Friday, April 3, 2009

The Revolution of Fantasy Sports


In the realm of fantasy sports, the internet has created a social network unavailable to the average sports fan a decade ago. The days of meeting at a central location to conduct a live draft are over. No more pleading with your friend to host you and your 20 buddies for a night of beer and potato chips; A night in which the wives have to leave the house so that they do not disrupt the focus and devotion of these avid sports fans.
And what about those fans who left without such a group of friends? They welcome the start of a new season with only the excitement of sitting in their basement watching their favourite team play each night, with only their pet dog to discuss and analyze that night’s box score. The idea of joining into a hockey pool is restricted by the lack of social capital acquired through the years of childhood rejection and punishment.
Now enter the world of online fantasy sports leagues. These leagues are revolutionizing the world of sports. Those who used to sit at home directing their exclusive attention towards their favourite team, are now following the scores across the league and cheering for players they used to despise, only because this player is on their fantasy team. On top of this, that guy who sat with no friends now can enter an online league with sports fans all across the globe in a similar state. There is no longer a need to meet at a central location to conduct a draft, but rather an online draft allows participants from all over the world to log in and compete with others to select the premiere fantasy team. Online fantasy pools have opened up a whole new social network available to diehards across the country.

Internet and New Social Movements

The internet is a liberating and democratic force that directly challenges systems of domination, it has spread consciousness of questionable labour practices occurring in developing nations and has increased human agency (help mobilize new social movements). New technologies have opened up possibilities for activism and resistance against transnational corporations. Nike is a popular example of one of these corporations that has taken part in unfair labour conditions in developing nations. During the early 1990’s consumers became concerned about the labour conditions of workers in developing nations and started to become involved. Concerning elements for activists were: the health and safety of workers, the discrimination against trade unions, forced overtime, unfair wages, high production quotas and unsafe and inadequate onsite living arrangements.
Online activism has the potential to be incredibly powerful...but I think that the physical presence of actually picketing and protesting cannot be matched in an online setting. I think that the two forms of activism: online and offline complement each other. Having an online forum to meet, collaborate and plan actual physical meets and protests make online activism incredibly useful; as a viable means of global communication online activism has allowed groups and individuals from across the world the opportunity to meet and share their opinions and ideas. It is hard to say whether online activism will ever be comparable to traditional forms of activism (protesting/picketing) but one thing is for sure it has helped these traditional forms gain precedence and global recognition.
What do you think the future of activism will look like?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CyberCrime: Identity Theft


When discussing the Internet the issue or privacy is bound to come up especially today with the increase in online activity and the prevalence of e-commerce (ex-online banking, eBay, email, facebook, myspace etc). Our lives are saturated with the ease of the internet. I’m an avid online banker for the simple fact that it is quick and easy to transfer money or pay bills without having to physically go to the bank (not having a car definitely limits my ability to get anywhere or get anything done in a hurry). Also, more and more individuals are choosing to shop online because they can avoid long cash-out lines, crowded stores and busy mall parking lots. This increase in internet dependency brings with it credit card reliance and issues of online safety and identity theft.
Do you ever think twice when ordering products online? Does typing in your credit card number make you nervous? This e-commerce trend is putting online users at risk of identity theft. As David Holtzman mentions in his article “Perspective: Identity Theft: Get Used to It” consumers are turned into numbers and are reduced to digital identification keys. “The substitution of these identification keys for the person, while probably necessary, has created an environment that is conducive to identity theft. It is much easier to find a way to get the identification keys that will unlock an account than it is to break a window and leave with a television set” (Holtzman, 2002). Do you agree with him? Do you see yourself as an individual reduced to an online identification code? To access anything on the internet (university registration portals such as Telaris, email, banking, etc) individuals are required to create a sign in name and password…do you think that these fields are safe enough? Holtzman says that computers make identity theft so much easier “Not only can you withdraw money from someone's bank account, trade their stocks or sell their house, you also can lift their professional credentials and establish commitments and relationships under a fraudulent pose”. This is incredibly frightening! Of course there are ways to abuse any system but I often think that we don’t actually consider our own online safety until we are forced to, until we or someone we know becomes a victim of identity theft.
What measures can be taken to counteract online identity theft? As Holtzman mentions members of the “IM Generation” are completely vulnerable to identity theft because of their online presence “They will therefore always be vulnerable to identity theft” (Holtzman). The problem here is that legislation is hard to impose and enforce making identity theft hard to resolve. For more information about Holtzman’s ideas you can check out his article at http://news.cnet.com/Identity-theft-Get-used-to-it/2010-1071_3-955441.html?tag=mncol
What steps do you take to protect yourself online? We all need to consider how we interact with e-commerce and take the necessary steps to safeguard our personal information from hackers trying to steal our identity.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Digital Renaissance or Digital Resistance?

Are you technologically dependant or defiant? Do you find yourself completely attached to your personal communication devices (cell phone, laptop etc)? More and more I am starting to realize how completely dependant people are these days on technology.
Okay, here’s an example of how ridiculously attached one of my best friends is to not only her Crackberry but her laptop too. Reading week…a time to party, relax and let go of life at home…right? Wrong! She brought not only her cell phone but her laptop and iPod too! Like honestly what is the point? Her reasoning behind bringing both was that she needed to do some homework and be able to text her boyfriend and call her mom. Sure letting your parents know that you’re still alive is important, I understand that…but sending tons of text messages a day and a couple of phone calls in a week while in another country isn’t necessary or cheap. Definitely hurt her dad’s wallet. I find it completely distressing that some people allow technology to become such a large part of their lives. My best friend is a prime example of how people are becoming consumed by technology. I don’t think that she could last a day without her cell phone and I’m not exaggerating…she has an addiction, technology has destroyed her. She cannot be saved. I can’t go out for dinner, be in the same vehicle with her or have a normal conversation with her because her full attention is on her phone. Her hand is glued. It would be nice to have a conversation with her where she is fully present, and actually paying attention…I miss those days!
All of this leads to my point about how individuals view technology differently, the resistance versus renaissance binary is an incredibly contentious and relevant issue plaguing contemporary society. Quite obviously I’m a resister, I choose not to adopt new technologies so easily because I don’t to become one of ‘those’ people that walk around ignoring life, living in a techno-bubble...never stopping to ‘smell the roses’. Most importantly is how these innovations are affecting human social relationships. People don’t smile when you pass them on the street anymore because they’re much too busy listening to their iPod’s, people don’t interact like they did even five years ago. Media convergence is breaking us down not keeping us together!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sexting: Teens and the Public Sphere

I’m not sure if any of you have heard of this or if I’m just an oblivious hermit but apparently there is this new phenomenon called ‘sexting’…meaning sending naked or semi-naked pictures through cell phone picture messages. Weird. I stumbled upon this story while watching the news over the weekend and thought that it fits within our discussions on citizen media and the public sphere quite perfectly.
Many teenagers are being faced with criminal charges for ‘sexting’, recently six Pennsylvanian teens have had to undergo legal repercussions for taking part in these acts (some call them felonies). One in five teens are involved in sexting which is why there is an urgency to educate them about the effects of their actions; once pictures are released into the public sphere they are gone. Those who take part in these acts are completely na├»ve, the reality is that once pictures are posted on the internet or released into the digital sphere all control is lost. The connection between the Internet and cell phones becomes quite clear, once a cellular picture message is sent the receiver then has the ability to send it to whoever and however many people they want.
Children are growing up too fast and entering the larger public sphere at too young of an age. Communications technologies are being wrongly used, further showing that children need to be censored (just as with the internet the same can be said for cell phones). Children are not responsible enough to understand the severity of this issue and the consequences of getting themselves involved in sharing x-rated photos of themselves.
We all know that once pictures are released in any type of digital format we automatically lose track of them and can no longer control who sees them and what is done with them. Issues of privacy and self censorship are directly linked to this conversation. I’m sure that teens aren’t the only ones involved in sending offensive picture messages but its frightening to hear about the younger generation taking part in these types of acts especially when they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. The severity of this issue rests in the very fact that once you send pictures you automatically lose your control and rights to privacy, in essence your private life is exposed to the public. Similar examples are posting pictures on Facebook or Myspace.
Do children have enough discretion to censor themselves or do higher authorities need to intervene?
If you want more information about this check out the following websites:
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/15/national/main4723161.shtml
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/WorldNews/story?id=6456834&page=1

Monday, March 9, 2009

Reduce, Reuse Recycle

We can see how different cultural products have undergone changes in response to our growing reliance on technology. In a digital society cultural productions have to rework themselves to remain not only competitive but to simply remain in existence. What I want to make clear here is how cultural productions today use ‘framing’ as a means to alter the contexts of things and make them into new cultural productions. In essence these productions come from pre-existing ideas and are variations…they are recycled, reused and reclaimed. Here we see how culture is used differently today.
My discussion about these notions of ‘digital culture’ and ‘cultural objects’ stems from a recent presentation by guest lecturer Dr. Darren Wershler who emphasized his involvement in contemporary representations of poetry. He illustrated how print based notions of literature such as poetry have needed to adapt to change in order to stay current and competitive. Poetry has transcended by becoming what he calls ‘digital poetics’. As a type of literature that has never been particularly successful in terms of selling power Wershler saw a need for a change in form. It could be said that poetry had a bleak future before the creation of digital poetics and a s a cultural object poetry in turn brings to light notions of framing and copyright.
Dr. Wershler posed the questions: Who really owns what? What is really yours? The truth is that you cannot copyright an idea if no one technically owns it. An example of changing the context of things or altering a cultural product is that of art. New interpretations are being created from old concepts in the contemporary art world. ‘Digital poetics’ is an example of using culture differently today and involving the notion of the ‘collective’ whereby this cultural production is now widely accessible and available for anyone to access…so long as they have an internet connection. As Nancy Miller points out in her article “Minifesto for a New Age” as a culture today we are fixated on this notion of sampling and consuming popular culture in “…the same way we enjoy candy and chips-in conveniently packaged bite-size nuggets made to be munched easily with increased frequency and maximum speed. This is a snack culture” (Wired Magazine, Miller 2007). This is an important point to recognize, we are a culture that thrives on immediacy, simplicity and ease of availability. I feel that digital poetics clearly exemplifies these notions. As a new form of poetry that involves internet coding to produce poems through random fabrication of sentences it puts poetry on common grounds for us all.
The most important point to take away from all of this I feel is what digital poetics reveals about our culture. We ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ ideas and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing…in fact maybe we can change our mindset to think of this new form of cultural production as a ‘greener’ approach. Reduce, reuse, recycle involves more than just the physical state of our environment but the state of our intellectual culture.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The City That Never Sleeps...and Neither Did I!


I’m new at blogging and clearly haven’t been too consistent, but I’m hoping to try and get more into it. As you’ve read from my last post I was in New York at the end of January and it was an awesome experience. Surprisingly it was not intimidating at all being there I actually found my way around pretty easily. The trip definitely made me realize that I could make it in the city at least short term anyways which has helped in making my decision to apply to college in Toronto and see if I get accepted. If I do then I'll go and if I don't then I guess I'll start looking for a job.

As for the trip, we didn't go on tours with our guides because they weren't very good so my friend Britt and I just walked the city ourselves and managed to find all of the landmarks and stuff we wanted to see on our own. We did the typical tourist type trip where we visited the popular landmarks/attractions: Central Park, Time Square, China Town/Canal Street, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, NBC Studios, Financial District/Wall St., New York Stock Exchange, Brooklyn Bridge, Staten Island Ferry, Statue of Liberty, Trump Tower, Ground Zero/World Trade Centre remains etc. Those are the places I remember at least we saw lots of other places and went into a bunch of stores on 5th avenue that had things clearly we could never afford...but we went in anyway just to see what it was like.

The first night we went to a jazz club, it was alright it was the BB King jazz place. We were thinking about going to a comedy club (other people from our group went and said it was awesome) but ended up being too late to catch a show. The second night we went to a Broadway show which was really cool, we saw the Little Mermaid which was awesome because its my favourite Disney movie. Throughout the 2 full days we had there we were up really early in the morning and out until 3am the next morning because our bus came back into the city each night at 2am and it took a good 45 minutes to drive to our hotel in New Jersey.

The weather was really nice on our first day it honestly felt like spring but the second day it was freezing to the point where at 1:00am all I wanted to do was just go home and get warm. It wasn't fun at that point because all of the stores were closing and we had no choice but to stay outside in the cold and walk around aimlessly.

The bus ride there and back was extremely long and uncomfortable, so I’ve decided that one day when I go back I'm definitely flying and going in the spring or fall when its not too hot or cold. All and all the trip was amazing and definitely worth it, I actually had many realizations over the short visit. It is definitely The City that Never Sleeps, who knew that you could buy shoes at 1:30 am? I didn’t…until I did! It was crazy, stores were open incredibly late.

One of the things that I want to highlight from my trip to New York is the notion of consumption. The city was all about having money, showing that you have money and spending money! This was seen through the cars being driven and the fashion worn. Here is an example: we were walking into a restaurant for dinner and as we were walking in a couple and their young daughter (probably about 10 years old) were walking out. I was seriously shocked at what the young girl was wearing: a fur hat, high heels, makeup…weird! It wasn’t even a swanky restaurant. This definitely made me realize our difference in class, I grew up in a different social setting--I wore my brother’s hand me downs not hot couture!

I guess you could say that my trip to New Yorkwas a milestone for me. I learned a lot about not only the city but myself. For being a 'small-town-girl' I did really well! I wasn't scared or intimidated, I can't say that I fit in completely but I can say that this trip made me realize a lot about myself and what I want to do with my future.