The Dark Side of the Net- Under the Cloak of Anonymity

“Under the cloak of anonymity people feel like they can express anything”

Internet trolls- hiding under the cloak of online anonymity

Internet trolls- anonymous and dangerous

Anonymity: an alluring cloak of hidden identity. From the simple delight of a prank call to the more sinister evolution of internet trolling, the reverberations of such obscurity across virtual space can be unexpected. Who could have foreseen the outcome of the innocent 2Day FM prank call last year to the hospital that was treating Kate Middleton for morning sickness?

It is true that the internet has become a “microcosm of society” in many beneficial ways, empowering users through a participatory culture that encourages the free flow of ideas and expression. However, as logic follows; “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Welcome to the dark side of the net, and cue internet trolls. Emboldened by the anonymity of cyberspace, ‘trolls’ abuse the benefits of a participatory culture as they freely voice opinions online that are considered inappropriate offline. Seemingly devoid of a moral compass, they relish the opportunity to post messages in online communities that are often threatening, sexist or racist. One internet troll, with online alias Nimrod Severan, justified his bigoted and racist comments on Facebook RIP pages to a BBC reporter by arguing that Facebook is an open forum where one is entitled to his or her own opinion. And this is where the issue arises. Does a crackdown on trolling risk contradicting the democratic ambitions of the net?

Some suggest the best way to deal with online trolling is to not ‘feed the trolls’, while many propose that pre-moderation of comments or a complete shutdown of comments, as carried out by the King’s Tribune online edition, is the only way to stop trolls in their tracks.

However, perhaps an alternate solution comes in removing the cloak of anonymity that many internet trolls hide behind. While hidden identity may allow one to “break taboo subjects and speak against the hive mind”, as one comment on the SMH article The Dark Side of the Net suggests, the abuse of this power by internet trolls should not be tolerated.  Democracy works in two ways- freedom of speech, but also freedom of action under LAW. Just as the hashtag #mencallmethings was used to “name and shame” misogynist internet trolls, and The Antibogan exposes those who commit online injustice, perhaps we should be focusing on unmasking the anonymous. While this is not suggesting total transparency of online identities, the threat of exposure may cause trolls to think twice before making a misogynist or racist comment in fear of retribution. Taking away their anonymity may be the solution to locking away the Hyde in every Dr Jekyll for good and in maintaining a HEALTHY online democracy.

Picture sourced from: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/11/16/Anonymous-Launches-OpIsrael-in-Retaliation-for-Gaza-Strikes

Thinking Global, Acting…at all?

Actions speak louder than likes

If only it were that simple...

If only it were that simple…

Wouldn’t it be great if solving all the problems in the world was simply a matter of clicking a button? One small contraction of a fingertip muscle and all forms of poverty, famine and injustice would vanish in an electronic pulse through the web. One millisecond later could see us sitting complacently on a wharf with Charlie Brown, watching life drift by in a sea of serenity. Alas, a utopian fantasy that unfortunately does not translate to reality.

Whilst we all may dream of effectuating social change, converting this dream into real life actions is another story. Technological convergence has changed the face of activism and facilitated the development of global participatory politics. Social networks and new media are connecting people from all walks of life like never before, equipping citizens with a voice and thus the power to promote social change. But how effective is online activism in creating REAL change?

It is undeniable that social networks have helped to coordinate action across dispersed networks, for example in the 2011 Egypt Uprisings, and The American Occupy and Spanish Indignados movements. Social networks are accommodating an alternate method of political engagement, creating a culture in which “ questions of dialogue, dissent, critical engagement and global responsibility can come into play”. In fact politicians have recognised this fundamental shift in engagement and have moved to accommodate it, expanding their campaigns onto social media platforms such as Pinterest to tap into this online pool of political intelligence. Both the Obama and Romney families created pinboards during the 2012 American Presidential campaign that contrasted personal and political content to create an online base to engage the public.

However, many argue that online political engagement and activism is “superficial”, lacking the community ties that drive social change. Whilst Kony 2012 succeeded in terms of its ‘spreadability’, informing a global audience of the social injustice surrounding Joseph Kony and child soldiers, it failed in generating REAL LIFE ACTION- in mobilising crowds to bring Kony in. This campaign is a perfect example of “slacktivism”. When fighting for a cause can be as simple as liking a Facebook page, or retweeting a link, there is no cost to participate, no risk to the individual and thus no obligation to see a project through.

So while online activism allows for dissemination, coordination and civic engagement, what it lacks is the commitment of participation. However, as Nelson Mandela said “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. The informative benefits of online activism could be the first steps to generating REAL change. Where Kony 2012 failed, others may succeed in the future. While we are all ‘thinking global’, it may take a little time to act ‘local’ or even at all. One day Charlie…, but not just yet.

Picture sourced from: http://gwangjublog.hwy-6.com/?p=4584

Heralding a New Dawn-Out with the Old, In with the New(s)

Are newspapers becoming extinct?

Are newspapers facing extinction?

For many years my father routinely perused a freshly printed copy of Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald with his breakfast. Recently the traditional broad sheet has been replaced by the Sydney Morning Herald App on a shiny new iPad. Unwittingly, my father is playing an integral part in the journalism revolution. As we immerse ourselves deeper in the ocean of digital content, legacy media such as newspapers have been forced to reconsider traditional methods of delivery to readers.

Journalism is considered a profession in crisis. The internet is contesting the status of newspapers as the major institution of journalism by offering greater efficiency in meeting demand and supply.  Rupert Murdoch clarified this fundamental shift in a tweet in August 2012. “Simple equation: free, open, uncontrollable internet versus shackled newspapers equals no newspapers.”  Advancements in technology have also led to the rise of citizen journalism. Unrestrained by authority and capturing news as it happens with an assortment of common recording devices, citizen journalists are “filling the void that mainstream media cannot fully cover”, as Nadine Jurrat explores in Mapping Digital Media. Providing ubiquitous connectivity to global reports via a constant stream of online content, the evolution of this new brand of journalists has led to the rise of collective intelligence as everyday citizens are able to create, collaborate and contribute to the ever-deepening pool of information available on the internet.

Alan Kohler summarises this shift to online content delivery in the ABC report below, explaining that readers are moving to engage more with digital information.

However, as Kohler points out, this change does not herald the extinction of journalism in the future so much as NEWSPAPERS.  Journalism is simply evolving to suit the demands of a migratory audience. This means a dramatic modification in how traditional media organisations deliver their content. By exploring the Sydney Morning Herald’s Know No Boundaries Site, this process of evolution is clear. Digital subscriptions, blogs and more effective applications for mobile and tablet devices are all on the cards for SMH in 2013, clearly displaying the attempt of a traditional journalistic medium to change with the times.  The recent change to tabloid format in late 2012 was also made in response to “the flight of paying readers and advertisers from the paper to other, so-far free, digital sources of news.”

What will be interesting to see is how these platforms fund their work in a traditionally free digital environment.  Perhaps the evolution of ‘subscription based models’, like the one proposed by SMH will lead to further loss of readership and eventually the ultimate extinction of such media. Only time will tell.

Picture sourced from: http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/o/online_newspaper.asp 

Snap, Click and Share- A Drop in the Ocean of Content

A pang of nostalgia is felt when one considers the evolution of the camera. Gone are the days where a jar of hard-earned pennies was cracked open to buy ONE precious Evolution of the Cameraroll of camera film. The ensuing months were defined by a harsh selection process, only those golden moments were admitted to the red carpet roll, an exclusive VIP list devoted to the ‘top shots’. The result? Memories, locked in time, to be placed in a photo album and left to collect dust as the years progressed.

One of the greatest ongoing evolutions of today’s convergent society is the shift from locked to generative platforms. Locked platforms, just like the cameras that used film, could be compared to an autocratic system. Producers dictated how, where, and when the platform could be used and with what limitations.

When we consider the capabilities of modern cameras, it’s easy to see the dramatic change in this ideology.

Smart cameras, just like the smart phone, have evolved to be “bigger than the sum of their parts”, facilitating instant editing and global sharing of those ‘Kodak moments’.  The camera has become a generative platform, empowering users by allowing active engagement.

Furthermore, a democratic technological society has been created as consumers are able to mould the platform to suit their individual needs.

For example, Twitter’s original purpose was to simply share “the momentous and the mundane”, as Evan William’s (co-founder) points out in Ted Talks. Unforseen were its further uses in business, politics and news broadcasting that evolved in reaction to consumer needs. Users also shaped their own way of replying to each other, inventing the integral @ symbol.  In the same way Pinterest, initially an image sharing social network, now accommodates marketing, educational, political and charitable practices as consumers ‘pin’ relevant material from around the web to form boards tailored to their personal needs.

These new generative platforms are flexible and adaptable, allowing individual personalisation and, as seen with smart cameras, constant connectivity.

However, constant connectivity has transported the image from an exclusive red carpet into a sweatshop of mass production. As Clay Shirky points out in an interview on The Communicators, we are “constantly online”- 3, 000 photos are uploaded to Facebook every second. Has the shift to generative platforms reduced the overall quality of content or just made it harder to find? Perhaps it is this vast increase in content that has catalysed the creation of platforms such as Pinterest in an attempt to navigate the chaos of the internet.  Within this chaos, the nostalgic simplicity of the old camera can be oddly comforting.

Picture sourced from http://blog.lafraise.com/en/tag/the-evolution-of-camera/