Anonymity: one of the most powerful inventions.

For users of 4chan, August 31st 2014 comes down as one of the most controversial internet events in history. The Fappening, is the hacking of over 200 private photos of celebrities. The hacks were confirmed to have been aimed towards Apple’s cloud services or better known as iCloud. This event stirred a lot of debate towards internet security. What could have been different to stop this from being ever happened?

Two factors came into play that made the hacking possible – the alleged compromising of Apple’s database and the victim’s account information. Having multiple online identities and particularly an anonymous one is a growing trend in the digital world. It would be naive to think that the hackers wouldn’t find another way to obtain the images had the account informations been anonymous or under pseudonyms, but it would’ve surely decreased the risks.

On the other hand, it can be argued that anonymity gave the hackers power in the first place. By hiding behind several layers of proxy servers, they were able to perform the attacks with confidence. Anonymity, in the hands of the wrong people, is evidently dangerous.

“As soon as you log into a Gmail account, you start getting ads for the drug rehab you want to forget. If you’re in a real-name environment, such as Facebook, unless you actually physically change your name and your friends, you’re thrown right back into your old life.”

– Andrew Lewman, Executive Director of the Tor Project.

Lewman makes a revealing point that I can personally relate to. Online gaming was a big part of my life growing up and as cliché as it may sound it served as a place to find myself. In the real world, I was an awkward 15 year old with low self esteem, in game, I was someone else. Separating my real self from my online persona gave me liberty to shape the person I am today.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the digital world is slowly dialling down the need for having multiple online identities. Convenience is as important to a lot of people as is anonymity. Knowing I can share almost literally all on Facebook is a big plus.

Having an online identity that is consistent is extremely beneficial when you are trying to make a name for yourself. In gaming alone, people can now stream themselves playing video games live on websites such as twitch. Having a consistent and recognizable persona on the streams is extremely important in attracting viewers.

Having multiple online identities gives the user the sense of power, control and liberty. Unfortunately, anyone can have them.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

– Uncle Ben from The Spiderman.

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Having multiple online identities is easy. Here are just a couple of mine.
Having multiple online identities is easy. Here are just a couple of mine.

References:

The Fappening – http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/01/naked-celebrity-hack-icloud-backup-jennifer-lawrence

TJX Hacker Gets 20 Years in Prison – http://www.wired.com/2010/03/tjx-sentencing/

Authenticity vs Anonymity – http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity

7 Steps To Building Your Online Identity – jetsetshow – http://youtu.be/2UlcOX1fZW4

Topic 1: Reflection.

White’s concept of Digital Residency has brought up an insightful discussion amongst the other students. Whilst some have advocated its integration of flexibility with independence over the need for digital proficiency is a step towards the right direction, some have criticised the same factors as being other wise.

Calum’s blog post highlights one of the main upsides of White’s work. Calum believes the concept’s ability to be dynamic gives it the edge over Prensky’s model in a number of ways. One way that I can agree with is being dynamic allows Digital Residency to constantly evolve. Being a relatively new concept, it has already made substantial improvements as seen in this video.

Calum had also mentioned the importance of users of the web not being pigeon-holed. I gave this point some good thought and took a step back as to not succumb to the excitement over the innovation of a concept that involves modern relatability (e.g. doing university work during the day and using facebook at night). What are the real downsides of not being pigeon-holed into categories? I have been boxed into many categories through out my life such as belt ranking in Taekwondo, skill ranking in badminton and many more. Being put into categories where I genuinely belonged into had little to no down sides to it. I move up a rank if I objectively deserved to, simple as that.

“Boxes can open.” – Din, 2014.

Andy’s blog post points out another criticism that I share with White’s concept which is overall usefulness in itself and in comparison to Prensky’s model. In the same blog, I commented on why I thought being in a self-categorising system can be confusing and risky. How good are we at judging ourselves objectively?

In summary.
1. White’s concept has a lot of potential. With time, the combination of it being relatable to the modern world and it being dynamic, gives it a lot of room for improvement.
2.. Being boxed into categories can only be harmful if it’s permanent which is what Prensky’s model was criticised for.
3. On the other hand, being boxed into a category for a period of time with set goals to achieve in order to move into another category is not that bad
4. Being flexible and in a continuum comes with a lot of subjectivity and in some occasions bias. Andy says it eloquently in his last point on his post on how a system that involves the principles from both White and Prensky’s models could be more beneficial. Flexibility with objectivity.

Links to the blog posts that I have commented on:

Freya’s blog

Andy’s blog

Digital Residents & Digital Visitors.

Who Am I?

Much to the controversy of classifying web users stems from Marc Prensky’s Digital natives, digital immigrants in 2001 where he categorises web users based on the idea that use and knowledge of technology is comparable to spoken language. It was thought speaking ‘tech’ could either be your mother tongue or it wasn’t.

In an article by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu titled Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement, they have identified users of the web as either Visitors or Residents or more specifically on a continuum of the two being at each end. However White and Le Cornu didn’t just stop there.

“Our typology of Visitors and Residents turn to the metaphor of place to provide an analytic framework, but the strength of moving away from language and accent and placing the emphasis on motivation allows for a wide variety of practices which span all age groups and does not require individuals to be boxed, inexorably, in one category or the other.”

-White & Le Cornu.

What’s The Difference?

It is not that simple. I consider myself to be reasonably more equipped in using the internet as a tool than my some of my friends. However, I spend considerably less time if not at all letting people know what is on my mind on Facebook. Time spent online and technological proficiency do not matter. Nor do you hold a cemented place on the scale of being a Visitor or a Resident. I spend the majority of my time on the web as a Visitor meeting the gigantic reading demands of Psychology in Uni. I occasionally squeeze in between my work as a Resident, catching up with family and friends from the other side of the world.

As White and Le Cornu mentioned, the key term is motivation. Residents have an identity by portraying personal opinions and thoughts while Visitors do not and remain anonymous.

Moving Forward.

Though the concepts of Visitor and Resident are fairly new it does not answer the real question of who is who in the digital world. The flexibility of the two concepts negates the purpose of categorisation in the first place. One of the main reasons why there is a need for concrete categorisation is to ensure a proper education system can take place. Too much ‘not necessarilys’ will not benefit anyone moving forward.

References:

Marc Prensky (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, (5).

White, D., and Le Cornu, A,L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16 (9).

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My name is Din and I am a third year Psychology undergraduate. Currently, my blogging abilities are equivalent to an elephant’s ability to skip rope. I have decided to take on this challenge as I discuss issues of Living and Working on the Web as part of one of my modules.

Hold my hand but take comedic pleasure in witnessing me struggle for the next few months.

Din J.