Quantified Self

Quantified Self or self-tracking refers to “the practice of gathering data about oneself on a regular basis and then recording and analyzing the data to produce statistics and other data (such as images relating to one’s bodily functions and everyday habits.” (Lupton 2013).

The Quantified Self phenomenon is not contemporary as Lupton (2013) maintains that people have been recording their eating habits and health-related metrics for centuries in pen-and-paper format for the purpose of self-reflection and self-improvement.

The key factor differentiating the Quantified Self in the past and the present is the abandonment of the pen-and-paper format and the adoption of digital technologies such as wearable devices, smartphones and mobile apps to electronically track oneself. These devices aim to measure elements of the user’s everyday life and activities and produce data that can be recorded and monitored by the user (Symantec 2014). The communications technology has enabled self-tracking using mobile devices connected to the Internet which in turn have produced a real-time and a more accurate data (Lupton 2013).

There are a vast number and wide array of digital devices and mobile apps that are designed for self-tracking such as smartphones with apps and wearable tracking devices. These technologies allow self-trackers to collect data on their daily food intake and consumption, bodily functions, physical activity, medical symptoms, spatial data, physiological statistics and mental health (Symantec 2014). They include digital cameras, smartphones, tablet computers, watches, wireless weight scales, blood pressure monitors, wearable bands or patches, clip-on devices and jewelry with embedded sensors able to measure bodily functions or movement and upload data wirelessly (Lupton 2013).

A report by ABI Research estimated that the number of wearable computing device shipments will reach 485 million units by 2018. The majority of these devices will have tracking functionality (Symantec 2014).

Here are some of the sites that features self-tracking mobile apps:

Venture Village – Top 9 Apps for Health, Fitness and Productivity,

OptimizeMe – The most complete Quantified Self Tracking Improvement App,

Quantified Self for iPhone users, and

Quantified Self for Android users.

In the U.S., Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly founded The Quantified Self movement, an international collaboration of users and makers of self-tracking tools. Based in California, Quantified Self Labs produces international meetings, conferences and expositions, community forums, web content and services to serve the user community worldwide. Enabled by the Internet, self trackers can now share their data and performances with like-minded others, creating a quantified community.

However, Symantec (2014) asserts that the Quantified Self also poses several issues such as;

(i) loss of privacy,

(ii) information stealing (the data stored is at risk of mobile malware that steals data),

(iii) traffic sniffing (attackers collect all transmitted data and send it to the wrong server),

(iv) cloud storage risks,

(v) identity theft,

(vi) profiling,

(vii) locating of users/ stalking,

(viii) embarrassment and extortion, and

(ix) corporate use and misuse.

While self-tracking allows us to learn about ourselves and others, the massive amount of data we are sharing with the world are vulnerable to the many risks highlighted earlier. Perhaps we should pause for a moment and think before we self-track.

References:

Lupton, D 2013, ‘Understanding the Human Machine [Commentary]’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol.32, no.4, pp25-30, accessed 21/10/2014, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2013.2286431.

Symantec 2014, How Safe is your Quantified Self, accessed 21/10/2014, http://www.symantec.com/content/en/us/enterprise/media/security_response/whitepapers/how-safe-is-your-quantified-self.pdf

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Cyberwar

Cyberwar is defined as “warlike conduct conducted in virtual space using information, communications technology and networks with the intention of disruption or destruction of the enemy’s information and communications systems.” (Flowers & Zeadally 2014). The notion of cyberwar lies in the fact that physical instruments such as computers, routers and cables are used to target an opponent’s communications, intelligence and Internet within the virtual realm of the cyberspace. Therefore, Flowers & Zeadally (2014) termed cyberwar as “insidious, invisible to most and fought out of sight”.

 

Cyberwar is also used interchangeably with cybercrime, cyberespionage and cyberattacks. While the term cyberwar has been used in a variety of different contexts, cyberwar has often been associated with traditional notions of warfare such as military force, physical harm, and violence (Flowers & Zeadally 2014).

 

In the most recent cyberwar, the Syrian government has been using cyber tools to track activists and expose opposition figures. An online group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army appears to be acting as the Assad regime’s surrogates. On the other hand, the Syrian opposition has its own online hacktivist group called, Anonymous, to hack President Bashar al-Assad’s personal emails (Salhani 2013).

 

To further dwell into the study of cyberwar, Flowers & Zeadally (2014) listed the of history of cyberwar from; 

 

Year 1982; where the perpetrator (U.S) embedded logic bombs which caused malfunctions in pump speeds and valve settings in oil pipelines in the then Soviet Union [note: The CIA “permitted” the software to be stolen by the Soviets in Canada];

 

to Year 2010; whereby an unknown perpetrator released Stuxnet, a cyber worm which caused damage to centrifuges of Iran’s nuclear reactors. Stuxnet attacked and disabled Siemens type Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems in a manner that disguises the damage from the operators until it is too late to correct.

 

From my understanding of the lecture and the further readings, the warfare in the 21st century is going through a drastic change. As information is one of the most important commodity in the knowledge/ information era of today, any disruption to military or government information would have crippled the country’s ability to fight. Therefore, we can see how cyberwars has been used to target those information systems that were most closely associated with the command and control of military forces in the field, at sea, and in the air (Arquilla 2011).

 

 

References:

 

Arquilla, J 2011, ‘The Computer Mouse that Roared: Cyberwar in the Twenty-First Century’, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol.18, no.1, pp39-38, accessed 19/10/2014, ProQuest Central database.

 

Flowers, A & Zeadally, S 2014, ‘Cyberwar: The What, When, Why and How [Commentary]’, Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE, vol.33, no.3, pp14-21, accessed 19/10/2014, IEEE Xplore Digital Library, DOI:10.1109/MTS.2014.2345196.

 

Salhani, J 2013, ‘In Syria, the cyberwar intensifies’, C4ISR, pp10, accessed 19/10/2014, ProQuest Central database.

Hacktivism and Whistleblowers

Hacktivism is defined as “the nonviolent use for political ends of “illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools” like website defacements, information theft, website parodies, DoS attacks, virtual sit-ins, and virtual sabotage”  (Hampson 2012). In a nutshell, hacktivism is the use of global information networks by social activists, hackers, and whistleblowers to build an independent online public sphere. More often than not, hacktivism is practiced to attain a specific social changes or political reform through online cyber protest (Hampson 2012).

The Internet has brought about changes in the media landscape which saw the shift from centralized to distributed network thus enabling hacktivists to capitalize on the power of the Internet to spread information and to gain publicity. As hacktivism is build on the foundation of freedom of information to the world, hacktivism aims to reveal information to the general public that otherwise would not be revealed by the government (Hampson 2012).

Moreover, the World Wide Web enables the sharing of these confidential information with the global audience in an instant. The Internet and the World Wide Web enables hacktivists to broadcast their stories to gain global media coverage without being subjected to the location, power or oppression of the object of protest. Therefore, hacktivism is a much more effective and efficient tool to distribute information when compared to street protests (Hampson 2012). 

In June 2013, Edward Snowden, a former private contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) disclosed a vast amount of US government confidential secrets which were never meant to be disclosed to the public. Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, revealed to The Guardian and The Washington Post that the US government practices mass-scale surveillance over its citizens and non-US citizens on a global scale on their use of electronic and telephone communications. Snowden further whistleblow that the surveillance practice was approved and assisted by several major Internet companies such as Yahoo, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. In essence, the US government was seen to be invading the privacy of the people on a global scale. Since the whistleblow, Snowden has been seeking asylum in Russia (deZwart 2013).

In the case of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, he was not motivated by promises of money or reward for his disclosure. His main objective was to disclose the information as to encourage public and global pressure on the US government to cease the surveillance practice (deZwart 2013).

References:

deZwart, M 2013, ‘Whistleblowers and the media: friends of ‘frenemies’?’, Alternative Law Journal, vol.38, no.4, pp250-254, accessed 9/10/2014, Informit database.

Hampson, NCN 2012, ‘Hacktivism: A New Breed of Protest in a Networked World’, Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, vol.35, n0.2, pp511-542, accessed 9/10/2014, ProQuest Central database.

The Practice of Citizen Journalism in Arab Spring

Farinosi & Trere (2014) maintain that citizen journalism is primarily motivated by two factors; (1) to challenge the mainstream media coverage and (2) to document the real life situations of everyday lives.

The motivation to challenge the mainstream media coverage can be attributed to the public’s dissatisfaction with the conveyance of issues by the mainstream media. The mainstream media was supposed to be the watchdog but that was not the case due to the gatekeeping practices and excessive censorship imposed by the government. This explains the emergence of citizen journalism to expose the government misconduct and to break down the barriers of the government’s hidden agenda and fallacious idealism of the nation-state (Lai 2011).

In early 2011, a series of protests in Tunisia have spread to its neighbouring countries which includes Egypt and Libya. The series of protests in the Middle East was termed ‘Arab Spring’ which denotes the dismissal of oppressive, long-serving leaders. In Egypt, people protest in opposition to President Hosni Mubarak while Libyans protest in opposition to Colonel Gaddafi (Bruns et al., 2013).

Jones (2012) examined the causes and effects of Arab Spring, which was evoked by protests in Tunisia, and found that the ruling government in the Middle East are highly oppressive as they adopt an authoritarian approach in governing the countries whereby the people do not have the privilege to vote as in a democratic country. The oppressive leaders maintained their power by exploiting citizens. The high corruption rate and inequalities in the Middle East have resulted in a high percentage of educated but unemployed youths. Having to live under such circumstances, the youths realized that they will need to fight for their rights. Hence, they mobilize people and organize social movements through social media as it is the fastest and most cost-effective way to communicate the message and to reach out to the public.

In 2011, Egyptians called for a protest against the rule of President Mubarak who was in power for nearly three decades. The protest was primarily driven by the frustration with poverty and inequalities among Egyptians. The protest in Egypt was set off by the death of a young Egyptian businessman, Khaled Saeed. He was beaten to death outside a cybercafe in Sidi Gaber outside Alexandria in June 6, 2010 because he posted a video of police engaging in corruption. The late Khaled Saeed was practising citizen journalism as he used social media platforms to disseminate information that would otherwise not be revealed. Shortly after his death, Wael Ghonim, a Google executive for the Middle-East region, created a Facebook page titled “We are all Khaled Saeed”. The Facebook page was used to invite Egyptians to protest against the injustices and unfair ruling of President Mubarak. It eventually led to a Facebook revolution in Egypt (Ali & Fahmy 2013).

Ali & Fahmy (2013) argues that Facebook is not merely a communication tool instead a power that allows the dissemination of information to a global audience. This is evident in the sharing of user-generated content such as news updates and video footage documenting the series of protests in Egypt by the local Egyptians. The lack of reporting on the protests was authorized by the Egyptian government to conceal the turmoil in the country. However, the Internet has made it possible for the Egyptians to show the world the injustices taking place in the country, in hopes that the immense global pressure would help overthrow President Mubarak and his regime.

Shortly after the successful overthrow of President Mubarak, the Libyans was aroused to challenge the reign of President Gaddafi. A series of protests took place in Libya against Gaddafi’s military regime. The protests were driven by President Gaddafi’s authoritarianism ruling. As Libya is one of the top 20 nations with the highest level of media restrictions, the Libyans have to find a way to communicate information to the world. During the protests, President Gaddafi ordered that all communication in the country to be terminated. This resulted in the entire Libyan nation to be cut off from the world. Despite the communication blackout, the Libyans utilized social media sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter, to upload videos and photos of the protests taking place in Libya. The online contents were mostly captured on mobile phones and video cameras by the Libyans. If it was not for the content generated by the Libyans, the world would not have been made aware of the political turmoil in the country. As foreign journalists were denied access to Libya, the media organization around the world relied solely on the content generated by the citizen journalists in Libya. This is evident in the news reporting by mainstream news organization, BBC and CNN, that aired video footage obtained from social media sites. President Gaddafi was later killed in October 20, 2011 at the age of 69 (Ali and Fahmy 2013).

Bruns et al. (2013) maintains that social media have fueled the Arab Spring protests as studies have shown that the protests are led by tech-savvy youths who utilizes social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. Such social media provides an avenue for the sharing of details of protests which is highly effective in generating support from like-minded individuals. Aday et al. (2013) maintains that social media is responsible for fueling the series of protests across the Middle East. New media such as social networking sites and blogs were utilized to disseminate information to the public and mobilize them to act. Social media also allows for participation in filtering and publicizing news. As media consumers are also taking on the role of media producers, this has reduced the impact of old media. This indicates that people are more inclined towards obtaining information from online sources as well as regard these online sources as credible and truthful as compared to the mass media such as television and newspapers which are likely to be regulated by the ruling political party.

In contrast to mass media, social media and the Internet have provided a platform for public opinion to be heard. The various discussions online across multiple social media platforms are termed ‘activism’ which gives the participants a sense of belonging to a group or community. Such active participation and sharing of protest-related content have inspired people outside the region to organize their own oppositional activities (Aday et al. 2013).

References:

Aday, S, Farrell, H, Freelon, D, Lynch, M, Sides, J and Dewar, M 2013, ‘Watching From Afar: Media Consumption Patterns Around the Arab Spring’ American Behavioral Scientist, vol.57, no.7, pp.899-919, accessed 4/9/2013, SAGE Publications.

Ali, SR & Fahmy, S 2013, ‘Gatekeeping and citizen journalism: The use of social media during the recent uprisings in Iran, Egypt and Libya’, Media, War & Conflict, vol.6, no.1, pp55-69, accessed 6/4/2014, SAGE Publications.

Bruns, A, Highfield, T and Burgess, J 2013, ‘The Arab Spring and Social Media Audiences: English and Arabic Twitter Users and Their Networks’ American Behavioral Scientist, vol.57, no.7, pp.871-898, accessed 4/9/2013, SAGE Publications.

Farinosi, M & Trere, E 2014, ‘Challenging mainstream media, documenting real life and sharing with the community: An analysis of the motivations for producing citizen journalism in a post-disaster city’, Global Media and Communication, vol.10, no.1, pp73-92, accessed 6/4/2014, SAGE Publications.

Jones, P 2012, ‘The Arab Spring: Opportunities and Implications’, International Journal, vol.67, no.2, pp.447-463, accessed 1/9/2013, ProQuest database.

Lai, S 2011, Iconic images and citizen journalism: Proceedings of the 2011 iConference, New York, USA, 8 February 2011.

The Rise of Citizen Journalism

This week we looked at how de-centralized/ distributed media give rise to citizen journalism.

Barnes (2012) defined citizen journalism as journalistic practice by ordinary people without any professional or formal journalistic training who utilize the tools of modern technology and take advantage of the limitless access to the Internet in creating news that would otherwise not be revealed. Citizen journalism can also be understood as the act of a citizen or a group of citizens involved in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating independent news and information that are crucial to democratic societies (Kabilan 2009).

Farinosi & Trere (2014) maintain that ciitizen journalism utilizes various media such as blogs, social media sites, and video- and photo-sharing platforms to produce, upload and share online content that are related to their everyday lives. It includes current affairs-based blogging and posting eye witness commentary on current events. Citizen journalists can participate in the news-making process without actually producing the content by re-posting, linking, ‘tagging’, rating, modifying and commenting upon news materials posted by other users (Goode 2009).

From the explanations above, we can see how new media and digital technologies have revolutionized traditional news media by enabling ordinary citizens to produce and distribute content onto social media platforms. This revolution has also lead to the phenomena of prosumer; producer + consumer, whereby people can produce and consume content online. The fact that more people are consuming news online has resulted in the decline in revenues and readerships for traditional publications such as newspapers (Bruns 2009).

Since citizen journalist do not get paid by a media organization to report or write online, citizen journalism can bypass gatekeeping practices which makes the news content unedited, uncensored and unbiased on the interests of any parties. The fact that citizen journalism is independent of government regulations and agenda-setting process makes the news reporting highly transparent and reflective on the truth (Kabilan 2009). The fact that citizen journalism can bypass gatekeeping practices highlighted the shortcomings of professional journalism which are heavily regulated by the government.

A global example of citizen journalism would be Wikileaks, an independent news organization. The controversial site made headlines in April 2010 when it published the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which saw a United States aircraft shooting and killing Iraqi civilians, including two Iraqi Reuters staff. The video, taken in July 2007, shocked the world when it was published on Wikileaks as the video is confidential and was never meant to be made available to the public (Heinrich 2012).

The example of Wikileaks showed the significance of citizen journalism in uncovering political and other scandals (Bruns 2009).

While in Malaysia, the extensive authoritarian laws such as the Sedition Act and Officials Secrets Act has led to the establishment of Malaysiakini, the country’s first independent online news portal in November 1999. Malaysiakini was established to report on political news that would otherwise not be accessible. It aims to bring independent news, investigative reporting and in-depth analysis of the country’s politics. Malaysiakini challenges the status quo of mainstream media by providing an avenue for independent news reporting, independent of political control (Steele 2009).

References:

Barnes, C 2012, ‘Citizen journalism vs. traditional journalism: A case for collaboration’, Caribbean Quarterly, vol.58, no.2/3, pp16-27, 179, accessed 6/4/2014, ProQuest Central database.

Bruns, A 2009, New Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for E-Journalism, accessed 3/10/2014, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/294441/mod_resource/content/1/Bruns%2C%20A.%20-%20News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf

Farinosi, M & Trere, E 2014, ‘Challenging mainstream media, documenting real life and sharing with the community: An analysis of the motivations for producing citizen journalism in a post-disaster city’, Global Media and Communication, vol.10, no.1, pp73-92, accessed 6/4/2014, SAGE Publications.

Goode, L 2009, ‘Social news, citizen journalism and democracy’, New Media & Society, vol.11, no.8, pp1287-1305, accessed 6/4/2014, SAGE Publications.

Heinrich, A 2012, ‘What is ‘network journalism’?’, Media International Australia, no.144, pp60-67, accessed 6/4/2014, EBSCOHost database.

Kabilan, K 2009, ‘New media, citizen’s journalism and democracy: The Malaysiakini Project’, Media Asia, vol.36, no.3, pp156-158, accessed 1/4/2014, ProQuest Central database.

Steele, J 2009, ‘Professionalism online: How Malaysiakini challenges authoritarianism’, The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol.14, no.1, pp91-111, accessed 6/4/2014, SAGE Publications.

The Mobile OS War: Open vs. Closed

“We define everything that is on the phone,” – Steve Jobs

That statement was enunciated by Jobs with regards to the functions and how iPhone is programmed. When the first generation iPhone was launched in 2007, Apple made it clear to the public that the iconic invention cannot be programmed by anyone else outside of Apple Inc. The operating system, prominently known as the iOS, is a closed platform whereby every aspect of the phone is programmed and approved by Apple Inc. This also stretch out to the type of apps available for download at the Apple store. Apple fully controls what apps are sold in its app store, and Apple store is the only method of distribution for iOS apps (Zittrain 2010). Simply put, the iPhone pretty much control how we can use it.

It is best to note that Apple empire was not originally built on a closed platform. Instead, Apple’s very first personal computer, Macintosh which was launched in 1984, prided on its ability that allows user to personally customize and program the computer. Apple Inc explained that the reason for the iOS to remain a closed platform was to protect their iOS-operated devices from hackers, harmful softwares and suspicious sources. However, the recent cases of nude images of celebrities being leaked through the iCloud have caused a stir regarding the privacy that the “closed” platform that Apple Inc. has promised but that’s another story for another day.

On the contrary, Google’s Android operates on an open platform, offering more freedom and flexibility, allowing its user to modify and program according to their personal preferences and lifestyle needs. The open platform on which Google Android operates allow web developers to access the computer programming of mobile applications and softwares (Smart Company 2013). The scale of customization and personalization is limitless. With no filter required, the apps are then published on Google Apps Marketplace without Google checking them first. The downside may include the security risks, as there is some potential to unintentionally unleash malicious apps on Android-powered phones.

As both open and closed source platform have their own benefits and limitations, the battle between Apple iOS and Google Android continues.

References:

Smart Company 2013, Is Your Website Built in Open or Closed Source Code? And Why It’s Important You Know- Part 1, accessed 23/9/2014, http://www.smartcompany.com.au/technology/34246-is-your-website-built-in-open-or-closed-source-code.html#

Zittrain, J 2010, ‘A fight over freedom at Apple’s core’, Financial Times, 4 February, accessed 23/9/2014, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/fcabc720-10fb-11df-9a9e-00144feab49a.html#axzz3E7ljD2Kb

Intellectual Property and the Permission Culture

World Intellectual Property Organization (2014) defined intellectual property as “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property consists of three main pillars that is regulated by law; (1) patents, (2) copyright and (3) trademarks.

(1) A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. It can refer to a product or process that provides a technical solution to a problem.

(2) Copyright refers to the rights that authors/ creators have over their literary or artistic works which may include books, musics, paintings, films and so on.

(3) Trademark is a distinctive sign of a brand/ company that distinguishes it from other brands/ companies.

 

Prior to the establishment of World Intellectual Property Organization in 1967, Lessig (2005) maintains that the world lives in a free culture whereby the public and private domains are in balance. In a free culture, Lessig (2005) argues that the public domain is lawyer-free and copyright-free whereas in the private domain, copyrights are solely commercial.

However, with the advent of the growing digital technologies and the proliferation of the Internet, creative work are being exploited and circulated illegally without the consent of the authors/ creators leading to the contemporary issue of piracy. The Internet has made it very easy for people to leak the creative works of others online such as music are leaked on the Internet prior to the official release and movies are easily available for streaming and downloads on various websites (Lessig 2005).

In order to curb the issue of piracy, the World Intellectual Property Organization developed Intellectual Property Rights to protect the interests of authors/ creators. Lessig (2004) argues that the development of Intellectual Property Rights have replaced free culture with permission culture whereby all content is now copyrighted. Now, the freedom to use ideas/ inventions are now subjected to the permission from the authors/ creators. This has been referred to as iFeudalism whereby the authors/ creators have total control on who can use their work and how their work can be used if permitted.

Since the Intellectual Property Rights grant the authors/ creators sole entitlement of their creative works, some scholars have argued that intellectual property gives authors/ creators a monopoly in their respective industry which is contrary to the ideology of free culture – free flow of information. Companies on the other hand, argued that “a world without Intellectual Property would be a world without new ideas” (Boldrin & Levine 2007).

Now, scholars are lobbying to restore the balance between the public and private domain, that is to provide sufficient incentives for the authors/ creators yet ensuring the freedom for others to use the ideas/ inventions (Boldrin & Levine 2007). 

 

References:

Boldrin, M & Levine, DK 2007, ‘Chapter 1: Introduction’, in Against Intellectual Monopoly, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, pp1-15, accessed 10/9/2014, http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/papers/anew01.pdf

Lessig, L 2005, ‘The Public Domain’, Foreign Policy, no.150, accessed 10/9/2014, http://ezproxy.uow.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/224035506?accountid=15112

Lessig, L 2004, ‘Chapter 1: Creators’, in Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Strangle Creativity, Penguin, New York, pp21-30, accessed 10/9/2014, http://www.authorama.com/free-culture-4.html

World Intellectual Property Organization 2014, What is Intellectual Property, accessed 10/9/2014, http://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/