The Big Bad Scary Internet

Because the internet has evolved into becoming a powerful tool for the creation and sharing of information and content such as texts, videos, music, images and software or applications.

Because of this ability to easily share information between you and I from basically anywhere in the world, the biggest issue that is constantly debated is copyright and the piracy of content.

My early teenage years was based around the time of when online file sharing began to become extremely popular through online tools such as Napster and limewire. One of my earliest memories of using the world wide web was for purely downloading music through Napster. Ever since file sharing online has exploded with popularity policy developers, politicians/governments and major corporations have all attempted in some way or another to control the flow of content online. As how both Zittrain and Doctorow discuss, the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) on various digital products but more commonly on music. Many attempts at utilising DRM on things such as music have failed largely due to the fact that savvy users have cracked the DRM code or the market simply rejecting the product due to the restrictions that were put in place.

What both Zittrain and Doctorow both explore in their writings on this issue and it is something that I myself agree with, is the fact that the current rules and regulations that we have in place to enforce copyright and non-piracy of non-digital content has been molded to be used within the digital realm unsuccessfully. Basically they trying to shove a square peg into a round hole, when in reality they should be using a round peg.

Doctorow puts forward a relevant point in which I find it hard to disagree with. He states that:

“The reality is that copyright legislation gets as far as it does precisely because it’s not taken seriously. It’s why the World Intellectual Property Organisation is gulled time and time again into enacting crazed, pig-ignorant copyright proposals, because copyright is just not as important.”

It is far easier to rely on the archaic legislation than it is to create new legislation. Far scarier to embrace technology and its freedoms than to try and outlaw it.

Is journalism as we know it lost?

Since the advent of web 2.0 and the rise of the phenomenon called participatory journalism mean that the role of the journalist that we know today becoming non-existent? A species becoming extinct if we do not step in.

As pointed out by Stephen Tanner during this weeks lecture that, due to the very nature of the Internet and how it is used, it is obvious that the relationship between the journalist and the reader has changed. No longer are journalists the ones in control of the flow of information being made available. Traditional journalism online has steered away from being just a one-way form of communication between the individual and the journalist. Journalist are no longer the gatekeepers of information, we are!

As with any form of change that takes place, there always individuals that embrace or resist. Quandt outlines in his 2011 journal article title: ‘Understanding a new phenomenon: the significance of participatory journalism’ that while most of the print journalists that he interview believed that there is an added benefit to including user-generated content for online journalism, many feared that in doing so undermines the very basis of journalism.

Those that are against participatory journalism stress that there is a danger to the profession, to professional norms such as accuracy and to the jobs of journalist. On the other hand though those that are in support of participatory journalism state that it allows for a widening of opinions and a larger range of ideas and beliefs as well as generating public discussion.

A great quote that is found in Quandt’s article, which states that

Anyone can do journalism, but not everything that is being done is journalism. Doing journalism requires following some rules, applying rigor. You have to fact- check and try to keep a more or less neutral standpoint. I f any person is acting this way, you can surely say they are doing journalism. Which is not the same as saying that whatever people send or whatever a news medium publishes is journalism.

In saying this, I truly feel that journalism as we know it may evolve slightly as with all things in life, but it will never be lost.

Accessibility: Online vs Offline

Having a physical disability all my life, I often come across various physical accessibility issues when performing day-to-day activities in which able-bodied individuals may take for granted with giving it much thought. These include:

  • using ATMs, they are usually to high and out of reach for someone in a wheelchair, or the way in which you insert and remove the card can also be an issue.
  • Purchasing an item at a shop when the counter is to high to hand over the money
  • The most frustrating issue of all is the lack of disabled accessible bathrooms especially when you are at a club or a music festival. (I have even come across a disabled bathroom at Sydney Airport where the door opened inward which in turn made it practically impossible to close and be inside at the same time…..)

Anyway, as much as I could ramble on forever talking about my personal experiences of access, I would like to touch on digital accessibility. In Goggin and Newell’s (2007) journal article ‘the business of digital disability’ posses the question. If we are now possessed of greater knowledge about disability and design, why is accessible and inclusive technology so difficult to bring about? Is it because inclusive technology is not profitable, and so unattractive for businesses and unsustainable as an industry? Or is the answer more education and awareness?

Personally I believe that it is mostly down to the need for more education and awareness. In my role of web content officer at UOW I am often communicating with our contributors for the UOW website and informing them of accessibility requirements for websites. I am often referring to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) when dealing with owners of information found on the various faculties and business units websites.

WCAG is made up of 12 guidelines in which they are categorized into four principles. They are;

Perceivable

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
  • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
  • Create content that can be presented in different ways,
    including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
  • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.

Operable

  • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • Give users enough time to read and use content.
  • Do not use content that causes seizures.
  • Help users navigate and find content.

Understandable

  • Make text readable and understandable.
  • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.

Robust

The main premise for following the WCAG guidelines is to make the web accessible for all, not just those people that have the ability to move a mouse with their hand, read the text that appears on their screen or hear sound that is played with video. Unlike myself in which I turn to technology to make my life easier such as typing vs writing, technology for a lot of people that have disabilities can make their lives a lot harder.

Learning the old way….

Do you know the old saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Well image if you will that the old dog in this scenario is the education system (or the educators) and image that the new tricks are the new methods and pedagogies in which education systems and educators could employ to better engage with the current generation.

In Richard E. Miller’s journal article ‘The Coming Apocalypse’ he questions the way in which knowledge and information is being taught within education institutions but also how it is being consumed by the general student. He states that;

Far from evolving in relation to the globalization of experience, our teachers, our curricula, and our expectations of education remain frozen in time, preserved like some prehistoric insect in a golden drop of amber.

Miller goes on to state that the way in which we consume information has changed. We are predominately reading in 140 character blasts on palm-sized screens. No longer are we heavily relying on going to printed books or journals when we are in need of information to support our own crazy ideas. Why would we… when are able to easily access this information via a thing called the Internet.

Since the advent of the Internet the debate of piracy, plagiarism and copyrighting of ideas has been front and centre. What Miller Contends is that higher education is somewhat struggling with this paradigm shift as the online world is embracing and cultivating collaboration, interaction and sharing of information with one another. This idea isn’t just shared by one person it is also shared by thousands of other educators, such as hollyclarksd who uploaded a short video (see below) looking at how education and technology can be used to enhance the learning experience for the student but also the teacher.