Is What You See Really What You Get?

Being a photographer myself, I have become more and more interested in photojournalism. As technology has become such a huge impact on communications and the media, it becomes much easier to use computers to aid in communicating, and also to bring out the bad in journalism and photojournalism. This isn’t a topic we discussed in class, but photo manipulation is becoming a greater issue than in the past. Technology makes it so much easier to smooth out a blemish, or create a new human being from an existing photo.

Many times manipulation is used to make people look better, for example Oprah’s head on Ann- Margret’s body of this 1989 TV Guide cover. Oprah probably didn’t mind too much I’m guessing.

But what about when photo manipulation is meant to defame someone. Images that have been tampered with have the potential to yield the same ramifications that libel or slander does to a reputation. It tricks the public into believing something unreal, or even to question the authenticity of all news that is read. This idea is kind of scary to me. Can we rely on the media to give us the truth 24/7?

I’m just curious on people’s opinions of when it’s okay to manipulate a photo and where should the line be drawn? To what point can photo manipulation be pushed to where the photo’s integrity is still maintained?

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Murder by facebook?

This recent crime is just one reason anonymity is becoming one of the biggest issues in online social networks.

A Nebraskan man created a fake facebook account to lure his recent ex-girlfriend to a residence, and then proceeded to shoot her four times. On the rebound, the woman started connecting with a friend on facebook and they decided to meet. Little did she know, it was not a new friend waiting at the residence.

This definitely makes me think of who I’m actually talking to and connecting with on facebook, or any social network for that matter. Anyone can create an account under any name and basically dupe the world. I feel that with anonymity, a lot of responsibility is placed on the user. Sites can only do so much to monitor fake accounts being created and the social interaction people engage in with these accounts.

Networking sites have evolved into more than just an online social world, into a reality world that has a great potential to evolve in the real world. I feel there is more of a norm when meeting people on-line to actually meet that person off-line. Users take their own risks when meeting someone. Because facebook and certain social sites open up this risk to users, how accountable are they for the results, like a near murder account? Should they be required to educate users more on the risks that come with meeting someone online, and how to better decipher the legitimacy of the person on the other end?

Will the issue of anonymity escalate in the future into something that is an unstoppable force online that does more damage than good? Any ideas of how to stop it from happening?

Gaming Online… for the greater good?

I stumbled upon this blog post by a student gamer at USC on a professor’s take of online community ethics.

As a gamer, however, I find that is not always the case. If the game design rewards cooperation and being nice to one another as in WoW guilds, players will do it–not for altruistic reasons, but for self interest–and if the game does not reward those behaviors, like in Halo 2, where intimidation and threats may help you win, players won’t behave that way unless forced to by the threat of banning.

Gamers are always looking for something new and when they cannot find anything else new to learn, they lose interest. To keep things new they want to share ideas with others and gain new ideas from them. This interaction essentially creates the online community. But then this idea of self- interest comes into play. Gamers want to share more because they feel they will gain more from others returning the favor. The sole reason for contributing to the community becomes self- interest and what one can gain for himself. Also, players will play how the community is set up. If the community uses trickery to gain an advantage over an opponent, a gamer will partake in this activity. If the collaboration with others is involved, they will be invested in their partners to help each other succeed. The individual essentially adopt the ethics of the online community to succeed, and doesn’t take into account his or her own ethics. This is where I feel the line between reality and virtual reality is crossed in online gaming. If one has different ethical views in real life, for example, stealing is bad, but plays Grand Theft Auto and engages himself in the community, how can that community be ethical? I hope this is clear to others, but I feel online communities do not have a clear code of ethics, nor can they ever because of the context in which games are played. Therefore, can online communities really be communities at all because each person is in it for personal interest and nothing is really done for the greater good?

Spies at Home

To combine Unit  5 and 6, i did a search on online cheating. A bunch of “surveillance” websites came up, claiming to catch cheating spouses online through recording all online activity unknowingly. For example, one device plugs into the back of the computer and  records pretty much every activity one does online from email to websites visited. Here is a description of what the device does:

KeyGhost is NOT software. It is a small device that you plug into the back of your PC which does all the work software based keyloggers do but cannot be found by spyware detection programs. Record and retrieve everything typed, including emails, chatroom activity, instant messages, website addresses, search engine searches and more.

No software installation is necessary to record or retrieve keystrokes!

I was surprised to find the amount of websites offering these types of devices. They also give options to hire a private investigator and even video surveillance. Cheating is of course wrong and I feel that spouses should tell each other everything. However, of course one would keep cheating a secret, but if suspicion arises, does the other party have the right to implant these “spy” devices unknowingly, even if there is no suspicion, but just to monitor? I feel like this almost relates to the NY Times article of the mother and reading her daughter’s e-mail. Just because people have access to these types of “spyware” (as the mother had access to her daughter’s password), should they be allowed to use them? What if parents installed these types of devices to monitor children? In other words, is this a major privacy breach issue even if it’s in your own home, which is ultimately the place you should be guaranteed privacy?

Olympic Athlete’s Death Preserved Online

In the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21 year old luger from Georgia, was killed in a training run. He lost control of his sled and was ejected from it into a metal support beam. There is obviously footage of this crash seeing as the Olympics is broadcasted worldwide. I had only read news articles and heard by mouth of this horrific accident. However, one of my friends did see it on TV at the time and commented on how graphic it was. This got me to thinking. I was not around for the live crash, but, sure enough, I typed it into Google and found the video immediately. I figured it would only be up on youtube.com, or less prominent websites. I figured the actual footage wouldn’t be shown by the news anymore. But the place that I actually found the video was on CBSnews.com. They not only showed the crash in live time, but also showed still images as the luger was colliding with the metal beam. For some reason I found this unnecessary to even be archiving the video. Anyone could search and view this crash, and I compared it to a family member dying. Say a family member was killed in a car accident, or dying of cancer. I would not want this on the Internet for people to watch over nad over. Does the luger’s mother and father in Georgia even know that this is on the Internet, their son’s death is permanantly reocurring online? I find this to raise a big question of what video documents are okay to be posted online and what aren’t?

I did a little searching on other’s opinions on this question and found this article that discussed the concern of not having guidelines or a “road map” for Internet ethics.

I feel that the graphic material is not an issue, as all the sites warn the viewer it is graphic content, but the fact that this Olympic athlete’s death can be viewed all over the world and is embedded  online permanently. In the article, the author brings up the idea that TV chooses what you watch, but the Internet lets you choose. If I didn’t find concern with the video’s posting online, I wouldn’t have even thought to Google it and watch it. I feel the family should be able to decide if they want this video online or not. The issue that arises is, does keeping this video online really give value to a news story, or would the story be just the same if unaccompanied by the graphic footage? Also, should the family have a say in this video’s posting, or does the news have the right to it because the Olympic games are basically a public broadcast to all? All I have to say is, if he was my brother, seeing his death once is far too many times.