Orwellian Nightmare

Dear Future,

Imagine pitching the idea of social media in the 1950s. How would you describe it to the baby boomer generation without illustrating a big brother like dystopia? I desperately wanted to experience this conversation, so I hopped in a time machine to the year 1953. Disguised as a disc jockey, I interviewed a clinical worker, Margret Jenkins, about an upcoming invention called social media. Here is our conversation:

Tre Clayton: Recording live from the Big Apple, this is 92.9 AM Radiooo!  Non other then the boogie woogie man, Tre Daddy Doom. I am here with Margret Jenkins; with whom I will discuss Eisenhower Industries’ upcoming invention. How are you this bright morning Margret?

Margret Jenkins:  All is well. Thank you for inviting me on the show.

Tre Daddy Doom: As you are aware, we are here to discuss a new invention from the main man Eisenhower

Margret: Yes

Tre Daddy Doom: Margret he is attempting to create a platform in which people can electronically interact and communicate 

Margret: Like a telephone?

Tre Daddy Doom: No No, imagine a virtual reality in which an electronic representation of yourself is present

Margret: Ok

Tre Daddy Doom : You are able to change your electronic profile on a television set through different series of photographs, motion pictures, and messages

Margret: uhhh, you lost me there Doom

Tre Daddy Doom: What is your Mister’s name?

Margret: Sir Daniel Jenkins

Tre Daddy Doom: in this platform Margret, Sir Daniel Jenkins will have a profile or resume that has a collection of posts, photographs and motion pictures of whatever he desires. Think of it as a public bulletin, which is view-able from a T.V. Screen

Tre Daddy Doom: Can you dig it?

Margret: Still a little lost, but it sounds like a kind of picture/movie representation of myself, but just in format of a television show?

Tre Daddy Doom: Bingo! A show, about yourself, that you constantly update for your viewers

Margret: What is the point of that?

Tre Daddy Doom: Eisenhower believes EVERYONE will eventually have these personalized television shows. http://cdn.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/stuff-820x420.pngMeaning you will be able to view people’s shows all across the world!

Margret: Even in the old World?

Tre Daddy Doom: From the Great Wall to the Golden Coast

Margret: I don’t want my life available all across the world, let alone the Chine..

Tre Daddy Doom: No no, but what about all your friends and family across the big blue, huh?

Margret: Yeah, ok maybe. But what happens if others can view all my information?

Tre Daddy Doom: You can set your profile to a private setting, so that only people who you want to view your show can view it.

Margret: Only them, nobody else?

Tre Daddy Doom: Well… there is a catch. The government and other third parties like GM, Chrysler, U.S. Steel Standard Oil of New Jersey, Amoco, Goodyear and Firestone can also view your profile despite the privacy setting

Margret: That’s totally not fair. Why would I ever create this profile?

Tre Daddy Doom: Eisenhower believes that this profile will become the standard form of human interaction. That everyone will create these profiles and will be able to hold relationshipshttp://blogs-images.forbes.com/steveolenski/files/2013/11/social-media-cube-1024x922.jpg past the bounds of distance and time. Everyone will be able to share information about their lives with one another, thus creating a pool of information readily available too the world, about the world

Margret: Understandable, but I do not feel comfortable with my information “readily available” to anyone but myself. And wouldn’t this require a constant need to update your profile/representation. In order for the world to be accurately informed, everyone would need to constantly update their shows

Tre Daddy Doom: Yes, that’s true

Margret: What if people posted pictures of themselves, that were old or of another person?

Tre Daddy Doom: Mankind wouldn’t stoop that low

Margret: What if the people, including the government and third parties, were able to track down my location, where I live, where I work, where my husband works, where I shop?http://www.previewsworld.com/catalogimages/STK_IMAGES/STK640001-660000/STK646852.jpg

Tre Daddy Doom: Well, they cou…

Margret: And what if I put up a photograph or message that I enjoyed at the time, but regretted in the future? Other people could retain that image somehow

Margret: And I have many different friends from different races, economic and religious backgrounds. What if some of my photographs or bulletin posts angered or humiliated them?

Tre Daddy Doom: Margr..

Margret: What if someone else posted a picture or message of me on that was embarrassing or revealing? Would I forever be criticized by people from other shows?

Margret: and why does the government need to..

Tre Daddy Doom: That’s all the time we have folks! Join us next time on the Doom Dog Show!

 

After my trip to the fiftees, I realized that many of these circumstances that Margret mentioned have come true. Governments have created backdoors in which they can view our private social media accounts. People constantly update their profile in order to maintain a certain image that they want portrayed of themselves. And unfortunately, some people are highly humiliated, criticized and manipulated because of

http://odishasuntimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Suicide-Social-Media.jpg
Many Facebook related deaths occur each year

content that is posted by themselves or others, which in rare scenarios lead to suicide.

Although it is widely accepted and used by nearly a billion people, social media is covertly corrupted and overtly shaping society into an Orwellian nightmare.

 

 

 

References

The Importance Of Keeping Your Social Media Profiles Active, By Lenka Istvanova, Koozai.com, May 15, 2014, https://www.koozai.com/blog/search-marketing/important-business-keep-social-media-profiles-active/

Obama Wants Tech Companies to Install Backdoors for Government Spying, By Will Oremus, Slate.com, January 19, 2015 http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/01/19/obama_wants_backdoors_in_encrypted_messaging_to_allow_government_spying.html

1984, By George Orwell, Penguin Books, June 18, 1948

The Story of Amanda Todd, By Michelle Dean, The Newyorker, October 18, 2012,   http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-story-of-amanda-todd

What is Cyberbulling, By Stopbullying.com Editors, Stopbullying.com, December 23, 2015, http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/

 

Knowledge is Power

“I cannot believe I am writing my first college essay!” “Will I do well?” “OMG this is the big leagues, Tré.” Sitting there in that hard, brown chair, writing my first college essay for English 114, I was nervous for the outcome. I graduated from a public school in Oakland and had always been taught in the flawed school district. Although I made cumulative GPA of 4.2 throughout my junior and senior year, I was worried that my previous success would not be easily achieved in college.

Before writing, I attempted to gather my sources online, which, to my surprise, was very difficult. I encountered trouble finding reliable sources for my topic: flawed education. Two days before the paper was due, my professor suggested the class to take advantage of the library’s databases, which were free to us as SFSU students. The scholarly articles were endless and provided me with a plethora of reliable information precisely based on my topic.

After completion of my paper, I asked my brother, Talon to review my essay to make sure it was semantically and syntactically sound. He enjoyed my essay, however he was unable to view my references from JSTOR. Thinking it was a technical error, I sent my paper to another person to review. She also could not view my references. Immediately I informed my professor about this reoccurring problem, which he later informed me that only SFSU students have access to the aforementioned databases.postgrad-programs-audit-slide-university-of-malaya-library-2013-12-638.jpg

At first this circumstance felt like a loss for non-SFSU students and a lucky perk for myself. Yet, after I learned about Aaron Swartz, I realized the severity of this privilege I temporarily held.

Aaron Swartz was a successful computer programmer with a decorated background including a Stanford education and partial ownership of the popular social media platform, Reddit. He knew that he wanted to make a bigger impact on the world than making a lot of money. Rather, he wanted to make an even bigger impact, which could only be done through policy. He became politically active with the Progressive Change Campaign and Demand Progress. Both entities were created to foster innovation and allow better accessibility in the realm of cyber information.

Creating the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, Swartz obviously was an avid supporter of public access of information. He believed that “Knowledge is power” and that by holding this http://watchdog.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2013/04/classroom-of-empty-chairs1.jpginformation (JSTOR) was purposefully with holding power to people who cannot afford their services. In an effort to fight this, Swartz downloaded a significant amount of articles from the database in an effort to share it with the rest of the underprivileged public. This act is discussed in Lisa Gitelman’s Searching and Thinking about Searching JSTOR,

In the fall of 2010 hacktivist Aaron Swartz used an IP (Internet pro-tocol) address at MIT to download about 80 percent of JSTOR, apparently as part of an effort to set its contents free. JSTOR’s systems administrators watched with alarm as automated ‘‘pdf scraping’’ by ‘‘the bad guys’’ or an ‘‘offending scraper’’ pulled down hundreds of thousands of journal articles

Notice JSTOR calls him a “bad guy,” disregarding his intention behind downloading the articles. His intention was not for profit, but was to provide underprivileged people around the world access to these articles. His intention is somewhat similar to JSTOR’s description of its goals  “a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship”

This is an amazing and very helpful initiative by JSTOR, yet it is not inclusive of all Students, all scholars or all researchers. Before studying at San Francisco State, I attended Oakland Technical High School where I was a student/scholar that constantly researched health issues for the Health Academy. I unfortunately had no access to JSTOR and simply could not afford the heftily priced services. If I did have access at the time, my projects for the academy could have been significantly more credible. However, as an underprivileged OUSD student I was not able to facilitate new forms of scholarship and was denied access to JSTOR’s digital archive.

After video footage caught Swartz downloading the articles in MIT’s Library,

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/01/13/article-0-16EA7DFB000005DC-267_634x558.jpg
Footage of Swartz downloading Jstor files

JSTOR decided it would drop charges against Swartz if he returned all the information without distribution. He agreed, yet the government wanted him convicted for this act (regardless of their involvement with the case). This is also discussed in Gitelman’s Journal,

When Swartz was ultimately apprehended and identified as the culprit, JSTOR agreed not to pursue civil charges against him if he would return its data without copying or releasing it. The US Attorney’s Office was not as forgiving, and Swartz committed suicide with the criminal case against him still pending. Suddenly in the spotlight, JSTOR sought to explain itself and its mission to the public. In the face of ‘‘significant misuse of our database,’’ JSTOR said, it did not have any interest in prosecution, only ‘‘in securing [our] content

 Obviously the government wanted to make an example out of Swartz to show the world rebellion of that kind would not be tolerated.  This example sadly led to the death of the renowned computer programmer and political activist and halted the effort to publicize the rich information. Additionally JSTOR only fueled the fire by allowing the government to prosecute Swartz without resistance. Essentially Swartz was attempting to pursue the exact same goal as JSTOR by allowing people information to better their lives and studies. However, they accused him of “significant misuse of [their] database.”

Aaron Swartz

I will never forget that feeling of liberation I felt when I first logged on to JSTOR to browse sources. There were no illegitimate articles, no advertisements, but only reliable and trustworthy information. I felt as if I was equipped with a special power to combat my way through my years at SFSU. Unfortunately, after graduation that power will come with a price.

 

References

Aaron Swartz Biography, By Biography.com Editors, Biography.com Website, December 23, 2015,  http://www.biography.com/people/aaron-swartz

Gitelman, L.. (2014). Searching and Thinking About Searching JSTOR. Representations, 127(1), 73–82. http://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2014.127.1.73

Internet prodigy, activist Aaron Swartz commits suicide , by Michael Martinez, Cable News Network , March 7, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/12/us/new-york-reddit-founder-suicide/

Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist, Louisproyect.org, January 14, 2013, http://louisproyect.org/2013/01/14/thoughts-on-aaron-swartzs-suicide/

The Inside Story of Why Aaron Swartz Broke Into MIT and JSTOR, By Noam Scheiber, New Republic, Febuaray 13, 2013, https://newrepublic.com/article/112418/aaron-swartz-suicide-why-he-broke-jstor-and-mit

 

 

 

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