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November 19, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#12. Summary/Review

Ah, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Similarly, this blog has reached the end of its journey.

Looking back, I’ll have to say I wasn’t exactly enthused to have to do this blogging assignment; personally, blogging = talking about my own interests on my own time, and to have to churn out an entry weekly according to a specified topic was just so far away from my ideal.

However, I’ve come to realise that in being given a guideline and yet be allowed to talk freely about it, I’ve come to discover new things throughout the process of this blogging exercise. Going through the lecture notes as well as trying to find material to supplement my blog entries gave me an opportunity to discover new information I might not have found on my own. For example, when the idea of Google+ was introduced, I was sorely unimpressed by it. And yet, through what was told in class and through the videos i watched online, I was reminded of how it isn’t just a gadget created for convenience’s sake but an avenue through which a fresh perspective could be added to something already considered routine in our daily lives.

The reach of the Internet is far and wide and its impact can have many consequences. I think that one of the results of the prevalence of Internet usage amongst the current members of society is that we often forget how useful it is and how much convenience and efficiency it has brought to our lives. Sitting through this course has definitely brought me back to reality on that topic. On one hand, recounting its benefits would require more that the fingers and toes we have to offer: portability though its compact size as well as upgraded storage systems like cloud computing, and the makings of a smaller world through which we can much more easily communicate are just merely two of many more.

On the other, I’ve also definitely opened my eyes to the fact that we in fact are overly dependent on the Internet. In the TV show, Revolution, technology and internet comes to a halt, nothing electronic works – no handphones, laptops, not even digital photo frames, and everyone is forced to go back to basics. In a particularly memorable scene, an ex-Google programmer sits to the side as a farmer teaches children of the “new age” how to harvest their food, lamenting to another that his skills are worthless in this situation. If that were to happen to us one day, I wonder, how would we be able to cope? I fear that we might have become to reliant on technology that we’d cease to function entirely.

Ultimately, I am grateful for this course for giving me the chance of viewing the Internet in a new light, and for giving me the space to think about the topics we have learned in class and come up with our own opinions and conclusions through the outlet of this blog. I’ve tremendously enjoyed writing my views and ideas on the different issues, and I sincerely hope that any of you readers out there can say you’ve had a similar experience when it comes to reading my posts.

Of course, it’s pretty unusual to see any of my entries so devoid of the Tumblr gifs I so favour. That is why I will bid all of you readers out there goodbye in my usual fashion. Thank you for your time. 🙂

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November 17, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#11. Future of the Internet

If any of you are a big fan of The Avengers (as you should be, if you had good taste), you’d know that Tony Stark’s life revolves around his technology. One of the most fascinating aspects of the technology he so freely and casually wields is the hologram interface of his programs that allows him to “hold” onto components and move it as he pleases.

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I like to think of it as an incredibly updated and much more interactive version of Xbox’s Kinect device, only much more user-friendly and less frustrating (if you have a Kinect at home you’ll know what I’m talking about; how many times have we held out our arm at that stupid angle in order to get the game to pause, only for it to automatically pause when you’re in the throes of dancing your passionate heart out to Dance Central and the device mistakes one of your moves for the “pause” movement). In fact, this futuristic 3D technology that can be manipulated at fingertips may not be too far off into the distance for us. For example, in the video below, this individual has created a way of projecting an image so it looks like a hologram that can be seen from all angles (thus giving the 3D effect) and has incorporated the use of technology called leap motion that allows one to direct the image as he or she pleases.

In fact, Elon Musk, the billionaire who has inspired the portrayal of Tony Stark in the Marvel movies, has stated that he (and his team) has been inspired by the technology shown in the movies and intends to recreate it in real life.

What exactly am I getting into by delving into the topic of Tony Stark’s incredible technology? While technology continues to evolve at lightning speed, with newer devices being produced and rendering older versions obsolete, I feel that we haven’t really been able to bridge the gap between the digital or intangible, and real life slash the tangible. What I mean by this is that we are unable to bring memory stored digitally out into the physical world. For example, we can store a PDF file onto a portable thumbdrive, or save it into Google Docs, but to access it we’d have to go back through digital means such as plugging in the thumbdrive or logging into Google Drive; simply put, we cannot use our physical self to reach in and actually pull the PDF file for reading.

Using another Avengers-related example, in a scene in the first movie of Thor, Loki faces off against Heimdall who has surely uncovered Loki’s treacherous plan of taking over Asgard. As Heimdall unsheathes his sword in a move to strike Loki down, Loki reveals the Casket of Ancient Winters in a swift motion and uses it to freeze Heimdall where he stands. What’s remarkable about this is that Loki wasn’t carrying the Casket; he uses his magic to bring it out of ~magical storage~ (as I like to call it) into the physical realm in order to deploy its use as a weapon. While not exactly digital, this is what I mean when I say bridging the gap between technology and real life.

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Imagine the possibilities we could achieve with such technology! For far too long I’ve dreamed of being able to reach into the computer and pulling out food when I was hungry but far to afraid to step out into the darkened kitchen so late at night, or of being able to immediately “download” clothing from shopping sites as I please without having to wait for that 8-10 days for my parcel to reach me.

This is a few steps down the technology I’m referring to, but a few months ago I read an interesting article about the development of a 3D printer that could print out food! Aimed at creating food for astronauts, NASA has funded the research and development of a printer that, when loaded with the appropriate powders and ingredients, can “print” out food like pizza that can be kept for years. While it isn’t exactly the technology I envisioned, I still have to admit that it is a pretty cool concept. Already, there are similar printers that can “print” designs onto baked goods, “print” chocolate, and so on.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the rate at which technology improves itself is very fast, so fast that sometimes it is difficult to keep up with it. In about a decade we’ve gone from the bulky disc-man to iPod Nanos that are the size of our thumbs to being able to store our music on the Internet. The convenient use of cloud computing has taken over and vastly changed the way we store our information – Google Doc has become a huge part of my academic journey so far, for example. I definitely think the direction in which this future might take us will definitely be aimed at improving convenience and efficiency for mankind’s sake. Aside from the digital-to-physical technology I thought of earlier, I also see more portable devices that are lighter and smaller, such as in Spy Kids where the camera technology is practically invisible to the naked eye. I also see augmented reality becoming a much bigger part of our life; maybe in the years to come everyone will start using Google Glass on a daily basis. We might also start wearing a permanent earpiece that allows us to receive information transmitted as well as contact anyone else anywhere at any time, like that in Fahrenheit451 and Doctor Who. The potential for what the future holds is vast, and I surely am excited to see what it brings us.

November 9, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#10. Internet and Journalism

With the advent of Web 2.0, the term “produser” comes constantly into play – Produser: An amalgamation of the words “production” and “user”, a produser is an individual who self-produces as well as uses information on the internet. By becoming a produser, an individual makes a shift to becoming an active produser who has a hand in controlling the distribution of information online. This is in contrast to the previous role of passive consumers taken, where control is predominantly given to the institution. Produsers thus gain more freedom without as much prior restrictions.

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yeah okay this was just an excuse for loki/tom hiddleston gifs

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This shift is particularly obvious in the area of journalism, where there has been an exponential increase in citizen journalism – public citizens reporting upon and distributing such news information instead of professional/paid-for journalists. With the increasing use of advanced technological devices such as smart phones, ipads, and so on, that come with high-resolution cameras and recording capabilities, citizens are able to immediately capture shots or videos of the situation on the spot if they so happen to be on the scene at the time of occurrence. Furthermore, they can go on to upload what they have captured onto social networking sites where awareness of the situation can be easily spread. In this way, citizen journalists can cover events much quicker than professional journalists who have to be dispatched to the scene. A significant aspect of citizen journalism is that citizens report about situations not only in real time, but without having to go through a filter like professional journalists would through their editors. This means that they are less likely to be affected by the any potential bias a news agency might have.

i aspect this is how professional journalists look like rushing to the scene

i aspect this is how professional journalists look like rushing to the scene

On a more trivial note, another result of the rising intersection of the Internet and journalism is the use of online news sources steadily overtaking out the use of more traditional news sources such as printed newspapers. Users can access news online not just through going to the websites, but they can also use applications that can be used on their phone or tablet devices to read through articles – the mobile format allows them to load the articles/images/videos much faster than when they have to access through the regular website. Applications can also be set to provide notifications for new articles or articles regarding a specified area of concern, thus adding another layer of convenience since users can have a cursory understanding of the latest updates without having to actually go into the application. There even are apps that combine news updates from various sources rather than catering to just one agency; users can refer to a variety of news updates rather than having to download multiple applications to read from the different sources.

news-app-concepFinally, the shift to preferring online news sources also mean that (and this is really, really trivial) I no longer have to dirty my hands with newspapers. This is more of a personal issue for me so it may not necessarily apply to you folks out there, but I have such a difficult time with newspapers. I find them so difficult to handle (the pages always fall apart when I read and they are never as tidy as they were before I started by the time I’m done with them), so dull-looking (even the printed photos look so lifeless, ack), and yup I hate how they dirty my hands. You’d think that they’d have figured out a way to make the ink not rub off, or at least come up with a type that doesn’t, considering it’s the 21st century. (Or maybe it’s the cost, but let’s not even get into the issue of the rising cost of newspapers!) While I like the feel of holding a physical copy of a book in my hands, I unfortunately cannot say the same for newspapers. This is why I will zealously hold on to my news applications and happily get my updates from Twitter etc while some mourn the newspapers as a dying breed.

(Unless they come up with newspapers that can move a la Harry Potter aka gifs in real life, y/y??)

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November 7, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#9. Internet and Politics

(I can’t remember if politics or journalism came first, but the lecture notes say politics so I’m gonna go with this!)

ht_obama_reddits_cc_120829_wblogIt is often said that a main factor in Obama’s win in the 2008 presidential elections was the use of social media/social networking sites as a platform to promote his campaign. I think just that notion alone hints at how the Internet has fundamentally changed the way politics is carried out or handled.

With the internet, it is easier to reach your target audience. In Obama’s case, his campaign team used this to their advantage by approaching voters and garnering donations through the Internet. His team managed to rally grassroots workers and set fundraising records with donations from a large number of donors. Most of the users who are active online are young adults who, unfortunately, are seemingly rather apathetic toward such political affairs. By reaching out to them with a medium they’re most familiar with, their interests could be stirred and they could be easily persuaded to become supporters, even more so when other candidates hadn’t fully embraced campaigning online as Obama’s team had.

Another benefit of the Internet is that it is easier to distribute information as well as easier for voters/supporters to look for information they want. In the past, they would have had to write letters or call in using the telephone, both of which take time/require waiting. Furthermore letters are difficult to organise and it is unlikely for every single call to get through (especially if the line(s) is already being used), hence the candidate’s team might miss out on them and not get back to them at all. With the Internet, however, communication can be carried out easily through emails, which are also much easier to organise since they are all kept on virtual space. Furthermore, information about candidates can be easily found on their official websites (any potential biases within information presented not withstanding). Social media/networking sites also help enhance the interactive aspect between the candidate’s team and the public. Ultimately, these help make the exchange of information a lot easier and more convenient as compared to before.

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However, the presence of the Internet means that political figures now have to be constantly on the alert about how they behave or what they say. Rather than just maintaining appearances in public in the past, they now have to be mindful about their every move because eyewitnesses could easily take photos, videos, or audio recordings and upload it online. This would be especially detrimental if the actions or speech recorded was at odds with the general consensus or was wildly different from the candidate’s publicly proposed plan of action, and could cause people who were previously supporters to turn on them and switch teams to vote for their opponent(s) instead. While they could still be recorded on television in the past (such as political debates which would be televised on a national scale), the public back then did not have access to an area where they could rewatch/review the footage. Whereas with the Internet, footage can not only be replayed over and over but can even be spread on a global scale. What is said or done can never be undone.

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OHO THIS LITERALLY JUST POPPED UP ON MY TWITTER FEED (08/11, 2AM)
see what i mean about being watched

Regardless of whether the Internet has brought positive or negative effect to them, politicians should remember that the Internet is more or less here to stay, and they should at the very least be aware of its power and try to use it to their advantage, as Obama did.

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November 3, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#8. Multimedia, Virtual and Augmented Reality on the Internet

Embarrassingly enough, the first time I’d ever properly heard of or got to know about the idea of augmented reality (well, that I can clearly remember of at the moment, at least) was earlier this year when I’d heard about Google Glass. I wasn’t too impressed by how it looked, to be honest. I mean, just look at its design:

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Also not to mention, if you’ve worn glasses for long enough, you’d definitely know that there’s a tendency to avoid looking at an area if there’s an obstruction of sorts located right there, be it a speckle of dirt or a drop of rain. Using Google Glass will probably end up with the wearer looking like this over time:

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In my search to learn more about this product, I came across a Youtube channel dedicated to “explorers” whom, well, explored using Google Glass in their daily lives. There wasn’t anything breath-taking, until I watched this particular video:

Like the top comments in the video stated, obviously as an advertisement for Google Glass they’d play up its benefits in order to attract more customers, but I have to admit it did warm me up to the product a little.

Augmented reality is technology that places a virtually-enhanced image on a person’s real-world view, combining the two into a composite. As shown in the video above, augmented reality can help to improve our lives. For example, while Google Maps is indeed helpful, I find myself constantly getting confused when I have to try and orient my phone to the direction I’m walking in. I failed the mapping part of Geography in secondary school too, so you can imagine how especially difficult this task is for me. With augmented reality, the virtual map will adapt based on your own movements to get you to where you want to go. Another positive side to augmented reality is the change in shopping options. While I greatly enjoy online shopping, one of its greatest downsides is that I can never be truly assured that the clothes will fit me the way I want it to look, which would be guaranteed if I were to purchase directly from a physical store. With augmented reality, I can visualise how the clothes will look on me and be more secure in my purchases.

Another great part of augmented reality is how it enhances the interior decorating experience. My family receives the IKEA catalogue regularly, and I take great joy in flipping through every one of them, circling furniture or housewares I really like and imagining how they’d all look in my room. Well, with augmented reality we don’t have to imagine any further but actually be able to see how it’d look in the context of our home.

On the other hand, however, being too immersed in augmented reality could lead to an over-dependence on the technology as well as an inability to tell reality apart from the virtual. With how everyone nowadays so fixated on their smartphones and laptops, I imagine that that dependence will carry over as devices and applications with augmented reality start becoming more mainstream amongst the populations. I definitely do think that when we do embrace augmented reality we do so with the reminder that it is an augmentation but not an actual part of our reality. Otherwise we might just all end up like this guy:

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November 2, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#7. Internet Security

A few weeks ago, I received an email that referenced some updates on my Twitter. I clicked on the link which directed me to Twitter… or so I thought it was. The page asked me to verify my username and password, and on a hunch, I looked up at the address bar where the URL would be shown. As expected, it wasn’t the actual Twitter website but rather an imitation of it with a modified URL.

What I’d went through has surely been experienced by many of you out there, and not necessarily in that form. People are coming up with increasingly clever ways to obtain personal information of users, in ways that so subtle that it has become exceedingly difficult to tell the real apart from the fake. My experience definitely serves as an example. With the Internet taking over to fulfil many of our needs, I firmly believe that internet security should be focused on; we should all be aware of at least the most basic ways to keep ourselves safe from those out there who are hoping to benefit from hacking of our information. Sadly, I’m pretty sure that internet security isn’t the top priority for many at this stage; after all, how many times do we find ourselves ignoring that little window that keeps popping up to tell us to update our antivirus programs, etc? “I’ll do it later,” we say, but we never do get around to it and might come to regret it in the end if we unfortunately fall prey to hackers.

hackingHow can we ensure that we have internet security? Well, for one thing, we should make sure we at least know the ways in which we can be “attacked” online, such as understanding the differences between computer worms, viruses, trojan horses, phishing, and so on. When we understand such differences, we can apply the understanding to real life contexts, so as to be able to identify them in the occurrences where we are faced with them. Like in the example of that fake Twitter website I talked about earlier; I’d already knew that we could tell if a website was the real deal or an imitation by looking at the address bar to see if the URL was the same or if it had the ‘s’ at the end of http. From past experience as well, I also knew that Twitter always had the ‘s’ to show that it was a secure site. Thus with these little nuggets of wisdom, I was able to protect my personal information from being stolen.

Another way to ensure internet security is to actually install programs that can “defend” your computer, online accounts, as well as personal information from being illegally retrieved. Such programs have features like scanning any information retrieved to detect malicious program or software within, and can help to warn you off using or opening such dangerous programs beforehand. An example of a popular antivirus program is Norton Antivirus, which my family has always used as far as I can remember. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Installing that software will be worth the potential time you’ll spend and tears you’ll shed trying to “cure” your computer if you go without and end up being victim to a virus.

Finally, we can ensure internet security by not using pirated software. By always getting our programs from the original source through legitimate means, we are in effect guaranteed that those programs are “clean” and do no have malicious material in them. I know that this is a difficult habit to completely master since we are constantly looking to download instead of payment. However, we can at least try to imbue this to the best of our abilities. And if all else fails, I guess we could always look to the more “reputable” sources of illegal downloads like Piratebay.

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October 19, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#6. Internet Tools

Today we’re gonna talk about… yes you guessed it, internet tools!! Internet tools are basically software that help you “navigate” the Internet, so to speak, and enhances the experience of using it to communicate, entertain yourself online, etc.

One of my favourite Internet tools is Youtube. Many hours of my life have been spent sitting at Youtube, clicking on related link after link and just watching videos. I’m especially grateful for Youtube because it allows me to catch up with my variety shows as well as my favourite artists’ music performances and exclusive behind-the-scenes from official channels. I also enjoy watching vlogs.

However, watching videos on Youtube is simply one aspect of the Youtube experience; to watch is to be a viewer. On the other hand, one can become an uploader as well, uploading their own videos onto their own channel for viewers to watch.

For example, today I uploaded this video:

“How did you do that????” It’s very simple, my friend. You simply need to get up at the crack of dawn in order to travel an hour to a shopping mall to squeeze with the horde in sweaty temperatures of about 37 degrees Celsius for roughly 3 hours. Easy, no??

Alright, in all seriousness, the process of creating, editing, and uploading a video to Youtube is indeed very simple. To start off with, you need a recording device to gather your footage!! Mine is my trusty Samsung Galaxy S3 – takes quite good videos (clear and HQ) and is very sexy.

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The next thing you’ll need is an editing program; if you want your video to seem more professional/put-together/less draggy, it’s best to use such programs so you can either cut out extra/unnecessary footage or polish your video by adding effects such as background music and credits. For example, you’ll notice in my video that I edited most of video to exclude the screaming and inserted music in its place, and only left the actual recorded audio for the end because it was when the celebrities were speaking and I wanted them to be heard. My preferred choice of program is iMovie, although those who use Windows tend to prefer using Windows Movie Maker.

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As you can see from the screenshot provided above, using iMovie is actually quite simple. First, I import the relevant videos, which then appear in the green area in the bottom half of the shot. This part is helpful especially if you have multiple clips that you want to put together (like mine was), because you can actually have them all in one place and just select the parts of the clips accordingly. After that, you drag the parts you want to the area in the top left, arranging them in the order you prefer. That is more or less done if you just simply want to cut and edit specific parts of your footage; however, you’ll see from my screenshot that I dragged in an audio file and timed it according to where I wanted the music to start (at the beginning of my video) and also added a watermark that indicated my Youtube channel username and set it to last throughout the entire clip. After you’ve finished editing to your heart’s desire, you can then go on to export and save the file in whatever resolution you like.

Moving on from editing programs, the next step is to upload your video onto Youtube. This might take a while depending on the size of your video file! The higher the resolution, the bigger your file will be and the more time it’ll take. This one video took me about an hour :/.

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When your video is finally uploaded (or even when it’s in the process of uploading), you can go on to fill in details such as the title of the video, a description if you wish to add one, and even tags so that others who are interested can find your videos much more easily.

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That’s more or less you done with your video! You can take it one step higher, however. Recently, Youtube’s introduced an option called captions. There are two kinds of captions – one’s the automatic kind where they automatically translate it if the audio is in a foreign language, usually with disastrous and rather comical results. The other kind is where you type out your own captions/subtitles with the according timings in a .txt document, convert it into a captions document, and then upload it onto Youtube to the corresponding video. When you watch that video again in the future with the CC option on, you’ll see your captions showing up as the video is playing.

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Annnnd finished, ta-da! I do hope that this was helpful and made sense. Personally I feel that it is a simple enough process to upload your videos online, not to mention that it can both serve as a way of sharing your videos with other Youtube users out there as well as can be a “place” where you can keep your videos for memories’ sake. This is why I like to upload the fancams I take at various events.