The Great Firewall of China: Not As Scary As We Thought?

Before any of you proceeds to place any judgement on my perspective upon reading his blog. I would like to clarify that I’m actually not a supporter of Internet censorship. However, in this blog post, I would like to position my argument against the mainstream anti-filtering perspectives and consider the implications justifying the need for online surveillance.

 

China currently deploys a ‘push and control’ Internet tactic to administrate the current floating content that the regime has leniently authorised to acquire economic prosperity (Zhang, 2006). Many have argued that this system is but of totalitarian nature. One of my classmates also claimed that ‘the great firewall’ of China’s only task is to dictate domestic digital material and shield out regime-compromising content from the outside world.

If you have taken into consideration the alleged act of monitoring foreign material without consent by the NSA, then perhaps you have figured out one of the many grounds on which the Chinese government wants to employ its Internet protective custody- to assure important domestic content is not accessible by an unauthorised foreign force. Analysing the Australian context, Catherine, Green and Hartley also consider national security as a major factor behind the need for Internet gatekeeping (2009).

 

Moreover, recent incidents such as the involvement of Twitter in the London Riots of 2011 also raised questions about the risk of free-roaming social media use. By having such an extensive network of Internet filters, the Chinese government is also able to prevent civil uprisings and unrest facilitated by the use of social media (Zhang, 2006). Perhaps it is public order that has taken priority over individual freedom of Internet use in this communist-ruled nation.

 

The third reason could also be used as well in the context of Western political paradigms. There have been debates over the potential harms the Internet exhibits such as child porn, ethnically defamatory sites and excessive violence (Chen, 2014). However, in the Western world, the current jurisdictional bodies with the most effective autonomy over censorship are self-regulated companies such as Facebook and Twitter. Would you trust these guys more?

In conclusion, while Chinese Internet censorship maybe extremist measures taken by a totalitarian government, it still is backed up by many valid points. And, these points pose challenges towards the gate-keeping assignment of Internet safety for our relatively democratic political environments where freedom of speech sometimes is abused or taken for granted.

 

Reference(s):

 

Catharine Lumby, Lelia Green and John Hartley.  Untangling the Net: The Scope of Content Caught by Mandatory Internet Filtering. Report, 2009.http://www.cci.edu.au/sites/default/files/alawrence/untanglingthenet_report.pdf

 

Chen, A. (2014). Inside Facebook’s Outsourced Anti-Porn and Gore Brigade, Where ‘Camel Toes’ are More Offensive Than ‘Crushed Heads’. [online] Gawker. Available at: http://gawker.com/5885714/inside-facebooks-outsourced-anti-porn-and-gore-brigade-where-camel-toes-are-more-offensive-than-crushed-heads [Accessed 19 May. 2014].

Zhang, L. (2006). Behind the ‘Great Firewall’Decoding China’s Internet Media Policies from the Inside. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 12(3), pp.271–291

 

 

 

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Social Media: Corporate Intrusion of Privacy

Confronted with the debate on the utilisation of social media in the Australian workplace, I couldn’t help but get very concerned about the emerging dilemma regarding corporate infringement of employees’ privacy. Perhaps what concerns me the most about this controversy is the dilemma of providing Australian workers with adequate privacy protection (Howard, 2008).

 

Participatory media platforms have undoubtedly equipped both institutions and workers with a ‘vernacular web’ where new possibilities of discourse hybridity emerge (Howard, 2008). This is supposed to be the medium that lobbies for fairer balance between employers and employees’ shares of information distribution. However, as recent events unfolded, companies have taken aggressive measures to address the presence and involvement of social media in their working environments. One of these instances that raised concern over endangered employee’s privacy rights was the Commonwealth Bank’s attempt to coerce its employers into reporting criticism against the firm, using dismissal as a blackmail device (The Australian, 2011). Unlike social media’s dynamic pace of evolution, the Australian legislative system is complicated and hence often takes lengthy processes to address legal matters regarding online privacy. Meanwhile, companies’ self-regulation is more in tune with the dynamics of change in media. This means there is no up-to-date and enforceable administrative body to adequately govern the extent to which corporations can interfere with their employees’ online privacy.

 

Some of the available options that are still currently available as a legal defence against unfair dismissal by corporations in cases of disputed social media use are comprised of:

 

–       Workplace fairness agencies such as the Fair Work Commission and Australian Workers’ Union

–       Official media and communications regulatory bodies such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

–       Legislations such as the Privacy Act and the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

 

However, none of the above mechanisms are specifically elaborate and enforceable enough to target this particular issue. Therefore, the question I would like to ask you guys this week is:

 

What judicial reforms on online privacy do you propose the Australian government implement in order to expiate the current loopholes?

 

Robert Glenn Howard 2008, “The Vernacular Web of Participatory Media”, Critical Studies in Media Communication,vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 490-513.

The Australian 2011, ‘Bank’s Facebook sacking threat’ , News L

Social Media: The Political Crusader

This week’s reading by Wolfsfled, Segav and Sheafer demonstrates that change in the political environment leads to changes in the utilisation of social media, which then further reshapes the practices of politics (2013). While this has proven to be a valid point, I however take a different stance on the role of social media in the modern-day political paradigm.

 

The birth of Web 2.0, an user-generated distributed network of radical content production at an overwhelming pace never seen before, has enabled the communications model of political news production with numerous radical dimensions (Foust, 2009). The traditional hit-driven model of political news, which features the one-way traditional producer-user relationship, has been reformed into a new participatory platform where users can now actively participate in producing and distributing content. This, according to Newsom and Lengel, ‘provides the opportunity for cross-boundary dialogue, and provides an impetus for social change’ (2012).

Politics has always optimised the media as its marketing and public relations instrument by packaging and selling its ideals to the general public (Street, 2001). However, social media has alternated this, as it is not only the politicians but also the public that can now have their voice heard as well. This is significant because it has somewhat equalised the balance of political news and content distribution between the professional political institutions and citizen journalists/activists. Here, you can see that social media is the cause inducing the reformation of the contemporary political environment.

 

However, long-tail journalists are not the one faction that benefits from the rise of social media. Professional politicians and their support system have also recognised the significant impact online participatory conduct has on the political paradigm (Foust, 2009). There are numerous examples in today’s politics where politicians and traditional tabloids have incorporated social media in their political practice. These include Obama’s Yes We Can, Kevin Rudd’s emerging presence on Twitter and KONY 2012.

 

In conclusion, my point of view is that, rather than resulting from political change, social media practices have evolved themselves, establishing new ways of political engagement, hence reconfiguring politics.

 

Reference(s):

 

Foust, J. (2009). Online journalism. 1st ed. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Holcomb Hathaway.

Newsom, V. and Lengel, L. (2012). Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 13(5).

Street, J. (2001). Mass media, politics, and democracy. 1st ed. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave.

Wolfsfeld, G., Segev, E. and Sheafer, T. (2013). Social Media and the Arab Spring Politics Comes First. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 18(2), pp.115–137.

Hacktivism’- A new frontier against journalistic tyranny?

This week’s readings surround the debate over ‘hacktivism’ and the role it has been playing in the rapidly evolving world of technology and politics. Gordon (2008) defines the notion of the ‘hacker’ as a technological expert equipped with enough technical insights to penetrate into and modify a system for a purpose.

 

For me personally,I would like to use the term ‘whistleblowers’, as I am subjectively making an a statement of intent about the immense importance in the ways ‘hacktivism’ has reshaped the world we all live in. A perfect example for this could be the rise of ‘whistleblowers’ such as Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

 

Despite being branded as ‘enemies of the state’, these ‘hacktivists’ have released information that perhaps have enlightened and alerted the perplexed public about the credibility and legitimacy of the media content that they traditionally had been served with by the hit-driven model of mainstream media.

 

Facilitated by Web 2.0, these ‘hacktivists’ no longer have to reside in the informational wilderness and have gained enough exposure to draw public attention to their ‘hacking’ works, which was previously limited to the computer-savvy community. This owes a lot to the reformation of the communicational system from a one-way content production system into a fairer distributed system, where participatory journalism has become an emergent player in the political landscape.

 

In a world where major tabloids are driven by corporate interests and their news production acts merely in the form of a marketing exercise, ‘hacktivism’ has stood up and challenged the dominance of these corporatised news enterprises

 

How about you? What is your stance on ‘hacktivism’? Do you agree with me or  the mainstream media’s perspective that ‘hackers’ are purely just technological criminals who violate their skills to create imbalance and disorder in the political landscape?

The Vannevar Enigma

On the basis of digital media’s ‘newness’, this week’s topic focuses on the development of technology throughout history and its dimensions into the future. Upon reading Bush’s writing about his imagination of the then futuristic technologies and contrasting with the contemporary technological landscape; I was astonished to encounter such closely accurate predictions.

 

Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of his predictions that struck me the most was his vision of collective intelligence, where scientists would aggregate and compile intellectual information into one giant storage, which nowadays’ Web 2.0 vibrantly resembles. Isn’t it absurd to believe this prediction was made at a time when the computer was completely unknown?

Perhaps, what he did not expect though, is the idea of a ‘distributed network’ instead of a ‘centralised’ collective intelligence engine. This ‘distributed network’ allows for users to take up the roles of producers, which introduces the concept of ‘produsers’. The fact that this balances out the balance of content production and distribution also means that unnecessarily professional content developers or highly qualified scientists could participate in contributing.

 

This relates to the ‘Google Generation’, where a,b,c claim that the depth of research and understanding of the new generations, despite being dynamic and radical, are still heavily limited to the availability of search engines. By this, it means the importance of professionalism has become devalued and underrated

 

My question remains though- if Bush were still alive to witness all these changes, how would he look at this unexpected element missing from his prophecy? Would he be a supporter of the user-generated convergence-driven Web 2.0, or would he prefer the concepts of ‘walled gardens’?

Review On Emerging Online Fashion Boutique: The Lions Den

Digital artefact The Lions Den, formerly known as Kelsea Renne, is an exciting online fashion enterprise dedicated to ‘after 5’ wear by Kelsea Church. The project, which is characterised by stylishness, offers great ideas and potentials for business. However, The Lions Den, while still under its experimental BETA stage, still lacks depth and clear trajectory for its future development. This blog entry is dedicated to analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the network from the peer perspectives of Style Detective’s editor-in-chief.

The Lions Den has experienced two fundamental development stages, which I identify as preliminary and BETA. During its early days of the preliminary stage as Kelsea Renne (KR), project designer Kelsea Church was experimenting different concepts, mediums and possibilities of expanding her online fashion enterprise. This was a phase of brainstorming, conceptualising ideas and forming future directions.  After presenting the preliminary structure and strategies of  KR, and gathering feedback, Kelsea introduced a brand new franchise label-The Lions Den. In general, The Lions Den features several modifications to the developmental directions and attempts at advancing technological innovation of the enterprise.

AIMS AND TRAJECTORY:

In my opinion, the BETA aims of the project are actually taking a few steps back from the original aims of KR. Basically, Kelsea decided to postpone the trading business activities and the official site launch till after she has gained enough popularity for the label through an online fashion blog-a participatory citizen journalism medium, and social networking.

When developing a significant corporate image and reputation, it is important to  create a striking vivid corporate identity for the brand in the minds of the brand’s stakeholders. In order to achieve this, the brand must clearly set out its corporate communication strategies:

–       Firstly, This involves producing an impressive and exclusive logo, by which the stakeholders can uniquely and specifically identify the brand. Kelsea has accomplished this successfully, as she has introduced a striking and professionally designed brand icon and a fashionable, chic brand name. However these are not legally protected by law, as neither of them have been registered with licensing authorities.

–       Secondly, in order to generate popularity and vividly ingrain the corporate image and reputation of a brand in the minds of the stakeholders in general or consumers in particular; the brand must clearly exhibit a well-defined, specific and strongly concrete identity among its audiences. In changing her directions, Kelsea has failed to achieve this. The original aim of running an online fashion boutique, supported by social media platforms, was more clearly defined; as it would immediately strike the audiences’ mind as specifically an online fashion boutique. Moreover, this followed a simultaneous approach to constructing a corporate reputation; as the consumers and investors, while accessing stimulus content on social media sites such as Facebook and blogs, could also concurrently start trading with the website and identify The Lions Den as a clearly defined and professional online fashion boutique. The new aim of waiting out however lacks immediacy, has diminished this clearly defined corporate image and could potentially cause confusion among stakeholders. The Lions Den’s audiences may find themselves confused between the corporate identity of The Snow Den as a small-scale amateur fashion blog or a creditable and reliable professional clothing retailer.

However, in addressing all the above, Kelsea is confronted with great enormity of work for one team member and technological inefficiency; and the deadline for the final project is approaching, which makes it harder for The Lions Den. I personally would recommend launching the developing site simultaneously with other social media platforms coherently. The site does not have to start trading but it at least gives the audiences a better idea of The Lions Den’s corporate identity as a professional online boutique.

METHODOLOGY AND TRAJECTORY:

Market Research:

–       Kelsea’s justification into her selection of online shopping as the business domain was logical and extensive, as she showed statistics in favour of the rise of online shopping. However, she clearly has not identified the challenge of being a hit-driven model of business going against long-tail niche aggregators such as Ebay and ASOS Marketplace, which allow the audiences to participate in trading as well.

–       The competitor analysis was more focused on the online fashion retail demographics than the actual potential competitors themselves. It should have clearly identified specific competitors that could pose direct competition and challenges towards The Lions Den. Moreover, case studies on past successes of established online fashion boutiques were missing.

–       The target market selection was not specific enough as ‘women aged 18-30 who want affordable after 5 wear’ could vary significantly in style, it would be more effective to target a particular style group first if the site wants to gain a strong foundational group of regular buyers

Source Suppliers:

–       There is a good decision to have changed the plan to source supplies as Kelsea decides to switch from stock unique to her store to more realistic options of designers and brands. Stocking clothing only unique to The Lions Den would require fashion designing efforts and skills or exclusive designs dedicated to the boutique only. This is unrealistic for a start-up online a boutique with one team member and the amount of time allowed for the project. Kelsea’s new selections of designers are a lot more practical, feasible and recognisable. However, there is still a lack of variety in brands, as the ratio between internationally recognised brands and emerging local brands is too dramatic with too many brands that are still drastically new for the general public audiences. I would recommend adding more internationally recognised brands,; because, despite lacking distinction,  they draw more popularity and attention to the retailer as the consumers can identify themselves with the boutique through their favourite brands.

–       Moreover, as mentioned in the aims, The Lions Den focuses solely on ‘affordable’ after 5 wear. But, specific brands mentioned are actually in the upper-middle price range, if not practically expensive for the general public (eg. Bec and Bridge prices range between 200 and 500)

Digital Marketing Strategy:

–       In terms of blogging only, WordPress is the perfect medium to reach stakeholders and fashion-savvy participatory journalists who are familiar with blogging; as WordPress is the most popular and innovative blogging platform available. However, in terms of the professional fashion retail business as a whole, WordPress is very limiting in terms of creativity, interactivity and customisation; as it is a closed system where developers have to abide by their development rules. Not all of The Lions Den’s target market audience would be familiar with WordPress or have an account to be able to communicate with the blog site. There is no indication of the business endeavours or intentions mentioned in the blog. Plus, the name (www.lionnessforlionsden.wordpress.com) is too long, difficult to remember and contradicts the future aim of expanding to childrenswear and menswear (Lion and Cub).

–       The chosen site host for the future launch next spring of The Lions Den-BigCommerce, despite their great ecommerce potential and features, is still a closed system. Hence, they would have access to all private information and transaction activity logs of The Lions Den. This ‘walled garden’ also limits creativity outside their permission of their hosted sites.. Buyer-seller confidentiality is compromised if there is a third-party involved, who can access all private business information. Moreover, the prices offered are actually expensive for start-up individual sellers like Kelsea. I would recommend a much cheaper site host at half the price of BigCommerce and with the same ecommerce functionality, such as Wix (www.wix.com)

–       The functions of the blog posts are also ambiguous; as Kelsea intends to post pictures of herself in the clothing to raise brand awareness. It is unclear how she would achieve brand awareness through this. It does not explain whether it is the logo or her portrait by which she wants the target audience to associate brand image. I would recommend the combination of both by including the logo in every photographic material posted on the blog. Furthermore, the fashion items to stock shown on the blog will also most likely, by the time the website launches, becomes out-dated, as fashion evolves quickly and it will be 1 season behind in Spring next year.

–       Using Instagram to communicate with potential suppliers may project the enterprise as a less professional and serious business partner. Moreover, there is an issue of commercial privacy between distributors and suppliers

–       In terms of consistent corporate image and covenant (promises and motives), there is no link of coherence between the blog and the future website in particular, and among platforms in general. This could cause an eventual misalignment of corporate identities, as mentioned earlier in the aims critique)

–       Apart of all of the above, the planned website layout and functionality seem very clean-cut, innovative, simplistic and accessible.

To top off, there has not been enough technological progress put into place. Most statements and demonstrations are only at a presentation stage rather than a practical stage. The overall artefact lacks evidence of actual practical progress in constructing sites, aggregating and producing material on their operational platforms.

BETA Demonstation:

The overall BETA demonstration was verbally well communicated and stylishly designed for fashion experts and professionals to be convinced. The language used was concise and clear, as the presenter effectively asserted her intentions and explained her understanding of fashion. Evidence of research was exhibited properly and integrated in the presentation neatly to back up her justification for the use online shopping as the business domain. However, more graphic demonstrations such as videos and website interactivity would  convey the message more professionally and effectively in a convincing manner.

Robotic Apocalypse: Science Fiction Or Nigh Reality?

As the this week’s lecture video started, I was overwhelmed to the point of confusion, where I wasn’t exactly sure whether it was science fiction movies (like I Robot, The Matrix and Blade Runner…) or whatever technological extravaganza Ted was discussing. But then, it struck to me that all this innovation and transformation were not science fiction, but very much reality at our doorsteps.

So ever since the beginning of this subject, we have gone through chapter after chapter of intriguing digital media debates, all of which are related to ‘convergence’. ‘Convergence’ has offered the opportunity to transform pretty much all aspects of society, shedding its fabric into an ‘information society’ (Times Higher Education, 2002). In an information society where ‘connectivity is the power’, the production, distribution and organisation of information are vast, exponential and relentless among human beings (Mitew, 2013). But, what if machines start to automatically produce, distribute and organise information among themselves?

Hawthorn’s prediction from 1850 alerts the audience to the understanding that electricity has allowed ‘ the world of matter’ has become ‘a vast brain, instinct with intelligence’-very humanly (Hawthorn, 1850). Information itself wants to be free and has very much become free ‘from physical carriers’ under ‘decentralisation’ (Mitew, 2013). This creates the foundation for the concept of ‘the Internet of Things’, where ‘objects’ start to perform information-related tasks such as ‘becoming sociable’ (distribution), storing and processing information (organisation) and registering ‘changes to their environment’ (produce), which were previously performed by human beings, who possess ‘instinct with intelligence’ (Mitew, 2013).

And no, I’m not fanatically retelling the stories of robotic apocalypse sci-fi movies; but drawing your attention to what is already happening, and will dominate the world as we know it. Cars, which are now robots that can socialise with drivers and takeover control (eg. Toyota Friend), are now being mass-produced by other robots themselves- machines building machines (National Geographic Youtube, 2013). It’s not quite as crazy as you think.

To technological utopians out there, forget about all the revolutionary advances, eccentric profits and tremendous benefits for a second! The University of Cambridge established a research initiative called the Centre for The Study of Existential Risk, which has labelled ‘a robot uprising’ as a significant circumstance to assess in relation to ‘extinction-level risks to our species as a whole’ (DNews Youtube, 2012). Ted argued that ‘when objects acquire network connectivity, storage and computation, they immediately transgress the borders assigned to them’ (Mitew, 2013). Laugh as much as you want, but Hollywood has seen this coming and identified these ‘borders’ as the decision-making power of humans, which is unfortunately being forfeited way too marginally and inconsiderately by the current human society for the sake of comfort. As we allow computers to take over duties that we aren’t comfortable with doing (starting from simple stuff such as the annoying auto-correct on IPhones to making cars), we have let them breach our world and reshape ‘what it means to be human’ (Mitew, 2013). Ted asked us ‘what to think of objects when they start producing and sharing information online more actively than humans’ (Mitew, 2013). Well, Julian Bleecker relates to this question by stating that “it is not just ‘us’ but ‘things’ can upload, download, disseminate and stream meaningful and meaning-making stuff” (Mitew, 2013). My question is: what if what we humans deem meaningful is deemed meaningless by machines? Do they just ‘transgress’ our decisions?

This question of mine has become even more alarming, when objects (things) connected to the internet, which exceeded the number of people on earth, can now ‘take their form and acquire attributes as results of their relations with other entities’, as John Law concurs (Mitew, 2013).

So in conclusion, ‘things’ other than humans can now make their own sense and meaning (correcting mistakes, which humans always make), sort information more efficiently than humans, socialise with each other and exceed the human population. To all of you reading this blog post, please convince me I am not paranoid, somehow.

References:

DNews Youtube. 2012. The Robot Takeover is Coming!. [online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8iV1UaVNdQ [Accessed: 23 Oct 2013].

Hawthorne, N. 1850. The house of the seven gables. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co..

National Geographic YouTube. 2013. Robots Take Over. [online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol_7N42VwKs [Accessed: 23 Oct 2013].

Pfister, C. 2011. Getting started with the Internet of things. Sebastapool, Calif.: O’Reilly Media, Inc..

Ted Mitew (2013). The Internet of Things, lecture notes distributed in the topic DIGC 202. University of Wollongong, http://prezi.com/1lgxfron1kj0/digc202-the-internet-of-things/ on 22/10/2013.

Times Higher Education. 2002. Media convergence is key to an inclusive information society, says Liikanen. [online] Available at: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/media-convergence-is-key-to-an-inclusive-information-society-says-liikanen/169054.article [Accessed: 22 Oct 2013].