The Internet of Things – Our future in an online universe

The obliteration of borders through the network architecture has resulted in the connectivity between things in real life and things on the internet. When we engage with things through our mobile phones, we simply become another data stream.

The more communication network permits reality the more it obliterates these borders and makes them artificial

  • the freedom of information through decentralized network protocols leads to;
  • the  homogenization of time and space as borders between reality and life on the net become irrelevant, leads to;
  • the internet of things (iot), which presents a future where the number of things connected to the internet will continue to grow and will not stop. The Internet Protocol Version 6 was introduced because Version 4 did not have the numbers to facilitate this growing environment.

In this age of the iot, we are seeing new kinds of objects emerge, objects that can register ‘changes in temperature, motion, lighting, pressure etc.‘ e.g. Sen.se Mother. This product can also monitor your behavior, and such monitoring allows it the ability to predict your patterns of behavior. From this a future begins to appear where iot has access to data and therefore can control and organise this data.

In order for products such as Sen.se mother to connect to us, we have to be under constant surveillance. Is the sacrifice of our freedom and privacy for convenience really worth it?

Additionally, as soon as these autonomous objects are on the internet, we are connected, and we may have to learn to function harmoniously with them. Not like this:

We see this idea come to life in the ‘real fictional service’ of ‘Addicted Products‘ by Simone Rebaudengo. This project presents a scenario where ‘a product can be shared without the active decision of a person, but based on its own needs as a product.’ Through ‘Addicted Toasters‘ the toasters look for a new host instead of waiting to be chosen. In this way, we see the objects emancipating themselves from our power, as the forces that previously decided their worth.

Does this scenario allude to something?

Will ‘the people formerly known as the audience‘ PLEASE STAND UP? It is as if we are seeing history repeat itself. Initially people were not able to engage with or talk back to a forum on Web 1.0. However this all changed with the emergence of Web 2.0 which saw users talk back to a website. Maybe, we are not as decentralized as we think we are, particularly now that the idea of machines having autonomy seems to appear more probable than it does improbable, particularly with the advent of the driver-less car on the horizon.

What does this ‘connectivity’ say about us as humans and where we are heading? Is it likely for A.I. to become the successor? Will our ‘fear‘ of A.I. taking over our lives halt the iot?

Only time will tell.

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A Cheesy Tale: A failed story of Japanese Cheesecake

Digital Asia

The process of cheese making was first introduced to us over 2000 years ago in 200 BCE. The cheesecake is believed to have originated in Ancient Greece and was ‘served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C.‘ (Bellis, 2017) as a form of superfood.

GREECE Originating in Ancient Greece, it is believed that the cheesecake was originally eaten as a superfood during the first Olympic Games.

The cheesecake was introduced to Japan after the Meiji government encouraged the adoption of foreign foods through ‘a recipe book published in 1873 making the first mention of the cheesecake.’ (Thompson, 2017). However, it was not adopted until the postwar period when American forces introduced American-baked cheesecake.

Contrasting to traditional cheesecakes, such as the New York style cheesecake, the Japanese cheesecake contains more of a soufflé texture and can be described as light, wobbly and fluffy. ‘

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The Dark Side of Hacking.

Lulzsec was a 2011 hacking group formed in an ‘Anonymous’ online chatroom.

In 2011, the group attacked Fox.com after the media group insulted American rapper, Common, on air. Their attack comprised of leaking the details of ‘73,000 X Factor US contestants.’
Additionally they attacked a number of online news sources by publishing fake stories that were engaged with by thousands of readers.

TUPAC

According to this article, Tupac Shakur is ‘alive and well’ living in New Zealand with Biggie Smalls.

Readers went into a frenzy on social media regarding the legitimacy of the stories.

To make matters even better, the group then proceeded to post ‘a list of usernames and passwords for PBS’s IT admins and users along with log in details for local PBS television stations.‘. Despite the intent of the hackers to merely arouse humour and embarrassment from their actions, the distribution of ‘private information – including credit card details – online..‘ created a profound issue that required serious punishment. This caused LulzSec to become regarded as ‘…more chaotic than Anonymous…‘. Its users never met, their only connection was as nodes through the internet, fuelled by their mutual interest in hacking. This reveals the incredible power that resides within nodes in our modern network architecture; we no longer have to be physically face to face in order to create a chain reaction.

It was a very limited world. It’s a world that you can see and hear, but with that said you can’t touch the internet, you can’t feel it…It’s a world kind of devoid of empathy. It was a very cynical world and I became a very cynical person within that world.”  – Jake Davis ‘Topiary‘ [2.45 onward].

The scary reality of this is that anyone can deface a company and compromise the private details of individuals. Forbes journalist, Parmy Olson, details how the software being used by LulzSec was very simple and could be downloaded for free. Such software ‘automate[s] the process of stealing data from a website…‘, thus making the process of hacking incredibly easy. What is scary is that the only thing stopping most people from doing this is a lack of knowledge that such programs exist.

And why do people do this? The following quote may help to provide some understanding for that:

…every device is a target for colonization, as each successfully exploited target is theoretically useful as a means to infiltrating another possible target…

The feeling of control afforded to these individuals during this process appears addictive. Situations that display an extreme desire for control become evident in the case of “sock puppets” where fake online personas are created in order to influence the direction of an opinion e.g. in favour or against a topic of discourse.

Here is a delicious meme, created by yours truly, to demonstrate the extreme nature of sock puppets. Of course my remediation is a sarcastic take on it, but there are many serious cases of sock puppeting e.g. when the US Military was caught producing propaganda on social media through a mass number of fake accounts.

Considering the era of sensitivity we are currently in, and despite the ridiculousness of my meme, I think there is a strong possibility that there could be an anti-sock puppet party against the Biebz. Trump is ridiculous and there is probably one against/for him. What do you think?

 

Hacktivists: Anonymous vs. ISIS

The hacking phenomenon was an unprecedented occurrence that came about following the distribution of the personal computer in the 1980s. Such a phenomenon has reinforced the degradation of the central hub in network relations and gives power to the audience by reinforcing a distributed network. Members of the subculture, otherwise known as ‘hacktivists’ or ‘hackers’ are encouraged to expose and share information codes that were meant to remain secret from the very audience that is consuming them. Ultimately, hacker ethics include:

  • information freedom
  • sharing
  • humor
  • no secrets
  • no authority

Hacktivists have commonly been viewed as nuisances on the internet, particularly by government authorities. However, as of late, their presence on the internet has the US government secretly pleased and relieved.

Ever since ISIS and similar terrorist groups have embraced social media as a form of recruitment and propaganda, hacker groups have worked together in an attempt to deface their campaigns.

The tragic 2016 shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, saw 49 people murdered in an act of terrorism. ISIS, a group that has well-documented its homophobia, began celebrating and praising this attack online. Consequently, an Anonymous hacker ‘infiltrated hundreds of pro-ISIS Twitter accounts and gave them a wonderfully gay makeover.

Exhibit A:

WauchulaGhost.jpg

Although a small, symbolic victory, it is still a victory with a powerful message about unity. The hacker behind these actions, WauchulaGhost, explained that he did this to ‘defend those that were lost. The taking of innocent lives will not be tolerated…Our actions are directed at Jihadist extremists.‘ Additionally, this hacker distributed the personal information, including IP addresses and phone numbers, of these pro-ISIS accounts for other hackers to use.

Following the tragic 2015 Paris attacks, Anonymous declared cyber war on Islamic State, where the private details ‘of at least five ISIS-linked recruiters‘ were released and ‘more than 5,500 Twitter accounts.‘ were disabled, much to the delight of the US government. Anonymous members also worked together to prevent a terrorist attack on Italy in 2015 and are hoping to stop others.

In exchange for payments, Ghost Security, another hacker group, worked with the US to ‘save countless lives‘ after preventing an attack in Tunisia. Despite hacker ethics stating a clear disrespect for any pre-existing hierarchy, we see here hackers work with governments in an attempt to rid the bigger problem; the presence of terrorist groups and related material on mainstream media. In this way, this kind of censorship for our  protection can be understood.

Unfortunately for Ghost Security, this collaboration gained disapproval from Anonymous who ‘issued a statement distancing itself‘ from the offshoot group. #bitchy

They raised their concerns regarding this collaboration as such actions would “…legitimize the spread of internet censorship and will lead to the increased censorship for everyone, including Anonymous.” What does this mean for whistleblowers and figures such as Edward Snowden who keep the public aware of organised crime and unlawful acts taking place without our awareness?

As a result, this intervention from hackers has seen ISIS related groups withdraw their websites into the dark web, making their content more difficult to view and target.

“You can jail your opponents, but you can’t imprison their ideas”

The title of this article was an extract from former US President Barak Obama’s 2015 speech before the United Nations. Through it, he displayed his admiration for the Internet and its ability to expose corruption.

Ultimately, social media platforms are increasingly being used by activists to protest against corrupt governments. The realisation of the potential for power through connectivity seems to be what has triggered the widespread use of social media in this way.

The notion that connectivity is power becomes evident when studying cases where governmental bodies have undertaken extreme measures in an attempt to control their citizens. An example of this is the events that unfolded during the first Arab Spring, or the Arab Uprisings. The self immolation protest of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi sparked a chain of protests across the Middle East and North Africa. These protests were organised over Twitter and Facebook. The Tunisian government continuously tried to suppress the coordination, dissemination and mobilisation of these protests online and offline but failed as large crowds of people continued to congress.

As a result, the repressive Tunisian regime toppled with President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fleeing to Saudi Arabia after less than a month of protests. We see here a power shift between the people and the government, where social media has not only destroyed the notions of a powerful, overarching central hub online but also offline.

The barricades today do not bristle with bayonets and rifles, but with phones.

Contrastingly, in places such as Burma, it appears difficult to instigate a political uprising or civilian liberation from their governments:

In 2005, the junta took control of Bagan Cybertech, Burma’s main Internet service and satellite-feed provider. Citizens have been arrested for listening to the BBC or Radio Free Asia in public.

Revolutions and rebellions have been around far longer than social media. However, the medium of our phones, of social media, our online personas, changes the way the message is now interpreted and understood. The message is the change in inter-personal dynamics that the innovation brings with it.” (Federman 2004, p.1). The matter of urgency or the degree of danger that is being experienced by civilians in these environments can be readily communicated to people across the world. Social media, even though it may not resolve the corruption within certain governments, it allows for the transmission of ideas that have the potential to ignite a revolution.

 

New media makes legacy media look like the Amish community.

In this day and age the people formerly known as the audience are now mostly active consumers and aggregators of content, uploading and distributing their fair share of opinions on varying topics. However, passive consumers still exist in this environment.

The New York Times slogan ‘All The News That’s Fit to Print‘ ultimately encapsulates the gatekeeping qualities of which traditional news processes possess (input, output, response) and demonstrates the patronising tone of community watchdogs. It poses us, the consumers, as the passive audience where there is no other role for us other than this, ‘to consume filtered content imposed on us by gatekeepers.’ With limited choices for consumption in legacy media, the audience, by choosing to engage with it, create a ‘self-imposed news blackout‘.

This contrasts to the process of gatewatching, which is to ‘observe the gates of a wide range of information sources for useful and relevant materials that they think should be brought to the attention of the wider community.’ (Bruns 2009, p.6). Reddit is a place where gatewatching is abundant and facilitates an array of subreddits. From /r/HowNotToGiveAFuck to /r/Buddhism, Reddit is a diverse community that has been coloured by its users who are constantly generating content through fast feedback loops, creating a site with scalability and a permanent beta.

Consequently, social media sites such as Reddit, are spaces comprising of user generated content which have produced information avalanches. We have seen profound examples of this, specifically where Twitter has been instrumental in assisting people during times of natural disasters. The Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G) alerted victims during Hurricane Sandy (2012) through Twitter about the daily locations of their giant tents and generators. Additionally, key words such as “stay safe,” “no power,” “frankenstorm,” “flooding” and “blackout.” were used to connect the people experiencing this disaster amongst the Twitter community. Ultimately, 52 million tweets were produced regarding Hurricane Sandy and areas that were most affected. Because Twitter is a platform where content is constantly being produced, the feature of keywords and hashtags is integral during situations such as these. As a result, information grabbing is faster and easier on Twitter as opposed to news channels, because of shorter feedback loops and features such as keywords and hashtags.

If only legacy media took seriously the warning signs of their inevitable doom in the wake of new media and consumer generated content.

FEMININITY IN JAPANESE ANIME: Analysis.

In my autoethnographic account: ‘FEMININITY IN JAPANESE ANIME’, I explored how my initial ideas of femininity, including how they are visually portrayed, were challenged. This occurred through my viewing of various anime and Studio Ghibli films.

Throughout this account, I used epiphanies to present to my readers just how different Hayao Miyazaki’s portrayal of females were compared to animations that I was previously used to e.g. Disney and the damsel in distress stereotype. These epiphanies impacted on and helped to further shape my understanding of femininity in anime.

I used Ellis et al’s methodology of “storytelling” and “showing” in an attempt to familiarise my audience with the characters of whom I was talking about, and by doing so, ‘bring “readers into the scene” – particularly into thoughts, emotions, and actions.‘(Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011). I also did this as a way of informing my readers, who may not be familiar with anime, of the way females can be portrayed. I wanted them to somehow experience what I was experiencing for the first time.

My first epiphany was when I was a child watching a lot of different cartoons and I came across Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away on TV. I distinctly remembered the difference in animation style. However, it was my exposure to the different styles of animation (Japanese and Western) that made me aware of how different the female leads were, specifically in Miyazaki’s Ghibli films.

As stated in my previous post, reflecting on this has made me curious as to how the notion of femininity in Japanese anime relate to past and current Japanese art.

Stockins explores these notions in her 2009 thesis ‘The popular image of Japanese femininity inside the anime and manga culture of Japan and Sydney‘. In order to strengthen my understanding of anime and its portrayal of femininity I will continue to refer to Stockin’s thesis, thus providing a layered account (Ellis et al., 2011) of my experience with anime culture so far.

During the Taisho Era in Japan, people began to travel more, resulting in exposure to ‘aspects of Western culture.’ (Stockins 2009, p. 14). This exposure began to have an impact on Japanese culture and consequently resulted in a new attire for the ‘modern girl or Moga‘ (p.13). This attire was more revealing than the traditional Kimono and hairstyles became more laid back and relaxed. As a result, artists commonly sexualised Moga’s in their works.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 5.00.37 pm

Kobayakawa, K 1930, Tipsy, image in Stockins 2009, p. 14.

The females gaze is direct and her demeanor suggest that she is trying to seduce the subject of her gaze.

300px-'Sudden_Shower'_(Are_yudachi_ni)_by_Takeuchi_Seiho,_1909

Seiho, T 1909, ‘Sudden Shower‘ (Are yudachi ni), image, Wikimedia Commons, viewed 9 September 2017.

Contrastingly, this work depicts a Geisha dressed in the traditional Kimono. It exudes conventional Japanese femininity with the lack of eye contact and waif like figure to appear graceful and fragile. (Stockins 2009, p. 69)

These depictions of femininity from the early 20th century seem quite far removed from those depicted in Studio Ghibli films of the late 20th to early 21st century. The romance, intrigue and allure associated with the women in these artworks remind me of the concept behind Shoujo (MadameAce, 2012) anime [animation]/manga [comics] for girls.

news_xlarge_ccsakura.jpg

Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura

In Shoujo, it is common for the character’s eyes and head to be exaggerated, with the purpose of creating an ‘infant-like.’ (Stockins 2009, p. 69) appearance.

Despite the illustrations of these artworks and Shoujo being quite different, they both seem to be based around the concept romance and attracting a mate through physical appearance.

The Shoujo commonly depicted as a young school girl character that embodied purity and Kawaii (cute) culture became Japan’s new sex symbol…‘ (Stockins 2009, p. 25)

The allure and point of intrigue with females in Studio Ghibli films is not based on how they appear, but what they do. I did not realise how different anime could be in terms of depicting femininity. Then again, I don’t know why I should be surprised; people have their preferences and considering the umbrella market of anime, there must be a plenitude of different fan bases.

In Spirited Away, Miyazaki states how he wanted to deter from the concept of “crushes and romance” (‘Interview: Miyazaki on Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi‘, 2001) that were abundant in Shoujo.

Girls are usually naive and wide eyed, rushing stupidly into trouble only for the brave hero to pull them out of it.’ (Olowu 2013, p. 1)

It seems to me that one of the reasons behind the success of Studio Ghibli films directed by Miyazaki is due to the deviation from anime’s conventional gender roles and the unlikely heroes found within the lead female characters:

  • Spirited Away: A 10 year old girl, Chihiro, saves her parents and friend Haku.
  • Howls Moving Castle: 19 year old Sophie is cursed and turned into a 90 year old woman. Despite all the odds against her she saves Howl and his moving castle.
  • Princess Mononoke: multitude of dominating female characters.

This brings me to the portrayal of femininity in cosplay and how anime influences this.

Within my cultural framework, there is not a huge focus on cartoons, specifically anime. In fact, I am deprived of anime in my cultural framework. In saying this, I know there are many people from my culture who can relate to this.
Why?
It seems that anime has a nation-wide appeal regardless of age, whereas in Western society, there is a belief that cartoons are typically associated with childhood.

If this is the case then why is cosplay so popular in Australia? Australia is without a doubt a multi-cultural land, but how could something so far removed from our everyday culture attract the kind of fan base that anime does?

When I attend Comic Con this year, I will be intrigued to see how anime has influenced the dress of the conventions attendees.