The Intangibility of the Internet

Last year, a guest lecturer in one of my university subjects told me about the day when she first heard about the internet. She remembered being told that it was essentially a whole bunch of invisible ‘stuff’ that we were going to be able to access. Confused, she said, ‘but what is’ it – to her, the idea of something intangible that held such a vast amount of information was unimaginable. She was pleased to hear that it would ‘revolutionise’ the way that she did her job, and figured that it might allow her to search for people’s phone numbers one day, rather than having to flick through a directory.

This bunch of ‘stuff’ that we now know as the Internet, or the ‘World Wide Web’ has grown unimaginably bigger than what most people ever anticipated, and the accessibility to it has only increased this growth. In 2008, there were more ‘things’ on the internet than there were people. In less than 10 years, this has grown exponentially, particularly with the further development of social media, and the younger generations’ involvement with it.

For younger generations, the internet doesn’t seem that hard to grasp – it’s a bunch of ‘things’ that are brought together and stored in one network that we can access if we have hardware which is compatible with it (for example, a computer, smart phone or tablet), but it is always changing. In future generations, the ‘smart phone’ probably won’t include the word ‘smart’ in the title – why would it, if it’s assumed that all phones have basic functionality like access to the internet?

A video from the 1990s, advertising the internet was used by the FineBros YouTube channel on a segment they run called ‘Kids React’. In this video, kids react to a video that explains the benefits of the internet, which to us, seem quite basic. One boy in the original video says, ‘what’s a web page, something ducks walk on?’ demonstrating just how much the internet has become an integrated part of our everyday life.

The internet isn’t just a collection of random things – it’s a collection of ‘things’ that we had before in hard copy that have been made ‘soft’. Take for example, a phone book, a diary, physical books, television, games… the list goes on.

References

WorldWideWebSize, 2014, WorldWideWebSize.com | The size of the World Wide Web (The Internet), (online) Available at: http://www.worldwidewebsize.com/ (Accessed 23 October 2014)

TED, 2014, Would you prefer to read from book rather than from online website? | A conversation on TED.com (online) Available at: http://www.ted.com/conversations/18765/would_you_prefer_to_read_from.html (Accessed 23 October 2014)

SAS, 2014, What is the Internet of Things (IoT), (online) Available at: http://www.sas.com/en_us/insights/big-data/internet-of-things.html (Accessed 23 October 2014)

Why your Mother’s Maiden Name is Valuable

When I was in high school, our computer and technology class teacher would regularly ask us to Google ourselves. Without fail, every time I did I was met with the reality that the internet held far more information about me than I had ever intended to give it.

Over the years that the internet has developed, information has increasingly become a commodity. Often, it is free to produce and share information and for this reason we sometimes fail to see its value. The truth is, our personal information – which is free for us to obtain, post and share – can be bought, sold and shared further as it flows through network streams. Just as humanity experienced a stone age, or even a space age, we now face living in an information age that is hungry for data on us.

This video by the European Commission urges people to consider whether they’re revealing too much about themselves online – though comical in its approach, it deals with a rather serious issue.

In April this year, British taxpayers faced the possibility that HM Revenue and Customs (a UK company) would be legally permitted to sell taxpayers data to third parties. As a Dutch student, Shawn Buckles, told The Guardian, data has a high value. Buckles recognised this value, and decided to sell his personal data on his own accord, making him a profit of 288 Pounds, which equals 529 Australian Dollars. The World Economic Forum (WEF) believes that over 15 billion devices will be using the internet by this time next year and that the data that the internet holds will grow to 44 times its current size in the next 5 to 6 years. With this rise in internet usage comes a significant rise in revenue, making data more valuable than ever. So should this concern us? What’s wrong with sharing information?

As with all commodities, the value of online data attracts interest and with that, ‘hackers’ – or robbers of personal information. Digital marketing and social media author Janet Fouts told Panda Security that the focus for hackers is largely on credit information. She warns that while we don’t see value or harm in posting information about our date of birth, pets, parents and interests, this is also the information we use to set up the security on our online banking and cloud storage.

Next time you Google yourself, or scroll back through your Facebook feed, you may want to keep an eye out for red flags – even if they seem harmless.

References

Media Center Panda Security, 2014, Why do people hack Social Media accounts? (online) Available at: http://www.pandasecurity.com/mediacenter/social-media/people-hack-social-media-accounts/ (Accessed 15 October 2014)

News The Guardian, 2014, How much is your personal data worth? (online) Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/apr/22/how-much-is-personal-data-worth (Accessed 15 October 2014)

Technology The Guardian, 2014, LulzSec: what they did, who they were and how they were caught (online) Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/16/lulzsec-hacking-fbi-jail (Accessed 16 October 2014)

The Business of Hacking

All internet users are afraid of hacking to some degree. Information is valuable and important, and we put a great deal of effort into protecting it, whether that be backing it up to external hard drives, putting a passcode lock on our phone, or regularly changing passwords.

Though hacking is damaging, and is viewed as a huge risk to the security of internet users, it has also prompted creators and gatekeepers to continuously improve and review their content – risk, put simply, drives us to create and build things better.

In the year 2000, the world was shocked when a 15 year old boy managed to hack into huge commercial websites such as Yahoo! Amazon and CNN. ‘Mafiaboy’ as he was named, caused over 8 million US dollars worth of damage, showing just how valuable information on these networks are. This being said, the incident was a wakeup call to the world that their information was not necessarily safe, and prompted commercial websites to restructure and protect their content. The fact that a normal, if not intelligent, 15 year old boy was able to do this shows that there was a distinct weakness in these systems.

More recently, we’ve seen celebrities’ security and privacy compromised through the leaking of nude photos that were accessed by people who hacked into their iCloud accounts. Though Apple claims that iCloud’s security system was not compromised, one might question how secure their ‘security’ is in the first place. Apple released a statement saying that the hackers accessed the photos through knowledge of personal information that was required to answer security questions.

As hacking becomes more prominent and the value of content and information rises, the risk is that the idea can be glamorised. A video game called Watch Dogs was released during this past year, and refers to hackers as ‘modern-day magicians’ – will content like this inspire young video gamers to enter the hacking industry? Only time will tell.

References

IGN, 2014, Watch Dogs Review – IGN, (online) Available at: http://au.ign.com/articles/2014/05/27/watch-dogs-review (Accessed 11 October 2014)

The Guardian, 2014, How easy is it to crack into an Apple iCloud account? We tried to find out | World news, (online) Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2014/sep/03/after-nude-celebrity-photos-i-tried-to-hack-my-colleagues-apple-icloud-account. (Accessed 11 October 2014)

Engaging Young Australians in Politics

For myself and many of my peers, the last big election in Australia was the first (and only) election that we have legally been allowed to vote in since turning 18 in 2011. I myself didn’t have any clear political views at the time, and I was under the false impression that my peers didn’t either. My social media accounts promptly educated me otherwise.

The ability to participate in discussions online is both a blessing and a curse. One thing I didn’t expect to deal with were the harsh comments and thrashing of one another’s views in such an impersonal way – words on a screen feel far less real than words spoken out loud to somebody’s face. Networks, particularly social networks, mobilise us and give us a voice – but is that positive? Though there may be negative effects, even politicians see the value in these conversations. In fact, some say that they’re even starting them.

Not only are we sharing our personal opinions about politics and individuals involved in politics online, but politicians and governments are also using networks as a tool. In March this year, the government posted an article on the Parliament of Australia website about how to engage young voters in politics, and its contents were unsurprising. Aaron Martin states that for young people to engage in politics and political issues, there has to be some kind of participatory action undertaken. He argues: ‘that democracy cannot be fully realised until citizens express their shared interests as members of a community … participation in the democratic process is seen as vital to the political education of citizens if they are to develop this civic orientation.’

For our generation, and the generations after us, political engagement does happen through networking. Personal blogs, statuses, tweets and other platforms all mobilise us to share an opinion. Access to networks may even assist us to develop our opinion, with the availability to access all sorts of data and information on the internet, or even take a survey to decipher what party best represents our needs, such as this one.

vote-compass-5

Such devices still allow us to think for ourselves, but assist us in making decisions. Networks are changing even the most personal aspects of our lives.

References

Parliament of Australia, 2014, Aaron Martin “Political Engagement among the Young in Australia*” (online), Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Research_and_Education/pops/pop60/c03 (Accessed 26 September 2014)

Vote Compass, 2014, Vote Compass, (online) Available at: http://votecompass.com/ (Accessed 26 September 2014)

A New Way of News

As I was growing up, I thought that the ‘news’ was pretty boring. It was the grown up stuff that my parents watched about people dying, RSPCA fundraisers and what the weather was going to be like. I felt completely disconnected from it, and looking back, I’m not sure that this only comes down to being a child.

In the past, it has been the role of professionals to decide what is and isn’t ‘news worthy’, and the unfortunate truth is that they don’t always get it right. The interests of consumers are widely varied, and appealing to all of their interests on one or two platforms is nearly impossible. One thing can be agreed upon by both professionals and amateur journalists – scarce information, or a unique angle is valuable, and with the development of networking, social platforms and interactive devices such as hashtags and user-tagging, getting these unique angles is easier and more effective than ever before. News corporations don’t decide what is and isn’t valuable anymore – we do.

important-tweets-2

When a plane landed on the Hudson River in early 2009, a man called Janis Krums was on a ferry in the river that was headed towards the floating plane to retrieve passengers from the wings of the aircraft. He snapped a picture on his low-quality phone camera and posted it to Twitter. Many say that this was the beginning of citizen networked news. This embodies the idea of citizen journalism, but it also gives us an example of a completely unique story angle that was willingly given through access to the internet.

Not only is access to Twitter and other network platforms such as this its own form of news sharing, but professional news sites are also using this content to enrich their own angle on news stories. Many sites, including The New York Times, The Huffington Post and more locally The Sydney Morning Herald, aggregate tweets and Facebook posts on their sites in order to tell a story.

In a less corporate way, networks allow people to share content that may not be viewed as valuable by news organisations, but is valuable to other individuals. Then looking at long tail distribution, most ‘news’ would be at the high end of the graph and viewed as ‘popular’, but for those with more niche interests, down the long tail, news and content is only a hashtag search away.

References

Magazine, 2014, Janis Krum Image (online), Available at: http://www.bitchlemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/important-tweets-2.jpg (Accessed 18 September 2014)

Long Tail, 2014, About (online), Available at: http://www.longtail.com/about.html (Accessed 18 September 2014)

Your Niagara Region online newspaper, 2014,Today’s stories from newspapers in Niagara Region, (online), Available at: http://www.niagarathisweek.com/StaticHome.aspx (Accessed 19 September 2014)

The Guardian, 2009, Hudson river plane crash | US news | Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/hudson-river-plane-crash (Accessed 19 September 2014)

The Pros and Cons of Control

android-versus-apple

Having worked in a phone shop for the past 3 years, I’ve witnessed the battle between Apple and Android on an almost daily basis. When a customer enters the store, and I ask ‘what are you looking for?’ the question is rarely answered directly, but rather warrants a response such as ‘anything but a (insert brand here)’.

People are passionate about their choices, and it would seem that the choice between Apple and Android gives many users an identity in their technological endeavours – whether that be app development, or sending a text message.

With devices, hardware is important – twice now, I have had to tell people off for trying to bend the iPhone 6 demo, just to see how bendy it really is – but above all, we’re concerned about how things work, how they interact with other networks and products, what we can do with them and how easy it’s going to be. Ultimately, they want to be in control of their device, at least to a point where they feel comfortable in using it.

Statistics show that more people use Android phones – but that Apple users utilise more features on their phones, and spend more time using applications. What Apple sell is an experience – a phone that is completely interactive with your iPad, iMac, Macbook, iPod and apps that can be shared across a customised cloud network that not only stores your information, but tracks your devices for security purposes. Android on the other hand, is a product of Google. No wonder it’s so successful… but what users sometimes don’t realise, is that Apple is hugely standardised meaning that every app has to be tested before it goes on the app store, and they can’t be customised to anywhere near the extent that an Android phone can be.

The benefit of this for Android is simple. Users can be more involved – they don’t have to pass rigorous testing to put their content on the app store. Anyone can create and upload, and they don’t have to pay anything to do it. You still get a networked experience, where Google links together all of your content from device to device, but it is more susceptible to in built viruses due to the fact that anybody can upload to the app store. This being said, it pays to engage in the networked community, rating apps and taking notice of their ratings before downloading. There are far less viruses in Apple phones due to their app restrictions, but there are also less apps.

I don’t really have a stance on the Android/Apple battle – but I do use an iPhone, and I’m not afraid to show it.

NOTE: Please note that this post was updated after the release of the iPhone 6

References

Apple, 2014, Move content from your Android phone to iPhone, (online) Available at: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT6407. (Accessed 11 September 2014)

Android Antivirus, 2014, Android Antivirus: 6 truths about smartphone malware (online) Available at: http://phandroid.com/2014/05/06/android-virus-malware-scan/ (Accessed 12 September 2014)

TechnoBuffalo, 2014, Why Android Viruses Are Growing, and How To Stop Them | TechnoBuffalo, (online) Available at: http://www.technobuffalo.com/2011/06/28/why-android-viruses-are-growing-and-how-to-stop-them/ (Accessed 12 September 2014)

Forbes, 2014, Why I Still Buy Apple, (online) Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2013/05/23/why-i-still-buy-apple/ (Accessed 12 September 2014)

Added References

Businessweek, 2014, Hey, Android Users, Don’t Buy the New iPhones (online) Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-09-18/hey-android-users-dont-buy-the-new-iphones (Accessed 23 September 2014)

You and the World of the YouTuber

With the development of internet, social media platforms and access to online sharing and publishing, the distinction between the producer and consumer has become blurred over time.

youtube-new-logo

One example of the prosumer is the idea of a ‘YouTuber’ – someone whose career is to produce and engage with content on the popular media platform YouTube. Particularly over the past 5 years, the role of YouTubers has flourished, with millions of consumers accessing free content and many of these being inspired to share and create their own content online. This isn’t limited to YouTube, but is also demonstrated through blogging platforms such as Tumblr, Blogger and WordPress and on an even larger scale, on Facebook. 

A theory labelled ‘The Attention Economy’, describes the fact that content consumption is severely limited by the attention of other users, meaning that content and its distribution can only be sustainable if there is enough attention to maintain and promote widespread interest, leading to some kind of gain for the prosumer.

This particular content is sustainable due to the fact that content online can be ‘monetised’. Not only does it have entertainment value, but also economic value for the ‘prosumer’, further encouraging the creation of this free-to-access online content and inspiring others to do the same. This monetisation occurs through advertising revenue from ads that play before videos as well as through private sponsorship. Recently on YouTube, money can be made not by the number of views that a video has, or how many clicks they have on their ads, but by the amount of time that each user spends watching the content. So if a user makes their own content, and makes their own money from content, then who owns it? Unlike platforms such as Facebook, YouTube does not own the things that you upload – rather, they have a license to distribute it and host it. This also means that they, as the host, have a role as a gatekeeper, ensuring that the content that they host is to an appropriate standard. For this reason, they have permission to take videos off the platform if they violate their standards – this may be due to copyright laws, over sexualised content or videos that have been reported by other users. In this way, the community on YouTube acts as a surveillance system, who are able contribute an opinion, rather than just content.

References

YouTube Help, 2014, Video monetization criteria, (online) Available at: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/97527?hl=en (Accessed 04 September 2014)

Wired Feature, 2014, Feature, (online), Available at: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html. (Accessed 05 September 2014)

YouTube Copyright & Ownership Answers, 2014, Who Owns Your YouTube Video? (online) Available at: http://www.reelseo.com/youtube-copyright-ownership/ [Accessed 05 September 2014].