Packing & moving digital domains

I have been collecting stuff over here since 2005. The space has become cluttered and messy and more unloved as time passed.
One way to go would be to clean it all up and to re-create a space that’s useful to me. But who has the time to empty the digital spaces of their lives?

Instead of cleaning the alternative is maybe deletion. I swift painless (or do I mean painful) solution to the overload problem. But that seemed a tad extreme.

So I chose a third option and started a new site. It will be more focused on my current work and less dependent upon the stuff that was created here. At first I thought that I would just leave everything here, but nostalgia got the better of me and I exported the texts and left the images.

So my new sleek digital profile is http://klangable.com. This matches my twitter handle @klangable and (of course) klangable@gmail.com.

New York Times’ prophetic 1983 warning about the NSA

The scary part about the whole NSA Prism story is the predictability, if not inevitability of the whole affair. The shock of the disclosure lies mainly in the hope that government will not do what they have the power to do.

Via BoingBoing comes this 1983 article from The New York Times written by David Burnham: THE SILENT POWER OF THE N.S.A.

No laws define the limits of the N.S.A.’s power. No Congressional committee subjects the agency’s budget to a systematic, informed and skeptical review. With unknown billions of Federal dollars, the agency purchases the most sophisticated communications and computer equipment in the world. But truly to comprehend the growing reach of this formidable organization, it is necessary to recall once again how the computers that power the N.S.A. are also gradually changing lives of Americans – the way they bank, obtain benefits from the Government and communicate with family and friends. Every day, in almost every area of culture and commerce, systems and procedures are being adopted by private companies and organizations as well as by the nation’s security leaders that make it easier for the N.S.A. to dominate American society should it ever decide such action is necessary.

Wearable camera takes 2 photos per minute

Lifelogging has been a buzzword for some time now, but its still a cumbersome task for most of us. But this is not going to last long.

One device that’s going to make this all too easy is the Memoto, which has the tag line “Remember every moment.”

The product is small and simple, clip it on and it takes two photos per minute until you take it off. In the promotion video Memoto says: “What if we could build a camera small enough to never be in the way, but smart enough to capture life as we live it.”

The mass of 5 megapixel pictures are stored on Memoto’s storage surface, and include the time and the location where they were taken. Via an app the photo’s are searchable via gps and time.

When the images are stored on the cloud they are organized into moments, represented by the algorithmically chosen most interesting image.

Sure this is a cool toy, its small, light and colorful. But it also raises several ethical implications. Such as:

  • Many of the people around will have no idea they are being photographed by the device
  • People may object in general to having their time and location and image stored
  • What happens if the device carrier walks into sensitive areas such as hospitals, courts, police stations
  • Who controls the images
  • Who accesses the images (legally or illegally)
  • Copyright questions
  • Trade secrets

Despite all these questions the devices are available and will probably be around soon. A day will produce over 1000 pictures – which explains the need for the algorithm to help us sift through the garbage. But even then I suspect that most of us will realize that we live fundamentally boring lives, probably not worth documenting.

 

Public shaming with technology

A question that has been bouncing around my head for a while, and maybe this is because of an article I’m working on now, is why do people use technology to shame, defame, slander or insult in ways that they would never do without technology?

This is not a new discussion. In the early Internet days part of the answer that was often used was the idea that people felt that they could be anonymous online and this made “bad behavior” permissible or possible.

The important thing about this anonymity was that it was a perceived sense of anonymity as opposed to real anonymity. This caused many to believe that if anonymity could be taken away technology users would behave themselves.

Surveillance would resolve bad behavior.

This thinking created the idea of enforcing real identities online.

Countries like China and South Korea and companies like Google and Facebook have for different reasons implemented real identities online.

Naturally policies and regulations such as these have been criticized.

But do we behave if we do not believe ourselves to be anonymous online?

Apparently not.

Look at the abuse that Marion Bartoli, the woman’s Wimbledon champion, faced.

With tweets like “Someone as ugly and unattractive as Bartoli doesn’t deserve to win” there is a direct connection between physical appearance and physical skill. Sadly, of course, this connection is more common when it is related to women.

What is interesting is that many of those who offered opinions like this (and worse) were not anonymous and yet they were still openly hostile, belligerent and maybe slanderous.

The Swedish clothes company H&M printed clothes with pictures of Tupac Shakur, a 21 year old Swedish woman, wrote to question on H&M’s Facebook page asking why they thought it was ok to use the picture of a man convicted of sexual abuse in their clothing.

As a result she received thousands of comments, she was threatened with, amongst other things, rape, stoning and drowning. The main discussion was whether or not H&M had behaved correctly by not being actively enough in removing comments.

But what is interesting is that the comments where all on Facebook, people seemed to be happily open with their misogynistic, threatening and illegal comments. There was no illusion of anonymity, the users were easily identifiable by everyone and yet this did not stop them.

Bad behavior online is not prevented by openly identifying everyone.

Sun, Sand and GikII VIII

It’s GikII time.

When robots, drones, autonomous agents, Facebook stalking, teleportation, 3D printing, MMORPGS, science fiction, computer games and superhero justice are discussed within the realms of the law and LOL cats, you know the time for the annual GikII workshop has arrived! Yes it’s time for GikII VIII – and a time to immerse ourselves in debates about cutting-edge technology, popular culture and the law.

This year GikII will be “in sunny, golden-sandy Southern city of Bournemouth with its sparkling sea and almost California-like-but-not-quite atmosphere. It will be held on 16-17 September 2013″

All the info you need is over here.

Contributing to the commodification of our existence

When you think you have seen it all… Göteborg this week experienced a “slut shaming riot” (not three words I expect to see in one sentence) actually the background is better explained here but I couldn’t resist “slut shaming riot”. The short version is:

The turmoil was set off after an Instagram user asked for tips on “sluts” in Gothenburg, and promised anonymity to anyone sending in pictures. More than 200 pictures were submitted, giving names and alleged sexual activities of girls aged 13 to 14.

A 17-year-old girl was outed on Facebook as being behind the Instagram account, a mob  organized via Facebook, set off to teach her a lesson.

The rioting students then moved over to the Nordstan mall in central Gothenburg, forcing confused holiday shoppers to take cover inside stores as police work to bring the unruly teens under control.

Naturally the media was asking lots of strange questions attempting to find someone to hang. Who’s fault is it? Kids today? Social media? Technology in general?

Most reports didn’t explicitly say it but they were steeped in the nostalgia of days gone by and the illusion magnified through history that these kinds of things never happened when they were young, that things really were better in the good old days.

Really stupid. A largely non-violent riot made up of teenagers? The concept is as old as history. People using an external trigger to let of steam and to take advantage of a situation… That must describe almost every riot in history!

Amid all this media clutter the question gets asked: Are we going to grow up and stop using social media? The answer is most obviously NO. Social media users like using social media – it fills a need and provides a service. Obviously we will not stop using this medium.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think about what the medium is doing to us. There is a great level of social media fatigue. My favorite example comes in the form of humor. We are developing a larger ability to poke fun at social media use – it’s not pointing at the stupidity of others but actually poking fun at our own use.

Take for example the excellent Look at this Instagram (Nickelback Parody) which show’s how our need to “share” is not innovative, creative or special. Seriously “Look at this coffee foam… I’m frigging Michelangelo” talks to me :)

However there are more important problems that are being missed. Our “bad” behaviors – oversharing, outing others, narcissism, voyeurism, stalking… just to name a few – need to be addressed but while we argue on the correct social norms of social media use we are blind to the bigger problem.

We are contributing to the commodification of our own existence. The companies that provide these services are collecting all our data. It’s not only the material you share but all your behavior (check out YouTube What Facebook Knows About You & Malte Spitz’s TEDTalk: Your phone company is watching).

These massive surveillance systems use the data they collect to manipulate the way we think by hiding and revealing different information to different users (Have written and spoken a lot about this. Here is an example). Then there is the question of who should own the rights to a users data. BTW please remember a picture of your face, flirting online & comforting a loved one is all “data”.

The licensing puts the legal right in the hands of the companies. You signed the license. You don’t like it? Then f**k off. But there is more to rights than licenses. I like the way Mat Honan expresses his sense of being betrayed in Why I Quit Instagram

By now you’ve likely heard Instagram changed its terms of service. There is a lot not to like, but I didn’t quit because of any single change in particular.

Why did I quit Instagram? It’s the thoughtlessness, stupid.

Instagram was built not by a team of ten in San Francisco’s South Park – but by tens of millions and then hundreds of millions of people all over the world. …

Which makes it remarkable that the company has shown such utter disrespect for that very network of people.

We like using social media and should be allowed to use social media. What the discussion should be is turning to the question of why companies are allowed to profiteer in the way they do on our data.

Who is going to protect us? Well it should be the same legislators who are busy abdicating their power to the social media companies and hiding behind the sanctity of the contract: In this case a ridiculous document few have read, even fewer can understand and whose terms get changed at the drop of a hat.

We are protected by lofty human and civil rights documents. Government has a duty of care to ensure that we are not harmed. And still nothing.

The rights we have worked hard to achieve, the rights we so proudly proclaim in other circumstances are now all being contractually frittered away…

Every pic you take
Every post you make
Everything you like
All your friends in sight
Facebook’s using you

Every smiling friend
You post on Instagram
Won’t belong to you
Nothing you can do
Facebook’s using you

Oh can’t you see
They know you and me
Can match your name to a face, that can be accessed anyplace

And maybe just next year
Whatever shop you near
Cameras ID you
To further market to
Facebook now owns ‘you’

Since it came the net is a worse space
If I share I feel like I’ll be traced
The buttons and the “like us” pleas disgrace
The thoughtful words that they replaced
I just can’t not feel paranoid

You own nothing here
It couldn’t be more clear
Instead of getting mean
You feed the machine
The one that’s using you

—© 2012 Facebook
via Rosinal McDonald (found in the comments section of Why I Quit Instagram)

Bileta 2013 Call for papers

I have a soft spot for the Bileta conference. It’s one of the earliest technology law conferences I began to attend and many of the people I met at the early conference are still colleagues. Bileta is the British and Irish law education and technology association and this years conference will be held between 10th – 12th April 2013 at the Liverpool Law School, University of Liverpool.

The extended call is here: http://www.bileta.ac.uk/content/files/2013_conference_call.pdf

Important Dates

January 18, 2013: Submission of abstracts and panels (subject to double blind review).  February 1, 2013: Notification of acceptances.
March 15, 2013: Full Papers (between 7,000 and 10,000 words, excluding footnotes).

Real Fame at Last: my acceptance speech

As an academic we measure stuff and compare all the time. I’m not talking about research but rather the comparisons between each other. Who has the longest publication list, given the most keynotes, sat on the most advisory boards…

Today is a major moment as I have received the highest form of praise an Internet researcher can obtain. It is an object of desire that I have been dreaming of, but not daring to hope for.

So I would like to thank the academy, my advisers, supervisors and all my collaborators: without you guys none of this would have been possible.

Today a cease and desist letter finally graced my inbox.

We are requesting that you remove the link back to our site.

Admittedly it’s the weakest form of c&d letter and is not accompanied by evil threats but it contains the most vital statement necessary to enable induction into the halls of Internet fame. Once again: Thank You.