Monday, April 26, 2010
New media and new new media have reached into modern Americans lives in ways in which previous generations could have only dreamed. New new media has become almost the norm for young Americans to express themselves and make themselves be heard by multitudes, not only in this country, but literally around the world. It is no surprise that during the political campaign of 2008, new new media such as YouTube, Facebook and Digg, were invaluable tools which helped break through the wall of political apathy that had plagued young Americans, compelling them to go out and vote in numbers that had not been seen in 36 years (Levinson, 2009, p.60), making the 2008 election historical in numerous ways ranging from sociological to technological.
New new media has not only provided a highly visible forum for political candidates to reach new audiences, but proved itself to be an incredibly effective fundraising tool that empowered financially-challenged candidates, such as Howard Dean in 2003, and Barack Obama in 2007-2008; the latter ultimately winning his bid for the presidential election. Just like previous media savvy presidential candidates, such as Franklyn D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, Obama became a master of New and new new media and exploited them to his advantage in ways his rivals could not (Levinson, p.62).
New media and new new media have, just like radio in 1936 and television in 1960 (Levinson, p.6), marked the beginning of a new era in American politics in 2008.
Old Media vs. New New Media Campaigns
Unlike Old media political campaigns, in which a candidate’s ability to project his image and message was inextricably correlated to the extent of his campaign budget as well as the limitations of air time by the stations broadcasting these messages; neither of these limitations apply to new new media. New new media operates in both real time and virtual time (Strate, Jacobson & Gibson, 2003, p.370). No longer does a candidate need to wait for a specific air time, or television interview, or to keep paying for ad space in a newspaper for him to be able to deliver his message. In new new media, a candidate’s message and image are available 24 hours, seven days a week; so long as he, and his supporters, have the ability to sustain a website, blog, and or keep postings, links or keep embedding his message to other internet outlets his presence will only increase. Additionally, candidates have the ability to communicate directly with their audiences through live web events, above all, at a considerably lower price than broadcasting it through old media. Candidates also have the ability to add follow ups, responses and updates to any messages they would like to continue to emphasize throughout their political campaigns.
Most notably, in old media days advertising prices ranging anywhere from $20,000 for a 30second off-peak spot to $394,000 for the same air-time during Desperate Housewives (Atkinson, Claire, 2006) represented insurmountable obstacles to overcome for candidates without the support of billionaire donors and lobbyists .
But air time restrictions do not apply in new new media. Audiences now have the ability to not only access a candidate’s message any time they choose to, but to manipulate their candidate’s audio, video and freeze frame the image to exert control over it anyway they want.
Arguably the VCR and tape recorder gave audiences some of these capabilities, but new new media has enhanced them exponentially.
New Technology; New Challenges
Although with any new technology, the advantages of new new media also present additional challenges for which candidates and their media advisors must keep a close eye on, as doctored videos, images and sound bites can be created by opponents and spread like wildfire over the internet if not properly controlled. New new media can make or break a candidate who knows how to harness it, or fails to do so.
Howard Dean, a Doctor and former Vermont Governor, generally considered a pioneer of online campaigning, and a victim of new media as well. During the 2003 primary campaign season Dean was able to raise an unprecedented $15 million dollars through his online campaign.
Driven by his internet savvy campaign manager Joe Trippi, Dean was not only able to effectively raise money, but allowed other decentralized internet groups to raise his profile on the internet allowing him to reach younger voters in a way no other candidate had been able to up until that point (Wolf, Gary, 2004). Dean’s successful online efforts inspired even Republican candidates such as Ron Paul and John McCain to follow suit, with Ron Paul raising more than 66% of his campaign funds from his online fundraising (Terhune, Leah, 2008).
However, on January 19th of 2004, Dean’s success would come literally to a screeching halt due what many in the media dubbed as the “I have a Scream” speech.
While giving a passionate concession speech at the end of the Iowa Caucus, a tired, hoarse-voiced Howard Dean emitted an emotional scream at the end his discourse. However, when the audio clip of Dean’s scream was incessantly played by the media (old and new), the sound of the scream became such a nuisance that it led Dean’s critics to imply that he did not have the composure to be a viable presidential candidate. Dean’s failure to quell the media crisis triggered by his scream eventually cost him his campaign.
Howard Dean 2.0: The Obama Campaign
According to Lawyer Phil Nash, and internet activist who runs the Campaign Advantage organization, President Barack Obama’s successful online campaign was not limited to his ability to successfully raise funds online but the ability of his team to communicate and engage audiences throughout the internet (Terhune, 2008). Powerful elements of the Obama Campaign such as Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, left their successful venture to join him and to help him engage a new generation which had been long disconnected from politics as usual and had built their society in their new social media outlets.
With the help of Hughes, Obama’s campaign management team was not only able to build a successful website in which people could donate and follow Obama’s campaign messages, but they also targeted other highly visible and diverse social websites too such as MySpace, Twitter, MyBatanga, MiGente, Asian Ave, Facebook and YouTube. Obama’s opponent, John McCain, soon followed in his steps but with much less success (Terhune 2008).
Obama’s successful presence in the internet created other byproducts which worked to his advantage. One of these byproducts were the videos of aspiring singer/songwriter Leah Kauffman, better known as “Obama Girl” Kauffman, along with Video producer Ben Relles, created a video which received more than 2.3 million views during its first when it was posted in YouTube in June of 2007(Levinson, p.59).
Although exact measures of Obama Girl’s impact could not be accurately quantified, scholars like Paul Levinson attribute a great deal of responsibility to her videos for attracting the attention of the under-30-years voter demographic. And even though many of those who voted for Obama will not remember a word of his speeches, they will certainly remember the hook for Obama Girl’s hit: “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama”.
Overall, Obama’s success was mostly based on perfecting the foundation laid out by Howard Dean’s 2003 campaign. His ability to strategically exploit new new media, in a way unmatched by any other candidates, resulted not only in catching the attention of a new generation of voters, but their contributions as well. More than 80 percent of all online contributions were made by people between 18-34 years old benefitting the Democratic Party (Edsall, Thomas, 2006).
New New Media: New Debate Format
New new media changed the 2008 presidential not only in the way candidates disseminate their message to their audiences, or fundraise, but it also changed the way presidential candidates debates are conducted. For the first time, a major news network, CNN, allowed potential voters to ask questions directly to a candidate via YouTube (Levinson, p.60). No longer were audiences subjected to see and hear only the questions asked by professional reporters. Now regular people could have the same chance by uploading their video questions for everyone, especially the candidates to see.
This unorthodox new type of debate allowed for a different tone during to be set, and allowing the candidates to answer in a way that was more candid than had ever been seen before. Even though, in the eye of some experts, some of the questions may have seemed coached (Levinson, p. 61) questions like the one directed to Barack Obama regarding whether he was a legitimate African-American, and his evoked answer, “Ask the New York Cabbies”, are media moments which could not have been replicated by any professional reporter; professional reporters would have shied away from such a question.
Ultimately the CNN/YouTube debates did more than just change the format of presidential debates; it infused new life in an old media formula. The republican debate broke ratings records by attracting an estimated 4.4 million viewers while the Democratic Party debate attracted 2.7 million (Seely, Katherine, 2007). The fusion of old media with new new media has set new standard of collaboration that can be foreseen as yet another step of media convergence.
New New Media; New Political Reporting
Just like seemingly trivial gossip bloggers like Perez Hilton have impacted the internet blogosphere and gossip journalism in general, new new media has given rise to new media political outlets and pundits. Websites such as the HuffingtonPost.com, Politico.com, and DailyKos.com have become open forums for liberal and conservative authors to openly express their political points of views; although the actual impact of such blogs is undetermined; their trends seem to be followed closely by political advisors close to those in power such as Sarah Palin and Barack Obama (Levinson, p.46,48).
Despite a sharp decline in printed media and the loss of thousands of journalistic jobs, experts still believe that old media and professional journalists are still necessary (Levinson, p.54) and that the rise in the “citizen-journalism” is due to so many professional journalists being displaced from old media to new new media after being laid off. The rise of new media journalists can be seen as a necessary compliment to conventional media which can help fill in the news gaps left by old media such as the failure to report the absence of weapons of mass destruction after the Iraq invasion in 2003 (Levinson, p.55)
However, those who venture into the world of “citizen-journalism” have received less than a warm reception and unlike conventional journalists employed by an old media source, citizen-journalists are technically not protected by a federal shield law the way traditional journalists are. As seen in the cases of reporters such as Judy Miller, and video Blogger Josh Wolf, both of whom spent three to eight months in jail respectively, can attest that online journalism is still a grey area to which the first amendment will not always lend its protection (Levinson, p.39,40).
Public Relations Challenges
As previously discussed during the New technology, New Challenges chapter, the immediacy and wide dissemination of information can present serious public relations challenges for candidates if not promptly addressed. As illustrated in the Howard Dean’s “I have a scream” crisis, his passiveness on attacking the issue cost him his campaign.
Barack Obama went through some serious public relations hurdles which emerged and spread through new new media, most notably a YouTube video of Barack Obama’s church pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. On March 13, 2008 it was reported that a video, originally taped in 2003, showed Reverend Wright, making some very inflammatory remarks against the United States (Ross, Brian; El-Buri, Rehab, 2008). The video was widely disseminated in both, old and new media and Obama’s opponents wasted no time in exploiting the video for their political advantage; associating Obama to Reverend Wright’s ideology. Obama expeditiously made a posting in the Huffington Post the day after newscasts broke the story, condemning what Reverend Wright had said (Obama, Barack, 2008). Obama followed up his posting by making a video in YouTube touching on the sensitive topic of race relations in the United States; an issue he had carefully managed to dodge up until that moment.
Obama’s quick reaction towards his crisis, as well as carefully crafted messages repudiating Reverend Wright’s rants and his video making a call for better race relations outmaneuvered his opponents’ attempt to smear who would eventually become President Obama.
New New Media Levels the Political Field
The incorporation of new media and new new media in the political process has done more than changed the way politicians replenish their campaign coffers; it has leveled the playing field for candidates, voters and those involved in reporting the political process. Candidates who would have been considered non-viable by their own parties now have a direct line of communication with their constituents as well as a stable platform to broadcast their message without having to pay exorbitant amounts of money as they would have to do through old media outlets.
New new media has also created a forum for voters who would have been largely disfranchised: young voters and small donors. These voter segments have been for years, whether due to a generational gap that could not be abridged or due to restrictive economic barriers that were designed specifically to keep them out, they too now have a direct line to their candidate in which they can be a part of his/her movement. As democratic candidates have proven since 2004, the model of connecting with a large number of small donors can be just as rewarding as pampering to a few large ones.
New new media, and social media, though seemingly trivial before 2004, have proven to be powerful tools that can benefit or damage a candidate’s reputation, as well as a great source of information for voters to make educated decisions. Even though many people have made the mistake of writing them off as a fad, new media and new new media have proven they can, and have changed the world, and will keep on changing it as new technology emerges and progresses.
Edsall, Thomas B. (2006, March 06). Rise in Online Fundraising Changed Face of Campaign Donors.
WashingtonPost.com. Retrieved April 3, 2010 from
Levinson, P. (2009) New New Media. Boston: Pearson.
Obama, Barack, (2008, March 14). On My Faith and My Church. The Huffington Post.
Retrieved April 3, 2010 from
Ross, Brian & El-Buri, Rehab (2008, March 13). Obama’s Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11. ABCNews.com. Retrieved April 3, 2010 from
Seely, Katherine Q (2007, November 29). CNN/YouTube Breaks Ratings Record. NewYorkTimes.com
Retrieved April 2, 2010 from
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Taking another look at Communication and Cyberspace drew me to the essay, "Getting Over the Edge"by Stuart Moulthrop. It is an older piece. dating back to the 1990s but it raises important questions regarding the rise of new media that still translate to today.
Not to mention, his writing style is distinct from other scholarly writings on these issues. ""Cyberculture may just be the last holiday orgy of the yuppies, replete with silicon sugar plums for all" (256).
Moulthrop questions the implications of the soon to be fiber optic data routes, suggesting this will bring enormous change to culture. But the main idea of his article lies in the issues of communication over the web/cyberspace/net and how it is routed in text. He talks about those who are innovating and a major part of the web culture are those routed in old print media, and people who often are highly literate and and "staunch defenders of high literacy and even the canon" (258).
He also says that the text in cyberspace will not replace that of the print. I agree with him in a way because he discusses a great deal about Hypertext, something that is almost defunct today. On the other hand, I do think that the abilities we now have well smart phones and laptops has effected the print medium, especially in terms of news moving onto the internet, and the growth of online libraries with scanned texts. It's the convenience today, that I believe, is making the "cyberspace text" take the lead.
But I have to agree with the statement, "Even after we have fully given up on print, the majority of "really electronic" text will be hopelessly contaminated with the old ways of knowing" (261).
During the last few years more and more 3-D films are released, taking the film industry to a whole new direction.
What are the benefits and what are the drawbacks of such a change?
3-D televisions are currently on their way to replace “old-fashioned” TV sets and enhance one’s visual experience. It is interesting to witness this transition from the old to a new innovative tool.
Certainly the wide release of 3-D films is mean to ease this transition while increase demand.
It will be very challenging to resist to this change and see how long it will take until everyone feels as if this new tool is essential.
Is the attraction of 3-D the fact that one is now at the center of the movie? Could this be another on-demand effect, perhaps?
What are your thoughts?
Margaret M. Roidi
I am reading Lev Manovich’s book The Language of New Media and I came across one of his ideas about film:
“Cinema is the art of the index; it is an attempt to make art out of a footprint,” (295).
These sentences provide a very interesting break down of what film is about. His perception of film as a collection of frames recording reality, which could be stylistically enhanced by a careful and sophisticated use of technical elements, is very refreshing.
The short video we watched in class is a clear example of this idea. The use of images to tell a story, the incorporation of sound, multiple screens, they all aim to communicate a specific feeling and thought based on reproducing reality.
Manovich’s breakdown of modern cinematic means reveals a demystified approach to this medium.
Margaret M. Roidi
So, here is the URL for my podcast page: http://earrelevance.mevio.com. If you go there, you can "become a fan" and get email updates from Mevio whenever there's a new episode, and there are also links so you can subscribe via RSS feed, Zune, or iTunes--the URL for the iTunes subscription is http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/lance-strates-ear-relevance/id355714984. Mevio also gives embed codes, much like you can get for YouTube videos, so I'll give that a go now.
Before you listen, let me acknowledge that it's amateurish, my recording expertise is limited and my equipment far from professional (for example, you may need to push the volume all the way up, depending on the system... oh, and let me warn you that the episode is about forty minutes long). But that is part of the whole point, isn't it? Anyway, here it is:
I'm getting a better microphone and pop filter, so the quality should better next time. I don't have any specific podcasting schedule, it'll just be whenever I can get them done, and whenever I want to get them done. If you subscribe, you'll get them automatically, if not, well, I'll be posting them on my blog, and tweeting them too.
I was reading the headlines from New York Times and one article draw my attention. Here I am providing a link to read it further:
There are so many issues with this story. The fact that there are websites promoting such actions illustrates how cyberspace can be used to reproduce imagery that is powerful enough to generate social uproar.
The public’s anger is fueled by the demand to punish the woman subjecting the kitten to a cruel and painful death.
The internet can provide a stage for all to perform the lead role of their sickest obsession.
Margaret M. Roidi
Thursday, March 4, 2010
I was just browsing the web, and decided to plug “new media” into Google to see what would pop up. I’m surprised I didn’t do this before…anyway, I found a very interesting company called New Media Strategies. What this company does is online marketing and advertising, by means of social media.
The company performs word of mouth campaigns, and utilizes the new new media for advertising campaigns. On their site, their most recent client is Chrysler auto.
On the “Areas of Expertise” section of their website, they say, “And we have helped our clients achieve a greater understanding of how their corporate brand (as well as individual product brands) are perceived and discussed by members of the online audience.”
They then give an example of a campaign they did for online advertising of JC Penny’s Jewlery sales and “Beware of the Doghouse” campaign. Their goal: to promote and generate online buzz for JC Penny.
This is the process that they took:
Interacted with targets in parenting & motherhood, women, men,
bargain shopping and marketing & advertising communities through word of
mouth messaging, digital PR, and micro-blogging to build awareness and drive
Created an official Twitter handle, "askJCP," used to promote
campaign initiatives and build brand recognition
reached more than 4.4 million unique users and garnered over 18.2 million
estimated impressions across 200 communities, increasing campaign and brand
discussion by 90%
"Beware of the Doghouse" video received more than 3.4
million views during the 2-month campaign
NMS outreach grew the "askJCP"
Twitter handle to more than 300 followers and was featured on influential
Advertising & Marketing blogs including, No Turn On Red and The Caffeinated
It’s amazing how an old media such as advertising has adapted to an online environment, using social media for promotion.
In the cyber world we are given opportunities to interact, to be journalists, to be sellers and buyers, but at what cost? When individuals are restricted, they may find ways to rebel against that restriction, or they may not. However, when the access to the world is readily available without any restrictions, it is difficult to hold yourself back. Prostitution has found a way to no longer consist of girls on the street, but can be conducted via internet without the fear of being prosecuted by the law. The second life that people live over the internet has created crimes that were not possible to commit before the internet age. I suppose we put ourselves in certain virtual world situations voluntarily, however it becomes more dangerous each year and we should protect ourselves from being trapped in this cyber world. I believe this changes the way people act in person entirely. The internet is no longer only on our computers, it is also on our phones making it impossible to escape. The world is only a click away and we are a very easily influenced society. Whether we are at home, in the car, at a restaurant, it is all irrelevant; we can access the web at any time and any place.
People have become anti-social to a certain degree due to the fact that everything is conducted through email, since it is now easier and a more efficient way to contact a person via email rather than giving them a phone call. By the time these individuals get home, they are more likely to text their friends rather than actually call them. Therefore the people who have an entirely different personality over the internet when conducting business or sexual relations, it most definitely will eventually interfere with their personal lives. Some may spend even more time on the internet simply because they are more comfortable with their internet personality rather than their actual one. This kind of behavior will inevitably cause a drift in their personal relationships outside of the internet, their communication skills will suffer, and there is no doubt that they will lose the people they love over a guilty internet pleasure. As seductive as the cyber world may seem, too much of something is damaging, and therefore it is best to avoid it rather than let yourself turn into a person that you no longer even recognize when you look in the mirror.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I feel sometimes like I am the biggest critic of new new media, and am always trying to look at the darker sides to find the biggest problems they could have on society. Podcasting, however, has had me completely dumbfounded for the longest time. I don’t like them, but I don’t hate them. I honestly never gave them much thought, but noticed more and more that my friends (with iPods and Macs) were becoming obsessed with them. Specifically, podcasts were becoming a huge part in the online Harry Potter fan culture.
Lame, I know. I used to be completely obsessed, but since the seventh book was released I dropped off the HP online planet. But, it still exists, and podcasts have become a huge drive for these sites. Mugglenet.com is a site that was founded by a bunch of kids who really liked Harry Potter and it became a tremendous phenomenon to the point that it is the world #1 Harry Potter website. Time Warner and Chevy have advertising spots right on home page, and a counter at the bottom is indicating to me now that there are over 1500 people on the site.
I figured this would all die down after the books and movies came out, but they have embraced new new media to its fullest extent, and the site(still ran by kids) produces podcasts to keep the attention and liveliness of the fan site alive. They are able to book interviews with writers,and actors in the HP films and discuss aspects of the movies and books in a new way. After reading Levinson’s chapter on Podcasting I can see how it is becoming very popular, especially now that people are able to load podcasts into their cars and listen to them any time they desire. His explanation of Grammar Girl’s success as a podcaster illustrated this and made me think of Mugglenet as another example.
In addition, the way he describes the ease of producing a podcast makes me want to do it. It is easier to manage sound for the amateur more than video, and it is cheaper to produce as well. Another interesting point was podcasting and music, and the issue of copyright law. The solutions that podcasters have found, such as Adam Curry’s “Podsafe Music” website really shows how this is a growing aspect of new new media that will remain as more and more people utilize it.
I kind of want to try making a podcast to work on my style of producing, and use it almost as practice in the professional setting. I feel as if the podcast, especially in the broadcast world, could be great practice for producing...even if no one listens to it!
Don’t want to be an American idiot
Don’t want a nation under new media
And can you hear the sound of hysteria
Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay
Television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue….
One Nation controlled by media
Information age hysteria
The song is right on point with the notion that the new age media is causing hysteria. The digital world we live in is changing us… the way we learn, communicate, socialize, work, and perform everyday functions. For an example, the IPhone is advertising a new application, which can now turn off your lights at your home if you forget. Cyberspace can now control functions in real time. Are we now living in the world once portrayed in the cartoon series “The Jetsons”. Is this what the song writers meant when they wrote “Television dreams of tomorrow “? Every day I can pick a newspaper (yes, I still read the news in paper form) and there are stories regarding the new digital world and the effects that they are having on us and our surroundings. I think the “hysteria” is more the obsession with all our new toys, and the quest to get your hands on the latest and greatest edition of our devices.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Wikipedia has created a name for itself unlike any other online source of information. Many students have grown to become extremely dependent on this site, and I am no exception. Whenever I need quick facts or information regarding anything I tend to turn to Wikipedia. It became a bad habit, and that is why many professors do not recommend the use of Wikipedia as a source. I personally like using Wikipedia because unlike encyclopedia which tends to have a fee for using the information on the site, Wikipedia is completely free and it possesses the same amount, if not more, information. What really amazed me is the study that has been conducted in 2005 to examine the accuracy of information distributed in both Wikipedia and Britannica. The result showed that “an average of four inaccuracies per Wikipedia article and three per Britannica article- in other words, not much of a difference” (93).
However, as great as this website may seem, it really should not be considered as the final word for the research. Although Wikipedia does have editors to make sure the information is checked, most of the information written is by ordinary people like us. If I decided that I was an important enough figure in the society and thought I should have my own identity on Wikipedia, I would be able to write out a biography of myself and my accomplishments. The editors may track that information and remove my page; however, they also may not. Also, If you are someone who tends to visit Wikipedia often, you will begin to notice that the information on the site changes, due to new information regarding the topic. Therefore, whatever information is on the website is not to be taken as something written in stone.
Another important factor is that since editors have little say on how people would see or use Wikipedia, we cannot say for sure whether Wikipedia is an encyclopedia or a newspaper. Since there is a wide range of people that have daily access to it across the world, we really cannot be certain of how they would distribute information. As Levinson said, “All consumers, in general- always determine how the new new medium is used” (96). Over all, I think that Wikipedia is good when it comes to getting a general idea on a topic but it is in no way a substitute for a library or books. Sadly the internet age has deterred us from libraries because we feel we can apprehend all necessary information over the web, when in fact sometimes it is best to go back to basics in terms of research.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Understanding New Media
February 27, 2010
Internet privacy is a concern to users globally, but the concept of internet privacy has yet to be clearly defined. There is no definite understanding as to what internet privacy is, and if it really even exists under any context. The purpose of this paper is to discuss some of the definitions and conceptualizations of “privacy” in the age of the internet, and some historical back ground as to what privacy has meant to the individual in light of new technology in the past. Threats to privacy and personal information that is processed over the internet will be explored, such as the implications of computing power, technological developments, connectedness, as well as governmental and non governmental surveillance issues. Some programs and websites that appear to invade privacy will be discussed as well as the effects of internet viruses. Security protection programs and a closer look at how personal information is collected and used for marketing purposes will also be discussed.
The idea of privacy originated in the late 19th century, when Warren and Brandeis in 1890 co-authored a famous article entitled “Right to Privacy,” defining privacy as “the right to be let alone” (Woo, 5). After the increase of print technology, new affordable texts such as the Penny Press allowed individuals to read information in their own homes for the first time. This provoked individualism within society, with a new value of private property, and privacy as a “social value being able to read a book in your own private home” (Woo, 6). Privacy began to be viewed as a power against authority, and a means to balance social control from others; information becoming a source of privacy. The birth of the printing press and the affordability of the news fueled mass media. Soon, technology developments, as author Louis Brandeis discussed in his article regarding the effects the then new camera was having on the individual’s privacy, enabled the mass media to produce pictures and print private information on citizens, making it public (Waldo, 88). This increased the importance of privacy in the individual, and also shaped it as “the people’s right to be free from the government and mass media intruding into their lives (Woo, 6).
It’s important to remember that media is always growing, and new media always succeeds an old media that once was new. The printing press, photography, and the telephone, have always questioned the ability to maintain an individual’s privacy.
Today, the computer age has posed new threats. Since its birth in the 1980s, the internet as a new mass media is still dealing with the issue of privacy, and it is becoming an ever growing problem the more it is being relied, used, and integrated into the modern world. The National Research Council established the Committee on Privacy in the Information Age, who identified four key factors of privacy in the modern age. The first was the areas of concern associated with new technologies and the individual’s personal information. Next were the technical and sociological effects of technology, ranging from the collection devices and methodologies that put personal information at risk. These include storage, communication, and the user’s voluntary and involuntary sharing of information. Next was to asses the developments in government and private sector practices with the growth of technology and last to examine advertising aspects of information sharing (Waldo, 20).
As technology develops, so does the computational power. Today, the amount of storage space that is available is ten-fold to what it was in the last decade, allowing there to be traces of data left from nearly any action that users take while using a computing device (Waldo, 92). The more power, the more data can be stored for purposes the information was not originally intended for, such as advertising. Additionally, the massive amounts of storage space leave enough room that files may not even need to be erased, but can be compressed and uncompressed, making information nearly impossible to destroy once it has been produced. Even on a home disc drive, it is possible to recreate deleted files, and restore erased data. This ability to never really destroy stored information and processes questions how private a digital aged archiving system is (Waldo, 93).
Yet, storage doesn’t just have to be looked at from a computing power angel either. Today it is easier than ever to take and store pictures and video on cell phone and music devices than it was. And with this it makes it easier for there to be an invasion of ones privacy if you have the ability to record, store, and transfer private acts on a device. But cell phone computing power poses new issues of privacy such as GPS, calling and message records that are solicited for purchase on the internet, from companies that fraudulently obtain user data over the internet (CNET). Such abilities to buy cell phone records make it easy for any individual to threaten and stalk another.
In addition, the connectedness that the internet has enveloped has now made it easier to access information that was previously only obtainable physically. Now it is possible to track credit history, real estate transactions, and public records over the internet (Waldo, 99). Overall one would argue that this eases the invasion of ones privacy by making it easier to obtain documents on an individual that might normally have taken more time, effort, or required a legal reason. But there are also benefits to the connectivity that straddles the privacy line. Such websites like Family Watch Dog (http://familywatchdog.us/) enable anyone in the United States to look up and discover where registered sex offenders live, what crimes they were prosecuted for, and any additional offenses they have made in addition to their photographs and detailed descriptions of the individuals.
Publicly available information consists of online and offline information that
is generally available but is not maintained by a government agency, such as
names, addresses and telephone numbers of individuals and businesses,
professional licensing and trade organization information, press releases and
newspaper articles and content from blogs or social networking sites. Commercial
records consist of information that is maintained by enterprises and is
available for purchase, such as marketing and telemarketing lists, phone connect
and disconnect information, and business profile data (Intelius, Privacy
These websites exist and are a testament to the fragility of personal information and privacy in cyberspace. What’s even more important to note is that many users of the internet are unaware of these websites and what they are capable of uncovering.
The growth of technology has also allowed surveillance easier access, speed and a wider scope. Surveillance is defined as the collection and processing of personal data, whether it is identifiable or not for purposes of influencing or managing those whose data have been garnered. The surveillance becomes broader and more prevalent, but harder to identify as the technology advances. Private and corporate agencies are using increasing technological capabilities to build knowledge about consumer behavior for commercial purposes and citizen behaviors to detect crime (Dinev, 214). Cybercrime defense began in 2002 by the FBI who declared cybercrime their third top priority, and began internet surveillance of vendor and online service providers (Dinev. 215). Other laws such as the Patriot Act make the government’s surveillance legal and legitimate, with the government having the ability to tap into phone conversation without a warrant (Lee, 2003). This also allows room for government seizure of internet history from search engine providers such as Google, who refused to turn over data from their repositories after the Bush Administration in 2006 issued a subpoena, fearing it would be an invasion of its user’s identity and privacy (PBS). Other search engine powerhouses such as Yahoo and AOL turned over data, but did not fully comply with the government’s requests.
The government’s access to new technology in the internet age has given them the ability to watch dog users, and look for suspicious behavior, as opposed to having probable cause then observing for suspicious behavior. The technology removes the first step of probability, and instead just observes for out of the ordinary behavior, putting every user under the scope of surveillance (Waldo, 256). As well as surveillance, the government has control over censorship of internet materials. For example, China is one of the most policed countries in the entire world, and in 2006 Google agreed to censor search results from its search engine to meet Chinese government standards in order to enter the largest internet market in the world (BBC). Four years later, Google announced on January 12, 2010 that they would no longer comply with the Chinese restrictions of their services (Business Week). But it took Google several years of backlash from the Chinese government, people of China, and activist groups before the company buckled and refused to comply with the censorship. Another reason why Google may have finally went against the Chinese government was because they only had 35.6 of the Chinese internet market, where as BIDU was the leader by a substantial amount. Was Google finally making a statement of the right to information and privacy of the Chinese people, or was there not enough money involved to make it worth censoring China?
Despite government and nongovernmental surveillance, another main concern and aspect of internet privacy is the collection and use of personal information. A major threat to a user of the internet would be marketing practices. A users understanding of privacy strategies also hinders the ability for there to be effective tools to protect information being distributed over the internet. There are several practices that are performed by websites that have to deal with the dissemination of personal information.
Personal information is also used by social networking sites that benefit from advertising to generate revenues. So do websites that request information in exchanges for services. Let’s examine two of the most visited websites who fit this description according to the web information company Alexa: Facebook and Google. Facebook has a unique advertising platform that it established in 2009 in order to generate increased revenue after it anchored itself as the leader in the social networking market. Facebook advertises to potential clients that their site enables a business to display their ad to the exact demographic that they need in order to generate the most business. Directly from the Facebook website, they use an example of a wedding photographer who was able to use Facebook ads to have their ad displayed on the pages of 25-30 year old, recently engaged women.
"Over 12 months, CM Photographics generated nearly $40,000 in revenue
directly from a $600 advertising investment on Facebook. Of the Facebook
who were directed to CM Photographics’ website from the ads, 60%
qualified leads and actively expressed interest in more information."
(Facebook Ad Page)
The next site to examine is Google and its privacy policies and pages. Their privacy center claims that it has 5 privacy principles to describe how Google “approaches privacy and user information across all out products” (Google). Their five principles are as follows:
1. Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
2. Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
3. Make the collection of personal information transparent.
users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
5. Be a responsible
steward of the information we hold.
• Providing our services, including the display of customized content and
• Auditing, research and analysis in order to maintain, protect
and improve our services;
• Ensuring the technical functioning of our
• Protecting the rights or property of Google or our users; and
• Developing new services. (Google)
It is important to note that information that can be gathered and stored with speed also can be analyzed, changing the economics of what it is possible to do with information technology. Hardware, hardware connections over networks, advances in software to extract data info, organizations and companies that sell/offer information they have gathered themselves can organize and analyze information without the user even knowing it, any time they use the internet (Waldo, 93). The Federal Trade Commission five core principles of fair information practices: Notice, choice, access, security, and enforcement. But how often is a consumer aware that their information is being collected and used?
Other technologies called “Data Gathering Technologies” that are on the rise are GPS devices and cell phones that are emergency 911 capable. Sensors, infrared and thermal detectors, radio-frequency identification tags, spy and remote cameras, and traffic flow sensors are among many new technologies that invade personal privacy that have been embedded into normal every day life (Waldo, 94). Certain cell phone and GPS enabled devices are able to trace an exact location that the user is at any given moment in time, and are sometimes marketed for parents being able to trace their children. There are even mobile applications and services from Google that allowed a user to see other users on a map, and know if they are at work, school, or at home. Users consent to using these devices, but how do you know if you are being tracked or not when using a phone? What kind of surveillance is united with all of this technology, and what price is privacy paying?
An example of GPS technology invading privacy is the “Guardian Angel Locator” cell phone company. It allows parents to view their child’s exact location by tracking it via GPS embedded software and viewing a map on a computer. The site says that it uses GPS technology to send data over the cell phone provider’s network to their secure servers. Satellite views of maps make it possible for a parent to track a child’s exact movements, and even speed and direction of a vehicle they may be in. It also stores locations that the child has been in for up to a month. Services like this exist within cell phone providers, who in emergency situations can track where the user of the cell phone is.
Below is a link to a promotion video from the Guardian Angel website, that shows how the technology works.
This is a picture from the website of how the monitoring system works via the internet.
As for pervasive sensors and remote cameras, they are becoming a normal part of ordinary life. In the UK, CCTV (close circuit television) has become a complete norm- with millions of cameras located all over the country and cities, as they are used to reduce crime. According to the BBC, the average citizen in the UK is on CCTV cameras 300 times a day, and that was a record from 2002. The smaller these devices become, the less they are noticed by citizens.
Some other examples of technology that exists, but is often not though upon, are advances in software such as the programs used by banks that monitor and check credit card purchases. These programs, referred to as “data mining and information fusion” assist understanding user behavior. It is not uncommon for a person’s credit card to be denied, or suspended if “suspicious” use is sensed by a program. For example, someone one who travels to another credit card may be denied it’s usage in another country if they do not alert the credit card company (Waldo, 96).This programs are designed to track the consumers’ behavior and be able to identify any uncharacteristic purchases. But is this invasion of privacy or protection? What if a consumer is denied usage of their credit card in an emergent situation? The problem with this technology is that the software believes it knows your behavior, but sometimes can become a bigger problem for the user.
These “data mining and information fusion” programs are also used for government agencies, whether it is to track potential terrorist threats, or to reveal someone’s identity based on a name and color of a vehicle. These programs create a system that allowed the exchange and transfer of information over incredibly broad fields, sometimes facilitating behaviors that are not in the interest of protecting a user, but abusive such as target marketing. The technology is making it easier to classify and group users into categories that can be used for advertising, or manipulative services (Waldo, 97). And because most of these programs are operated over massive networks, they are easily accessible, and there is allowance for massive storage on sever bases anywhere in the world.
Another simple example of GSP technology is when you sign into an internet service provider from a Starbucks coffee shop. In order to use that service you need to give personal information and create an account in order to access the internet. From there, once you log in, the system shows you where your location is (the Starbucks store you are in). For all intents and purposes, if you have supplied a real name and personal information, this internet provider now knows exactly where you are.
But for all that threats privacy, there are companies that privately own and operate the internet. VeriSign is one of those companies, founded in 1995 by Jim Bidzos, present Executive Chairman and current President and CEO Mark McLaughlin. VeriSign manages two of the world’s 13 internet root servers and is considered national IT assets by the U.S. Federal government, and generated 1.026 billion dollars in revenue. VeriSign quotes itself as “the trusted provider of Internet infrastructure services for the networked world.” It protects more than one million Web servers with digital certificates, protecting the majority of secure Websites on the internet, including 93% of Fortune 500 sites.
VeriSign is the company that issues SSL certificates that legitimizes the companies name and website, providing them with a secure connection. How SSL Certificate works is it establishes a private communication channel which enables encryption of data during the transmission. Any website that is SSL certified will have a little handshake or padlock during transmission. Any website with a log in feature, an online store that accepts online orders and credit cards, and if you process sensitive private data (addresses, phone numbers, etc). VeriSign gives users a real sense for privacy, and protection. VeriSign also is the SSL Certificate and provider of choice for 96 of the world’s 100 largest banks. An SSL certificate allows the user to know that the site is real, and any information they share is secure.
But how many users of the internet know that these systems of protection exist, and how to look at the indicators that a site may not be legitimate? Despite all of the private sector and governmental protection, threats still lie to the uneducated internet user. There are still programs out there that intend to do harm, at a PC level, such as the more recent phenomenon of “phishing.” Phishing is when a spammer lures a user into clicking a malicious link where they will ask for their log in information to proceed to the next site. It’s called “phishing” because the user is tricked into clicking a link that appears to be a real message, and when the user clicks on a malicious link, the website appears to be identical to the true website.
Recently in the news, Twitter was invaded with phishing links that were able to trick several important people into getting their information, including UK’s Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, and subsidiary of HSBS Bank. Once they clicked these malicious links, they were prompted for login information that appeared to be legit. Their Twitter accounts then proceeded to spam porn links. Although none of this situations happened to be too detrimental, it just can example of the privacy issues that are facing us today. Newer versions of Windows no have built in Phishing detectors that warn the internet users the possibility that the site may be “phished”, and ways of detecting if it is.
In addition, there is also the threat of spyware, spam clients, malware, and the fear of cybercrime that put the users’ privacy at risk. Spyware is malware that collects small portions of a user’s information without their knowledge, hidden within software files that may have been downloaded onto the computer buried within a system. Certain types of spyware that has been prevalent have been programs that are disguised as trusted anti-virus programs, but are really spyware. Spyware is on the list of concerns by the US Federal Trade Commission. In 2005 AOL and the National Cyber-Security Alliance conducted a study that revealed that 61% of those surveyed had spyware on their computers. Of 61%, 92% of those said they did not even know it was on their computer (Stay Safe Online.org).
Anti-virus programs such as Norton and McAfee , Kaspersky, F-Secure, and Bit-Defender are additional, and often necessary programs installed to prevent a computer from being infected. Users can subscribe to these services, with the top providers being based on monthly or yearly fees. These anti-virus programs now provide the user with a protective armor; one of which they are willing to pay. Free anti-virus programs exist, but often times do not have the detection capabilities that paid programs do. This software is able to detect threats to your internet usage, and protect email, web activity, instant messaging, and file sharing (Symantec).
Cybercrime most recently has come in the form of malware, bots, phishing, and Trojan horses and is aimed at stealing personal information for profits. Cybercrime comes in the form of identity theft, ways of accessing bank account information, or credit card numbers to make purchases online, or drain bank accounts. Today, this is the biggest form that Cybercrime has taken. Again, the question can be asked as to how private is personal information on the web, and is it possible to completely keep every aspect of one’s cyber life private, even with the use of security services. After examining many of the technological developments, it seems that privacy may never truly be able to exist in a digital world.
It is conclusive to say that privacy in the internet age is constantly being threatened. Although protective services are available to a user such as Anti-Virus software and companies like VeriSign, there are still a number of other implications that arise from new technology, such as viruses, malware, spyware, surveillance, and phishing. In addition to software threats, there are company threats that exist just to sell personal information, such as Itelius and Spokeo.com. Computing power now makes it almost impossible to destroy data that has been produced, and allows the ease of collection of mass data from “data gathering technologies”. Even though websites and companies have privacy policies and post them, how many internet users are aware of what their information is being used for? The internet is still shaping and growing even today, but privacy is crucial issue that still remains to be solved.
Dinev, Tamara. Hart, Paul. Mullen R., Michael. Internet privacy concerns and beliefs about government surveillance – An empirical investigation. Science Direct, 2007.
Hong, Traci. McLaughlin, Margaret. Pryor, Larry Internet Privacy: Practices of Media Outlets.Conference Papers -- International Communication Association; 2003 Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, p1-24, 24p, 2 charts, 5 graphs
Krup, Nathalie. Movius, Lauren. US and EU Internet Privacy Protection Regimes: Regulatory Spillover in the Travel Industry--Top Student Paper, Communication Law and Policy Division. Conference Papers -- International Communication Association; 2006 Annual Meeting, p1-28, 27p. Conference paper
Phillips, David. Zero Knowledge: Articulating Internet Privacy. Conference Papers -- International Communication Association; 2006 Annual Meeting, p1-24, 24p. Conference Paper
Zwarun, Lara. Yao, Mike Intrusion, Threats, Rights, and Strategies: Using Multidimensional Scaling to Identify People's Perception of Internet Privacy.
Conference Papers -- International Communication Association; 2007 Annual Meeting, p1-21, 21p.Conference Paper
Woo, Jisuk "Internet Privacy and the “Right Not To Be Identified”.
Conference Papers -- International Communication Association; 2005 Annual Meeting, New York, NY, p1-40, 41p.Conference Paper
Waldo, James. Lin, Herbert Millett, Lynette I..
Engaging Privacy and Information Technology in a Digital Age. National Academies Press, 2007.
Google Privacy: http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacypolicy.html
Facebook Privacy: http://www.facebook.com/policy.php?ref=pf
PBS Online News Hour: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/cyberspace/jan-june06/google_1-20.html
Guardian Angel Technologies: http://www.guardianangeltech.com/
Semantic Anti-Virus: http://www.symantec.com/norton/security_response/index.jsp
Family Watch Dog
Yet one more thought. Something was occurring to me a little while ago. The new new media is for the most part all about the internet, which was originally conceived of to make the dissemination of information easier. Yes, the internet has become a haven for advertising and money-making, there can be no disputing that fact. The question I have is how much technology companies are going to use the consumer’s reliance upon the internet and new new media to make more and more money.
I feel as though on the whole people have become so reliant on their connection to the web that they are willing to pay any price to stay connected. It seems as though everyone these days has an iphone, a blackberry, a pda, or some other way to wirelessly connected. I constantly see high school students and younger children with internet technology way beyond anything I own, could afford, or more specifically, would want. I can understand certain people needing these technologies in accordance with their job, but for the most part it seems to me as though technology companies are feeding the internet addiction latched onto the general populaces back as a method of making money. Personal internet technology has come to a point in which the purpose is more focused on as a status symbol and addiction rather than a tool used for the dissemination of meaningful information.
Margaret Maria Roidi
Dr. Lance A. Strate
27 February 2010
Creation: Technology on Screen
Technological innovations are an integral part of every evolving society. The drive to enrich one’s life through the creation and implementation of new media continues to grow as the public seeks ease, comfort, and control over its environment. The endless possibilities provided on a daily basis generate further demand for change to occur as various tools are aimed to satisfy, and even increase, individuals’ needs to manage and select the material to which they are exposed. The unconventional on-demand lifestyles, promoted through the use of new media, demonstrate people’s aspiration to function as gatekeepers; the quest to find one’s creator is now replaced by each person’s need to become that ultimate being. Technology offers this opportunity along with the burden of all its consequences. The duality of new media has inspired filmmakers to depict on screen the interaction between people and technology as they attempt to undertake the role of the creator. The genre of science fiction demonstrates the use of such tools and the inevitable costs with which they are associated. James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), and Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence: A. I. (2001), present the ethical challenges that arise when people’s obsession with the reflection of their own image turns into a window, revealing a world they have yet to foresee.
Science fiction films are inspired by people’s endless desire to explore future possibilities. New technological innovations provide filmmakers with the proper means to enrich the depth and impact of their craft, enhancing viewers’ cinematic experience. The mystical worlds presented on screen expose a fascinating characteristic of human nature that of taming and controlling one’s environment. Undeniably, cinema provides an escape from reality while it highlights people’s deepest aspirations. Marshal McLuhan notes, “The movie is not only a supreme expression of mechanism, but paradoxically it offers as product the most magical of consumer commodities, namely dreams,” (390). This medium, therefore, depicts the complexity of human instincts as they are demonstrated by people’s use of technology.
An egotistical sense of superiority is promoted by the introduction of new media in each given society. James Whale’s film Frankenstein (1931) focuses on the tremendous power bestowed upon a scientist. Dr. Frankenstein, played by Colin Clive, embodies the absolute example of narcissism, which is encouraged by the forceful and careless implementation of technology. A man’s desire to create his own image, thus attaining immortality, is the ultimate incentive towards exceeding the boundaries of morality; the tools available make it possible for this doctor to fulfill an unattainable dream. Technology offers the dangerous illusion of control over nature, blinding in a way the doctor’s judgment. The new tools of his profession will be employed to conduct an unorthodox experiment, one that is meant to give him the false sense of control he seeks. The filmmaker focuses on the irony of the dual nature of any new medium: use versus misuse.
Based on Mary Shelly’s book, Frankenstein challenges the viewers’ understanding of progress. Any innovation which is accepted and incorporated into people’s conventional lifestyle changes the core of every society with unpredictable consequences. Dr. Frankenstein’s work defines who he is with technology serving as his nemesis. His castle is isolated and inaccessible; the establishing shot frames the troubling actions taking place within this facility as the scenery and overall misé-en-scene suggest the disturbed mental state of the protagonist. The massiveness of every room demonstrates the characters’ powerlessness and the temporality of their existence. The immense size of his laboratory functions as a mirror, externalizing his inability to understand the risks of creating his own reflection. Low-angle-shots and low-key lighting are used throughout this film to promote a sense of uncertainty and fear as distorted lines and expressionistic features dominate the screen. Each frame is filled with shadows, leaving the characters unprotected against the threat of the unknown.
The symbolic use of fire in the film presents man’s historic transformation. The monster seems to be frightened by it, suggesting that every technology has the potential to harm its user. The paradox of this situation is that the monster fears and avoids the tool – fire – yet the doctor does not recognize the same danger in his own creation. Sue Barnes’ essay, “Cyberspace: Creating Paradoxes for the Ecology of Self,” addresses the inevitable questions about a-life research; the rush of creation overpowers one’s decision making process, leaving him vulnerable to a myriad of repercussions. The fascination of employing new means diminishes people’s ability to estimate and prevent any potential risks (237). The monster suffers by his creator’s misuse of power; Dr. Frankenstein wished to find god, but in the process he chose to take his place instead.
The following sequences present the doctor’s absolute disregard for his creation. Dr. Frankenstein flees his laboratory where chaos and disorder prevail as a direct result of his irresponsibility, and finds shelter in the warmth of the life he had previously abandoned. The filmmaker, however, confronts the audience with the consequences from which the doctor attempts to escape, exposing them to the fact that once change is introduced balance cannot be restored. In the meantime, the monster continues to wander until he is invited to play with a little girl, Maria. Whale uses a long shot to create a false sense of security; the child cannot recognize the danger she in as she throws flowers in the lake carelessly with her new friend. Frankenstein’s monster appears as fascinated by the flowers floating at the top as Maria. Nevertheless, the doctor’s inability to fulfill his role as the creator and “father” of this new life is reflected by the monster’s inability to comprehend that throwing the little girl in the water will lead to her drowning.
The uproar does not take too long to generate a mob of angry villages running to protect their territory. Frankenstein himself is viewed as the victim while his creation is prosecuted for showing as much sympathy to others as it was shown to him. The doctor made the mistake to overlook the significance of his actions and assume that if he were to pretend that nothing ever happened, life would simply go back to normal. “Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies, and such extension also demands new ratios or new equilibriums among the other organs and extensions of the body,” (McLuhan 67). The director shows the battle between the old and new technology; the monster kidnaps his creator and demands revenge for the suffering he was forced to experience. Inevitably, Frankenstein is consumed by his own reflection since he was unable to understand the extent of his actions. The symbolic burning of the monster is meant to warn the viewers about the reckless use of modern media as he presents the creature dying by the tool he feared the most.
The director concludes the film with the characters’ world appearing intact. However, the seed of knowledge has already infiltrated their society, waiting for the proper moment to transform their conventional rhythms. Frankenstein shows the dramatic events following the implementation of new tools as a way of satisfying one’s narcissism. The idea of change is a common theme in science fiction films as it captures the essence of human nature and its endless yearning to prevail over all creations. Naturally, the enigma of progress inspired Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which undertakes the task of presenting a chain of evolutionary events through a pioneering and critical perspective. The director’s unique vision of the journey people have embarked upon is initiated by the depiction of tools as divisive instruments of destruction from the “dawn of man” to the infinite universe and beyond.
The director’s sophisticated and carefully thought-out use of the cinematic means of the late 60’s enables him to take cinema into an unexamined path. The film opens with the soundtrack setting a mysterious tone while the black screen encourages the viewers to clear their minds and be transported into the unfamiliar past. The uncertainty of the opening sequence, therefore, is accomplished by an unconventional establishing shot which frames the emptiness and chaos. As this film was released a year before the actual landing on the moon, the spectators did not have a previous reference in mind; 2001 constitutes the very first attempt to present outer space and challenge people’s position within the infinity of the universe (Mast and Kawin 542). The symmetrical presentation of the planets after the film’s opening indicates that there must be a master plan directing the evolutionary cycle of life. A question that is difficult to answer when one is blinded by the power bestowed by his creations.
The vast and crude environment of the primitive past is overwhelming. The level of coexistence among the early creatures is defined by the mutual need to survive; however, territoriality and procession of one’s space initiates the quest for a tool that will enhance their natural self. It is then that the humming sound of progress invades and transforms permanently their world. The slab is a neutral element, a carrier of information and knowledge; it is entirely up to the user to interpret and decide how to implement this new power. Bolter and Gromala argue, “Each installation calls its participants into an active relationship, asking them to perform rather than merely to view,” (15). The secrets held within this tall, smooth, and unidentifiable object are meant to be unleashed and incorporated into the lives of those exposed to its sight. Kubrick’s cynicism about any technology is clear in this shot. The appearance of the slab comes in contrast with the crudity of the environment in which it is located.
Tools are always impossible to tame as they carry their creators’ flaws. The ape’s thought process, sparked by the bones in front of him, is identifiable. He attempts to apply another meaning to an object by questioning its use. A long shot frames this scene of discovery with the ape at the centre of the screen. The bones could be interpreted as the stability and foundation of familiarity; nevertheless, they could be employed as a form of destruction and empowerment. The stages of this realization are immediate and gratifying, encouraging change to occur. The presentation of the ape’s movements in slow motion compliments the significance of this moment; a medium shot follows the hand holding the bone as an extension of itself. The ironic presentation of evolution lies in the fact that creation goes hand-in-hand with destruction. This montage sequence foreshadows the events that are to follow.
Kubrick’s cinematic approach demands his audience’s attention. The oblong white bone of the Stone Age has turned into an orbiting station in space in which the journey to find the meaning of life continues. The depiction of the transition from the past to the present is accomplished successfully by this match-on-action cut, demonstrating the impact of a simple tool on the technological advancement of the future. Richard Barsam discusses further the meaning of this rapid transition:
An “ape-man” rejoices in his newfound weaponry, a bone, by tossing it into the air, at which point it becomes technology of a far more sophisticated kind. This astonishing leap of sight, space, and time introduces several of the movie’s principal themes: the relativity of time, the interaction of inventiveness and aggressiveness, and the human race’s desire to conquer the unknown, (318).
Viewers are forced to become active participants in the story by creating connections between the time periods, considering the reasons that might have led to this evolutionary cycle and questioning their abilities to survive in a world ruled by their own creations. The serenity of this futuristic scene presents the harmonic coexistence between technology and man. The characters are driven by their desire to find answers; on the way to discover the ultimate creator they give life to other forms of existence, taking the human race a step closer to that being by making them small gods.
The intrusive nature of technology seems to follow the characters even in space. Two of the men taking part in this mission, Frank and Dave, represent each spectator as their experiences are meant to shed light into the bizarre world of machinery. When Frank does not supervise the tools of the scientific station, the technology comes to him. A message from his family, celebrating his birthday, interrupts him in the form of a video call; the sense of time is lost. The creation overpowers its master with ease, depriving him of privacy and control. The machines may be far more improved in the future, but people still cannot rid themselves of the same old destructive instincts that characterize them. The most obvious example of this complex relationship between master and creation is HAL, a highly intelligent computer. Today, this medium’s behavior is dated by the perception of the past, which viewed computers as an electronic brain rather than a tool of representation. He is the highlight of human invention. HAL’s standing in the mission is valued significantly more than that of the human beings he is accompanied by. Even though his capabilities exceed those of any person, he carries the mistakes and weaknesses of his creators (Bolter and Gromala 89).
HAL is inquisitive and skeptical. He is programmed to distrust his associates and has no mercy or sense of sympathy. HAL’s intrusive tone is meant to manipulate Dave into confessing his thoughts about the mission, exceeding the boundaries of humanity. Lies and mind games are qualities which transferred into the technology by people. The computer plans to divide and conquer the two men by ordering them and challenging their knowledge; a computer can never be wrong, only a human error would be the answer to the mistakes halting the mission. When HAL is questioned, he does not hesitate to blame calmly the discrepancy for which he is accused on humans’ poor skills. Kubrick presents this incident in order to ridicule people’s inability to admit their own mistakes; the computer simply acts the way he is programmed. This demonstration of arrogance and superiority by HAL awakens Dave and leads him to investigate the source of the problem. In an attempt to escape from HAL’s watchful eye the two men try to conspire against him and plan accordingly. However, their underestimation of the machine’s intelligence is proven to be a deadly mistake as HAL’s instinct to sustain himself leads him to kill first.
The charming qualities that made HAL special are overshadowed by lies, manipulation and, a murder. The twofold use of any tool is easy to question, but Kubrick seems to believe that people will always be defeated by their own limitations to acknowledge their mistakes. HAL, much like humans, feels entitled to act this way since he considers himself superior to his master. However, he soon realizes his own immortality when Dave proceeds with the plan to terminate him. During this sequence, the machine exhibits a puzzling quality. HAL behaves as a child and tries to appeal to Dave’s emotions; HAL begs for him to stop, he sounds regretful, and begins to retrieve to an earlier stage of his life as a computer by singing a children’s song. The table is reversed. The creator is taking responsibility for his creation’s actions and begins to employ technology in a positive way, taking control of his life and that of the human race.
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece ends with the symbolic “Starchild.” A transparent mass of light becomes the home for Dave while he has regressed to a fetus-like stage. “The electric light is pure information,” states Marshall McLuhan in his examination of this medium without a message (19). Consequently, the future of the human race lies in the incorporation of knowledge and technology within an ultimate being. Serving as a medium within another, light carries the depth of human experience and transports it across the universe. The director presents the “Starchild” next to Earth as if he is a reflection of the actions in which people engaged, giving life to a new form of absolute balance and harmony. This film’s unconventional structure derives from the complexity of human life; any tool provides a new experience which morphs its creator and takes evolution into a different direction.
The genre of science fiction provides a plethora of interpretations regarding the future of humanity. In 1982, Ridley Scott released the film adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Scott’s Blade Runner presents a quite different atmosphere from that of the classic science fiction films of the past, sparking a new cycle of on-screen pessimism. Its plot and visual elements classify it generally as a neo-noir, pointing to the existential movies of the 40’s and 50’s, while its futuristic setting and storyline foreshadow a glooming outlook for humanity. The director’s use of cinematic elements transfers the audience to a world in which people have satisfied their egotistical need to replicate themselves by creating androids – a result of conquering new media and advancing into the NEXUS phase. These humanlike machines are used as slave labor to serve their creators, whose initial fascination with this scientific accomplishment has faded. Therefore, much like HAL, replicants developed a unique sense of self turning against their creators and confronting them for their mistakes.
People’s misuse of androids prevents them from seeing the transformation of their environment into a new interactive entity. Even in this highly evolved society, mankind is preoccupied with its quest to recreate life, keeping the endless desire to dominate and overpower others alive. “Scott’s Director’s Cut raises philosophical questions about the worth of humanity and humans’ control of the world which they have created,” (Galagher 1). The filmmaker’s depiction of people’s journey through time and space is challenged by the social uproar the NEXUS phase brought upon them. The psychological consequences of facing the rage of one’s own creation are unsettling as he is confronted by the reflection of his actions’ true intentions. The realization of mankind’s selfishness to give life to its own image for the pure joy of admiring new media’s advantages is too difficult to bear. In Blade Runner, technology provided the tools to manage everyday tasks with ease, but the intoxicating power that came along fooled the citizens of this planet once again. The only solution to eliminate further casualties lies in the characters’ persistency to “retire” their replicants, demonstrating mankind’s need to restore order in the only way proven successful by destroying their reflection.
Harrison Ford’s character, Rick Deckard, is a well modernized version of the classic noir hero. Rick is a middle-aged detective searching for life without the continuous pursue of replicants as it has ostracized him in the darkest corner of the Earth. He is a loner, whose existential choices determine his fate and course of action; it is Rick’s job to detect and “retire” the replicates from the world that created them. The director’s purposely made decision to conceal Rick’s connection with the creatures he seeks to destroy is meant to challenge the audience directly. Turning the spectators into active participants in the mysterious pursuit of truth and justice is an unconventional way of holding them accountable for the events depicted on screen. In a sense, Ridley Scott’s approach is aimed to warn the public of the dangers that ignorance, indifference, and arrogance disguise as signs of progress. Lev Manovich’s interpretation of the implications presented in the film brings up an interesting view about new media’s direction:
Like Blade Runner, Macintosh’s GUI [Graphical User Interface] articulated a vision of the future, although a very different one. In this vision, the lines between the human and its technological creations (computers, androids) are clearly drawn, and decay is not tolerated. In a computer, once a file is created, it never disappears except when explicitly deleted by the user. And even then deleted items can usually be recovered. Thus, if in “meatspace” we have to work to remember, in cyberspace we have to work to forget, (63).
Blade Runner centers on the gray area in between order and chaos. Rick’s inability to escape from his past is illustrated by his interaction with Rachel, an android who is not aware of the fact that she is a replicant. The memories implanted into her brain appear and feel real; one is to wonder what reality is and whether Rick could be an android as well.
This perplexing presentation of spaces and characters is another indication that appearances can be deceitful, just like technology. The futuristic background is enhanced through the extensive use of low-key lighting and expressionistic set design, conveying the story’s cynicism. The sets’ obscure treatment turns them into canvases of visual information. The paradox of creation challenges the audience’s expectations by revealing the unexpected richness found within each environment. The multiple layers of humanity cannot be defined or preprogrammed, but perhaps the replicants share much more in common with their creators than the characters dare to admit. The suffocating air is made worse by the rain and smoke, which linger in the atmosphere; the crowded scenes are followed by deserted ghost-like areas. It is evident that technology acted as a tool of regression, depriving humanity of its opportunity to evolve and achieve greatness. Scott promotes this imbalance to resemble the chaotic world of Frankenstein rather than the “harmonic dysfunction” of Kubrick’s 2001.
J. F. Sebastian, played by William Sanderson, portrays an ingenious man whose creations serve as a window into a world he will never come to enjoy. Suffering from a terminal genetic disease he is forced to live in fear; as a result of this condition, he is given a refreshing perspective on life that none of the other characters are capable to comprehend. The filmmaker presents J. F. Sebastian’s apartment in a remote and abandoned building that does not reflect the magnitude of his creativity. Nevertheless, its interior opens the door to another universe. It could be argued that J. F. Sebastian lives in a parallel virtual world using his dolls and toys as his avatars, comforting himself while waiting patiently for the inevitable. This illusion of control brings joy into a life that occupies multiple spheres of existence. Roy Batty, the leader of the androids seeking revenge, is a part of Sebastian as well. The interaction between the two characters makes it clear that both men share the same sense of reasoning, but also the weakness of the limited time they have on the planet (Bolter and Gromala 130-131).
The battle between Rick and Roy composes the climactic sequence of Blade Runner. The anticipated confrontation of creator against creation – human versus technology – presents the ultimate dilemma as the audience wonders what difference each result would make. Rick’s weakness lies in the fact that he has embraced narcosis while Roy’s pessimistic view of the future cannot be altered. Technology has the potential to create dreams, but also to externalize humanity’s worst nightmares; Roy condemns people for being doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past as they choose to let the memories of their failures fade in time. All the moments of destruction and suffering will be lost until the next cycle of violence begins. Confronted once again by their own flaws, people will attempt to destroy the mirror rather than use it as a window into their soul. Information is power, but it is how it is employed that makes all the difference.
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner paved a new path for future science fiction films to follow, addressing the concept of technological innovation with the use of a dark and cynical representation of the distant future; thus illustrating technology’s chaotic consequences. The most elaborate and original concept, however, came from Stanley Kubrick’s and Steven Spielberg’s collaboration in Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001). The initial idea for the story was eventually morphed into a relatable plot of loss and gain. A. I. centers on the dramatic journey of a machine attempting to become a real human being so as to gain the affection of the couple who programmed him to love them unconditionally. The film’s use of technological elements to portray the creation of a harmonic coexistence between man and machine satisfies a certain desire for a tangible, yet dreamlike, future.
Based loosely on the story of Pinocchio, A.I. centers on a world in which people’s on-demand lifestyles redefined the meaning of life. Embracing technology as the only tangible instrument worth believing in, they modified the moral and social standards of the past. The skepticism surrounding artificial intelligence is now eased by the convenience of having highly advanced, yet loyal, robots attend to mankind’s every need. Nevertheless, Cybertronics continues to target people’s demand for emotional support creating robot lines that provide just that. The newest breakthrough is the introduction of humanoid children programmed to simply love; it is expected that this product with have a tremendous appeal to parents who have suffered the loss of a child. David is a machine which will continue to love unconditionally with the same depth and devotion until one’s final moments. Science cannot predict the complexity of human nature or narrow the vastness of its emotions, thus presenting a significant limitation that cannot be resolved through any lifeless medium. The ultimate question raised in the end of the meeting may bring people to tears. Is there an individual capable of returning this kind of love? David will function as the window, showing people what they have scarified in order to accept progress.
The imminent isolation and loneliness David will be forced to experience is portrayed on the screen. A collection of shots is used to foreshadow his character’s dramatic journey through a world where the overproduction of on-demand services has narrowed people’s judgment and deprived them of their humanity. It appears that his presence and love will only be accepted when and if requested. For example, in the sequence where David is first brought to the house, he approaches and observes his new environment as he finds himself looking at a framed family picture. His reflection lies masterfully on an empty spot away from the rest of the characters, demonstrating that he is created solely to substitute people’s need for a child. Even though David appears to be real, he can never fully become human. The audience is aware of this, but David will never understand why. The conflict of this situation is impossible to be conceived by a technology that is given specific limitations. David – unlike Frankenstein, HAL, and androids – is incapable of feeling any other emotion than love. He is a machine, whose only task is to love his “parents,” when his mission is not accomplished he has no means of protecting himself against the pain of failure and rejection.
In the final sequence of the film David tries desperately to find the “Blue Fairy” and become a real boy to gain his mother’s love. The viewer is faced with a familiar desire of being united and accepted by his creator. When David’s wish is granted and Monica returns, he comes to experience one last special day with his mother. David carries the knowledge of the past and future; his mother’s perception of time and space is insignificant, therefore for this one day, the child gets to be the adult. It is the degree of awareness that determines and measures age, not the manmade sense of time. The visual indicators of the child’s emotions are reflected in the room in which he is waiting patiently for his mother to be returned to him. David is surrounded by cold and metallically shaded lighting, while when the time has come to be with his mother, the environment changes quickly with reddish hues leading him to her. In the final medium shot, where David and Monica share the bed for the first and only time, it is clear that they have finally become one; both of their faces are bathed with a naturally earthly color as the camera moves away.
The purity of the ending sequence depicts Steven Spielberg’s optimistic interpretation of what the future holds for humanity. David is the only transparent link connecting the past with the future; the act of sharing his knowledge ensures the continuity of mankind’s accomplishments across the universe. The compassion and love he was programmed to feel never faded and his memories will never be tainted by anger or regret. Artificial Intelligence: A. I. presents a window into a world in which man and technology have found a harmonic balance. Nevertheless, sacrifices are always expected in order to accomplish such a transition. Frankenstein’s inability to face the cost of his actions resulted in chaos as the creation mirrored its creator’s flaws, much like HAL in 2001 and the androids in Blade Runner. In A.I. people were stripped of their emotional independence, but David’s memories will help restore a world long forgotten by evolution. Technology is a pure carrier of information; it is up to each individual’s use that defines whether its consequences will benefit or harm life.
Barnes, Sue. "Cyberspace: Creating Paradoxed for the Ecology of Self." Communication and Cyberspace. Ed. Lance Strate, Ron L. Jacobson, and Stephanie Gibson. 2ndnd ed. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc., 2003. 229-53. Print.
Barsam, Richard. Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film. 2ndnd ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2004. N. pag. Print.
Bolter, Jay D., and Diane Gromala. Windows and Mirrors: INteraction Design, Degital Art, And the Myth of Transparency. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003. Print.
Galagher, Nola. Bleak visions: Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Director's Cut. (NSW Film As Text)(Critical Essay). Australian Screen Education 29 (Winter 2002): 169(6). Expanded Academic ASAP. Thomson Gale. Bergen Community College. 1 May. 2007. http://0-find.galegroup.com.
Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001. Print.
Mast, Gerald, and Bruce F. Kawin. A Short History of the Movies. Nineth ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. , 2006. Print.
McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Critical ed. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press, 1964. Print.