My Super Smart Toothbrush – [DIGC202]

Ever wondered if there would come a day when your toothbrush contained GPS and Wi-Fi? To those who grew up with just your standard Oral-B or Colgate toothbrush, the idea of such gadgetry in a day-to-day product sounds completely absurd. Well with thanks to some genius activity at the MIT Lab in 1999 and a descriptive definition and label by Kevin Ashton in 2009, the term ‘The Internet of Things’ was born.

In layman’s terms the definition of the ‘The Internet of Things’ is the connection of physical objects to the Internet. The way in which this technology becomes increasingly complex is by introducing a sociability aspect to the system.

In its early stages of development the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) was seen as prerequisite for all objects connected to the Internet. Zheng (2011, pg.30) describes these connections as “facilitators of fast-paced interactions among the objects themselves, as well as the objects and persons in any place and at any time.” These physical objects not only serve a material and practical purpose, they take on the roll of information portals. As mentioned above with the extreme toothbrush example, the use of GPS and Wi-Fi ultimately spells the end of lying to your dentist about your dental regime. He will now know be able to connect your toothbrush to his system and check your full dental routine since your last check-up.

Sounds a touch invasive doesn’t it? With the power of RFID not only does the object gain a networking address (allowing the object to be uniquely identifiable) it also gains a sensory capacity, allowing it to dynamically register change within its environment. To explain the complexities around the systems of IoT would require more than just a 500-word blog post. Already we are seeing the power of the IoT in use both privately (in our homes and businesses) monitoring our power usage through the use of RFID, and also publically by creating monitoring systems that allow for advanced warning in the event of a crisis.

Inevitably with any new technology the issue of privacy is always at the forefront of users minds. Atzori (2010, pg.2802) believes that these concerns about privacy are indeed well justified. In fact, the ways in which data collection, mining, and provisioning will be accomplished in the IoT are completely different from those that we now know and there will be an amazing number of occasions for personal data to be collected. Therefore, for human individuals it will be impossible to personally control the disclosure of their personal information.

Again society is faced with another social and ethical dilemma on its hands. Do the advantages of IoT far out way the negative aspects such as the demand of data and privacy issue? In a report issued by General Electric (one of the worlds largest publically listed companies) they estimated that with the aid of IoT and smarter technologies they could see a reduction of.

  •  $30 billion worth of jet fuel for the airline industry
  •  $63 billion in global health care savings with more optimised treatments, patient  flows, and equipment use in hospitals.
  •  $66 billion savings in fuel consumption for the global gas-fired power plant  fleet.

Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO himself stated “By connecting intelligent machines to each other and ultimately to people, and by combining software and big data analytics, we can push the boundaries of physical and material sciences to change the way the world works”.

And here I was thinking that the Internet was illegal downloads; funny cat memes and images of girls in bikinis that need to each a whole lot more.

The Internet is a truly amazing beast. As a society we are in the early stages in the creation of an Internet of Things and the above examples provide just a glimpse into what is possible when you combine sensors, actuators, and networked intelligence.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

References

Atzori L, Lera A, Morabito G (2010). The Internet of Things: A survey, Computer Networks, Vol 54, No 15, pp 2787-2805, accessed 23 October, Science Direct Database, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389128610001568

Zheng J, Simplot-Ryl, D.; Bisdikian, C.; Mouftah, H.T (2011). The internet of things [Guest Editorial],” Communications Magazine, Vol.49, No.11, pp.30,31, accessed 23 October 2013, Accessed Summons Database, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6069706&isnumber=6069696

iAddict – [DIGC202]

I am a smart phone user. I love the freedoms it allows me to have as a citizen in a technology driven society. I, like many others have had both phones that run on the two main phone operating systems (Android & iOS). For years I was sold on the ideals of the Android’s open design. With Freedoms to access the core content within the mobile device, its productive features and an applications market, in which all content is considered equal which can be found easily through the one market portal (Google Play) the Android system appealed highly to the inner geek in me. Butler (2011) describes the Android system as a platform that embraces the old replace-and- reuse philosophy, which effectively lets users customise the phone. It is this model of customisation, coupled with a reduced price in acquisition that has the Android phone out selling the iPhone almost 4:1.

After revisiting my mobile phone history it is safe to say that I have had or used pretty much every type and design that has ever graced this Earth. From flip-phones to the ever popular slide models; mobile technology has been a part of my social life for the last 15 years. Fast-forward to July 2012 and this is roughly the date where my love affair for the little green robot came to disastrous and abrupt end.

After learning of a new software update for my Android device I was excited to see the new layout and features it claimed to offer. To my delight the install was a success and the phone not only looked better than ever, it was quicker and smarter. That afternoon of the update my phone started to act strange. It was lagging and I felt something was wrong. After the phone failed to turn on for 2 days (with a full battery) I had had enough. I was angry and wanted answers. After scouring the Internet for information on my device, most reports basically labeled the new system a dud and recommended a switch to the almighty iPhone. For years I fought against the idea of conforming to the iPhone generation.

Why would I want a closed operating system with little to no room for customisation with boundaries on creativity? After a quick Facebook poll the decision was made and I set off to buy my first iPhone. Fast forward another year and I am still a very happy iOS user. As an Android user I always felt this sense of empowerment because I could change the system if I wanted to. However, I never did, nor had any plans to change the system. Changing file structures, re-routing access information and manipulating the core features on the device were simply unobtainable for a regular phone user such as myself.

I am happy to be freed from confusing file systems, convoluted install processes, and other legacies of traditional computing. Although I do not judge those who are grateful for these options and features. Inevitably, what appears to be a loss to some will be more than a massive offset by a massive gain to many.
As I sit in busy study section of the student study area I can see a large cross section of both iPhone and Android devices. Ultimately the choice comes down to the user. I like many other iPhone users I have talked to consider the level of security the App Store offers as a key selling point of the iOS system. Users feel safe when purchasing content, which still remains a risk for those acquiring content through the Google Play store. What ever your choice, always remember to key lock your phone to prevent invasions (Frapes = Facebook Rapes)  from those closest to you 🙂

 

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

Social Media & Activism – [DIGC202]

There has been much discussion of late regarding social media and the role that it has in facilitating change. Recently I attended the leadership conference S4S in which the key topic throughout the 2 day event was the concept of change. After speaking to a number of inspiring individuals, as most of us were ‘technology savvy’ young adults we were asked to determine the key principles in why we believed social media has changed the role of activism.

A key factor in the success of social media and the role it has in generating social activism is that it utilises group structures and collective action. A prime example of this collective action is the striking of Egyptian workers on the 6th April 2008. Israa Abdel Fattah, a young Egyptian girl (also know as ‘Facebook Girl’) called for all Egyptians to boycott work as a sign of solidarity against the oppression and corruption in her country. By using social media and word of mouth she had created the largest strike in recent history creating an eerie emptiness of the normally teeming streets of Cairo. Akin believes that the success of social media and its role in creating social activism stems from the “fluidity of leadership” (2012, p98). Individuals are able to connect with one another to contribute, propose, provide and create greater visibility as a collective pre, during and post social activism movements (Akin 2012, p98). This can be attributed to the ability of social media to greater organise activists and decrease the need of hierarchical structures. Which, in-turn recognises that social activism on social media creates a more dynamic and participatory nature of web activism.

Despite social media’s ability to effectively organise social activists, a lack of formal leadership and control within a social movement leads to a social ignorance from both activists and users of social media. Tatarchevskiy, argues that although the crowded public sphere (social media) allows activists an avenue to “whereby messages cost little or nothing, establishing their legitimacy becomes an ever important task” (2010, p308). Social media as mentioned previously in my argument is a cheap and ubiquitous form of communication. Thusly Tatarchevskiy believes that in the context of messages delivered by social activists through social media, “It is not the message that manifests authenticity, but the medium through which it was sent” (2010, p308).

If I log on to my social media portals on a hourly basis I am constantly viewing content from social activists. It is these ease in which activists can organise and mobilise their efforts that enforces the argument that social media has reinvented the way in which we approach social activism. From saving the whales to the destructive nature of governments and their oppressive regimes, social media has now changed the way in which we approach social activism for the greater good.

Lasting impact aside, social media greatest attributes in the efforts of social activism still is and always will be the ability to communicate, increase transparency and its organisational qualities in mobilising for collective action. Whilst most still do not participate, they are changed by the fact that they can (Charles, 2010). Whether it be through simply changing a profile picture to support marriage equality or re-posting a link in support of any form of social activism, users of social media are reinventing the forms of activism we have witnessed throughout the course of time. User empowerment and a greater understanding of social media has led to the rebirth of social activism and a brighter future for generations to come.

References

Akin, A, Encina, C, Restivo, M, Schwartz, M & Tyagi, J 2012, ‘Old Wine in a New Cask? Protest Cycles in the Age of the New Social Media’, The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy of International Relations, vol 13, no 1, pp 89-103.

Charles 2010, The People formally known as the audience = The Community, accessed October 10 2013, http://yousaiditblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/the-people-formerly-known-as-the-audience-the-community/.

Tatarchevskiy T, ‘The popular culture of internet activism’, New Media & Society, Vol 13, No 2, pp 297-313.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing

The Power of Free Press – [DIGC202]

When I think of the word “hacker” I am automatically reminded of a group of youths at my local high school that used to claim they had infiltrated government and private websites. “I hacked the Pentagon” one used to say. Now after almost two years of tertiary education learning about digital networks and privacy, if these so called “hackers” had achieved what they broadcasted throughout the school, I think these boys would have been visited by some heavy handed Government officials during our Information Technology classes.
To me this just sounded like fun and games. A couple of teenage kids with some source code, ‘trying’ (I think they were more into playing Counterstrike to be honest) to access government information. Little did I know that there was a movement going on at the time that would reveal documents that expose the world to some of the greatest injustices by governments in recent history.

Wikileaks Timeline of Events

For those of you who haven’t heard of Wikileaks essentially it is non-for profit media organisation that brings important news to the public. Essentially creating greater transparency between governments and those who are governed. Julian Assange the mastermind behind Wikileaks and what many media and technology theorists call the ‘Fifth Estate’, which essentially means that now instead of the older ‘Estate’ models, the production of news according to Jay Rosen has become a combination of professional and amateur content.
Since Wikileaks inception in 2006 the site has been responsible for uncovering some of the largest news stories in recent history. From war, killings, torture and detention to government and public corruption the aim and efforts of Wikileaks and its small diverse team of likeminded individuals continues to push the boundaries between delivering the truth and causing mass disruption and unrest between warring nations.

It is interesting to note that of late, Wikileaks has been remarkably quiet, some would argue almost too quiet for an organisation that was established to continuously question the truth. In the direct words of Wikileaks “Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations.
Julian Assange himself has also come under intense inspection; accused of the sexual assault of two women in Sweden and releasing classified US military documents, he is no hauled up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, fearing that Swedish officials and the United States government will arrest him over each issue.

To talk about the Wikileaks story in-depth I would almost need to start another blog on the topic. There have been far too many subplots and twists and turns throughout the life of Wikileaks to cover in one 500-word posting. However, the key concept from the Wikileaks story is the notion of free press and our democratic right to know the truth on matters that concern not only us, but also our fellow man/woman around the world.

At the start of my tertiary education I was a sceptic of the Wikileaks phenomena. I, like many others was afraid that the information being leaked could be used for greater evil if it made its way into the hands of the wrong groups or individuals. I was brainwashed by mainstream media into believing that there was an injustice against governments with this information being leaked. I have since radically changed my opinion. Fenster believes that “Publishing [leaked material] improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. I now have to agree. With the current media landscape the way it is at the moment. We need institutions like Wikileaks in light of a better term “to keep the bastards honest”.

Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing