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above and beyond

Throughout the duration of this semester, I have found that the Black Mirror episodes we were assigned were consistently among the most compelling and thought-provoking assignments we had. Because I enjoyed the episodes so much, I watched a number of extra episodes in addition to those that were assigned. The one that I think would be most beneficial to add to the curriculum is “White Christmas”.

The episode deals with a number of themes that are important as far as digital culture is concerned and would fit in well with the rest of the assignments. It intertwines multiple story arcs that don’t come together until the end of the episode and utilizes a beautiful narrative structure that keeps it as interesting as it is thought-provoking.

The key themes that underpin the episode are the nature of privacy rights in the digital age, how technology affects personal relationships, and how technology can both give us power and render us powerless in some situations. Additionally, this episode addresses questions about the extent to which AI programs deserve rights. What I think makes the episode a valuable addition to the class is that it ties all these themes together and shows how all the different topics we discuss in class come together and influence each other. On top of these topics, it also deals with some things that aren’t strictly about technology but are still worth discussion and very relevant to our modern world, such as the rights inmates deserve.

Because of the variety of themes it contains, this episode could be assigned at any time during the semester, but I think it would work best towards to end of the semester, to show how many of the topics we discuss can come together and create a future fraught with ethically ambiguous situations.

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historical remix

The Cuban revolution has shocked the world, challenging the dominance of American business interests in the Caribbean and Latin America. Here is a deep dive on the use of social media during this turbulent time.

Fidel Castro rose to prominence as a leader of the struggle in part by his revolutionary (hehe) use of social media that spread awareness and made his message accessible to marginalized groups and those traditionally left out of the political process. He became known for using Twitter as a means of gaining support at home and abroad by speaking out against the Batista regime. Once the revolution got underway, Castro would use Twitter as an opportunity to portray himself as a calm and regular guy, perhaps as a ploy to gain popularity with young people and the middle class. Being as no secret information about the revolution could be posted for the world to see, his tweets primarily were used to raise awareness and try to win over more supporters.

a true man of the people, using memes to communicate with the masses

It was on Twitter that Castro first announced the victory of his revolutionary forces in the fight against Batista.

After Castro and Co. defeated Batista, however, things got a little tense. After a short period of good relations, the United states had a falling out with the new Cuban leadership over their planed agrarian reform. Things spiraled out of control. The US implemented an economic embargo of the island; in response, Cuba proceeded to nationalize without compensation all American owned businesses (and much more). As a final insult, the US cancelled their import of Cuban sugar, a key export for the island nation.

US president Dwight Eisenhower, who previously had eschewed social media as a means of communication, made history as the first American president to tweet a major policy announcement when he tweeted about the situation in Cuba.

This development led to a public fallout between the two countries, something that was only going to get worse when the US attempted to overthrow the Cuban government with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Alas, it was not to succeed, and Castro personally led the Cuban forces to defeat the invading troops, securing his reign and reputation as a fighter against American influence in Latin America.

Twitter was accused of picking sides when they refused to verify Castro’s popular account, whereas the mostly inactive @POTUS account used by Eisenhower was verified immediately. If it is any consolation to him, Castro is by and large considered the more adept user of social media, and after the revolution became famous for seven hour long Facebook -Live streams and youtube videos where he rated different ice cream shops around Cuba. What a strange world we live in.

 

sources used:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Fidel-Castro

https://www.britannica.com/event/Cuban-Revolution

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a page turner, it is not

 

For this blog post, I am looking at Spotify’s privacy policy to see if there are any strange things lurking there and see how my data is being used whenever I listen to music. I’m looking at Spotify because I use it so much and have never thought about its privacy policy much.

As far as things go, the Spotify privacy agreement is not as long and complicated as some other ones (I’m looking at you iTunes), but there is a lot going on nonetheless. It is made clear that just about every interaction you have on Spotify generates data that they can use to “to provide and personalize the Spotify Service”. Additionally any interactions with third parties that go through the site are also recorded. This means that they can access some of your data from advertisers as well as any other accounts you have linked to your Spotify account (ex. Facebook).

The collection of data on how you use the service is not very surprising, but it is worth noting that they also collect information such as your IP address (which also provides general location) and in some instances even your specific location. Additionally any use of the voice search feature can be recorded and kept; they say this is to help develop and improve the feature.

The privacy policy also lays out what rights the listener has (not that there are too many). The listener has the right to be informed of the personal data Spotify has about them, as well as the right to request access to and a copy of the data. The user can also request that Spotify update their data about an individual if it is in some way inaccurate, and can even request for Spotify to delete their data entirely. I was surprised that users have the right to have their data deleted, though I’m not sure if I may be misinterpreting the language of the agreement. It says that the listener has the right to request that the data is deleted, etc. not that the listener has the right to have the data deleted. I’m not sure if there’s any significance to that or not but I did feel it was worth noting. 

It was interesting to read the policy since I usually just click “accept” to the terms and conditions without reading them, something that seems to be the norm for most people. Below is a clip of an American teenager explaining whether or not he reads privacy policies.

“Weirdly enough, the only privacy policy I’ve read is Snapchat’s. Snapchat does a good job of sort of escaping all the legal sort of structure and language and speaking colloquially so it’s easy to comprehend and understand, and it’s also pretty short. But that’s the only one I’ve read because most of the time they’re extremely long; people make it part of the process of signing up for something and you want to do that fairly quickly”

As with the individual explaining above, I hadn’t read many privacy policies so I found it interesting to see what was in this one. All in all I didn’t find the policy too surprising since I generally act under the assumption that my data is being taken and used for all manner of nefarious things at all times, but I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by the enumerated rights of the listener. The service does collect a lot of data, but it doesn’t have the ability to collect as much as some other apps/services, since it only collects data while it is actively being used. It is certainly not able to collect as much data as the Google Home Mini smart speakers that Spotify delivered for free to its Premium users recently*. Those have the ability to listen 24/7, catalog what apps you use and how, and record what is being said at all times. Perhaps I’ll read the privacy policy for that next time, but quite frankly I’m scared to know the full extent to which my speaker is listening in on my life.

 

 

*https://inews.co.uk/news/technology/google-spotify-privacy-free-smart-speaker-amazon-alexa-home-662919

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i really do be spying though

 

Up first is Professor Mary Abdoney. Active on Twitter and Instagram, she posts with moderate frequency about a variety of topics. I have gleaned from her posts that she enjoys taking pictures of flowers and sewing. Additionally, her political views seem to be liberal with an interest in LGBT rights and she has a very deep interest in Digital Pedagogy. She has one child and at least one cat. It is also worth nothing that her Twitter profile alludes to her having another, private, Twitter account which I did not find. Professor Abdoney Tweets things of a political nature and it seems her audience is largely of a similar persuasion as she, so there is certainly risk of being in an echo chamber.

 

 

My second Professor, Elizabeth Anne Teaff, is less active online, seeming to have no outlet for regular posting. However, she is somewhat active on Facebook and there were a couple of instances of Pride flags being in pictures, suggesting a liberal view on LGBT rights and likely politics in general. She has worked at W&L for more than 15 years. Her birthday is June 16.

 

As far as how this exercise may cause me to change my online habits, I don’t think it’ll cause any major changes since I’m already pretty careful and don’t have a lot of social media. Additionally, all of my most dubious hot takes are generally shared in a setting such as Instagram stories that can be limited to certain people and are not on my profile for longer than 24 hours.

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one day of web interactions

Hello all, this here is my first post. In it I will seek to describe a day in the life of me, as an online individual.

In this day and age, with an increasing proportion of our lives spent online, it’s exceedingly important to be cognizant of just how influential technology has become in our lives. A recent report by the Pew Research Center found that 48% of 18-29 year olds report using the internet “almost constantly”, and that number is only growing*. In light of this, I think that everyone should reflect on how they use technology and the effect it is having on their lives.

A few days ago, while eating a socially distant outdoor dinner with a couple friends, a disaster struck that has altered my relationship with technology very much. My phone was resting on the table next to me and in a momentary lapse of awareness I brushed my arm across the table, pushing my reliable iPhone 5s onto the concrete sidewalk. Needless to say, its screen was in a very bad way. Since that happened, there have been moments when my phone was functional, but that has been the exception and not the norm. My interactions with my phone since then have included being unable to turn off an alarm during class and having to ask Siri what time it was when the screen showed only black and white stripes.

All in all, my use of the web over the last day was not very interesting at all, and consisted mostly of doing work for my various classes. In the morning (well maybe more like early afternoon), I ate brunch while perusing the news online. I then proceeded to do my school work. I accessed my assignments online, checked my email, and submitted the work online when done. The work consisted of a variety of assignments, from reading various articles to listening to a podcast about the importance of corn to Native American culture. In one somewhat ironic episode, I was taking notes on Ted Kaczynski’s rebuke of modern technological society while listening to Spotify and accessing his writings online. Other than school work, I didn’t do too much online today, which I reckon is probably healthy.

If only I could be a little more efficient while working I might get my screen time down to where my laptop lasts all day on just one charge, but as of now that goal is a long way off :/

 

 

* Perrin, Andrew, and Madhu Kumar. “About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Say They Are ‘Almost Constantly’ Online.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/25/americans-going-online-almost-constantly/.

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