Issues of Privacy with Ad Algorithms

Have you ever been confused, when you are looking at webpage that has an advertising side bar, and something that you often look up is popping up as the ad? Personally, this always kind of freaked me out; how did this specific site know that I had looked this up in the past? Could other sites, and to go further, people, know that this is what I was looking up?

After reading George Dvorksy’s article, this phenomenon made a little more sense to me. He mentioned two algorithms, “You May Also Enjoy…” in which certain sites like Amazon and Netflix suggest things the user might like based on things they have previously bought or watched, and “Google AdWords” in which an algorithm takes key words or behavior online to suggest “contextual advertising.” These algorithms are exactly what I think of when I see ads pop up on websites that are for a website that I had previously browsed. For example, the below picture is a capture of a Spanish translating site I use. The advertisement on the side is for Anthropologie, a clothing company that I often visit online to browse for clothes.

This image is a capture of an internet page from my personal computer. 

So an algorithm is processing my commonly-visited sites and searches and producing a visual image for an advertisement of what it has decided, based on its data of my searches, is something that I would like to see.

I can see how this can be seen as beneficial, but I also find it to be somewhat of an invasion of privacy by an algorithm. Not that most of us have much to hide, but personal browsing is what it sounds like- personal. And yet a computer program is able to take what we look up on our private computers and reproduce that to us. And I think that is the scariest part- that it isn’t even a human doing this, but a computer. A computer algorithm can immediately have access to our internet searches and visited websites. For me, that puts into question (similar to questions of Artificial Intelligence), what else can a computer do? How much power do they really have?

Posted from Digital Studies 101 Blog by Lindsay

What’s Behind the “Buffering Icon”

As I read “Fidget Spinners: How buffer icons have shaped our sense of time”, I at first disagreed with Farman’s claim that buffering icons create an intimacy with someone through technology (or even the technology itself) and represents the hope of satisfaction. I thought about my reactions to the buffer icons of my Mac, Instagram, and Youtube; usually they were ones of frustration because I was being forced to wait to look at something, watch something, save something, etc.

As I finished the article, however, I could see that some of what Farman was saying about intimacy was true. I decided that, for me personally, there are two  different instances of how I feel about waiting on technology.

I think (and I feel this may be true for others) that the instances that I get frustrated with waiting for technology is when I know the content that is “behind” the buffering icon. For example, I get really frustrated when I am trying to download something into a folder online, and the buffering icon is preventing it from occurring quickly. Or when I am trying to watch my favorite movie on Netflix and the buffering icon is taking so long that it is preventing me from doing that.

 

A different instance where I am waiting on technology in which I actually feel excited with anticipation and intimacy as Farman suggests is when I am waiting for a text message and I see the typing bubble that pops up in iMessage when someone is typing me a message back. This specific buffering icon creates excitement because its duration, how fast it pops up, etc. are indicators of what the message might say, and it is exciting to wait for it, especially when it is in an intimate conversation with a friend or a love interest (Haha).

This is not a clear, distinctive line however. There are certain platforms of technology in which I am waiting, and sometimes I feel excitement, and sometimes I just get frustrated at how long I am waiting to see or watch something that I am really interested in. This blur is really interesting because I think it can represent other instances unrelated to technology in which we are waiting and will have different reactions in different moments. One good example of this blur would be waiting for an Instagram picture to load. While sometimes it is exciting to anticipate what the picture might be while it loads, it is also sometimes frustrating when you have to wait a really long time for something you want to see.

All GIFs in this post were retrieved from giphy.com 

Posted from Digital Studies 101 Blog by Lindsay

Counter GIFs

Sports GIF

Counter GIF

Analysis: 

When sports GIFs are used, they are often show epic plays, whether they are successful  or failures. Regardless, they usually display the extreme of either side of the scale. That is why they are entertaining and often used in context of describing something amazing, or an “epic fail.” For my counter GIF, I decided to display an NFL team in action, but in a really unimpressive way: warming up before the game. This has no “wow factor,” as a sports GIF (portraying success or failure), usually has in order to captivate the viewer with either awe or humor.

 

Reaction GIF

Counter GIF

Analysis:

In the reaction GIF, Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreations reacts to something (in the context of the show) with a very animated, emotional face. This, and other reaction GIFs, are meant to depict an emotional response to something. Andy Dwyer is showing extreme excitement to something with his eyes and mouth wide, opening into a smile. The counter GIF shows the Andy Dwyer, the same character from the Reaction GIF, doing something insignificant, and unemotional. This clip could hardly be described as emotional, let alone called an emotional GIF. His lack of emotion on face and action in his body language suggest an unresponsive and non-reaction act.

 

Fandom GIF 

Counter GIF 

Analysis:

The fandom GIF above is an iconic scene from the movie Dirty Dancing. “The Jump” is a really big task for Baby (Jennifer Grey) to accomplish with Johnny, and she works on it throughout the entire movie, and finally succeeds in it in this scene. It is arguably the best-known scene in the movie and is referenced in other movies (Crazy, Stupid Love) and other forms of media. “The Jump” is a famous icon from Dirty Dancing. The counter GIF above is from the  same movie, however it is a scene that does not hold much popularity, and actually shows Jennifer Grey failing at dancing. In other words, it is not iconic, and therefore would not catch on in other platforms of social media.

All GIFs not created by me were found on GIPHY. I used GIPHY creator to create my counter GIFS. 

Posted from Digital Studies 101 Blog by Lindsay

The Hidden Truths of “Scambaiting”

Even after reading Nakamura’s article , I really could not grasp the concept of “scambaiting,” which I felt was really important to understand before I could formulate an opinion on whether or not it has digital racial implications. I looked on the Wikipedia site that Nakamura mentioned, as well as 419eater.com, which was mentioned several times in the article and was also one of the first websites to come up when I typed in “scambaiting” in Google. I decided that I had a general concept after reading the article and these two sites: scambaiting is basically the act of scamming a scammer by pretending to be a victim to their scam, and then gathering up all their resources and information, scamming them into coming to foreign countries (often Nigeria) for money, and then exposing them.

Now having a basic understanding of “scambaiting,” I tried to figure out how the result of these scams were the “Trophy Room” pictures, in which men (almost always African American) are portrayed in sexual and often racially-charged poises for the scambaiter’s own amusement. My best understanding is that the scambaiters tell these scammers that they must pose in these ridiculous pictures before they get their money. An example is pictured below.

Image source 

When I was on 419eater.com, I looked for an explanation as to why these pictures are the way they like to exploit and expose scammers. There was no mention of this act on the site, just information on how the scammers are baited into traveling to foreign countries. I find this very contradictory to the fact that the members say they are “race-blind” when they are practicing this (Nakamura 263). If they were race-blind, I feel like they would mention their practices explicitly, instead of saying “even if you are a newcomer, much fun can be had and at the same time you will be doing a public service (261, or 419eater.com). I am in agreement with the opinion of Nakamura, that this kind of media is racially-charged, especially when considering it in a historical context (i.e. lynching photos, and the images from Abu Ghraib prison). I find that, with these kind of photos, as well as GIFs, Memes, and other “blackface” media, historical context is very important when analyzing whether or not there is intended racial prejudice in the particular media.

 

Posted from Digital Studies 101 Blog by Lindsay

The Insecurity that surrounds “Files”

To be completely honest, the article “What is a File?” really confused me. What exactly do the researchers mean by saying the word “file” is an abstraction. I did not follow this very well.

There was one idea, however, that really stuck out to me, because I felt like I could easily relate to it. In the article, it states: ‘… they used to have a desire to put a file “on a CD” so that “it could be safe.” But they go on to say that this is hard to do in the context of Cloud storage’ (9). I think this is true for many people when it comes to thinking about “files,” especially now in the era of the “Cloud.” There is an insecurity attached to “files” because they are not physically there, but just data in a system. This questions ownership. Who owns these files? The user, or the system creator/manager? What happens if the system suddenly breaks down? Where are all the “files?” Are they protected? Can they be stolen through the Cloud system?

These are just some of the questions that, at least, for me, come to mind when I think of saving a “file” especially with the Cloud. People find a sense of security in backing up their “files” on a physical hard drive or CD, because ownership is clear, and there is no system that could crash or hack information. It feels more concrete. Below is a picture of the kind of hard drive I use to back up all my “files,” in case something were to happen to my computer. It is the Seagate Expansion.

Picture Source 

Every so often I like to just stick this hard drive into my computer and back up all of my files. Yes, they are all backed up in the “Cloud,” but this hard drive makes me feel more secure not only in the insurance that my files will never be deleted or gone forever, but I know that I own them this way.

Posted from Digital Studies 101 Blog by Lindsay

The Effect of Militarization as a Basis for the Origins of Technology

(The picture above depicts a man with a military drone, one the new technologies the military has implemented in their forces. The source of this picture is a very relevant article to my below post, linked here. It also relates to the face recognition improvements in technology we talked about a few days ago in class.)

After reading Rosenweig’s chapter “Wizards, Bureaucrats, Warriors, and Hackers: Writing the History of the Internet,” I was particularly compelled by the historical influence of the military as one of the basis’ for the beginning of the Internet. Though Rosenweig points out that there is some dispute among authors and historians about the exact origin and credit to the start of the Internet, there is emphasis on ARPA military funding, the influence of the Cold War on the rise of technology within the military, the idea of “inter-networking” military applications, and other factors concerning militarization going on at the same time as the rise of the Internet.

This historical context captured my attention because it finally made me understand a common concern that arose when computers and the Internet were gaining popularity, and is now becoming prevalent once again in our modern society: that technology, particularly artificial intelligence now, would one day outsmart the human mind and take a life of its own, overthrowing our civilization. Though I still believe that we as humans are in control of technology and its growth, it makes sense why there was an outburst of concern in the late 20th century when technology was on the rise. With militarization as the basis of the Internet and the growth of technology, there is an established precedence of capability for the military to do more and more with what they started with. Based on this historical context, the concerns of artificial intelligence now gaining power is less far-fetched that I thought. With the growth and expansion of weaponized technology, I am more compelled to be on the side of caution with these potentials (disclaimer: I do not think technology is about to take over our world any time soon and I am not afraid of it, I just now see potential for it).

Posted from Digital Studies 101 Blog by Lindsay

The “Mobile Device” as a Paradoxical Distraction

In Farman’s article, he harps on the Kaleidoscope craze in the early 19th century, and how it became a distraction item as a “mobile device.” People were walking into things and missing the social connections on sidewalks (something very common during this time period) because they had one eye focused inside the tin cylinder, drawn by the desire to find and create more patterns. When I read this, it reminded me of a news report someone showed me this summer of a video capturing a woman falling into an open cellar in the sidewalk because she was looking at her phone.

(This video was embedded from youtube, but can be sourced from the hyperlink above or here).

Needless to say, this woman was clearly distracted by her mobile device. I imagine this to be like some people with their kaleidoscopes as well. In this way, the iPhone and the Kaleidoscope as mobile devices were very similar (respectively in their time periods). In the present day, we are often distracted by this crazy draw to the newest technology of our phones, the desire to use our apps and to interact online at any point of the day. People with their kaleidoscopes were being taken away from social life on the street by constantly mesmerized by the patterns and reflections of their devices.

While I think the iPhone has a very similar effect on people today, there is a paradox with smart phones: while they do take the user away from the present social situation he/she is in (say, a lunch with your coworkers), their extensive technology incorporated with social media allows the user to connect with other social life that the user cannot be a part of in that moment. For instance, the woman in the above video could have been connecting with someone so far away that she had not seen in a long time and could not otherwise reach if not for the social technology of the mobile device.

The same could almost be said for the Google VR glasses that Farman mentions at the end of his article. These virtual reality goggles take you to a new world, even though you are “leaving” another one behind. Some people may even like that new world better. So while these mobile devices are distractions like the kaleidoscope, their distractions can connect you to many other different aspects of the world (even if it is a virtual one).

P.S. I am not advocating for the distraction of iPhones. This is merely an observation I made in the article.

 

Posted from Lindsay Rufolo by Lindsay

The Role of Remediation in the Distinction between Reality and Virtual Reality

So far while reading this book, I have found myself getting very confused trying to differentiate reality versus a kind of virtual reality when Case is hacking in cyberspace through the trodes and sim stims. At times it seems as if the passages occurring in cyberspace are really occurring in reality and vice versa. It is possible that what makes it so hard to make distinctions between the two is we, as the readers, are understanding everything through Case’s point of view (third person limited). He is very involved in both the real world and in cyberspace so it is difficult to differentiate which world his mind is in in a particular moment. I find that this could be a very intentional choice by the author William Gibson. By creating this difficulty for the readers to make these distinctions, Gibson could be meshing the two worlds together in a remediating kind of way, as Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin talk about in the article “Remediation” in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media. In Neuromancer, Gibson could be using the world of cyberspace as a remediation of the real world, thus making cyberspace a virtual reality. Bolter and Grusin talk about how remediation is often thought of as an improvement from the media that it is based on. Cyberspace could be the same notion. It is a better alternative for Case because it allows him to escape from the pains and hardships that he experiences in the real world.

Posted from My blog by Lindsay