Monday, April 6, 2009

Citizen Media in the World

Rising Voices is a fantastic website/blog that is designed to help global populations join the social network.  It’s main goal is to help bring “new voices from new communities to the global conversation by providing resources and funding to local groups, reaching out to the underrepresented communities”. The website is full of projects occurring all around the world.  All these projects are meant to bring communities to the blogosphere and to the rest of the social mediated world.  People in remote areas now have access to computers and the internet because of the efforts of this website and the people taking part in these projects.  It is an amazing concept that has made a real difference for many people.

It a great site and one that I think relates directly to main ideas of citizen media and participatory media.  It provides example after example of blogging and other social networks being used to give people a voice and get there story heard and thats what it is all about.  I like this website so much that I honestly think it should be used in citizen media classes.  It gives people a good idea of what is really going on around the world.  These are not stories from the media, they are real people, telling real stories.  This site is very important and this is why I have decided to look at two important projects that are occurring because the work and support of Rising Voices.

Project 1

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project is a fantastic cause that was created by faculty members of MIT.  This project has began to receive international media coverage as it attempts to equip every student in the world with a laptop computer.  Giving these students laptops, who normally could not afford or even get access to one will have a tremendous positive affect on their life.  Imagine the the possibilities and opportunities that are opened to these children with a laptop and the ability to use the internet and gain knowledge.  Young children who once had no hope for a good future can now have hope because of what the internet provides for them.  With a laptop and the internet the possibilities seem endless, especially for a young child.  I think the projects mission statement says it the best:  

“To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected lap with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self- empowered learning.  When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education.  They learn, share, create, and collaborate.  They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.”

Lets face it, the vast majority of children in these poor developing nations will grow up being poor because they do not have the resources to better themselves.  That is until now, this project can give these children access to the vast amount of information and knowledge that the internet has to offer.  It is incredible to think that children in poor remote areas will have a laptop and be connected to the rest of the world.  It is really cool to see the blog posts and comments that these children create with their own laptops.  There is something so real and authentic about what they write.  What better way to get insight of ones culture and life then take part in this blogosphere.

Project 2 - Iran Inside Out

This is the first project and program dedicated to promoting the development and distribution of online film and video in Iran.  This project is all about getting beyond the mainstream news and showing the real side of Iranian life, history, culture, and society.  I thought this project had a very important message to show the rest of the world.  A message showing that Iran is much different then how the mass media has portrayed them in recent years.  The mass media only shows the negative side of Iran and this program with its film makers are trying to show the world, that Iran is much more then that.  For years these people have been misrepresented and this project can help change that.  For me this is exactly what citizen media is all about, getting exposure in the social world. 

The Rising Voices website does a great job and helping facilitate the Iran Inside Out project.  They have posted many of their videos and blog posts to help encourage people to visit the ( website to see what they are working on next.  The website itself is great at providing Iranians with information of up coming film events, culture, history, politics, and religion.  This project and website has done a lot at getting people aware and involved in the making of Iranian films.  Not only does it get people in Iran informed, but also around the world.  It is vital for the stories of struggle and hardship to come out.  A short video clip created in Vancouver called “Iran: a nation of bloggers” is a cool video that shows hows blogging is affecting the Iranian people.  It is a perfect way to get people aware of what people are dealing with and facing day to day.  It just goes to show that blogging and participatory media is making a difference for may people around the world. 

Citizen Media in our Community

The Toronto Waterfront is my Creation

If you are one of those people who never want to miss out on an event then you don’t want to miss out on this article.  Personally, I love Toronto and I try my best to make it out to every event I possibly can.  The Toronto Waterfront realizes this important issue as it has created a website for the main purpose of conducting public consultation on what should be done to the waterfront from Jarvis to Logan.  

They are allowing normal citizens to have a large say in what inevitably happens to this stretch of land.  Anyone has the ability to voice their opinions and concerns about what should be done with the waterfront.  Ideas will be taken seriously as no one knows Toronto better then it’s citizens.  This internet site is a great source to encourage and improve public participation in urban planning process.  I think it is very important to get the input of the people before making plans and building a project that will forever change the city.  These urban development projects are for the people and as such, the people should be involved and informed.  I really like the idea of being involved in urban development and better a city.  This is not the first time that the city has used the internet for public assistance and opinion to help in the planning process.  Many transportation plans go through residents to make sure they work efficiently.

For years they have been talking about fixing that area of Toronto and now we can help make it a real hot spot for Torontonians.  What is better then having a say in what happens with the city you love?

Anyone who knows Toronto knows how beautiful and important the waterfront is to Toronto.  The comments and posts will be used to help inform the Environmental Assessment process.  I have been looking at a lot of the posts and comments and most people have some great ideas and I really hope that the city council does listen to these people.  If citizens feel involved in the planning process they will have a greater appreciation and respect for project when it is done.  They will be proud to say they helped in making the waterfront just a little more beautiful.  

Hackers taking over the World?

The idea of the hacker is nothing new, especially to individuals who understand the concepts of citizen media.  Hackers “hack” to give power back to the people and promote the free knowledge of information.  I found an article in the New York Times called Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries.  The article is a great example of hackers in today’s society.  The power that hackers can conjure up is immense.  Depending on their skill, they can break into secure sites and basically destroy anyhting in order to get their point across.  Sometimes they break into personal e-mails to gather information from societies elites.  

For me there is two different types of hackers.  There are the hackers that we discussed in class that take part in “hactivism”, the idea of spreading free knowledge.  Usually when these hackers go to work it is more of an online protest and activism.  On the other hand you can have very powerful hackers that break into secure areas to gather restricted information for political or personal reasoning.  

The article discusses a group of hackers, which they believe are working in various locations in China.  This group has infiltrated computers and stolen important documents from hundreds of government offices.  They have even hacked into the Dalai Lama’s secured files.  A group of researcher from the University of Toronto have taken on the important task of finding these individuals.  They already found that this hacker group has cracked into “1,295 computers in 103 countries.”  This group is supposedly called GhostNet and has focused mainly on governments in South and Southeast Asia.  This is the largest spying operation in many years as it has affected many countries.

The researchers have found that GhostNet is not looking for random customers information, but rather they are looking for very particular information.  The group is even able to turn on camera and audio recording on infected computers.  The power that these individual hackers have is scary at times.  It is even scary to think about what they want the information for?  Do they want to use it in a negative way to hurt people and better themselves or for the good of society?  I think its is important to never underestimate the power these individuals posses. 

This is an issue we discussed thoroughly in class and one I wanted to look at again in a different context.  The power of the hacker is immense and is an important and sensitive subject.  There are many people taking part in the idea of hacktivism which I believe is important and positive for society.  But, I do believe most hacktivists get a bad rap because of groups like GhostNet who seem to being bad things with the information they are gathering.

Final Citizen Media Project



This is a really interesting site that I came across in the first week of classes. It is quite a recent blog/website and already has great ideas and articles and most importantly has a good following. PicoCool is now a global social community dedicated to uncovering new and interesting ideas and concepts from the citizen media world. PicoCool discovers upcoming “designs, cool products, micro-trends, subcultures, artists, human experiences, innovations, philosophies, technologies, and more.” PicoCool shows you what is really “cool” in social media.  

To contribute to the website you have to become a member, which is very easy and simple, otherwise feel free to take an aesthetically pleasing tour. Once your in you will not want to leave. There is just so many new and crazy ideas that are discussed on this blog. If you want a blog that will keep you interested for hours then this is the right one for you. PicoCool has awesome stories on anything from street art in Brazil to super mario cupcakes, the possibilities are endless. Sometimes life gets boring and this site try’s to find those moments of real brilliance that can lift the spirit.

Individual posts deal with “art, architecture, design, environment and science, technology, fashion, travel, and lifestyles.” Everything that matters in life can be found right here. Once you become a member you can create and submit your own interesting tidbits of information that other members can see and comment on. I really think this a fresh new type of citizen media site that is hip and funky and one that will be very attractive to young social media bloggers. Everybody has the opportunity to have a voice and become heard by their peers. It is very important to me that people have some way of getting their ideas and voices out into the public. It is a great way to become informed about new technologies and social media ideas. If you are a person that has to be up to date on new funky things then PicoCool is for you.

The Fantasy World of Sports

A fellow class mate sparked my interest in this topic. This is a topic that I have known about for years but have not truly understood until now. What is this Fantasy sports thing anyways? This sporting phenomenon has been around for a couple years now and shows no sign of slowing down. Thanks to the internet people now have the ability to go online and create their dream sports team. This dream sports team can be in basketball, soccer, hockey, etc... These fantasy leagues work on a point bases. Every week you receive a certain amount of points depending on how your fantasy players perform. With more points people can buy new and better players to better your fantasy league. Every week grown men wait by their computers to see how their baby fantasy team is doing. Not surprisingly this new sport craze has become huge especially between for men.
I have always thought it was a great social networking tool that anyone can take part in. It is easy and really fun to do, the only problem is that it does become a little addictive. Sports fans from different corners of the world can chat and compete in these fantasy leagues. It is great to see diehard sports fans coming together for their true love of athletics. “It's estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that 29.9 million people age 12 and above in the U.S. and Canada played fantasy sports in 2007[1]. These numbers were not shocking to me as many of my friends take part in these online sports leagues. It is just another way for avid sport fans to stay connected in the socially mediated world. People enjoy the sense of being part of a particular group identity and fantasy sports leagues are no different.

Slackers Get More Work Done

Studies have recently shown that goofing off at work from time to time may actually help in productivity. Researchers from the University of Melbourne confirmed this idea and found that employees who use the internet for personal reasons during work become 9% more productive then those who don’t. This personal time can be used on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Employees who take part in this “Internet slacking” have better concentration after taking a break from their work.

I would have initially thought it would have been the opposite. That going on facebook and twitter at work would lower productivity not increase it. But, I don’t think it is that easy. Here are 8 more reasons that the article proposes that shows how internet slacking increases productivity.

The subconscious mind keeps working

The mind is always working and thinking about mental tasks. The process of working through these mental problems works well during “slacking” time. Even when your sleeping the mind is racing and problem solving, hence the phrase, “Why don’t you sleep on it?”.

It gets personal things off your mind

It is hard to work your best when you do have personal issues on your mind at work. Taking a little time to use social networks like facebook and twitter will help ease those problems and let you get back to work and focus.

It builds work relationships

Companies spend a lot of money on team building activities but most of them do not get the desired result because they are forced upon the workers. Social networking on the other hand allows workers to go at their own pace and interact with fellow employees and build teamwork.

It converts real-time interactions into asynchronous ones

Everyone has had a friend drop in at work to say hello for a few minutes but have you noticed that this distraction actually throws you off for much longer then the interaction. Why is this allowed in the workplace while facebook and other social networks are not. These social networks are controlled by the user and can be used during mental breaks.

It makes work more enjoyable

Finding a person who really loves their jobs in this day an age is becoming more and more difficult. Lets face it, most people hate their jobs, so why not let them have a little joy in the day and use facebook and twitter. These social networks could make work bearable for the employee. Most importantly, happy employees are good employees.

It replaces bad slacking with good slacking

This idea of workforce slacking is nothing new as people have always found ways to distract themselves at work. However, none of them were as beneficial as internet slacking. After using facebook and twitter the mind feels rejuvenated and ready for work.

The Internet is educational

Scanning the internet for interesting sites and blogs will educate the employee by instilling time management skills that they did not originally have.

The mind will not be contained

A person may be forced to work in a small office for eight hours a day but the mind is always wondering with curiosity and thought. It is essential that you allow the mind some free time to relax and wonder the social networks. Otherwise the mind will lose focus and become useless. Let yourself search the internet for a little break and allow the mind to relax and enjoy, and this will increase productivity.

Definitely an interesting article to say the least. Facebook and twitter have always been a hot topic in citizen media and for good reason. These social networking tools are relatively new and we do not really understand how they affect certain individuals. The majority of people look at them as big time wasters but what if they are not? What if, when used properly these social networks can increase productivity? Personally when I need a little break from work I always go on facebook and other social networks. It is a nice break and allows the mind to relax and focus on something that isn’t work. I know some people use facebook and twitter excessively and this is not good especially in the workforce, but if used properly in small periods of time I think it is a positive productivity tool.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Am I Drunk?

The new addition to the ifamily is the ibreath.   Yes ibreath is an alcohol breathalyzer.  It is the new must have for apple products, the ibreath allows you to take your alcohol level whenever you feel it necessary.  So who would buy this thing you may ask?

Well some of the first users are some of Hollywoods biggest stars.  This little tool may help them from drunken car rides and a lot of fines and off the tabloids.  Not only will this little gadget keep you nice and safe but it can be used as a radio tuner.  I am for sure getting my hands on this new member of the ifamily.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Digital media as a Weapon

For months I have been bombarded with examples of new media and activism.  It hasn't hit me until recently that I should write a blog about it and its vast social power.  As I am sure most know, there has been many protests within the streets of Toronto over the past couple weeks about the Tamil Tigers and the situation in Sri Lanka.  I have seen many of the protests on TV and I have been very impressed at how well planned and executed these marches are compared to past protests in the city.  I believe this is dew to the work of digital media and its ability to reach the masses and create change.  All of these rallies have been properly planned within the realm of citizen and digital media.

There is now much more to protests then just a large group of people, there is planning and the use of digital media to bring people together makes sure they are all on the same page.  With out this new use of digital media many of the protests we see would not have been so successful.  This new sense of digital media allows citizens on the ground level to report what actually is going on.  This allows society to hear an alternative to what is shown by the mass media.  Citizen and digital media have giving                                                         power back to the people and the question now is how will we                                                             use this power?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Toronto a dangerous city?

I have just recently come by an interesting site that allows normal citizens to view information about Toronto that most would deem somewhat secretive in nature.  The article is called "The life of death in great Canadian cities" and is from the spacing toronto website  (

This magazine and website (Spacing) really focuses on important issues facing communities within major Canadian cities.  Many of its articles do focus on Toronto and allow the reader to explore new areas of the city that they never new existed.   This particular article looks at death and location in the city and how they overlap and provides some interesting tools in the process.  The Toronto stars homicide map shows all homicide incidents from 2005-2009 by colour coordinated bubbles.  It is the same as a google map and allows the reader to zoom into the exact street where these crimes were committed and there is even a brief synopsis of the incident.  This gives the reader an inside look and what really goes on within the streets of Toronto.  I believe Toronto is  a very safe city but there are a few areas you  may want to avoid and this map help in that respect.  Next the article mentions the "list of active incidents" in the city of Toronto.  This resource is provided by the fire department and displays every incident that is going on in the city.  It provides street names, descriptions and even the number of dispatches.  This can give you a heads up on any bad situations occurring in the city.  These resources allow a normal citizen to know what is happening in their community and perhaps allows them to become that much safer and knowledgeable.  People are now allowed to see the inner workings of Toronto and the police.  I found the resources provided by the articles to be very interesting and even useful and I hope others agree with me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Hackbloc is a very interesting blog, one that is targeted towards the followers or new comers hacktivism.  The blog seeks to empower society through the means of technology.  Information is seen to be open and free and that is what this particular website fights for.  I really enjoyed the mission statement on the front page of the website.  It is shows their true commitment to liberating the masses and providing alternative forms of media.  Hackbloc is full of great articles and ideas, many of them relating to the larger picture of Citizen Media.  I look forward to discussing some of the articles used in the website on my personal blog.

I have noticed that the posts on the website discuss a wide variety of ideas and news headlines.  This is great to see as it shows to me that the website is open to a wide range readers.  With so many different stories and concepts it allows many people to become interested and perhaps even involved in hacktivism.  Not only that, but it gives society a great resource for finding alternative sources for news.  It seems like all news coverage these days are bias in someway, but hackbloc does a good job in remaining unbiased in the articles they present.  This is important because it doesn't influence the reader, all the article does is present the information in a strictly journalistic format.  With this in mind, it is much easier for the reader to form an opinion that is their own and not that of the powerful news media elites.  

Hackbloc also allows readers to post their own stories they deem important to the world of hacktivism.  The site is very interactive and is great for the world of citizen media.  This is a great site to gather alternative forms of information and ideas but it should not be the only place where you get you information.  It is important to explore and find different ideas and opinions on certain subjects that are facing society.  This way we can become much more knowledgeable about world affairs and see how the world truly is.