John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Are closed circuit cameras necessary or just unfair?

        Cameras are everywhere.  Look at the toll roads or stop lights.  People are constantly being monitored and policed on whether they are breaking the law.  For example, one agency or company that monitors a citizens driving is the NTTA.  The North Texas Toll Authority charges people to drive on their roads and if the person does not have a tolltag, then an invoice is sent to the person.  Then the person has about a month to pay and if a the statement is not paid, then a citation is issued to the person.  If the citation is not paid, then a warrnt of arrest is issued against this person. 

        Even if a statement is issued incorrectly to the wrong person or an error has occurred then good luck.  The customer service with NTTA is terrible.  Something that is not clear is how a private company like the NTTA can have so much control and power over people?  When a ticket is issued for running a red light, you have the ability to challenge the ticket if it is not correct.  Many state and local govenments have come under attack about the use of cameras to police or control traffic violations. 

Redlight camera

        Some say this is a way for a local government to make money, it is an invasion of privacy, or these devices are not accurate.  This should be a great way for a city to utilize their man power and have local police look for more serious violations or crimes instead of worrying about the small traffic violators.  These cameras might be a way for the legal system to make money not just for the state but also for the attorneys being hired to dismiss tickets from these optical devices.  If used right an invasion of privacy could still be an issue with these cameras.  You can see what the cameras are seeing in any city by going to certain websites which allow anyone to view these cameras.  Yet a person can go to Facebook and find all sorts of information on people who freely post their information to the public.  So were do we draw the line on privacy? 

        The exception to this is when these cameras have helped police stop a crime or catch criminals.  For example, when the Chicago Police Department (CPD) installed a Web-based surveillance program in February of 2006, the cameras helped police make 1,200 arrests in a year-and-a-half time period.  I think as long as a person has a right to contest and dismiss the citation from a traffic or toll camera, then these devices have a valid purpose.

Can people govern themselves?

        Should government be involved in governing people or can people govern themselves?  This is an interesting question which is raised in both of Foucault's writings.  Government is designed to provide and maintain order over its citizens.  We see this in Foucault's example of how a town in Europe maintained control and containment of its citizens during the plague in the 17 century.  The town needed to protect the population at large so it confined the infected people to their homes and would monitor them.  At the end of the town gates there were observation posts and sentinels in each of the streets.  I believe that in this situation people need the government to get involved in order to keep the peace.  Image if these guards and sentinel towers were not in place.  Mass riots, looting and people coming and going as they please would spread the disease to the masses and throw this town into chaos. 

        Now if we look at a government trying to govern a person's personal life (e.g. acts of sodamy) then government intervention is not necessary.  What people do or experience in the privacy of their own homes is their own business with the exception of an unlawful act (e.g. murder) or an epidemic outbreak.  People can govern themselves on a daily basis even the need of police officers giving people traffic or parking tickets is a means for the state authority to make money which is unnecessary.  To control traffic or parking issues, cameras or other sensory devices can be used were the government or state authority can still try to make money.  Then when a discrepancy arises a person can use a lawyer or go to court to dispute the ticket issued by the optical or sensory device.  Also, any citizen can view street or red light cameras through the internet which creates a panoptic structure in society. 

        This is in effect a way people can govern the government or state authority even if monitoring devices are used to monitor a citizen's activities in public.  People can then take it one step further and have their concerns be heard on or offline which can keep the balance of power in check with a government.  The current panoptic structures in society have created a balance of power which has given people the ability to govern themselves and have the government step in when necessary.  The more governments increase their monitoring capacities or capabilities to montior citizens, a stronger form of panoptic governance is created.

Scales of Justice




Overuse of Social Media

        Common phrases heard are "follow us on Facebook" or "look for our tweets" which more businesses are starting to use.  The new social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are two great mediums which reach a lot of users.  The problem is that are people inundated with all of these new online social media tools it is hard to decide who to follow and on what platform.  The worst is on the news channels like CNN or Fox news.  I think the worst channel is CNN were you will hear follow us on twitter on almost every news cast on this station.  After a while you start to tune it out unless there is an added bonus for following a business on one of these platforms. 

        Win a chance to get $50 off our product or service when you "friend" and say you "like" us on Facebook.  These type of luring incentives will definitely help to weed out the bombardment of useless advertising people do on these social media sites.  Take for example people who use these sites to bombard people with useless information or people who want to follow or friend each other who don't even know the other person.  Again this seems like a waste of time and energy unless you are making some real connections or getting access to incentives like what some businesses are doing.  Some recruiters do say that social networking is a good place to get yourself out into the lime light if you are looking for a job or networking for business opportunities. 

        The other issue from the over use of these social networking platforms is communication.  I can't say that using these platforms is not communication because it is.  Someone I know a couple of months ago sent me a message on Facebook and then later in the month asked me why I did not respond to his Facebook message.  I did not see the message right away since I do not check my Facebook page all of the time.  More and more people are moving to social media platforms as a way of communication, which I think is a poor way to communicate.  Another communication issue is that people will stop communicating in person with certain people since they are in a conversation with a person online.  This is a new way of being impersonal and communicating which should be looked into carefully if people start using these platforms as their only method of communication with other people. 



Media and the Control of Government

        According to Habermas, The news media was influenced and controlled by governments or state authorities.  Take the quote "In order that the writer of the journal might know what sort of domestic decrees, arrangements, and other matters are suitable for the public, such are to be compiled weekly by the authorities and are to be forwarded to the editor of the journal." 
        Also, Habermas states that parliament even insisted on certain things not being published publicly about them.  From this example, we can see that trying to control the media has been an on going issue even though governments or states have tried to exercise control over the media (journals), the reporters of that particular time would always find a way around it even if reporting on the issue was deamed illegal.  I get that certain types of information would not want to get published and broadcasted out in the public domain.  Yet, the more a state or government tries to censor the media, the more media will continue to expand and grow. 

        Look at the election in Iran and how the iranian government shutdown local T.V. and radio broadcasts.  The only news coming out of Iran during the 2009 elections were the protesters on the street tweeting about what was going on inside Iran.  The tweets also started to go as far as criticizing CNN on their failure to report on the event.  I think Habermas saw the start of the media and journalists reporting on the affairs of the state then the state trying to control the reports, but I don't think he saw how the media would start to be goverened by other people in the public reporting on the same event. 
        The explosion of the internet caused a shift of power that now the public and private spheres are collapsed into one which the government can try to influence but cannot control.  The tables have turned were now the media controls the government and the government has less control or influence on the media.  A mediaocracy has been created, which is maintaining control over a nation by utilizing the media, usually perpetrated under the guise of  "Freedom of Speech".  Habermas points to this stating that the state authority is public and has to address public issues.  What is not mentioned is now the state authority or government of a nation now reacts to the public (since the private sphere is now public) outcries which are initiated by the media who controls the state authority through different mediums.

How digital technology has changed U.S. politics and the workplace

    It is interesting how digital media influences politics and the work force.  Take for example the waitress in Charlotte North Carolina who was fired for posting a distasful topic about how a couple stayed at her table for 3 hours and left a $5 tip.  After the owners of the company saw this post on Facebook, they later called her in a fired her for violating company policies against speaking ill of customers and depicting the restaurant negatively on social networking sites.  The other example is the shooting of the Arizona governor and how the media has turned this tragedy into a political free for all.  Lead journalists and bloggers stated that Palin’s gun-target map is to blame for the shooting of the Arizona Governor. 

    Others, suggest the shooting is being gamed by Democrats, and perhaps a plot by extreme ‘left’ politicos.  So if it wasn't for Facebook would the waitress of still kept her job?  If the media was limited to only a certain number of broadcasting platforms, would the tragedy in Arizona be honored?  Is the mass media now the judge, jury and executioner? 

    I think it is funny how social media sites were intended to share and transmit information to people.  Facebook was a vision by Mark Zuckerberg who wanted people to make connections and share their lives with other people online.  Not to be used as a big brother tool by employers who could fire or not higher a person over a Facebook post.  Now what the waitress did in North Carolina I agree was stupid but we have employers using social media sites to decided whether they will hire someone based on what they have on their social media sites.  Where do we draw the line when it comes to this type of monitoring of people's behavior?  Or allowing the left and right wing politicians start basing each other over the shooting of a state governor? 

    The upside to the Arizona incident is how people have united and blasted back stating how ridicoulous the left and right wing extremists are using this tragic incident as a political bassing opportunity.  The problem is the damage is already done and it will take some good PR for the two parties to come back in favor in the public eye.  This happened with Dell when a customer got upset about how they received a defective laptop and poor customer service when they tried to return it.  They posted their complaint online in a forum where other people started sharing their own horror stories about Dell.  Dell quickly responded by developing their own forum and started to address these customer complaints.  I think this should be the same style for anything policital were people can turn the bull horn around and make the people in politics responsible for their actions.

Blown to Bits, Social Networking and Online Predators

    The book talks about social networking and online predators (pages 16 and 229) which brings up an interesting point.  Do we create ridiculous laws and try to enforce them in hopes of protecting children? 

    One of these laws is the Deleting Online Privacy Act (DOPA) which would require certain institutions to prevent children from using on-location computers to access chat rooms and social networking web sites without adult supervision.  Of course this Act has meet with alot of opposition and really misses the point of the whole issue.  There is no way to stop children from going to social networking sites, especially if all of their friends are going to these places.  No matter what type of filtering or monitoring device is implemented, children will find a way around it. 

    Especially since the children of today know more about computers and how to access digital information then most parents.  Even the American Library Associaton stated in an opposition statement to the DOPA act that education is needed over regulation.  Partly true except that technology, education, and regulation will not stop someone if they want something bad enough.  The best way to prevent children from becoming victims to online predators or per pressure is to concentrate on morals and values.  Simple principles like "if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all" or "don't hang out with the wrong crowd".  Also, spending quality time and showing kids what the consequences are if they do the wrong thing is the other part to this complex issue. 
    I think people are so busy nowadays that they do not carve out enough time to see what their children are up to in life.  Instead we try to use and rely on the justice system to raise our children.  I believe there should be a mandate that everyone attends an online or in classroom simulation that would allow both parents and children the opportunity to explore the consequences of doing the wrong thing in an online community or environment.  It could be a requirement like taking a driving test before getting a drivers license.  You could have both the parents and the children take this course before they can operate a computer. 

    The person's internet service provider could have a manadate of needing proof of passing such a class before allowing a parent or child online access.  If people do not want to go to this extreme then it is simple, parents need to take the time to teach their kids values and then have their children apply these values when they are online.