This week in our discussion, we covered a range of topics beginning with news stories. I found the partnership between Spotify and Hulu interesting because we had talked previously about Amazon and Microsoft partnering. When the news of Amazon and Microsoft partnering broke, it was shocking because it seems like an unusual partnership. However, when I heard about Spotify and Hulu, my reaction was “Oh, another odd pair like Amazon and Microsoft. I wonder what the benefits and risks will be.” We also discussed the Apple product launch. This also made me think about the previous weeks discussion where we passed around the IBM transistors and talked about Moore’s law because Apple tries and is expected to push ahead every year to create a “better” product.

Our conversation about FaceTime also interested me because some of us saw it as a form of closer communication while others saw it as a disconnection from society. Personally, I believe FaceTime can bring family and friends closer together who live far away and have few other means of communication, but I do also see FaceTime as a disconnect from society because one can simply call someone and feel like they are right there at a meal or any other point of the day instead of just lifting one’s head up to one’s surroundings and finding a new friend. As a freshman at Harvard, this is personally apparent at Annenberg. There have been a few days where I thought, “This would be a good time to call my friend from home, or my parents.” But then as I am gathering my food, I run into new and interesting people that I can talk to face to face. The concept of FaceTime also interests me because it is a form of communication that allows one to have the false sense of person to person interaction. When using FaceTime, individuals are technically “face-to-face,” but there is still a screen separating them. This screen steals authenticity because one can’t judge all the body signals, surroundings of the other person, and many more factors that play into physical conversations.

We also discussed Hurricane Irma and the Internet. What caught my attention in this part of the discussion that turned out to be a theme throughout the day was the fact that the Internet has a lot of weird single point failures. This recurring theme of headaches regarding problems with the Internet showed up too while trying to figure out how many bits to use for the ARPAnet. Problems were especially prevalent when trying to decide upon a design for the network and a way to balance responsibilities. I found the problem of equalizing responsibilities interesting because if the engineers had given too much power to a certain group, the effect could (and can) still be seen today. Similarly, the creators handed the software side to grad students because they believed it was less interesting than hardware. This meant that grad students had to be kind of hidden and stay ego free which lead to the creation of a safe space to contribute ideas (RFC). Today, the software side definitely seems more of a prevalent interest, but I still would like to have exposure to the hardware side.

A closing topic from our discussion that peaked my interest regards the topic of privacy and security. In my last post, I touched upon security. The readings clarify that the ARPAnet was designed to be reliable and able to work. Security was a concern they decided to keep open. Security and privacy start blurring lines along with cultural norms when electronic messages started being sent. Using a government platform to discuss personal matters started bending the rules of comfort, but there were no official rules restricting the use of the ARPAnet for this. This started bending more cultural norms and adding message traffic. When the first two groups were created (a message group and a scifi group), this started to normalize the use of the ARPAnet for personal matters. We also talked about FINGER, the program that worked similar to read receipts. This modern similarity raised many opinions around the table about different privacy issues that are common today. I think it is a little scary that someone has the possibility to access your location (or cellphone) 24/7 because this is not something everyone thinks about when they decide to buy and own a phone. What opened my eyes to this issue of privacy was the installment of “Snap Maps” on Snapchat. When I first opened up Snapchat with this update, my eyes widened as I automatically turned off my location view. If I am uncomfortable with my friends seeing my location 24/7, why did I not have the same reaction when I first received my cellphone? The accuracy of “Snap Maps” also shocked me. When you zoom in, one can see within about a one meter radius of the exact location of the person. I wonder how location services will change as technology continues to develop. I enjoyed our brief conversation about AI and look forward to this as an upcoming topic in a few weeks.

Getting Personal on Government Property

2 thoughts on “Getting Personal on Government Property

  • September 17, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Wonderful thoughts, Sarah! On your Annenberg story, I’m one of those people that thinks that people should think when they want to disengage from the world around them and connect to their friends/family elsewhere. (Worse, in my opinion, is randomly perusing the Net looking for something interesting instead of looking at what might be interesting physically around you.) Maybe ubiquitous location services will actually help in this? What if the AI on our phones nudged us to look around when it felt interesting people where nearby? Maybe the development of ways to connect at a distance through technology just developed faster than the ways to help us connect locally? I found it interesting that you put these two things in the same post. Thank you for getting me to think about something I hadn’t previously!

    If you ever have questions about hardware, I’d be happy to explain what I can and point you to others when I can’t.

  • September 17, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    A nice trifecta of interesting topics…

    I find the question of when it is appropriate to pull out the phone for connection an interesting (and evolving) one. When I first got a cellphone, I had to make it explicit with my then-manager that there were times that I wouldn’t answer (for example, when I was attending baseball games). I’d turn the phone off when I entered the park, and not worry about it while I watched the game.

    While I still try to ignore the phone at games, I have over the past couple of years started pulling it out now and again “just to check”. Turning it off doesn’t happen. Things change.

    I still try to have occasional days when I don’t use my cellphone at all (sometimes this is aided by forgetting to put it in my pocket). But it is getting harder and harder to ignore the beast, since others have the expectation that I’ll be using it. Doing a digital de-tox is more and more difficult, and more and more a statement.


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