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.

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In the Algorithm We Trust (But Should We????)

Welcome back to hell~

This week, we dove deeper into the darkness of the web and the practices of those who use the web as a tool for mass surveillance. Topics in this week’s discussion include 1) data tracking, 2) digital redlining, and 3) surveillance capitalism. Light stuff, I know.

Anyway, I suggest you grab a drink of your choice and strap in for my *hot take* on some of these issues~

Data Tracking, Digital Redlining, & Surveillance Capitalism Oh My!

So, this week, we got the ball rolling with a video on how advertising practices in online spaces are quickly turning the Internet into a dystopian nightmare that puts Orwell to shame. This video, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads”, by rockstar goddess Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) is one I shared in a prior blog post and is one I think explains the ramifications of current online data tracking practices in a very accessible way for most people. More importantly, I believe this video really emphasizes just how little regulation there is in place to stop Big Business from buying and selling our attention as if it were any other product and not something integral to life as we know it.

I think it’s important to understand that our “robot overloads” are not some far off possibility but a real-time inevitability. The world will end “not with a bang but a whimper” and all that. The Panopticon very clearly does not need to be a physical place in order to operate. It’s a state of mind and a state of being. In her talk, Tufekci mentions the idea of “surveillance capitalism”, which is the monetization of our online movements for marketing purposes, and the of “persuasive architecture” which is a structuring of a space like the Internet to best capture attention and so maximize profits. These concepts are important when discussing exactly why the current design of the Internet is not optimal for users. When private interests become more important that user benefits, I think there is a fundamental problem with that system, especially if the system is meant to be of public use. Essentially, we’re all experiencing a different Internet which can cause large rifts in information and knowledge between users which easily spills out into the real world.

For me, it is these implications that most concern me. Like, I don’t necessarily care about seeing ads for a pair of shoes I want all over the place but I care immensely more about the divide in knowledge this personalization of space for optimal monetization is causing. Especially when we’re talking about the Internet in a country whose citizens often define themselves along partisan lines like the U.S, these divisions become very concerning very fast. At least, for me. I think a lot of my classmates and most people are quite apathetic towards this issue. This, though, may be due in large part to a lack of informed consent and digital literacy.

The idea that digital literacy is essential to activating the public in order to enact meaningful change in regards to this issue is one that was discussed in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night. Which was uplifting to see. Though, even as a huge proponent of such measures, I remain skeptical of the effectiveness of them. It’s just, in this current sociopolitical climate, I don’t see how meaningful change has even a tiny chance. We’re more divided now than ever, it seems. Still, I want to be hopeful and I believe we can be a part of the movement towards meaningful change in this arena–it’s just going to require a lot of consistency in the face of overwhelming and, in many cases, willful ignorance.

There are many people out there, like Tufekci, who are trying to enact meaningful change in their own ways. In addition to watching Tufekci’s video, we also had the opportunity to have a studio visit with Chris Gilliard (@hypervisible) who is an outspoken voice on the subject of digital redlining as well as on the many other absurd ways in which we are being surveilled online. Digital redlining is basically the old redlining just repackaged in digital form and perhaps several times worse. (You can check out my older post on the subject.)

What I found most interesting from our talk with Gilliard is how truly privileged the notion of “I don’t have anything to hide” is as well as how utterly absurd. Even if that were true, so what??? That doesn’t give any entity the right to invade your privacy at a whim. More, it doesn’t give anyone the right to surveil someone who is not a criminal nor suspected of any criminal activity. It blew my mind when Gilliard talked about how our license plates are constantly being collected and cataloged and so that our regular movements can be tracked and compiled into a record.

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Again, this is happening to all of us–not just being suspected of wrongdoing. It’s crazy to me and, like Gilliard said, the burden to prove I don’t need to be under surveillance should not be mine. It’s antithetical to everything this country was founded upon. And, it cannot be stressed enough, this kind of surveillance is not innocuous. It can very real world impact that affects agency, access, and opportunities in life. That’s far too much power to go unregulated and yet it does.

I found the idea of “permission-less innovation” to be another eye-opening concept. Essentially, the idea here is that questionable/concerning entities like Uber or whatnot are allowed to exist simply because they were developed and created before regulations existed to stop their existence. It’s this kind of weird chicken/egg problem. The word innovation somehow becomes a magic word that lets companies be dicks because nobody knew such a dick could exist until they popped up.

It’s honestly less discerning than I thought it would be to be living in a Black Mirror episode but it’s still really horrifying the more I let myself think about it. Which is probably why I don’t.

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Like, Brett Gaylor (@remixmanifesto) is another researcher looking into the ethical and overarching issues with online data tracking. He’s one of the main contributors and creators of the Do Not Track series which explores how data tracking invades our daily lives in a very personalized way. Though I knew it was coming, when the first episode showed the town I lived in and the current temperature, I was highly perturbed. Hella freaked out, tbh. It’s one thing to read and hear about how easily it is to track you online but a whole other thing to see it so clearly demonstrated. That little detail is honestly hat freaked me out the most, more than the information on the web of connections between the different sites I visit, because it’s really not a small detail. It makes me feel unsafe.

Again, it’s one thing to subconsciously understand you live in a surveillance state and a whole other thing to be shown evidence that you are being surveilled.

Overall, I found this week to be a very disconcerting week. For the most part, I believe I am fairly resigned to being surveilled. But, this week, I found out that there are many things about living in a surveillance state/economy that I am actually very not okay with. Before this week, I wanted to believe that education could help alleviate this issue. I really did. But, now, I’m not so sure that is enough. We really need to mobilize and activate ourselves in order to get people into positions of power who can facilitate meaningful change–whatever that may be. I’m still not sure on what should be done.

I do know what you call Chicken Little when the sky is falling though:

Right. Awfully right.

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Out of My Depth

In addition to this overview, I also wrote a post about a site called “Am I Unique?” which allows users to see how their browser fingerprints compare to others. To be honest, I feel like looking into this issue only created more questions for me. If anything, sites like this make it abundantly clear why digital literacy is very necessary. A basic knowledge of some coding practices would also be very nice. If anyone has anything else to add about browser fingerprints, please feel free to provide that info in a comment on the post! It’s be greatly appreciated.

Regarding these additional posts, I would like to express some concerns I have. Mainly, I feel that we were not properly informed about these additional posts. I understand that class went late last week but I do not think a brief paragraph at the bottom of the weekly class post was enough to fully explain what is expected. Also, I wish there was more of a discussion in general about adding them at all. I understand they are going to serve a larger purpose but two additional posts on the topics asked for is a lot of work because these topics are not easy or familiar to many of us and require a time commitment to adequately analyze. I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel a little out of my depth here and could use a lot more guidance on the subject matter. I don’t mean for this to be a criticism but I did want to make my concerns known.

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week, I shared how art inspires me to create and think critically from different perspectives. I find myself heavily inspired by the messages encoded in art.

Also, I shared style icon Wednesday Addams and some words to live by. Honestly, I dare a man to try and control me in any way. I’m not trapped in a man’s world. Men are trapped in my world.

Back At It With Twitter

So, here we are again at the top of the semester, looking at my lacking Twitter activity:

2019-02-052019-02-05 (1)

Don’t worry. I’ll find my groove as the semester picks up. Look forward to more 3 AM tweets as I continue working late into the night on my thesis :))))))))

~Till next time~

@myFBIagent Till always~

 

Comment on I’m Unique…Like Everyone Else by Cog.Dog

Hah! This is thorough enough to negate our request about reviewing things mentioned in class. But we do hope in future ones you cast the net wide.

I’ve not seen to many results for this test that are less unique. And true, this is really much that cannot be blocked, some of the data is what is built into internet protocol. For example, everytime you visit the netnarr web site, the apache web server registers a log identifying a time, page viewed, and the IP address of most likely your wireless router (which in itself gives some geographic sense of where you are, but not a physical location, but like the town level). it’s not quite something to know about you per se. And the are positives to be said for knowing info about your audience. What is spying and surveillance vs metrics of usage?

The harder question is, in theory this might be used for foul purposes. but is it?

And how would one ever know? What does it take to be able to use this info?

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