Thursday, April 2, 2009

Recapping the internet through the words of others

While I have learned a lot about the internet and its effect on the public sphere through this blog and through my communications undergrad, many people have put more eloquently what I am trying to say. Because this is potentially my last blog post before the end of the semester, or at least a few days as I need to focus on essays and such, I will leave you with some quotes that present hope of the blogosphere, as well just worth reading because…

"Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders." Ronald Reagan

"This victory is in large part due to the Internet... For the first time, a coalition of NGOs has had an influence on the security of the entire world without being a superpower." Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Winner

"A candidate who can master the Internet will not only level the playing field; he will level the opposition." RightClick Strategies' Larry Purpuro

"The Internet has become the main strategic communications tool behind the scenes in politics. It is not a medium to sway undecided voters. It is a medium to organize your supporters, feed them your message and get out your core vote. It may have an impact on new and less frequent voters some day, but that seems a long way off. No candidate that I am aware of has ever won because of the Internet." Steve Clift, Democracy Online………..This is no longer true!

"The communications revolution is changing how people interact with one another, how organizations engage their constituencies, how we access information. It also makes possible a collective I.Q. where thousands of people can be connected to focus on an issue." Morino Institute

The modern campaign headquarters...has an annex open any hour of the day or night, at an address starting with www. New York Times, 10/19/99.

Hope you enjoyed

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Facebook and Privacy.....A threat to the public sphere?

Recently there has been a lot of controversy arising around facebook. While there have been many criticisms about what is posted, who can see it etc. I think the largest problem is of privacy. Whether we realize it or not, Facebook contains a lot of fairly personal information about whom we are. Aside from what we choose to tell people, which may include phone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, birthdays, friends, interests and much else, people can essentially tap into our lives through pictures, videos and conversations with others. While much of what is on facebook is accurate, I worry that what people see is a small glimpse of a person and may be mistaken for an accurate depiction. Personally I can attest to the fact that the judgments people make after looking at my facebook page are inaccurate. The idea that employers are now looking at facebook pages also scares me. I do not believe employers should legally be allowed to critique or judge someone’s behaviors outside of work, provided they are not shattering laws, if it is not effecting their ability to perform the duties of their job.
More importantly I believe that privacy online, or at least anonymity is very crucial to the political success of the internet. People should be free to say what they want without fearing undo repercussions. The ability for the blogosphere to contribute to the public sphere I strengthened based on people being equal outside of the internet. In this sense prejudice of all kinds are eliminated based on erroneous external factors. Racism, sexism and other common problems are avoided based on the fact that people only know what you let them know. Our reputations are built online, separate from the rest of our lives. This is very important and hopefully will remain part of the blogosphere.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Current Public Sphere???

For a presentation in class today I was required to read a critique of Habermas. I have read Habermas in another class but never quite understood it like I did this time around. In comparing Habermas’ work to other theorists and analyzing what he said from a critically contemporary viewpoint the information became far more interesting. While I do see value in critical analysis of more historical theorists I feel as if I have been required to focus too much on the history of communications in too many classes. Possibly just because of my interests, I am far more concerned with the applicability of different research and conclusions on my life and the future. For this presentation, I more or less evaluated what was said based on its applicability today. While it is a tall order expecting people who theorized even 10 years ago to be remotely accurate in today’s media environment, we take lessons about contemporary media and the public sphere from their work. While many of the academics presented very valid and unique arguments, there was a trend that seemed to be similar among all: It is vital to keep corporate interest an arm’s length away from reporting and the news. This seems logical as reporting integrity seems to have suffered throughout history when corporate interest gets involved.
Coming to today’s evolving public sphere and media environment I believe the blog presents great potential. From this class alone I have learned much about blogging and can see why people get very involved with blogging. If the right people talk about the right things and discuss important issues respectively, there is essentially no end to the limits of blogging. For me, keeping corporate interest out of the blog will be vital. With the huge size of the internet, for once the users have the ability to boycott corporate influence, but how long will this hold true? Only time will tell how history will judge the blog, but my guess is pretty favourably.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Media Regulation

In a democracy such as Canada the media and governments regulation of the media has always been a very touchy subject. Most agree that having an unbias and consistent core media to report to the public is crucially important. In the days when newspaper and television were the main news mediums, regulating the media was a relatively reasonable task. Today there is such a crazy amount of information on tons of different mediums in which many people have contributed. Even beyond simple news reporting the government is asked to manage other aspects of the media in which people consumer. The music industry, the internet, filesharing, blogging etc are all areas that can have different effects on the public and alter political viewpoints. At what point do politicians give up on regulation of news and media? At what point does the focus of regulation shift to different mediums? For example, tons of attention has traditionally been given to newspapers and television. The CBC was essentially created for the purpose of fair and regulated news. Now that the CBC budget has been cut is that a sign that the government is giving up on regulation, switching effort to different mediums, or just to broke to keep up?

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Hacking is something that the mainstream media and generally respected societal institutions have condemned. Hacking is illegal in many forms but it has often been difficult or impossible for law enforcement to apprehend or punish talented hackers. The “definition” of ‘hacktivism’ on Wikipedia was not surprising to me. Being a publically built and maintained website, the connotation of anything related to activism is likely to draw contribution from supporters not opponents. I was left with a similar overall impression after exploring the website The website is essentially a blog about hacking that stresses its use in a positive manner. Their mission statement in summary talks about the use of technology in a liberating manner, strengthening local communities through education and manner and supporting and defending a free and positive internet and society.

To most readers such goals would seem positive and attract very positive attention, what would be less appealing to many is the way in which they go about attaining these goals. In summary much that is spoken off goes against the grain of society and popular culture. It is originally shocking but when further examined the viewpoints and stories displayed are not nearly as radical or ridiculous as many judge hacker culture to be.

As Jim Thomas put it hackers have often been referred to as criminals and people who are detrimental to the social fabric society functions on. Hackers were lumped into one category that unfairly labelled them as threats to society. To someone new to the idea of hactivism, I am impressed with the content of “hackblog.” For the most part their intentions did seem in tune with their mission statement seem legitimately politically motivated. It is important to understand both sides of the argument on hacktivism. Original goals of hacking are in support of free and unlimited access to the internet and in support of free speech. Both of these ideas are central to much of what I have learned constitutes a healthy public sphere. While I do not say that hacking is always positive, voicing oppositional viewpoints is crucial to a healthy public sphere and keeping both corporate and political power in check.

Why shouldn’t we question institutions and society more rigorously? The tone of the website is relaxed and oppositional. Cursing, criticism and even spelling mistakes are present, yet most arguments have merit and are well thought out.
I personally was surprised to see a story about underpaid, overworked women labour in China producing keyboards. This along with other stories exemplified to me that the goal of this blog is not what many popular conceptions of hackers is, but embodies a high degree of social responsibility and is very reluctant to conform to a society in which they feel controlled. Freedom seems to be at the root of the website and their mission statement hold surprisingly true.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Short-Sighted politics

Politics in Canada has often been criticized for being very short sighted. Promises are often made with intent, but if not upheld are quickly forgotten. Personal issues of politicians are often made public, then forgotten. Government often deploy very short term strategies and tax cuts in order to buy votes even if they are aware of long term consequences. In Canada our system of government puts a lot of trust in the people we elect, therefore making it very important that they are doing what they know is best for the country.

My question is what is to blame for the public's, or politician's lack of long term accountability. Firstly I believe that a 4-5 year term, or even shorter recently is a problem. It can take far longer to truly realize the impact on economic or social policy that even half a decade. Another issue which I believe might play a role is the abundance of information the public is exposed to. With an increase in political stories by mainstream media, massive expansion in citizen media and a generally busier public, people are exposed to tons of information. It becomes very difficult for people to keep their lives, as well as their work, families, and politics in check. Will this issue grow as citizen media and the amount of information available to us expands?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Politics and Smartphones

Smartphones have exploded in popularity in recent years. People of all ages are increasingly electronically connected to the world with the small complex devices they carry 24/7. The technological capabilities of Smartphone’s and related technologies are endless, but what effect are they having on people lives. Considering the widespread use, availability and perceived disadvantages associated with not using such devices, there is a real lack of regulation surrounding new technologies. The harmful implications are sometimes considered as we saw with the reduction of radiation in recent years. The social impacts of these technologies have failed to be taken into consideration. Similarly to the computer, it was initially believed that these technologies would in fact increase productivity and allow for shorter work weeks. Especially with the case of the smart phone, the technology has encouraged and at times forced people to essentially be at work around the clock. While it may not be necessary for individuals to answer emails on weekends and evenings, it is encouraged and can disadvantage people who do not do so. On a personal note for one summer job I was given a blackberry. Although I was never told to keep it on during the evening, if a boss wrote me an email and I did not respond it hurt my reputation as an employee.

One way in which smartphones raise concern for me in the political world is how they affect political understanding. The example I will provide relates to understanding of news and a healthy public sphere in general. As smartphones have consolidated many different mediums into one, they have failed to retain many positive characteristics of old mediums. A great example is how people now view the news. On smartphones it is often just the headlines from specific publishers that reach Blackberry screens. While the user is able to select which site or source they get the headlines, how much choice do they really have? They are often viewing the same bias and getting such a shallow understanding of what is happening that they are unlikely to challenge it or question its validity. This presents a real problem not only for politics, but in every traditional sense of what constitutes a healthy public sphere.