Japera’s World

Archive for February 2009

I love reading celebrity gossip, especially about black Hollywoood and the drama in urban music. Everyday, I log on to a major collection of websites; concreteloop, bossip, and ybf, that carry the “news” I so desire. This urban celebrity gossip definitely reaches a niche market that interests a relatively small number of consumers. However, in total, these websites receive hundreds if not thousands of viewers each day. This is an example of the long tail that the rise of internet technology has created. Although not mainstream, the rise in social media vehicles has allowed for those who are interested in lesser known movie and music stars to get their fill of daily gossip as well.

The long tail has also allowed me to expand my other hobbies into the online world. These include the music that I am able to download on itunes as well as the numerous movies I am able to view on my computer. Altough the movies may not have been hits at the box office recently, users online can share links of good movies of the past as well as lesser known movies out today that the mainstream media overlooks. Not only do these sites allow users to share the links but communicate with each other by writing reviews, creating playlists, and participating in movie discussions.

In addition to movies and music I am also able to watch television shows online. While one show has a specified time slot that it pays for each day or each week when broadcasting on the television, this is not so online. Networks like MTV, NBC and the CW can place all their content for their programming online all at once. This allows viewers to watch numerous episodes in one sitting. By placing their shows online, networks are able to draw in new fans and are not restricted by the common restraints of telvision broadcasting such time and money.

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I have lost three phones, and had to shell out money to repair two very expensive ones. So, I too screamed foul play at the opening story espoused in Clay Shirky’s book, “Here Comes Everybody.” The story chronicles the exploits of a women and her friend Evan’s desperate pursuit to return to her, her very expensive lost…then stolen cellular phone. The women in NYC takes a cab ride and after exiting the cab realizes too late, that she left her phone in the car. She chalks it up as lost until she goes to the phone company to retrieve the information from her phone on the company’s server. To her surprise, the person who stole her phone, Sasha, had downloaded pictures of herself. On top of that, they were able to decipher her email address and immediately ask for the phone to be returned. Sasha does not. In the end, Evan, begins social media warfare by using his webpage to incite a mass of followers to speak out against “the injustices of cell phone theft” as well as the police’s reluctance to assist in this crime.

In the beginning, I was excited that Evan and his friend were able to retrieve the lost phone by bringing attention to the situation. I was  even more excited that they were able to “stick it” to the police who were, in essence, too lazy to do anything about it. However, I began to feel ashamed of myself as Shirky explained the dynamics of the situation.

Evan, a well to do, white, New Yorker -because of his status- had a job that allowed him to spend multiple hours manning a website in efforts to retrieve the phone. While Sasha, the teenage, unwed Hispanic mother, did not. On his website, Evan allowed for offensive behavior taunting Sasha’s race, class, suggesting  violence against her and even spouting sexual innuendos. The question Shirky asks us at the conclusion of his story is “Do we want a world in which a well-off grown-up can use this kind of leverage to get a teenager arrested, as well as named and shamed on a global platform, for what was a fairly trivial infraction?”

The story and therefore the answer is no longer as simple. What occurred here was “the spirit of the masses.” Evan provided a forum whereby hundreds and thousands of people incited themselves virtually. Where in real life this could spark a riot, online is started a message board overflowing with abusive and racist speech.

America’s founding forefathers cautioned against the danger of the collective masses and for that reason protected against such in our Constitution. Why shouldn’t the same guidelines be applicable to our virtual world. An online Bill of Rights can serve as a guide (by no means should it be law) in an effort to avoid the destructive behavior online. Because let’s be real, it’s far too easy to get caught up in the masses, even virtually.

It’s the Frankenstein theory. We have an Ingenuous idea to create something, to make life easier, to further our knowledge as we delve deeper into science and technology. As our creation takes life, we can’t help but be proud of our accomplishment. But all to soon, power shifts and then we become afraid of the monster we’ve created.

To put a modern twist on it… Even I’ve seen I-Robot. We use technology to create something to assist us in our daily lives. In this case, it was robots. Robot driven cars, robot driven maids, etc. We feed more and more into the product and pretty soon every household has access to robotic assistance. Then technology advances and the robot begins thinking for itself. In the end, the creator becomes the victim.

Now, I know these are pretty extreme examples and Google may never reach these monstrous proportions. But apparently some are beginning to seriously ponder the affects of Google’s rise to power. Let me illustrate by making comparisons. Two men, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, create a search engine from the confines of their small Stanford University dormitory. While not the basement of a mansion, such as was the birthplace of Frankenstein, still, you catch my drift. Their technological achievement was that their search engine pooled results based upon the most popular pages. Like the technology in I-Robot, their product, Google, soon caught on and growth was fast. According to Search, a book by John Battelle, ‘In the United States alone, 38 million people are using a search engine daily.’ 51 percent of these people conduct their searches on Google’s website. That number is rising.

As technology keeps advancing, and Google has the ability to do more and more, consumers are now becoming worried. Emails sail around the internet with subjects such as “Google knows where you live” and can give directions to your house by simply supplying a phone number. After the Privacy Act was initiated, Google could be called on to give the government information about what you searched on your home browser at anytime. In short, Google has access to numerous amounts of information, that because its called “the publics’ right to know,” is now only TOO accessible. To top it all off, according to Battelle and other industry insiders, Google and other search engines have the most promise of creating Artificial Intelligence. Cue the I-Robot and Frankenstein theme songs.

Still, with all this, I’m not worried. Its far too early to tell what will become of Google and frankly, to dwell on speculations at this point, would be a gross exaggeration and a waste of time. But remember this, the humans defeat the machines in I-Robot and in the Frankenstein disappears, never to be seen again.

Today was my first foray into the online world of podcasts and vblogs (video blogs). At first I didn’t understand the significance of them. To me, they were basically forms of radio and television that are accesible from your computer screen.True, it speaks to the synergy of modern media technology, but what else? What makes them special?

Then, I made it over to www.rocketboom.com. Each day, they upload an episode chronicling internet culture. It is satirical and extremely humurous. I actually laughed out loud when I watched today’s post http://www.rocketboom.com/rb_09_feb_03/. It reminds me of the John Stewart Show in that it’s “News With a Twist.”

Aside from Vblogs and podcasts that are for pure entertainment value, one can also stay current on political and social issues with the numerous podcasts found on itunes and/or the internet. Some of the most popular podcasts include President Obama’s Weekly Address, The Economist, and National Public Radio.

Vblogs and Podcasts are yet another vehicle that encourages self-expression and makes it accesible to the masses. Start a vblog or a podcast and instead of simply writing about your experiences for others, you can literally “Show Them.” In todays world where few people take the time to read anything anymore, a podcast allows them to listen while they work, or sit and watch at lunch or after a long day. All you need is the right technology and, like blogs, you are instantly connected.

In the corporate environment podcasts and vblogs can be used as yet another marketing tool or as a way to keep your public consistantly informed. President Obama is once again thinking progressively in his use of technology. His weekly address is the number one podcast on itunes. Corporations and government agencies would be wise to follow his lead to maintain an open corporate environment and encourage consumer understanding and feedback.



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