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Author Archives: Anderson Evans

Child Hackers, 3D Guns, and a Convoluted Search for Understanding

First of all let me apologize for the lateness of this post.  I’ve got a handful of excuses, but I’ll skip them.  Before I get to this week’s topics en masse, let me address the initial reading.  The conclusion of Zittrain’s “The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It” had some great points, but I also found it to be all over the place.  This is probably because it is the conclusion of a book I haven’t read.  The crux of what I believe to be a summary of the full text meandered from a collection of thoughts on One Laptop for Child initiative, to cybersecurity, to a possible role for the University in the internet’s future, and then back to one laptop for child.  Zittrain seems to have a complicated set of feelings in relation to personal computing (what it is and what it should be) and the net that connects us.  On one hand he seems interested in positive philosophies of how a computer might be best used (making, coding, gifting piecemeal control to the most ethical of computer scientists), but he is also especially paranoid of how he sees it evolving.  His writing became confusing now and again, challenging my understanding as to whether he was behind a certain initiative of pushing against it.  My issue with Zittrain is an issue that I think most that write about networked technologies share — a projected belief that he understands what exactly the net is at its core, even if he must unflinchingly push that knowledge into abstract forms now and again to cover the fact that a comprehensive understanding of all the ins and outs, all the quiet phoenixes waiting to rise and all of the black hats plotting their schemes — these are ultimately unknowable variables.  For all the use of “techie” vocabulary, the conclusion of this book, at least, is riddled with emotion that may or may not be displaced.

 

As for the success of one laptop per child outside of this reading I would direct you to this post:

http://www.dvice.com/archives/2012/10/ethiopian-kids.php

 

Seems the kids hacked the machines pretty hardcore in 5 months.  I don’t believe the machines they received had the interface that Zittrain describes in his conclusion, I’ve been following OLPC’s progress over the past 5 to 6 years and they have definitely had a lot of problems that have only recently been ironed out.  That said, in the end, their ability to hack the machines and program them to a degree has been a success, obviously a core part of the initiative since the beginning.

 

Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about any of the assertions (and anti-assertions) Zittrain made (and unmade).  I don’t pretend to be cosmopolitan enough to wrap my head around the entire late order capitalist system of which the internet is obviously becoming more and more a shocking and pulverizing force within, and how this system effects, say, Ethiopia (where the OLPCs have recently been hacked).  But I also think that much of Zittrain’s defeatist utopianism is at worst ill-formed and at best exaggerated pockets of truth.  He creates a dichotomy consisting of the bad hackers and noble geeks/computer scientists that I can say is flawed.  The grey-hat is the hat worn most in the hacker community, just as most black and white issues are best when seen as something explicitly hazy, instead of hazily explicit.  Again, these are thoughts based on the conclusion of a book I have not read.

 

Moving onto “The internet of things” I feel like I actually might have some actual expertise in this area:

Here I am on BBC World News talking about the Espresso Book Machine:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9biVdn7AxY

 

I’d be happy to talk about how I feel about some of this stuff in class, may not want to make all of my views available on a public blog.  I no longer work for OnDemandBooks, but I have no axe to grind with the company itself.  I will say I once had a much more positive view of this coming “Internet of Things” and now I’m quite a bit more ambivalent.  On one hand I am most definitely a subscriber to the maker philosophy, and I’m much more comfortable designing objects both virtual and capable of physical manifestations in a computer mediated environment than I am with a pile of wood and a hammer, on the other God help us if I represent any kind of coming societal norm.  I have traditionally thought about those things from a selfish perspective.  I am less combative toward the technology itself, but more perturbed by the corporate systems that manipulate how, when, where such technologies are deployed.  Because of the systems that controls these technologies, we do indeed have reason to worry.  We talk about creating homes, musical instruments, artwork with this technology, but what is it that is sure to get more sales?  Just ask the good ol’ boys over at Defense Distributed.  They done printed themselves out a firearm that is going to outsell anything Modular Housing LLC and Les Paul has on the horizon: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/05/the-first-entirely-3d-printed-handgun-is-here/

Journal Research

I have to admit that almost every journal article I’ve read since about 2008 has been from an online source, save for a handful I have accessed as a selection from a later collection of articles published in book form. Going back through my Zotero citations, I have equal parts Open Access Journals and journals I access through Mina Rees. This is acutally a huge score for the Open Access side of the table, because there are far fewer of these journals, however the ability of editorial teams to control the distribution of content I think makes for easier exploration, even when you have high level access to databases like JSTOR.

An Open Access Journal I read more than I cite (Because I read it regularly (because it isn’t a pain to open the link)) has to be “Game Studies: The International Journal of Video Game Research.” The Journal’s super-minimalist and clean interface makes it a really nice, in-depth read, even in this brave new world of RSS feeds and Twitter lists filling academic dashboards. The articles are styled with HTML and CSS instead of a deeply embedded collections of PDF files.

I can link to an article very easily like this: Adapting the Principles of Ludology to the Method of Video Game Content Analysis

With proprietary journals I only have the patience to peruse through one article at a time.  It is such a headache to move onto other portions of a full journal within the locked-up databases that I tend to print a PDF and move back to scholar search queries.  It can also be a pain to share articles between collaborators:

The best I can do when linking this Oxford Journals’ SCREEN article is this: ‘Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming to get me’: Peep Show, sitcom, and the surveillance society

By clicking the Oxford Link you may or may not be able to read this entire article. Even though as a student at CUNY you have access to it, if you don’t pull it up through the proper channels you may not initially realize you have access to it at all. When accessing through Google Scholar and clicking through several login screens I was able to open the page. When making an attempt at opening the page without going through the CUNY proxy, I was unable to even access a login screen that would take my CUNY information.