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When we were handed an article in class entitled “Work the New Digital Sweatshops”, I did not know what to think. I had no idea what digital sweatshops were, and I have to admit that while the article gave me a little glimpse into the topic, much of the issues and problems associated with digital sweatshops remained unclear. The same was true of most of our group. We had no previous knowledge or assumptions around which to frame our research. To that end, we started with the basics for our initial research blog post. Who does the work in digital sweatshops? Where do they do it? How do these sweatshops work?

At the conclusion of these blog postings, we each had some good sources and a little bit more background. The problem was that everyone had a little bit of a different idea about what digital sweatshops are and how they work. This is due to the fact that there are different digital sweatshops, and they each work in different ways. In some cases, online work also involves the use of people in a cramped room that can be classified as an actual sweatshop. Through a series of meetings (some less than productive), we attempted to define the research questions that interested each person. In one of our first, we defined our overarching research question, “How have digital sweatshops affected the economic and social aspects of the digital divide?”, through a series of question iterations and discussions with Dr. Christen. From there, we knew that most of our initial questions were too limited in scope to address individually and some were in-depth enough on their own.

As we framed our presentation, it became clear that we needed to set up a good backdrop for the audience to understand our topic considering the fact that we, too, had been new to the idea previously. To that end, we wanted an introduction video. We also wanted to paint digital sweatshops in both a positive and negative light; helping companies but ultimately detrimental to working professionals. Initially, we looked at using Prezi for our presentation because it can help tell more of a story. Time constraints and the difficulty of taking pictures from those pasted into a document prevented this. One of the best ideas for the presentation, and one that got group members more excited than others, was the idea of doing an activity in class so that our audience could see what kind of work they might be asked to do through a digital sweatshop. The reality of using this work as supplemental, or your complete, income was the impact we wanted to make by describing the amount that you would earn after an hour of doing Mechanical Turk work.

Some things that our group did well were promoting an informal atmosphere, one in which group members could openly discuss and participate in the discussion. We made decisions when everyone was in general agreement. However, there was not a clear unity of purpose or equal determination of meeting a high standard of performance goals. As such, our meetings often ran long due to unpreparedness as well as lack of motivation. Overall, I would change the project by trying to have and encourage a more effective team. A key was lack of passion for the topic. It would be difficult to imbue this emotion, but it may have helped if we as a group were at least excited about expressing our creative sides through the making of a dynamic, exciting presentation. Overall, I would say that our team, while not be discordant among one another, was not as effective as it could have been.  As such, we created a presentation full of information but not one that captured the imagination of our audience.

Over the course of one week, I created a log of my media usage. Seen above are the results. On Wednesday, April 13th, I used the greatest amount of media. The number of minutes, in fact, totaled 23.26% of my twenty-four hour day. This is approximately 35% of my time not sleeping (assuming the ability to sleep for eight hours, which is an unlikely occurrence). Of the various media, I used phone calls and Word most often, both at 19% of total media usage. If you include texting, however, my phone made up a quarter of my overall use. These results are interesting, though perhaps not typical. On the Thursday when this research began, I flew to Chicago for an interview, which took up all of Friday. Then, on Saturday I had an eight hour test (the FE exam), followed by time with my mom for Mom’s Weekend. On the following Thursday I flew to Seattle for another interview.

The results of my media log, and the reasoning behind its potential inconsistencies from a typical week, are still revealing. S. Craig Watkins details media usage by my generation in his book, “The Young and the Digital”. He finds that our “always on” lifestyle affects the way we interact with each other as well as our schoolwork. Over the past week, I can see that my media use affects my relationship with my parents in addition to school. Before December of this past year (2010), my communication with my parents was limited to e-mail and phone calls while I was away at school. Since December, texting has been added to that list. If I ever live further from my parents than a two hour drive, I suspect that Skype will be included, as well.

“‘Parents,’ one principal told me, ‘absolutely insist that their children carry phones.’” (Watkins, 163). As this quote from an interview with a high school principal suggests, parents find it important to remain connected with their children. This extends to college and beyond in addition to the contact in high school. My parents are no different. Interaction with them, due to distance, must be disembodied, and many people claim that this promotes a false closeness and tricks us into believing we have a relationship with another person that is like face to face contact. The question for me is, where would my relationship with my parents be without my phone and e-mail? Phone calls allow me to stay updated on my parents’ lives, as well as letting them in on what is going on in my own. Texting has additionally encouraged small check-ins and notes of encouragement or expressions of pride and love. In this sense, I am more fully able to “live life” with my parents though no longer in their home.  I feel close to them despite the distance between us.

On a less positive note, I can see the pull of continual partial attention that Watkins also describes in his book.  “We now devour pop culture,” writes Nancy Miller, “the same way we enjoy candy and chips – in conveniently packaged bite-sized nuggets made to be munched easily with increased frequency and maximum speed” (Watkins, 150). I want to know about my parents in a similar way. Texting encourages short snippets of information and not delving into personal feelings on the events. Even when I call, I occasionally find myself doing something on my computer in addition to speaking with my parents on the phone because doing so is quick and convenient. Unfortunately, according to Marois, “a core limitation [of the brain] is an inability to concentrate on two things at once” (Watkins, 157). Thus, I am either not really listening to one of my parents or I am not paying attention to my computer (which may be open to facebook, e-mail, or homework).  

Another way I see media affecting my relationship with my parents is the response time, or lack thereof.  “E-mail has reoriented time; communication that once took hours, days, minutes, now takes seconds, and the permitted reply time has shrunk as well. Let an e-mail stand for a day, and you risk a rift in the relationship…Lose an e-mail forever, and you are sitting on an unexploded land mine,” according to John Freeman in his book, The Tyranny of E-mail. I saw this happen clearly on one day when my dad asked me if I was ignoring him after waiting five hours for a response. He sent me a text in the morning, and I was busy all day. Dad called me in the evening to talk and ask why I had not responded. Before texting, he probably would not have expected a return call until the evening, or possibly the next day.

Overall, my relationship with my parents is neither improved nor worsened by the technology itself. How I use it can be for the encouragement of our relationship, or the discouragement of it. I choose to use the media I have to stay in close contact with them. To go back to my media log, I can say that seventy or eighty percent of my telephone calls were to my parents. Most of this was their desire to know how my interviews went and whether or not I arrived in Chicago, or some other location, safely. In fact, my parents had my scheduled landing time at Chicago-O’Hare incorrect and my lack of response to their texts sent them into a bit of a panic. Still, this demonstrates their love for me and interest in my safety.

While our generation (by this I include anyone who currently uses a cell phone) may be always on, being always connected has both its positive and negative aspects. It has the ability to encourage long distance relationships, but also to make us tired of the constant “emergency” feel that Freeman discusses as the result of our expectation for instant e-mail response.  Psychology Today documents the need to get away from our phones, or at least the need to control them, in Always On, but Not Really There. “Create mobile-free zones. Seal your cell in the trunk of your car. Turn it off at meal times. Unplug for sixty minute increments. And, if you really have to, get a lead box like the Italian man in the survey. Regain the sense of control that instant communication once gave you so that you move towards a sometimes on, sometimes off, but always mindful life.” I would have to agree. For all the benefits of technology, there are days when you just have to take a break and turn everything off. It is possible, it just takes conscience effort.

          At the age of twenty-two, I fall directly into the category of what is increasingly referred to by authors as the “Facebook Generation”. I suppose then I should admit up front that I am a facebook user, and have been for three years now. My freshman year at college, as well as my high school life, was devoid of facebook. This occurred for several reasons. One, my mom did not want me to have one since she considered the site unsafe. Second, I did not feel a need to have it, and in fact enjoyed telling people I did not have facebook because it felt as though I were breaking the social norm of college. The lack of a facebook account, I thought, had an appealing sort of shock factor. It also kept me out of the loop. Quite often someone would mention to me, “Are you going to be able to come to the movie night on Friday?”, and when I responded in ignorance of any such event this was followed up with, “Didn’t you get the facebook invite?”

          Clearly, my generation does use facebook on a regular basis as a communication tool, and in order to stay connected I joined the phenomenon. Since that time, I have used facebook Messages in the way I use email, the Albums as an opportunity to share photos, and my Wall as text messaging since until recently I lacked that as well. The main question, however, is whether or not facebook is more than that to those of us who use it. Do we (being the so-called Facebook Generation) use facebook as an extension of ourselves? Do we live in an online world? Can we interpret the difference between our online selves and our real world (I use this term loosely) identities? Zadie Smith in Generation Why? argues that “a lot of social networking software explicitly encourages people to make weak, superficial connections with each other” and that “people ‘reduce themselves’ in order to make a computer’s description of them appear more accurate”, succumbing to a pack mentality rather than striving for individuality. While the online communication may seem to Smith inefficient, it nevertheless promotes interaction with others around us, albeit in spirit and not in body. There can be little doubt, on the other hand, that the software used on social networking sites does promote certain values.

          Technology is not a neutral thing. It is created by people and thus bears the mark of the values and ethics of its creators. Mark Zuckerberg may be said to have less concern for privacy in the traditional sense of the word, and his creation of a site on the internet where you can share anything about yourself is in itself proof of that. In The Social Network, Mark’s ex-girlfriend Erica points out the distinction between saying something and writing it when speaking with Mark concerning his actions after their break-up.

Erica Albright: It didn’t stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.

The second way technology lacks neutrality is what Smith noticed about the facebook page. It looks the same for almost every user. While the information contained within may differ, the outer shell remains identical which promotes a superficial sense of sameness.

          What is that age-old adage? Don’t judge a book by its cover. This may be said of the facebook page, that due to its bland exterior, a person is forced to look beyond to discover more about the other they are looking up. Whether or not that information is an accurate description of the person is something else entirely. In the same way an applicant is in charge of representing themselves to the best of their ability on their resume, facebook users ought to recognize the importance of doing the same even if they can’t be held accountable for misrepresentation. Yes, the internet creates the ability to mask your true identity. This does not infer, however, that when information is provided willingly and honestly that it does not portray us accurately. Like a resume, one’s facebook profile is a snapshot of who we are as people. In part, and not in whole. The same is true of online communication. It is a part of our interaction with our friends, and not the completion of it. Even if facebook tells me up in a right hand corner now that I can “See Friendship” through past communications and pictures taken with someone, it is impossible for that to be the whole story.

          In The Young and the Digital, Watkins reminds us that “anxiety about technologies that allegedly remake our world and social behaviors is not new. It is a recurring story plot in American cultural life.” When a profile is created online, the person who jots down their info is not redefining themselves. They are trying to demonstrate who they are in a small way, in a forum where they have to opportunity to connect with others. Mark Zuckerberg sees it this way: “The web is at a really important turning point right now. Up until recently, the default on the web has been that most things aren’t social and most things don’t use your real identity. We’re building toward a web where the default is social.” As the way we view the web changes, and as we continue to use it more, we have to stop acting as though it is this fake outer planet. While there may be a danger of “living” exclusively through media, that does not mean that the pieces of our lives that are internet or even social network site based are not still a part of our real world.

          Still, even for those of us in the Facebook Generation our digital footprint occasionally catches us by surprise. While trying to find a quote from a book on the lack of technological neutrality, I Googled “digital media ethics technology is not neutral”. My number one result?

Social Networks and the Egyptian Revolution (or, Assignment 5…/social-networks-and-the-egyptian-revolution-or -assignment-5/

Possibly you recognize that this is my blog. It took me by surprise that anything I would ever type into Google would return results of something I wrote, with the possible exception of Googling my name. Now, I am aware that the odds of anyone searching for the phrase that I did are minimal, but out of the millions of internet sites, my blog still came out number one. It made me think critically about the information I have put out there for anyone to read. In this case, it isn’t personal info, but it is an expression of my opinions. In Digital Media Ethics, Charles Ess draws on our connection to the information that is out there about us on the internet.  “As the aptly named phenomenon of identity theft suggests, losing these sorts of information about us, what we think of as private information, to other may well feel and result in harms more like a direct assault on our own bodies and feelings, rather than solely the theft of external property.” This is another indication that the web is a part of our real world. We are connected to it.

          As we use and explore this emerging world of online social network sites, people must be aware of the ways in which the technology may affect them. The same is true of any new device or product. Our fears of societal changes for the worse cannot, however, hold back the exploration of potentially revolutionary new technology. Communication online is disembodied, but it would be too simplistic to say that it is therefore false. We are connected irrevocably to our online information, but we induce moral panics when we claim that all we have become is a being on the internet. Smith gave an example in her paper of students writing on the Wall of a friend who died. She sees this as the friends considering their deceased peer as living on through the pages of facebook. Another interpretation is that facebook was the medium through which these young adults grieved for their friend, in the same way they might write her a letter and place it on her grave. In neither instance can she respond. The communication is about the author and not the deceased. As we, the Facebook Generation, grow we must demonstrate that we can effectively utilize our new technology.  We refuse to let others be the ones to simplify our existences by undermining the new ways in which we choose to interact, and always remember that we must have awareness to wield the code; we should not be dominated by it.

Making decisions based on facebook: a part of our new reality or a misinterpretation of it?

The Mechanical Turk was originally a machine created by Wolfgang von Kempelen in the late 1700s. Kempelen claimed that his invention automated the process of playing chess; his tour with the machine beat such players as Benjamin Franklin. However, it was eventually discovered that the machine was a hoax: a person had been inside the large box the whole time playing the game. This was the idea behind Amazon’s Mechanical Turk “digital sweatshop”. The premise is that the human brain will always be able to complete some tasks better than computers, even if the tasks are menial. Thus, all work is done through the website, but there are in fact human laborers “inside” the machine, out of view.

Where are these workers exactly? Well, theoretically the work can be done all around the world by anyone. The tasks range from menial to highly specialized (in digital sweatshops outside Mechanical Turk), giving nearly everyone an opportunity to do some work on the side or attempt to make an income. “Just about anyone possessing basic literacy can find something to do on Mechanical Turk” according to Jeff Howe in Wired. There is one requirement for participating in programs like Mechancial Turk: a computer with internet access. In reality, only 16% of the world has this. Thus, the demographics are automatically limited. However, the question is really of where workers go when they do the work.  Since work is often done via the internet, a disembodiment of the worker and employer generally occurs. However, the so-called end user and the provider of the service may occasionally meet. There are three websites that demonstrates these ideas: Mechanical Turk, OnForce, and Elance. With Mechanical Turk, the work is done in an entirely virtual manner, allowing the worker to be anywhere from their home to a public library to a coffee shop. OnForce involves a different kind of digital sweatshop. This site connects companies to technicians throughout the US and Canada. The worker is hired via the website for one particular job, which they go do for the “end user” on location. This work could be installation or repair of the primary company’s product.  No actual meeting occurs, and such contact is in fact prohibited by OnForce to prevent bypassing the site. The final website, Elance, is a combination of both previous work areas. Elance involves the listing of more specialized work in a broad range of areas. This work is always temporary. It can involve simple computer work, or it may involve the provider actually going to the workplace. In this case, the site acts more as a job site.

Digital sweatshop work is entirely virtual. Its true world is that of the internet, so it can be easy to forget the worker behind the mask. However, they exist and their physical locations vary. For internet-based work, the one performing the service may be anywhere they can have a computer and connection. In other cases, on-site work is connected to the worker based on proximity to their residence, but the place they go to do the work is not verified by either the company or the website provider. With this disembodiment comes the risk of all sorts of working conditions, varying from positive to negative.

When computers and other technologies are thrown out, the garbage created is known as e-waste. The amount of e-waste has grown significantly in recent years as people throw away worn-out old equipment, or more commonly as they choose to update their hardware to the latest, fastest version. This waste is not necessarily unusable, but gets thrown into the trash or recycling anyway. According to Greenpeace, e-waste could end up in an American landfill, be recycled, reused, or incinerated. However, 50-80% of American recycling ends up being exported around the world, leaving other countries to deal with the e-waste created by our excess of technology. This also occurs in Europe, where 47% of the e-waste to be exported is illegally done.  

E-waste creates its own problems beyond simply being trash. Many of the minerals and materials needed to create circuit boards and other parts of technological devices are hazardous, including lead, cadmium, and mercury. When e-waste is sent to countries like India and China, the poorest people make an attempt to find a living by scavenging for the precious metals contained within e-waste. They risk their health to earn a slight bit of money, and they remain unprotected by international laws concerning e-waste that are ignored and easily maneuvered around. In Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground it was shown that most often young boys are the ones who poke through the trash and burn the plastic, releasing toxins that are extremely hazardous to their health.

Many people are unaware of e-waste and how it is affecting countries around the world. When they currently think of technology creating a divide between rich and poor (the “digital divide”), they think only in terms of how the well-off are able to acquire the latest technology while others are not. According to the authors of Technicolor, the digital divide is shorthand for “the myriad social and cultural factors that shape access to technological resources”.  This indicates that the digital divide will be eliminated when, say, a computer is in every home in the US. However, the digital divide is a global issue, and the seriousness of e-waste as we have seen it indicates that the divide goes far beyond concerns about access. Though people in India, Ghana, and China have a hoard of technology around them (even a small amount of usable items), they are adversely affected by the technological revolution in many ways. “The expansion of an information economy in powerful countries [like the US] depends on the work of those who labor on the geographic periphery,” according to Manuel Castells (Technicolor). If we are to act as responsible individuals in a global world, as cosmopolitans, we must think beyond consequentialist reasons for fixing the e-waste problem and avoid the “ethnocentric belief that ‘our ways are everyone’s ways’” and also the danger of proceeding “from ethnocentrism to imperialism” (Digital Technology and Culture). In some ways, we have already proceeded to imperialism through e-waste. When countries were taken over during the time of imperialism, the dominating country was looking to exploit the other country for their resources. Now, dominating nations are taking their discarded resources and shoving them off to other nations and thereby exploiting them for their “resources” of cheap labor (in comparison to safe disposal methods of e-waste in the US) and of space for landfills. Therefore, if we are to truly understand the digital divide and when it will be bridged, we need to expand our definition beyond access to also include the elimination of the harmful evils of exported e-waste.   

The existence of only two entities in a single debate often promotes the idea of an “either/or” framework. This can be seen within our legal system, where there is a defendant and a plaintiff, and a judge must determine that one is right and one is wrong. However, this leaves out the possibility that both may be right in some aspects and wrong in others. The same is true when we participated in debates in class on Maori culture and LEGO. We were asked to debate the question: Did LEGO improperly appropriate Maori culture during the creation of Bionicle?

The answer to this question, rather than yes or no, is more likely that LEGO did in fact make mistakes during the creation of Bionicle that seem to be inappropriate use of Maori culture, but that they did not conclude the process without some attempt at restoration. When LEGO originally created their toy and game line, they did so without taking any thought to the cultures from which they were borrowing. These included, but are not limited to, Korean, Chinese, and Maori names. In the words of one LEGO employee, they acted “naively” as a global company in a global world. Despite LEGO’s ignorance, however, they did in some sense practice modern cultural imperialism, thinking only of their own gain and not of the cultures which they were utilizing. One of LEGO’s biggest mistakes was using the word “Tohunga” which means priest in Maori. It was offensive to the Maori that such a word should be used to apply to a warrior and a being of the common folk. New Zealand lawyer Maui Solomon said, in defending the Maori, “It was an unauthorized use of traditional names and language, and it was an inappropriate use. There had been no consultation, no prior informed consent. And it’s a trivialization, especially when you are using names like Tohunga (Maori for priest). So there are cultural and moral issues.” With these concerns brought to the forefront, LEGO did change the words Tohunga and Huki, which were the two primarily offensive names. They continued to use “Toa”, which means warrior, among other Maori words. In moving forward with the project, LEGO attempted to better understand Maori and to listen to their objections through meetings and consultations. As regards the words that did remain in the Bionicle line, LEGO did not trademark these words and so was not making a profit off of the Maori language. LEGO further did not fully appropriate Maori culture in that they practiced remix, blending a variety of cultural names to create something fully new and different.

It is important for companies like LEGO to avoid offending indigenous cultures like Maori. This may be done through consultations and research. The idea of remix suggests that companies are not making an attempt to steal or inappropriately represent a particular culture. According to Wikipedia, to avoid these conflicts in the future LEGO has stopped the use of all living language words with the exception of words that are already used as names within a culture, and use of Latin words (which is a “dead” language). When focusing on an “either/or” debate, alternate views may be missed. In addition, in a debate like this one concerning a difference of opinion between cultures and nations, an exclusive debate only serves to promote viewing one another as either entirely differnt with no set of shared values, or as entirely the same where no there is no need to take into account differences. LEGO originally took no account of any differences, and Maori are intent on promoting only that they are different from Western culture. A basis of understanding, from each side, is needed so that they may apprecitae “the Other as Other”. As Charles Ess stated, “It is only when I encounter the Other as Other, including a fundamental respect for…different norms, beliefs and practices of the culture(s) that shape the Other, that I move to a more complete understanding of the Other.”

“It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you” (Author unknown). Along a similar vein, it is difficult to understand a society like Egypt where liberty has been taken away when it has never been taken away from Americans in such an extreme way during our lifetime. The danger in discussing the Egyptian conflict is that our encounters with it all come from media. As disembodied entities on the internet, we may run the risk of feeling ourselves as understanding Egyptian students and protestors in full, when in fact we can comprehend only in part.

With that said,  the use of technology by the protestors in Egypt has been seemingly very effective, social networking sites in particular. In the video Cairo’s Facebook Flat the argument is made that facebook even helped to begin the revolution. The importance of twitter and facebook in relation to the protests occuring seem then to be greater than that of a simple tool, and may in fact lead digital media and its use could be called the weapon of the revolution. Dissent through technology was recognized by now former President Mubarak in that he cut off “virtually all internet connections” on January 27. On January 28, Egypt’s net connections had dropped nearly to zero.  However, students soon found ways to get around this inhibition by circulating the 20 Ways to Circumvent the Egyptians Governments Internet Block. They used social networking sites to express their dissatifaction with the government and its policies as well as the way in which the peaceful protests were being handled. In addition, they also used it for purposes of organizing and staying informed on the protests.

In Cairo’s Facebook Flat as well as the video below from PBS, an attempt is made to avoid the either/or framework (at any rate, the question of  whether the president either must go or stay). However, the video below induces a sort of moral panic in that it describes police brutality in such a way as to make the story more “newsworthy” as well as incite Americans on behalf of the protestors. Due to the framework of the technology being used by the protestors (primarily facebook and twitter) and reporters this is already occuring. The internet is not neutral and, according to one saying, “the internet interprets censorship as damage” (Ess, Digital Media Ethics).  Therefore, the framework being used by the protestors is predisposed to their views and opinions on more freedom and democracy being needed in their country. Ess in Digital Media Ethics additionally indicates that “digital communication media make us cosmopolitans by default”, indicating that the protestors are such. They are, however, focused not on cross-cultural communication as much as promoting awareness of wrongdoing by the government to their own countrymen. In doing so, they did still become citizens of the world, however, because it sparked an interest by many countries for the debate. Protestors themselves tended to avoid either/or framework by working instead from a position of the issues like poverty, education, and lack of freedom. This generated interest in their struggle in a way that simple protests against the president would not have done. Digital communication could not have been used effectively by former President Mubarak during the past two weeks due to its predispostion to Western ideals, though it was used extensively by his opposition. His one option was to choose to oppress digital media, which in the end was not effective.

Digital media has introduced many new things to the world. For the 16% of the world’s population that has access to the internet, a plethora of information is available at our fingertips that previously would take a lot of energy to seek out. The advent of computers additionally makes it possible for new information such as news stories and pictures to move around the world in a matter of seconds.  

This convergence and greasing of data has resulted in new problems that we did not have before. Two of these problems are remix and cultural appropriation. “A remix is an alternate mix of a song different from the original version, made using the techniques of audio editing,” according to  It is possible for anyone with a computer, music on their hard drive, and editing software to create a remix, though it is also done by recording artists and producers themselves. The Remix Manifesto, written for remixers who do not own the rights to any songs, states that “culture always builds on the past,” and what remixers are creating is something new and original out of something stale. It also claims that we will not be able to “build free societies” unless we “limit the control of the past”. The problem with remixing, when not given permission to do so, is that the songs (or video) being used are generally protected under copyright and intellectual property (IP) law. In this case, the right of the individual to protect their IP property is held over that of the group to use the property in what ways they see fit. An argument also made by those in favor of remix is that most of the entertainment industry is owned primarily by a few large companies that are out for profit rather than the public good. 

Maori culture also has found reason to dislike these large companies. In Protecting the Family Silver, the argument is made that Maori cultural items are being exploited by creators of video games, music, and other products. As an example, one game gave its hero tattoos that were only befitting of a woman, as well as using a revered instrument in Maori culture in an offensive way. In addition, Maura, head of a New Zealand music group, found that she could not use her own name as the title for her band in Germany due to copyrights placed upon it. The Maori people have no wish to do away with the IP system, however. They wish that the law could be altered to include their rights to their culture, without fear of appropriation by others.

Charles Ess suggests that “our ethical responsibility may be more accurately understood in terms of distributed responsibility” (Digital Media Ethics). It is not possible for one individual to take the all the responsibility for even one act, so to speak, on the internet. This implies that, while cultures are different around the world, we must be able to define certain ethical norms around which we can make decisions concerning digital media since it causes us to be so interconnected. Remixers and the Maori people have differing reasons for disliking the IP system. However, both agree that it needs a change. When copyright was originated, its inventors could not have dreamed of the world we have today. In the US, Congress has the right “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” (US Const., art I. sec. 8, cl. 8.). The way in which they do so needs to change in response to the changing of technology and times.

The advent of the first social networking site (SNS),, changed the way we view and understand privacy. Since SixDegrees, SNS have climbed rapidly in the number of users and time spent on the sites. MySpace, Facebook, and lesser known SNS have all experienced significant growth; however, what they also have in common is the ongoing debate about privacy issues. One of the more recent SNS, Foursquare, is no different. Since Foursquare is a geolocation “game”, it broadcasts a person’s whereabouts on the web. Opinions vary concerning the advisability of utilizing such a service. As Jennifer Leggio said in a blog posting, “the only way to ensure social network privacy is not to use social networks”. Still, people continue to use them and enjoy their functions, including Jennifer. At the same time, most of these users do have an expectation of a certain level of privacy for their personal information.

In June of 2010, a hacker by the name of Jesper Andersen breached, so to speak, the Foursquare system. He had been able to “scrape” the names of users at a location from the Foursquare site. This was due to the fact that Foursquare showed the picture and name of the last fifty people to visit a particular location. While perhaps not particularly useful for finding or stalking a specific person, it would allow companies to access the information and use it for marketing purposes. Andersen reported the fact that he had been able to track around 875,000 Foursquare check-ins to the company as well as to Wired for an initial story. The company said they would fix the bug. Two weeks later, they did. Users for Foursquare are allowed an option for not being shown in a location’s “Who’s here now” listing. Engineers at Foursquare changed the code such that if a user had opted out of “Who’s here now”, they were automatically opted out of “Who’s checked in here”, which was not an option before.  They also randomized the pictures shown on the site so that not all the users are shown at the same time, effectively ruining the usefulness of Andersen’s scraping method. However, Wired reported on their site that Foursquare had not acted ethically through the process, placing the money deal they were currently brokering over user privacy. In addition, there was no disclosure to the users about the problem or the fix.

Bryan Person, self-proclaimed “social media evangelist”, also discovered a privacy issue of which he informed Foursquare’s creator, Dennis Crowley. Twitter is sometimes connected to Foursquare so that new places you are visiting are automatically tweeted. Even with this function turned off, however, if you are checked in at a location and a friend of yours on Foursquare walks in, when they check in themselves a tweet may be sent that the friend is at X location with you. They may or may not be hanging out with you, and your location is now on the web despite the fact that you had no intention of its being so. In addition, Jennifer also blogged that anyone, with your Foursquare name, will be able to see the badges and places you are mayor of online. Thus, anyone can find out where you are most often during the week.

Bloggers varied in their reactions to the privacy breaches on Foursquare that occured this year. Many, like user anniemal, expressed that “If you’re worried about privacy maybe you shouldn’t be registering your location on the internet? Just a thought.” Others were less concerned. One, bauserdotcom, said that “it’s a game, expect some lack of privacy”. It is interesting to note that, for what were some relatively significant privacy issues on Foursquare, these violations were not widely known or publicized. Perhaps this is due in part to the number of users (6 million according to as opposed to facebook’s 500 million active users, according to facebook itself), so the issues did not affect as many people. Or, as anniemal expressed, people believe that Foursquare users do not have the same right to privacy. They have perhaps reached some indefinable limit of privacy by participating in Foursquare, and, as some believe, if this crosses the boundary of protecting your own privacy, any seeming lack of it is “your fault”. It seems strongly ingrained in the American culture that privacy is primarily known and protected by the individual. Comments like the one above also seem to suggest that, in an increasingly digital world, we have an idea that people should expect SNS to lack significant concern for privacy. As scandals with other popular sites like Facebook and MySpace suggest, we have learned to distrust the media we are using.   

Next: Foursquare Terms of Use

I decided that, rather than begin with facts about me, I’d give you a picture of one of my days this summer. It was my great fortune to travel to Croatia for six weeks on a mission trip with Campus Crusade for Christ in June and July. One weekend, I packed my backpack for a day trip and then got into a medium-sized car. I should mention that it was about the size of a Prius. They don’t get much bigger than that in Rijeka, where the streets were designed for pedestrians and perhaps carrriages, not the motor vehicle madness that occurs there daily. Anyway, we traveled along the coast of the Adriatic Sea for about two hours before heading inland toward Plitvice National Forest where we spent the next six hours. I have never enjoyed the outdoors quite as much as that day, and I love to be outside regulary. So much beauty was before me that it was impossible to capture it all with my camera. I gave it my best effort, however. On average, I’d say I took a picture for every ten steps forward. In total I came back from Croatia with 2500 pictures. Too many? I don’t really think so.  I told my dad before I left that I would need every bit of the 8 GB card space I took with me, and I was very nearly right.


I suppose I should get to my reason for creating this blog, otherwise I might upload pictures all day. Trust me, I would. My youngest sister Gianna had to sit through all 2500 of them when I got back. My name is Samantha, and I am a senior in college in electrical engineering, with minors in mathematics and English. In all honesty, I never thought I would have a blog. I’ve read a few that belong to my friends on various occasions, and while I enjoyed what I read, I did not feel the need to consistently follow them. This blog is an assignment for the DTC/AmSt 475 class that I am taking in order to graduate in May. I’m not sure where I will be after graduation at this point. What interested me in engineering when I got out of high school was the challenge of it, and I can assure you that it has been incredibly challenging up to this point. Despite the homework load, I find a lot of time to hang out with friends and play sports or watch movies, and a little bit of time for writing and reading for pleasure. Summers tend to be my “catch up” time for the last two activities.  And at the moment I can’t think of anything else to interest you as the reader (not that I would absolutely guarantee you have been entertained up until this point). My life is average.