Friday, February 27, 2009

What is Hacktivism?

Since I am in my fourth year of communication studies, I have encountered the term “hacktivism” before. However, I never really paid attention to what it really meant. Wikipedia defines it well, and in a way that pretty much anyone should be able to understand while also making sure both sides of the controversy are explored. For those of you who don’t feel like following the link, hacktivism is basically the idea of taking the technology used in hacking and applying it for political ends. Hacking is usually a sticky term to discuss, as most people have a very negative idea of it even though that was not always the intention. Hackers are skilled in technology and originally were using that skill to get around the rules the administration (whatever you want to define that as - the government, the media, the "man") put into place. They had ethics that they recognized as they, like Spiderman, knew that with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately the new generation of hackers do not follow those ethics (I guess you could say they’re like the evil Spiderman in the third movie) and that is why there hackers are now cast in such a negative light.
When I was looking on the website the first thing that caught my eye was the title graphic, with the three different types of font and the caption “Exploit code, not people.” I think that four word phrase should define the entire hacktivism movement. I agree with hackbloc when they say that the whole point of the movement is to “use the technology in a way that is liberating” (as hackbloc describes it on their site). I don’t think that exposing personal information about someone is going to make a very good point, but showing in another way that you can get in and obtain that information is important for hacktivism.
I think that the hackbloc website does an excellent job of balancing technical info, like codes and whatnot, with issues that the average internet user has to encounter. Just on the front page for example, I skimmed the articles about making the site more secure, but read in depth about Facebook and how nothing is really as private as you think.
From just a few pages of the posts on the front page, I got a small sense of what exactly hacktivism is, as defined by hackbloc. They do have their mission up at the top which helps you realize why the articles that are posted are important. Hactivists want free information, internet and society, which comes across in the stories about Facebook and other stories about sites being hacked into.
I feel as though there is sort of disconnect between some of the stories. Even though they are well balanced in regards of technical and mainstream stories, which I appreciate, I think that it may go against the types of readers they want to attract. I think that the main visitors to this site would be those who are educated in hacktivism and have the skills to carry out the technological aspects of the movement. I also think that having stories from mainstream news sites (such as the one from ) could detract from the independence (in my opinion) of the site.
Everyone is going to have their own opinions on things, which I think is good when it comes to a site like this. Having many people be able to post stories should help everyone else keep an open mind about things.
Overall I think hackbloc does an excellent job of following their mission. They’re not the scary, misguided hackers who want to screw with the world and major corporations. These people feel as though they have a duty to the public to make sure that the technological world that we live in is safe and secure. Those groups who choose to screw with us are going to be the ones that hackbloc targets, on our behalf.


Hey everyone!
I've started up my blog for my final project and thought that some of you might be interested. Any comments on it will be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What if 9/11 Happened Now?

Yes, this does appear to be a very heavy blog post; however, I don’t think it will be as bad as you may think. Some of you who are in this class are also in conspiracy theories, so you will know why September 11th is on my mind over seven years later.
While talking with a friend the other day about what I have been learning about in that class and what sorts of conspiracies surround 9/11, we got to talking about the video footage from that day. As far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong and was not paying enough attention in class!) there is only one video that really shows the first plane hitting the North Tower, and that is from the film crew that was doing a documentary on the New York firefighters. They just happened to swivel their camera up at the right moment to be able to see the first plane hit. My thought is this: if 9/11 happened in today’s society, do you think there would be more footage from citizens?
With all the technology available to us today there is a good chance that there would have been a few more people who just happened to have captured that moment on their cell phones or by other means. These days the whole big brother idea seems to be more of a possibility because there always seems to be some sort of camera on you, whether you realize it or not.
In the case of 9/11, I think even if there were lots of citizen footage there is still the chance of things being covered up and not being released. For example, today in my conspiracy theories class we were told that the government has said that there are about eighty five videos showing Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon but only a few have been released. The reason for only some of the videos being shown to the public is that could be that some of them are not relevant and do not actually show the plane hitting, or it that the government is trying to cover things up. Some of those could be citizen videos, which shows that people are capturing events; however, they may not always be able to be widely distributed. This is where things like the movie Loose Change comes in.
As most of you know, Loose Change is an independently produced video that tries to show that a lot of what we were told about 9/11 is not true and that the United States government is actually behind it. Leaving aside the fact that who knows what is true; this film shows that an independent citizen can get their voices heard, even about controversial topics.
It could be that I am overestimating the prevalence of citizen media when it comes to extraordinary events, but I think that we would see more citizen footage if 9/11 happened today. I think it is due to a combination of better technology, but also because people seem to always have some sort of said technology on them that would be able to capture events. Just in the past several years we have seen great strides in personal technology and I think that is key in how we sometimes learn what we do on news programs. In my opinion, everyday citizen’s importance in the news is incredibly underestimated.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Are Headlines the Future of Information?

I have to admit that I love lists, highlights, and other things of that nature and, if the articles on the Wired website are any indication, I’m not alone in that feeling. However, when are the tidbits we get in our lives no longer enough?
This week’s readings gave me a lot to think about in terms of how we consume media and culture in our society today. Nancy Miller’s article was all about “snack culture” and how we are consuming culture in smaller and smaller bits and snacking on it all day instead taking it all in at one time.
There are a few reasons why we enjoy this “snack-o-tainment,” as Miller calls it.
First of all, we are able to get the necessary information much faster with bite-sized bits of information. It is easy to turn on Sports Centre and catch the highlights of all of last night’s games instead of having to watch all the games or flip back and forth. The faster we can get all the pertinent information, the better. I love watching television shows that count down lists of music, movies, or other such things. This is a great way to see what is popular and well liked without having to consume the full length products.
One of the great things about having bite sized information available anywhere and at any time is that we can check up on things whenever we want. If we have a spare minute or two we are able to access the news or watch part of a television show. These days we have so much going on that we have to use our time wisely. Not only is this important when we are constantly on the go and using our mobile technology, but sometimes even when we’re stationary we have to check up on things and don’t have a lot of time to do it.
We’ve become accustomed to small bits of information. Our culture is becoming more used to all these snack sized information and could potentially have an effect on our attention spans. I for one am easily distracted by several news headlines that pop up when I sign into hotmail and sometimes even forget what I started looking at. The headlines have to be interesting to me though, otherwise I won’t bother looking into them. This is part of the reason that journalists have to make sure that their article has all the important and relevant information right at the beginning, in case the reader doesn’t have time to read the whole article. That practice has been transferred to new media, which tries to catch our attention with links instead of newspaper headlines.
Not only do we want information that is quick, whether it be a few hundred words or a minute or two, we also want information that is given to us over small technology. Computers are getting smaller, and now we don’t even need a computer to look up information. We could find most things online from our cell phones, which are even smaller. Not only is information being gathered on smaller technology, but music is being transported in smaller devices as well. We need things to be portable, which makes some people in the television and movie industry irritated, to say the least. What director wants their movie to be seen on a teeny tiny screen? While the critics may frown upon the idea of portable movies, the rest of the public has embraced their portable theatres.
For those of you who have looked at the Wired site, I’d like to get your take on our snack culture and see what you think about the way we consume information. Hopefully my ideas have come across well enough that you can compare your thoughts to them. For now, that’s all I have to say, except that I am now suddenly craving a snack…

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Happened to the Good Ol' Days?

I’d like to ask all my fellow students if they remember a time when students were not surfing online during class time. I don’t recall so many people being online in my first and second years (I’m now in fourth year). It could be that I just don’t remember, but I don’t think it was so prevalent. These days it’s likely that if I look at someone’s computer screen in class, they’ve got something else up other than their lecture notes. Gff had a blog post that touched on a similar issue last week, and while I commented on his post, I thought I would expand and add even more of my own opinion on the subject of laptops in the classroom.
I think that perhaps part of the reason there are more people checking email and Facebook during classes is that our wireless connection at school is now much better. The fact that the school has had to improve the wireless connection shows how much more we rely on the Internet, just in the past few years. I have actually heard classmates complain about not being able to access the wireless during class. It still boggles my mind, even though it has been like that for the past two years at least. I understand that sometimes class can be a bit boring, but that’s no reason to distract everyone around you by looking up the latest news on Perez Hilton (and no, I am not providing a hyperlink, he bothers me!) or playing a game of Solitaire. Or talking to a friend on MSN! I know you’re bored, but I should not be able to read about the hot guy you picked up at the bar on the weekend. I think we are getting so used to having the Internet available to us everywhere and at all times that sometimes it’s difficult to resist checking our Facebook when we have the option to. I don’t bring my laptop to class, but I am guilty of talking on MSN and playing games while watching television or movies with my roommates. There is no need for me to be on my computer, the whole point of those nights is to get some quality time with my roommates, but because I can be online, I am. I think it’s the same sort of idea with people in classes. The point of having a laptop in class is to take notes, but because people can be online, they are.
Sometimes I wonder what our parents did when they were in class. They didn’t have laptops and wireless Internet to play with when they got bored (or just didn’t care about their marks). Have we really gotten so used to a world where we can access whatever we want whenever we want that we are incapable of leaving the Internet alone for a few hours? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to have wireless Internet on campus, but mostly for those people who are stuck on campus all day and have work to do that requires online sources. There are even sometimes occasions where it is beneficial in class. I recently sat next to someone who was looking up the YouTube videos and pictures that the professor was using in his lecture as they were brought up. I thought that was a great idea, but then I wondered, how much of the lecture is he actually taking notes on? So maybe even that great idea isn’t that great when you think about why you are actually in class, which is to take notes and learn something from the professor.
Just in case we don’t have enough technology in schools, our university has just unveiled a new program for incoming business students. Starting next year, online notes and tests will be available on BlackBerries – which will be provided to the students with a basic plan from Rogers. I’m still a little confused about that. I understand that wireless technology is important and becoming a greater part of our lives these days, but I don’t think it’s necessary to implement a new technology for educational purposes. I especially think that it should not be a cell phone type technology, which is usually frowned upon in normal class settings. It’s hard to say that this introduction is a bad thing, because it is something that will probably help the business students later on in life. But I return to the title of my last post, how much is too much? Is it really necessary for the students to have BlackBerries for educational purposes? What do you guys think? I don’t have a concrete opinion on the integration of BlackBerries to the classroom, but I do wonder what your thoughts are. Also, do you think that the Internet is becoming too much of an issue in class, as I do? I don’t know what could change, but I do know that something needs to be done if people are going to be able to concentrate in class.