Developing Digital Literacy (One Video at a Time)~

Hey~

Welcome to this week’s bonus post ^.^ I’m going to try to keep it short & sweet!

A big topic in class related to privacy, data tracking, and navigating online spaces as a whole is that of digital literacy. Data tracking, learning algorithms, and surveillance capitalism have largely been allowed to propagate and perpetuate and make a butt-ton of money off of all of us due in large part to a lack of regulation. Unfortunately, much of this has gone unregulated not because people do not care but because they do not know they need to care in the first place. A vast majority of the population, especially in the US, is simply unaware of the dangers online spaces pose to their privacy and other personal information. Most people don’t know that when a website is free, that means they are the product.

In order to enact meaningful change in regards to imposing regulations on the conduct of these digital entities, the public needs to speak up and elect officials who can make changes. But, in order for the public to speak up on these issues, they need to be informed and they need to know why it matters. To help better inform people at all levels on the issues affecting their relationship to the Internet and the Internet’s relationship to user information, I highly recommend Crash Course on Youtube’s Media Literacy series.

The series covers not only many of the topics we’ve already discussed so far in class but also discusses the intersection some of these concerns have with others. I think this series provides users with a good foundation from which to further develop their own stance on the issue. This source, too, I believe can be helpful for educating even younger users on the many issues affecting our interactions with the Internet.

I would give this resource a solid 9/10? There’s always room for improvement and I’m sure people have their own opinions on “educational Youtube”. Overall, at least, I think this is a useful tool to keep in our library.

More, I firmly believe that education is the spark that will light up the darkness of the web like a clear night sky.

****

~Till Next Time~

Which One of These People Twisted the “Truth”?

I’d say… definitely number 6!

Man, what a week. That was possibly the best class we’ve had so far; the extensive lecture and the in-depth discussion that followed. Wait… we did not have a class this week. Oh, that’s right. The class was canceled due to extreme weather. I’m 100% certain that I’m the only one who has ever made this “original” joke. That’s the “truth”.

It seems like we have actually missed out on an interesting topic, which was apparently distinguishing the truth from false information (or fake news, in short) on the internet. That was my choice of topic for our final project in Writing Theory class (I might’ve mentioned this in another post before). I find it funny that all the topics we’ve examined in the class so far have all been previously touched upon in Writing Theory. In my first blog, I’ve mentioned that this class, Network Narratives, was somewhat of a follow-up to Electronic Literature class, but I get the feeling it’s actually a follow-up to the former; I do not believe the clash of topics is coincidental.

In that project, I talked about how people “are drawn toward aspects and notions that are in common with [their] own personal interests”, or beliefs. We are all guilty of it. It is hard to define what truth is because if we simply go with its dictionary definition, which is “a fact or belief that is accepted as true”, then we have to figure out who decides these “facts” or “beliefs”. The obvious answer usually tends to be me. We are only influenced by those around us. At least, that’s how it used to be. Nowadays, the person simply has to post a comment or tweet online and others with the same perspective will eventually find it. I won’t go into details here as it’d be me repeating myself (copying and pasting stuff from that final project), so I’ll just provide a link to it instead: “https://dceus4.wixsite.com/writingtheory/blog”, it’s the main article under “Fake News” tab. The important thing that needs to be mentioned is the attention to the evidence of “truth”, and the source of that evidence, needs to be realized.

I believe, it’s possible to draw a parallel between the internet and television in terms of how people perceive the news. If something is said on national television, of course that is the truth. Why would the media lie? We can observe the similar mentality with the internet; if something is said online, of course it’s the truth… right? Unfortunately, the pick-and-choose nature of the news tend to complicate things more than necessary. One particular distinction between the two medium(?) is access. The television tends to be one-sided (unless they do a call-in); you watch and take in everything being said without a chance to respond to any of it. In comparison, the online world has the potential to be two-sided, as in you can respond, criticize, question, or even conduct a further research on the topic. This distinction sounds very positive on the surface, but it also has its negative aspects. These individual responses are used as “evidence” by people to justify their biased opinions, at times even out of context. I’m not so certain a clear solution for that exists. The only thing that I can say is that people need to be careful when they engage in conversations online, especially about sensitive topics. Instead of jumping into the trend with no precautions, and a dismissive attitude, perhaps it’s better to do a little preparation (thorough research on the topic) beforehand.

Speaking of stuff being said online, I have a feeling that not everyone who spreads false information or unsupported claims actually believes in them. It seems like (in my humble opinion) certain content creators simply fuel the fire in order to get revenue. They know that there is a passionate group of people who just wants to hear their own opinions justified. By writing an article or posting a video that specifically cater to those people, or even intentionally attempting to trigger others with opposing viewpoints, they manage to garner an audience and get “them clicks!”. In return, they generate ad revenue. It’s a short term solution to earn money, or become “somebody” on the internet to feed their ego. The long-lasting effects, or the consequences of their actions, become irrelevant since there is no profit in it. Of course, this is just a claim based on personal observation and gut feeling. I do not have a solid proof to back it up, nor do I think it’s possible to get one. I’m sure if you were in on it just for the benefit, you obviously would not leave a door open to expose your intent and lose your meal ticket.

There were also some questions on the course website related to topic of truth online. My favorite question is the last one on the list: “When you were a younger student, how did they teach you to evaluate your sources on the internet?” The internet was a new thing when I was a younger student (MySpace did not even exist then) and people did not really know how to evaluate stuff properly just yet. You’d simply check the bio/credits or Terms of Use at the bottom of the page for authenticity. I do not believe the people had the foresight to see or imagine what the internet, and social media along with it, could eventually become. There was no cause for concern about how media or information traveled. I do wonder though, if they had the foresight, what sort of rules and regulations would they attempt to implement back then? Although it’s not necessarily the restrictions that we require in order to improve ourselves, I happen to lose faith in people who posses complete freedom as the time goes on. Perhaps, in an alternative timeline, humanity does have access to a super-safe and super-friendly internet. Too bad, it doesn’t happen to be this one we live in.

 

EDIT: Apparently, we’ll be revisiting this topic in our next class, which is great. I’m looking forward to the in-class discussion.

Comment on In the Algorithm We Trust (But Should We????) by Cog.Dog

Maybe the biggest challenge that is beyond just being literate or a bit critical is how do we know all these things being done that we cannot see directly? It’s rather ghostly. And I doubt there will ever be any means by which it will be always revealed. So we accept the panopticon.

And short of a meteor hitting the planet, it’s hard to see any undoing of this. It’s not impossible, but it looks near so. Just plain resignation does not seem satisfying.

You do such a great job of weaving and connecting, and not only the topics we do in class but out of class.

We are sorry it seems like the work at the end was lopped on. Part of it was the schedule where we ended class w/o a chance to wrap up. We will try better to make it clear what is on the table for the week. But really, don’t think of it as homework, where there are points. What counts is the reflection you do as you did here, not how many assignments turned in.

Very much appreciate the criticism.

Like

Do Algorithms Get Scared?

The e-lit piece from last semester, called ScareMail Generator, is a prime example of how to cover your tracks on the Internet. Since I did not choose to talk about it back then, I assume it’s fair to do it for this particular post. ScareMail Generator is basically a program that adds “a narrative containing a collection of probable NSA search terms” at the end of an e-mail “in order to disrupt [their] surveillance”. In our last class, we were asked to come up with a way to fight back the algorithmic systems that collect personal information. Figuring out a way to confuse the algorithm is the best approach for the time being. Although this particular program, ScareMail Generator, is somewhat limited and specific, the concept of it is worth noting. Perhaps, another type of program with the same concept could be created for a wider online platform (twitter, maybe?).

I’m still not sure about the structure (or expectation) of our final project for this class, which is supposed to be a collaborative field guide of some sort. So, I do not know how effective something like the program above would be for it. Though, I believe it’s still relevant in terms of concept. As far as the optimism rating goes, I’d probably give it a 7.5 out of 10. The uncertainty of its impact drops the score little bit. If you wish to give it a try, here’s the link for it: https://bengrosser.com/projects/scaremail/scaremail-generator/

A Platform that Causes Polarizing Opinions and Exposure to Personal Info Theft -What is Social Media?

Correct!

I can’t possibly be the only one who was disappointed that we did not get to play jeopardy in the class, right? Surely, someone else has to mention that title in their blog as well. Then again, I’m not so sure if I need to play a game that reminds me of not being an intellectual…

Anyways… In my last blog post, I’ve briefly talked about the ongoing “living in the darkness” concept and how it was not something that I necessarily related to. Yet, I was still open to the possibility of learning something that I was unaware of and have my mind changed as a result. Well, it might have slightly changed now due to a TED Talk video by Zeynep Tufekci (a fellow Turk) that we examined in our class. Funny enough, this video was included in our Writing Theory class last semester, if I recall, but for whatever reason I do not remember some key points that I got out of it now. Perhaps, I did not watch the video with an utmost attention back then.

I believe, the most important point from the video that needs be addressed here is the exposure to exclusive info/dark posts that Dr. Tufekci mentioned. I had never considered the possibility that people would be sent posts that are exclusively “designed” for that person. My attitude toward the notion that organizations collect information about us based on our online activities has always been very dismissive. I had never considered the reasoning behind it any more than the potential commercial purposes. The idea of constructing some sort of political message based on that collected data is actually frightening. Especially, considering its exclusivity; nobody else sees or knows about it. Biased political concepts are secretly being planted into the minds of ordinary people. In our last class, we had a response activity in which I wrote “whisper the things you ‘need’ into your ear, so you act the way they need” as an answer to “What the state can do with [this] immense amount of data?” on twitter. I was thinking more in metaphorical terms but it seems to be occurring literally, and that is scary.

It is important to note that the context of exposure to the issue is crucial. It is something that we can easily observe online. Article publishers intentionally choose titles that are out of context but attractive (also known as clickbait) to draw in an audience. The title is the exposure to the issue; the details come later in the article. The problem is that not every single person reads the actual article. They simply see the title (most likely on their twitter feed) and immediately form a biased opinion. Sometimes, people even form opinions based on other people’s opinions. It’s like the game of telephone in which the original source gets jumbled and the important details that set the case are lost. Contrary to belief, not everything in our world is simply “black or white”. There are a lot of issues that fall into the “gray” area that require in-depth discussions for better understanding. Taking sides won’t solve the problem.

That whole issue reminded me of an episode of Parks and Recreation. In the episode, during a town hall meeting, the head of a fast-food chain who lost a branch in town makes the claim that local government simply stripped away the freedom of its citizens. The town’s people then suddenly begins to jeer at government officers because all they heard was that their freedom was being taken away. They were clueless about the fact that the head of a fast-food chain was only concerned about money and their health was being threatened by the company. They were only exposed to the issue through a certain pair of lenses. Similarly, I have also noticed that certain words or phrases online such as “ban”, “prevent”, “restrict”, forbid”, or “make illegal” attract an immediate negative response from the crowd. I guess, one way to conduct a friendly conversation among different parties is avoiding those particular (trigger?) terms.

Something else that I often notice on social media platforms is that people are easily irked by “you’re wrong” phrase. Of course, this could easily be generalized in real life as well but at least in real life people have the option to express their disapproval by simply walking away. You can’t do that on social media. You can choose to ignore the comment but it may actually come across as a “defeat” or you may feel as if you yielded. People don’t seem to like that. It is really difficult to keep a proper discourse online because tone or attitude do not translate all too well digitally. Luckily, people have found a simple solution for sarcasm by the addition of “/s” at the end of their comments. This discourse challenge is one of many reasons why people find it difficult to conduct friendly communication based on touchy subjects on social media. I don’t personally have a sound solution to the problem but it is something for everyone to keep in mind.

I seem to be going way off topic, so I guess I’ll wrap it up here. Before I do, however, I’d like to mention our first studio visit by Chris Gilliard, which was quite interesting. His example of how people utilize certain assertion tactics to get what they want such as asking “Why are you dressed up? What do you have to hide?” is an eye-opener. I’d like to categorize them as logic-on-the-surface questions. They sound somewhat logical upon hearing them at first, but they do have alarming intent hidden underneath. You can never be too careful these days as it seems. I guess, we’ll just have to be constantly on alert.

Comment on I’m Unique…Like Everyone Else by helterskelliter

Hey,

Thank you for your insight!

What’s becoming the most pressing issue, to me, about online surveillance is regulation. A lot of data collection, like metric usage, is not inherently nefarious and often has a practical, understandable use. Many of us may agree voluntarily to its collection. But, there is an unfortunately growing kind of data collection that is thoroughly invasive and would not be consented to if it were known.

I think transparency and regulation are two key things we should advocate for in regards to this issue. I’m just not sure, myself, where lines should be drawn for either.

Like