Week 9: A network where everyone has equal status, working hand in hand and sharing information is a form of utopia

After reading Manuel Castell’s network logic, it seems that he is predicting a future where social hierarchy cease to exist, but is replaced by a society organized by networks. The world then functions on a joint collaboration, where globalization is no longer a darn word by some protectionist activists, but something beneficial. And most of these will take place within the media space. It is power to the people online! Without dominance of a particular group, information can flow freely, no more copyrights restrictions, blah blah.

But think about it, isn’t this state of the world a little too far fetched? Without copyright, where is the motivation for innovation? There’s no free meal in this world, you need to pay for the technology that brings you the free stuff on the Internet too! Sure, I have benefited from the free stuff on the Internet by P2P networks, but there must be balance between what is supposed to be shared and what is not supposed to be shared.

For instance, when we think of freebies, we often think of them as low quality and unwanted. And when a product is priced, it adds value and credibility to it. Hence, when everything is free and with no value attached to it, it brings us back to the age of communism where products are badly produced by workers who have no incentive to work hard. Similarly, a network society is like a communist state. There is no motivation to move up the social ladder.

Yet, I am not totally against Castell’s vision, because it has some weight in what he says too. But that is only if the networks are social networking services, wikis, community-based classifieds, online phone services, and my favorite of all times, open source software such as NeoOffice that allows me to enjoy “Microsoft” at zero cost.

But I don’t want my government to run on an open source concept! I don’t want to have other politicians from other countries editing any constitution any way he likes. For a society to function, there must be some sort of dominant institution that oversees the running of it, while still allowing a network of feedback to flourish among the grassroots. Hence, not all situations can succeed under a network system.

Questions:

1) How can we back up our data that is stored on Web 2.0 style service in the event that the creator does a disappearing act?

2) How would you envision a future where everything is link by networks and run by communities? How successful would that be?

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Netizens help put racist blogger behind bars

Singapore: While many people around the world often view Singapore as having limited freedom of speech, even on the internet, this article on a blogger being arrested for making racist remarks, proves that this is not exactly the case. Yes, yes, a blogger got arrested for his racist remarks, but how did he get found out? The government certainly did not police the Internet. It was fellow netizens who brought this to the attention of the police.

“The case came to the attention of police on May 19 when they received
two reports complaining of the alleged posts by the suspect.”

Is Man vs Wild ethical in its production methods?

Recently, I have been really hooked on the reality series on “Man vs Wild” on Discovery Channel, that features the host, Bear Grylls, going round the world’s most dangerous places and teaching the audience survival skills. It is pretty fascinating to me, at least i get to “visit” these places in the comfort of my couch. However, there was a series of accusations that the show is a fraud, and that Bear stayed in hotels and had experts with him to help him along or build rafts. Numerous clips on You-tube showed that the show is actually staged, and even wildlife were brought into the scene so that they can film and simulate the actual environment. Here is one that is pretty informative:

Man vs Hotel:

Well, it seems pretty unethical to me. But on the other hand, the goal of the programme is to educate the audience on survival skills should they encounter such a situation. Hence, it would be necessary for the crew to bring in animals from ranch etc, to show the audience how to survive. Plus, it is definitely necessary to have an expert around to give advice for the safety of Bear. But all these practical and necessary factors seem to reduce the awesomeness and reality of the show.

And guess what, we wouldn’t have known about this if not for the P2P websites like you-tube. It is a good example of the internet community being the fifth estate in the broadcast sphere.

Week 8: Blogosphere—To Censor or not?

When I had a vacation job, I had to sign a contract to keep trade secrets secret. Hence, I often self-censor myself when I whined to my friends about my job in case I spill the beans accidentally. This was especially so when I worked as a clinic assistant in a hospital’s urology department. Patients’ conditions must be kept confidential However, I often liked to joke about how men came in and asked for Viagra and consulted the doctor on their sex life. They often talk in softer tone when I am around and I was once asked to leave the consultation room for the patient’s privacy.

The contract was to prevent me from divulging any trade secrets. However, what if I am a whistle blower who discovered some malpractice in the hospital and work with a journalist to break this news story in the form of collaborative investigative journalism? I am breaking the terms of the contract and will face legal actions, yet what I do will benefit the public. There must be some sort of legal protection for the whistleblower for the collaborative journalism idea to work. Or do so anonymously. This brings me to the point on privacy issue.

Privacy is often valued by Americans, yet for the blogosphere to be seen as a credible source, internet veteran Jamais Cascio said that some form of social change has to be made to reduce the threat arising from disclosure of personal information. How can we achieve this state when privacy rights are so prized? Are we willing to sacrifice some privacy for open access to information?

Personally, I am reluctant to. I don’t want the whole world to know what I am doing. Like how Marian Lu does not divulge too much personal information on her working blog vs her personal blog, a line of balance needs to be drawn. However, I am more concerned about what Gilmor said about government surveillance on the Internet.

This concern, which often leads to heavy self-censorship, stemmed from my experience in Singapore. A few years ago, a student was charged in court making racist remarks against the Muslims on his blog. The daughter of a politician was made to do community service for discriminating against the poor and making elitist comments on her blog. Closer to heart, a student in my high school was disqualified from running for the student council elections after badmouthing the election committee on her blog.

However, free speech does not mean irresponsible speech. We self-censor because we are afraid of the consequences. Given that the blogosphere serves as a feedback system, the government, in my opinion, can take a back seat in surveilling the Internet.

Questions:
1) How does the blog insurance work and what are the costs and benefits of having one?
2) What do you think are the guidelines that should govern what a blogger should and should not write?

Seattlepi scores in decision to not publish photos of two men who looked Middle Eastern

The blogosphere was criticized for the recent FBI blooper:

The FBI called off a global manhunt for two men who looked Middle Eastern and were on board the Washington State Ferry last summer. These men were found to be innocent tourists on a business trip snapping photos, and not displaying “an inordinate interest in the operation of the shipboard systems”.

But before this came to light, the newspapers faced a dilemma of publishing the photos of these men as this violated civil rights and infringed on one’s privacy. Yet in the blogosphere, freedom of speech reigned.

Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights and advocacy group, criticized the blogosphere’s response to the situation:

“Anti-Muslim Internet hate sites; the bloggers; the ones that routinely say ’round up the usual Muslim suspects’; the extremist commentators that would be willing give up the rights of others to create a false sense of security for themselves.”

But here’s a blogger who is against the Seattlepi’s decision not to publish it.

The blogger, Michelle Malkin, criticized the P-I’s decision by saying:

“Ignoring the very real threat of ferry-based terrorism, the Seattle P-I refused to run the FBI photos in a politically correct pique and instead made light of the matter by holding an idiotic haiku contest about the alert”

This debate about whether or not to publish the pictures really boils down to journalism ethics and the potter box guidelines. If the P-I’s loyalty is to the public safety, the editor will share the same sentiments as Malkin. But if their loyalty is to the individual’s rights, then the editor would not publish the photos to protect the suspects’ privacy and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are innocent till proven guilty.

In the new age where the world is shrouded in fear against terrorism, journalists would have to rethink their loyalties and make ethical decisions that are complex. It makes it harder when we often come under scrutiny by the public, whose fear for their safety is not unfounded. It is a decision we all have to juggle with in future.

The rules only apply in America argh?

Ever wondered what the world thinks of America?

Sami Al-Hadj, a Sudanese cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was detained six years ago in the gulag at Guantanamo by the  United States on  grounds of suspicion to make a case against Al-Jazeera.  He is said to be innocent, and is “now nearly an old man as a result of the business of systemic destruction imposed in the name of a disfigured civilization and in utter defiance of the central principles of democracy”. The reporter  adopts a very anti-US tone,  claiming that U.S. practices double standards in the advocation of free press and democracy:

“The United States is indeed a democracy: Within its own borders, the rule of law is enshrined. But beyond its walls, only the law of the jungle prevails.”

Obama’s latest advertisement takes a hit at Clinton “Same old Washington politics”

Obama’s new campaign advertisement, released just hours after Clinton’s advertisement, hits back at her “same old Washington politics that won’t fix our problem”. Instead, Obama is said to be “the president we can trust”.