Best Blogs

Looking back on this quarter, I have really enjoyed blogging more than I thought I would.  Not only was it fun to write my own blogs, but reading blogs from my classmates has allowed me to see things in different ways.  Personally, one of my favorite blogs to write, and one of my strongest blogs, was my post from our second week of blogging.  My blog post, Have Copyrighting and Trademarking Gone Too Far??, is based off of the readings we did on class by Lawrence Lessig on remixing media.  The first week of blogging I was not really sure what to expect or what to post, but the second week, after seeing some great examples from our class, I was able to really get into it.  I used links, pictures, quotes, and videos throughout the blog to help make my point.  In addition, I think that I did a good job making it easy to read and trying to engage the reader by asking questions at the end.

I think that my second strongest blog was “If you could live forever, would you?”  Again, I really enjoyed writing this blog.  As a biomedical engineer, what happens after death is something that is very interesting to me and finding the article I did about cloning was even more exciting!  To be able to incorporate something that I was very interested in allowed me, I hope, to write a good blog that was interesting to read and made people think about this topic in new ways.  In addition, one of the questions I ask, about how far is too far, is very open ended and allows different people to express their different views on the issue.

I think that one of my best comments was on Eric’s blog about Viral Marketing.   I thought that this article was very interesting to read and did a good job of incorporating concepts we discussed in class.  I think my comment did a good job of addressing the topics and questions Eric presented.  Another thing  about this comment that I liked was the fact that I was able to talk about Chandler’s comment on the article in my comment.  His comment added a lot to the post and he commented on something that this blog made me think of, so I was excited to see I was not the only one who thought of viral videos gone wrong.

My second comment I have chosen to be one of my strongest is the comment on Chandler’s blog about the Ice Bucket Challenge being wasteful.  I was excited about this comment because I felt like I was able to add something of value to his post.  He was asking for other internet trends that could be wasteful and although I wasn’t able to think of another internet trend (that had not already been talked about in the comments above), I think that talking about music videos was relevant and has to do with people being wasteful for the enjoyment of internet users.  I can think of multiple examples where I have heard of celebrities being wasteful with water and countless other resources while making videos.

Viral Media – Is Raising Awareness Enough??

Everyone has seen some type of media that has “gone viral,” whether it be a picture, video, Facebook post, or Tweet.  Many of these viral forms of media are digital advocacy pieces that support or raise awareness for a certain cause.  Consider a very famous and recent example of a viral digital advocacy piece, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Almost everyone knows the idea behind the ice bucket challenge and has seen a video of someone they know or a famous celebrity participating.  The idea is that you must either respond to the challenge and dump a bucket of ice water on your head, or donate $100 to the ALS foundation.  This method of raising money has faced criticism from some, such as Will Oremus, because it allows many people to participate in the challenge and not donate any money to the cause.  Will Oremus further argues that people are not participating in this challenge to support the ALS cause, but rather to raise “awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt.”  In other words, he thinks that people are participating for selfish reasons rather than because they want to support the ALS foundation.  Oremus wants people to skip the Ice Bucket and simply donate to the cause, which would be awesome in theory, but doesn’t happen.

We would like to think that it wouldn’t take a Facebook challenge to prompt donations to worthwhile causes, such as ALS research, but this is not usually the case.  Even Oremus has to admit that the campaign is very effective, stating ” it has raised $1.35 million in the past two weeks. It raised just $22,000 in the same period last year.”  In addition to the money raised, more and more people have been talking about ALS, which is good.  This is not a common disease and it is important that people are aware of it so affected people can get the help they need.  But this, and many other viral media campaigns, make us wonder if raising awareness is enough.  For example, everyone may have been talking about ALS, but do they actually know anything about it?  The Ice Bucket Challenge videos almost never share important information about the disease, other than the name, and you would have to research online on your own to find out more.  For those of you wondering what ALS stands for, it stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (something you wouldn’t know even if you watched hundreds of Ice Bucket Challenges).  Check out the ALS Association website for more information on the disease.  So, although it is indisputable that people are talking about ALS, are they talking about the right things to make a difference in the search for a cure?  Check out this information about the Ice Bucket Challenge and its massive online presence.

As the saying goes, any press is good press, and the Ice Bucket Challenge certainly did generate a lot of ‘press.’  Considering this issue of awareness and it’s usefulness, read this  article published by The Atlantic with their views on the issue , ultimately deciding that awareness is not a bad thing, and in fact can be a good first step towards making positive changes.  What do you think?  Did the ALS foundation do a good job with the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign, or does it not do enough to raise money and awareness of the disease?  Is there perhaps another method they could have used that would have been more effective in raising money and educating people?

Teen Sexting

Over the past few decades, with the invention and widespread use of the camera phone, a new word has been added to the dictionary – sexting.  As defined in the Marriam-Webster dictionary, “sexting is the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone.”  This relatively new problem has caught many law enforcement officers and other officials by surprise, as they have never dealt with this modern issue before.  A common misconception by adults is that sexting is not very common.  A study in 2008, by National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, provided to following data:

As you can see, this data suggests that sexting is actually fairly common.  Furthermore, as the number of camera phone owners and users increase and apps like Snapcaht are invented, it is reasonable to assume the the percentage of teen sexters may rise.

This article, published in 2014, talks about sexting scandals that were uncovered at schools and how parents, teachers, and students responded to the issue.  After the problem was initially discovered, an investigation was launched and, as discussed above, the officers realized that sexting was a larger problem than they initially thought.  After just a couple of days of investigating, “the deputies had filled multiple evidence bins with phones, and they couldn’t see an end to it.”  But this was only the beginning of their problems, the officers soon realized that the laws in place may not be appropriate given the crimes committed.  Donald Lowe, the Louisa County’s chief deputy sheriff, explained that he did not want to charge these kids with life-altering crimes that could affect their futures in such a profound way “just for being stupid.”  In cases like this, the children and parents usually have no idea what the legal ramifications of sexting are and would be shocked to learn how serious the potential charges are.

This website outlines some of the laws that can be applied to sexting cases and talks about the potential consequences.

“Since 2009, about 19 states have adopted teen sexting laws, while in 2012 an additional 13 states were considering bills on the issue. Though teen sexting laws are not present in a majority of states, the trend appears to be towards more widespread adoption of sexting laws. In the meantime, in those states without sexting laws, sexting may still be punished under pre-existing laws that target child pornography.”

According to this, the law seems to be lessening the consequences of sexting to be more appropriate for the crimes.  The question is, should sexting be illegal at all?  ThinkProgress.org presents several points to try to convince parents to stop “freaking out” about teen sexting.  The article argues that “experts in the field agree that sexting in and of itself doesn’t necessary increase teens’ chances becoming sexually active earlier” and  that “it isn’t associated with any risky behaviors, like having multiple sexual partners or using drugs or alcohol before sex.”  What do you think?  Is sexting a big deal, or is it fairly normal behavior?  What should the punishments be for sexting?  And finally, should the laws and associated punishments vary based on the age of the offender?  In other words, should a 13 year old caught sexting be given the same punishment and an 18 year old, a 21 year old, or a 40 year old?

If you could live forever, would you?

Eventually, everyone dies.  This is a fact of life, and something that people have come to accept and deal with.  It is difficult to lose a loved one, but we have ways of dealing with loss and remembering those who are gone.  The evolution of technology has changed the way we mourn and remember those who have died.  Thousands of years ago, when someone died, they left very little behind for others to remember them by other than maybe something they made or built.  Next, portraits and pictures were developed as a more lasting reminder of who someone was and what they looked liked.  After photos came videos which could not only capture the way someone looked, but the way they acted and sounded.  These progressions are mainly seen as positive, after all, who wouldn’t want to watch a video reminding them of good times they have had with someone who has died?  But, with technology continuing to advance, we need to ask ourselves what would be considered too much?  Maybe we haven’t reached this point yet, but it could be coming.  Today, when you die, you can choose what will happen to your Facebook page.  For example, Facebook allows users to “tell us in advance whether you’d like to have your account memorialized or permanently deleted from Facebook.”  Both of these options seem reasonable and have advantages and disadvantages, but I don’t think that there are “going too far.”  Although, it may be upsetting to some to see their loved ones who have passed away still on Facebook as it could serve as a constant reminder of who they used to be.

One example of technology that could be considered frightening is a program that will continue to tweet for you after you die.   It attempts to learn your typical behavior by observing your pasts posts and will then predict what you wold tweet about, if you were still alive, and post that for your followers to see.  A service like this will definitely help people remember you since you will still be “tweeting,” but is this really you?  Even if the algorithm used does a great job and posts tweets that sound just like something you would say, it seems impersonal and weird to be reading tweets from a dead person.  But, even if you think that tweeting from the grave isn’t weird, consider the more extreme example of cloning.  My Friend Again is a service that will allow you to clone your dog after they pass away.  It is reasonable to assume that in a few years cloning technology may be available for humans, would this be going too far?  Would it be weird to clone say a grandparent after their death and have them live again?  I guess my question is that, even though technology can immortalize us, is this something that is desirable or is a more traditional grieving process perhaps easier and healthier for everyone involved?

Censorship on Social Media

The internet and social media have allowed people to spread their ideas faster and further than ever before, and you can post almost anything online including, blogs, stories, pictures, videos, and more.  However, where you post your content online has a large impact on who sees it and how popular it will become.  Sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are all very popular, as millions of people use these sites.  It would seem logical that, if you want to use these sites to share information, you would have to follow their rules; but some people don’t see it this way and think they should be protected from censorship online.  Consider the case of Charles Johnson, a well-known internet troll who often posts ridiculous things online.  Twitter is one of the mediums he uses to spread his messages, but one Tweet caused his account to be banned from using the site.  The Tweet in question implies that Charles Johnson is going to kill someone.  Embedded image permalinkMr. Johnson claims that this was not what he meant when composing this Tweet, but it came off as threatening to many, including DeRay Mckesson, who was the one being threatened.  In the same article that discusses this Tweet, the common misconception that the first
amendment gives people the protection to post anything they want online is addressed.  The first amendment of the constitution is a contract between you and the government, not between you and private companies (such as Twitter).  Charles Johnson is saying that the suspension of his account is unfair and obviously does not understand that Twitter is a private company that can ban anyone they want from their site for any reason.

The case of Charles Johnson seems pretty straight forward, and there is almost certainly no legal grounds on which he could move to get his account reinstates.  After all, one of his arguments is “Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with people using their service to coordinate riots… But they do have a problem with the kind of journalism I do.”  Pointing your finger at someone else and saying “they did something worse” is never a good excuse and certainly doesn’t make what you did right.  But, Charles Johnson is no the only one who has a problem with companies limiting what can and cannot be posted on their sites.  Check out this video that talks about nipples, specifically women’s nipples, being banned from social media sites.  People feel that they are being censored and restricted unfairly.  Maybe there isn’t really a difference between men and women’s nipples, but that isn’t really for you to decide (unless of course you run a large internet company such as Facebook).  If you don’t agree with a company’s policies, such as Instagram or Twitter, maybe you just shouldn’t use their site.  What do you think?  Is censorship online unfair, or is it fair, just unpopular?  And if it is unfair, what should be changed?  Do you think there should literally be no limits to what you can post?

Gender Equality in Online Information

In today’s digital society, people often go online in search of information rather than using print sources.  Sites such as Wikipedia have become widely used by people of all ages and allows information to be more accessible than in the past.  Part of the beauty of these online sources of information is that they can be added to/edited by anyone.  This allows a very diverse group of people to share information and ideas, but in practice the group of contributors is not as diverse as we may think.  An article in the New York Times found that the percentage of contributors to Wikipedia that were female was barely 13%.  It is possible that men simply use the internet, and technology in general, more than women, but this does not seem to be true.  One study found that women spend more time online than men, about 8% more to be exact, begging the question why don’t they share their opinions and knowledge as often as men do?

One possible explanation for this disparity in female and male contributors could be due to a phenomenon known as the confidence gap.  The theory is that men are inherently more confident than women and are more willing to share their thoughts and ideas in a public setting.  This is a potentially dangerous trap to fall into because confidence does not always correlate with competence.  Men are more likely to share their thoughts through online sites, like Wikipedia, but they do not have more important or better ideas than women.

An inequality in the amount of data found online for different subjects also arises.  For example, topics that men are interested in generate more activity and are usually longer than articles that appeal mainly to women.  The New York Times article, mentioned above, talks about the differences in the length of entries on two popular TV shows, “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos.”  One is mainly watched by women, leading to a much smaller Wikipedia page.  This variation in the amount of information available online does not in any way reflect upon the content, complexity, or quality of the show, but rather the audience demographics.

This problem of gender inequality online has detrimental effects and limits the amount of information available.  Consider the fact that approximately 50% of the population is female.  Society, as a whole, is missing out on so much if this half of the population doesn’t share the information and knowledge they have.  Many people, such as the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, are trying to increase the percentage of women contributors online, but this is proving to be an uphill battle.  As stated by Catherine Orenstein, the founder and director of the OpEd Project, in the article “When you are a minority voice, you begin to doubt your own competencies.”  What do you think, what is the best way to promote women contributors to online sites such as Wikipedia and is there a way to reverse the confidence gap that separates men and women?

Have Copyrighting and Trademarking gone too far??

Everyone knows that the world is a much different place today than it was 50 years ago.  The internet, and specifically sites such as YouTube, have given people access to a wide variety of information and media as well as the means to produce and share creative works of their own.  With the availability of other people’s work has come the temptation to use things created by others.  Celebrities and companies now have to work very hard to protect their work and try to discourage and prevent copyrighting and trademark violations, but should they?

Movie producers, singers, and other professionals work hard and deserve to be paid, but sometimes the lengths they go to in order to prevent others from using their ideas seem extreme.  One great example is Taylor Swift, who is notorious for not allowing others to take her music and change it an any way.  The only thing Taylor Swift wants you to do with her songs/albums are buy them and listen to the (unedited).

Earlier this year, many people were surprised to learn that Taylor was trying to trademark the lyrics from her recent song Shake it Off, specifically the phrase “This Sick Beat.”  As it turns out, this is legal although unpopular and difficult to enforce.

Some people, like Lawrence Lessig, think that being able to be creative with other’s work is important in today’s society to foster creativity and learning.  Lessing calls the use of many outside sources in your own work to create something new and meaningful ‘Remixing.’  Our culture, in the United States, is different from other places around the world because the focus here is “Here’s something, buy it” instead of “Here’s something, do something with it.”  This might be a bad thing, especially since Lessing argues that children “learn by remixing.”  Over the next few years, as media becomes more widely available, copyright laws may change as media becomes more democratic like writing.  However, for now, movies and music remain protected by law and cannot be remixed.

This is not to say that today’s youth cannot be creative, but it is more difficult and their are many hoops to jump through, sometimes requiring large sums of money to be paid.  This YouTube video explains how to legally use music, games, and movies in videos and other media that you create.

What do you think?  Are current copyrighting and trademark laws sufficient, do they go too far, or perhaps not far enough?  Finally, if there were less stringent regulations on copyrighted material, do you think kids would be more creative and use media more?