DIGC 202

Man vs. Machine

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All I have ever wanted was a piece of technology that would detect when I was awake and make me a cup of coffee – of course to my exact preferences – each and every morning. And it turns out that it may just be on its way as the Internet of Things (IoT) is a raising phenomena in technology.

The Internet of Things are common physical items that connect to the Internet which enables the item to collect information about the changes in its surroundings and initiate action based on this information (Mitew, 2014).

Lost? So was I until Lupton (2013) explained the use of wearable technologies to track and collect data on a variety of things including exercise, diet, calories burnt, body temperature, brain function, moods, social encounters and the list goes on. These ‘Things’ blur the lines between human and object as they both transgress the boarders originally assigned to them (Mitew, 2014).

And this is concerning as it raises poignant issues such as how do we distinguish ourselves as humans when these sociable technologies are mimicking human behaviour?

But there are positives to have such integrated lives especially as we face an obesity epidemic. Apps have been designed that calorie count (MyFitnessPal), map runs (Nike Run) and improve brain function (Luminosity) as Constantini (2014) states that our bodies are radiating data loudly, continuously, honestly and individually. Why not capture that data and simplify it for an average individual to track and monitor their health? These applications and wearable technologies – such as FitBit – are our speakers and we no longer need qualifications to decipher what our bodies and minds are trying to tell us.

Constantini (2014) continues on to mention an app that enables you to take pictures of your freckles or moles and it will algorithmically tell you whether it has the potential to become cancerous or whether you need to consult a doctor. As someone who has skin that is prone to getting large freckles and a family history of skin cancer, this app is a beneficial addition to the other myriad of ‘health and fitness’ applications swimming around my phone.

The possibilities are endless. After Constantini’s video, there was another that popped up examining a new development which was a wearable device that would detect the early stages of seizures.

The increasingly sociable nature of technologies exemplifies how broad and beneficial the market is. But I feel that there are unexamined negative connotations regarding the constant collection of data as Lupton (2013) alluded to, “sharing data has implications not only for how users view and understand their own bodies but for how other members of the quantified self community view and respond to them”. Is this another avenue for aggregated negative body image? Are we going to over self-diagnose and miss an important symptom?

But what I really want to know is where is my morning coffee when I wake at 7am?

 

 

References:

Constantini, L, 2014, ‘The Quantified Self: How Wearable Sensors Expand Human Potential’, Ted Talks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FESv2CgyJag

Lupton, D, 2013, ‘Understanding the Human Machine’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 32 issue. 4, pp.25 – 30, accessed 23 October, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=6679313

Mitew, T, 2014, ‘The Internet of Things: from networked objects to anticipatory spaces’, University of Wollongong, week 12 lecture, 23 October, http://prezi.com/1lgxfron1kj0/digc202-the-internet-of-things/

Photo credit

 

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DIGC 202

1, 2, 3, 4 I Declare a Cyber War

 

Bombs away. Warfare no longer resembles a bomb but something that is equally terrifying

Bombs away. War between nations are no longer as easy to spot as bombs; rather, less tangible and more terrifying

As we move towards a more distributed network – and society – it means that we equally move towards distributed control. Despite the fact that we regularly relinquish our control on a daily basis, it is when it happens unbeknownst to us, and our personal information falls into the lap of those who crave it most – hackers – that is the real issue as it exposes the dark side of the Internet.

Yes, there are the lovely hackers – or hacktivists – who unveil the lies we have been force-fed for decades; but when a hacker goes haywire, we then see the formation of cyber-sleuths, creating cyberwarfare and ultimately it is cyberterrorism.

One of the main issues around the rise of cybersleuths, is that we too readily believe that that there is – as Mitew 2014 defines – and electronic frontier that is protecting us and in reality there is not and it leaves us, the government, major organisations and institutions extremely vulnerable.

Cyberhackers are said to have aims which include the need to “gain attention, embarrass website owners and ridicule security measures” (Arthur, 2013) and this is why I find their motives to be childish and quite frankly, impish. As Mitew (2014) suggest “[these] agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate and warp online discourses, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the Internet itself”

Arthur (2013) explores the recent history of cyberhackers LulzSec after they hacked Fox.com for making remarks on-air including calling rapper Common “vile”. Then they unleashed their incredibly moronic behaviour. The group leaked “73,000 X Factor U.S. contestants names” and from there continued on to hack into PBS and plant a false story and later, hacked into the Sony PlayStation Network where they then stole, “24.6 million customers’ private data”. So what are they trying to prove? That certain computer systems are weak and easy to hack? Well, congratulations, you found that out but why leak pointless, personal information? At least Assange and other hacktivists have a motive, a goal, something that contributes to society.

Society should be worried about cyberhacker’s tenacity over the Internet as it is the new age Cold War, “some the largest U.S. threats are buzzing through Russian and Chinese computer systems…operated by highly skilled hackers” (Summers, 2014). And as Summer (2014) continues to state that these highly skilled hackers are either financially backed by the state or they are purely state-employed hackers and this is of concern as they are after anything from oil drilling maps to military technology blueprints.

The evolution of war

The evolution of war between nations

 

Eugene Kaspersky co-founder and chief executive of Kaspersky lab commented on the rise of cyberwarfare, “I think that this is a turning point…because in the past there were cyber-criminals, now I am afraid it is the time of cyber-terrorism, cyber-weapons and cyber-wars” (Mgtitew, 2014). So what is the future for us? Constant surveillance, hackers digging through our personal information just to retaliate against a radio station?

 

References:

Arthur, C, 2013, ‘LulzSec: what they did, who they were and how they were caught’, Guardian, accessed 17 October, http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/16/lulzsec-hacking-fbi-jail

Mitew, T, 2014, ‘Dark fiber: hackers, botnets, cyberwar’, University of Wollongong, week 11 lecture, accessed 13 October, http://prezi.com/iiied2_aa8tc/digc202-dark-fiber-hackers-botnets-cyberwar/

Summers, D.J., 2014, ‘Fighting in the cyber trenches’, Fortune, accessed 13 October, http://fortune.com/2014/10/13/cold-war-on-business-cyber-warfare/

Photo credit – cyberspace bomb

Photo credit – Evolution of war

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DIGC 202

Power is Made By Power Being Taken

“The most exciting and interesting hacking scandal ever” gushes Bruce Sterling in his article Blast Shack (2010) regarding the hacktivist – Julian Assagne.

A hacktivist as defined by Ludlow (2013) is in the simplest and broadest sense, “someone who uses technology hacking to effect social change.” Moreover, a whistleblower is a “person who provides information on a person or organisation who are engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity” and these, dear readers, are the people who will change the way in which we view both foreign and domestic government and institutions.

In Barlow’s 1996 Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace , he outlines a cyberworld that values expression, it is a world without sovereignty or rules and one that revels in individual freedom. But more importantly, is a world that needs to be treasured and nurtured as it is our last hope for truth in an increasingly secretive market.

WikiLeaks – later dubbed the Cablegate scandal – was launched in 2006 but soon gained international attention when in 2010, Australian Julian Assange along with his team exposed some “400,000 secret US military logs detailing its operations in Iraq” (Fildes, 2010) and continued to leak top-secret military files online. Whilst this seems unethical, he did not once violate the ethics of hackers which are: sharing information, no secrets, no authority and information freedom (Mitew, 2014).

A new range of merchandise Assange is rumoured to be launching

 

But ethical questioning is not new, as another major political scandal which followed similar events was the Watergate Scandal from 1972 – 1974. This was where two American journalists worked collaboratively with individuals who stole information from the Democratic National Committee and launched one of the largest political scandals in modern history which ended with the forced resignation of President Nixon. Yet, it is remembered as one of the most intriguing and well regarded pieces of investigative journalism despite it not being ethically or morally sound.

Ethics and journalism are like peanut butter and jam. Some like it and follow the rules – one spread per piece of bread – whereas others are rebellious and put both on one side – gross. To me, Assange is a journalist as he is rebellious and as Simons (2011) declares, he follows the core practices of journalism which are to source information, curate, verify and edit information along with having an element of transparency. Simons believes that Assange qualifies, noting his recent acceptance of a Walkley Award and being the previous winner of the Martha Gellhorn prize for Journalism.

But Sterling (2010) – after gushing about Assange – notes him as “no more a ‘journalist’ than he is a crypto mathematician”. It is also a topic that infuriates some as seen here after I tweeted a link to Simons article. I suggest you bring the popcorn – it is quite something.

But by far the most resounding, eloquent and honest article was by Slavoj Žižek in the Guardian as he accredits whistleblowers and hacktivists as being the new age heroes as “his acts provided a factual foundation to our suspicions of being monitored and controlled” (Žižek, 2014). Moreover, he perfectly summarised the confusion that many individuals had towards WikiLeaks and other political scandals as being like an affair, “it is one thing to know in general, another to get concrete information…one can accept abstract knowledge, but pain arises when one gets the steamy details” (Žižek, 2014).

Whether you believe he is a criminal, a narcissist, an unethical monster or generally good guy who wanted to expose the lies that we have been fed, Julian Assange is a man of the future who pushed the boundaries and in some way succeeded. He is a hacktivist who did a necessary evil and as the Mentor of LoD concluded, “my crime is that of curiosity…my crime is that of outsmarting you” (Mitew, 2014).

Definitely a more controversial take on WikiLeaks.

Definitely a more controversial take on WikiLeaks.

 

 

References:

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Ludlow, P, 2013, ‘What is a ‘Hacktivist?”, New York Times, accessed 12 October, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/what-is-a-hacktivist/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Mitew, 2014, ‘Digital resitiance: hacktivists, whistleblowers, #AfterSnowden’, University of Wollongong, week 10 lecture, accessed 12 October, http://prezi.com/hotqlxztvxdb/digc202-digital-resistance/

Simons, M, 2011, ‘Walkley Awards decide Julian Assange is a journalist’, Crikey, accessed 12 October, http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/11/28/walkley-awards-decide-julian-assange-is-a-journalist/

Sterling, B, 2010, ‘The Blast Shack’, Medium, accessed 12 October, https://medium.com/@bruces/the-blast-shack-f745f5fbeb1c

Žižek, S, 2014, ‘Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange: our new heroes’, Guardian, accessed 12 October, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/03/snowden-manning-assange-new-heroes

 

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DIGC 202

#Help, I need somebody

Connectivity is power. Knowledge is power. And now, social media is power.

The immediacy and ubiquitous nature of social media has no relevance to the general public until its power is unleashed – for the public to see – during mass demonstrations in foreign countries.

A poignant example of social media’s power dates back to November 2013 where a few thousands students gathered in Maidan Nezaleshnosti (Independence Square) to protest president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to “ditch a far-reaching accord with the European Union in favour of stronger ties with Russia” (Fishwick, 2014).

A protester during the protests in the Independence Square, Kiev

A protester during the protests in the Independence Square, Kiev, 2013

Political upheaval is not new to the Ukraine – as the Orange Revolution was some nine years prior – but what made this significantly different to the previous revolution was that “new media, social networks and other IT tools for organising and sustaining protests” (Bohdanova, 2013) were implemented within the first few days. Tetyana Lokot (Mitew, 2014) reported that 3,200 tweets were published per hour on November 25th and up to 4,800 per hour on November 30th which was the first day of violent crackdowns by police.

ukraine-blog-photo

24th November protesters reached a record 100,000 people in Kiev

However, the November record was broken on December 1st when 700,000 protesters gathered in the aptly named Independence Square

However, the November record was broken on December 1st when 700,000 protesters gathered in the aptly named Independence Square

Twitter was a major platform used during the protests and a hashtag was created on November 21st – the first night of protests – #euromaidan. This hashtag started, spread and sustained a revolution.

Moreover,  Facebook  played a central role in informing wider audiences but soon became useful in “meeting the growing need for medical and legal assistance” after protests turned violent on the morning of November 30. Facebook pages such as Euromaidan SOS asked individuals to post information about victims of police beatings so they could send appropriate help to those in need.

But there are always some who do not believe in the power of social media during protests. Evgeny Morozov (2011) states that digital tools are simply that, tools. And that social changes requires “many painstaking, longer-term efforts to engage with political institutions and reform movements”. Yes, it does take a long time to overthrow a government or bring about any kind of political change. But does it not take one voice to begin that change? And what happens when that voice is amplified and disseminated to a thousand people? Ten thousand people? Well, you get change faster than ever before. And this is what the protest in Ukraine exemplified – that one platform, one idea and one hope was shared by so many people and it all started with one voice and one person.

And this is the power that social media has – its innate ability to provide ubiquitous connectivity and knowledge. And knowledge is power.

 

References:

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Bohdanova, T, 2013, ‘How Internet Tools Turned Ukraine’s #Euromaidan Protests Into a Movement’, Global Voices, viewed 27 September, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/12/09/how-internet-tools-turned-euromaidan-protests-into-a-movement/

Fishwick, C, 2014, ‘We were so naive and optimistic’: Ukraine Euromaidan protesters tell us what’s changed for them’, The Guardian, viewed 27 September, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/04/ukraine-crisis-protesters-kiev-euromaidan-independence-square

Mitew, T, 2014, ‘The social network revolutions: #mena, #arabspring, #maidan’, http://prezi.com/ikufthacaunr/mena-arabspring-the-social-network-revolutions/

Morozov, E, 2011, ‘ Facebook and Twitter are just places revolutionaries go’ The Guardian, viewed 27 September, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/07/facebook-twitter-revolutionaries-cyber-utopians

 

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DIGC 202

I Spy With My Little Eye

Technology has become a major facet within our daily lives as smartphones are now spending more time in our hands than in our pockets. As a result of this, news and journalism are being dramatically enhanced, as citizen journalists are pressing record and uploading to social media as-its-happening footage. From racial slurs on public transport to protests and riots in the streets internationally, communication is changing.

But what does this mean for traditional journalism? Has it had its day?

The Internet has undoubtedly shifted the ways in which we consume information. Jay Rosen (2010) refers to us as “the people formerly known as the audience” as we are rapidly becoming prosumers – producers and consumers. Teodor Mitew states, “prosumers are an ecology where participation is its own reward” (Mitew, 2014). This is why citizen journalism is such a viable entity as it is satisfying to portray what is happening in real time as well as incredibly beneficial to the public and media.

“The beautiful thing about the Internet, for example, the effect it has on the media, is that it really levels the playing field” states Huffington Post’s journalist and media producer, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, “anyone is a reporter…consumers are becoming news producers and it’s exciting.” Ahmed explains in this video (below) how journalism and citizen journalism are rapidly intertwining in this social media dominated society. But what is interesting is that he is extremely positive about this convergence, “it makes the job for a journalist that much harder because as a journalist now, you have so many sources.”

However, Ahmed (2012) does stress that there needs to be a symbiotic relationship between the two as citizen journalism is there to fill the gap that a parachute journalist – one who only reports when the story is trending- cannot fill. A citizen journalist contextualises stories where it may be difficult to do so because of historical, religious or cultural anomalies. A journalist’s role is to “contextualise, to report, to tray and be factual, to use stories to illustrate the human condition…to be progressive, to move society forward” (Shihab-Eldin, 2012). Moreover, Axel Bruns (2009) states that “at its heart, mainstream journalism offers news-as-product: a collection of easily digestible reports based on research, ready for consumption” conversely, “citizen journalism provides news-as-process: a continuing and necessarily unfinished coverage of topics and events inviting user participation”.

Axel Bruns has got it right. Yes, there are similarities but they both, offer something more, individually. Jay Rosen (2010) on the other hand has got it blindingly wrong as he believes that a journalist is “just a heightened case of an informed citizen, not a special class”. This made my blood boil. This – to me – is like saying a teacher is an overpaid babysitter. “A professional journalist knows how to get information, ask questions, tell stories and connect isolated facts. These are not esoteric or specialised skills, just heightened versions of things any smart citizen should be able to do” (Rosen, 2010). Few things Rosen; firstly, your argument was strong until you wavered at saying these are qualities any “smart citizen should be able to do” is a journalist not a smart citizen who is capable of asking intelligent, relevant, poignant questions?

I do not believe that any job is in its own “special class”; not a doctor, nor astronaut or a garbage man. They all however have fundamental skills that involve mundane, basic things that any “smart citizen” can do – a seamstress would make a wonderful doctor as she could do some amazing patchwork on a patient’s stomach; but there are so many other elements and finer skills that make a doctor, a doctor.

I understand I am not ever going to be qualified enough to do “brain surgery, or pilot a Boeing 747” (Rosen, 2010) but hell, I will write a damn good story that will inform citizens such as yourself on events you will never experience. And where I may falter in collecting valid, reliable, accurate sources then citizen journalists will be there at the helm to help me out.

Traditional journalism has not had its day in this vastly different mediascape as there still needs to be someone at the end of the day, to connect the dots, to fact check, to provide historical support and to generally write a story that is accessible for as many citizens as possible. We need to work collaboratively.

 

Bruns, A 2009, ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’, e-Journalism : New Media and News Media, accessed 18 September 2014, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/245673/mod_resource/content/1/Bruns%2C%20A.%20-%20News%20Blogs%20and%20Citizen%20Journalism.pdf    Also can be accessed here: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/32539/

Mitew, T 2014, ‘Bridges made of pebbles: Social media and the transformation of journalism’, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, accessed 19 September 2014, http://prezi.com/sh7b7p0osscz/bridges-made-of-pebbles-social-media-and-the-transformation-of-journalism/

Rosen, J 2010, ‘The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My advice to the next generation’, Press Think, accessed 20 September, http://pressthink.org/2010/09/the-journalists-formerly-known-as-the-media-my-advice-to-the-next-generation/

 

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DIGC 202

Six Months in a Leaky Boat

I have always been amazed at some people’s dedication but Sam Vieira and his friend Davor – who are two university students from Sydney – take the cake. They are willing to sit outside the Apple store for two weeks so they can be the first ones to get the new iPhone 6. If only they were that dedicated to their studies.

Whilst I do have a good rant over in this post, this post will explore the philosophies of the two heavyweight empires that dominate the smartphone market – Android and Apple.

2007 was a huge year not only for myself – starting high school – but also for Apple when in January, they released the iPhone with co-founder Steve Jobs stating to the world, “Today we’re introducing three revolutionary products…a widescreen iPod…a revolutionary mobile phone; a breakthrough in Internet communications…We are calling it…iPhone” (Mitew 2014). I can imagine the enamoured audience rising to their feet, applauding uproariously and trying with all their might not to bow down to their noble leader as he presents the future.

Conversely, in December of 2007, many waited with baited breath at Google’s response to this revolutionary device. But to individual’s dismay, they stated – on their own blog, no big showy press conference – that, “we’re not announcing a Gphone. However, we think that we are announcing the Open Handset Alliance and Android – which is more significant and ambitious that a single phone” (Mitew 2014). Well, ain’t those fightin’ words?

But ultimately, it is up to consumers and Apple – for the tech savvy – was somewhat of a let down as Apple, “remains tethered to its makers desires, offering a more consistent and focused user experience at the expense of flexibility and innovation” (Zittarian 2006, p.59) Whilst this is brilliant if you are like me and have no idea how to jailbreak or hack into anything but for those that wanted freedom to use their phone in their own unique way, Apple has sold itself short by applying  closed system to their products.

And I believe that this is why Android has the upper hand as they offer an open system meaning that the vendor has no control over the content, user or the platform. These are the statistics provided by Mitew (2014):

  • Android holds 85% of the global smartphone market
  • 1 billion devices are in use
  • 1 million activations per day
  • Estimated 1,000,000 apps

Finally, to tie this post in with current events, it is hard to go past the hacking of celebrities iCloud accounts. Whilst I do not believe that Apple is entirely to blame – as the security questions were answered correctly signifying a professional hack – I do think it is somewhat ironic that a closed system which dictates so much of your interaction with its devices as well as suggesting that this closed system is better for you, can ultimately have their fundamental philosophy tested. Maybe this will change Apple?

 

 

Mitew, T 2014, “DIGC202 The feudalism of the Internet”, lecture notes, accessed on 13/9/2014, http://prezi.com/qopqxh6ktl1j/the-feudalisation-of-the-internet/

Zittrain J 2010, A fight over Freedom at Apple’s core, Financial Times, viewed 11thSeptember 2014, <http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/fcabc720-10fb-11df-9a9e-00144feab49a.html#axzz3D9PE4npq>

 

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DIGC 202, Media

Power is Made By Pure Manipulation

In my blog post I referred to a John Perry Barlow article from 1996 where he predicted a utopian, euphoric world where the Internet would thrive and would be “more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before”. But he was not alone in his views as Bruce Sterling agreed with this notion. However, fast forward eighteen years and Sterling has realised where he went horribly wrong with his debate – he forgot about greed.

As the technological world develops faster than we can imagine; creators, visionaries and individuals with  money are changing the intrinsic and extrinsic values that the Internet once held – such as being fair and open. And this is why Barlow and Sterling’s previous arguments are invalid is because of ‘walled gardens’.

Walled gardens – as explained by my lecturer Ted Mitew (2014) – are closed, hierarchal, central databases that exist online where access is controlled, filtered and monitored so as to secure their system and lock content to the platform. These gardens are then considered stacks. Stacks are vertically integrated system where information is shared between between the parent platform and its multiple sister platforms. The easiest example would be Google. Google itself is a walled garden as it is designed to hone your search based off the information that you have provided. Stacks come into play when examining Google+, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps and the Google phone. But stacks are not the Internet; Sterling (2013) explains them as, “vertically integrated globalised internet structures used by millions.” Furthermore, “stacks have livestock, the Internet had users. Nobody on the Internet knows you’re a dog”.

Bruce Sterling explains that to stacks you are just a money maker

Bruce Sterling explains that to stacks you are just a money maker

It was at this point, I became confused as to whether I was studying vet science and intelligent animals or digital cultures. But alas, we continue.

Information is not free, it’s owned, controlled, filtered and monitored by the owner of the garden and in turn creates big business for advertisers and this is what I believe, both Sterling and Barlow could not predict – the immense power that advertising has. Stacks have livestock meaning that their users are monetary raisers, it is an economy based on information. The information that we provide in turn provides these stacks with an insight into what we like and dislike – based off what we search, click and share – which then helps advertisers target us specifically.

A recent example is Twitter who, in 2011, wanted to become a semi-closed platform – similar to Facebook. It would see the social networking site amplify its amount of sponsored tweets per day as well as integrating more advertising as Ben popper examined in his article.

As the title suggests – from John Mayer’s Vultures – suggests, power is made when power is taken. This – to me – is what closed networks stand for; it is their intrinsic nature to do so. You do not deserve the power so we will not give you the power. But does this have to be the future for the Internet? Are we really going to hand all power over to someone who does not care if we are dog, robot or human? Does it really come down to money?

Mitew, T 2014, ‘The Feudalisation of the internet, Lecture, DIGC202, University of Wollongong, viewed 4 September 2014. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1IEq3uHKh8&index=19&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j>

Popper, B 2012, ‘Twitter Follows Facebook down the walled garden path’, The Verge, 9 July, viewed 7 September 2014, http://www.theverge.com/2012/7/9/3135406/twitter-api-open-closed-facebook-walled-garden

Sterling 2013, Webstock ’13: Bruce Sterling – What a feeling!, online video, September, Webstock, viewed 3 September 2014< http://vimeo.com/63012862>

 

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