a device to communicate important messages, the mobile phone now also functions as a social tool…but not in the way you might think. In 2011, The Pew Research Centre conducted a project to reveal how Americans really use their mobile devices. Unsurprisingly it was found that “Cell phones can help stave off boredom”, with 42% of those surveyed using a mobile for entertainment when they were bored.

But the thing I found most interesting about mobile phone usage, is the role it played in social interactions without even having to be turned on. “13% of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them” – lets be real, we’ve all done it.

I am a member of generation Y – the last generation in my opinion to live on either side of the technological age we call ‘convergence’. I got my first mobile in my early teenage years, a hand-me-down Sony Ericsson that could call and SMS. I was happy with my humble device for years – only realising my need for an iPhone when I was given one (another hand-me-down). This point came up in a class discussion yesterday with one of my peers saying, “You don’t need one [an iPhone] until you’ve got one”, a quote that remained poignant with me for the rest of the day.

The features and capabilities that now come standard on nearly all phones are features that, despite being easily accessible on our many other converged devices, would be hard for us to go a day without.

The UK’s Daily Mail mentioned a study appointed by Nokia that reveals people check their phone for updates an average of 150 times each day. This figure is a real slap in the face – I wonder if I look at the people in my life as many times as I do my glowing little screen?

A few speculated coming attractions of mobile technology have been leaked by the International Business Times. The leaked features of the iPhone 6 are prime examples of convergence – one feature being a wireless charging system (something that Android technology has arguably boasted since 2007).

The inane ability of humans to come up with solutions to problems we never had will continue for years to come… So what’s next in mobile phone technology? Perhaps teleportation or a fold out iron attachment for a quick starch on the go? Maybe not, but my sarcasm hits close to home.

Blood on the Leaves.

I think Illy said it best when he said, “Please forgive me if it all sounds so familiar; I’m sure that you’ve heard this all before; I’m only one voice in a world of billions and no idea’s original no more”.

The Australian rap artist’s 2012 single focuses on the inevitability of stealing ideas and using them as your own, even unknowingly! Even with intellectual property and copyright laws as they are, it verges on impossible to say that any idea we have is completely original. It’s often said that history repeats itself and in my opinion, the same goes for ideas and art (whether it be in the form of a song, poem, story etc.)

Copyright is designed to protect those with original ideas…but what if there aren’t any original ideas left? I know that’s a fairly big call and not by any means realistic – of course there are still things yet to be discovered, melody combinations that are yet to be heard…but surely we can take old ideas and bring them to new and wider audiences?

Henry Jenkins suggests, “a world without copyright is a world without new ideas” (2004). I disagree with this, partly as an optimist and partly as a music lover. Today, artists constantly sample old tracks in their music – undoubtedly Kanye is king of this art  (and he knows it). Despite being in what seems like a constant legal battle over copyright, West cleverly takes the old and makes it new again. I’ve mentioned his work in previous blog-posts purely because it seamlessly demonstrates that people can be just as innovative using old ideas as they can be creating completely new ones.  Jenkins argues that a justification for intellectual property is that it “increases innovation and creation”. Basically, if you cant use another person’s idea, you are more likely to think up something new and better. But I put it to you, is this not innovative and creative? Is Wests’ work diminished because it is not completely original?

Clearly sampling Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” (1965), West effectively takes the old and makes it new, demonstrating that a world without copyright would not be the end of original ideas like Jenkins suggests. Rather it would encourage the appropriation of old material, bringing the art to wider audiences than it ever could upon its first release.

flux (n) – continuous change, passage or movement.

Lots has happened since the beginning of time. Dinosaurs have roamed, civilizations have thrived and subsequently collapsed; all the while, people carry on with their daily business. I’ve lived for 19 years, a very brief moment in the grand scheme of things. But up until now, my life has been in a constant state of flux. Things change, people come in and out of your life, but most interesting (to this blog anyway) is the numerous jobs that I’ve had.
When I was 15 I got my first job at a local egg farm (think Napoleon Dynamite but worse) – I sorted through eggs that were spat from the barns onto a conveyer belt and much to my Mum’s dismay, would come home smelling worse than the household bin. Have I painted a picture yet?

After my brief stint in the poultry industry I became involved in volunteer work through the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme, helping out at the Appin Historical Society , mainly doing admin and design work for a few hours a week. Then I finished high school and moved out of the area, quickly falling into a job at a kiosk by the beach. I still work there, as well as a few clubs and bars around town – all the while trying to overcome my deep-rooted fear of chickens 😐

My point here isn’t to keep you up to speed with my resume credentials, but to show that just as Mark Deuze explains in ‘Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work’, “…careers are a sequence of stepping stones through life, where workers as individuals and organizations as collectives do not commit to each other for much more than the short-term goal, the project at hand, the talent needed now.”  It’s this constant employment uncertainty that Zygmunt Bauman has coined ‘liquid life’ (Bauman Z, 2005). So, my life exhibits liquidity and flux perfectly up until now, but when will it end? Can we all expect our careers to span through a continual state of flux and impermanence?

– Orcadia 🙂

Sources:

– Bauman, Z (2005), Work, Consumerism and the New Poor, 2nd edition. London: Open University Press.

Old Media: ‘No really, I’m fine.’

The internet has undoubtedly changed the way we interact socially, broadcast ourselves professionally and is [arguably] taking over traditional media outlets. Making my way home on the train today I was handed a copy of mX (a free publication that I wish I had appreciated far sooner than now), which featured articles that continually peaked my interest. I knew my deadline for this blog-post was looming so kept my eye out for stories of interest – unfortunately I didn’t strike gold with a story on how to publish a whirlwind blog BUT, i did notice that many of the articles discussed new forms of media – a hot topic for someone studying digital media & communication! #woo

photo-7

A quick collage of today’s stories in mX covering or utilizing new media.

In a world where slander of the ‘new-technology’ takeover is commonplace, I had never realised that old media (for example this newspaper) is not only still thriving, but also using new media forms as the basis for its popular stories and segments. Some of the stories discussed new media forms and surrounding issues, such as Melissa Archer’s page. 5’s article on the legal implications of the misuse of twitter and social media.

“We’re all publishers now and subject to the same laws as media”, author and Journalism professor Mark Pearson said, which made me think more about how the internet has revolutionized the way we, as humans, live. The internet itself was initially introduced as a form of communication; one that could not be damaged or removed by attack – and from the internet stemmed social media. We are all now publishers of our own content, responsible for what we say and do online.

So it seems that old media, feeling threatened by the cultural blessing we call ‘the internet’, has used it to their advantage. With fixtures informing people of what great tumblr’s to follow and the latest trends on YouTube, newspapers and magazines have tapped into the needs [internet] and wants [more internet] of society.

– Orcadia 🙂