Blog Comments for Surveillance




Crowdsourcing Blog Comments



Mobile Internet

Looking at both Wijetunga (2014) in comparison to Baird and Hartter (2017), there is clearly overlap in their analysis of mobile internet uses. Most importantly, both articles outline on a broad scale how the introduction of technology into the South Asian and African communities is a double edged sword, providing benefits for some, and deleterious effects for others. Wijetunga mentions that amongst the Massai, phones directly affected livestock development and agriculture through use of applications to make transactions easier, and being able to monitor weather patterns. Baird and Hartter also found that amongst the more privileged users, they too used applications, just in a different manner than those in Massai. Amongst the privileged, they used applications for social media purposes, as well as to circumvent crowding problems in traditional computer labs.


Moreover, both studies also encountered limitations with mobile phone technology use in their respective countries. For Wijetunga, findings indicated that “phones were exposing, or fomenting dishonesty, and undermining trust between individuals and local communities” (Wijetunga 2014). Meaning, phones have made barriers to dismantling community ties easier to overcome. Baird and Hartter also mention how technology use has hindered their participants, however, because their study looked at two distinct groups, the manner in which it has affected them differs. They noted that the underprivileged also felt more of a class divide given variables like language, and computer-based background that facilitated ease of use.


Switching gears, now I will propose a new study that would tell us something that the aforementioned studies have not covered. Given that my background is in politics, I would like to look back at the 2016 presidential election. Aside from basically rewriting the campaigning rule book, President Trump also activated subsets of the population to vote for him that may not have normally participated in elections past. Additionally, campaigns often use a multitude of tools to achieve their turnout goals, and with the advent and ease of use of various forms of social media, a new kind of audience can be reached. Therefore, my research questions are:


R1: Did the advent of mobile internet mobilized previously unrecognized subsets of the population in the 2016 presidential election?


R2: Were demographics that are more likely to be involved with mobile internet applications also more likely to turnout during the 2016 presidential election?


The sampled population would be the 4,200 Americans that participated in the American National Election Study following the 2016 election. While many questions in the study focus on election-specific questions, there are also questions involving social media and technology use. From here I would probably conduct some kind of multivariate regression analysis to interpret whether or not internet use had a significant impact, breaking it down further by type (social media sites, news, blogs etc). The implications of importance here would be that campaigns could learn which strategies are most efficient when operating in the digital sphere, and also a better understanding of how technology can change/shape elections.

Step Brothers Remix

This video features clips from the movie “Step Brothers”. It is one of my favorite comedies, and I wanted to have the main theme focus on some of the funniest scenes from the film. The idea is to highlight Will Ferrel’s creativity, while also paying homage to the most quotable one-liners as well.


Digital Outlaws – The New Frontier

Throughout history, the most important quality of societies that were able to stand the test of time was adaptability to change. As technological innovations rose, society’s either had to keep up or they would fall by the wayside. Soderberg (2013) sought to outline the theory of technological determinism and its relationship to social change and the collective action of hackers. A wealth of topics are covered in Soderbergs article, but my main focus will be on collective action framing. It is difficult for technological determinism and collective action theories to exist in parallel, given that technological determinism relies on those in ‘power’ of technology to influence later societal actions. Meaning, because technology is so widespread throughout society, the masses then control the means of technological change.


However, collective action would suggest that the power of a niche segment of the population, hackers, would not succeed. Soderberg states “hackers have turned the tables on talk about newness, creativity and openness…” (Soderberg (2013), which is important because it means that it is not always the case that the majority of the common people are the only ones to influence social/political change. One important note that the article does not mention is the concept of free riders, or, those that hop on board with a group and receive all the benefits without actually doing any of the work. Because hackers are such a specialized subset with sets of rules and values, I do not think the collective action is the best way to frame their culture in a marxist way of thought about societal change. Hackers can augment technology, but from a top down approach, rather than bottom up.


Another prominent argument that surrounds the technologically savvy is on the definition of file sharing. It is now the norm for critics within the mass media environment to automatically label anything to deal with hackers as digital piracy. A main conflict with the word piracy comes with whether to define the act of file sharing as such. John (2013) posits that both terms are loaded, and that investigation into how they are actually being used must be done prior to inferring that one activity should take on the label of piracy, vv.


For those ‘in power’, they would like you to think that digital sharing is more like stealing, given that they do not always opt-in to the societal act of sharing. However, amongst the online community of hackers and activists, “pro-sharing individuals see sharing as a form of distribution that expresses a positive and desirable type of attachment between people.” (John 2013). In my opinion, this does not sound a lot like piracy, however, much like hackers augmenting technology, words mean things, and as John (2013) suggests, piracy should be see as a top down activity, while file sharing is from the bottom up. Therefore, before labeling an activity as such, a more in depth review of the action that is being digitally performed must be done.


Foreign policy and the Internet

Claudia Rosett is an opinion contributor for The Hill, a popular site that focuses on the daily workings of Congress and other branches of government. Rosett’s article, Trump’s Iran speech finally sets facts of sham nuclear deal straight, focuses on President Trump’s amendments to the previous administration’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and offers insight into how the nuclear arena has changed since the deal was first introduced, as well as future implications if nothing is done. Regardless of which side of the hyperpolarized aisle you stand on, it is hard to ignore the fact that Iran has continued to test ballistic missile technology, which President Trump parallels with the current threat in North Korea, stating “the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes” (Trump 2017). Rosett also implies this same sentiment throughout her article – clearly the main idea that she warns of is that America does not need hurried policy from previous administrations to come back to haunt us.

Shirkey directly mentions Iran multiple times, often in relation to varying social movements that were successful through the use of social media, such as the One Million Signatures Campaign and the Green movement. While these cases deal with important social movements in Iran, I do not believe the same rhetoric could be applied when dealing with the nuclear deal. Shirkey claims that information is not the primary way that citizens can constrain rulers or receive new benefits, but rather use of more patient principles. In the case of the nuclear deal, we are out of patience. Rosett posits, “the deal dignified Tehran on the world stage, greatly eased global sanctions, allowed Iran access to more than $100 billion in frozen oil revenues, and topped that off with the related settlement from the U.S. of $1.7 billion, shipped secretly to Iran in cash.” (Rossett 2017). From America’s perspective we should encourage the countless Iranian’s that do not support the deal to use direct action on social media in order to allow for a shift towards civil control.
On the other hand, Comor and Bean mention that it is ‘vital’ that America pursues a PD policy that connects with, listens to and builds upon ‘long-term relationships with key stakeholders’ (White House, 2009: 4 in Comor/Beam 2012). Meaning, engagement is essential in creating relationships that can be mutually beneficial for the long term. This coincides with Rossett’s article, which hammers the Obama administration for creating a quick fix to the Iran problem that the next administration would have to inherit. However, the problem is not an easy fix. The United States, whether we like it or not, still has to coincide with government systems that it function in an oppressive manner. Comor and Bean suggest that attempting to foster an environment where negative associations with US foreign policy abroad is more effective. This could be implemented amongst Iranians, which would help them achieve the aforementioned goals of increased democratic rule.

Viral online media – Memorial Day

Forming groups and creating a community is simply human nature. This sense of camaraderie often reaches unexplainable heights amongst military members and veterans. It is often said that unless you are ‘in the club’, one will never truly understand the bands of brotherhood that are created in combat. Former Army Ranger Mat Best, currently the Chief Executive Officer at Article 15 Clothing / Black Rifle Coffee Company, aims to provide the veteran community with satirical videos that play off of common military humor. However, on Memorial Day this past May, he used their avid social media following to release a new video based on what Memorial Day is really about – those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The video quickly racked up over a million views within a 24 hour time span, creating headlines like, “Army Ranger Mat Best’s Memorial Day Video Is Going Viral — And Every American Needs to Watch It. Best’s video currently has over 13 million views, 340k shares, and 147k likes on Facebook. Berger and Milman posit that “online content that evoked high-arousal emotions was more viral, regardless of whether those emotions were of a positive (i.e., awe) or negative (i.e., anger or anxiety) nature.” (Berger/Milkman 2012), which coincides nicely with the video because it is a mix of both positive and negative emotions. For many, a sense of pride/awe is found from the opening scenes, whereas a more somber tone hits harder at the end of the video. This combination of emotions definitely helped in making the video ‘go viral’.

Another important aspect of the video is the medium that it was hosted on. For Best, Facebook and YouTube often are his company’s preferred methods of sharing. The Memorial Day video was hosted on both, however a quick look at the YouTube version shows that it garnered far less views. This is simply because Facebook provided a more rapid method to disperse the video across user’s feeds. Often, people who did not even ‘like’ one of Best’s pages found themselves stumbling across the video due to Facebook’s algorithm. Alhabash and McAlister concluded that “participants were more likely to carry out the least cognitively demanding behavior.” (Alhabash and McAlister 2015). In regards to Facebook, that behavior should be ‘likes’, however, the video has far more shares than likes. This indicates to me that the video broke the traditional mold of virality because it brought a broader sense of emotion into play and reminded all Americans what sacrifice is.

Obviously, Mat Best and his team planned to release the video for Memorial Day. Given the nature and content of the video, coupled with their known audience, this was by far the best time to “Capture the Moment” and create “Nostalgia”, as Peretti (2013) stresses. The advent of social media has created numerous new outlets for virality to run it’s course, which oftentimes is in the form of a cat video, or anti-establishment rant. In this case, it is nice to see content gain traction for something that actually matters.


The best way to describe algorithms to a young child would be to apply it to something in their everyday life. For example, most 8 year olds are probably cartoon fans. Therefore, I would say something like like the following: “An algorithm is like the videos that come after watching your favorite cartoon on the computer or television. The computers know what to show you based on the fact that you have already watched a certain cartoon. This can be extremely helpful because it makes it so that you do not have to waste any time trying to find a new favorite cartoon to watch whenever the show you are watching runs out of episodes. Algorithms can also factor in what other kids your age enjoy watching, that way when you go to school and are talking with your friends, you will know all of the shows that they have watched too because the computer understands what kids your age are interested in.” 

After reading Wilson’s article, the first thing that came to mind is the algorithms that are used on Instagram. As a photographer, Instagram provides a rich and immersive experience to connect and share with many other photographers – both with similar interests, as well as one’s that I may not have followed had it not been for the built in algorithm in the “Explore” page. On the surface, Instagram knows I am interested in photography based off both the accounts that I follow, as well as the hashtags (ex. Camera type) that I use throughout my posts. Where things get interesting though is in the “Explore” page. For me, the accounts I follow generally focus on automotive, nature, and military photography. However, when exploring throughout the feed I often see accounts that feature fashion photography – something I normally would have no interest in, but is still presented to me based off the algorithms calculation of what I follow already.

Additionally, Crawford’s scene number four resonated most with me. Scene 4 focuses on the definition of democracy as a consensus, something that we spend countless hours trying to uncover over in the political science department. Within our democracy, people have varying viewpoints as to how they should go about participating within the political arena. These individual algorithmic logics that are programmed into people often create a conflictual environment because consensus can never be reached – there’s no one universal personal algorithm for how to participate – and therefore, pluralism can never truly be achieved. Our founding fathers built conflict into our democracy, James Madison accurately describes this in Federalist 10, where he outlines that conflict between factions is inevitable, and that inefficiency is better than inequality. Therefore, conflict is naturally present because factions disagree, and it is then mitigated by ensuring that tyranny of the majority does not prevail.

Privacy – Damned if you do(n’t)

As expected, Facebook lays out a nicely designed, easy to navigate page regarding their data privacy policy. It covers everything from what kind of data they collect on you, to how they distribute and use it into a sectioned page made up of bullet points. For most people, they will probably never even visit this section of the site, which Facebook is probably hoping for because as Kovac’s stated during his TED Talk, gathering data on people is happening because it’s a huge business (Kovac 2012). As I went through each section of the policy, a few major points came to mind.

First off, a quick scroll through my Facebook feed reveals that those who I am friends with tend to share achievements and high-points of their life. I believe that this is because on an individual level, people want to have the personal satisfaction/internal warm-fuzzy feeling of being recognized by their peers for something that they are proud of. This coincides with Taddicken’s point that “Social Web users tend to self-disclose more personal and sensitive information when their friends and acquaintances also use it” (Taddicken 2014). Meaning, people are more willing to divulge information if they know that they are broadcasting it to their friends. In regards to myself, Taddicken describes my activity to some degree. I try to avoid the cliche humble-brag tendencies that fill my feed, however, I am definitely more willing to share personal happenings on Facebook because it is more socially relevant to me than other sites.

Additionally, a major section that Facebook’s privacy policy focuses on is in regards to how they share information with third parties they are affiliated with. Their policy stresses that “We do not share information that personally identifies you…unless you give us permission” (Facebook 2017). Permission is tricky, often times users (myself included) frantically click through user agreements with applications that ‘talk’ to Facebook in order to start using as fast as possible, with little or no regard to whether permission was granted to allow information that personally identifies me to be distributed. Fuchs asserts that, “Facebook should reveal what data the platform stores about its users, and users should be protected from Facebook’s economic exploitation of their data” (Fuchs 2012) – I do not find the latter part of his point feasible at this point in time. Protecting users from ‘economic exploitation of data’ is a grey area, and so long as Facebook includes loopholes in vague policy agreements, the only way to guarantee Facebook and its partners will not exploit your data is to simply not use it.

Finally, believing that Mark Zuckerberg does not care about profit is naive. We live in a free market economy, and in 2016, Facebook generated $10 billion in profit, which is a whole lot for someone that supposedly does not care. While his intentions may be pure in attempting to create an open society, one must not forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unless the card table that users are playing on is flipped, the house (Facebook) will continue to win – regardless of what game users are playing.