Internet of Humans or Things?

The Internet is moving from being made up of humans to being made up of things. This is not yet a daily reality but is moving towards that possibility. With the introduction of mobile devices, improvements in data storage and processing, and the decreasing cost of biometric sensors, the ability to gather data and track our own movements is becoming more accessible (Wolf 2010). The Internet of Things (IoT) is the connection of physical objects to the Internet (Mattern & Florkemeier 2010) and can be used for “self-tracking” or “the quanitifed self” (Lutpon 2013, p. 25), as explained in the video below:

BI Intelligence recently released ‘The Connected-Home Report’ (though to access the full report you must be a paid subscriber) which highlighted that the cost of biometric sensors has dropped by 50% since 2004 (Greenough 2014). Companies are investing more money in the area and there is a larger base of consumers keen to purchase these devices (Greenough 2014). Personally, I already track my sleep patterns, eating habits and exercise activity using such devices. I also engage in social networks which facilitate discussion in these areas and compare myself to others to reflect and evaluate my own goals. One such network is Strava which tracks my running progress through a GPS, uploads it to the Internet and creates metrics to evaluate performance. This data is publicly available to others using the same platform and it is possible to discuss, compare and compete with users.

As mentioned earlier, improvements in data storage have enabled the Internet of Things to exist. But the IoT raises a host of ethical questions as the reach is farther than the self (Lupton 2013). Companies and governments have the potential to use this biometric data for public health research but also for more sinister uses such as health insurance and marketing (Wolf 2010). It is pertinent to ask how this personal data will be stored and interpreted and more importantly, by who.



Greenough, J 2014, Here are the four key elements that will make ‘The Internet Of Things’ an absolutely massive market, Business Insider Australia, 15 October, viewed 23 October, <>.

Lupton, D 2013, ‘Understanding the human machine’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 25-30.

Mattern, F & Florkemeier, C 2010, ‘From the Internet of Computers to the Internet of Things’, Informatik-Spektrum, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 107-121.

Wolf, G 2010, The quantified self, online video, 3 June, TED, viewed 23 October 2014, <>.


Cybercrime: The Net Was Not Built For Privacy

As discussed in my previous post the internet has provided the avenue to not only allow individual nodes to network and speak their minds but to share information freely to all nodes (Benkler 2011). However, this freedom of information may be at the expense of privacy and security. The internet is built in a way that makes it cheaper to store data than to delete it (Sterne 2014). This is why hackers were able to allegedly distribute the usernames and passwords of Dropbox users last week and personal snapchats the week before.

Some users prefer data to be held in ‘walled gardens’ which offer protection from the open internet and come with the illusion of privacy and security (Zittrain 2008). These closed systems offer some comfort to users who feel safer within the ‘walled garden’ (Zittrain 2008). In reality, hackers are able to surpass these boundaries. A flaw was found in Amazon’s walled garden through the ‘Manage Your Kindle’ page which enables the hacker to access credit card details.

Hackers are also not stopped by the boundaries of nations. Hacking and cybercrime are global issues which makes them difficult to police. For example, the Syrian Electronic Army does not respect national borders (Fisher & Keller 2011). Despite their name, the Syrian Electronic Army targets opposition organisers within Syria and notably, media outlets outside Syria (Fisher & Keller 2011). Similarly, in the case of LulzSec, they had never met in real life (Arthur 2013). Some were based in the UK while others were based in the US and they were unaware of their true identities (Arthur 2013).

Often the intentions of cybercrime are less sinister than assumed. This is a reminder of the ‘playful’ value of some hackers who see the practice as a game. The intention of LulzSec was to “gain attention, embarrass website owners and ridicule safety measures” (Arthur 2013). But the potential of hackers to do more than the humorous is worrying.

The internet is not built with the intention of privacy but the freedom of information (Benkler 2011). So it might pay to check out some online tools such as Tor, Avast and Thunderbird, all of which will bring you one step closer to protecting your privacy.


Arthur, C 2013, ‘LulzSec: what they did, who they were and how they were caught’, Guardian, 17 May, viewed 18 October 2014, <>.

Benkler, Y 2011, ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review, pp. 1-33, viewed 10 October 2014, <;.

Fisher, M & Keller, J 2011, ‘Syria’s Digital Counter-Revolutionaries’, Atlantic, 31 August, viewed 18 October 2014, <>.

Sterne, J 2014, Is it cheaper to keep than delete?, ClickZ, weblog post, 10 April, 19 October 2014, <>.

Zittrain, J 2008, The future of the internet and how to stop it, Yale University Press, Massachusetts.

Hacking: The Ethical Dilemma

At the current time in the evolution of the internet an ethical dilemma is faced. The internet has provided the avenue to not only allow individual nodes to network and speak their minds but to share information freely to all nodes (Benkler 2011). Hacking figureheads such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden highlight the possibilities and consequences of the cyberliterarian value that is information freedom (Khatchadourian 2010; Sterling 2013). There is the capability to spread information freely but is this at the expense of privacy and security?

Andrew Morse and Ian Sheer (2011), authors at the Wall Street Journal, label hackers as a “serious annoyance and even a threat in their own right”. Although, given that the Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp who had their own systems hacked earlier that year, these views may present more than a little bias.

This opposes the view of Bruce Sterling (2013), a pioneer of cyberpunk, who sees hackers such as Julian Assange (below right) and Edward Snowden (below left, held up by Assange) as “fantastic figures” who “have the initiative in a world afflicted with comprehensive helplessness”.


Internet sites such as WikiLeaks are viewed by some as an “instrument for good in societies where laws are unjust” (Khatchadourian 2010). Democratic governments such as in Australia, remain transparent within reason. In most cases, the secrets are held largely to protect legitimate policy (Khatchadourian 2010). However, those operating under the cyberlibertarian view believe that the public has a right and need for information freedom (Shirky 2008). Hence, there is a struggle for hackers such as Assange who feel that in the reality it is the individual versus the institution (Khatchadourian 2010).

The ethical dilemma of whether global citizens have the right to transparency or whether organisations and governments have the right to security is a sticky one which is likely to remain such for a long time to come.



Benkler, Y 2011, ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review, pp. 1-33, viewed 10 October 2014, <;.

Khatchadourian, R 2010, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, New Yorker, 7 June, viewed 10 October 2014, <>.

Shirky, C 2008, Here comes everybody, Penguin Group, London.

Sterling, B 2013, The Ecuadorian library or, the blast shack after three years, Medium, weblog post, 2 August, viewed 10 October 2014, <>.

KONY 2012: Social Media, Idealism, Realism

KONY 2012 has good intentions in its focus of building awareness through online participation but this may not be in the best interest for Uganda when it is real-life action that is needed. A participatory culture is a utopian goal and the premise behind this movement is that an individual’s participation can make a difference (Jenkins & Carpentier 2013). The video was very successful online, generating millions of views and raising much-needed awareness (Invisible Children 2014). Though, it must be remembered that no number of likes or shares will capture Joseph Kony.

Support through online participation may be a pre-condition for change but clicking the like button does not create the change itself. The KONY 2012 campaign aims to create a movement by driving people to share and use the hashtag ‘#stopkony’ to build awareness (Invisible Children 2014). The campaign took a cyber-utopian view believing that they could use social networks to start a revolution. This cyber-utopian view is shared by idealists such as Popova (2010) who believes that online communities broaden our scope of empathy and says that to negate the power of social networks for activism “is to deny the evolution of the social planes on which justice and injustice play out”. She provides the example of the disruption of Twitter and Facebook for hundreds of millions of internet users to take down a single blog and silence one voice (Popova 2010). Clay Shirky (2011) takes the softer line stating that “digital tools enhance democracy”. So why is it that media activism has had limited success in the United States (Hackett & Carroll 2006)?

As Morozov (2012) highlights in his work, ‘The Net Delusion’, promoting democracy is not as simple as spreading a message and opening up the means of communication. Invisible Children makes use of what Morozov (2012) has labelled ‘slacktivism’, which involves supporting a cause through minimal actions rather than being truly engaged. Malcolm Gladwell (2010), a social network revolution realist, states that “the kind of activism associated with social media (and) the platforms of social media are built around weak ties”. To some extent the KONY 2012 initiative was successful in generating participation at real-life lobbies and rallies but overall it created weak links of fleeting attention.


Gladwell, M 2010, ‘Small change: why the revolution will not be tweeted’, New Yorker, 4 October, viewed 26 September 2014, <>.

Hackett, R & Carroll, W 2006, Remaking media: the struggle to democratize public communication, Routledge, New York.

Invisible Children 2014, KONY 2012, Invisible Children, viewed 26 August 2014, <>.

Jenkins, H & Carpentier, N 2013, ‘Theorizing participatory intensities: A conversation about participation and politics’. In Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, viewed 18 August 2014, <;.

Morozov, E 2012, The net delusion, Public Affairs, New York.

Popova, M 2010, ‘Malcolm Gladwell is #wrong’, The design observer group, 10 June, viewed 25 September 2014, <>.

Shirky, C 2011, ‘The political power of social media’, Foreign Affairs, 1 February, viewed 26 September 2014, <>.

Hello Reddit, Goodbye Fairfax

First, let’s count the biggest gatekeepers of industrial media in Australia. I can count two (Fairfax Media and the Murdoch empire). Two gatekeepers who control information and decide what it is that the people of Australia need to see. The metaphor of ‘gates’ refers to the publishing technologies controlled by media organisations. Gatekeepers police these gates to ensure that only suitable information is transferred through to their audience (Bruns 2003). News corporations tend to view their readers as passive, however, could this be why news readership is failing across the globe (Saba 2009)?

The rise of blogging has shaken up mainstream news and created chaos for industrial media. Revenue has plunged from industrial media due to the competition from citizen journalism on the internet (Saba 2009). Citizen journalism provides news as a process (Bruns 2009). The news item remains in beta which means that it is evolving and continually being updated. Use of traditional media is slowing down, while traffic to sites such as Reddit has been steadily increasing over time (Alexa 2014).

Think of a Reddit as a news platform; it is a gatewatcher which allows users to act as the main filters. There is an original thread, however the story of this thread can be seen in the comments  which have developed over time. Coverage of topics remain unfinished, inviting user participation in a more conversational mode of information production (Bruns 2009). Gatewatchers have the ability to create ad-hoc, decentralised and crowdsourced content, which is not possible with gatekeeper journalism (Bruns 2009).

An example is the reporting of the Boston bombings which was reported much faster on Reddit than by industrial media outlets such as Fairfax Media (Ungerleider 2013). There are issues with this, however, such as false information being distributed and interpreted as fact. Though, on Reddit an article’s visibility is determined democratically by the users which usually irons out these issues due to the number of people looking at the content (Virasoro, Leonard & Weal 2011).  This democratic voting may also lead to a fairer representation of global news (Virasoro, Leonard & Weal 2011). Reddit is a platform that not only gets the news out faster but also allows the users to choose what is most important. That’s pretty hard to beat.


Alexa 2014, How Popular is, Alexa: Competitive Intelligence, viewed 18 September 2014, <>.

Bruns, A 2003, ‘Gatewatching, not gatekeeping: collaborative online news’, Media International Australia Incorporating Culture & Policy, no. 107, pp. 31-44, viewed 18 September 2014, <>.

Bruns, A 2009, ‘New blogs and citizen journalism: new directions for e-journalism’, in Prasad, Kiran (Ed.) e-Journalism: New Media and News Media, BR Publishing, Delhi, India, pp. 101-126, viewed 19 September 2014, <>.

Saba, J 2009, ‘Specifics on newspapers from ‘State of News Media’ report’, Editor & Publisher, 16 March, viewed 18 September 2014, <>.

Ungerleider, N 2013, ‘How Reddit became a hub of the crowdsourced Boston Marathon bombing investigation’, Fast Company, 19 April, 19 September 2014, <>.

Virasoro, D, Leonard, P & Weal, M 2011, ‘An analysis of social news websites’, in Proceedings of the ACM WebSci Conference 2011, Koblenz, Germany, 14-17 June, viewed 18 September 2014, <>.

Security Guards in Open and Closed Systems

In the early days of Apple, the company favoured an open approach to business. The original Apple Macintosh computer was built in a way that made it open to any outside software. In 2007, however, when the iPhone was released, “the openness on which Apple had built its original empire had been completely reversed” (Zittrain 2010). Outsiders were invited to write software but what was allowed on the closed system was controlled and regulated. The iPhone thus “remains tightly tethered to its vendor” (Zittrain 2010). This closed system offers some comfort to users who feel safer in the “walled garden”.

In this video recorded before the release of the Apple App Store, Steve Jobs explains the benefits of a closed system which provides centralised security to prevent hacking. In this case, Apple is the ‘security guard’.

The Google Android Operating System, in contrast, relies on the users to take the role of ‘security guard’. Android relies on users to create the majority of the applications which fit out the mobile device (Roth 2008). This created concern for users as the open model could allow bugged applications on to their personal mobiles. The answer to this is that “Android’s secret weapon is really the network effect” (Roth 2008). As Raymond (2001) states, “given enough eyeballs, bugs are shallow”. The feedback loop, involving a process of evaluation, monitoring and improvement, is much faster for open systems than closed systems which means that bugs are ironed out quickly (Schmidt & Porter 2001). This is the benefit of the operating system being open to the users to act as ‘security guard’ and review content.

Android dominated when it burst on to a market populated by walled gardens. Networked organisations always out compete hierarchical, vertically integrated organisations because networks are more flexible and open to change (Castells 2004). Android controlled 85% of the market in the second quarter of 2014 (Mawston 2014).

Which security guards would you prefer?



Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’, in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world?, Demos, London, pp. 221-224.

Mawston, A 2014, ‘Android captures record 85% share of global smartphone shipments in Q2 2014’, Strategy Analytics, 30 June, viewed 13 September 2014, <>.

Raymond, E 2001, ‘The cathedral and the bazaar’, Tuxedo, pp. 1-31. viewed 13 September 2014, <>.

Roth, D 2008, ‘Google’s open source Android OS will free the wireless web’, Wired, June 23, viewed 13 September 2014, <>.

Schmidt, D & Porter, A 2001, ‘Leveraging open-source communities to improve the quality performance of open-source software’, CiteSeer, viewed 13 September 2014, <>.

Zittrain, J 2010, ‘A fight over freedom at Apple’s core’, Financial Times, February 3, viewed 13 September 2014, <>.

You Are Not Free In The Walled Garden

Ever heard of a walled garden? They have been prominent for about 5 years now (Zittrain 2008a). Facebook, Amazon and Google Play are all walled gardens because they hold curated content, protection from the open internet and quality control. However, with this also comes licensing fees, copyright controls and content tied to that platform (Zittrain 2008a). Hence, these walled gardens are a step back from the freedom of the internet that Sterling spoke about in 1993, and a move back towards centralisation, censorship and control.

Image: Simonds, D 2010, Social networking sites as walled gardens, image, W3C, viewed 1 September 2014, <;.

Sterling (2013) refers to the internet today as “a cluster of pipes in the ground leading to big, big data vaults”. A stack is a set of vertically integrated walled gardens. Each stack has its own cloud to store aggregate data and allows it to flow freely through its own proprietary operating system such as Apple. This shows that Sterling has come full circle since 1993 when he wrote an article ‘Short History of the Internet’ which saw the internet as a place of freedom. He now believes that the internet still has users but “stacks have livestock” to create surplus value and these users do not have much independence (Sterling 2013).

This becomes more obvious when looking at a stack like Google. Within Google, even YouTube can be seen as an example of a walled garden. Videos can be taken down upon request. Regulators can take down anything within their walled garden to make a more pleasant experience for users (Zittrain 2008b). There is less independence here because it is controlled and governed by Google. During the World Cup, any spectator who was to film the game and upload this to YouTube would have their video removed due to copyright controls.

The “old” internet is shrinking and it is making way for walled gardens (Batelle 2012). People participate in these walled gardens with little concern – is this participation a vote that the shift from decentralisation back to centralisation is okay?



Batelle, J 2012, ‘What commons do we wish for?’, Battle Media, February 22, viewed 6 September 2014, <>.

Simonds, D 2010, Social networking sites as walled gardens, image, W3C, viewed 1 September 2014, <>.

Sterling, B 1993, A short history of the Internet, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Connecticut.

Sterling, B 2013, Bruce Sterling at Webstock 2013, 9.30-21.00, Webstock, viewed 6 September 2014, <>.

Zittrain, J 2008a, The future of the Internet and how to stop it, Yale University Press, Massachusetts.

Zittrain, J 2008b, Walled garden coding, Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, Harvard University, January 23, viewed 6 September 2014, <>.