NSA Data Collection

Source linked here.

As technology has advanced substantially over the years, government agencies have utilized these advances to collect and analyze data that has been collected. The NSA more specifically has developed countless algorithms to collect, sort and analyze data on the citizens of the United States. No longer is surveillance done predominantly by people, but it is done by computers and algorithms that have been specifically programmed for surveillance. This includes listening to phone calls, facial recognition, collection of a person’s writing online, texts, emails and countless other forms of information. According to George Dvorksy in his article “The 10 Algorithms That Dominate Our World”, algorithms are used to monitor people’s information now because “there is far too much data for humans to collect and interpret.” This is astounding because what the author is saying here is that the NSA collects so much data on individual citizens that humans are simply incapable of not only being able to collect the data but also interpret it.

Source linked here.

Now, controversy has erupted surrounding what exactly the NSA collects from private citizens and does not consider an invasion of privacy. The NSA simply does not believe that they are collecting our data and that the only data that is considered “collected” is what has been read by a human, not a computer running an algorithm. Essentially the NSA has unlimited access to the information of citizens as long as no one admits to having seen the data that the computers have collected. Scary thought. The clause that defines what it means to be “collected” in relation to data was written in 1982…Maybe it’s time for the NSA to update their data collection policies for the modern era.

Sources:

https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-10-algorithms-that-dominate-our-world-1580110464

https://giphy.com/gifs/reactiongifs-mrw-oc-Dzmg5QAojwb6M/download

https://giphy.com/search/satellite

 

Waiting in the Digital Age

In modern society, it has become essentially commonplace for people to have immediate satisfaction with little or no wait time. So when a person is forced to wait for something rather than receiving it immediately, what kind of impact does that have on the person? According to Jason Farman in his article “Fidget Spinners: How Buffer Icons Have Shaped Our Sense Of Time,” “it’s a combination of technological expectations and cultural expectations.” Essentially what Farman is saying here is that people have a certain expectation regarding how quickly their technology should operate and when it does not meet that expectation, people get agitated or stressed. This is why the buffering icon has become a symbol of stress and anticipation.

Classic buffering icon. Link to gif here.

A culture of immediate satisfaction has been created in the modern era due to the development of texting, high-speed internet and many other forms of technology. People are able to acquire essentially anything they desire without a substantial wait time and this has led to a society where no one is willing to wait an extended amount of time for anything. This is why I believe that the buffering icon has become an enemy of  anyone who has had to deal with a massive wait time for something to download or the our internet connection to return. The buffering icon mocks a society in which people are so incredibly impatient and refuse to wait for something that they believe they should receive immediately.

Link to gif here.

Bibliography:

Jason Farman’s Article: http://reallifemag.com/fidget-spinners/ 

 

 

 

Offensive Content on Social Media

In Lisa Nakamura’s article “I WILL DO EVERYthing Am Asked,” she emphasizes the prevalence of exploitative content focusing on African Americans. Racist content has almost become completely common place all over social media and people barely even notice that they are perpetuating a hateful culture by sharing this content. Now more than ever, there seems to be no boundary on what people are comfortable with posting on the internet for the world to see. Also, with the anonymity of the internet, people feel completely invincible when they post something offensive because they can hide behind a screen. With a quick Google search of the word “meme,” two images popped up immediately that struck me:

Link to image source here.
Source of image is a screenshot from a video but the link to the image is here.

I have seen both of these images used before on social media with different captions but I will emphasize the fact that with one search for memes on google, these are two that come up immediately. The first image shows the image of an apparent drug addict with a seemingly humorous caption to gain likes and appreciation by online users. This is incredibly offensive because it turns an image of a person struggling with addiction into a joke for people on the internet to laugh at. The second image is of Stevie Wonder, who is a popular target for memes for being blind, and this meme is blatantly racist. Essentially joking that he should be thankful to be blind because he can’t see that he is a black man. After reading the article and looking around the internet, it is obvious to me that racism has become pervasive throughout social media.

Sources:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1470412914546845

http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1144795-spicy-memes

 

 

 

Lab #3: Gifs

Reaction Gifs:

Reaction gifs are the most common form of gifs because they are able to be used easily to convey a message. The gif I have chosen above is most often used to show displeasure or just disappoint in someone’s actions in a comical way. It successfully brings out these emotions, while the second gif of Terrell Suggs on the Ravens shares no emotion or reaction. This second gif is a counter example of the reaction gif because it shows no reaction while the first gif clearly conveys an emotional message.

Sports Gifs:

Sports gifs are fairly self-explanatory because they simply feature sports clips to create a response from the viewer. Whether it’s an exceptional play, like the gif above, or an athlete making a mistake, sports gifs are able to get a reaction. Sports gifs are generally used to highlight the greatest plays made by athletes in their sports but occasionally they are used to show bad plays and the subsequent disappoint by the player’s teammates, adding to its humor. The gif I used for my counter example is a clip from The Intern showing a group of people playing Quidditch. It’s simply showing non-professional athletes playing a game that is not really considered a sport at this point which counters the professionalism in most sports gifs.

Fandom Gifs:

Fandom gifs are quick clips of movies that show an iconic moment or a memorable quote. These are extremely popular for people to use to show their favorite movies and to use those moments for a satirical purpose in life. Since fandom gifs only use a quick clip like the one from Goodfellas above, I used a gif where every Star Wars movie ever made are embedded into one gif as my counter example. I used this as my counter example because it does not focus on one particular part, but puts every movie together in a jumbled mess.

Data and Filing

With increasing development of computers and filing systems, people are now able to store massive amounts of data with ease. Data today is exponentially cheaper than it was compared with when computers were first introduced in the 1980’s. In an article on mkomo.com, the cost of data per Gigabyte was just under one million dollars but, compared to 2010, the cost of data per Gigabyte has dropped to less than ten cents. This massive drop in cost per Gig has created a necessity for hard drives that are able to hold enormous amounts of data and new systems within the hard drives that allow the user to access information quickly. With data becoming so cheap, it became critical that technology catch up to be able to handle so much information.

Representation of the rapidly declining cost of data since 1980. Courtesy of www.mkomo.com.

With the capacity to store exponentially more data than could be done in the past, computer scientists must make sure that the data collected does not disappear due to a crashed computer. In the article “What is a File?” the authors state that because computers can fail “in part” and “in totality,” “data within this system are so arranged that if part of them is destroyed or even the whole, this event does not catastrophically affect the system’s functioning, its utility.” This necessity to create systems that are able to not only store data but also retain it in case of a total system failure. “Filing” has evolved over time, just as data has, and it will continue to be adjusted to fit the need at the time.

Bibliography:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/MSR-TR-2011-109.pdf

http://www.mkomo.com/cost-per-gigabyte

 

The Modernization of War: Drones and Computers

Since the introduction of the battlefield radio in WWI coordinating artillery strikes to drone strikes on the modern battlefield, war has changed substantially over the past 100 years thanks to rapid military innovation. Air warfare has been utilized since the first planes were developed and, even though the amount of firepower they can deliver has changed, the use of airpower has remained constant through today. With the development of computers and their installation in the military, airstrikes have become incredibly accurate and deadly. In the world today, the United States utilizes computers and technology to coordinate troop movements, dial airstrikes, gather intelligence and a wide array of other things to gain an edge in war.

Two United States airmen control a military drone flying over the Middle East. Link to site here.

Drones are remotely controlled, unmanned aircraft that survey a target gathering information about a possible enemy target. The information collected by the drone is interpreted by military officials and then used to decide if the target should be destroyed by an airstrike or surgically by a ground team. More specifically, military drones which have been in use since the CIA introduced them in 2000 for strictly surveillance purposes but the military began to attach missiles to them after the September 11th attacks. The first drone strike used for a kill mission rather than a surveillance mission was February 2002 in an attempt to eliminate high-ranking Taliban members. None of this would be possible without computer involvement in the piloting of the drone, collecting information, analyzing video data and then using guided weapons to destroy an enemy target. Computers in the military have increased the quality of information collected, improved weaponry and are continuing to advance every aspect of military technology.

Military drone engages a target. Link to site here.

Sources:

  • Photo sources are linked beneath each photo.
  • “A Brief History of Drones” by John Sifton. The article is linked here.

Evolution of Creating Alternate Realities: Kaleidoscopes to VR

From the invention of the kaleidoscope in 1816 to the introduction of virtual reality headsets in recent years, scientists have strove to develop technology to provide new ways of seeing the world. The kaleidoscope, although crafted with incredibly simple materials, amazed the public of London due to it being able to alter the relatively drab city in which they lived and had gotten so bored with. The kaleidoscope provided a sort of escape from people’s monotonous lives and they jumped at the idea to experience a technology that would change the way they were able to see the world. A world full of color and ever-changing combinations had such mass appeal that the craze of kaleidoscopes swept London’s public like wildfire.

Just as the people of London sought an escape from the consistency of life, people today desire an occasional reprieve from stresses too. Enter the virtual reality headset, that has evolved greatly since its development in 1968 as a strictly stationary machine.  The first virtual reality headset developed as an enormous machine that consisted of a viewing apparatus and a computer, but today the headset can be taken anywhere as long as it is connected to a phone. People nowadays no longer rely on kaleidoscopes to achieve their escape from reality, they can simply attach their phone to a virtual reality headset and experience anything they can imagine. From diving the depths of the oceans on a deep-sea explorer to entering space on a weather balloon, the potential for virtual reality seems endless and incredibly exciting.

 

This video displays the incredible experiences that can be had using VR technology and how it has advanced over time.

Video embedded from Youtube but can be accessed here.

Connections Between Technology in Neuromancer and Today

Technology is undoubtedly a key component in Gibson’s book and his exceptional foresight into future technological advances encourages the reader to make connections between the technology of today and in the book. For instance, Gibson essentially predicted many advances in science that would come about in the 20th century; virtual reality, functional prosthetic appendages, cyberspace and the Matrix. Most significantly of the technologies in the book would be the Matrix. The Matrix is Case’s portal into a virtual world where he can ascertain valuable information and trade it for money or utilize it himself. Gibson illustrates this enormous technological world, known as cyberspace, and he may have been alluding to the Internet of modern times. I believe that there is a strong connection between cyberspace and the Internet because both technologies allow the user to basically acquire anything they need, as well as escaping their own reality and becoming anyone they desire to be. Although prosthetic appendages were around in the 1980’s, Gibson’s description of them in the book surpasses any technology that would have been available during his time. From mechanical arms to people that have become more robot than human, Neuromancer depicts prosthetic advancements that are becoming extremely relevant today. Is Gibson predicting that humans will one day be able to completely save their bodies by having mechanical implants placed within them and replace appendages fully? It is truly exceptional to see Gibson display his foresight in his book and see how his predictions have proven true fairly often in today’s technology.

 

Virtual Reality in Today’s Age
Photo From businessinsider.com
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