John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Controlling the Flow of Information in Libya

        “Control is not simply manipulation, but rather modulation.  One does not simply control a device, a situation, or a group of people; rather, “control” is what enables a relation to a device, a situation, or a group.  “People are lines,” Deluze suggests.  As lines, people thread together social, political, and cultural elements (The Exploit by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, p. 35)."

        The first part of this quote examines how control is not manipulation, rather it is modulation and that we do not directly control an object but rather the connection we make to a particular object.  We can look at how Ghadaffi, Libya's ruler, emulates this example of modulation.   The internet was shutdown in Libya to control the flow of information and cool the political temperature in Libya.  According to, "Gaddafi warned against the use of Facebook where groups have formed calling for economic and political reforms.  Gaddfai's security forces have arrested activists who've posted online about the revolution."  This is a perfect example of how the Libyan government is working on controlling the internet in Libya. 

        Yet despite the governments efforts, information about the events in Libya are still getting transmitted to different online venues through the internet.  According to, "there are a number of alternatives being shared on Twitter for Libyans to get online, such as a free dial-up account provided by organizations in Europe.  XS4ALL, a "hacker-friendly" Internet service provider based in the Netherlands, opened up its modem lines for free during the previous curfew, but there had been no activity from Libya on the account, XS4ALL’s Niels Huijbregts told eWEEK."
So there are outside resources that are allowing the people inside Libya to connect to the internet so that information about the events in Libya can still get out on the internet. 


        So Ghadaffi may have stifled or caused the flow of information to be routed but has he completely shut off or disrupted the flow of information?  According to some journalists it looks like cell phone access was still working several weeks ago despite the Libyan government shutting off internet access and owning the two mobile phone operators in the country.  We can also see that this has still not disrupted the "lines" of communication in the network like what Ghadaffi was hoping to accomplish.  He managed to shutdown the main nodes which control internet access and arrested some bloggers posting an anti Ghadaffi message online, yet he has failed to completely take down the network of conversations or people involved.  This is because it is the network of people not the nodes that keep information flowing.

        If Ghadaffi wanted to completely control the flow of information he would need to remove the key people involved in the networking spreading the information on the internet.  The conversation then spreads through the network were other people pickup the conversation and then pass it along.  The Libyan government trying to shut off access or stop the modulating signal of information is one level of control and the people in the network passing the conversation along is another form of modulation or control of the flow of information.  If the information is stopped at one point or a node is destroyed, then information can still pass through other functioning nodes or networks. 


        No matter how or who tries to control the flow of information, there are still other ways for information to spread as long as the key ties in the network are still functioning.  This is just like a virus spreading if it affects one place or person it can spread to others instantly even if part of the virus is contained.  For example, if we look at @ShababLibya on Twitter this is a Libyan movement inside and outside of Libya which also has a Facebook Page associated with the movement.  We can see that since predefined connections and sites have been established that the flow of information can still exist.  Other resources can be used and if predefined alternative methods of communication have been established (dial-up, cellular, radio communications, etc.) then information can still get out through these alternative channels. 

        Can the flow of information be stopped even though one area of the network has been shut off?  From what we have seen predefined channels and connections are hard to break or destroy once once they are established.  In the end, even if the flow of information is interrupted or changed, this flow can be rerouted using other channels or resources.

What is considered private?

        Is there privacy for people today or are we always in the public eye?  Are we always connected or being watched even when we think we are not?  The rise and use of cell phones has had an astounding effect on our privacy especially now since all cell phones come standard with a built in camera. 


        So is there any privacy rights or laws for people if a person captures another person in an embarrassing or compromising situation then posts it to the internet?  For example, lets say person A captures person B in an embarrassing or compromising situation.  Then person A uploads the video to You tube and it goes viral.  Now person A is out in the public eye and did not consent to having themselves broadcasted online.  Is this an invasion of privacy? 

        Lets take for example the shocking story of Danya Kempson who lost control of her car and died after colliding into some trees.  A first respondent fire fighter captured her death on video using his personal cell phone.  The fire fighter later shared this video with other fire fighters, then an unknown firefighter took the video to a bar and texted it to other patrons.  After that, the video went viral.  Then months after her death, the parents received a copy of the video via e-mail from an ex-brother-in-law. 

        According to the iNews article, "The parents are outraged, and are pleading for the video to be taken out of circulation, and that the firefighter in question be punished. The firefighter has been suspended, until the legality has been established."

There are two questions being asked from this incident:
1. Was it illegal for the video to be taken in the first place and shared with other firefighters?
2. Other videos have been taken out in the field by first-responders of all kinds.  So is this more of a moral then a legal issue?

        The Spalding County Sheriff’s office is looking into whether this violated any internal rules since the taking and distribution of the video did not violate any laws.  The family in this incident believe there should be a law in place to prevent this kind of footage from being taken.  Currently, there are no laws in place in the U.S. to prevent the taking and distribution of video.  There are laws and policies that prevent the distribution of video without a persons consent and most public or private establishments prohibit the taking of video.  Since the firefighter has not been questioned into why he took the video another question arises from this example.  The question is, what if this video was taken by a person passing by and then spread anonymously?  Also, what would drive someone to capture and share a tragic video of another person's death? 
        Morally I think the firefighter should have thought twice before sharing the video.  He could have taken it and then thought about it for a couple of days then deleted the video or ask his superiors if it would be appropriate to share.  I think most people react in the moment and want to share events or information with people in their close social circles.  Maybe this is just like the example in the book Connected, were in Rockdale County, Georgia, "a norm among the teenagers that sex – and sex of a particular kind, involving multiple partners – was acceptable," (p. 96).  So since other first respondent people on the scene of accidents have taken videos of accident victims in the past, then it was socially acceptable for this fire fighter to take a video of this young girl who died in a car accident and share it with other fire fighters.


        This now goes back to the other question being asked, "is this an invasion of privacy?"  The answer to this is it depends on the society and what people in the society deem as socially acceptable.  If  there are rules or signs in place which state "no video taping allowed" then it is very clear that taping a video of something or someone is prohibited.  If it is out in public, like an auto accident, a crime, or brutality against someone, then in most social circles this can be acceptable and controversial at the same time.   Once again the right to the freedom of speech and expression comes into play.  It may be o.k. and a person's right to use a cell phone to video tape an auto accident of two cars colliding as evidence of who was at fault, but it maybe controversial to film a dead person who has died in a car accident. 

        When it comes to privacy, the social network for that particular culture, region or society has to determine if the kind of information being distributed is socially acceptable or an invasion of privacy.

Are your habits and actions being watched?

        Hasan Elahi was stopped and questioned by Homeland Security when flying back to the United States from a Transience Project.  The reason for his detention was "suspicious movement after 9/11." and he was labeled as a suspected terrorist.  Data on Hasan, like his cell phone records, were anonymized which made his whereabouts unknown which is what had him detained by Homeland Security.  Since Hasan has been tracking his own movements for several years now, he could provide records of his whereabouts to the authorities which prompted his release.


        A predictive algorithm, developed from MIT was used on Hasan's data which failed to predict his movements making him fully unpredictable.  So does this mean that suspicious equals unpredictable?  If a person is unpredictable in there movements then is this an accurate way to determine if someone could be a possible terrorist or threat?  In the MIT study 93 percent predictability was found on all of the test subjects and only 7 percent of the time were a person's wereabouts a mystery.  Based on this study, the predictability of a person's movement is preferred, if not then it can lead to problems as in the example of Hasan and his encounter with Homeland security.

        So is monitoring people's cell phone, debit/credit card activity, and traveling activities a more efficient way to profile people?  We are tracked everytime we use these products so our whereabouts are constantly being transmitted.  So if someone does not conform to leaving a digital trail by using a cell phone or debit/credit card does this automatically make a person a terrorist and is this a just assumption?  What about a persons right to privacy or is this necessary in the war against terrorism?

Blazing new digital trail_large

        People have the right to try and keep their life as private as possible.  From Homeland security's reasoning if people and their habits are predictable then they are not considered a terrorist.  We should look closely at people's habits but not to the point of scrutinizing people due to not leaving a digital trail.  For example, if Hasan does not use a cell phone or credit cards to keep his whereabouts unknown, then this should acceptable.  Instead of interrogating the man to find out if he is a terrorist which I think violates his basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

        Homeland Securities actions do not surprise me since monitoring strange or no habits on a person is the algorithm that most government agencies use.  The same algorithm works with credit card companies who alert cardholders of unusual spending activity which is compared against a person's normal spending history.  I think Hasan is an important example and shows that Homeland Security made a mistake by analyzing his habits or non habits in the network.  Since he showed up as an anomaly, this was a red flag which triggered Homeland Security to stop and interrogate him.  Obviously he is not a terrorist and at the same time this questions the validity of the predictive algorithm.  It could be that this was an isolated incident since the algorithm shows that only 7 percent of the time is a person's whereabouts a mystery. 

        Liberty and False Comparisons, an online article published by James Joyner reflects these times of change:  "The conservative, torture-friendlyWashington Times, declared that “a balance must be struck between reasonable security measures and the maintenance of a free society.” Abu Ghraib was a fraternity prank, but getting frisked at the airport is a sign of, to quote the Times, “Big Sister’s police state.” (Outside The Beltway,  If the predictive algorithm was used before people entered an airport, then the need to screen everyone before they enter an airplane could be decreased. 

        The predictive algorithm is an important endeavor for studying people's habits and even though there is a margin of error, the algorithm is still necessary in protecting national security.  It is easier to justify searching or questioning someone who has unusual habits then it is to stop someone based on their race or religion.  This way an entity like Homeland Security can justify stopping, searching and questioning someone based on their habits and avoid backlash since they did not profile someone based on race or religion.  This form of tracking dangerous individuals is a big step forward in keeping people safe and minimizing the violation of people's rights.  There will always be flaws or margins of error which will be hard to account for and it is in the best interest of the nation state to protect its people in the most efficient way possible.

Do we have freedom of speech on the internet?

        My question from all of the readings this week (Habermas on the public sphere, Mark Poster, “Cyberdemocracy”, and Pieter Boeder, “Habermas Heritage: the future of the Public Sphere in the Networked Society”) is do we really have freedom of speech or are we always being watched, judged and assessed?

        People can say what they want and freely express themselves online, but there can be consequences to a person's actions.  Alexandra Wallace, a UCLA student, posted a vblog on YouTube which gained national attention.  Her video gained over 30 thousand views, a corresponding video commenting on her video gained over 2 million views, and the story was covered by Fox News.

        The interesting thing about this video is how a comment on the original posted video gained more views and comments then the original video that was posted.  Interesting how David So, a stand up comedian, used Alexandra's video, which went viral, to gain over 2 million views on his vblog comment.  Even though our discussion is not about how this other individual capitalized on another persons controversial video, it is worth taking note that this comedian used this other person's video to gain viewer ship and popularity as a comedian. 


        The UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said "Like many of you, I recoil when someone invokes the right of free expression to demean other individuals or groups," he wrote in a statement posted on the university's website.  Earlier Friday (March 18th, 2011), university officials said they would not discipline Wallace because her video was an exercise of free speech, not hate speech, and it didn't violate the student code of conduct.

        From this incident, she has withdrawn from school due to harassment from her peers.  She wrote "The video has led to the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community. Accordingly, for personal safety reasons, I have chosen to no longer attend classes at UCLA. I was trying to produce a humorous YouTube video, but instead offended the UCLA community and the entire Asian culture." 

        This looks like cyberdemocracy at work which by definition is "the use of information technologies and communication technologies and strategies in political and governance processes."  Alexandra has administered a form of self governance and discipline on herself in this situation by withdrawing herself from school.  The other is facing ridicule and embarrasement from online and offline communities.  Even though the Chancelor of the school was looking at wheter her actions violated the school conduct code, and later the school found that her actions were not a violation, the video had spread all over the internet which caused her to be black balled and harrased.

        Lets use a quote from Poster in this situtation at UCLA, "To ask then about the relation of the Internet to democracy is to challenge or to risk challenging our existing theoretical approaches and concepts as they concern these questions" (Poster, 1995).  So lets take the definition of democracy which is a "form of political organization in which all people, through consensus (consensus democracy), direct referendum (direct democracy), or elected representatives (representative democracy) exercise equal control over the matters which affect their interests." 

        The matter that affected our interest in this example was the issue of racism in Alexandra's video which looking at people's comments online a majority of the people found offensive.  With the issue of racism in question, certain actions has stated above were taken by the Chancelor of the school making a public comment and looking into the violation of school code.  The other part of this is the negative publicity she gained and probably embarrassment.  Some of the online bloggers think that this was not enough and others think that this girl has been harrased enough.  I think she has learned her lesson unless she enjoys all of the negative publicity. 

        Everyone has freedom of speech when it comes to the internet and yet out of this girl freely expressing herself online she received backlash from her comments.  So do we really have freedom of speech online or do we have to watch what we say and does this stifle our freedom of speech?  You have the right to say whatever you want as long as it does not cause harm or offend the public.  For example, you are not allowed to shout "fire" in a crowded movie theater since this will cause people to panic and possibly trample each other when trying to get out of the theater. 

        Yet we have the freedom to say anything else which leads me to my point about the freedom of speech arguement as in the example of this UCLA video.  You have the right or free will to say what you want and this right is given freely, except when it offends or possibly could bring harm to other people.  Did she receive just punishment by having to withdraw from school and receiving death threats?  I think democracy or cyberdemocracy fairly decided the verdict for her in this case so far without the cause for legal ramification. 

How state governing bodies police people using a car

        The panopticon controls what we do in the form of parking permits, tolltags, road signs, etc.  Why do we obey and how does this influence us?  An example of this is how the apartment complex my girlfriend and myself are living at now require parking permits with no reason behind why this is necessary except that if the sticker is not applied to the window of our cars, they will be towed.  So of course we obey, fill out the paper work and apply the sticker's to our car windows so that they will not be towed.  I question this as far as will this be inforced or is this just a sticker trying to police people illegally parking in our apartment complex?  It is the fear of someone watching the parking lot and towing people who do not have parking stickers. 


        Does this exist in reality or is it just an example of the panopticon philosphy at work?  I think it is a way of controlling people who illegally park in a certain place and whether or not this new rule will be controlled or monitored is questionable.  The same exists at colleges with tickets being issued if parking tags are not on vehicles.  Another example is RFID enabled devices, like tolltags, which charge people's cars based on what toll booths they pass through.  Accounts that are expired, overdrawn, or cars with no tags, are either mailed or e-mailed an invoice and charged for their usage.  When cars are towed or fines are issued, then we can see the reality of not obeying the laws of the state governing body and the penality for not doing so. 

        “The division of labour inside a nation leads at first to the separation of industrial and commercial from agricultural labour, and hence to the separation of town and country and to the conflict of their interests (Marx/Engels Internet Archive, Chapter I: A Critique of The German Ideology).”  Each state body or government entity has different functions to perform and rules/regulations which govern each state body differently.  Each body must learn how to interact with each other and each body interacts with each other based on their own interests. 

        Just as an apartment complex, toll tag authority, or a college informs people that their car will be towed or a fine assessed based on not having a parking sticker is a way in which separation of state governing powers exist.  Each governing body is enforcing their authoritative powers from different governing bodies (local, state, federal, etc.).  From Marx's quote, we can see that governing bodies have different interests from the town (local government) and country (federal government).  Using parking or driving on certain roads as an example, we see that even though different governing bodies are operating on different levels they still are enforcing the same thing which is governing transient vehicles. 

        The thing Marx did not see was how even though conflict of interests arise between state governing bodies, there is a common ground that can be reached between these governing states. 
The U.S. constitution addressed this issue with Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 which states "[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes; ".  This is an example of how the U.S. established acts of commerce between governing states which was applied from the federal, to the state, and down to local governing bodies.  This applies to the way people are charged for toll road or parking tag charges and establishes a common agreement which disolves self interests of state governing bodies. 


        We can find the same principles used in road signs which inform and direct ways in which people drive on roads.  If there is a detour sign, then people are given a choice of either using the detour route or another route.  The same thing applies to signs that state "speed zone" or "radar enforced by aircraft"

Speed limit enforced by aircraft

which gives drivers an impression that they are being watched and that they had better obey the speed limit.  Once again this is the imaginary or real big brother watching people and having people feel guilty or pay the consequences if they do not obey certain signs on the road. 

        So the question is since the roadways or parking lots are subject to being policed by certain visual signs and regulations, do we have a say in this or are we constantly looking out for the next visual object that will direct us on how to drive or park?  It is hard to say since Marx's philosphy on governing state bodies is that the state is looking out for the welfare of the people.  This is true until the governing state body exercises too much control or power over the people.  A balance between more or less government or state control is constantly in flux and always changing.  As long as the decisions made are for the greater good of the people and changes can be made to the way people are governed, then this creates a fair and balanced society.


Censorship of the future

        How can we predict the future?  If we try to control the media as proposed by premediation then isn't this considered a form of censorship?  Why do we need premediaiton to protect us from unknown acts of violence or indecency?
       The movie indusry is a perfect example of the use of premediation strategies.  For example, movies rated PG-13 or Rated "R" state may contain graphic scenes of violence or other indecent acts.  How do they really know that the acts in a film are indecent?  Even though this system determines whether a film is suitable for certain aged audiences, ultimately it is up to the viewer whether or not they want to see a certain film.  Does this play into influencing the viewer into seeing a film or not based on its rating?  If there was not a rating system, then people would see a film based on other factors (storyline, actors, movie reviews, etc.) and not a censorship mechanism influencing their decision. 


        For example, if I want to see the movie "The King's Speech", which is rated R and I am 13 years old, then I would need someone who is at least 18 years old to come with me to see the movie.  If I want to see the movie on my own, then I cannot do this since I am not old enough to do so.  This then influences the movie producers to take out certain scenes or to rewrite scripts based on what kind of audience they want to show the movie too.  So now the movie producers are influenced to sell more movie tickets at the opening weekend of their movie and will modify the movie based on this censorship movie rating mechanism. 
        This way if a 13 year old wants to see the movie "The Kings Speech" and the rating is PG-13 instead of R, then this will possibly influence more people to see this movie.  This is a perfect example of premediation at work were future events, more movie sales, are predicted if a producer censors a movie a certain way.  Then if there was not a rating system in place people from all age groups could see a movie in theaters regardless of the rating on the movie.  

        "The logic of premediation seeks to prevent an unforseen future by proliferating its remediation by current media forms (Premediation, affect and mediality after 9/11, p. 57)."
We base our predictions of the unforseen future by past events.  So now the media plays on 9/11 by keeping everyone on high alert of an unforseen attack by an enemy that may or may not exist.  True that the future is untold and based on choices we make in the present.  So why try to influence the future by advertising thoughts of a preemtive attack that may or may not happen?  I believe this is the nature of human beings and like metioned earlier in this book "concerned the desire to premediate the geopolitical future so thoroughly that the American public would be protected from experiencing a catastrophic event" is used by the U.S. news media to influence a certain view on the public as a whole to reasure people of the danger and try to protect them by using media.  It should be mentioned that using media to predict the future could be seen as a form of censorship and biasis to protect the populous at large. 

        The Homeland Security Advisory System is another system desinged to guide protective measures when specific information to a particular sector or region is received.  This has an influence on how people will travel or not based on this rating system.  If this system was not in place, then how would we be affected as a nation?


        "Precrime is explained in relation to the idea of prediciton, of a future determined by the sequence of past events (Premediation, affect and mediality after 9/11, p. 59)." 
Precrime is taken from the movie "Minority Report" which has 3 psychic people who can see future murders take place and are used to prevent them.  It suggests that if past events occur, then the murder will take place.  The problem with this is if past events take place and giving people the choice of certain outcomes so that they can try to stop the event from happening.  This the question with premediation as described in the movie which is if we have choices layed out in front of us, based on past events, then will knowing this change our behavior?  I see this as a form of censorship since the future has not happened yet and we assume a person is going to commit an act of murder based on a prediction from a past event or a vision of future events.  This is what Tom Cruisies character, John Anderton, is trying to fight against since the psychics predict that his character is going to kill someone.  He then finds out that this event is a setup and tries to prevent this event from happening.

        "Of course medial desire is not always fulfilled, and the strategies of premediation are not always successful (Premediation, affect and mediality after 9/11, p. 62)." 
This is true in that premediation is a prediciton of future events to come based on past events.  It is true that there can be pros and cons in using the strategies of premediation.  The question to ask about this quote would not be in the realm of successful or unsuccessful, but rather why use premediation at all?  This still comes down to can we predict certain events from happening or not based on information we gather, or should we let natural selections of choice determine outcomes of the future?