Politics online: is it making a difference?

Protest sign from the Egyptian revolution.

Protest sign from the Egyptian revolution. Source: wrightresult.com

Hello again readers! It’s time for my final post of this class. This week, we have been discussing the role of technology and social movements and politics. More specifically, we examined if technology has led to an increase or decrease in citizen participation for these types of events. After some thought, I am ready to tell you all what I think!

Overall, I believe that using technology for these events can raise more awareness for political and social movements. Personally, I am not involved in politics and I do not care very much about them. There is really no personal connection for me. However, seeing more information about voting and debates, etc. can lead me to think more about it and maybe research some information on my own. At the very least, I see it online so I cannot ignore it.

I believe that in the past, when using technology for political or social events was relatively new, it had a larger effect on participation. People were excited about the new possibility and wanted to see what it was like. Now, the novelty has worn off. The effect is much smaller and people are used to seeing politics online. Unless the event is a major revolution or something that has never happened before, it no longer ignites the enthusiasm to get involved it once did.

We read an article in class written by Daniel Bennett titled, “Exploring the role of Twitter and social media in revolutions“, which discussed the role of social media in politics and social movements. He gives a good explanation of what they are really doing and how it is not always effective. After reading this, I think it is clear that social media does have an advantage and it does inspire people to join movements and get involved. However, I think the participation has a limit. Once social media starts to influence the decisions the government makes, then I believe the online-inspired participation will skyrocket. It is easy to join a new movement or show support initially but once people realize that it doesn’t always change policies, the participation decreases.

This decrease was seen in the recent election, especially with the younger crowds. We are simply used to social media now and we know how hard it is to change something in the political world. Why bother participating if it won’t change anything? Until choosing to participate will clearly change something, the posts about elections will continue to be just another post on our Facebook walls.

Collaboration and Crowdsourcing: Helpful or Harmful?

Hello again blog readers! It’s time for another post, this time discussing crowdsourcing and collaboration. I’m specifically going to talk about my views and opinions of the helpfulness versus harmfulness of mass online collaboration and crowdsourcing. After reading a few articles on the subject and having some class discussions, I have formulated my viewpoint.

For starters, I will give a quick description for those who haven’t heard of these topics. Essentially, crowdsourcing and collaboration is when an online site or company asks the online community to contribute marketable ideas for the company to produce. For example, when searching for one of these sites during a class activity, I found that Lego has a crowdsourcing site, which allows users to submit ideas for a new Lego set and, after reaching 10,000 supporters on the idea, the company will then put the design under review and potentially sell it as the next new set. While in this example the creators will get some of the profit and their name on the set, some crowdsourcing sites/companies do not pay people for their ideas. It is because of this fact that not everyone is sold on the idea of collaboration and crowdsourcing.

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In my opinion, I think this can be helpful overall. If a company is truly having trouble coming up with new ideas or improvements, it can be extremely helpful to ask for outside help and see what kind of ideas come pouring in. In terms of copyright and payment, I think it is fairly common knowledge that submitting an idea to a crowdsourcing site has risk in that aspect and should be a factor that someone considers before choosing to submit. If someone gets upset about their idea being used and not receiving credit, then they should learn from it and next time find out the policies on receiving credit if selected. It seems very unwise to post an idea you are very fond of online and not expect some form of ramifications. That is simply how the online world works.

Another concern involves an article we read in class from the Washington Post, “SketchFactor controversy showcases challenges of crowdsourcing”. This article discusses an application for the iPhone that allows users to comment on the safety of specific neighborhoods. While made with good intention, many of the comments are inaccurate and misinform users about certain areas. A solution to this aspect of crowdsourcing, in my opinion, is to only apply it to sites that are creating something new, rather than sites that seek to inform (just look at the accuracy of some Wikipedia pages). This will prevent misinformation and problems associated with it.

All in all, I see crowdsourcing and collaboration as a very useful tool for companies and those seeking help for an idea. The benefit of viewing so many different ideas from so many different types of people can greatly expand the mind when thinking about a solution. It also allows people to gain experience with invention and entrepreneurship and participate with a company/site they would otherwise not have a chance to contribute to, thus providing them with beneficial experience as well. I see these concepts as overwhelmingly positive and something that should continue, allowing people to become critical thinkers and problem solvers; tools that no person should be without.

The right to be forgotten: is it ours?

Hello readers! It’s time for another post. This post will be addressing the question: do we have the right to be forgotten? We have been discussing this question in class and it has led to some interesting conversations.

Essentially, the right to be forgotten is the right to have information about us removed from the Internet or not used online (things can be deleted, yes, but they are never truly gone once posted online). So here is where my discussion starts: is the right to be forgotten a right that is ours or not?

At first thought, I wanted to say, “of course it’s our right! Why wouldn’t it be?” but then it got me to thinking, it isn’t necessarily our information to own. Say you do an interview with a paper and it gets published online. Is that your information or the newspaper’s? Or say you are arrested for a minor charge and an short article is written about you. Can you ask the news company to take down the article since it was your action or not since it is the journalist’s words? Once thinking in terms of this, I started to change my mind.

That is the tricky part about this question: ownership. In my opinion, if you choose to post a picture or blog post or someone posts an article or information about you, then you do not own the information in either case. For the first case, you willingly share that information online, knowing the possible consequences, therefore you gave the website the ownership. For the latter, the article written or website that chose to post the information involving you has the rights to that post or article. It is them who did the work to write it and/or post it so it is they who owns it.

Another thing I thought of involving this question was accountability. I do not think we have the right to ask websites to remove our pictures or information that was willingly shared because, like I mentioned earlier, the potential consequences are known before posting anything online. Thus, if you change your mind later, that is simply a consequence you will have to live with.

If we give everyone the right to ask for information to be removed, then no one will be held accountable for his or her actions. It is each person’s own responsibility to hold themselves accountable and not share information that will portray themselves in a poor light. It is simply irresponsible to ask for content to be removed because a person realized it was inappropriate after posting.

If someone else wants to post a picture on Facebook, let’s say, it is people’s responsibility to ensure that the person who owns that picture doesn’t post it if you do not want them to, especially if the photo taken was already known to be inappropriate and/or shouldn’t be shared online. Especially since, once it is posted, it cannot be taken down. In a case like this, it may better to avoid taking inappropriate pictures all together.

As with every big issue, there are going to be people on both sides of the argument. If this right were denied, people would be very upset, understandably. While the consequences of not allowing this right would be the potential for negative content or photos about someone to permanently stay online and create a bias to his or her identity, the benefits could be that everyone would be on a level playing field.

No one could purchase services to remove content when others couldn’t afford it or change their online perceptions and portrayals. Almost everyone has that one embarrassing picture or article online that they wish would disappear. It’s the very reason people want this right. However, knowing that nearly everyone has a post like that makes the embarrassment minimal and less significant. If we all have something unique in common, is it unique at all? In my opinion, no.

It is a combination of all of these thoughts that led me to say, no, the right to be forgotten is not a right that we have.

For more information:

John Oliver video discussing the topic (comedy).

“Is the internet making us stupid?” A Response.

google2 Picture from steveearley.wordpress.com 

Hello blog readers! It’s time for an update. I recently read the article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr, in which he discusses how the Internet is altering our cognition abilities. He focuses around our lack of focus: as information is so readily available, people tend to hop from one site to the other, rarely staying on one long enough to read all of the content. He mentions how this constant skipping around has affected his ability to stay focused on a book or a longer read; he tends to get fidgety and bored, whereas in the past he had no trouble. It really raises some questions for the younger generations who are growing up immersed within a society surrounded by technology. After reading this article, I decided to post a response to his question: is the internet really making us stupid?

In my experience, when I am reading a fictional book or something similar for fun, I can fly through the pages, reading for hours at a time. For educational material, however, I definitely have the focusing trouble that Carr mentions. I easily get bored and start to skim when that happens. I can see his point about how this nature to get fidgety and skim readings or not finish the readings at all can inhibit our intelligence and learning. However, if it is an educational reading that revolves around something we are passionate about, then I disagree. If tasked with a reading for subjects that I find very interesting or subjects that I study, I can read about it with no trouble. It is from this angle that I don’t believe the internet is necessarily making us stupid.

Another thing that I noted from a video we watched in class was that because we have access to so much information, we are able to learn more and discover more. Before the internet, in order to obtain information people had to tediously sift through books, newspapers, encyclopedias, etc. It made looking up information a boring task that few wanted to make an effort for. Therefore, if it wasn’t something people really needed to know, then people wouldn’t take the time to look it up. In the present society, even remote curiosity can be satisfied by a quick search on the web. This point brings up another question to ask Carr: is the internet making us stupid because we lose focus so quickly and devote less effort to remembering facts or is it making us smarter because it allows us to obtain a wide array of information at the tip of our fingers. Are we sacrificing an in-depth understanding of a few topics for a surface understanding of a large set of information? And if so, is that completely bad? It is these questions I have been contemplating since reading his article. While my opinions and answers are still up in the air, I hope to devote more focus to how I focus and eventually ground my answers within the context of my observations.

Is Technology Truly Worth it?

With the continued advance of technology, it is interesting to see how it affects societal interactions. I have really enjoyed thinking about the question: are technology’s benefits worth the cost of lower face to face interactions and deeper connections. While technological advances have provided numerous breakthroughs (cure for diseases, higher efficiency, more readily available information), society had also taken a few steps back. Instead of communicating face to face, we text or e-mail, instead of getting to know someone by talking, we look at their social media pages, instead of children playing games outside, they play games on a tablet. When I go to a restaurant, I’ve seen groups sitting at a table together with everyone on their phone. This is already becoming the norm: being alone with a group of people because everyone focuses on the technology in front of them instead of one another. It is hard to say if it is worth it to sacrifice our ability for personal communication and attention for all of the promises of technology. I attached a link to the New Yorker that I found interesting and related to this post. They focus on the similar question: as technology improves, will society experience the opposite? Read the article here.

Of course, we cannot just stop advancing technology at this point. It will be interesting to examine how technology and society influence and interact with each other as both change. Both will inevitably change over the years. The thing to pay attention to is if the changes are for the better or worse. 

 

Albert