Privacy, are you private?

ImagePrivacy is an issue one constantly hears on the news, at school and with friends. Individuals value their privacy and Westerners tend to enjoy their own ‘bubble space’ where acquaintances and colleagues are not allowed. This blog analyzes privacy in today’s rapidly growing technological world.  In Living in the Information Age, Frances Cairncross predicted the “loss of privacy” as a soon to be both problem and trend. She believed “governments and companies will easily monitor people’s movements” and “machines will recognize physical attributes like a voice or fingerprint”. Cairncross also wrote about how in the electronic era there will be little actual privacy as well as little unsolved crime. All of these factors sound like futuristic predictions I can easily envision with flying cars and robot maids, but how much of the first section prediction is accurate?

Governments and companies will easily monitor people’s movements.  In 2011, Time Magazine published an article stating that some malls track their customers by their cellphone signals. This information is collected through a network of monitoring units set up across mall and organized into a central processing center. This data is then analyzed to gain helpful insight into customers’ shopping habits, heavy foot traffic and additional pertinent details. The only option out of this invasion of privacy is to turn off your cell phone, which most people would never do anyway. The mall clearly represents Cairncross’s company’s prediction and it is scary to think it was published two years ago[1]. Similarly, the famous red-circled Target company tracks consumers purchasing habits to analyze and understand useful patterns to better target the customers. Thanks to incessantly analyzing data, the billion-dollar company figured out a teen girl was pregnant in 2012 before her own father did. Target then tailored its coupon book for this teenage girl and sent her coupons of baby clothes and cribs. The father had no idea and complained to the local manager; only to later find out she was indeed pregnant. This is an accurate depiction of Cairncross’s trend because Target is the company and through data analytics the company easily monitors people’s movements (or shopping habits)[2]. Companies are not the only ones who can easily monitor people’s movements, in California and eight other Western states the United States government can now monitor and track you virtually “anytime it wants- with no need for a search warrant”. Government agents can physically sneak onto your property, place a GPS device on the bottom of your car and monitor your every move without violating your Fourth Amendment rights. The government’s shrewd justification is that, “you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements”[3]. All three examples, either company or government, verify Cairncross’s prediction and make me question these institutions boundaries. Even if one lives a more private social media life (not updating locations, photos often, etc.), privacy is still a present and ever growing issue in our society. Word Count: 504

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Show me the ‘Info’

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In Living in the Information Age, Frances Cairncross identified the “proliferation of ideas” as an upcoming and essential trend. She believed new ideas and information would travel faster to the farthest corners of the world and that third world countries would have access to the industrial worlds knowledge. She also wrote, “communities of practice and long-distance education programs would help people find mentors and acquire new skills”.  This post will assess if her three-part prediction is indeed accurate in relation to the three Media Now authors genres, particularly social media. The authors, Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport, specify Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Google+ and Wikipedia as all very popular and influential social media applications.

 Information would travel faster to the farthest corner of the world. A New York Times article stated that good news spreads faster on Twitter and Facebook than the typical ‘if it bleeds rule’ news. The media tend to utilize the ‘if it bleeds rule’ to captivate audience’s attention in catastrophic events like tornadoes and widespread famine, but researchers have determined positive news travels faster[1]. Similarly, the Securities and Exchange Commission notified companies they could use social media sites to disseminate key information, like they already do on corporate websites, as long as they alert investors of this[2]. Both of these articles provide interesting perspectives because they involve the dissemination of information (either positive and/ or corporate) through social media to the farthest corners of the world. Anyone with Internet access is provided the luxury of staying current and informed.

 Third world counties will have the same access to knowledge as the industrial world. It is essential to properly define the term “third world countries” in order to assess the statement. According to the Nations Online Project, third world countries loosely describes the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America characterized by high infant mortality, high levels of poverty and a lack of a middle class[3]. The Latin American region has a total population of 593, 688, 683 with 42.9% Internet penetration or “the same access to knowledge as the industrial world”[4]. And in September 2012, it was announced only one-third of the world population is now “online” specifically 20.5 percent of households in developing countries[5]. Therefore it is difficult to determine whether Cairncross’s prediction was valid, because only some third world countries have access and in those third world countries not everyone has the Internet amenity of the elite.

Communities of practice and long-distance education programs would help people find mentors and acquire new skills. If you’re fortunate enough to have Internet access (and clearly since you’re reading this, you are) there is a world of long-distance education programs. It seems like universities all around the country are implementing this type of program, which allows individuals to virtually find mentors, acquire new skills and excel in the workforce. Even some of the world’s most prestigious universities, like Harvard, are participating in this phenomenon. Cairncross’s trend was definitely accurate in this specific section.   Word Count: 506

Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, Oh My!

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In Living in the Information Age, Frances Cairncross predicted a new communications trend called communities of practice. He stated, “Common interests, experiences, and pursuits rather than proximity will bind these communities together” and mentioned that the horizontal bonds among people speaking the same language or doing the same tasks in different areas of the world will strengthen. Cairncross predicted 30 new communications and this one is very accurate. These communities of practice seamlessly correspond with the Media Now authors, Straubhaar, LaRose and Davenport, Internet genres especially social media.

Social media is the most popular online genre and is synonymous with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google +, LinkedIn and many more. This blog (yet another social media tool) will explore a few of these interactive websites pertaining to communities of practice.

Facebook is the mother of all social media with 1.06 billion users, 618 million daily active members, and 50 million Facebook pages[1].  Almost everyone I know and intermingle with has an active Facebook account and belongs to at least a few of these 50 million pages. Facebook, particularly its pages, provides users with the ability to bind communities or groups of individuals together regardless of location. I belong to six pages- two of which are local clothing boutiques, one fitness friend who promotes healthy eating and exercising, my little brothers hobby page, and two miscellaneous pages. By simply “liking” these pages, I belong to these groups and am constantly updated with store deals and helpful, healthy snacks. One of the miscellaneous pages I belong to is a Venezuelan patriotic site for my home country where members post relevant news, entertainment and even advertisements. It is a unique page where all Venezuelans, regardless of ones physical location, can join together and discuss political debates and even organize successful rallies not only in Venezuela but also in New Orleans and Miami.

Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has taken off these past few years and reached 500 million users. A couple Twitter fun facts: at least 170 billion tweets sent, 400 million tweets sent per day and Justin Bieber is the most followed celebrity with 36.4 million followers[2].  Through the actions of tweets, retweets, follows and #trends, Twitter strengthens the horizontal bonds that bring people together. Millions of people can follow their favorite celebrities, companies or inspirations and have the unique opportunity to possibly communicate with them (or at least attempt to). Discussions are created about trending topics and people from all corners of the world can tune in, input what they like or just idly follow along.

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 200 million users. Although I am relatively new to this site, I am fascinated by its cleanness and practicability. Simply put, LinkedIn makes sense and allows for one to create and continue building on ones professional identity. There are 1.5 million groups, an average time of 17 minutes monthly per user and a geographical reach of 200 countries and territories[3]. The ability to follow people and companies, update your skills and resume, be endorsed for skills and match up with similar individuals based on your career interests embodies Cairncorss’s trend that “common interests, experiences and pursuits rather than proximity will bind these communities together”.

Which social media or communities of practice do you most participate in? Word Count: 556 [1] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-17-amazing-facebook-stats/ [2] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/march-2013-by-the-numbers-a-few-amazing-twitter-stats/    [3] http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-a-few-important-linkedin-stats/

INC- Online Gaming

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(INC stands for ‘Incoming’ in MMORPG Lingo)

In today’s modern and fast paced world, people can play games from almost any remote location and connect with their friends or players at a similar level via the internet. In the textbook Living in the Information Age, Frances Cairncross was accurate in his predicted trend of increased mobility. He stated, “every form of communication will be available for mobile or remote use” and “the distinctions between fixed and mobile receiving equipment will blur”. Similarly, the three Media Now authors wrote about the online game genre and its technological impact. Online games are a distinct form of entertainment, because of their “addictive” quality and extreme interactivity.

Almost everywhere one looks you can observe both adults and children playing on their tablets and smartphones a variety of fascinating games from Sudoku and Scramble to Gold Nuggets and Bored School. According to the Apple application store, there are an overwhelming 1,108 available online games[1]. The Google Play for Android phones had over ten pages of online games ready to download both free or with a small fee[2]. Clearly “typical” mobile online games are growing, but let’s explore the influence and impact of the most popular gaming category Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs).

According to Media Now, MMORPG games are extremely popular and one of them “World of Warcraft” has over 10 million players worldwide with tens of thousands of gamers playing at one time. These games typically have a sorcery or magic theme and elegantly combine crime and science fiction elements. It was especially interesting reading about this specific genre with players who adopt these intricate virtual environments, because I am not familiar with these games nor am I close with anyone who does. The MMORPG.com site boasts about its 2,294,640 members, 2,088 guests and 5,468,092 posts. It is obvious that these games have a very strong and dedicated fan base, one that contributes to the site through forums, blogs and videos. The site also displays an extensive list of MMORPG games and categorizes them as primarily Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Real Life. After browsing through a couple of the blogs posted on the website, I found an interesting article by a woman who believes the media, government and individuals should stop blaming inanimate objects as rationalization for why catastrophes (like mass shootings) happen instead of blaming more tangible root causes like mental state, bad parenting and poor education. Even more captivating were member’s responses like Dauzqual’s, “I’ve played the CoD series since Call of Duty 2 and I would never hurt anyone. People are either mental or too wrapped up in what society thinks”[3].  There were too many replies to post the ongoing debate, but most members I read posted that these games at MOST play a minimal role in a violent act. I learned a lot about this gaming world and can zealously confirm that increased mobility has been a real game changer for online gaming, pun intended. Word Count: 493