{May 5, 2011}   What is Digital Diversity?

What is Digital diversity? The following movie and writings work to try and ask this question. Please read before watching as the text explains what is going on in the movie. When watching the movie, listen to the lyrics of the song playing in the background; for the most part they match up with the subjects being shown, and explain a little why the image was included.

When someone says digital, you immediately think electronic, and in this instance, the internet. But digital diversity is more than who is online and what they’re doing online. In the movie following I go through many of the topics included when discussing digital diversity. I start off showing you the difference between analogue and digital. This is to say that now we are a digital world, things can be copied and edited over and over again with ease no degradation of the file. Then I go on to show you some samples on how the computer has evolved in the last few decades. Computers have become so common in the developed world that nearly everyone is a user. And users are becoming younger and younger. Stepping into the net is as easy as logging on to your computer, and saying hello world to anyone who wants to listen. Online you can be whoever you want to be with the tip-type-tap of a few keys. You can meet people, but they can also be whoever they want to be. I show that great things can come from the internet, like personal connections and even marriage. Bad things can also come from the anonymity given in online interactions including predators, hackers and computer viruses. But still we value connection, and the ease with which it is presented by the digital world worries some. Some think that the digital generation puts too much information out onto the internet. That the dangers of anonymity outweigh the benefits of possible connections. And as the world looks in on us, social networking sites grow in size and number. It is all in response to the constant search for connection with another human. And as the internet grows, and technology advances, we update the hardware used to do the digital. But where does our old hardware go? Who is dealing with the e-waste created by the ever advancing techno-world? Usually, the underdeveloped world is the one to bear the burden. Women and children burn motherboards for the solder, burn old computers and bits for the precious metal. There are no safety precautions taken, or measures to remove the human from all the harmful chemicals produced from inhalation of the smoke and fumes. From the world image of the night sky, we can clearly see the difference between the haves and the have-not’s in terms of electronics and all the things that run on electricity. It is the have-not’s that must deal with the waste from ever one who ‘has’. The list presented is the percent of people who have a phone, a land line or access to the internet. As you will see, the have not’s are at the bottom of the pile with very low percentages for all three categories. But there is hope. Attempting to bring the have-not’s to have’s, One Laptop Per Child is providing durable laptops to children across the world. They may not have enough money for shoes, cut they will have an education. There’s a quote, “teach a man to fish…” you know it. That’s the theory behind it all, and it’s working bit by bit. On the same level, cell phones are becoming more and more common in underdeveloped nations and remote areas. Where land lines are almost impossible to install and maintain, cell phones now allow connection to the internet to so many who were without before. They allow craftsman, fisherman and farmers to find the best price for their product before getting to market. Slowly, the gap is being bridged and eventually, the whole world really will be connected. The end of the movie features a visual interpretation of the internet. It just looks like a colorful spider’s web, but each dot is an IP address, a connection to the internet, and those dots are growing in number. The internet is ever expanding and allowing everyone to share information across platforms and between programs, using music, video, text, and images to transmit ideas and knowledge.  By everyone sharing their ideas and connecting with one another more and faster than ever before, the world is becoming more educated. When information flows so freely, things like Wikileaks and Wikipedia spring up, which show us just how willing we are to share our opinion and teach others.

The digital world is more than a Boolean operation, It’s more than either/or thinking. (Ess, 20). It’s more than digital ethics. It’s who owns what, intellectual property. It’s who uses what and where it goes when it gets thrown away. Its access and the lack of access because of location, economy, or class. It’s the information we put out for the world to see, and the connections we make that can’t be seen, but can be felt. Computers have come so far in the last few decades. Just think, the hardware to store one bit of information used to take up almost one square foot and now we can store terabytes in under a quarter of the space.

I was in the Wikileaks group. We came up with the thesis “Wikileaks is good, but…” and then elaborated in our presentation. Realistically, I don’t think we would have done much different, even after watching everyone other  presentation blow ours out of the water. I’m just glad we went the first day. Really, what’s done is done, and I’m glad for it. It was sorta’ fun, but frustrating. With such controversy surrounding the website, it was really difficult to get on when attempting to research the topic.

In general, we were a very technical orientated group, mainly engineers with a voice and business major thrown in. We only briefly questioned PowerPoint as our presentation method, but threw out video as an option when it was clear no one had any particular skill in the area or free time to learn it. After researching the topic for a while, our thesis eventually morphed into what it is not, not exactly sure what it was before though.

Smith argues that Generation Facebook has turned people into people 2.0. Where previously we all knew that a human being can not be summed up or defined by any single description, we have now defined and catalogued a person down into a database of information.

From an outsider’s perspective, looking in, I suppose that this is how it indeed looks. But from someone on the inside, we all still hold sacred that every person can fit into labels and subcategories as preferences depict. In the efforts to describe ourselves by the information we put out to the internet, the privacies we give up to show ourselves true, we all recognize that a person is indeed more than the sum of their parts.

When questioned about the issue of privacy, or how we now lack it in the digital world, any given person immersed in the digital world might think upon the reasons for sharing so much with so many. They would probably come to the same conclusion I have, that Smith has failed to grasp. It is not only the quantity of connections, but indeed the connection itself. She states almost that exact quote, but in the opposite form in which I imply here. To here, the connection to others has been reduced to a quantifier of wealth; reduced to a cold object. But indeed people, as they have done for thousands of years, are still looking to connect with other people. We join groups and list interests, post status updates and pictures of our weekend parties. Every bit of information put out on the web is for someone else to see and connect to us by. “[Generation Facebook] views it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are”

Speaking on privacy, Mark Zuckerberg said “That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” To which he is correct. As time moves on, society changes, and the social norms evolve to fit the new world built by the best and brightest of people 2.0 (Smith). “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” (The Social Network) and as everything moves on, so do generations. We have now determined that as the movie stated “inventing a job is better than finding a job”, comparably inventing yourself is now better than finding yourself. We no longer look for, we think about what needs to be and who we need to be and create it. This is indeed the age of creation.

Technology is not “technology good vs. technology bad” (Ess, 7) it is a gradient of grey. Like every tool, the wielder determines what the tool will be characterized as. And the same with privacy, everything depends on context. “Techies often repeat that talent-good code- is all that matters online, not race, social connections or capitol.”(Hill, 28) In the context of programmers and every pure interest, the priorities of a single culture have taken the excess of information shared by each individual and rendered it superfluous.

We all search for the connection. Some people think Generation Facebook puts so much of themselves on display that they are begging to be taken advantage of. But looking back, this has always been the opinion of the older generation on the younger generation. Everything now is not good, or bad, it is just different, like everything else.

{March 11, 2011}   Conflict of Law – Wikileaks

Though technically legal, wikileaks has brought into the light the questionable legality of so many internet factors in relation to national law. Specifically in concern over wikileaks is the Espionage Act of 1917. Instated during World War I, the act was intended to punish those that would hinder war efforts or pass information to foreign nations. Any person obtaining and retaining classified documents is under violation of this law, even without distributing the information. Under the law, anyone who obtains and retains classified documents or speaks ill of the US and its actions is liable for a $10000 fine and up to 20 years in prison. It is certain that this applies to Bradley Manning, a private in the US Army, who gave classified documents to people not authorized to view them. It doesn’t help that that person was a foreign national. But Julian Assange is not a part of the US military, or even a US citizen. Do we have the right to prosecute him? Choosing an American host, Amazon, for his website was probably not the smartest idea in the world (Amazon chose to terminate the site not based on legal action but to avoid legal action and issue). But if the webmaster is foreign, where do laws now apply? The Cloud (or internet) applies an interesting issue on conflict of law, providing for many new and confusing issues in the future.


To see more on the subject of Wikileaks, please visit the page of Joshua Hughes.

The digital divide spans over more than access. The amount of access one has to technology and the internet is most frequently defined by their economic status and that of their community. But lack of or limited access is not only an effect of low economic status, but also a cause. Who has the ability to log onto the internet also controls who has access to “technological resources and knowledge, including skills training and job opportunities.” (Logan Hill, Beyond Access, p.29) There is a cycle here keeping low income individuals and communities where they are. By limited access, they stay unaccustomed to high technology, and unable to achieve the higher techno-savvy jobs that pay better, those that pay enough to gain more access. But this argument looks at only locations where access is possible physically, and not economically.

When looking deeper into the digital divide, we find the floor of the crevasse is mounded in e-waste. You know how the technological world is, coming out with some new fandangled thing every few minutes that makes the last thing you bought obsolete. So you buy the new thing and throw out the old. Did you ever wonder what happens to all those obsolete pieces of technology? They are dumped in the third world. Burned in uncontrolled, unregulated areas where the fumes are left to float around the immediate area. Little or no EPA or OSHA is in place in these developing nations that prevents these practices. In “Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground” a documentary about these places, we see the plumes of black smoke blowing over adolescent and teenage boys from fires not 100 feet away. These boys are there to tend the fires and collect the precious metals after the components are burned. Remember your mother telling you not to put that plastic cup in the camp fire because the fumes were toxic? Well, the burning of CRT monitors, motherboards, and tower cases is so much more plastic than in that one plastic cup.

We see now that the digital divide exists between the “have’s” and the “have-not’s” as well as between the consumer/producer of electronics and those who then must deal with what is left over. This gap needs to be closed. So many atrocities need to be stopped; the poisoning of children, and the environment, the hard and dangerous labor involved in dealing with e-waste, and the unethical way in which it is swept under the rug of the developed world and into the laps of developing nations. We need to move “the larger culture around us to a more autonomous, informed choice [culture] regarding what we ourselves believe is good, true, and beautiful.” (Charles Ess , Digital Media Ethics, p.111)

You will find those in the world who feel so strongly about a topic that they feel there is a right and a wrong and nothing in between. Such is the case many times when speaking on the morality and social impact of pornographic material. “By limiting our opinions to puritan extremes, we limit the possibilities for compromise and overall growth fixing what is wrong with both sides of an issue. By failing to see the possible values of porn we limit ourselves, boxing in those that would use porn as a sexual outlet or gratification rather than seeking out a real life gratification of a possibly dangerous fantasy. By bottling up the desires, attempting to fit into a socially acceptable box, the expression of sexual desire can turn destructive both inwardly and outwardly. Conversely, by only viewing the good points of porn, and ignoring the undesired and ugly effects it can have, we fail to mitigate these undesirables and account for them. The morale outrage sometimes created by the media to sell a story hurts the intelligent discussion of a topic which would consider all sides and points, “as they strongly polarize, precisely by casting the emerging phenomena in dualistic terms of good… and bad.”(Ess, 141)

Taking the extreme on either side hinders the production of healthy and protective legislation and regulation. By seeing and considering both sides of the issue, we can regulate without suffocation. Middle ground rules mitigate the harmful effects that pornography can have when used improperly, such as by those who are pre-sexual development and have no context for the information they are accessing, without stifling the expression of sexual desire, considered deviant or otherwise. For anyone who knows the story behind Betty Page, think of how she evolved the pornographic world in her work, without trying to do anything shocking at all, just simply without judging. She was who she was, and that’s all she wanted to be.

"I was not trying to be shocking, or to be a pioneer. I wasn`t trying to change society, or to be ahead of my time. I didn`t think of myself as liberated, and I don`t believe that I did anything important. I was just myself. I didn`t know any other way to be, or any other way to live." - Betty Page

See the synopsis of the biography of Betty Page here, where an un-judging person not trying to make a splash ends up completely changing the face of what is considered obscene in pornography.

{February 23, 2011}   Porn Is Healthy

…I’m sorry. Writing the previous post arguing that porn is intrinsically harmful to a person and society has made me feel slightly disgusting. Let’s look at the other side of things.

Some may argue that exposure to porn at any age, especially at an early age, is morally degrading to both a single person and society as a whole. They will cite the connection to rape and murder, how convicted rapists have pointed the finger at pornographic material for an essential factor in the evolution of their deviant and harmfully criminal behavior. But it is not a hard and fast correlation. It could also be said by similar statistics that people who eat red meat are more prone to violence. In most reality, it is the opposite correlation that is true. People who wish to commit these criminal actions choose to expose themselves to material that propagates the thoughts and feelings they enjoy.

I find it truthful to say that the exposure of children to sexual content can be damaging to the natural sexual development that would occur by discovery in the development of interpersonal relationships. But this view is widely held by most of the nation. In agreement with this view are the illegality of child pornography and the distinction of age in the definition of statutory rape. Do parents not regulate what their child is exposed to at different ages? It is not that pornographic material is harmful; it is that the misuse of pornographic material can be harmful, just as the misuse of guns can be harmful.

Besides not being harmful, the use of pornographic material is actually healthy, promoting a safer, more fulfilled society. By having the ability to fantasize about and acknowledge a sexual preference, a person is less likely to be overcome by the desire to act out that fantasy with an unwilling partner after suppressing the thoughts due to social criticism. It is a pressure release, so to say.

Many of the same advocates of anti-porn views are also proponents of abstinence education for birth control, which has been proven not to work. In schools that practice abstinence only education compared with schools that provide a comprehensive education, it is statistically significant that the rate of unplanned pregnancy and STI’s is higher in abstinence only education. As with abstinence only education, telling people that their fantasies are wrong and should just be bottled and forgotten does not work. By the expression, validation, and connection of sexual fantasies by likeminded individuals, outbursts of sexual expression between unwilling partners is lowered.

Correlated to the internet by Landsburg, where the internet provides the easiest and fastest connection of person to information yet seen in the world, “A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines. And, according to Clemson professor Todd Kendall, the effects remain even after you control for all of the obvious confounding variables, such as alcohol consumption, police presence, poverty and unemployment rates, population density, and so forth.”

Even in common media, such as in the Broadway play Avenue Q, porn is being portrayed as an object with no intrinsic worth, good or bad, open to evaluation before judgment. Increasingly teens are viewing porn and finding that it’s alright to have fantasies. By acknowledging a fantasy or sexual preference rather than ignoring or denying it, it can be accounted for in sexual expression. The viewing of many types of porn is a developmental tool way past the capability of nearly every parent in existence. By allowing the exploration of one’s sexual desires in a free environment, after sexual development, not before, people no longer lump together deviant and sometimes dangerous sexual practices with aggressive and hateful behavior.

For instance, if one were very much into dominance and/or sadism, but never exposed to the S&M community, they might express their desires with a partner in an unhealthy way by becoming abusive unnecessarily. In the S&M community, it is unacceptable to be hateful or abusive between dominant and submissive parties. The submissive party puts trust in the dominant that they will be taken care or, nothing they are uncomfortable with will proceed, and when they want to stop, things will be stopped no questions asked without hesitation. In the community a pushy dominant party, one who does not respect the boundaries of others is quickly ostracized as it is recognized that the results of not having the proper respect for another being is dangerous in a very real way. Conversely in this example, submissive personalities without contact to a community or resource which can guide the development of healthy expression could end up in a series of harmfully abusive relationships. These are just two examples in one type of sexual deviance where porn is a healthy and personal release of sexual desire.

{February 23, 2011}   Porn is Unhealthy for Society

Porn is wrong. It is unnatural and promotes social deviance. Backed up by scientific studies such as the ones conducted by Dr. Dolf Zillman and Dr. Jennings Bryant who agreed that continued and long term exposure to pornography had adverse and damaging effects on an individual, porn has been proven to be harmful to a human being. Aside from generally degrading the human condition, the exposure of one to porn desensitizes one to rape, making it less morally and sociably objectionable. By promoting the degradation of women and respect for ones partner, pornographic material degrades society; it eats away at the moral fabric of community, the world, and our Great Nation.

Exposure to porn at an early age desensitizes children to violence, making them think that it is okay to treat your spouse as an object. In many, if not most pornographic forms, women are depicted as objects for sexual desire and subordinate to men. As one views these materials, and exposes themselves to these views, they become accustomed to those views, eventually adopting them for their own. By this measure, the repeated viewing of pornographic material is degrading the respect that should be held between a man and a woman, lowering a women’s status in society.

Aside from the everyday effects which porn has on society, the extreme negatives in persons and actions are very often linked with the viewing of pornographic material. In more than 80% of the cases of rape or sexual crime investigated by the FBI, pornographic material was found in the homes of the perpetrators.

Interviews with Ted Bundy have corroborated this point in which he states on the day before his execution to Dr. James Dobson that “most damaging kinds of pornography are those that involve violence and sexual violence. Because the wedding of those two forces, as I know only too well, brings about behavior that is just, just too terrible to describe.” Here, one of the most famous sexual predators and murders in America, confessed to be responsible for the murder of 30 women, proven for 20 victims, and  speculated for anywhere from 20 to upwards of 100 victims in total, has stated with vehemence that porn has a connection to his heinous actions.

Convicted of similar crimes to Ted Bundy, Arthur Gary Bishop has stated in writhing that “If pornographic material would have been unavailable to me in my early states, it is most probable that my sexual activities would not have escalated to the degree they did.” Arthur Gary was tried and convicted for the sexual abuse and murder of five young boys.

Here we have seen two concrete examples where the extremes of violent crimes, the violation of one’s body and the ending of their life, connected with pornography by the very men who have chosen to commit these crimes. Both in definite words have pointed at pornography as a key factor in their development into deviant and dangerous behavior. By allowing the continued exposure of persons to pornographic material, we heighten the risk of repeating the development of such persons who would commit these crimes.

It is deemed by the Supreme Court that obscene material is not protected under the 1st amendment regarding free speech. To be considered obscene, a thing must meet all of the three criteria outlined by the Miller test of obscenity, defined after the 1973 curt case of Miller Vs. California. Also from this case is the famous quote “I know it when I see it” in reference to defining obscenity, previous to which there was no concrete legal definition. A thing is considered by the Miller test of obscenity if it meets the following three criteria:

1.      “The average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, [Roth, supra, at 489,]

2.      The work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and

3.      The work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. If a state obscenity law is thus limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary.

For those that feel that porn in all its forms is bad for both viewer and creator, here is a pornographic image which you can feel safe viewing

{February 14, 2011}   Egypt and Facebook

So, if you don’t know what’s going on in Egypt, here’s the short and long of it. President Hosni Mubarak, who is not a democratic president but rather self-named, has ruled for just short of 30 years. People got fed up and would take even military control over his control. Over the past few weeks there have been massive protests in Cairo, not all of them peaceful. Feb. 11th the protesters finally got their wish. President Mubarak stepped down, and Egypt rejoiced. you can hear more about the current status of Egypt in this NPR article.

Egyptians celebrate at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military. The country exploded with joy, tears and relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. (Caption from source)

It’s all turned out as hopped now, but during protests, people weren’t so sure that it would. If they failed, the protesters would be tortured, imprisoned, and possibly executed. Even so, a few dedicated teens and young intellectuals worked within the protests to broadcast the views of the protesters by interviewing and uploading images, videos, and recordings of the protesters, personally. They used facebook to get people involved and aware. Using facebook as a network, they could reach many more people than possible by just talking face to face. In the views of the students, the technology is essential to broadcasting the truth, not just the Egyptian medias version of the story.

These intellectuals are seen by many as cosmopolitan. They not only fight for themselves, but for their people, setting aside social class and status to unite against a common enemy. They want the ‘President’ out in favor of almost any alternative. By uniting under a common cause they throw away their differences. By using facebook to reach out beyond the city limits of protesting, they give merit to the opinion that social networking technology is a powerful force that can have grand effects. This new age of technology and social interaction without physical presence was feared for a while, and at the same time anticipated. Here we see how non physical interaction can lead to so much more. It is freedom of press at an entirely new level, allowed by the power of the internet.


To read more about the Egypt, the internet, and social networking sites, you might try here.

So, copyright law. Big issue, right? Is it constitutional under free speech? Does it still serve the purpose that is was meant to when it was first conceptualized? To start with, copyright was a sort of signature, being that something bearing that signature has your name attached to it. This attachment between object and person can be taken in a number of different ways. In wine makers, and metallurgists, it is to say that “This is my product. If you have a problem with it, I am who is responsible. If you like it, I am who you credit.” There’s the jib: who to credit. Nowadays we are copyrighting ideas. Everything can be copyrighted. I can think of nothing that is outside copyright, patent, trademark, whatever category you place the mass right to ownership under. That’s right, the mass right to ownership; Ownership of ideas and tunes, smells, tastes, theories, words, the list goes on.

Some feel that “proponents of [free information use and distribution] believe that authors, artists, software designers, and other creative agents will take the trouble to innovate and develop new products and services that will benefit the larger public only if those agents can themselves be assured of a significant personal reward” (Charles Ess, p74) If you chop up this sentence, you get two rather different views of people who might use this “free” information. In the first half, you feel the optimism felt by many proponents of free information. This optimistic view, exemplified by Brett Gaylor in his movie on copyright law and creation, is held by many. But at the same time, the second, more pessimistic view of humanity and creation comes into play true. No one creates without wanting something in return (Andrew Finly, 2005). Weather the creation is self serving of for the public to take and destroy; it is all in want of something. But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. If everything were free, then the creators of some great works would see no return on their work, and no longer have the ability to produce it. We would see the wane of creation as there would be not enough revenue from the sale of an idea or product to cover even the development of that product.

Free distribution, free drugs and medicine, free art for everyone. Great! Now who is willing to spend 6 billion dollars to develop that cancer saving drug, if as soon as produced it is copied? Who can afford record music in a studio if all recorded music is up for grabs in the international highway? Sometimes the system works great, protecting the right of a person to have “control” (Gaylor), to say “this is mine, I deserve the credit and profit of its propagation.”  And sometimes the system fails. In the case of Moana going international, the production of new material from pieces of old material, or the inability to copyright cultural values, the system both fails to protect original ideas, allow for the creation of original work from old ideas, and allow the owners of original idea to retain the right to their ideas. It is possible for two separate people to come up with the same “original” idea separately and without contact. So what happens when these two separate and original people meet? Who gets the credit? The kiwi artist Moana poses this same question in the end of the movie Guarding the family silver, and the answer is whoever gets better lawyers first.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, or are they? Has someone already had that opinion and decided that they wanted to own it, and thus it is no longer free for me to say and voice that opinion as it is mine as well?

et cetera