All posts by iwong

The Phreakers, The Hackers, and The Trolls

 

Phone Phreak.

In this post, I would first like to address the relevance of the documentary that we watched in class to Gabriella Coleman’s piece on phreakers, hackers, and trolls. It was interesting to see  in the documentary and the reading how hacking began and progressed throughout the years. Both sources mentioned the origin of hacking may have began in the 1950’s at MIT and similar university institutions and with telephone phreakers. It was shocking to find out that hacking had not started out as a term coined for its relevance to computers today. I knew the word “hacking” had to have come from somewhere, but what I didn’t know was that the term had roots prior to internet and computer usage. In addition, before reading Coleman’s work, I had never heard of telephone phreakers. I’m certain that I wasn’t the only one who had not been exposed to the term prior to the reading and documentary. In fact, I’m sure the majority of the people in our generation would have no idea what a telephone phreaker is if they were asked.  With that said, it was quite interesting to learn about how telephone phreakers in the past found shortcuts in the telephone system of the time and were able to utilize the system to their advantage.

Moving past the age of the telephone and into the age of the computer and internet, Coleman mentioned “Bulletin Board Systems,” or BBSes, which were computerized meetings and announcement systems that allowed its users to share files, make announcements, play games, and communicate. These systems allows its users to talk about a rather large variety of topics. As I read about these BBSes, I found that they were probably the predecessors to online forums. Coleman mentions that people, purposely looked for others to insult and verbally abuse on the discussion boards. They would post infuriating comments that were directed towards others, expecting an intended response. As I read about this, it reminded me of how interactions on a lot of forums and many webpages  with enabled comments go today. I find that people very often have something negative to say about the points of views of others. This is most evident on sites that enable comments and allow people to openly state their opinions. For example, many of us are familiar with YouTube, a site that allows its users to upload and share their videos with the online community. Well, Youtube users have the ability to comment and provide feedback on videos posted by others if the comments are enabled. This ability gives users the chance to offer positive comments and encouragement, but it also comes with a risk of receiving negative contributions as well. In fact, there are people who purposely post insulting comments just to stir up negative emotions in others. It’s quite interesting that this happens so often online, because people aren’t daring to insult others in person, so why would they feel the need to insult them on the internet? What ever happened to the saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, do say anything at all”?

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O83vd0l-_Ew[/youtube]

Troll Face.

When Coleman goes on to further discuss the presence of trolls on the internet and their role in this world of hacking, I realized that during my time spent on the internet, I have seen countless screening clippings of people trolling others and cartoons depicting a character falling victim to an irritable situation. However, I haven’t not yet experienced or even witnessed any form of trolling first hand, not that I would want to. Because of this, I feel that perhaps people are more likely to create cartoons that depict trolling just for the laughs than to openly target other people. In fact, many of the screen clippings of trolls in action may not be real incidents of trolling and are instead fabrications to entertain others. However, with all this said, I am not saying that trolls aren’t out there. There are definitely some people out there that start arguments and upset people just for their own amusement.

Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Griefing

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faob7wWXALM[/youtube]

In a world that is continuously connected with others through the internet, there is no definite distinction between the real world and the virtual world anymore. Because of this convergence of the two worlds, what people experience online may have an impact in real life. In Roland Wojak’s work titled Griefing Through the Virtual World: The Moral Status of Griefing, he specifically states, “…actions performed within virtual worlds are really still actions performed in the real world by a real person directed at another person through a particular medium with real-world consequences and effects.” Thus, all actions of individuals in the real and virtual world have consequences. What happens in the virtual world may reach beyond our computer screens and into real life.

Cyberbullying extends to the real world.

Most of us have witnessed bullying in schools. Some of us may have even been victims to bullying. In the more recent generation, there has been more effort put into educating people about the repercussions of bullying. However, bullying  has been taken to a new level with technological advancements. Our society is not only concerned with bullies in the real world anymore. With the ability to interact with millions of people online, bullies also exist in the virtual world nowadays. This form of bullying can occur through basic online interactions, like social media and email, or even through online games. The term cyberbullying is used to refer to using electronic communication to bully a person, and the term griefing, a form of cyberbullying, is used to refer to the purposeful act of irritating or angering people in video games. In video games today, people are able to interact and play games together on online servers; people are no longer required to meet up at a particular location to play games with their friends. As a result of the introduction of this convenience, people can even play with other people they have not met, and may not ever meet. But, with this new form of gameplay, new problems dealing with cyberbullying and griefing has arisen for server administrators in many games.

Wojak mentioned that many game administrators have been having a difficult time controlling griefing and cyberbullying, but I can not completely agree with this idea. In many games, there are regulations set in place to protect all players from cyberbullying and griefing. Players usually have an option to report other players who are not playing by the rules. Behaviors that warrant a possible report include the harassment of other players or deliberating sabotaging gameplay for other players. For example, when my friends play a multiplayer online game called League of Legends, they have an option to report bad player conduct. The reporting party will be asked to identify the reason in the report, and once the report if made, the gameplay is reviewed by the Tribunal, which is comprised of eligible players who are deemed worthy to make decisions leading to pardons or punishments. If a player is reported and found guilty of the charge,  the suspension of that player’s account for a specific duration of time will result. Typically, first-time offenders will face a shorter suspension, and reoccurring offenses will result in longer account suspensions.

League of Legends Bad Conduct Report

In addition, when people are online, their online selves are extensions of their real selves. For example, in Second Life, a virtual game that Wojak mentioned, people became attached to their avatars because they assume the role of their characters. Since their characters are a direct representation of themselves in the game, players are affected by what happens to their avatar. While people can not directly experience what is happening, there are still indirect effects on the real life players that result from virtual actions. In fact, I have seen many of my friends get frustrated with other players while playing Grand Theft Auto V. In this game, people are able to run around and interact with other players online. If they choose to do so, they are even able to gun down other players and steal their money or cars. On one occasion, there was a player stalking the ATM, waiting to kill other players intending to deposit money into their banking accounts. This could get very irritating for people who just want to play the game without having to worry about being killed all the time. On the other hand, however, many of the players understand the risks of playing with other online players and are not as conflicted when they are killed. People who take the game too seriously are probably more likely to be negatively affected by the actions of other players. Thus, the degree of the effects may vary depending on the person. In my opinion, different people may be affected differently by griefing and cyberbullying. Those who are prone to being victims of real life bullying may also be those who are prone to other forms of bullying. In addition, different people handle bullying, griefing, and cyberbullying differently as well. It is possible that those who are more severely affected by griefing and cyberbullying are more predisposed to being more emotional and more easily disturbed by greifers and bullies.  This is the same for real life bullying. There are people who are able to ignore their bullies and recover from attacks towards them, but there are also others who are more sensitive and can’t defend themselves.

Below is a video of an online gameplay interaction between two players in Grand Theft Auto V. The video shows how a player purposely bullies another player.

Warning: The following video contains explicit language and images.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aCSOkbTrT0[/youtube]

I don’t consider griefing to be as massive of a problem as Wojak makes it out to be. Like real life bullying, there are rules and regulations in place to protect people from being bullied in the virtual world . While cyberbullying and griefing can occur more easily behind the anonymity on the internet, it is a similar problem to bullying in the real world. In my opinion, Wojak makes it sound like all individuals who encounter griefing and cyberbullying will inevitably fall into depression or end up suicidal. But this is not the case. People in the virtual world handle cyberbullying differently, just as people in the real world do. Some people are just more emotional and sensitive, so they are affected to a greater degree by bullying, cyberbullying, and griefing than others.

Sexting: No Take Backs

SextingThe issue of sexting has been an increasingly popular topic in our society. I’m sure many of us have stumbled across online articles that have reported on celebrities taking part in this activity. While some of these reports may not be true, the truth as to whether the celebrities actually sent their partners intimate content over the phone or internet is not what we should be concerned about. The fact that sexting is such a common and well heard of activity is the problem. While we have heard of many incidents involving leaking of nude photos and the extreme consequences that result from sending racy messages, sexting still continues.  The topic has become such a real issue, that there are writers who have investigated and wrote about sexting in articles and books. In fact, Jo Ann Oravec addresses some of the issues involving sexting and speaks of the consequences in an article titled The Ethics of Sexting.  For example, Oravec writes that the sexting does not only involve the sender of the message or image, but many peripheral individuals play a role as well. Other people that may play potential roles in sexting include potential receivers, image and text modifiers, and retransmitters. A lot of people mistakenly think that sexting ends when their intended recipient gets their message, but that is often not the case. By sending racy pictures and messages through the phone or online, people take the risk of the content being shared with multiple parties. In my opinion, if people intend for their intimate messages and pictures to be kept private and out of the reach of others, it is best not to send them in the first place. Once a text or picture is sent to others, there is no telling where it may it end up.

Untitled

Of course, there have been many incidents involving the leakage of nude photos or racy text messages. The ones that are most salient have been sexting scandals involving celebrities. In fact, the Huffingtonpost has reported quite a few of them. For example, semi-nude photos of Christina Aguilera were leaked in 2010, nude photos of Snooki, from “Jersey Shore,” were leaked in both 2010 and 2012, and nude photos of Paris Hilton were also leaked in 2005. In the case of Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton, the photos were leaked by hackers. Christina Aguilera’s photos were reportedly taken from her stylist’s computer, and the photos of Paris Hilton were hacked from her phone. While the celebrities had not sent these pictures of themselves to other recipients, their cases prove that it is not safe to have nude or even semi-nude pictures of themselves on phones and laptops. The fact that they did not send those photos themselves did not keep them from being leaked.

So, in the end, what’s the main lesson to take home from all of this? If you don’t want your nude pictures or intimate messages out in the open for the world to see, DON’T TAKE THE PICTURES OR SEND THE TEXTS AT ALL! Get a room and do it all behind closed doors (and covered windows). There is no need to leave evidence to share with the world.

Computers Shaping Society

People are glued to their computers in our society.

With the many technological advances of our society, there has been shifts in how our society functions. In Sherry Turkle’s book Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, she discusses the power of “seduction” that computers seem to have over people.  I found that I could relate to this idea of “computer addiction” by just reading the first chapter of Turkle’s book.

As Turkle starts her first chapter, she compares the writing process of using present day computers to that of the more outdated method of using merely paper and pencil. This comparison reminded me of a thought I had a few years ago as I was in the process of editing a quite lengthy paper for some class that is irrelevant now. As I sat at my computer years ago, it occurred to me how people used to have to sit down and write out all their thoughts on paper, jotting down notes so that they could make edits and revisions in a later draft. The thought struck me so suddenly that I couldn’t help but take a break from writing and imagine myself writing out a first draft of my 15 page paper by hand, making revisions, and producing more of these lengthy drafts until I was content with my work. If the process was just as tedious today, I have to admit that I may not even attempt revisions and producing other drafts. After that 15 page paper, I think I really learned to appreciate how computers have made the whole writing process easier. Sure, I agree that computers have the power to suck us in for hours at a time while we are writing, but we have to take into account the time that people used to spend brainstorming and organizing their thoughts prior to writing on paper. When people wrote with paper and pencil, they couldn’t just jump in anywhere on the page and add in a thought that they left out, so they would have to take the time to plan out the structure and content of their papers before actually sitting down to write it. However, with computer software, people don’t feel the need to spend as much time planning because they can edit any part of their paper with just a few keystrokes. They don’t have to rewrite the entire paper, the words just shift to make room for what is added, and the writer can jump from writing one paragraph to another instead of being required to think in a linear fashion.

Microsoft Word Processor

I have also found that it is much easier to express myself as I type compared to when I write on paper. Turkle mentions that “computers can be extensions of the mind’s construction of thought,” and I most definitely agree. When I am typing, the words just flow out and I type as the words come to mind. On the other hand, I tend to write slower when I am writing on paper, so it takes more effort for me to focus on the words that I am writing, inhibiting my mind from formulating what I’m going to say next. Even more inhibiting is the fact that I used to have to think before jotting down each sentence when writing on paper, because writing an unnecessary sentence would cost me the time and effort to erase the words. In contrast, deleting on the computer takes only a second or two, all you have to do is select the text and hit delete. I no longer have to take the time to contemplate every sentence or word I scribble down, the words just flow as I type, and I can make any alterations to what I didn’t like after I get my thoughts down. So, while I agree that people have been spending more time being sucked into their computers, the computer has also made it easier for people to allow their thoughts to flow by acting as an extension of the mind.

Now, people often take advantage of the capabilities computers provide us. For example, in reference to the whole writing software that come with our computers, we know that the labeled keys on our keyboard correspond with letters that appear on your screen when we press them, but how does it all work? Many of us use our computers everyday, but we don’t know how the parts are connected and how letters just miraculously appear when we hit the keys. According to Turkle, the Macintosh computers were a new way of using computers and actually encouraged its users to have a simple surface interaction without understanding the underlying mechanisms. Thus, the users are just provided with attractive simulations and icons on the screen so that usage to programs were more organized, but the user is unaware of the inner mechanisms of how the programs worked. This type of Macintosh interface is pretty much how our computers today are. We are presented with a desktop and icons that are labeled, but all we know is that clicking on the icon will start the program it is intended to start; we are completely ignorant to how clicking a little picture makes a program run. This type of human-computer interaction leads to a question of whether users really need to understand how the computer actually functions. Without understanding how a computer works, people are more reliant on others that have that knowledge to assist them. But is it even possible for everyone to learn all there is to know about computers, and is there even a need for it? Everyone owns a car, but not all car owners know exactly how a car functions either. So should all computer users be held responsible for understanding computers? In my opinion, the human-computer interface was intended to make computer usage easier for people so that they wouldn’t have to know as much about the underlying mechanisms. The computer serves as a tool to make our lives easier, and it would defeat the purpose of having this tool if people are required to have a full understanding of how it works.