World War Web!

It was only a matter of time. Deep down we all knew it. The internet could not last as we knew it. Divisions lay in the camp. One company against the other. Who held the most weight? Who could get things done? At a European level, at an international level. A two-tiered system. It’ll be grand they said. Really? Do you expect us to believe that? Do you expect us to fall for it? The good point about the internet was that you were free and I know people can abuse that in ways. But there is an understanding at some level. If you were going to change everything, why introduce us to the world of internet in such a form to begin with? If things change drastically as they are quite likely to, there will be a reaction for sure. You think that the problems will go away by making it two-tiered. They won’t. There will be even greater problems and a disconnection across the wider world. Doing a search on the term ‘net neutrality’ is not very helpful, there seems to be a certain level of confusion surrounding this term. No clear cut definition. The policymakers carrying out these amendments know what’s in store but it will be a much later stage before we know the real impact of such amendments. I’m not an expert in this area but I am aware of the importance of free speech, and this also applies to the internet. There has been talk about paywalls in relation to media and such. Some are in force – streaming services and such. I would argue that until a code has been hammered out in relation to the tax affairs of multinationals, there is no argument to be even made in relation to gagging internet citizens. If someone could interfere with your phonecalls based on ploys and tactics in favour of certain companies would you stand for it? You call one pizza place but it is interfered with, so you have to call another pizza place, who are secretly giving backhanders to the phone service provider to interfere with those calls. Sounds very democratic, doesn’t it?

Free speech has divided people throughout history but it is basic human right. It is quite likely that any amendments will gag people, or chain them to a form of censorship as they may be discriminated against based on what data they are engaged with or hold. An internet black market of sorts will probably arise from all of this. What right does anybody have to store information about your search or file history and could then possibly manipulate data in order to discriminate against your person in the form of your IP? Something is not quite right there, that is a total violation of human rights unless that person is seen to be a direct threat to others for some valid reason. I do agree with a certain level of monitoring but tailoring data is not the way forward. Building data towers is not the way either. The internet is a worldwide phenomenon and therefore we should all have an input. There is not enough emphasis on managing technology which is the key issue if someone is taking to the airwaves to vent, or rant about not being entirely happy about something in life, and expressing themselves, in doing so, in an inappropriate manner. It is a reflection of wider societal issues that are not being addressed. But instead of taking responsibility, it has been decided to confuse, distract and divert people. We are not creating states which hold certain internet values because it is a global phenomenon but coming from different cultural norms and sets of beliefs our ideas of things are quite independent of one another. It is the internet that has begun to transform us in this manner and that is a positive thing and it should be embraced. We are beginning to identify, accept and celebrate difference and diversity, and connect through interests and ideas. Don’t stop us now! It is shameful to think that companies could attempt to influence policy when it is not in the interest of the common good and for their sole benefit. Every eventuality can arise from the internet, in the same way, every human being is unique and attempting to constrain human behaviour through internet civilisation will hinder rather than help people. There will be a backlash in some shape or form and it will manifest itself somehow.

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Eye(I)-in-a-speech-bubble is hopefully a step in the right direction. It has been designed in order to combat bullying online under the banner of I AM A WITNESS campaign. Whatever about the older generations who knew life before the onset of the world wide web in all its forms, young people know of nothing much else bar the screen they have become so familiar with. It is only right that their well-being is at the forefront in all they do. Without doubt the internet has become a platform for abuse, look to the end of certain journal articles on forums and you can see for yourself, or indeed any social networking website and its rants. This is the first step in the reimagined internet world in which we can all partake and enjoy. Exposure to high levels of abuse cannot be good for one’s health. There are better ways to deal with issues that people may be having in their personal lives. Eye-in-a-speech-bubble will help to highlight problem areas and we can begin to address these areas and develop solutions. Every website tends to segregate and separate what it does, however, perhaps it would be wiser to amalgamate. A have-your-say section on every website, a have-you-been-affected-any-issues raised on this website (like you have on national television programmes of a sensitive nature). People feel that they have become powerless in different situations and some reclaim this through the use of technology. But is this best practice? Will making something viral really bring about justice and right the wrongs? Have we created digi-vigi-justice, that is digital vigilante justice through memeifying and viralising everything? Sometimes it may get dragged into the formal justice system and used in evidence against the perpetrator, however, it usually is an informal way of dealing with issues wherever possible.

Should data have a shelf-life? Should data die? Do we really need to haunt ourselves daily with the past, something we said ten years ago resurfacing and may not reflect what we think today? Search FYI will prove to be a bone of contention making public posts searchable. I am sure that most people did not comprehend what this would have meant in the past. What about the implications of such a tool? Facebook has been seen to be a relatively private platform all along but now it is becoming very public within the site itself. Indeed some very interesting and embarrassing things could resurface from this yet. It may prove contentious on an international level and may require diplomatic assistance. One thing that could be recalled is the Thierry Henry sporting fiasco, there were a lot of angry Irish people at the time. This is just one example is the wider frame. And I’m sure that plenty of people out there would rather forget their past blunders in every shape and form. Particularly younger people, you will make plenty of mistakes while you are young, and is it the right thing to be punished for such mistakes? Something tells me that not everyone would agree. If there is one thing we have learned it is that we put our lives and others at risk sometimes in relation to technology, one prominent example is the Wanna-take-a-selfie-?(itis) phenomenon.

Selfies have taken over but why? There are plenty of psychological studies being carried out presently on this I am sure. In my opinion, the internet is like advertising and we have created ourselves in our own brand version to be liked and shared with the world. We only want to hear good things or we will unfriend you. We show our best sides and someone else will show you our worst (bit of competition, anyone?) We are the high flying executives who are at the mercy of big corporations, but we are so warped in our own technological and virtual worlds that we don’t fully understand what it is all about. We just want to get rich and famous quickly and have a good time when we can and let others know this (all the time). I have spoken to people and they find it ridiculing seeing people appearing to have a good time online. I can guarantee that many of them are lying through their teeth to sell their brand version of themselves. I want to be the funny go-to person that everybody loves but this just ain’t possible for everyone. There are very few people in the world that can love everybody and if they do it may suggest ignorance on their part.

It’s All Data, Data, Data!

Big Data and Big Money are interchangeable now. Last week Dell bought EMC to the tune of 67 billion. In my opinion, the deal is bound to payoff and be quite profitable in the long-term. Integrating systems can only bring the price down owing to economies of scale. Doing business with one company instead of two, or more, even. Both companies are reputable in the world of data business. Another topic of interest making headlines recently is the SafeHarbour/Max Schrems case. It brings to the fore the importance of privacy in relation to data. The argument can be made that personal data is not a commodity. Data becomes more linked everyday and therefore if we cannot prevent this from happening then we need to look at solutions of incorporating linked data in a responsible manner. Etiquette of sorts. One prominent example is the Code of Ethics of the Digital Repository of Ireland. The code has eight steps which are adhered to namely protection, openness and privacy, continued development, objectivity and to inform policy/share research and finally to communicate and to ensure equality prevails. This may seem a lot to take on board and attempt to balance. The nature of data is complex, however, it can be simplified where needs be in order to gain perspective. These are the libraries and archives of contemporary times. What some people fear is extreme censorship like what has been and still is the case in some parts of the world. The main reason given was not to ‘corrupt’ the mind. However, this is unlikely to be the case unless people are consistently exposed to media of a certain type, of a derogatory kind.

From where I am standing it is quite evident that unless every single aspect of the digital adopt a code of ethics, per se, to some degree or another there will be huge legal costs involved like we have seen with Safe Harbour/Max Schrems. The argument put forward against this has been that multinationals will be forced to pay much higher costs if this transatlantic destined data were to come to a halt. Many multinationals have been creaming it, with cheap skilled labour from other parts of the world and then repatriating profits back to their own headquarters based elsewhere. Some would think fair is fair, the cost has to balance itself. One cannot expect to take everything and not give back in some shape or form. The argument is that jobs are created and economies flourish as a result of the jobs created. But are jobs really everything if peoples’ personal data are at stake and become a commodity of sorts to be traded on the global market to the highest bidder. Leaving digital footprints aside what is more concerning is having to use personal data in order to use websites such as Facebook. Many people have been cut off from using the website if it is felt they are using an alias. One case I can recall is of a man who had in fact changed his name through deed poll, he was prevented from using the site until it was proven otherwise. Such sites may cause many more to change their names in future via deed poll if the use of such data were to become invasive. An analysis of a social media profile could expose quite a lot about a person’s personality, their personal likes and dislikes, their connections to others. Some of this information is rather sensitive and could easily be manipulated for other purposes. What if any image posted online could be used for advertising in the future. How comfortable would people be with that notion? For example, personal images used to endorse a product that someone is vehemently opposed to? It is presently happening but in a different way, you place information online which is then used to target advertisements at you personally based on your interests.

The only hope I can see is that internet search engines are not yet personally tailored but what will happen when this is the case? You may have no interest in something but are just curious to learn about something and suddenly suggestions begin to appear in relation to previous searches. A code needs to be hammered out and quick to deal with all eventualities before the world of marketing takes over as it has done in the past. How many children plague parents with the ‘nagging effect’ whereby daytime television targeted ads manipulate young minds and convince them that they need this product for their very happiness. I am not against marketing, it can be very effective and a powerful tool but where do you draw the line of it becoming abusive like that of harassing kind of promotional mail through the letterbox? If someone wants to sign up, let them by all means, but if someone declines, they should be let be and let to decide for themselves what it is that suits them given the time and place.

Why we should create digital library centres of learning…

Open data provides a platform to potentially link learning across concepts and dimensions.

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Every notable place has a public library. In exchange for a small fee, people can explore their local library filled with knowledge and information. There is a certain level of freedom in a private capacity to take notes, draw analogies, to compare works although there may be limitations in relation to reproducing works in a publication due to licensing and copyright laws. The digital has the potential to overcome these laws where permitted. You can allow your data to be ‘open’, certain rules govern such data but it can eliminate research barriers. Moving away from the authoritative role of information, that is, the idea that there is only one correct answer towards working with and improving knowledge. Seeing the world through an innovative lens instead of a static one. Think of it like a video versus a photo.

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Playing with ideas, for example, fan-fiction. There is more than one way to finish a story or tell it for that matter, the idea of open creativity, taking the familiar characters we love into the unfamiliar realms of our imaginations. The internet as we know it is great but it could be better. It needs to be categorised, organised and reformatted. Everyone loves the idea of redecorating their house when finances allow, why not reform the internet instead of depending on prompts from somewhere? There could be a general section of closed and open data and then a specialised section for each centre, an area of specialisation to break down the work needed to be organised. The world of metadata, data about data, terrifies some people but in my opinion it will become second nature to people in the near future. Right now sites like Wikipedia have constraints on what you may publish, imagine imposing this on all sites including blogs. Applying standards as required. Avoiding nasty comments and such which takes away from our enjoyment of the internet as a whole.

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My bone of contention would have to be personally identifiable information being published. Being able to go to a search engine and find out, for example, a person’s so-called criminal past, digitally haunting them ten years later. That is not right, in my opinion, people can be quite judgemental they do not need anything to add to this. Organising information in a professional manner albeit in a public way paves the way for the kind of internet that will enhance our lives. After all that’s what we desire to do, improve the lives we lead in every sense through technology encompassing the digital. We do not need to recreate episodes of Black Mirror! Some libraries are including a digital online section on their websites which is great to see. But we can take this much further if people are willing to go that extra dimension! You can get almost anything on the internet but on a temporary basis usually, there are no guarantees, why not make it permanent? Of course there are some objections, it’s not in the interest of businesses and such. However, right now we are paying for a service, we buy products and purchase internet connections under contract. A lot of this money probably goes on infrastructure. Soon enough however we will become more demanding for what we get in return particularly if prices increase and more sites become subscription based.

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The key is someone has to take charge of such a large-scale project. The question is who? Who will drive us ahead from the Age of Information to the Age of Superb Knowledge Creation? A polymath perhaps? We have so much information to hand, it would be a real shame to waste it. I read somewhere recently that data could be the next valuable commodity, in the same way as oil. And yes it has such capabilities and capacity in my opinion. But it needs one vital component, drivers of change, people who don’t see the world in only one way. People who are patient. People who have drive and ambition to bring us to the next step, the next dimension. People with integrity. People who can simplify and complicate. They just need to step forward and get down with the nitty gritty of data. Seek it, make sense of it, and finally share it with the world. The world is watching. Waiting for the next stop. Someone needs to get us there. Pronto.

 

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