Author: emarjorieh

Ethical problems with online mugshot galleries

John Thomas was one of the last speakers at the Digital Ethics Symposium. He had previously worked as the online editor for Playboy Magazine for ten years, has written various articles on digital ethics, and now works for Groupon. Because of his background in journalism, particularly online, it was interesting to see him compare the ethical standards of print vs online journalism as well as the lasting effects. Because making corrections online is easier than reprinting many copies of a newspaper, we assume that online is often more correct. However, many major new sources (including CNN) do not have online corrections policies. The implications for these can be long lasting.

In his presentation Thomas brought up a slide that had to do with mugshots posted online. Google has software that can search for images of people based on the structure of their face, what would happen if a potential employer found someone’s mugshot online? The person would be denied the job and would have no idea why.

Thomas points out that arrests do not imply guilt and that a defendant is supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty or convicted, but there are no galleries of exonerated mugshots posted online. A person could have been wrongly arrested and photographed, found not guilty, but their mugshot could still live forever online with no implication of innocence. It is quite easy to detroy someone’s reputation online, and once information is out there it is hard to repair it.

Thomas also mentioned how newspapers such as the Tribune post galleries of mugshots to gain page clicks and sell advertisement space. The New York Daily News published one gallery titled “World’s Most Hilarious Mugshots.” Thomas asks why newspapers renowned for their journalistic integrity would post mugshots of people who were arrested but not yet convicted.

It is also important to note that in some of these galleries the people pictured are being ridiculed and mocked. These people may be homeless, mentally ill, or battered. It is truly cruel that such mugshot galleries have become popular to gain readers when they’re based on the defamation of people who have no means to defend themselves online. They cannot change posts and say they were exonerated and they may not even know of a gallery they’re in.

Thomas blames lazy journalists, where a mere copy and paste of funny mugshots can get them money as freelance contributors. What was interesting was Thomas’s personal connection to this subject – at one point in time he had written an article called “Nine Surprisingly Sexy Mugshots” for Playboy. While not as inherently cruel as other articles, he claims that he deeply regrets it. The problem with online ridicule is that it follows a person forever as it is hard to delete. Posting mugshots online in newspapers for the purpose of sheer enjoyment or mockery isn’t fair journalism and can have long lasting implications.

Ella Henning

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On Anita Sarkeesian and Security

It was really cool to see Anita Sarkeesian in person at Loyola. We had read about her in class and I had seen her on the Colbert Report, but it was strange to see her in person speaking at our school. I only saw her in person briefly, as I had to sit in the overflow room, but it was cool nonetheless.

One thing I would like to comment on was the security. First, I think it is unbelievable that someone like Sarkeesian should even need such extensive event security. I have watched her videos before and I understand that she is somewhat of an incendiary speaker, but the fact that her safety is that much at risk is just plain sad to me. I strongly believe that no one should feel that unsafe, especially in a university. I completely understand why they had the security measures, but the fact that they are necessary is abhorrent.

Another thing I’d like to say about the security is that I actually never even went through it. I work in Lewis Towers, so I was there early in the morning and I walked right past security and scanned my id to go to the elevators. Later, when I did sign in to go to the event I did not have to go through metal detectors. I had left my backpack at my desk so I did not carry a bag and I also do not look like the sort of person who would be carrying a gun, but I still expected security to be stricter. The workers behind the front desk may have recognized me and I suppose I know much more about getting into the building than the average person, but I still felt it would have been really easy to get through unchecked.

Security aside, I found Sarkeesian’s speech had really good points. Not only is it infuriating to me that people would threaten and degrade her online, but the fact that the majority of it was based around her gender was truly vile. If she were a man, she wouldn’t have to block comments and posts to her Facebook that contain any variation of spelling (or misspelling) of the word “sandwich” or have people photoshop sexually explicit pictures of her.

One thing I initially didn’t love about Sarkeesian’s talk was how it mostly surrounded her own experiences with online harassment. I was more interested in hearing about the content of her videos on FemFreq and the portrayal of women in video games. However, once I thought about it I began to see how the fact that she has to talk about her harassment is such a sad fact. I believe this is more to the fault of the misogynistic gamers who harass Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian faces so much hatred that she has to spend great amounts of time and energy dealing with trolls and threats.

One thing that really struck me about Sarkeesian’s speech was when she said that she shouldn’t have to explain Twitter to the police. If police and law enforcement don’t understand social media, how can they appropriately deal with threats and harassment made on such platforms? How can we protect victims if we don’t have the proper social media functions, resources, or knowledge? If the police don’t understand Twitter, is it truly something they will take seriously?

Ella Henning

Fighting social inequality by promoting digital literacy

The last speaker of the Digital Ethics symposium was Sandee Kastrul. Kastrul is the president and co-founder of i.c. stars, a nonprofit technology training program for inner-city adults to prepare them for careers in technology. I.c. stars also focuses on developing leadership skills to help students lift up their communities.

What I found so interesting about Kastrul’s speech was how her program’s mission has remained the same and very relevant despite vast expansions in technology. Her company was founded in the late 90’s, as Kastrul wanted to help people who had talent yet lacked career opportunities due to their low socioeconomic status. Although technology has changed in both form and distribution, the company’s mission has always been to lift up communities by training some of its members in how to properly use it.

During her question panel, Kastrul pointed out that social justice in relation to technology and new media has changed. In the early years of starting i.c. stars, the main factor in technological inequality was its distribution. Computers are expensive, and at the time not everyone had easy access to them. It was difficult for people in the inner-city to reach a computer, as they were expensive, schools lacked funding, etc. Computers and other forms of technology were more easily accessed by wealthier people, who would use them at work, at schools with better funding, or even in their homes.

Technology has since vastly expanded and become more affordable. The problem now, Kastrul says, is not one of distribution but of digital literacy. Reaching a computer or accessing technology is no longer difficult in the inner-city; practically everyone has a smartphone or at least a flip phone. In a time where everyone has access to technology, the ones who actually understand how to fully utilize it are going to be the ones with the power. The inner-city often lacks the resources to teach basic digital literacy. Kastrul emphasized the importance of knowing basic coding, analytics, and various software programs to survive in the modern work force.

One thing I really liked about Kastrul’s speech was how relevant her company’s mission has been despite changes in the field. I.c. stars recognized the importance of knowing how to fully use technology before computers were widely available. In order for people to understand how to use the computer they must have access to relevant education, which is something the inner city does not have.

You can’t fix social inequality of literacy by simply handing everyone a book, they also must be taught how to read. Similarly, widespread access to computers does not solve the problem of technological inequality without accompaniment of proper education.

What can I do to help combat this problem? Teach others what I know. I liked Kastrul’s solution because it was an active thing that people can do that extends beyond merely signing a petition or passing a school levy. Although the majority of us are not computer science professors or technicians we can play a direct role in promoting digital literacy in our own communities.

Ella Henning

Not in Kansas anymore…..

My experience in lambdamoo was an interesting one. Like mostly everyone else, I found it rather difficult to navigate. Well, I found it really difficult to do much of anything. I began in the coat closet as Khaki_Guest and started to try typing things so that I could get out. Unfortunately, none of my commands seemed to be working. I couldn’t figure out how to “go” anywhere. I was frustrated by my inability to navigate the game but I also decided that the color khaki was insufficient in really representing my online personality. So, I quit the game.

I did a little research on how to do things (say words, smile, wink, etc.). Armed with what little info I could gather, I logged back in and re-entered the coat closet, this time as Lavender_Guest (much more suiting). The other “guests” in the coat closet waved to me, and I gave myself an internal high-five when I was able to wave back. Ecru_Guest and Blue_Guest seemed to be talking to each other, so I asked how to leave the closet. Ecru_Guest asked me where I wanted to go:

 

You say, “Paris would be nice, or anywhere really. I need to leave this godforsaken closet I feel like r kelly”

Ecru_Guest [to Lavender_Guest]: try @go #40895

Blue_Guest [to Ecru_Guest]: oooh, you’re good.

You say, “okay thank you”

Ecru_Guest smiles.

Extremely happy that someone helped me, I typed the instructions and was off to Paris. The page said that I was outside, it was raining and I was on a bike. There was a café nearby and some stairs across the rue. However, try as I might (and I tried a lot), I still couldn’t figure out what to do. I couldn’t “go” anywhere, no directions worked, and I couldn’t interact with any of the objects in the area. It was a tough decision: do I quit and go back to the closet where I would be reassigned a potentially boring name (Tan? Slate?) or do I remain stranded; spending the final moments of my lambdamoo life shouting questions into the lonely rain. Just then, a friend appeared!

Ecru_Guest is here.

You say, “how do i interact with my surroundings?”

You say, “thank you so much for helping me”

Ecru_Guest says, “I don’t think there’s much to interact with in this room…

other than myself, of course. :)”

Ecru_Guest says, “some rooms have objects that u can do things with, but I

don’t know about this one”

You say, “haha okay I kept getting an error message. What is your favorite

place in lambdamoo?”

Ecru_Guest then gave me instructions on how to follow him (I’m just assuming it’s a him) and we ended up in a place called the Formal Gardens. The description was really cool, there were specific directions, and you could even pick flowers! Ecru_Guest and I sat on a bench, and I was really pumped to have made a friend in this virtual space. We walked around the rest of the house and ended up on a deck. Ecru_Guest went into the bathroom, and I followed him.

Ecru_Guest was a little weirded out I followed him to the bathroom and told me to wait for him back on the deck. When he came out, he said the bathroom was all mine now. I was very confused why he felt the need to go to the bathroom in a virtual world, but decided it wasn’t worth potentially offending my new friend. Ecru_Guest continued to teach me how to do actions, join specific people, etc.

Then things got a bit weird.

Ecru_Guest told me to follow them to the “Pool Hall.” I did, and we ended up in this place that sounded like a very dingy bar with a few pool tables. In the description, it told me how to ask for instructions for this room. I typed the command, and it gave me the list of interactions. The interactions seemed completely different from the room’s description.

The interactions were for restraining someone to a four-post bed or chaining different body parts to the ceiling. It also said how to free yourself using a safeword.

Chains and safewords??? Can I just go back to the garden?? This was somewhere I really did not want to be.

Ecru_Guest essentially wanted me to “utilize” the room’s interactions. I decided I was decently creeped out by the proposition and decided to exit the game.

It was interesting to see what Cherny had said about interations in MUDs first-hand, through waving, smiling, and what not. I liked that I felt like I was traveling in lambdamoo and was unsure how to appropriately interact with other users. I can see how lambdamoo is a platform of interactions that some people enjoy, but I can’t say that it’s for me. It is nice that you can go different places without a concern for safety. In real life I would never follow a stranger to a house or a dingy poolroom, but in the game there aren’t many risks.

Though I was creeped out by my interaction with Ecru_Guest, the game seems to be an environment where many different people can find their niche. If there is a niche for me in lambdamoo, it seems that my confusion in how to navigate the game will prevent me from ever finding it.

Ella Henning

Automatic Downloads – Ella Henning

One technology I find interesting is the automatic download. A few weeks ago, when Apple announced their new line of products, they also had another surprise for iTunes holders: U2’s new album. People were up in arms over the situation, pissed that Apple had downloaded the album to their iTunes without their consent and also angry that they were unable to un-download it. Apple later released a statement explaining the process of getting rid of the album for users who did not want it.

I’d like to start by saying that I thought the whole uproar over the U2 album was a little ridiculous. Yeah, the fact that you couldn’t originally delete it from your iTunes is kind of annoying, but really? Is it that big of a deal? Apple has been found to use child labor in their production of their phones but they cross the line the moment they give everyone a free U2 album? Bono isn’t THAT bad.

Rant aside, it does sort of freak me out that Apple has the ability to automatically download things to peoples’ phones. Even apps you’ve chosen to download already will automatically update themselves. In a utopian society, never again will you have a little red number 23 next to your app store button signifying the number of apps you need to update, the problem takes care of itself. You have the access to the most updated and recent technology, and you don’t even have to lift a finger to update it.

In a dystopian society, I think it’d be a little scarier. You have no control over what Apple/anyone else chooses to download to your phone, and you may be unable to get rid of it. It could be spyware or other technology you didn’t originally want on your phone, and you may have no idea that its there.

Struggling to read more than 140 characters – Ella Henning

Reading Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” strangely hit home for me. For the past couple of years, I have found myself genuinely uninterested in reading anything over a couple hundred words. When I was a kid I loved reading books, but now I can hardly get past the second paragraph of the first chapter of anything. I’ve thought about how it could be attributed to general laziness or the fact that I have to read so much for school, but I never considered that the way I interact with technology could be changing the way my mind works.

I started using Twitter in the middle of high school, just as a way to keep up with what various friends were up to. I wish I could say that I wanted to use it as a tool to keep up with the news, but I usually just scroll past it. While I do follow a journalist from the Human Rights Watch, I must admit that I rarely actually click on the articles linked to his tweets.

Because I am under the age of 28, my father naturally assumes that I am a guru at all things social media. This summer, he emailed me asking if I could write a tweet encouraging University of Cincinnati students to volunteer at a summer camp for inner city kids. The president of the university would then tweet it. I formulated something along the lines of:

“Looking for volunteer mentors to help underserved boys at PNC Challenge Camp this summer in July. Info & sign-up at www.danbeard.org/challengecamp

140 characters. It fit. Job was done. Whatever.

However, I was not the only one included in this email exchange. My know-it-all mother (who in fact does know everything) quickly pointed out that you always have to start with the benefit or most important information “or else college students won’t take the time to read it.” Her recommendation:

“Want to help under-served boys? Volunteer at PNC Scout Challenge Camp. Give an hour, a day, or a week. Go to www.danbeard.org/challengecamp

Apparently there are short attention spans even on Twitter, but I realized she was completely right (ugh). When reading we immediately want to know the most important information (even if it is only 140 characters long).

My twitter is on private so I had to screenshot my “thick tweets:”

IMG_1239IMG_1240

Growing up around computers – blog post 1

I have a distinct memory of the first time I actually used a computer. I’m pretty sure I was aware of what they were, because my dad worked on one, but it had never been something that I was interested in playing with, I believe I was too young. Now I could be remembering this entirely wrong, but I was probably only around three or four.

I think we got the computer from our family friends, or maybe they just recommended it. Anyways, I don’t think I used the Internet ever, but I remember one particular computer game my older brother and I would play. It was designed like most educational children’s’ games, where as it was composed of different mini-games. I don’t remember the majority of them, but I do know that one of them had to do with matching little film clips together to make a complete story.

In this mini-game, you were in a cartoon movie theater, and you were given a set of three or four small clips that had to be put together in chronological order, and if you were correct it would show you the whole thing together. One of them had to do with cavemen, but that’s about as far as my memory goes.

Once I started school, computers were much more present in my life. I remember using Microsoft word and fiddling around with Word Art. During library time is when we learned how to surf the web. We used Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Dogpile, and Google. When we wanted to use a website for a project, we had to fill out a sheet to make sure it was reputable and get it approved from the teacher. We would have to find the copyright, author, editor, and other information.

We also learned how to search for books in our school’s library using some sort of book database. If our library didn’t have the book we needed, we could go on another site and order from a local library or from another school. I think this really lead to my first A-Ha! moment regarding new media. Van Dijk describes a networking experience of media, and it clicked in my head that this computer as well as any computer with internet access was connected to the physical books in my library. From the library, my friends house, or my own house I could search for books and check them out.

Ella Henning