Archive for June, 2011

Surveillance: From the Cloud(s) to the Fog

Last winter, Cyborgology contributor David Banks described the Pentagon’s Gorgon Stare system—a nine-camera flying drone that can stay airborne for weeks at a time—as a “panopticon in the clouds.” Like Jeremy Bentham’s infamous prison design (later adopted as a metaphor for all of contemporary society by Michel Foucault), the deployment of surveillance drones serves, in part, to limit the actions of militants by creating a perception that the US government was perpetually watching. Banks argues that, ultimately, these sci-fi-esque surveillance regimes were made possible by recent refinements in automated data management that originally had mundane applications, such as helping spectators follow activity on the sports pitch or producing individualized film recommendations.

Compiled by PJ Rey

There is, thus, a double-sense in which the panopticon has entered the cloud(s). Surveillance devices are not only omnipresent—flying through the air—but these devices are also linked remotely to command and control centers—large, centralized databases that store and process the information produced in surveillance operations. Thus, unlike the historic spy operations conducted by manned U2 spy plans, drones never have to physically return home for data processing; instead, this information is transmitted in real-time. Continue reading

Obama Tweet Authorship Signals Web 2.0 Campaign in 2012

Obama Texting

Credit: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

On June 17th, an Obama 2012 campaign staffer made a post explaining that Obama’s Twitter and Facebook presence would be handled differently going forward. As fellow Cyborgology editor Nathan Jurgenson recently discussed, Obama’s posts and updates have, up until now, been ghostwritten—leading Jurgenson to conclude that “Obama-as-president has thus far been a Web 1.0 leader” and, thus, to ask “when will we see a Web 2.0, social media president?” Obama’s use of social media has been in sharp contrast to other nationally-recognized politicians, including former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose tweets appear to be individually-authored, spontaneous, and personal, making them appear more authentic and more consistent with the norms of other Twitter users (spelling errors and all). The president is now getting into the game by authoring his own tweets.

The campaign update, titled, “A New Approach to Facebook and Twitter,” states:

Obama for America staff will now be managing both accounts, posting daily updates from the campaign trail, from Washington, and everywhere in between. You’ll be hearing from President Obama regularly, too; on Twitter, tweets from the President will be signed “-BO.”

Continue reading

The Social Media Age Gap and the 2012 Elections

Already, we are being inundated with stories about the how social media will shape the 2012 campaigns (and how Facebook may, or may not, transform the Presidency itself). Two facts, however, limit the potential role social media will, ultimately, play in the 2012 election:

1.) Young people are heavy users of social media, but are unlikely to vote.

2.) Older folks are likely to vote, but are much less involved in social media.

Thus, the reality is that social media is best at reaching those least likely votes. In its 2008 post-election analysis, Pew found that while 72% of Americans 18-29 year of age were using the Internet for political activities or information gathering (and 49% used social-networking sites for these purposes), only 22% of Americans 65+ years of age engaged in such activities on the Internet (and a mere 2% did so on social media).

From: Aaron Smith, "The Internet's Role in Campaign 2008," Pew Internet & American Life Project, 15 April 2009

At the same time, young adults are roughly 33% less likely to vote than their grandparents. Continue reading

UMD Graduate Students Go Beyond the Traditional in a Conference on Theorizing the Web

Conference Co-Chairs Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey deliver opening remarks

Conference Co-Chairs Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey deliver opening remarks.

Co-authored by Nathan Jurgenson.  Reposted from Footnotes.

Theorizing the web is not a new project, but critical theories of the web and of new technologies have been too few and under-represented at academic conferences. So we (two sociology graduate students at the University of Maryland) with the assistance of a small committee decided to throw a conference of our own.

The graduate-student-organized “Theorizing the Web 2011” conference took place April 9 on the University of Maryland campus. The program consisted of 14 panels, two workshops, two symposia (one on social media’s role in the Arab revolutions, the other, a conversation with Martin Irvine, Director of the Irvine Contemporary Gallery, on social media and street art), two plenaries (by Saskia Sassen on “Digital Formations of the Powerful and the Powerless” and George Ritzer on “Why the Web Needs Post-Modern Theory”), and a keynote by Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research, on “Privacy, Publicity Intertwined.” Presenters travelled from around the world (including Hong Kong and New Zealand). The day-long conference pushed the capacity limits of the venue with more than 200 people in attendance throughout the day.  Events ran from registration at 8 am and ended with an after-party that wound down after 11 pm. The program was packed with as many as five concurrent panels. Continue reading