Topics in Emerging Media and Communications

Posts Tagged ‘individual rights

Balance of Powers and Privacy

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To balance freedom versus control on the Internet, we must acknowledge historical norms and meanings that cross physical borders. This is especially true when we give credence to the fact that we now live in multiple communities that have various ethical, financial, and value structures.  But what then is the thread that will weave all participates on the Internet together in a harmonious unit?

I will not lie, reading and comprehending Lawrence Lessig’s  “Code 2.0” was a challenge. It was even more of a challenge to flesh out what Lessig felt was a sufficient answer to the blending of the online community.  He speaks of how social control can be embedded in the code that works in the background of the Internet, but that code has a bias inherent by the writers of the code. The engineers hold the balance of power. Do we trust technology engineers with the infrastructure of future society, those hackers and cyberpunks inserting their will by wielding their technical knowledge?  No. Saying we are uncomfortable with the idea is a drastic understatement. Look at Wiki-Links, which in essence was created by the hacker culture and is now infamous for their tactical movements online and off.

One of the more important effects of the Wiki-Links scandal was that it helped the general public realize that our view of both the Internet and physical space has changed forever, and with that shift comes the framing of new community values.  But each community whether real or Internet based has the freedom to decide what their values will look like and the freedom to ignore other community’s chosen structure. Lessig says “When we live in multiple communities, accountability becomes a way for one community to impose its view of propriety on another. Because we do not live in a single community, we do not live by a single set of values. And perfect accountability can only undermine this mix of values (219).” He does not believe there is one solution, or one structure that works across the network space.

One way to argue the parameters of this mix of values is to look closely at copyright law, which is hotly debated as it effects every level of communication, networked technology. Lessig says “We are not entering a time when copyright is more threatened than it is in real space. We are instead entering a time when copyright is more effectively protected than at any time since Gutenberg (175).” This power of regulation is only becoming more fine-tuned as corporations, government entities, and media understand the flow of the networked space better. They will use that flow to their advantage, which relates to my topic of research, how corporations harness connected communities through crowd sourcing. But then what about copyright?

If corporations use collective intelligence and creativity to bring about change, who or what is the source? In the case of crowd sourcing, the corporate sponsor takes ownership over any participants’ contribution immediately. There is no room for legal dispute, but that goes against the nature of creativity. The goal of crowd sourcing is to promote collaboration, but with zero possibility of attributing authorship to those deserving, In this way, it seems that freedom of expression could be threatened by the craze of crowdsourcing and all copyrighted property, intellectual or otherwise, is locked down.

What we think is a new method of utilizing the new reality of connectedness online and off seems like freedom because of its participatory nature, but is it really a promoter of freedom? My opinion is if we involve a corporate structure of any kind the answer is no. A resounding NO.

Lessig, I think would agree; “Creativity activity that never needed to grapple with copyright regulation must now, to be legal, clear a whole host of hurdles, some of which, because of insanely inefficient property system that copyright is, technically impossible. A significant portion of creative activity has now moved from free culture to permission culture. And the question of values of free speech is whether that expanded regulation should be allowed to occur unchecked (269).” Corporations take on the responsibility of copyright, along with the perks of ownership over creative product and actual and residual products, but what happens to the artist? 
What happens to the individual with a brilliant solution to a real-world problem? They willingly give up their creative rights without understanding the impact. And they don’t understand the impact because current ownership rights and copyright laws did not have the complications of the Internet in mind when they were established. Similar to Lessig’s constitutionalist view, it is impossible to know what the framers of the constitution would say about laws relating to privacy and free speech on the Internet because they had no way of knowing what questions to ask.

We still are unsure of what questions to ask, and both the physical and networked space is convoluted and exciting. It’s easy to get swept up in a movement to effect change, the Internet makes collaboration a breeze, but we must be careful about who is making decisions in the background. The arguments over copyright and freedom of creativity we are involved in now will shape the future of utilization and information gathering/sharing.

What Lessig warns is that we have to acknowledge there must be a multi-layered system of protections inherently built in the collective networked community online and off. There are entities that push back against the system in small and big ways, and they are necessary for restructuring. With regards to copyright protections and corporate interests, awareness of individual creative rights is key to enacting and enforcing those rights.


Written by HiuHiMedia

April 26, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Blown to Bits

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“The truth of the matter is that as a society, we don’t really know how to deal with these consequences of the digital explosion.”
-Blown to Bits
The digital explosion challenges our definition of the individual. Why? Because the digital explosion manifests everywhere, all the time, and it hasn’t stopped yet. in their book, “Blown to Bits”, Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen, and Harry Lewis discuss how we are in the middle stages of the formation of the digital revolution and we have no idea what the final shape will look like, nor do we understand our place as individuals or communities within the new framework. We are all acting as information consumers and producers shifting, morphing into each other’s roles with no clear guidelines of how to interact in the new world.
A large portion of “Blown to Bits” focuses on privacy. Personal privacy has shifted drastically in the name of convenience and accessibility. People are willing to give away their information for a small benefit with little concern regarding the distribution, theft, and exploitation of said information. We have an awareness that we should guard against security breaches, but we are slow in taking the necessary steps for protection. For example, how many of us actually read through the terms and conditions when we sign up for an online account?
Ignoring our right to privacy puts the individual in a vulnerable position, not just for those who are willing and able to exploit for illegal purposes, but for those who want to know more about us. The individual is  blind to how their actions are monitored. The structure of the internet allows for seemingly endless amounts of storage and what better way to utilize that storage than keeping track of how consumers think? Performing a simple web search can provide a profile of your interests and needs, “the search tools that help us find needles in the digital haystack have become the lenses through which we view the digital landscape. Businesses and governments use them to distort our picture of reality (110).”
So in essence, a search is not just a search, it is a powerful form of control. You are being led through the mire, shaped by an algorithm designed to nudge you in a certain direction. “Every communication technology has been used to control, as well as to facility, the flow of ideas (237).” Freedom, even on the internet, is not free because you have valuable time and consumer dollars to spend and someone out there knows better than you how to spend it.
Most of the time we willingly ride along with the flow of information, unaware of the control cogs working in the background, but what happens when we feel “freedom” on the internet has gone too far by threatening our right to privacy? The threat often causes a reactionary response, a public outcry that leads the charge to set strict regulations to protect the privacy rights of the individual. The problem that legislators have come up against when trying to determine protections is that stricter regulations mean inhibiting the flow of communication.
Let’s stop the loss of privacy by shutting down the internet!
Unfortunately, we cannot control how our private information is exposed by restricting technology.  We have to acknowledge the social component of the issue, which in this case is our willingness as individuals to give up our freedom for convenience. Designing better controls and safeguards, strengthen policing, and reassuring a frightened public is fruitless because all that electronic privacy and information is just a cloud of bits. We need to confront the perception of personal privacy. “What will replace that if the concept of personal identity becomes meaningless?” Will the very notions of privacy and identity be destroyed in the explosion? (297)”
In “Blown to Bits we see the internet is still exploding, privacy boundaries will continue to be breached, a person’s fingerprints will be mapped across the internet. It is meaningless to try to control the sharing of electronic information in this developing world. The idea of individual of privacy is a construct, a myth, so you might as well stop the resistance and go with the flow.

Written by HiuHiMedia

January 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm