Regulators…Mount Up [DIGC335]

As the Internet continues to grow at more than one million new single pages a day, the issue of filtration of content remains an important issue in today’s modern world. Every day we leave our digital ‘footprints’ around cyberspace. These footprints, through every keystroke create a level of information that we can only being to imagine.

In this weeks discussion we examined the role of governments in ‘protecting’ users of the Internet, with some interesting conclusions. What was most interesting was the debate about the morality issue of filtering content on the Internet. With over 1.23 billion users, Facebook has fast become a presence that has bought countless morality issues into the public agenda.

“We work to foster an environment where everyone can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights of others,” This is key statement taken from Facebook’s community standards. This community standards guide sets boundaries for content posted within Facebook and has recently been condemned for the use of use of third party, outsourced workers who have to sift through the millions of indecent material uploaded to Facebook every hour.

“They did mention that the job was not for the light of heart before hiring me,” said the moderator who quit after three weeks. “I think it’s ultimately my fault for underestimating just how disturbing it’d be.” This was a claim from a previous employee of oDesk who also described the millions of unsuitable content as “Think like that there is a sewer channel,” one moderator explained during a recent Skype chat, “and all of the mess/dirt/ waste/shit of the world flow towards you and you have to clean it.” As a user of Facebook, I know first hand some of the horrifying posts that escape the filter and couldn’t possibly even being to imagine the psychological impact that filtering this filth would have on an individual.

The right to upload content to the Internet is governed at a national level, with many Governments having different levels of control over user-generated information. In Australia our use of the World Wide Web is governed by ACMA (Australian Communications & Media Authority).

It is most interesting to note that ACMA at present is only in the business of investigating content that users deem as a breach of Internet safety, with most importance if the content is likely to harm children.

In China however, there is a level of control so powerful and precise, that content must adhere to strict Government regulations. Zhang defines these as;

  • Any information that goes against the basic principles set down in the Constitution.
  • Information that endangers national security, divulges state secrets, subverts the government, or undermines national unification.
  • Information that is detrimental to the honor and interests of the state;
  • information that disseminates rumors, disturbs social order, or undermines social stability (pp.266 2006)

As described throughout our discussion, the Internet is a “wild beast” and any attempts to filter or restrict content will always be issue high on the public agenda.

References

ACMA. (2014). Internet Regulation. Available: http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/About/The-ACMA-story/Regulating/internet-regulation. Last accessed 15th May 2014.

Chen, A. (2012). Inside Facebook’s Outsourced Anti-Porn and Gore Brigade, Where ‘Camel Toes’ are More Offensive Than ‘Crushed Heads’. Available: http://gawker.com/5885714/inside-facebooks-outsourced-anti-porn-and-gore-brigade-where-camel-toes-are-more-offensive-than-crushed-heads. Last accessed 15th May 2014.

Zhang, L 2006, Behind the ‘Great Firewall’: Decoding China’s Internet Media Policies from the Inside, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol 12, no 271, pp.271-291, Summons Database

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You’re Fired [DIGC335]

The trend towards a participatory culture has not only changed the way in which we interact with close relationships such as friends and family, it has also modified the workplace environment. What was once considered as just a small part of a companies’ technology policy, the growing trend for businesses to use social media has now reconfigured the role of both employer and employee. As Howard states this emergence of this sort of participatory or “self- produced media” has created both new opportunities and new problems for researchers of rhetoric and communication (2008, pp.491).

Across businesses nationally and internationally, the methods surrounding how businesses use social media has become an increasingly contentious issue, with many companies creating their own agendas for social media platforms. As a third year marketing student a key component of any product marketing involves the strategic use of social media. With eight of ten consumers making-purchasing decisions based on their interactions with social media, the need for a positive approach is vital for the success of any new or existing product.

However, we must also examine the idea of participatory culture and the negative impact that social media can have within the business environment. As all workers will attest, the end of a stressful day can often lead to frustrations about our workplace environment or our fellow employees. At times most have all said comments that were simply just ‘letting off steam’. Well for those who post these comments on social media, you may find yourself jobless and facing a lengthy arbitration hearing based on your actions. In the Fair Trading hearing between Linfox Australia Pty Ltd and Mr.Greg Stutsel, the defendant was successful in his bid to be reinstated by the company, complete with back payments owed due to his unfair dismissal.

With the issue of free speech high on the media’s agenda the rights of individuals to protect their own thoughts and opinions has never been more important. As users of social media we should all be aware of the ramifications of our actions. In an article by Tim Wilson of WA Today “Free speech, the public service and civilising behaviour”, he points out “Defending the universal human right of free speech is about the legal limits of speech. It is about when the law stops someone expressing his or her view. It is not about voluntary conditions we accept when we take employment. Conditions that are entered into through employment are not the same as the law” (Wilson, 2014).

This is something that I believe many workers are unaware of. The instrument we should all be using is our moral compass. After all, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t broadcast it into cyberspace.

References

Campbell T 2014, Linfox Australia Pty Ltd vs Mr. Greg Stutsel 2012 FWAFB 7097, http://www.my-workforce.com.au/legal-cases/linfox-australia-pty-ltd-v-glen-stutsel-2012-fwafb-7097, last accessed 5th May 2014.

Howard, G R 2008, The Vernacular Web of Participatory Media, Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol 25, no 5, pp.490-513, last accessed 5th May 2014, Summons Database.

Wilson, T 2014, Free speech, the public service and civilising behaviour, http://www.watoday.com.au/comment/free-speech-the-public-service-and-civilising-behaviour-20140408-zqs2t.html, last accessed 5th May 2014.

An Age of Cyber Enthusiasm & Scepticism [DIGC335]

Social Media. Most of us all use it in one way or another. Whether it is communicating with those long lost friends overseas, connecting with our current peer groups to organise group assignments or simply to gain some insight into someone’s life. It is a digital technology that has in part revolutionised the way in which we communicate.

Most notably though the media’s main focus has been on social media’s powerful ability to assist those seeking democratic change and the fight for the freedoms that they so dearly deserve. The intense media scrutiny on social media is highly unsurprising. The uses of certain technologies such as Twitter and Facebook have been linked as the key reasons for the demise of some of the world’s most benevolent dictators.

Wolfsfeld, Segev & Sheafer’s article introduces us to the idea of ‘cyber-enthusiasts’ & ‘cyber skeptics’ (2013, pg.117). In one-corner cyber-enthusiasts express optimism about the ability of the new media to empower people living in nondemocratic societies and to allow insurgents to adopt new strategies. In the opposing corner cyber skeptics downplay the significance of new technology, arguing that the Internet gives people a false sense of participation and keeps them from actually physically protesting.

Whether you sit on either side of the fence doesn’t matter. What is most important to us all is the ability of the Internet to share information. Newsom and Lengel argue that this is the key reason for the value of information is often mediated by historically powerful entities, though social media can sometimes change that hierarchy (2012, pg.38). However they also argue that the metanarrative structures of social media also act in the same role as the gatekeepers of that historical power.

As I currently browse through my social media platforms I am bombarded by friends and groups asking me to sign up for ‘this’ program or register for ‘that’ petition. Although I am highly unlikely to ever choose either, according to Charles, whilst most still do not participate, they are changed by the fact that they can (WordPress, 2013). User empowerment and a greater understanding of social media has led to the redesign of social activism and a brighter future for generations to come.

References
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/.

Newsom, V, Lengel, L 2012, Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism, Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol 13, no 5, pp. 31-45, accessed 1st May 2014, Summons Database.

Wolfsfeld, G, Segev, E & Sheafer, T 2013, Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First, The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol 18, no 2, pp.115-137, accessed 1st May 2014, Summons Database.

2nd Life Causes Cancer [DIGC335]

meme SL Player done copy

Now that the headline has your attention 😉

Coming from someone that considers the Internet as a source of connectivity and communication, the notion that there is this wider, deeper and limitless version of the Internet (Cyberspace) really caught my attention. Some people would consider this ignorance; honestly I had no idea that the Internet was more than just something you can access through a web browser.

Until my recent class the words second and lives have never been connected. Lawrence Lessig a key advocate of technology and the limits of cyber culture describes Second Life as a section of cyberspace where “people create both things and communities” (2006). For those who you who were blissfully unaware of such a world, yes it does exist. Again, this may be naïve of me but I am still struggling to come to terms with how people consider this apart of their reality.

On the other side of the coin, from a creative perspective, to think that there are these alternate ‘worlds’ whereby users embellish their imaginations by creating their personal views of society and construct their own sets of values and laws is actually pretty inspiring. As you can tell I am very much sitting on the fence with this one.

Further more it was interesting to learn that Second Life isn’t the first time that humans have tried to ‘play God’ per say.

Again in the reading Lessig talks about the text based virtual world of MUD’S & MOO’s. He draws on the example of Martha & Dank and the scenario of the dog and the flower petals, which illustrates the endless boundaries that can be created when humans essentially become God. Religious preference aside, this example highlights the positive and negative effects in regards to power and mortality.

The issue of wrong or right is further questioned by society when confronted by the mysterious and horrific acts committed by Mr Bungle within the realm of LambdaMOO. This alternate space created an alternate world whereby there were essentially, no rules.

If ‘worlds’ like Second Life and LambdaMOO are in-fact spaces where people go to live their alternate life, who is in charge of regulating these spaces? What regulations are in place to prevent “cyber crimes”? Again this question is almost impossible to answer. As technologies have improved Lessig states “the architecture of the space (Cyberspace) has rendered life in this space less regulable” (2006). Ultimately Lessig states that he believes that regulation of the Internet is achievable and stipulates that this may only be achievable when governments learn “how the digital age works” (2006). I agree wholeheartedly. The Internet and in particularly Cyberspace does need regulation. Users must be accountable for their actions regardless of whether it is in a physical or digital space. The virtual faces behind the Mr Bungle character knew full well the heinous speech they were typing, yet due to the medium they chose, were completely free from any form of reprimand under the premise that nobody could verifying who was writing the text.

Again, many would argue that a world without such strict regulation might create a utopian society. Maybe we should all have a Second Life avatar and explore a world without restrictions of mortality and influence.

For me I am happy living my life without creating a second version of myself. Although if given the chance you could easily sign me up as a crime fighting superhero who runs around in a bat mask.

If anyone has played or is currently apart of this Second Life experience please feel free to comment or tweet me at @fluke_aus.

Luke Macdonald

3rd Year Media & Communications & Commerce Student
University of Wollongong


References

Dibbell, J. (2009). A Rape In Cyberspace. Available: http://www.juliandibbell.com/articles/a-rape-in-cyberspace/. Last accessed 28 March 2014.

Lessig L, 2006. Four Puzzles From Cyberspace. In: Lessig Code Version 2, accessed 7/08/13, UOW DIGC202 Moodle site.

White, M. (2014). Representations or People. Available: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/nissenbaum/ethics_whi_full.html. Last accessed 28 March 2014.

 

Good Game / Bad Game [DIGC335]

My history with video games and various consoles is a very short and brief story. As a child I engaged with classic video game heroes such as Crash Bandicoot and Sonic the Hedgehog, completely obsessed with the car racing simulation game Gran Tourismo and madly fanatical about the FIFA franchise. Any other type of gaming genre and my attention fell away faster than the career trajectory of Wesley Snipes.
Throughout high school my friends had always asked me to join their team in the latest first-person shooter game but to no avail. I simply had no interest.

Fast forward 12 years to the present day and my interest in gaming still remains the same, however my interest into the psychological control of gaming and the theories surrounding gaming culture still continue to be a mystery to me. Over the last ten years the connection to both physical and mental acts of violence and gaming culture have become the key points of discussion throughout the public sphere, with experts on both sides of the ledger arguing their agenda and creating new theories surrounding the horrific details of real-life tragic events.

With headlines and news content created in order to associate blame for the actions of these cold-hearted killers. As a society we like to place blame on elements of fiction that we don’t know, but are willing to consider as fact.

The result. Moral panic amongst the masses.

As an outsider looking in on this topic I feel that both sides of the argument have very fair and valid opinions. Video games are becoming graphic in nature but does this link to a direct correlation to physical and mental violence? Can playing violent video games change your perception of moral values and increase your chance of violent behaviours? One thing that is for certain is that this debate will continue to surface throughout the media landscape for decades to come. For the news wouldn’t be news without the help of technological scapegoats.