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Choose Your Own Adventure

Blog Post 5

Cannon Crane

Disconnect, starring Jason Bateman is a must-see movie that should be a required watching for any class exploring digital culture. There are three serious storylines that progress throughout the film that all deal with the unscrupulous use of the internet and social media. Although some of the tragedies in the film bring people closer together, Disconnect is far from a feel-good movie. The movie ends with no happy resolutions to the problems, which makes the film seem realistic and drives home the idea that the internet and social media can be dangerous and even lethal if used recklessly.

Bateman is the father of a quiet music loving son, Ben, who has some trouble fitting in at his high school. He is targeted by two boys who come up with a scheme to trick and embarrass him. The boys set up a fake profile on Instagram to start a dialogue with Ben. Their fake profile is a girl his age that attends another school in town.  When they gain his trust, the boys trick their target into sending a nude picture of himself which they immediately forward to all the students at the school.  The embarrassment is too much for Ben to handle and he attempts suicide by hanging himself in his room. Ben is still in a coma when the movie ends.

The second storyline deals with identity theft. After losing a young son, Cindy turns to a chat room for support after her husband refuses to discuss the tragedy.  Through the chat room, Cindy unknowingly allows her new trusted friend access to her personal information which he uses to steal her husband’s identity. The couple finds themselves in a long line of people dealing with this issue with little help from the police while they lose their home and belongings to creditors.  Instead of being helpless, the couple sets out on a mission to find the culprit. At the end of the film they find themselves face to face with whom they think stole their money. Guns are involved and they barely avoid another tragedy.

The third and final storyline involves the exploitation of minors in a chat-room stripper house. A reporter, Nina, at a local news station pretends to be an interested client of a young male stripper named Kyle.  She develops feelings for Kyle and wants to save him and the other kids from their boss and a meaningless life. Nina breaks the rules and loses her job in the process but still works with the FBI to shut down the operation. Unfortunately, the boss is tipped off and the kids are moved before the bust can happen.  The story explores the exploitation of children over the internet and the awful conditions in which they exist.

This movie would be the perfect addition to our Digital Culture class.  This movie deals with common real-life dangers of our current digital world. I did some brief investigation on these topics and found it eye opening to see the number of crimes associated with these three scenarios. I think it would prompt great questions of why these things occur so often and what can be done to stop or reduce these things. The assignment would be to watch the movie and pick one of the storylines to investigate further.  For example, research and report on fake profiles and social media bullying. How do the social media platforms regulate and try to stop this practice if at all? Do these platforms have any policies on making fake profiles and / or bullying and if so, what are they?  Are these companies to blame and should they have any responsibility? What new rules and or regulations could help prevent these things from occurring?

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Moon Landing (Historical Remix)

Apollo 11 Moon Landing / July 20,1969

Apollo 11 was the first space flight to put humans on the moon. The event captured the attention of the entire world.  This event, planned by President John F. Kennedy, was a great moment of national pride for the United States. The following is an example of how this event may have been talked about online if the internet and Twitter were available at the time (and the spaceship had excellent wifi).

This dude is ambitious!

Well my blog post topic is an easy one this week since we just landed on the freaking moon!  It was almost a decade of planning and trial and error, but we came from behind and beat the Soviets to the goal line. Well done JFK and NASA!

On May 25th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced to our country and the world that we would be putting humans on the moon. His goal was to take the leading role in space exploration over the Soviet Union and to bring our country together behind this common goal.

Now this guy is a leader!

And 8 years and two months later here we are. As the astronauts prepare to board the lunar module, it’s obvious they are proud and a bit cocky about their progress so far.

Keep your hands on the wheel big boy.

It’s obvious that Collins is feeling a bit lonely and under-appreciated now that the other 2 have left the Command module and will be landing on the moon soon.

The lunar module touches down on the moon at 3:17 pm EST on July 20th 1969.

 

Buzz and Armstrong get suited up and prepare to exit Eagle. The first steps on the moon are only moments away.

At 3:56 PM Neil Armstrong takes the first ever step on the moon. Armstrong acknowledges the event with an historic Tweet:

Following a brief conversation with the two astronauts on the moon, Nixon tweets to the proud American people on such an historic moment in our history:

Maybe we can all agree that Twitter should be used for everyday social interaction and less for historic events and important communication. I think this ties into an article we read in class about how social media can endanger knowledge because I think it can cheapen important occasions and can bring out the worst in some people. https://www.wired.com/story/wikipedias-fate-shows-how-the-web-endangers-knowledge/.)

This type of communication didn’t exist in the 60’s and well after, so most news was provided through traditional outlets that functioned at a higher standard. This allowed people time to think through situations before firing off spontaneous comments to the world. Less off the hip and more thoughtful dialogue is certainly needed in our country. Maybe we are just too immature as a society to handle this incredibly powerful tool.

 

Works Cited

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo11.html

https://www.history.com/topics/space-exploration/moon-landing-1969

https://www.space.com/apollo-11-complete-guide.html

 

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Google Privacy

Blog Post 3: Privacy

In the United States, 85% of our citizens are connected to the internet. Almost every one of them utilizes a search engine where Google owns a whopping 87% market share. Google has roughly 250 million users in the U.S. and over a billion worldwide. There are a staggering 7 billion searches on Google every day. This blog post is on the privacy statement of Google and how many people are unaware of just how comprehensive and invasive Google is when collecting and disseminating information from its customers. I don’t think this is unique to Google in the digital world, but I do think it would be shocking to most people to find out how far Google goes to harvest, use and many times spread information about its users.

Google’s privacy policy is massive, so it is hard to cover all aspects of the document. At the beginning, Google states that they understand that users are trusting them with information. They acknowledge that it is a big responsibility and work hard to protect information and put the user in control. The last part of this statement is interesting.  Although it seems impossible to find the exact number, the large majority of google product users do not change the standard privacy settings on their account. Because the default settings allow Google full access to all of the user’s information, Google is getting 100% of the data they want from most of their customers. Here is just an example of the information Google collects from its one billion users:

  • Personal info: name, password, phone number, and many times payment information.
  • Content created, uploaded or received from others.
  • Emails, photos and videos saved, documents and spreadsheets you create and any comments you make on their services like YouTube.
  • Info about your computer, phone, browser, IP addresses, system activity.
  • Terms you search
  • Videos you watch
  • Views and interactions with content and ads
  • Any voice info when you use audio features
  • Purchase activity
  • All people you communicate with or share content
  • Activity on third party sites
  • Browsing history
  • Location information

They also collect information about you from sources such as websites and articles and displays those results when users search your name.

Google says they use this data to provide and improve their services. To develop new services and to provide personalized services, including content and ads. They will also sell your information to advertisers. They can share information that personally identifies you unless you tell them to mask your identity. The content masking requirements are very complex and require review and knowledge of privacy law.

It is uncomfortable knowing what information Google tracks and stores on its users. Possessing emails and documents seems like a violation of personal rights.  I think they should have to get specific approval in advance before being allowed to store and use this information for any purpose. I feel strongly about this because of a New York Times article we read on how other companies like Facebook have inappropriately used this data to manipulate voters and other unscrupulous activity. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/us/politics/mark-zuckerberg-testimony.html

 

Because of my personal discomfort with Google’s policy, I wanted to explore the feelings of other people that use Google.  I thought it would be interesting to get a perspective of someone outside of my peer group, so I decided to interview a 55-year-old business owner for his thoughts. I will call him Mr X.

Interview with business leader about Google privacy policy (transcript below)

Me: I want to ask you about your internet usage and record our conversation, would that be OK?

Mr X: Yes, that’s fine.

Me: Do you use Google as your primary search engine?

Mr X: Yes, I primarly use Google for my searches. I have tried others but seem to get the best results with Google.

Me: Did you know that Google compiles your search data and video views, can identify you by your devices and IP addresses and then creates a profile of you which they sell to other companies to send you advertisements?

Mr X: Its funny you mention that. Lately I have noticed that I will Google a product and it will show up on a completely different platform which I find crazy.  For example, I was just looking at TaylorMade golf clubs through a google search and then after opening my Facebook app, a TaylorMade advertisement was front and center on my page. So to answer your question, I just started realizing what was happening.

Me: Do you actively use Google’s email platform Gmail or other products like Google docs?

Mr X: Gmail is my email service outside of my work email program.  I primarily use my work email but do use Gmail a few times per day.  I rarely use Google docs.

Me: Are you aware that Google keeps all of your emails and any documents you create? Did you know that they will search and optimize those things items for more data to add to your profile? How do you feel about that?

Mr X: I was not aware of that they had all of my emails and documents. I think I will do what I can to protect this information going forward. Some of this just seems like they are going too far and violating my privacy.

Me: Thank you

 

 

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Stalk Your Professor!

Blog 2- “Stalk Your Professor”

This week’s blog is about the digital presence of my professors Mary Abdoney and Elizabeth Anne Teaff.  Both professors were relatively easy to research on the internet through the typical social media platforms. It was easy to quickly figure out their personal views on politics and positions on things such as women’s rights.

Mary Abdoney was born in Florida in 1977 and attended Plant high school. She is highly educated, attending the University of Florida for undergraduate studies and the University of South Florida for her Masters degree in Library and Information Science.  Professor Abdoney is a fan of Burrito Bros. in Gainesville as is anyone that has had a chance to eat their double wrapped burrito with red sauce. I cannot find many references to the Gator football program, so it is unlikely Professor Abdoney teases Professor Teaff about the Gators destruction of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2007 National Championship Game.  Instead, she tends to spend her time and intellectual energy on topics related to libraries, the evils of the Patriarchy and supporting liberal leaning political candidates. She was a huge supporter of Elizabeth Warren for president which seems to tie in perfectly with her apparent political views and position on equal rights. From a tweet that she posted, I believe she supports changing the name of Washington and Lee University. Professor Abdoney is a bit obsessed with cats and enjoys the outdoors. Ned Norland, her husband loves music and enjoys tasting bourbons. I found an address for the couple in Lexington, but I am not sure it is current.

Professor Teaff was born in Ohio in 1974. This self-described quiet and quirky librarian has a very extensive educational background. Professor Teaff had four stops at institutions of higher learning, earning multiple degrees along the way. Her college experience started in 1992 at Fulton-Montgomery Community College and ended in 2006 at the University of South Carolina. Professor Teaff has an usual affinity for spiders which is pretty rare. She votes in democratic primaries and is a supporter of LGBTQ rights. She does not mind experimenting with different hair colors with pink or red seemingly being her preferred dyes. For a self-described quiet person, Professor Teaff has made many friends judging by the number of happy birthday wishes she receives on Facebook. Being born in Ohio, Professor Teaff is a big fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

It’s a little scary how much you can find out about people in 30 minutes of research.  Addresses are listed in public data bases and most information intended for friends is very public.  I think I will become more cautious on my approach to posting information on myself. What I do not like about the “digital profile” is that people tend to judge others, especially people they do not know well, on what they post on social media. This article (https://bit.ly/2FEwAWU) that we read for class, explains how hard it is to keep your digital footprint under control. People can interpret a post incorrectly and then comment about you which can influence your footprint. Unfortunately, there is no way to fully explain or elaborate on most posts. Therefore, I prefer to discuss issues important to me with my chosen audience so I can explain the reasoning behind my beliefs. I do not mind sharing my beliefs, but I always like to have to opportunity to share why I believe what I do and always like to listen to alternative positions. In my opinion, this approach leads to more thoughtful conversation which seems to be lacking in our society.  I enjoy associating with people from all backgrounds, political and social spectrums and I do not want to be misinterpreted or prejudged by limited information on the internet.

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Day of Web Interactions!

Today I logged all the interactions I had on the internet. It is amazing how many times I used it for educational, personal, and social reasons.  Seeing the total interaction numbers in black and white is almost unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine life without the internet when I touch it roughly 40 times a day. 

I manage my educational life through Canvas which lists all of my classes, assignments and grades. I use this source the most of any, outside of social media. I referred back to Canvas six times today, looking back at particular assignment instructions. Also, in the educational area, was Google search. I was writing a paper on “otherness” and how it affected the case of the Central Park 5 for my writing seminar. Google helped me locate numerous articles on the case and gave me good details of the case that I needed. The last part of the educational internet for the day was using video conferencing (Zoom) for my two online classes. After doing my schoolwork on the internet, I reflected back to an article we read about Digital Redlining. I now realize the benefits and privilege with this access that I have that aren’t available to everyone. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/digital-redlining-access-and-privacy   

On the communications side of things, I spent a lot of time on Snapchat catching up with my high school friend group that are currently attending other schools. We share pictures and stories of what is happening on each campus. It is incredible to see the difference in how things are run, in the time of COVID, on the campus of state schools versus a small school like W&L.  The state schools are having massive parties often and consequently big outbreaks of the virus are ensuing.

Instagram is probably where I spend most my time and it is for personal fulfillment.  I get immediate gratification seeing stories on what friends are doing in their new environments.  I also used different apps like AJGA Sports to follow the scoring of a junior golf tournament, ESPN’s app to get me up to date on what is happening in the world of college football, and USA Today app to check out the national news scene, including the rioting in Portland. 

There are huge advantages to having information at your fingertips, especially when it comes to research for schoolwork.  I think the downside is that there is a lot of false information floating around and you must be careful to use legitimate sources. It’s crazy to think how hard it was to research things prior to the internet. It’s incredibly powerful to have it available now and I’m not sure my generation can really fully appreciate it. 

I also think the social apps have benefits.  Its nice to stay connected with people close to you and these apps make it super easy to do so. However, I also think there are big downsides to these apps.  First, it is tremendously time consuming to stay up to date with everyone and if you are not constantly checking, you feel as though you are missing out. This makes it extremely hard to enjoy the time and place you are currently in and when starting a new chapter in life.