I’m not a good blogger

March 28, 2008 at 7:33 am | Posted in Blogging | 2 Comments
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Worst Site EverI have been neglecting my blog greatly – even though there would have been soooo many things to write about and post (e.g. a panel discussion I hosted; the articles that were written about it; the link to the online streaming window; the plans to launch a club for media studies folks doing research in digital media; the joys of Easter).

But: I just didn’t get around to it.

And I still don’t like linking this blog with my real name. That’s the main reason, actually.

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The End of Privacy: Transparent Humans, Courtesy of Social Media

January 27, 2008 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Culture, Internet | 1 Comment
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This was a 45-minutes discussion which I hosted at the 4th Barcamp in Vienna. Here is my translation of the summary posted on the Wiki of Barcamp Vienna (where it’s probably going to evolve).

The starting point of the discussion was the observation that the readiness of users to publish information about themselves on the internet has clearly increased over the last years: While web 1.0 communities often struggled with the problem that users – after signing up – were too reluctant to publish their information on their profile (thus limiting opportunities for further social rapport), the same users are now volubly feeding platforms like Facebook/Studivz, Twitter, Xing etc. with their personal information – real names, office addresses, documented conversations with others (e.g. Wall-to-Wall), current place of residence, party photos, etc. The scenario is complemented by services like spock.com, 123people.com or 30boxes.com which allow for the aggregation of information in one place, needing no more than a name or an email address. Anyone can place a request.

The main trajectories of the discussion:

_Discrepancy between immediate user experience and technological consequences: The type of information that is communicated via social media corresponds roughly to that communicated in small talk, in face to face conversations. What we do not take into consideration, however, is that this very information can now a) be stored b) be brought together. By means of this aggregated information much more can be be found out than we believe to have revealed.

_The lack of historicity in digital media: Digitally stored items exist in a permanent present – and that applies also to our digital traces on the net. Old curricula vitae, the little sins of our youth, previous communications are forever returning, over and over again, the fading away of information and recollections which is characteristic of non-digital existence has become impossible.

_Discrepancy between real person and on-line existence: As personal information/communication is turned into data, new online existences come into being that have little to do with real life individuals – and for many business models, these real life individuals are not of import anyway; what counts are micro communities that transform themselves into data.

_Illusion of control: Nonetheless – many users do still foster the believe that one can control the situation – two (absolutely contrary) approaches to regaining (imagined) control are on the one hand the strategy of acquiring many virtual identities (so as to cause confusion – yet as soon as the connection between them is revealed, they are mapped permanently) or the idea to only use one’s real name (so as to make sure that one always ‘behaves’ in way that cannot be turned against oneself).

_We are searchable: Those who engage in social media act similarly, exchange similar information like they would in real life – yet in real life our conversations and our behaviour are not ‘searchable’. Because all things digital have become searchable (and will never fade away, see above) new personality configurations emerge with which we have not yet learned to deal.

_We are aggregable: We have not only become searchable, but also aggregable. Information / communication which was intended only for certain addressees will sooner or later be brought together. Instead of only a small circle of friends/acquaintances, everything reaches a general public. Any form of electronic communication is public – sooner or later.

Evaluations of those taking part in the discussion corresponded in that it was widely believed that we are yet to face the biggest data-related disaster. On a more pragmatic note, it was believed that it lies with the current generation of users to find out how far we can allow ourselves to go with personal data.

See a corresponding article in Austrian daily newspaper Standard [German].

30boxes – the consummate end of privacy

January 25, 2008 at 7:04 pm | Posted in Internet | 13 Comments
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Ok, we’ve given up privacy a long time ago – Facebook/Studivz probably was the ultimate blow. And here now is the application that brings all the bits and pieces of you on the net together: 30boxes.com. They pretend to be a calendar service, but what disturbs me more is that you can enter anyone’s email, and it’ll tell you where this person has posted data of him or her on the net.

For instance, I typed in my boyfriend’s email address which does NOT give away his real name – and 30boxes gave me his first name and the first letter of his surname. I typed in Lenina’s email address and it produced her flickr account – even though she uses a completely arbitrary user name.

In theory, your email address shouldn’t be visible to anyone on flickr – so how can some shady web application find out whether you’ve got a profile there or not???

How Many Email Accounts Does One Need? – Plus a Word of Praise for Netvibes

January 10, 2008 at 9:42 am | Posted in Blogging, Netculture | 8 Comments
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Today I registered my fifth Gmail account. I am not greedy – I really need all of them. And I’ve got an additional one on GMX that costs me 2 Euros a month and allows me to send text messages/SMS and faxes to Germany.

I use the GMX-account for all things Amazon, Ebay, etc and for the job news letters for which I have subscribed. I am also using it for my “business liaisons”, yet am not quite happy with that. For one, I don’t really like GMX’s look and feel (they are working on an interface with an AJAX-appeal, but even that sucks), and also, this email address has a .de extension which occasionally leads to confusion in Austria, as GMX also offers .at accounts. So I might abandon it at one point.

Then I have got my cherished first Gmail account, which I try to use ONLY for human to human communication, featuring my real name. I don’t want any spam or dead line/business related mail to show up on that one.

This is why I’ve got ANOTHER Gmail account that I use exclusively for registrations on websites that force a registration upon you (e.g. to use their customer support). This one uses a made up name.

I’ve got a third account on Gmail which I use for all my blog related communication needs. It gives away my first name.

Then there is my fourth account which uses a silly name, something like “Getting out of here” that I first used when I was looking for jobs to get out of my previous jobs. I might abandon that one.

And today I finally signed up for my fifth gmail account, which is an inversion of my real name. In Austria, it is (oddly) common to introduce oneself using the last name first: “Hello, I am Smith Julia”. Email addressed are often created following the same logic: smith.julia@mail.com. Odd, but nobody here finds that bizarre.

This fifth email account I am going to put on a business card (just ordered 250 for free from vistaprint.at), so that arbitrary people to whom I’ve given my card can email me, but with my first choice account staying free from business affairs.

The only aspect potentially annoying about Gmail in that respect is that you log in and out of your Google account any time that you change the email acccount. Would be cool if they did something about that, e.g. allowed you to designate a primary account, but I doubt that is going to happen.

Google has become less user-oriented of late, which is particularly manifest in the way they are going about your privacy in Google reader: If you decide to share an item, it is going to be accessible to everyone and their dog who is in your address book. They call the people in your address book “your friends” – who can really have 400+ friends? And what’s next – sharing all your Google documents with your “friends”? that’d be he “Kill Google App”.

That’s why I unsubscribed from my Google reader feeds. I am now using netvibes which also has better microchunking options – they really manage to squeeze all my feeds onto one screen and still it doesn’t look cluttered. You can even export your Google reader feeds and then import them to netvibes. Check it out!

It’s now time to change your privacy settings in Facebook!

September 14, 2007 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Web 2.0 | 2 Comments
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Everyone! If you enter Facebook now you’ll find an announcement that your Facebook profile is soon going to be searchable for search engines like Google, etc. – and that means: visible and searchable to the whole world!

To avoid that this happens (and once the information is out there, it is for sure going to end up in some cache or greedy mirror server from which you can NEVER delete it), do the following:

_log into Facebook
_click ‘privacy’ (second option from the right in the top right corner)
_choose ‘search’ (the second paragraph in the bluish list)
_edit your privacy setting by UNCHECKING the boxes below the question in blue font: “Who can find my public search listing outside of Facebook?”

You might also want to change the rest of the privacy settings to meet your privacy needs.

3-Dimensional San Francisco in Photographic Detail

June 8, 2007 at 10:35 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We have all had our Ooh-Aah-moments with Google Earth. We have searched for our parents’ house, had a look at the New York Skyline and probably the Austrian Alps and of course we have all searched for Google Earth oddities at one point. Until the day that we realized that the we’ had gotten used to the third dimension of the world we live in.

Well, the thrill is now back in Google Earth, at least for a short while with Google Maps Street View: The regular Google Map is now enhanced by a feature that offers a three-dimensional photographic view if the environment.

The discourse that surrounds it is nothing new. On the one hand, the entire spiel of searching for places we know is going to repeat itself, followed by the quest for the oddest Streetview Oddity. This is one you’ll come across frequently: a guy pissing against a hedge. Oooh, isn’t that odd! We’ve seen it a million times before, and more often that we could want, but of course we haven’t yet seen it in a map. Also the entire privacy talk is going to repeat itself – I admit myself that I am fed up with it. I have -probably wrongly – accepted that you cannot invent a technology and then try to control it later. You’ve got digital photography, you’ve got 3D animation, you have got interactive maps and you’ve got media mash-ups. If you lump it all together you’ll get something like Google Streetview. Nobody can say they didn’t see it coming.

That’s how wars get started 30/40

March 28, 2007 at 6:48 am | Posted in Blogging, Bollywood, Friends, Teaching English, TEFL, Youtube | 10 Comments
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I’ve been a regular to the blogosphere since August 2006, and a regular blogger (one post per day, except when I am on vacation) for four months. This practice has fundamentally changed the boundaries of what I used to consider private and public. Things like using an IUD, for instance, I don’t think I would have wrote about on my first website, around 1998, over at tripod. (Btw, they used to call themselves “one of the leading personal publishing communities on the Web”, but have now hopped on the blog bus as well.) As I’ve probably written somewhere before, using a diary did never make much sense to me in the past – it just didn’t appeal to me to write something that isn’t addressed to someone. But who’s the address of blogging? Some individuals of course, both real life and blogosphere friends, although not immediately. Not in these same way as in writing (an email or letter) directly to them. The public? In a way. But with a difference. It’s as if blogging is also a way of getting reconciled with the world, with the things you’re doing, the problems you’re confronting. I suspect that this type of ‘public’ operates very much in a super-ego fashion – it would be worthwhile to examine this closer, but that’s actually not the topic I wanted to write about today.

Occasion for this intro is that I am going to use this blog today to write about a personal conflict I had with someone. This is definitely another step towards the blurring of the public and the private, or maybe even an attempt of making my concern heard by the super-ego that can accept or dismiss my request (following my half-baked theory above).

What is peculiar about this conflict is that, in our own minds, we both are right. It is an illustration of the great degree of subjectivity to which our perception of a situation is subjected. It explains why wars get started: both parties being trapped in their own little constructions of their world.

[…EDIT…]

I’ve changed my mind meanwhile. I am not going to write about this on the blog, at least not in the detailed way that I wanted to. It might be better, if you think of the death threats that some female bloggers are receiving these days. I’ve wondered in the past how Lenina’s ‘BF’ might respond to her posts about him, or his friends, which are not always favourable, but maybe he doesn’t know the address. Anyhow, explicit communication about this might only make the situation worse, as the person might read this blog and get offended (not a blogger….).

Although it would be a story worthwhile sharing, featuring dissent arising from using diverging terminology from different disciplines, misunderstanding and mistrust originating from wrong assumptions about the workings of technology, a clash of gendered behaviour, and a mutual pushing the buttons of each other’s inferiority complexes (I don’t know exactly which buttons exactly I pushed, but I know which of mine were activated: Never say something to a TEFL person that would make it appear as though you thought TEFL folk weren’t proper academics. They already think they are not, and being a TEFL person alone gives most of them a sense of failure. Most of them have turned to teaching English because it was their last exit to a regular income. More about the inferior complexes of TEFL people to be found at the English droid’s page.)

A brief excerpt of the actualized gendered behaviour (also suggesting that the argument arose via email):

masculine: “You are wrong. That’s my view. And I don’t believe you. I am not going to respond to anything you write about this from now on.”
feminine: keeping up the the communication via email nonetheless, trying to substantiate that she was falsely accused, animating the other side to respond…

This example of masculine behaviour, btw, reminds me of the character of the patriarch played by Amitabh Bachchan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (already mentioned a couple of times on this blog). The patriarch rejects his adoptive son for marrying the wrong woman and declares him a persona non grata. Talking about him is no longer condoned. Numerous attempts are made (mainly by women or characters with feminine connotations) to animate him to rekindle the communication about and with the son. But all attempts are brutishly silenced by the patriarch:

“I’ve said it. That’s it. Bas.

I think this post should end on a positive note nonetheless. There’s nothing better for that than a sequence from a Bollywood movie. I’ll pick one from the end of KKKG, when everybody is reunited in wedding and happiness, and the patriarch appeased.

God, I love this movie. I’m not normally a fan of Hritik Roshan, but I just love his little tongue in cheek dance in the first part of this scene.

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