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Reflection

Truth verification was the most challenging thing I did during the course period

Truth verification was the most challenging thing I did and thought of during the course period. I inevitably had to deal with this issue because of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. As soon as the disaster happened, I started to follow seemingly trustworthy people on Twitter to get the accurate information about radioactivity. I learned all sorts of things about nuclear plants and radiation from how historically nuclear plants came into existence in Japan in the first place to the maximum permissible exposure to radiation. The history of the Japanese nuclear plants seemed to be trustworthy but it does not mean it is the cause of the problem. People were not just deceived by a limited number of bad people about the introduction and spread of nuclear plants. We must have been deceiving each other about the safety of the nuclear plants. We did not pay too much attention to them. Maybe that ignorance was the cause of the catastrophe. The truth of a case like this is so hard to verify, while things like the maximum tolerable exposure to radiation is more scientific and easier to judge. The latter might be the fact rather than the truth. Ok, I redefine the subject of this blog post, it is fact verification and truth verification. The former is easy to verify using social media such as Twitter. However for the latter, social media could confuse you. You can know what’s going on about something by looking at pictures shared through social media but it’s so difficult to grasp the truth behind it. Through the course I learned many platforms people have developed in order to grasp the truth of what’s going on around the world. I’m not sure if I’m supportive of all of them but at least I could know the massive efforts of those people. That’s the most useful thing I learned through the course. I will keep an eye on the development of those platforms and developers in the future.

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Week 10

This week was about Encryption.
The notion of privacy became more important than ever after Snowden’s whistle-blowing about NSA (The Guardian 2013).
In this blog post, I will focus on the question, “why is privacy important?” “What’s wrong with collecting all the data?”
Snowden himself says that privacy matters because it allows people to decide who they are and how they want to be. I understood what he said as, if every motion of every human is recorded and analysed by someone, that person has the power to change how people behave. This is an authoritarian society and there is no freedom in it.
Without being controlled by an authority, people “naturally” change their behaviour if they know they are watched all the time. This panoptic state is another problem about the total surveillance. It is important for people to be able to act humanly without being coerced into doing so. For example if CCTVs are everywhere and people behave because they know they are watched, there is no way people can nurture their morality. In order for people to be able to autonomously act in a good way, the system must allow them to move around freely without any surveillance and to think about their own behaviour for themselves sometime.
Another reason why data collecting is bad is that it allows the government and corporations to make profits out of people’s unconscious movements. These new technologies which require people’s personal data to process the systems themselves are called “capture technologies” and they are very different to traditional surveillance technologies such as CCTV (Kitchen and Dodge 2011). With CCTV, people’s motions are captured through the device and authorities look at the recorded videos to take out people’s personal data that they need. With capture technologies, the systems will not process without people’s personal data in the first place. An example of these is the modern flight booking system. Without entering your name, passport details and credit card number, the system will not allow you to purchase a ticket.
So it is not only about NSA sneaking into people’s email accounts and computers but the nature of technologies we interact with everyday has significantly changed. For example the flight booking system I explained above probably will not disappear until this world is completely united. When there is no border, people can finally move around freely anywhere in the world and purchase flight tickets without putting their personal data. From this point of view, this privacy issue has much more deeper root than it seems and we should not just doubt the NSA and encrypt everything. The real problem actually comes from “doubt” and I will rather think about how we all could trust each other better.

THE GUARDIAN, 2013. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’ – video [Online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/jun/09/nsa-whistleblower-edward-snowden-interview-video [Accessed: 26 Mar 2014].

THE GUARDIAN, 2013. Edward Snowden warns about loss of privacy in Christmas message – video [Online]. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/dec/25/edward-snowden-christmas-message-video [Accessed: 26 Mar 2014].

KITCHEN, ROB AND DODGE, MARTIN, 2011. Code/space: Software and Everyday Life. The MIT Press.


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Week 9

This week was about hacktivism.

Examples of hacktivism organizations are Anonymous, Occupy, Pirate Party, Telecomix, Wikileaks etc.

There was a discussion about Wikileaks, it seems too rationalist. Could revealing all the hidden conversations lead the world to peace??

I personally think Occupy was a success, it didn’t become like a religion and it certainly well publicised the true ratio between the rich and poor (we are the 99%).

Anonymous has been quite successful I think and I was impressed by the way they use videos to have a common identity among Anonymous people themselves.


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Week 8

This week Tanya O’Carroll, Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights Project Officer gave a talk as a guest lecturer.

The question she posed to us was, “has social media helped people feel more empathy about what’s happening around the world or has it made people close themselves to the world by giving too much information?”

My first thought before answering her question was whether or not you can really find the “truth” about what’s going on in this world. For example in Japan, there are some people who have been tweeting about the “actual” danger level of radioactive contamination. Your stance towards radioactive contamination is a very tricky one, if you overlook food/land contamination, your health can be seriously damaged. However if you are in a way too cautious about them, your life can be seriously damaged, meaning, for example, by unnecessarily abandoning your business which took you years to establish in order to move out of a seemingly radioactively contaminated area.

Some of the people who have been tweeting about radioactivity in Japan seem extreme, being over cautious about it, some say everyone should move out of the entire islands of Japan immediately, some say move out of East Asia. Some say living in Tokyo is safe, some even say living in Fukushima is safe.

This is also related to the issues of citizen science last week, the accuracy and interpretation of data.

Another example of the inability to find “truth” is conspiracies. For example for 9/11 incident, you won’t be able to find the truth no matter how deep you dig into that matter. However this “truth” behind the incident determines the way people have empathy towards it. Here is another question, is having a false empathy a good thing or not?

My answer to Tanya’s question is, before being able to answer the question of whether you could know the “truth” of something, I will not be able to answer the question.

After that we tried Mozilla Popcorn Maker and Crowdmap

https://popcorn.webmaker.org/

https://crowdmap.com/


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Week 7

This week was about citizen sensing/citizen science. It’s basically about a bunch of people trying to do environmental research by themselves without depending on any governmental/corporative aid.

There are citizen science organisations and each group works on a different area, from the level of fumes in London to the level of radioactive contamination in Japan.

One of the organisations introduced in the lecture was Safecast (http://blog.safecast.org/).

As a Japanese citizen, of course I already knew about it but personally never trusted the organisation itself or the data they produce.

They have been doing DIY geiger counter project recently, but the geiger counter is a tricky thing to use, it’s very difficult to correctly measure the actual contamination level. Even if you measure the same place, each device shows a different numerical value and it fluctuates easily depending on various factors.

So I’m quite suspicious about the idea of the “DIY” geiger counter because usually DIY stuff are typically less reliable than the commercial ones.

However more than anything, Safecast’s largest problem is the fact that they only measure aerial radioactivity. Dosing radioactive substances through food and water is the most dangerous thing. Safecast seems to me that they are trying to make Japan look like a safe place to live by only showing the low level of aerial radioactive contamination.

The following is Safecast’s view on contamination in food

FAQ: Contaminated Food In Japan

http://blog.safecast.org/2014/01/faq-contaminated-food-in-japan/

“SAFECAST is not equipped yet to do our own food measurements, but we cooperate with independent food measurement labs and constantly monitor both official and independent results.”

Citizen science allows people to have data which have not been published by officials. However the preciseness of the data is critical, false data can easily cause unnecessary panic. It’s also possible that data collected by the public is used by corporatives to make profits. Therefore it’s important to decide what data to open and what not to.


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Week 4

This week was about mapping.

Obviously the biggest online map is Google Map but it has many controversial elements. For example when Google goes around by the 360 degrees special camera vehicle for Google Street, it also collects Wifi connection data. What the company wants by providing the map service is more precise people’s personal data. They want data of what people are interested in who live in a particular area.

There is an open source map called Open Street Map. It’s a wikipedia mapping.
http://www.openstreetmap.org/

There is no copyright so you can use it in whatever way you want.
You can also modify it far more freely than Google Map.

I actually knew about it and tried it again but I don’t think I’m going to use it as a primary mapping tool, personally Google Map is more sophisticated, it has shop names, route search and it’s faster. The reason why I think Google Map is better is its capital. They earn lots of money therefore they can invest more in their services. If their services were too open, they would be unable to earn that much money. There is a huge contradiction here. People normally have to work on open source projects in their spare time for nothing. On the other hand Google has well paid elite engineers. In order to keep having them, Google has to monetise their services. However I actually just remembered that Google also let people do work for them for almost nothing, for example, jobs walking around mountains carrying the Google Street camera. Perhaps it’s again the Internet’s law of the first one becomes the biggest there for the best, just like Amazon. As everyone uses Google Map, Google has the most data therefore they can make the best map. The word “best” here means the preciseness of the map. Google Map has shop names etc but Open Street Map doesn’t.

Mapping can have massive power, for example, revealing where prisons are in a country where that information is hidden.

We tried Google Fusion Table.
I made this Wiki page on social media campaigning wiki.

How to use Google fusion tables for mapping locations
Jump to: navigation, search

1. log into Google drive
2. find a spread sheet
3. copy it and paste to a spread sheet
4. open Google fusion tables
5. import the spread sheet created
6. go to “row 1”
7. change the location column to “location”
8. “add map”
9. complete

Source
http://blog.ouseful.info/2013/05/01/simple-map-making-with-google-fusion-tables/


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Week 3

This week the lecture’s focus was crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is not only about the web but also generally about how things should be done.

Dan briefly talked about charity organisations such as Red Cross. As soon as a big disaster happens, the first one to go help the site is always Red Cross. It was the same when the big earthquake happened in Japan in 2011. The main donation detonation advertised on TV was Red Cross. Many people wanted to do something for the victims so everyone made a donation to them. I didn’t as I knew the money was not going to be spent for immediate actions. It was true and the money donated to Red Cross was later bureaucratically distributed among each prefecture, each city/town/village and then each victim. This process took so long and the money was not spent for independent volunteers or organisations.

Dan said those big charity organisations such as red cross often behave as though they have some sort of copyright or patent for their activities. They want to use catastrophes as opportunities for fund raising.

The purpose is different but an alternative way of doing things was introduced by Dan, and that was “Let’s do it!”.

It originates in Estonia and it’s a kind of cleaning mob, meaning many people assemble at somewhere on a certain date and do a massive cleaning together. In Estonia everyone talks about how beautiful their nature is but weirdly people cannot stop throwing away stuff to the environment.

This way of doing things is much quicker but there is a problem. Why can the government or council not do it instead of them? They already receive taxes from citizens so they should do it instead. However they are indeed bureaucratic and very slow. An attempt like Let’s do it! can prove that the government is totally capable of doing things which they say they cannot do. It also allows people to actually do stuff for change rather than just complaining.

However the biggest challenge for those attempts is how you carry on after a success. You have to decide whether you will let the government do this or get some funds from the government and keep doing it by yourselves.

We then started to look at various crowdsourcing websites such as Samasource and CrowdFlower. I actually already knew about both of them. I once did a massive online research about micro-labour and found those websites alongside of Amazon Mechanical Turk and Bitcoin Get.

Bitcoin Get is actually based on CrowdFlower and I did three tasks before. What I did was to search certain keywords on Google and see what number the specified websites are displayed from the top. I had to actually go to the website and copy particular information from the website and paste it on the CrowdFlower window. There are always verification processes for those tasks. Dan explained about how these crowdsourcing systems work without CVs or proving skills. They let a number of people do the same task and get the average answer for it.

Here is the patent for CrowdFlower.

https://www.google.com/patents/US8554605?dq=crowdflower&hl=en&sa=X&ei=A8DrUp6bE-6e7Aabi4HoDA&sqi=2&pjf=1&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAQ

As far as I know Amazon Mechanical Turk works in a bit different way, some tasks require certain skill levels and you need to pass the tests to do them. Mozilla also does a free online qualification badge service, if you pass a test, you can get a badge for the skill and use it to prove your skill on other websites.

We then did a discussion about the definition of crowdsourcing. What is it exactly? We talked about the difference between crowdsourcing and outsourcing. Amazon Mechanical Turk or Bitcoin Get is certainly more like outsourcing. Crowdsourcing should be more about learning, for example like Crop Mob.

With CropMob people assemble at a farm to learn how to grow crops together.

http://cropmob.org/

Dan however said it’s also like a massive unpaid internship. It’s true…

The Iranian government tried to find a particular demonstrator and found him using the crowd power of the Internet. http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/06/27/iranian-officials-crowd-source-protester-identities-online/

In my opinion, this is more like crowd bullying. It’s similar to when someone uploads a picture of doing an illegal activity, it goes viral, the person’s profile is revealed and the person has to pay the serious price for what s/he has done. There is also a similarity between CropMob and flashmob.

Our conclusion was crowdsourcing should involve some sort of motivation and people should be able to learn something out of it. From my experience, Bitcoin Get’s tasks are so boring and you cannot learn anything from it except for how the system works.

Dan then talked about Kick Starter briefly. The key to success on Kick Starter is to make a cool video. In my opinion, this is a huge problem. “Cool video = success” means only cool people can succeed. Dodgy yet good projects will never get funded.

Dan also talked about the difficulty of the production based on Kick Starter, he said if you try to deliver products to a large number of people, you cannot help falling into the normal mode of factory production. So Kick Starter would not become a new mode of production.

We then tried Etherpad as a crowdsourcing/micro-labour experiment.

http://etherpad.org/

https://etherpad.mozilla.org/

Etherpad allows a number of people to edit a note pad simultaneously in real time.

We split into groups and wrote about the verification methods for tweets, images, videos and events on a map.

At the end we learned exif, metadata of photo files.

I actually did a small experiment, checking whether resizing on Gimp can delete exif or not.

The original photo’s exif data according to http://exifdata.com/

 

[Original]

Make NIKON CORPORATION

Model NIKON 1 J1

Aperture 3.5

Exposure Time 1/60 (0.0166666666667 sec)

Lens Spec 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 VR [4]

Focal Length 10.0 mm

Flash No Flash

File Size 5.7 MB

File Type JPEG

MIME Type image/jpeg

Image Width 3872

Image Height 2592

Encoding Process Baseline DCT, Huffman coding

Bits Per Sample 8

Color Components 3

X Resolution 300

Y Resolution 300

Software Ver.1.20

YCbCr Sub Sampling YCbCr4:2:2 (2 1)

YCbCr Positioning Co-sited

Exposure Program Not Defined

Date and Time (Original) 2013:10:26 17:44:53

Max Aperture Value 3.5

Metering Mode Multi-segment

Light Source Unknown

Color Space Uncalibrated

Sensing Method One-chip color area

Custom Rendered Normal

Exposure Mode Auto

White Balance Auto

Digital Zoom Ratio 1

Focal Length In 35 mm Format 27 mm

Scene Capture Type Standard

Gain Control High gain up

Contrast Normal

Saturation Normal

Sharpness Normal

Subject Distance Range Unknown

Quality Fine

F Number 3.5

Exposure Compensation N/A

Focus Mode AF-A

Flash Mode Did Not Fire

ISO 2500

Compression JPEG (old-style)

Orientation Rotate 270 CW

 

[Resized version]

File Size 218 kB

File Type JPEG

MIME Type image/jpeg

Image Width 1000

Image Height 1494

Encoding Process Baseline DCT, Huffman coding

Bits Per Sample 8

Color Components 3

X Resolution 72

Y Resolution 72

YCbCr Sub Sampling YCbCr4:4:0 (1 2)

I was right!!!!!!

I tried with another photo taken on an iPad mini.

 

[Original]

Make Apple

Model iPad mini

Aperture 2.4

Exposure Time 1/20 (0.05 sec)

Focal Length 3.3 mm

Flash No flash function

File Size 1816 kB

File Type JPEG

MIME Type image/jpeg

Image Width 2592

Image Height 1936

Encoding Process Baseline DCT, Huffman coding

Bits Per Sample 8

Color Components 3

X Resolution 72

Y Resolution 72

Software 6.1.3

YCbCr Sub Sampling YCbCr4:2:0 (2 2)

YCbCr Positioning Centered

Exposure Program Program AE

Date and Time (Original) 2013:11:06 13:23:22

Metering Mode Multi-segment

Color Space sRGB

Sensing Method One-chip color area

Exposure Mode Auto

White Balance Auto

Focal Length In 35 mm Format 33 mm

Scene Capture Type Standard

F Number 2.4

ISO 250

Compression JPEG (old-style)

Orientation Rotate 90 CW

 

[Resized ver]

File Size 279 kB

File Type JPEG

MIME Type image/jpeg

Image Width 1020

Image Height 1365

Encoding Process Baseline DCT, Huffman coding

Bits Per Sample 8

Color Components 3

X Resolution 72

Y Resolution 72

YCbCr Sub Sampling YCbCr4:4:4 (1 1)