Question Forum 5

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The questions and responses in this forum refer to Chapters 6-7 (141-183) in Keen's The Cult of the Amateur. For reference, the Dialogue Sequence assignment. Discussion leaders will post their commentaries — Team 5 commentary — within a week after the class presentation on November 3.

Question 1- Chapter 6
Lawrence Lessig argues that "'legal sharing' and 'reuse' of intellectual property is a social benefit" (144) and wants to replace the "Read-Only" internet with a "Read-Write" one (discussed in Chapter 1). However, Keen argues that "passing off others' writing as one's own is not only illegal…but immoral" and also threatens to undermine our society (145). Do you think the sharing of intellectual property is immoral and leads to and provides an explanation for people who cheat?

Question 2- Chapter 6
Mattathias Schwartz blames colleges for the "national pandemic" of online gambling because they give dorm rooms high-speed Internet access, allowing students the opportunity to gamble if they have a credit card (150). Keen also argues that legal gambling "needs to be confined to licensed casinos—rather than allowed inside dorm rooms" just like alcohol "needs to be restricted to licensed establishments that can check IDs and be held accountable" (154). Do you think this "national pandemic" is really the schools' fault? Where do you draw the line for whose responsibility it is for this ethical debate? Would you consider the inability to gamble in the comfort of your own home an infringement on your rights and freedoms?

Question 3- Chapter 7

On page 175 Keen argues that "in our contemporary digital age, it is information, rather than knowledge, that lends power. And the more personal the information, the more power it promises to those who hold it." What exactly is Keen's distinction between "knowledge" and "information" here? Would you agree with his argument?

Question 4- Chapter 7

Keen writes that "the Web 2.0 revolution is blurring the lines between public and private." (179) Considering identity theft, "citizen journalism," personal blogs, and internet cookies, has privacy really become a luxury of the past? Is it possible to be "logged on" while still maintaining a private life? More importantly, if Web 2.0 has in fact destroyed privacy as we knew it, do you feel cheated in any way, or is the technology more valuable to you than the risk of privacy invasion?

Response to Question 4
Courtney Carlson

I definitely believe that it is possible to be “logged on” while still maintaining a private life. However, many people choose to post a significant amount of information about their private life through pictures, blogs, forums, etc. Ultimately, it is a choice to post these things, and each one of us has control over what we post and do not post. If we are careful about the things we post to the Internet, we can most certainly be able to maintain personal lives.

However, as it becomes more commonplace to log on and post private information to social networking sites, privacy is definitely becoming less “popular,” if you will. The majority of my friends, relatives, and acquaintances have Facebook accounts and post updates relatively frequently. I am able to “keep in touch”, if you will, with relatives that I haven’t seen in over ten years just by looking at the pictures they have posted recently, or posting on their wall.

Ultimately, we are aware of the things we post to our homepages, and are choosing to post questionable information that could be used against us, should the circumstances present themselves. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, have essentially become both public resumes and criminal reports displaying our extra curricular interests, and in some instances, criminal activity.

However, the benefits of using Social Networking sites, like Facebook and Myspace, are endless. They have allowed for the emergence of new social opportunities, which wouldn’t have been possible without their existence. Social networking sites have created “network societies” that have allowed us to connect with people in areas around the globe.

I do not feel cheated in any way by Web 2.0, in fact I definitely think it has benefitted me in many ways. I still maintain a personal life, and am able to share the information that I want to share on the Internet. Sure, I could see it becoming problematic if I had the desire to post every nitty-gritty detail of my life, but I do not see that happening. Ultimately, privacy is a choice; if you want to put yourself out there and post inappropriate or private information, that’s your decision. I believe that Web 2.0 is only allowing us to connect with people more efficiently.

Response to Question 3
Alex Orchard-Hays

In Keen’s distinction between “knowledge” and “information” as presented on and on the pages leading up to page 175, “information” is the “tiny parcels of data embedded in our Internet browser that establish a unique ID number on our hard disk and enable Web sites to collect precise records of everything we do online” (172-174). These cookies are large in number and thorough in detail, suggesting that information has a kind of boundlessness that may distinguish it from knowledge. Keen implies that “knowledge” is something perhaps more hard-won than information; that it cannot simply be gathered and recorded, but that the obtainer must somehow earn it. For instance, data and cookies constitute information, but knowledge is something thoroughly researched, studied, analyzed and known. Not to say the data from the Internet is not thoroughly researched, studied, analyzed and known by somebody at some point, but does that mean that at that point it constitutes knowledge? Also, knowledge has a definitive sense of time, person or place, whereas information – as is the case on the Internet – can be random or misleading. But once this information is attributed to the correct time, person or place, does it become knowledge of said time, person or place? I think that this is what Keen is suggesting when he says that “the more personal the information, the more power it promises to those who hold it” (175). Essentially, the more ties the information has to a particular person, or the less likely it is that just anyone could find out this information about a particular person, the less random and the more like “knowledge” it becomes.

From several possible intended uses of the word “power”, I agree with the notion that the more personal the information, or the closer it comes to being “knowledge”, the more powerful it becomes. While it is fairly easy to track the viewing and spending habits of a user, that user remains an IP address until he/she starts attributing a real name, photos, and the various other forms of personal information found on social networking sites and blogs with his/her activity. This information gives greater specificity to the user and therefore more knowledge to the observer, but more power? Ideologically, perhaps. It is easy to think that the more someone knows about your personal preferences, feelings, interests, goals, practices and life in general, the more “power” they have over you. Power can also refer to the ability to accomplish something with the knowledge and/or information. I agree that the more personal the information, the greater one’s ability to make use of it and therefore the more power he/she has in accomplishing his/her goals. For instance, thanks to social networking sites and the information that people are compelled to share on them, it is possible to pinpoint specific and well-defined demographics for TV shows, movies, music, and other media to aid in advertising.

Caitlin Laverdiere
Question 1

I think there is a benefit to collaboration and the sharing of ideas and information that Web 2.0 offers. However, there needs to be a limit, or an explicit understanding, as to what can be shared and manipulated into new or different information, and what needs to remain exclusively under the ownership of the creator or person with legal ownership rights. I don’t think the “‘reuse’ of intellectual property” that allows people to “‘remix’ and ‘mashup’ all content indiscriminately” benefits society (144). There is a fine line between creativity through the juxtaposition of seemingly dissimilar objects or pieces of information and the corruption of another’s hard work and creativity. This relates to the issue explored in chapter one in which Keen argues that “In a world in which audience and author are increasingly indistinguishable, and where authenticity is almost impossible to verify, the idea of original authorship and intellectual property has been seriously compromised” (23).

I think it is disturbing to hear that 77% of college students don’t think internet plagiarism is an important issue (143). While the individual perspectives that comprise this statistic may vary along a pretty diverse spectrum – some considering just the downloading of music as harmless, while others include the use of stolen essays and articles as fair game – I have to agree with Keen that the problem is becoming an ethical issue, as well as a legal one. The pervasiveness of easily accessible information that one can copy and paste, either in its entirety or as a portion of a more comprehensive “mashup,” makes cheating and plagiarism easy – often without consequence. However, I don’t think this is an excuse for leniency towards students who take advantage of loose intellectual property rights on the internet, as does Denise Pope, the professor at Stanford University, claiming that students are the victims of increased academic pressure that motivates them to resort to plagiarism rather than getting a zero. Solution: don’t overload yourself to the point where you can’t manage the workload and feel the need to present another person’s work and intellect as your own.

Kristen Walker
Question 2

I wasn’t aware that online gambling was such a major issue among college students and Americans in general, but if Keen’s statistics are correct then it must be a greater concern than I realized. Nonetheless, I absolutely do not believe that schools are at fault merely because they provide wireless Internet access in dorm rooms and around campus. The reasoning behind colleges and universities providing constant Internet availability is so that students can work on assignments or do research whenever it is convenient for them, but college-aged students are of an age that they must take responsibility for how they spend their free time. I believe that no one can be blamed for an individual’s actions except that person. However, to be fair, I do understand that gambling is an addiction and “we don’t always do the right thing” (154), and that’s why we create and enforce laws. It seems to me that the biggest problem with this “national pandemic” is the lack of law enforcement of government regulations. Keen explains that online gambling is illegal in the United States, “yet, until the summer of 2006, not a single site had ever been indicted and the industry thrived” (152). This seems like the source of the problem to me. Although it is an unflattering fact about human nature, it’s true that anytime people believe they can get away with something illegal without consequences, some group of people will take advantage. While it is much more difficult to enforce laws when there are numerous online gambling sites with anonymous users and creators, the sites must not be very obscure since so many people are using them and Keen can name a few in this chapter without trouble. Legal action could be taken if time and resources were focused on making sure such sites, and potentially some users as well if they could be identified, suffer adequate repercussions. I absolutely do not believe that the inability to gamble online from your home or any location of your choice is an infringement on personal rights and freedoms because it is an illegal activity and it should be treated as such. I know it would be impossible to catch and convict all the users and creators of online gambling sites, but if law enforcement officials were to make a very public example of busting a few big-name sites (similar to what recently occurred involving music pirating sites), I think it would significantly decrease the problem.

Kaitlin Cannavo
Question 1
While I believe Web 2.0’s accessibility of practical information remains quite beneficial to society, the upcoming generation of Web 2.0 users define intellectual property in an entirely new meaning. Keen claims “Web 2.0 technology is confusing the very concept of ownership, creating a generation of plagiarists and copyright thieves with little respect for intellectual property.” The up incoming Web 2.0 generation only knows the open information policy of the internet where anything is retrievable for free if you search long and hard enough. While the older generation of internet users still holds this regard for the benefits of loyalties in regards to creative work, this new society holds the mindset the work which you post online is for the benefits and use of all. While neither side is right of wrong, this clash of generational thinking causes much confusion legally, morally, and ethically.

Keen provides the example of the 12-year-old New York girl who was charged with the illegal downloading and distributing of music online. Web 2.0 opens a realm of overwhelming access to any creative channel for free that proves difficult to express to a child the “illegal” aspect of the free distribution of information online in this new society they have been born into. Today’s native internet users know no different and I expect will settle for no less, while the older generation of users continues to fight for credit where credit is due. I personally agree with Keen in that this new process of "passing off others' writing as one's own is not only illegal…but immoral and also threatens to undermine our society,” but I also feel we are going to have a difficult time conserving these soon to be considered outdated moral and ethical notions regarding plagiarism.

Amanda Thomas
Question 2

I find the addictive qualities of gambling, and especially internet gambling, to be quite astounding. In Chapter 6, Keen describes internet gambling as “the opium of the twenty-first century.” (Page 154). Keen’s comparison of gambling and opium alludes to the eighteenth century, when Europe exported opium to China; at least half of the nation became addicted. (Page 150). This raises the question: Are providers of high-speed internet access supplying addictive products for their own profit? Yes, and no. The internet providers hope that internet usage will increase—that’s how they make money; however, they are not directly feeding the addiction. I do not entirely blame the internet providers, or colleges, for the internet gambling pandemic; though, I do believe that the internet providers, colleges, and parents are at fault for not limiting access to gambling sites.

In my opinion, gambling sites should be required to limit access, and much like alcohol sales, checking Ids could be helpful. The idea of limited access to internet sites is a touchy subject because it does infringe on people’s rights. But in theory, are not laws created to protect us? If limiting access to gambling sites actually protected people from developing gambling addictions, then I believe that is a right worth infringing upon.

I find it interesting how the media encourages gambling. There are many movies which are built around it. Rounder’s is a perfect example of a movie about a college student who uses gambling to solve his problems. The main character gambles secretly, hits a losing streak, drops out of school, and then beats the best poker player in the city. In doing so, he “solves” his problems and is respected by the viewer for his gambling addiction. The World Series of Poker is another place that we are exposed to gambling. It always seems to be on. It gets intense, much like watching a sport.

I think that limiting internet gambling would decrease gambling accessibility, but I do not believe that it would solve the problem of gambling addictions. Gambling is not a new problem, but the internet has just made it more easily accessible and more secretive.

Taylor Bryan Question 2

The idea that universities should be at fault for rampant online gambling is preposterous and unfounded, however, they should be responsible for some sort of regulation. Universities provide internet access not because it gives students further opportunities to entertain themselves or get into trouble, but because they have to in order to remain on the cutting edge of education. As someone who is personally familiar with online gambling, (I used to play poker online and still bet on sports occasionally,) the issue is not with internet providers but with the gambling websites themselves. I have witnessed countless people seriously hinder their lives due to online gambling, all chasing the dream accomplished by only one person I know who has paid his way through college gambling online. Because gambling is illegal in the majority of the U.S., casino's cannot exist in most States but the World Wide Web provides an outlet. These gambling sites' servers are located overseas where gambling is legal and are not required to check on the location of anyone using their site. In addition to possessing no responsibility to check where a user is located, there is absolutly no way for these sites to check if a user is over the age of 21, the legal gambling age in America. Even if a credit card account is linked to an American address, the sites find loopholes by having users deposit money in Paypal accounts from which they can make any purchase online, including gambling, without consequence.

Universities should, however, be responsible to monitor the activity of students on their servers and in all reality block access to these online gambling sites for college students. Citizens of the U.S. voted ages ago about whether gambling should be legal and the majority response was no. That being said, if one cannot gamble without the Internet and does not consider it an infringement on their rights and freedoms, why should gambling online from places where it is illegal represent such an infringement.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the issue of online gambling it is a very real problem and I gurantee several thousand students at VT engage in this activity primarily through online poker sites. Even if these sites were completely fair it would be a problem but in all reality they are not. Countless complaints exist in the world of online gambling about people who have hacked websites in order to be able to see all of their opponents hands. This makes it absolutly impossible for them to lose as they know who is holding what and can play accordingly. Because there are no Pit Bosses, security cameras, or back rooms on the internet, it is impossible to tell if a gambling site is entirely secure. Additionally who knows how cards on the sites are distributed. Because there are no tangible cards there is no way to tell if the deals are actually random. These sites cannot be considered "fair," in the muttled sense that gambling in casinos is and creating easy access to gambling for ignorant and naive users makes gambling addictions even more commonplace that in the past.

Rachel Burch
Question 2

Reading the entirety of this section titled Betting the House, I disagree from the getko. I find it extremely hard to compare online gambling with robbing a bank, and for that matter, the entire argument that Keen tries to make. There is no way you can hold a university accountable for someone’s actions on the Internet. Unless you had some type of Internet officer standing behind every student every time they get online. I agree towards the end of Keen’s section on the trouble with online gambling where he says, “perhaps we can’t overcome online gambling any more than we can outlaw other addictive Internet obsessions, like pornography and file sharing” (154). Online gambling is simply another negative aspect of the Internet. I guess it’s hard for me to see it as the problem it is created as here because I don’t know anyone in my circle of friends that has been directly affected. However, I don’t discredit that it exists.

But what I do discredit is the fact that somehow the university is to blame. Blaming an organization because they have a fast Internet connection is simply ridiculous. Schwartz’ statement is ludicrous to me. If you’re going to blame universities, then you have to blame, well every establishment that has Wifi, restaurants, bars, and even public libraries. I think the real problem lies within the individual, or even the media. Allowing people to think that the “get rich” scheme really works is what is enabling these online gambling sites to prosper. I believe comparing the problem people are facing with online gambling to the opiate problems in China is also absurd. While there is a connection, the opiate problem is far more serious than people being stupid enough to gamble away money they don’t have, even if it has become much more convenient. If you blame the Internet accessibility on the fact that so many have an online gambling problem, than can you also blame obesity on the Internet. People can get online and order food, pay online and never have to get off their lazy bums. In the end, there is no one to blame but you.

I agree with Kristin that the biggest problem lies in the regulation of these gambling sites. I don't understand that if it is illegal in the U.S., than why are these sites accessible. Someone could block them. I think online gambling needs regulations just like regular gambling, and it needs to be persecuted in the same way as illegal gambling.

Jenny Milne
Question 4
Keen writes that "the Web 2.0 revolution is blurring the lines between public and private." (179) Considering identity theft, "citizen journalism," personal blogs, and internet cookies, has privacy really become a luxury of the past? Is it possible to be "logged on" while still maintaining a private life? More importantly, if Web 2.0 has in fact destroyed privacy as we knew it, do you feel cheated in any way, or is the technology more valuable to you than the risk of privacy invasion?

To me, it is hard to see why the internet and privacy is such an issue. It might have something to do with the fact that I can't imagine a different life. I don't feel as though the internet has taken away my privacy. I see some instances, like google earth, that are a little creepy. However, the picture of my house on that program is from 3 years ago. If someone wanted to stalk me, google earth might be a tool, a way to start, but it would not allow them to be succesful (mainly because i don't even live in that house anymore). So in a way, I agree and disagree with the idea that I'm risking my privacy. I don't have a blog, or put any information on facebook that I wouldn't want someone I didn't know knowing. The whole key to this new technology, and what my parents always told me. If you wouldn't walk down the street with this information taped to your back, don't put it on the internet. Now there is the whole notion that, even when your cell phone is off, you can still be tracked, and even listened too. Which is the reason my uncle, who works for the Navy office of intelligence, can't take his cell phones in to meetings. My thoughts on that matter are, if someone really wanted to listen to me talk to my mom about whether or not I can bring my laundry home this weekend… well, maybe they can just voice their opinion on the matter. It is daunting to think that we have very little control about what others can find on us, but I guess my opinion is control what you can. There is no sense and just saying, well I don't have any privacy anyway, and telling everyone and their mom's where you live, what your number is, what your social security number is, that's just silly. Control what you can, and accept that the world we live in is the way it is. We wanted all this technology, we have to deal with the results. No as to whether or not I'd trade all the technology for privacy. Yes, I would. I would love to live without technology, I think it would be amazing.

Sarah Tavernaris
Question 4

I agree with Keen when he says “the Web 2.0 revolution is blurring the lines between public and private,” but perhaps not in such an extreme way as him. I think people are simply unaware, or don’t care, that their information is vulnerable. Certainly we volunteer information about ourselves and our lives on blogs, social networking sites, etc., and it’s up to them to filter or not filter it. The internet is a free space where people can share ideas, and it’s become appealing to sharing facets of personality and interest—these instances aren’t so much a violation of privacy, because we willingly give up information or comments we might make in real life. Not a big deal, right? It’s not a violation of privacy what we give out liberally. I think this weakening of personal boundaries and ability to share with strangers is not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe a step towards a more tolerating conscience. This breach of privacy (which I don’t consider much of a breach at all really, although some people give up TMI that may eventually lead to harm) is minor compared to the availability of highly personal information—credit card and bank information, the websites you visit, phone conversations and texts—available. It’s not always easily retrievable, but you leave a digital footprint everywhere, which is scary. It’s easier to watch you; it’s easier to track you. Now I think we’re in the early stages; it could go either way, and I hope not the 1984 way.

It is possible to be wired and have a normal life. We should be cautious what information we volunteer onto the web and reinforce the structures to protect our information on the web when it needs to be there. Also, it’s important to remember that the internet is just another tool, not a way of life. It’s dangerous when people give themselves too much over to an alternate reality. This is where I truly agree with Keen; I agree that the internet is making our culture cheap and mass-produced, and it’s making it easier for us to forget that there’s other (better) stuff out there.

Kara Williams
Question 3

I find this distinction between “knowledge” and “information” as it was brought up in our collaborative essay outline. Keen says the “information” is, specifically virtually speaking, the cookies or history of the websites we’ve been to and also the personal information we give about ourselves in our YouTube posts or Facebook profiles, for example. I agree with this definition of information as it is seems to fit my broad definition of information, as I have stated for our collaboration essay, it is what is given freely through the Internet or televised news, or even now I would say news found on celebrities is information. In this case, I would say if one can discover personal information on a celebrity, then that can be great power for the information can be sold to gossip magazines or E!news, and the bigger the celebrity the more money it seems is likely to be gained. Also, Keen mentions the CIA and their “spy blogging” which involves sharing research, aerial photographs, and secret videos, this I also see as an example of “information” because “sharing” implies something that is being given away freely and those receiving do not have to buy it. Information the CIA gains also is a good example of Keen’s argument—the more personal the information, the more powerful—of being proven true. Information on Al Qaeda’s personal activities and whereabouts is very powerful for the US in stopping terrorism.

Keen’s definition of “knowledge” is something that is earned through hard work, unlike information that is easily gathered. Keen makes “knowledge” sound more scholarly, which if so, I agree with his definition. In academics we see the degrees we get as hard work and thus more reputable because studying, research, analysis, memorizing, and testing is done—our brains are stretched and forced to grow. This experience is different than if a you were to find an answer to something on the Internet quickly and easily.

I think “information” and “knowledge” might even be determined on a person-to-person basis; that the distinction is more personal. To further explain, if a person with Down syndrome works hard to learn how to tie their shoes, he or she is obtaining knowledge in comparison to their mental ability. So although Keen defines “information” and “knowledge” more broadly, the two must also be furthered distinguished in regard to the situation.

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