Tomorrow’s City: Songdo, South Korea

South Korea is surely emerging and taking the world by storm, in every possible way you can imagine. Just think in terms of culture (K-pop and sappy dramas), technology (Samsung), and automobiles (Kia and Hyundai), need I say more?

To top it off, they are spearheading the world in building (from scratch) a smart city where invisible infrastructures are available to increase energy efficiency and connect much of the city’s systems to monitoring devices that would allow for better monitoring of energy use, traffic, water and even waste (Williamson 2013). It sounds very much like a sci-fi movie we would see on the silver screens, but the unimaginable is taking place. Yes, that is right, it is happening- advanced videoconferencing technology is allowing Songdo residents to access a wide range of services including remote health care, beauty consulting and remote learning, as well as touch screens that enable them to control their unit’s energy use (Stokols 2014).

Photo credit: Jeffrey Tripp

Photo credit: Jeffrey Tripp

The city of the future is currently home to organizations like the Korean branch of the World Bank, International Finance Corporation, and the Green Climate Fund although still mainly underpopulated. This may be due to the affordability factor in achieving social and environmental sustainability in smart cities. It is true then that everything comes with a price tag eh?

Linking Songdo, South Korea back to our final lecture on the Internet of Things, the city is the epitome of connecting physical objects to the Internet to change and alter almost every aspect of life. Today, the way we experience places, perceive objects, understand identity, connect socially, and basically be human have changed tremendously, thanks to the rapidly growing tech world.

References

Stokols, A 2014, Songdo style: How wise is Korea’s ‘smart city’?, Korea Joongang Daily, August 26, accessed 24/10/2014, http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2994022

Williamson, L 2013, Tomorrow’s cities: Just how smart is Songdo?, BBC News, 2 September, accessed 24/10/2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-23757738

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An Age of Lawlessness

With the emergence of the Internet, not only has it aided us in our everyday lives where most things such as research and shopping are at the tip of our fingers, it has also converted most of us into little criminals of our own. The World Wide Web is filled with an abundance of information although a bulk of it are copies of similar content. The virtually limitless amount of space and data creates a playing field for people to roam around in to explore and exploit the net for their individual purposes.

For most of us, we indulge in the guilty pleasure of downloading data whether in the form of songs or movies off the Internet for free. Personally, I find this slightly harmless- look at the media giants, they are already earning more than they can reap! – albeit acknowledging that it is wrong and we shouldn’t be doing it. But lurking around in the same space are skilled individuals or even syndicates performing professional crime. They steal and trade almost anything and everything, from credit card details, phishing kits, identity information, to credentials at the lowest cost which further encourages such activities.

Practically every person or party using the Internet is leveraging on its anarchy to fulfill their individual agendas; from amateur students plagiarizing work off the net, syndicates who operate across borders selling valuable information, to authorities and governments all over the world propagating their own interest. Today, crimes are committed as easy as a snap of the finger even by the people we see as leaders. In an era of supposed good guys doing what the typical bad guys would do, can we actually believe everything that we see and hear?

I strongly believe that despite the recent whistle blowing stints by people like Snowden and Assange, there are still countless dark secrets in the many layers encompassing the world of media and communications that go beyond our imagination. Thinking about it makes one feel like a little grain in the vast ocean.

Online Hacktivism: Anonymous

“It’s a movement, to put it simply.”

 

“A fluid ideology that is only part hacker, and the rest of it is simply a voice.”

 

The whole idea of Anonymous was a little difficult for me to grasp initially, but after a few clicks here and there on the net, here’s what I gathered. Anonymous is a decentralized group of people who form networks all over the world to patrol and to advocate for the freedom of expression online. “Anonymous is tired of corporate interests controlling the Internet and silencing people’s rights to spread information, but more importantly, the right to share with one another,” as reported in an article on International Business Times. The group puts themselves in the middle of social and political situations where they believe legal authorities are falling short.

It seems so surreal though; a bunch of unidentified people, known as Anons due to their affiliation with the group, coming together in a virtual world to seek justice for what they see as right (although sometimes with very questionable ethics). Their previous efforts includes interfering and bringing down Paypal, Visa, and Mastercard as a retort to their stand in stopping donations going to Wikileaks, exposing the police officer who pepper-sprayed a line of California college students peacefully seated on the ground during an Occupy movement, and cracking down child pornography sites (Stone 2014).

In a world of huge conglomerates and powerful governments, it all sounds ideal where justice is sought for those who do not have a voice, but occasionally it backfires too. Anonymous is such an impactful group where most of its movements attract an unprecedented amount of attention from the media. In a scenario where Anonymous misidentified Kathie Warnack’s stepson as the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Missouri, it turned the lives of innocent people around. The family was subsequently harassed and badgered by local society and had to keep weapons to protect themselves.

In my opinion, it is very selfish for Anons to claim that they help more than they hurt. The statement may be true, but it is utterly unfair for innocent souls to be robbed of their lives and be punished for a crime they didn’t commit. But hey, being realistic here, nothing in this world is ever ideal is it? Sometimes the price of justice comes at a heavy price (to others).

 

Reference

Stone, J 2014, What is Anonymous? ‘Hacktivist’ Involvement in Mike Brown Shooting Proves Vigilante Justice Is Now Routine, International Business Times, August 15, accessed 10/10/2014, http://www.ibtimes.com/what-anonymous-hacktivist-involvement-mike-brown-shooting-proves-vigilante-justice-now-1660052

Gatekeeping vs Gatewatching

Gatekeeping is a common term most of us have grown accustom to in the context of news production. Basically, the term refers to the ‘quality control’ process done in different stages where writers, editors, and designers filter through information gathered before publishing it for mass consumption. The filtering process is done for several reasons, may it be censorship for public order, or simply trimming for the story to fit in a particular page.

Today, the term gatekeeping has been surpassed by what we have come to identify as gatewatching, the very backbone of citizen journalism. Unlike before where only a handful of news agencies exist to feed the public with news, and have absolute power in deciding the materials released to public, today with the advancement of technology, people around the globe have empowered themselves in more ways than one. Firstly, they have broken the spell of having their opinions and thoughts dictated and limited by parties who are in power to control the media by surrounding themselves with other forms of media (for instance, social media) that encourage the freedom of expression. Besides that, pairing the advanced gadgets that we are able to get hold of easily in terms of cost and accessibility with the virtually endless number of platforms available online for expression, the amount and scope of news naturally would expand too. And this is where gatewatching comes into the picture.

According to Bruns (n.d.), gatewatching relies less on first-hand investigative research and the ability to compose succinct news stories (think inverted pyramid), and more on information search and retrieval skills especially in online environments (think Reddit and Twitter where curation and aggregation are major components). The ad hoc, decentralised and crowdsourced approach provides a continuing coverage of topics and events to encourage participation and maintain as dialogic.

Both gatekeeping and gatewatching have perks and drawbacks of their own, while we gain from diminishing the power of the monologic legacy media, we are faced with cluttering amount of information that may lack clarity (Stanoevska-Slabeva, Sacco, Giardina 2012). I guess you can’t have your cake and and eat it! Lets just make the best out of what we have eh matey 🙂

 

References

Bruns, A (n.d.), Gatewatching, Not Gatekeeping: Collaborative Online News, accessed 8/10/2014,  http://snurb.info/files/Gatewatching,%20Not%20Gatekeeping.pdf

Mitew, T 2014, Bridges made of pebbles: Social media and the transformation of journalism, lecture notes, accessed 8/10/2014, http://prezi.com/sh7b7p0osscz/bridges-made-of-pebbles-social-media-and-the-transformation-of-journalism/

Stanoevska-Slabeva, K, Sacco, V, Giardina, M 2012, Content Curation: a new form of Gatewatching for social media?, accessed 8/10/2014,  https://online.journalism.utexas.edu/2012/presentations/Katarina.pdf

Social Network Revolutions

In 2012, Twitter helped power the Arab Spring.

Today, FireChat is doing the same or maybe more for the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that social networks are a major key component in the strive for change in our tech-savvy world today. Reading about the Top 10 Revolutions  Felt Around the World, it was certain that in previous times, the battles were different in every possible way, in terms of the coordination of the movement, dissemination of information, to the very nature of the movements themselves.

Instead of succumbing to laws and regulations, instead of relying on government controlled mediums, instead of physically fighting battles, the people of the 21st century are fighting an unconventional warfare. This is said as weapons have been traded in for social networks; where knowledge and information precede swords and armors. Present day, it is common to see Facebook functioning as main organizational tools, Twitter as an instrument to coordinate the whole movement, and Youtube as a means to spread the word and document events. Social networks impact insurgencies from the initial stages all the way to the end (Lindsey 2013). They facilitate recruitment, support mobilization of the group, and disseminate vital information.

Naturally, when a group of people come together for a (good) cause and seem to possess so much power in shaping the opinion of society, the government would take it upon themselves to intervene, especially if the movement has an impact of them. Just look at the current situation in Hong Kong and the previous Bersih rallies in Malaysia. In more severe cases, government intervention comes even before the actual movement in the form of web blocking, password stealing, or even removal of online pages. When I think about the ‘umbrella revolution‘ currently taking place in Hong Kong, two popular sayings come to mind- first, when there is a will there is a way, and in difficulty lies opportunity- simply because individuals who strongly believe and fight for democracy in Hong Kong have found ways to overcome all sorts adversity to make their voices heard. It was ingenious to make use of FireChat to keep the rally going despite the government’s crackdown on their movement. With the employment of social networks, the movement has also garnered international support that may contribute to the overall success of the campaign.

As the issue continues to boil, the significance of social networks becomes more apparent. Nevertheless, I personally would hope that social networks and media would play their role in assisting users all over the world to be heard and to achieve justice and great revolutions that would positively impact our world to come.

 

Reference

Lindsey, RA 2013, What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements, accessed 3/10/2014, http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/what-the-arab-spring-tells-us-about-the-future-of-social-media-in-revolutionary-movements

Open platforms for the win!

Before we dive in further into this week’s post, let me just put it out there…

I’m an Android kinda girl 😉

But this does not mean that I have any anything against Apple and its iOS or any other closed platforms out there; this just indicates that my post today will solely be dedicated to sing praises for the open platforms!

The islands won’t prosper like the oceans

I especially like the quote stated above in Ingram’s article on GigaOM’s website. Ingram’s interview with Betaworks founder and CEO, John Borthwick reveals insights about closed and opened platforms, the boiling tension, and his take on the future of this two platforms. Borthwick believes that ultimately open platforms will prevail as they are more resilient and valuable. He says this for many reasons that I couldn’t help but agree with; for instance when platforms try to dictate and centralize user experiences (perhaps by binding them with bogus terms and conditions), it opens up a gap for new social networks to emerge, new social networks that would better suit the needs and wants of their users, and networks that would ultimately convert current day giants into predecessors. It is almost unimaginable for other platforms to emerge and replace Facebook, Twitter, or even Apple, but Borthwick reckons that “the drive to monetize these platforms is pitting the needs of those companies against the interests of their users” would beacon the growth of open platforms.

Borthwick also argues that due to factors such as abundance of choice and availability, users today are more than willing to switch networks or services when better alternatives pop up along the way (and most of the time, in the form of open platforms). I absolutely agree with Borthwick when he says that some of these organizations will learn how easy it is to lose touch with their user base since attracting users so rapidly in part by teaching them how “rootless and transient” their relationships can be. 

 

In a multiplatform world where open and closed systems will always co-exist, the force and power of openness will ensure the existence of a viable ecosystem for application and service builders

 

Reference

Ingram, M 2013, “In the platform wars, open is ultimately more valuable than closed, says Betaworks”,  accessed 20/9/2014, https://gigaom.com/2013/01/28/in-the-platform-wars-open-is-ultimately-more-valuable-than-closed-says-betaworks/

 

 

 

 

The Walled Garden: Facebook Messenger

According to Janssen (n.d.) on Technopedia, the term ‘walled garden‘ has several meanings; it may refer to:

  • A limited set of technology or media information provided to users with the intention of creating a monopoly or secure information system.
  • Mobile phone platforms and applications that can be accessed on a given wireless network.
  • The process of quarantining computers prone to attacks, such as computers showing the symptoms of botnet activity from malware.
  • A limited environment to which an unauthenticated user is given access and allowed to set up an account.
  • A browsing environment where users are restricted to certain content on a website and allowed to navigate only particular areas of the website.

Hence, in a nutshell, it can be deduced that the term ‘walled garden’ refers to any technological platform, may it be platforms on the Internet or mobile applications, that is closed, hierarchical and utilizes a centralized database. Like feudalism in the olden days, these platforms (lord) limit its users (manor) in terms of amount of content besides controlling how content is used. The first thing that came to my mind when I heard this term was the Facebook Messenger application and its bogus terms and conditions.

A couple of months ago, like many others, I was a victim of the forceful Facebook Messenger application download movement since Facebook recently made its Messenger app compulsory for all smartphone users. Without putting much thought into it, I just casually hit the download button in my Play Store because like many captives in the walled garden of Facebook, I thought “why not, everyone is on it and it just works!”. Unbeknownst to me was its bizarre terms and conditions that entailed.

Among the many terms and conditions that stirred public outrage are the permission to access, read, and modify your contacts; to read your web bookmarks and history; to receive, read, and send text messages; and the list goes on (Fiorella 2013). You may read the full article on Huffington to find out more. Although Facebook has come out to justify its actions, I would still consider this a little overboard and a clear cut invasion of privacy for its users.

As O’Dwyer (2014) puts it, “if you’re not paying for a product, you’re not the customer, you are the product”. With our reliance on social networking sites such as Facebook, it would be logical to say that they know us more than we would like to admit; and the more they know about us, the more valuable our data, and the more they would want to keep it (Mitew 2014). So think about it, what’s your stand in this?

 

References

Fiorella, S 2013, The Insidiousness of Facebook Messenger’s Android Mobile App Permissions (Updated), accessed 12/9/2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-fiorella/the-insidiousness-of-face_b_4365645.html

Janssen, C n.d., Walled Garden, accessed 12/9/2014, http://www.techopedia.com/definition/2541/walled-garden-technology

Mitew, T 2014, DIGC202 The feudalism of the Internet, lecture notes, accessed 11/9/2014, http://prezi.com/qopqxh6ktl1j/the-feudalisation-of-the-internet/

O’Dwyer, D 2014, Don’t shoot the Messenger? If it’s from Facebook I will, accessed 12/9/2014, http://www.irishtimes.com/business/don-t-shoot-the-messenger-if-it-s-from-facebook-i-will-1.1898163