Presentation Topic: Cyberactivism…

 

Civil disobedience is the intentional, proclaimed refusal to obey certain laws, orders, and commands of a government, or of an occupying governmental power. Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay Resistance to Civil Government which by 1866, four years after his death, was published under the title, Civil Disobedience. Thoreau’s essay brought forth the concept of nonviolent resistance, which guided and inspired the leaders of the most important political and social movements of the twentieth century such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and many other prolific activists of our time. The intentional expression of nonviolent civil disobedience, or activism, may take many forms such as rallies, marches, boycotts, and strikes; while terroristic activism, or terrorism, is a form of activism that incorporates violence and fear as tools to further a specific agenda.

Technological advancements since the 1990s have touched almost every part of our lives in both frivolous and substantive ways. Arguably, the Internet has spawned advancements in the way we communicate, connect, and perceive the world around us. While the Internet continues to be used for the benign goal of socializing and updating one’s Facebook status, it has also become a force within our society for social change and political activism. No longer are activists relegated to city streets and the halls of Congress with picket signs and bullhorns blasting their unique perspectives, but now social change can be initiated from the comforts of one’s living room, office cubicle, or coffee shop. The stereotypical perception of the “activist” of the 1960s with pedal pushers, burning draft cards, and peace signs no longer applies to the activists of the new millennium. These new activists are faceless entities engaging in the brave new world of cyber activism in the privacy of their own homes.

With the advent of the Internet, cyber activism has become a high stakes game of cat and mouse with anonymity comprising one of its key components. Cyber activism, or online activism, is socio-political action among groups, which not only embrace the traditional framework of social change as illustrated in Thoreau’s essay; but also includes the utilization of technological advancements that further the group’s collective goals. This essay explores the characteristics of cyber activism within our society and how the concept of activism has evolved from mass gatherings of demonstrators to the virtual protests of the 21st century due to technological advances since the advent of the Internet.

There are four broad categories of cyber activism: cyber protest, hactivism, defacing websites, and server attacks.  While each of these methods has its own particular goal and use within the larger concept of cyber activism, all cyber activism begins with a coalition of like-minded people who have a common goal. Further, cyber activism is usually marked by a loosely organized structure that attracts varying levels of sophistication and commitment to one another’s ideological stances.

First, cyber protest is an organized effort to bring attention to current issues usually related to social and/or political events that are of importance to technology users and providers. A recent example of a successful cyber protest occurred in November 2011 when the online data source, Wikipedia, intentionally went dark for all of its English version pages in protest to anti-piracy legislation under consideration in the United States Congress. The Protect Intellectual Property Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, called for strengthening file-sharing and copyright infringement laws that the movie and music industries see as riddled with loopholes and lack of enforcement of existing laws. [1] While information providers such as Wikipedia do not endorse or encourage the pirating of copyrighted material, keeping the Internet open and accessible without undo litigious and governmental pressures and regulations is a defining characteristic of the internet from its conception.  Accounts of the cyber protest were plastered on the network news programs as well as the print media. This particular cyber protest demonstrates the effectiveness of accessing end users as a way to promote and educate the public concerning issues of particular importance to the cyber protestors.

Second, hactivism is characterized by the non-violent use of illegal cyber-attack tools as a means of protest directed at governmental agencies, corporations, or organizations. Hactivism is not characterized by financial gains, but rather the primary goal is usually political in nature.  For example, in 1989 the United States Department of Energy and NASA were targeted with a worm that replaced user login screens with an anti-nuclear proliferation message. While hactivism attacks have evolved in the past decade, the modus operandi are virtually unchanged utilizing website defacement and distributed denial of service attacks. [2] Another example of hactivism in recent years was the Beijing Olympic games. Computer login processes were disrupted throughout the world. The goal of this particular assault was to bring attention to the human right’s record of China toward he Tibetan people.

Third, web defacement is a common tool used by cyber activists to satirize companies or organizations with which the activist may not agree. While web defacement can occur in portions of one’s webpage, more commonly the entire page is replaced by a dummy page. Short witty information is provided as a way to embarrass the victim. While website defacing is usually marked as a relatively harmless prank to many, website defacement can take on a much more nefarious function by disguising larger, more dangerous problems within the systems effected. For example, while a typical website defacement can include the replacement of ones webpage to a fictitious, often satirical one as well as the intruder’s pseudonym, some website defacements disguise the insertion of malware which can have devastating effects on one’s website.

Fourth, server attacks are often perpetrated on large high-profile companies and organizations such as banks and insurance companies. First, denial-of-service disables the user from accessing the end user’s log -in data form. The denial-of-service is very similar to the example used earlier when discussing hactivism.  Moreover, server attacks can impede the processing time of data throughout the system, also called throughput. Overloading the network with an abundance of communication requests slows the processing time considerably depending upon the type, duration, and quantity of data requests. It is worth noting that while each characteristic discussed thus far regarding cyber activism is unique in many ways, there is a certain amount of overlap between and among them.

Now that the characteristics of cyber activism as the catalyst for social change have been discussed, we now turn to possible uses and functions of cyber activism in society. Due to the ease and the effectiveness of the Internet for gathering and mobilizing support, raising financial backing, and communicating and spreading influence and ideas throughout society, cyber activism is much more practical than traditional activism such as in-person picketing, allies, and marches.

First, gathering and mobilizing support is the cornerstone to any successful collective action, whether cyber activism or traditional activism. The advent of the Internet has created the opportunity for the quick mobilization and organization of like-minded people in short periods of time.

Just as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hurst set the country’s agenda with their yellow journalism splattered on the pages of the New York World and New York Journal throughout the Gilded Age of the 1890s, today’s media giants such as CNN, NBC, and Fox shape how the majority of Americans understand, relate to, and perceive the world around them. While the omnipotent networks gave way to the infiltration of cable broadcasting a hundred years later, the Internet has the potential to become the great equalizer of information. Given the increased accessibility of the Internet in the past decade, the average American has access to thousands of data sources instantaneously. In Politics on the Nets, Wayne Rash points out that “like-minded people with non-mainstream ideas would be able to communicate and disseminate information with an equal voice amongst the nation’s political/social elite, and an unregulated, uncontrolled discourse would finally be able to take place.”

Second, the Internet has transformed raising financial backing to support particular social agendas. No longer are non-profits reliant upon large-scale galas and fundraisers, which incur extraordinary upfront and overhead costs. The new fundraising machine allows for small, seemingly inconsequential donations to be collected from anyone who agrees with the particular agenda of an organization. Further, targeting donation requests through the use of social media allows organizations to cast a large net into an expansive group of potential donors that meet predetermined criteria. Messages can now be customized and addressed to the needs of any one particular subgroup within the potential donor pool.

Third, the effective dissemination of ideas and information throughout society has been the cornerstone to transitioning activism from the traditional methods to the more targeted and effective mechanics of cyber activism. Not only has the internet allowed for instantaneous and continuous, real-time feedback from other activists with similar interests, the use of social media such as My Space, Facebook, and Twitter have forever altered the way we organize ourselves into groups and cohorts. Similarities can be easily identified and seized upon in the hopes of creating a sustainable movement that changes the way we understand others and ourselves.

In conclusion, cyber activism is similar to traditional activism in that both forms of activism seek to create social, political, or economic changes within society. Cyber activism allows for a more targeted approach to disseminate a group’s message that had been hampered by many considerations in the past such as financial, ease of access, and response time. Clearly we are now living in a brave new world, which Thoreau could not have imagined when writing his work on civil disobedience.

Forums…a stroll down BBS lane…

Many years ago, my very first experience with personal computing was on a Commodore 64. After purchasing a 5.25 floppy drive and learning to write simple programs in Basic language, I decided to purchase a 2400 baud modem.The modem allowed me the ability to communicate with other people over the telephone line.

Back then, there was no internet as we know it today.People logged onto systems that were called Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). Bulletin Board Systems were primarily a local way of communicating with others, because any connection made outside of a local area would be assessed long distance charges.

BBS’s were similar to forums and webboards in that it allowed users to send email, share files, and participate in discussions, which were called “threads”. Forums and webboards, which are the modernized versions of these BBS’s still exist and still allow users to engage in these activities.

Although these type of systems are less prevalent these days, college instructors often will post threads on forums for their students. These discussion threads are similar to what we understand blogs to be, and are usually grouped into categories based on discussion topics. Some more popular forums used today are The Gaia Online Forums aimed for younger users, forums for the academic community aimed towards higher education, and iVillage Forums which contain forums for various topics and discussions.

RSS Feeds…

Ever since I began going online and using email, I always preferred using Microsoft Outlook as the email client. For the longest time I had always noticed the words “RSS Feeds” as a folder in each email account, but I never understood how the folder got there or what purpose the folder was intended.

After reading up on the subject of RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) for class, I now have a better understanding of what RSS feeds are and finally what those Outlook folders are for. RSS feeds are basically updates to other websites that can be ‘subscribed’ to and automatically sent to you.

RSS Feeds can be very useful for people who do not wish to constantly keep visiting websites to obtain the most current information. In order to receive RSS feeds you will need a RSS feed reader. There are a few good ones that seem to do the job well such as Google Reader, Bloglines, and MyYahoo!

There are many websites that offer RSS feeds such as The New York Times, USA.GOV, and USA Today to name a few. Basically on any webpage, if the website contains a small orange RSS label then you can subscribe to an RSS feed from the site. If none of these websites suit your fancy, there is always good ole Google Reader to rely upon. Since I am already using several other Google brand web utilities, I prefer Google Reader since it integrates seamlessly with the other Google products.

Puffy…Happy…Little Clouds!

Document sharing can be a very useful tool when group collaboration is needed to maintain and update an online document. When documents are created and maintained via an online document or in the ‘cloud’, there is no need for multiple versions of documents. Once a document is created online with an web application such as GoogleDocs, Scribd, or Zoho, working with others on a single document online becomes possible.

I have always heard and known about the GoogleDocs online application for creating documents but until now I have never been required or had the need to participate in an online document collaboration. GoogleDocs is an extremely innovative and effective way to collaborate with others. The interface is very straightforward to use, and GoogleDocs offers many different templates to create a document, so there is no need to create an online document from scratch each time you need to generate a new document.

GoogleDocs is not just for creating a basic document, the internet application also offers users to create online presentations, spreadsheets, forms, drawings, tables, surveys, or even a collection. I could only imagine how difficult and frustrating it might be if one of these types of documents were needed for group collaboration, but there was no GoogleDocs. The logistics of trying to work on a document with other people who will all be editing and revising the document while remaining organized might be virtually impossible with this nifty technology. I definitely intend on making GoogleDocs one of my favorites!

Social Bookmarking…is Delicious?…Really??

I must admit that I am not a big fan of the social bookmarking concept. I always thought that bookmarks and favorites saved were a personal interest to the person who saved them. I suppose since every other aspect of technology within society seems to be growing electronic tendrils reaching out to connect and share every single frivolous notion that can be thought up.

So the bookmarks I have always saved and thought were relevant to only me, can now be saved and captured into a location that can be viewed and accessed from any remote location via the internet. No longer are my bookmarks relegated to isolation at home on my computer, now they can be made available anytime and all the time.

Now with all this said and for the sake of this assignment I shall at least attempt to be objective when learning during my humble beginnings in social bookmarking. From what I can tell, the best social bookmarking site to participate in this practice is Delicious. If your social bookmarking needs are not quite satisfied enough, an alternative site is Connotea. This site is geared more towards reference, research, and professional application.

For a hybrid, more multifaceted, social bookmarking experience Diigo is a very good choice to go with. Diigo seems to be the best of both worlds so-to-speak, providing both social as well as reference, research, and social bookmarking functionality. Also, to assist in finding key terms and assist with organization, ‘Tags’ can be added to blogs.

Video: Me & YouTube…

I have been a fan of YouTube for a few years now, however, until today I have never uploaded any videos onto the site. I just finished creating and uploading a very short video of me using the built-in camera device on this Apple MacBook Pro. YouTube is the only user-created video website that I am familiar with, however there are other sites such as Vimeo & UStream that also offer the ability to upload user-created, non-copywritten video.

There are many categories of video types available on YouTube to view such as popular, entertainment, music, and sports. My favorite video category and the one I find myself mostly watching on YouTube is comedy. I have literally spent many hours over the years hysterically laughing at various videos on YouTube.

While there are many original, interesting, and entertaining videos to view on YouTube, you will need a little bit of patience while navigating the site to find them. There are entirely too many horrible videos on the site and this really detracts from the greatness of YouTube. I wonder if YouTube would ever begin a quality control program to head some of the crappy videos from getting posted?

Even though YouTube is riddled with mediocre videos and sometimes it is difficult to navigate the site, I still feel YouTube is by far the best video site on the net! I think I might even begin to improve my video skills myself and post videos more often. So maybe the sequel to my own bogus first video post will be in the works!

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Asp5ekdYk&feature=youtu.be

Podcasts & Podcasting…

I have been riding the Apple bandwagon now for about 4-5 years and have been well aware of the availability of Podcasts. I have purchased and owned the iPhone, iPhone 3S, iPhone 4, iPod Classic, iPod Shuffle, iPad, and now the iPad 2. I am seriously contemplated purchasing the iPad 3 but have not yet been able to justify spending another $6-700 dollars to make the purchase.

While podcasts were originally created for use with the iPod, podcasts can be utilized by many other means now. This makes podcasts more accessible for those not choosing or willing to use Apple brand products. Many different devices now offer compatibility and functionality for downloading and playback of podcasts. Also, podcasts are now available from many other sources other than Apple’s I-Tunes.

The only experience I have had with podcasts has been with Apple’s I-Tunes store, although many other websites such as podcast.com and podcastalley offer podcasts for download and playback. Downloading podcasts are nice because you can have podcasts of many different shows and topics automatically sent to you for convenient playback. Often when a show is broadcast or originally aired, I am unable to view at that particular time so being offered a podcast of the show to download is very helpful in keeping up with the particular show.

Ironically enough, Apple took issue with other companies using the term “POD” back in 2006 to market and advertise their podcasts. In my opinion, this was a confusing decision and an illogical stance to take on Apple’s part since it seemed to me to be free advertising.

Virtual Worlds vs Reality 1.0

The concept of the virtual world at first seems extremely appealing in many ways. Completely submersing yourself in an expansive 3-D environment could allow someone to take a journey or have a particular experience that might not be otherwise possible in what we know and understand as reality. So it is no surprise to me that the idea of reality ‘virtualized’ has become widely popular for many people.

However, in my opinion the concept or idea of virtual worlds far surpass the implementation of the experience. I consider myself to be an advanced ‘techie geek’ type and am always finding myself interested in advancements in technology. A good indicator of where we are as a society in technological terms are can be found in the video games we are currently playing. Often the technology implemented in our current generation video games & consoles are a good litmus for how advanced technology has become.

Although technology has come a long way since the Atari 2600, I feel we have not come far enough to create a believable enough experience that can capture and more importantly keep our attention. Some virtual worlds seem nothing more than a visual representation of a chat room, which offers different so-called locations to communicate and interact with other members. Simple co-operative games, proprietary currency, and other features sometimes seem like nothing more than gimmicks to hold member’s interest.

My experience with ‘Virtual Worlds’ has been limited to the Sony Playstation’s ‘HOME’, although there are many others that seem to be very popular such as SecondLife and The World of Warcraft.

Photo sharing and Flickr…

Most of my experience with digital photos and things related has until now been limited to saving on my personal hard drive and whatever picture taking device used to capture the image. I remember hearing and/or seeing the site Flickr in passing, but to be honest I never took the time to actually check out what the site was all about.

Flickr is a website that allows users to upload, share, and locate photos online from any internet enabled device. There are other similar photo sharing websites such as Zoto and PhotoShow, however Flickr is by far the more popular and straightforward site in my opinion.

After registering for a Flickr account I submitted several personal photos of my own into what is known as a Flickr ‘photo stream’. Once you have posted photos into your photo stream, you can edit the titles and captions of the uploaded photos, select the viewing permissions of others who may view the photos, and invite specified users or groups of others to view your uploaded photos.

If you would rather not upload your own personal photos, there are websites in which you can find and use assorted photos to upload to your photo stream. If you decide to use other photos instead of your own, you must be sure to consider copyright status of those photos you want to use.

One place you can find non-copywritten photos to use and upload is in the “Commons” area at Flickr.com. There are many photos available to use such as :

Milk Wort and Butterfly in the Texas Countryside, near San Antonio, 06/1973

Trucks unloading at the inbound freight house of the Illinois Central Railroad, South Water Street freight terminal, Chicago, Ill. (LOC)

The “Commons” area on the website Flickr is a terrific place to start when searching for available, non-copywritten, photos to view and utilize for whatever purposes you may have. There you can find many stock photos of almost any subject you can think of to view.

Web Information Reliability Test…

The reliability and subjectivity of information is always something to consider when reading about topics found on the web. Just like with local news we can watch everyday on our local news channels, different news broadcasting companies (i.e. NBC, ABC, & CBS) admittedly or not often skew their information to some degree or another.

Usually the broadcasting company’s subjectivity manifests itself in subtle ways and sometimes not so much. Deciding what stories to report on and to what degree, as well as the more overt stance of establishing an ‘angle’ are usually practices one must consider when watching the evening newscast.

Just as with the local news channels, informational websites in order to retain credibility must strive to keep and demonstrate an informative and objective position on all issues and topics. Informational websites such as Google News, Google Scholar, and Wikipedia should be held to this same standard but often it is up to us to disseminate the information provided. Considering the source is very important when attempting to find reliable and objective information on the web.

“Evaluating Web Sites” excerise:

Helping someone with an eating disorder…

1. The author of this article appears to be by ‘finding Dulcinea’.

2. The layout is similar to most other webpages, point and click to expand sections of the page for more detailed information.

3.  I might utilize this site as a supplemental source for information cited, but not as a primary source because I feel there are more credible websites that could be helpful.

Fair cell use in schools…

1. The author of this article is Beth Lynne, who is a New Jersey science and mathematics teacher.

2. Register to be a member of ‘Suite 101’.

3. I would be reluctant to cite this article as a source since the author’s profession is a teacher, which might skew her perception of the issue.

Chocolate at Heart: The Anti-Inflammatory Impact of Cocoa Flavanols…

1. The site belongs to NCA, which is the National Confectioners Association. The sites mission statement is “NCA is the major association representing the entire confection industry, offering education and leadership in manufacturing, technical research, public relations, retailing practices, government relations, and statistical analyses”.

2. I would be highly skeptical of any information provided by this site since there would be an obvious conflict of interest due to the fact that the company would obviously be ‘pro’ chocolate.

The Institute for Historical Review…

1. The sites mission statement is “The Institute for Historical Review is an independent educational research and publishing center that works to promote peace, understanding and justice through greater public awareness of the past, and especially socially-politically relevant aspects of twentieth-century history”.

2. The institute’s director is Max Weber, a historian, lecturer, current affairs analyst and author who holds a masters degree in modern European history from Indiana University.

3. The site is not backed by any well known, respected authority on the subject matter, so one must be skeptical of objectivity.

4. I might cite this source if intended to support a specific claim, but not if my purpose was to provide non-biased informative data.

Nicotine: A Physical Challenge…

1. The site belongs to Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, a multi-billion dollar corporation. The organization, just like any capitalist business is generate revenue which increases stock-holder’s portfolios.

2. The site attempts to convince the reader that the only way one can quit smoking is with their help, and the use of their products.

3. A more reliable, more objective website to consider would be the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

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