the final chapter

1 Jun

Taken from Andrew Chen's blog

The semester has finally come to a close and I am left with the question – will I continue blogging? I must admit that I do enjoy the occasional blog post and I do indulge in reading other blogs. I have, however, started multiple blogs throughout my lifetime and have failed miserably to continue and keep them up to date. In fact, my many blogs fall into the category of the insignificant trash on the web. However, I am out to find the answer to why I am so keen on blogging, no matter how many times I fail. What makes blogging so appealing? Is it the idea of self management, as mentioned by Lovink, that appeals us? Perhaps for some, and perhaps not. However, I do believe that for me, it is a way of self management. Although I have failed many attempts to retain a blog, I do admit that when I have posted on them, it has always been for myself and my own merit. In fact, it always ends up becoming some form of an online journal, or a place where I can manage my thoughts or vent them. I write poetry, I upload my own photographs, I even rant and rage about my daily life. I know that nobody in the world would care about these posts, but I don’t post them there because I want a second opinion on my life, I post them because it gives me a way to organise my thoughts and also reflect on myself. I have always wanted to keep a written diary, but have also failed in this sector as I am not a neat and efficient writer, and I like to be able to read what I am writing. It also scared me to have something lying around with so many personal thoughts inside it. I decided that a blog would be perfect because if I made a mistake, I could press backspace, and if i looked back on a post and thought “wow…that was unnecessary and embarassing”, I can go to my dashboard and instantly delete the post. In a way, it is also picking and choosing what I want to see within myself. I do admit, my intentions are extremely self-centered, but it also evokes my creativity and passion for writing. So rather than think of it as a project ON the self, I think of the blog as a project FOR the self. I have thoroughly enjoyed the blogging aspect of this subject, and it has opened up my eyes to how I can manage a blog myself. I hope that one day, I will be able to retain a blog and be able to look at it and see and feel the passion. Who knows, I might even keep this blog!

the flow of communication

26 May
I must admit, due to my constant moving around between Melbourne, Ocean Grove and Tokyo, I have always found it difficult to keep up to date with the news. In fact, for the past two months, I have barely had any access to the internet, my TV antenna is broken and I am not a big reader when it comes to Newspapers. When I was informed about the earthquakes in Japan, it was not through the radio, TV, or internet. In fact, it was my grandmother who called me up telling me what had happened. I realised then and there that the lack of communication I had with the world was frightening. Straight away, I found some form of internet to look up the news on and was instantly able to be up to date with the disaster that was happening. The fact that the news was so personal to me and the fear of my father’s safety over in Japan was enough for me to quit the lack of communication I was having and be more initiative. In class, we spoke about the digital divide, and how the internet can bridge that gap (as well as break it). I want to focus on how the internet provides an easy, instant way of communication with the world.
The internet plays a large part in globalization, and it has increased the flow of information between nations greatly. Because of the internet, I did not have to wait for the news to be aired on TV or to be written in a newspaper. I could just hop online and be instantly informed and up to date. The flow of communication is extremely important in the public sphere, and the internet is makes a large contribution to this circulation of cultural identity formed in the public sphere. I can refresh the page and voila! More information. There are RSS news feeds that exist on my web browser, that is constantly being updated as I surf the web. I am always being informed with the latest news stories via the internet. However, when I do not have the internet, other media outlets do not provide as much of a constant and instant flow of communication. Although television news corporation can interrupt a show with breaking news, it will not always focus on the news as it is also a form of entertainment for the general public. Ultimately, the internet is a place where there is a free flow of constant communication and without it, the news would be received much slower and we could not be as informed as we are today.

week 10

18 May
Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.
The creative common license I chose to use for this blog is the ‘Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)’. This license means that other people can:
Share, copy, distribute and transmit the work accordingly:
– you must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work)
– you may not use this work for commercial purposes
– you may not alter, transform, or build upon this work
I chose this license as it is the most restrictive and private. It enables my work to be shared, but it may not, unless with permission of the owner, be altered in any way nor can be commercialized. As this blog project is associated with my university studies, I did not want my work to go beyond the borders of my assessment task. In order to control any sharing that may happen, I decided that I would restrict it as much as possible using this license. I do not mind if anyone reads my blog and decides to share it, however, I do not want it to be commercialized nor do I want anyone altering my words. By placing the Creative Commons license, it also protects my work, as prior to the placement of the license, my work was not copyrighted and unprotected, free for web users to do as they please without crediting me. The license allows me to share my work whilst making sure that my work is protected.
The Creative Commons licenses provide a way of sharing work over the internet and be protected by the license simultaneously. It promotes the sharing and recreating of works, but still provides a method of protection for the creator of the work. Instead of having dozens of copyright laws to go through which restricts much of the access to the creativity, the licenses are simple and foolproof; for example, an artist may choose to distribute or leak an album whilst using a Creative Commons license, instead of selling their albums through the record store – thus promoting freedom of creativity in a non-profitable, non-illegal manner. Users can choose between commercial and non-commercial usage for their license, giving the creator more control over their work and giving their creativity a chance to be free from copyright issues.
Creative Commons gives “current copyright holders the option of making creative work available for copying and distribution by granting various exceptions to the rights they hold under copyright” (Garcelon, 2009: 1309).
Even in an ordinary blogging situation, I would choose to place a Creative Commons license on my page as I want my creativity to be protected on the internet. However, I would not choose the most restrictive license; the reason being that I would have much more creative control over what I wrote on my blog, rather than a university assignment where postings are more dictated, as I would want to share my work more openly (whether it be art, music, film). As my blog is a university task, I decided that the restricted license would suit the nature of my blog best and it does in fact make me feel more comfortable when posting on the blog.
Creative Commons in a nutshell:

Garcelon, Marc. 2009. ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’ in New Media & Society, 11.8, pp. 1307-1326

week 9

9 May
Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269)
Burgess, J., Green, J. 2009. ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’ in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, pp. 15-37

the elite versus the passionate

4 May
Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.
Bloggers have the freedom to post whatever they want, whenever they want. Blogging is a form of media that does not confine us into the boundaries of commercialized media, rather it liberates us from these constraints and let us take the reins for a change. ‘Elite’ media institutions such as Fox have large, corporate owners who’s main concern is increasing revenue and maximizing profit rather than carry out ethical and professional journalism (Fenton, Freedman, Witschge, 2010: 33). This creates what is called “creative cannibilisation” where journalists, under the pressure to constantly increase the media output for audiences to consume, do not follow ethical journalism practices and are pushed to create information rather than professionally investigate and acquire the information (2010). Since the commercialization of the mass media, the public sphere has weakened greatly due to the circulation of inaccurate truths caused by the greed of large media corporation owners. Blogging, in a way, is a method of preserving the public sphere. Due to its independence and democratic method, blogging provides an outlet where people can discuss and exchange opinion on matters in the world without the constrains of revenue and profit. If someone is passionate about animals and they create a blog that informs the general public about information on animals alongside their passion, the outcome is rather honest and truthful. Because the main concern of blogs is not profit, the information that is produced is real, interesting and honest, and thus, effectively contributing to the public sphere. 
One good blog example is Strobist, a blog purely dedicated to teaching readers about camera lighting techniques. The blog is extremely informative about its topic at hand and it is clear that the blogger is very passionate about photography and the technique of light. Although advertisements and sponsors appear on the banner to the side (which indicates that there is ad. revenue involved), the blog began without the aim of profit, and was created out of passion. This has let the blog remain honest and true to itself, as readers can soak up the information without the worry of it being unethical or false. 
Although there are thousands of blogs on the internet that take away from the passion and self fulfillment of blogging due to its blase approaches of the bloggers, the ones that do take the time and effort to create a blog on what they are passionate about have a great contribution to keeping the public sphere thriving and alive. 

Fenton, N., Freedman, D., Witschge, T. 2010. ‘Protecting the News: Civil Society and the Media’ in Geopolitics, History, and International Relations, Vol. 2(2), pp. 31-72

week 7

24 Apr
Lovink (Reader, page 222) argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self”. Discuss using one blog example. 
The blogging paradigm arrived in the late 1990s, appearing as “casual conversations that could not easily be commodified” and flourishing in the early 2000s (Lovink, 2007: 4). Since then, the blogging culture has expanded vastly within the world wide web as a social, political and cultural way of peer-to-peer communication. Lovink explores the blog as a self promoting device, and the notion of the blog being a “public diary format”, an idea that challenges issues of privacy on the internet (2007: 211). Blogs can be used by anyone, anywhere for any purpose, often being musings and ranting of the everyday life of the blogger, rushed and not well researched (Lovink, 2007: 8).
Blogger, ‘Xiaxue’, aka Wendy Cheng, who has been voted the number one blogger in Singapore in the past, is famous for her daily blogging. Her blog has become a national phenomenon, archived in Singapore’s National Library Board blog archives. However, when visiting Xiaxue’s blog, it is apparent that the blog is extremely self promoting, with a blogging theme based around photographs of Cheng as well as many of the blog entries simply telling the public about her daily life, always accompanied by a photograph of herself. In fact, in this old FAQ page, Cheng openly tells the public why she began blogging in the first place:
“Many years ago, I had a diary. And I was with this guy for a year, so my diary consisted mainly of him, him, him and him. When we broke up, I gave the diary to him. When I decided I wanted it back as it recorded my life for a year, I realised his angry current girlfriend threw the precious thing away during a Chinese New Year Spring-cleaning. How atrocious! So I decided to get something which can record my thoughts again, perferably has no limits to word space, and wouldn’t get thrown away by angry girlfriends.
And then I saw Blogger.” (Xiaxue, 2005)
As discussed earlier, the blog has a public diary format, and this aspect of blogging has become an appeal to certain groups of people. It is apparent from Cheng’s explanation of why she began blogging was simply for herself and her own, personal way of “managing the self” (Lovink, 2007: 28). However, it is apparent from the publicity and popularity of Xiaxue’s blog that her readers are indeed interested and continue to read her blog; whether it is because they are truly interested, or making fun of the self-centered blogging, her success in the blogosphere is a good example of how people do become interested in other self promotion. It should also be noted that Cheng goes beyond just self management, and uses her publicity in order to promote other ideas and causes, such as fund raising and other events. After reading Cheng’s blog, it is clear that although it may have started as a self promoting, online diary, the blog has evolved into a mixture of managing the self and simultaneously promoting other subjects. Although the blog may be a way of digital self-fashioning, “blogs create communities of like-minded people” (Lovink, 2007: 21), and it is inevitable that it provokes interest in the general public, and ultimately, it is this “deep social commitment” that makes up the public blogosphere.

Xiaxue’s Blog

Xiaxue’s FAQs

Online article commenting on Xiaxue

Lovink, Geert. 2007. ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’ in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 1-38

facebook privacy

16 Apr
In class, we have been thoroughly discussing the issue of privacy on the internet, in particular on Facebook. I do agree that there definitely is an issue of privacy in regards to the world wide web, with hackers and viruses floating about, you never know when your personal information will be stolen on the internet. However, one issue that has never quite concerned me is the privacy on Facebook. I don’t understand why so many people have such an issue with Facebook’s privacy (or lack of previously), as when you sign up, you are told exactly what the terms and conditions are. When you upload a photo onto your page or comment on someone’s wall, you know that it is out there and public for your friends to see. If you don’t want people to see it, then don’t post them in the first place! Facebook’s private inbox messaging does indeed exist, so why don’t people just use that if they want to keep certain things private? You cannot attack Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg for creating a site that you willingly signed up for just because someone saw something that you did not want them to see because Facebook called attention to it. Facebook is a site that shares information with your friends, not a place to hide them. If you can’t deal with that, then delete your Facebook and stop whining.
Taken from CNET News (Credit: Nitrozac and Snaggy)

week 6

12 Apr
WordPress “masks the database and creates a continuous blogging experience within the browser” (Helmond in Reader, p. 180), yet the database is rigidly defined and categorised. Discuss how this shapes the way we interact with the World Wide Web through blogging and how it affects user agency.
 Wordpress is a blog software which users can access online, as well as offline by installing the software and using a portable USB (Helmond, 2007: 49), to either create one for themselves, and/or access the thousands of blogs through the browser. It is a user friendly program, where the complexity of the software and its database is virtually invisible to the user, as it essentially acts as an interface to the database (Helmond, 2007: 44).
The WordPress database is the core of the blog, storing all of the internal content, such as posts and uploads of files made by the user. The WordPress software inevitably conceals the database using an interface, which then organizes the database into multiple tables in one window. The database is masked and simplified on screen, so that users can access other blogs, comment, post and check statistics without complication and confusion – as opposed to other blogging environments such as Microsoft Word that lack these functions – creating fluidity for the blogger and making it a user friendly environment (Helmond, 2007: 46-53).
The WordPress interface enables users to search the database easily and swiftly – users can access thousands of blogs with a click of a button. Before blogging softwares such as the WordPress one was created, much of the internet blogging available was very manual. When it came down to things such as appearance, site navigation and browsing other blogs, the interconnectivity between these factors was very minimal and complicated.
Now that the navigation through sites such as WordPress and Tumblr has become much more easy and swift, users barely have to think before they do things on the web (through blogging). In one single page, they can access almost everything they need to blog for themselves and to read other blogs. This easiness has made blogging a much more popular hobby and exciting – as before, to navigate and use blogging websites manually meant that users had to have some form of background knowledge with computers and html scripts (in regards to creating/changing themes, personalizing blogs as well as site navigation). More web users have turned to blogging online rather than writing in a journal and therefore, there are more blogs, more opinions, more information. More users browse blogs and use them as a way to find out information due to the easy navigation of the page – people are starting to branch out and use these blog search engines rather than Google to look up information on the World Wide Web.
Due to the newness of the software, user agencies must be up to date and be able to run these softwares and interpret the databases quickly for these websites to continue thriving. There are a lot of scripts running on these sites and if a web browser is slow and unable to keep up with the overload of information, then the user may become impatient and stop using the website – or the user agency (such as Safari or Internet Explorer), as some are faster and updated than others. As van Dijck explains that with the emergence of the Web Design 2.0 applications, people find themselves immersed in a culture where they can express themselves and create new things through the endless horizon of the WWW (van Dijck, 2009: 42). It is inevitable that the Web Design 2.0 has changed the way softwares run on the internet forever – there is more and more demand for new media, new creativity, new expression – and this change has enabled more and more people to become contributors to the blogging sphere, creating more opportunity on the internet.

Helmond, Anne. 2007. ‘Software-Engine Relations’, in
Blogging for Engines: Blogs Under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations, MA Thesis, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdamn, pp. 44-80
Van Dijck, Jose. 2009. ‘Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’ in Media, Culture and Society, 31, pp.41-58 

week 5

30 Mar
Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:
Mark Zuckerberg’s Comment on Sharing
In this video above, Zuckerberg shares with the public his explanation on Facebook’s privacy model. There are two parts to his statement:
First, the development of Facebook and its origin, up until the present. He gives reasons as to why this social network was originally created and what users were ultimately seeking from the site, and as well as addressing the simplicity of the original website. He reminds users as to why they began using this site in the first place:
“People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them.” (Zuckerberg, 2010)
He is very cautious in making sure that users recognize the fact that they have chosen to “share and stay connected”, and as the social network evolved, so did the privacy settings. He constantly addresses the fact that the company asked “you”, the user, to tell “us”, Facebook, what changes users were seeking in regards to their privacy. He carefully constructs his statement so that it is perceived as the users who have created these issues rather than Facebook – making the user appear to have control rather than the other way around; a heightened sense of security.
The second half of his statement is explaining the changes made to the privacy settings on Facebook, why these changes were made, and how to use these changes to each user’s advantage. The idea of ‘control’ is an important aspect in Zuckerberg’s statement to support the idea of Facebook as a ground where it is controlled and defined by users rather than the social network company.
“We’ve always offered a lot of controls, but if you find them too hard to use then you won’t feel like you have control.” (Zuckerberg, 2010)
Zuckerberg explains that this new privacy policy created by Facebook is simple, easy and enables the user to control all aspects of their sharing. Control and security is what the public inevitably wants, according to Zuckerberg, and that is what Facebook has presented the public with. Through this, he has now enabled to shift all privacy responsibility to the users, so that if any invasion of privacy was to occur, it would be user generated and Facebook will not be held responsible. To finalize this shift, he concludes by stating that the Facebook privacy model is complete, therefore implying that there should be no further issues of privacy on Facebook; the rest is up to the users.
Facebook has been criticized greatly in the past for its privacy model, or lack there of, for example, Danah Boyd’s essay on Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck (2008). The issue of privacy within social networks has been debated for years, with social networks such as MySpace, Friendster, and now Facebook, arriving on scene in the past several years (Solove, 1972: 24-40). The issue itself is to do with the fact that much of what is shared on the internet is unprotected and easy to access, therefore, causing an invasion of privacy. However, it becomes much more complex because these social network sites invite users to share information, not hide it, thus creating confusion on where to draw the line of privacy. If users have willingly consented to sharing their information, and ultimately letting the network invade their privacy, then why is it an issue? As Solove states, “not everybody knows the risks of exposing themselves online” (Solove, 1972: 39) and this lack of knowledge can lead to negative consequences. Boyd touches on the fact that Facebook brings attention to the small pieces of information that may not be noticed in everyday life through a central networking space – the News Feed homepage on Facebook – where these previously unnoticed pieces of information come together in a live news feed (2008: 15).
“Facebook made what was previously obscure difficult to miss.” (Boyd, 2008: 15)
These social networks do indeed place previously unnoticed information into a limelight flashing on computer screens. However, as Zuckerberg mentions, it is inevitably a place of sharing and connecting. The lack of control in the previously used privacy settings meant a lack of security, a lack of confidence, and control is ultimately what users want (Zuckerberg, 2010).
“Unless you feel in control, then you won’t be comfortable sharing and our service will be less useful for you.” (Zuckerberg, 2010)
With the new and complete privacy model, there is no need for users to have an issue with their privacy. Have Zuckerberg and the Facebook team successfully palmed off all privacy responsibilities onto the users accessing the network? It looks hopeful.

Boyd, Danah. 2008. ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, in
Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies, 14.4: 13-20
Solove, Daniel J. 1972. ‘How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us’, in The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumour and Privacy on the Internet, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 17-49
Zuckerberg, Mark. 2010. ‘Making Control Simple’ in The Facebook Blog, <; May 27 2010

online self diagnosis

23 Mar

“I’m not feeling too well and I’m not sure what it is. Let me check my symptoms online, read a little about it, self diagnose and then self medicate. If I think it’s anything serious, then I’ll go to the doctor.”

Sound familiar? I am sure that this thought process is very recognizable to some people. In fact, I myself admit to having plenty of times where I have been feeling sick and have checked the symptoms and treatment forms out on the internet. Even when my dog is sick, I go straight to the internet to check to see if I can find out information on what she might have. Although I have never found myself in any danger of self diagnosis online, and neither has my dog, I make sure to keep in mind that it is the internet, and not everything found on the internet is 100% reliable. Because of its vast freedom and democratic manner, the internet has many positives as well as many negatives when it comes to the validity of information posted. This site explores the dangers of online diagnosis and how to stay safe whilst browsing the internet for answers to your illness. Next time you’re not feeling too well, it may be a better idea to just call up the doctor and discuss the symptoms via phone, rather than only trust the internet as that is where the danger really lies.