Ever wondered how we got where we are?

I’ve been meaning to watch this documentary ever since it was up for grabs as a film review for the Loyola Phoenix.

Today, I finally watched it and let me just tell you, I was both impressed and concerned. Legendary internet pioneer, Josh Harris, launched a live experiment in which he selected 100 people, interviewed them, and told them that the participants were to conduct their everyday lives–at Harris’ expense–as they wished. They only catch was that their privacy was literally stripped away from them. These people were under camera surveillance twenty four hours a day for about 30 days. Oddly enough, you find out by the documentary’s end that this is where lots of our social networking, blogging, video blogging practices stemmed from.

I have included a trailer. For your information, there is some swearing and a few butts.

The actual documentary is not edited whatsoever, so just giving you a heads up.


Expectations of privacy

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys (and one gigantic football stadium) walked in a bar recently, had some drinks and talked with some fans about former coach Bill Parcells (““isn’t worth a s—”) and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, whom he said he would never draft.  Unbeknown to Jones, a fan captured this exchange on his smart phone and soon the  video found its way to Deadspin, a sports blog.

Jones’ comments seem to be newsworthy, so soon the mainstream media linked to and commented on the video, much to the dismay of some. Many ethical questions to pick from here: publishing off-the-record comments,  erosion of journalistic standards and the ethics of blogging. 

But the larger issue is the expectation of privacy we can claim when we enter a semi-public place like a bar. Should Jones have been more careful and been aware that someone with a smart phone might be recording him? Or are we losing something when people, private or public figures, have to enter a bar under the assumption that whatever they do or say might end up on a Web site the next day? I tend to think the latter, what about you?

Twitter. Forever.

Your tweets are about to be indexed. Every single one of them. And you don’t have much of a choice about it (other than making your feed private). You may now offer your sacrifices to Google, your almighty interweb overlord.

That’s right folks, soon you’ll be able to look into the tweetstory (get it?) of every user with ease. You see, Google decided that people would want this function because we wouldn’t want our important tweets to disappear into the hard to search obscurity of a twitter feed.

“With Google’s new Twitter search feature, you can view all Tweets within a specific day, month or year, using a graph that appears on top of the results.”

Basically, you can find out what I tweeted on the night of April 9, 2010 if my page wasn’t private. With this new breakthrough in twitter tech, your employers no longer need to repeatedly click that bar on the bottom of the page. All they have to do is head over to Google, type in a search term, set a few parameters, and voila. All your embarrassing moments will be cataloged for easy browsing.

To be fair, the tool can be useful when you want to see what people say over a specific period of time, say, during the launch of Avatar (bloody awful movie BTW). I think that’s a rather cool thing you can do with it. Instead of having to call thousands of people to ask their opinion about something, you can now just Google it. Though this would probably result in a biased sample.

On the other hand, it consolidates information you willingly disperse to the internet for easy access. Before this, it was all there, but you’d have to dig a little. But now, easy peasy.

Also, that tweet you had about how you had the craziest dream about riding off into the sunset with Jude Law on purple ponies? It will be forever preserved in the granite halls of the Library of Congress. That’s right. Your ambiguous fantasies were deemed important enough to be archived in the most respected institution of its kind. Not bad for 140 characters from the fingertips of a guy who had 10 too many.

Link to Google’s indexing program after the jump.



Copyright of Art

I am in a natural methods in communication class right now and we have a research project due at the end of the semester dealing with an online community and looking into it from and ethnographic position. The website we are dealing with currently is flickr.com. This site has a somewhat new feature entitled Commons. This is for international museums and school libraries to post images that have expired copyright. The point of this site is to allow people to see art on their own time and also comment on the them and make conversation.

is another site that shows professional photos and has room to comment. These comments are one word tags about the piece of art on the screen. The purpose of this site is to build an art community and help people be exposed to art in museums that may not be near them.

I feel that these sites are doing something good and making art more democratized and easier for people to see if not near a major museum. The only thing I worry about is how they take photos from people who have died years ago, and how people can easily take credit for tagging and describing them since the copyright is expired. I wonder if sites like this foster the “greased” internet information concept we learned about form our text. Sure these pictures are easily accessible but now they are easier to distribute too since all it takes is a simple clip to copy and save an image.

I am in support of a art for the people but my main concern is that people can take this art and make it their own through tags and stealing pictures and trying to get by the fact the copyright has expired.

New Child Pornography Software

In an effort to fight online child pornography, a researcher from the Polytechnic Institute of New York Universtity has developed software that allows authorities to sift through deleted photos in a computer’s trash to search for “potentially explicit images of children.”

The program scans for faces of children, nudity and other features to help flag images that could possibly be illegal contraband.

Using specialized techniques, the software has the ability to measure the distance between a person’s eyes and nose to determine whether it is a child or not. Photos must be a completely frontal depiction of the child’s face, which many times these kinds of photos are not.

The software was designed to help law enforcers capture sex offenders during a time when this kind of illegal activity is on the rise.  Proving only to be 70% accurate, it tries to alleviate some of the difficulties authorities have in fighting this problem. One such MAJOR hurdle is the fact that in developing this kind of software, it’s not only illegal for the sex offenders to view child porn but also the people developing the software to fight against it.

While this takes some great strides in online regulation, is it completely ethical? Is digging through someone’s digital trash for clues of child pornography (only to be 70% accurate) fair to those being accused? Should we hold off on implementing software like this till all the kinks are worked out? Or is this software, even with the kinks, an immediate necessity?

Google Exits, Microsoft Remains

According to THIS article from Reuters, Google has decided to abandon its Google.cn Web site in China over censorship issues.  It’s important to note that they are still keeping an R&D center in China.

This news breaks at the same time as Microsoft’s $500 million Chinese R&D investment news.

We now see two ethical paths that have been taken: one new media provider bowing out and losing significant profit as a result (Reuters also reports China’s economy grew 11.9 % in the first quarter) and one new media provider who is complying with local laws for the sake of doing business.

This is perhaps one of the greatest new media ethical debates ever, because no longer is the road less traveled a hypothetical– both paths have been taken.  So which is more ethical?  Why?

Improving Reader Comments

I’m constantly finding myself frustrated by the reader comments below news stories. They too often are ignorant manifestos of misunderstanding, and responses typically devolve into racism, sexism, and other discriminatory slogans NO MATTER THE STORY.

Interestingly, Gawker’s experiment to try to improve readers’ comments is bearing some fruit. According to a survey of Gawker Media, placing inconveniences before posting comments initially dropped the sheer volume of reader feedback (as expected) — but the numbers later bounced back to unprecedented highs.

Crucially, says the author of the post, the average comment is “better”–i.e. better reasoned, less gut-check, more informed.

Might Gawker have found the solution to anonymous wind-baggery?