Week 11: World War 3.o

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So, we’re going to get a little conspiracy theory-y today.

As you may have heard, there was a train crash in NY late last month. Well, what if I told you (redpill.jpeg) that it might have not been an accident?

Some good people out there on the interwebs are theorising that the train crash was a deliberate hack that was predicted, or promised, when this message aired  hours before the incident:

This video seems pretty dodgy, hey? I know, but hey, it’s still spooky, especially the message,

Would you. Could You. On a train?

The American Federal Emergency Management Agency had a test broadcast scheduled to be sent to TV stations around the country which was not to be broadcast, yet this one NY news channel accidentally broadcast it. They acknowledged the fault and said there was no real threat, but this hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theory from spreading.

Now, the last thing. I haven’t seen anyone link these yet, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. In early August, a hacker collective claimed to have broken into the NSA and stolen a whole bunch of US cyber weapons that were designed to damage infrastructure, a la stuxnet, and were offering to auction them off to the highest bidder. This article by the Guardian outlines their plans and how samples given by the hackers seemed to be corroborated by data that was leaked by Snowden. Could this be at all related?

The Stuxnet example proves that cyber weapons exist and can inflict real world damage, but I’m not sure I necessarily believe this is the case here. True or not, this is a good demonstration of the possible ability of cyber war or cyber terrorism to disrupt and even kill.

What do you think? Cyber war? Coincidence? 2spooky4me?

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Week 10: Resistance and Expropriation

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I stumbled onto some pretty interesting readings this week, but not where I expected to. For another class I was looking for references to support an argument about the enclosure of 15th century Britain and I stumbled across an article titled “Ubiquitous Computing and the Digital Enclosure Movement” by Mark Andrejevic.

Basically, all you need to know about the enclosure movement is that sections of land, previously known as ‘commons’, were slowly but surely enclosed and restricted by the wealthy to allow them to comodify land either through rent systems, grazing and the like. Now, unfortunately, this removed a whole bunch of peeps that lived via subsistence agriculture and, long story short, you have wage labour and a key tenet of capitalism. Not to give away the ending of the article, but Andrejevic links the enclosure or restriction of cyber space to a commodification of information.

Now, the thing about land enclosure was that not only was land already occupied, but if you want to get kinda Marxist, the enclosure of it was an expropriation of that which belonged to everybody. With this in mind, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a similar expropriation happening in the near future to our beloved internet. The internet is a public asset, and hopefully it will not be seized by those who wish to own it themselves.

 

Reference

Andrejevic, M 2007, ‘Ubiquitous Computing and the Digital Enclosure Movement’, Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, vol. 125, pp. 106 – 117

Week 8: Bridges Made of Tweets. No, wait…

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It’s a pretty confronting concept, the internet lynch mob. Especially when it’s a missile strike, not a lynching, and the mob is the chins. It becomes way, way more terrifying.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then check out this article. In summary, though, basically a dedicated network of 4chan users cross referenced screen shots, grabs and footage from Syrian militant propaganda with publicly available geographic and infrastructure data to (at least apparently) locate training camps and forward posts of active militants. This information, either by way of twitter or direct contact, was then passed onto Russian MoD and military intelligence. If everything is to be believed, missile strikes were then carried out based on that data. Spooky, no?

This demonstrates the darker side of what is a generally positive topic for the week. Through the aggregation and interpretation of thousands of tiny packets of information, a user can get an larger, more complete understanding of a situation. Just like one pixel is relatively useless, when thousands of them come together you start to get a clearer picture. In the examples we’ve studied before, this has led to us getting a better understanding of events unfolding on the ground where there was restricted or unreliable traditional media access; allowing individuals on the ground to contribute their data packet, tweet or metaphorical pixel to the larger picture.

This is the same process that allowed the notorious hacker known as 4chin to use thousands of users and independent data packets to create what was, essentially, a military intelligence dossier.

Scary stuff.

References

Steinblatt, J 2016, ‘How One 4Chan Board Is Trying To Fight ISIS In Syria’, Vocativ, June 6, viewed 1/10/16

Week 7: Taking a Byte

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I’m no fan of apple. I’ll be the first to admit that maybe I even have a little bit of a problem with my rampant Apple prejudice. That said, I’m not evangelical about it. I don’t lecture my apple friends about their iPhone or their shitty, overpriced macbooks. I try not to be a tech supremacist…

Even though people who have apple products never really own them. Even though they’re overpriced garbage designed to keep you trapped, with the longevity and pre-ordained obsolescence of a digital may fly, I try not to be too high and mighty. Even though the very fundamentals of the Apple philosophy is one of restriction and exclusivity and a challenge to this can get your iproduct remotely disabled, I try not to get too preachy.

Also, I have something else I want to talk about. The Social Contract.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; “this guy’s bonkers. Ted didn’t make a political philosophy class”. Well, I have a theory he did (he literally said ‘the means of production in the moodle description for the iFeudals week), or maybe it’s just that the digital world is following the same progress to the development of early society.

I’ll be brief, but all you need to know is that some classical scholars, such as Hobbes, Locke and Kant, basically theorized that to escape ultimate freedom (which is the natural, chaotic order of the world), humanity sacrificed their natural rights to submit to social cohesion and society. Essentially, we choose to obey laws to avoid lawlessness.

Now, what if people do the same for the iPhone? Yeah, sure, people have more freedom with Android or any of the other 3rd party phone OSs, but refuse these and instead choose the order and stability of iOS.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this…

Week 6: TNCs Using EULAs and ISPs Tracking your IP to Protect IPs

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Just like we saw earlier in the session the formation of the early stock exchanges in the squares and streets of Amsterdam, so too the Dutch may have developed the future of online regulation. As outlined by Harvard Internet Law Professor (I swear it’s a thing) Jonathan Zittrain, in the Dutch city of Drachten, after removing almost all forms of traffic signage and regulation, traffic accidents actually decreased (Zittrain, 2008. p. 127). Of course, the implication is obvious. Zittrain then goes on to equate the ‘unsafe is safe’ experiment to, in particular, regulation on Wikipedia. The idea being that, ultimately, self regulation would lead to a more honest, open and constructive environment.

I see the logic and I understand the sentiment behind this, but I’m as yet ready to accept it completely. As Zittrain suggests it is possible that when a security protocol is removed, a citizenry may carry on undisturbed, choosing to respect rules and boundaries, but I believe that it’s difficult to translate this notion to a situation, in this case the internet, which provides almost guaranteed anonymity.

References

Zittrain, J. (2008). ‘The Lessons of Wikipedia’, in The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It (pp. 127-148). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

Week 5: 80% of the Memes are Controlled by 20% of the People #wakeup #occupy

Let’s talk about something called the Pareto Principle. Essentially, the principle states that it is a weirdly common occurrence to have 80% of something to be caused, owned or operated by 20% of something. Examples include the distribution of money, the ownership of land and, most importantly, meme control. I put it to you that this is because these things snowball. Having money makes it easier to have more money (interest, high yield investment, etc), and the same is true of attention economics. Having attention allows you to greater create more attention for yourself. The more widespread you are, the more attention you get and you spread further to get more attention.

I know we’re suposed to talk about iFeudals, and this sorta ties in, but I’m sure you’re sick of talking about that, so I’ll just go on.

Now, what’s interesting, is that we don’t necessarily need to produce first hand to produce attention. Indeed, look at your facebook feed and see how many meme aggregator pages you follow. These pages harvest the best memes and send them out on their page, taking all the attention and handing nothing or very little onto the meme farmer. They get rich off our labour.

I’ll leave you there, the powers that be try to silence me with a word count that I’ve maxed out. #illuminerty

Week 4: Working from Everywhere

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I couldn’t make the tute for this weeks topic. Fortunately, though, the miracle that is modern technology allowed me to make a limited contribution to the discussion and continue to learn about the weeks topics. I was able to take a task, in this case the tute, on the road with me. It actually worked out pretty well, especially considering I now have anecdote to start off my blog post.

University is the closest I have to an example of the ‘presence bleed‘. I haven’t had any significant employment beyond the physical (I’ve only ever worked in environments where my physical presence was necessary either to produce something or get yelled at by a chef), and so these few years of actively producing for university is all I have to go on. I’ve been able to contribute to discussion, produce and submit assignments from almost anywhere and with that has come the infamous ‘presence bleed’. Without any serious pressures from employers, though, it is difficult to identify any actually negatives this process has produced in me. I’m sure it’ll be a very different story in a couple of years (if some idiot actually ever hires me), but for the moment presence bleed has been nothing but a boon for my university productivity.