Online Digital Privacy and Surveillance

December 8, 2010

Here is the presentation given on Dec. 1st for New Media and a Democratic Society. I am not sure why Slideshare cannot handle the embedded Youtube videos normally, but they will display after the slides that originally held them.


Saturday, in which I come full circle.

December 5, 2010

I may have been up till about 4:30 a.m. playing Demon’s Souls last night. I only bring it up as a hypothetical situation, of course. If I had been, it was probably because I was dying a whole lot and far too stubborn to quit.

Again, just saying if I had been. Not confirming anything.

At any rate, I got up today at about 1 p.m. Not having to rush off to school today, I fell back into my normal routine of checking my news apps and various social media. You know the drill by now.

It was a beautiful day, and various things had kept me from running throughout the week, so I was anxious to go out and remedy that. I got sidelined by a phone call from my father, but after about a half-hour I was out running my usual path and listening to the usual music.

When I got back, I had lunch while reading the gaming blogs. I came across a story that a reader of this blog may be interested in. I won’t name any names, since I’m all about Internet privacy nowadays.

I contemplated working on putting Wednesday’s presentation online, since I know that needs to be done within a week’s time of presenting, but the thought of opening Powerpoint again so soon honestly made me want to jump out the window. So I didn’t.

I watched some new Youtube videos instead and also followed up on some Twitter links, including this.

And people wonder why there’s a 24-hour news cycle. It’s because our world is completely bonkers.

After some time, I prepared dinner and chose to watch an episode of House online. It was amusing, as it usually is, but I’m beginning to feel the show is running long in the tooth. Still, it’s one of the few TV programs I will occasionally remember to check up on, so I guess that says something. Like that I’m easily entertained.

I went back to Demon’s Souls in the evening and sank even more time. Since it’s so hard and so easy to die, it’s a game that rewards cautious and deliberate game play. Which means there are no such things as short sessions.

At least that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

As midnight crept up on me, I opened Word to write this up. If it feels abbreviated, it’s only because I know I need to add some sort of synopsis on the week and reveal any and all startling revelations.

And that startling revelation is…


I am way too long-winded on these posts?

When we started, I stated that I was pretty aware of my media usage habits. I think there’s a number of reasons for this. As I mentioned, I am student of mass communication. We talk about media all the time, so it tends to be at the forefront of my mind. This is also the semester I started writing my thesis, of which the uses and gratifications of media has been the backbone. So, this isn’t a subject that’s easily escaped from.

I’m also a pretty simple guy with a simple life and simple pleasures. It’s who I’ve always been.

So, just from the outset of knowing that I don’t watch TV and I don’t listen to the radio, there’s not a whole lot of ways for me to consume media. It’s pretty much all online for me, save the few exceptions of physical media such as newspapers (of which I only read The Alligator this week) or video games. The only book I read this week was my textbook for Electronic Publishing.

In terms of my news media, I’ve already professed a love of apps for the iPod. It combines all the convenience and portability of the newspaper with the up-to-date nature of online media. It’s a little less ideal for watching video-related coverage, but still perfectly serviceable.

For entertainment, I subsist mainly on free content provided on a variety of online sites, like Youtube and, or through gaming. Hulu and network sites also offer a lot of television shows online, which allows me to watch them with minimal commercials and at my convenience. Hulu plus is pretty interesting, but ultimately, since I don’t have a ton of interest in TV, I generally just follow the few shows I like.

I play video games. That’s not a big surprise to anyone who knows me. I like active entertainment. I enjoy being challenged and have a fairly competitive spirit. I also enjoy the social aspect of gaming, though that probably really didn’t show during this particular week. Gaming is also something that I have control over in terms of when I fit it into my schedule, so that’s also a plus.

It was kind of a weird week in general, but I don’t think I would have come off all that differently any other week. Perhaps less stressed out, I suppose!

Friday, in which I learn from those who came before.

December 4, 2010

I got up at 8 a.m. today, which is pretty much the worst thing in the world. But, I had my thesis proposal defense meeting at 10, and I really wanted to get there early to set things up.

The only non-presentation based media usage I did in the morning was to check my mail just in case anyone had a last minute cancellation, but everything seemed in the clear, so I went on my merry grumpy half-asleep way.

When I got to Weimer, I went to the library to print out some papers, then went up to 2008 to set things up. That’s when I found out that both Jody and Sarah were out for the day, and that no one was around to give me the key. Some aimless wandering and a quick pit-stop to see Dr. Armstrong got me on the right track, and I was able to get the key and enter the room to start preparing.

(This is why you always give yourself lots of time. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.)

The proposal defense came and went. I may not have actually needed to make a Powerpoint after all, but my committee was gracious enough to listen to me stammer my way through it anyway. I tried to make it mercifully short to return the favor.

After the meeting was over, I decided to have some lunch on campus. As per the custom whenever I eat on campus, I grabbed a copy of The Alligator and gave it a quick read. The homosexual birds got mentioned again. I also learned that the proposal for the block tuition had been submitted to UF’s Board of Trustees. I can’t say I really like the idea. I went to school full-time as an undergrad at FIU, but I never took a 15-credit semester. It was always 12 credits for Fall and Spring and two classes in the summer. But whatever, we’ll see.

I returned home and, for the first time in a while, didn’t have anything absolutely urgent to do. It was kind of liberating.

I checked Facebook , Twitter, and the blog to see if there were any comments I needed to approve. I read some stuff off Kotaku and 1UP, and I watched a video from one of my subscriptions on Youtube.

At this point, I felt really sleepy. I suppose the last few days were finally catching up to me. I fired up a gaming podcast on my computer and listened to it as I lay in bed. I think I lasted about 15 minutes before I was out.

For about three hours.

What? I’ve been working pretty hard, alright? Geez.

Anyway, I woke up around 5 p.m. and went back on the computer to look at Facebook and Twitter. I fired a message to a friend of mine to see how he was doing, and contemplated calling my folks to see how they were. I ultimately elected to wait till tomorrow, since I know Fridays are generally busier for them.

I watched a couple of videos via, a sort of geek-comedy collaboration site, and then decided I would crack open that copy of Demon’s Souls I bought on Cyber Monday. It’d been sitting on my table since Wednesday, silently beckoning to me while I was studiously working on projects.

But I had persevered! And now, I could goof-off without a guilty conscience!

I don’t want to go off on a huge tangent about the game, and I’m sure you will all thank me for that. What I will mention, since it may be of some interest to communication scholars, is the interesting way in which players can aid each other in the game.

When playing online, you all do not actually run around in a world together killing stuff. Actually, you play what is essentially a single-player experience, except you will find “traces” of other players as you run about. These traces come as either small messages written into the ground that other players leave behind, or in the form of bloodstains which will grant you a vision of another player’s final moments before dying.

Both of these can provide you with advanced warning of upcoming challenges and treasures, or simply prove to be highly entertaining as you watch a ghostly player flailing about before toppling over. You are limited in that you can never see what actually slew a player and the messages can only be formed by using preset words the game provides. I assume this was done to curb profanity, or to limit how much someone can “give away” to another player. Or maybe both. Nevertheless, players are encouraged to leave helpful messages since passing players can “recommend” messages they find. When this is done, the player who posted the message receives a boost to their health, which is nice in a game where you are constantly being beat down.

While there are some more traditional multiplayer modes in the game, I really enjoyed the unique flavor the messages and bloodstains added to my experience. I learned a lot from “those who came before,” and was able to beat through the first real dungeon in one sitting. This is actually a pretty fair accomplishment because this game is really hard.

Also, this sitting was three-and-a-half hours. I got into it, ok. I haven’t had a proper gaming session in a while!

Don’t judge me!

But yeah, that pretty much carried me to the point where I had to stop playing so I could write this up in time. Not entirely sure what I’ll do next, but it’s not likely to be going to sleep. I think I will likely hit the news feeds and catch up on what I missed.

Just one more entry left!

Thursday, in which I spend way more time than I should with Powerpoint.

December 2, 2010

As I pause to reflect over the last few days of media diary entries, I can’t help but think I’m giving the impression that my life is pretty much nothing but huge amounts of never-ending schoolwork. This instills upon me a desire to set the record straight.

My life is pretty much nothing but huge amounts of never-ending schoolwork.

I got up around 11 today, a bit earlier than I would have liked, but there was no going back to sleep. It’d been a rough night.

I checked the news and my email. Big story today was about NASA’s discovery of an organism that thrives off of arsenic. I’m not a big science person, but the significance of this was not lost to me. It’s a crazy big universe full of possibilities out there, and we just added a whole lot more to the mix.

I got ready for school and hit the road. Today was our final lecture and we had to turn in our website projects. I gladly handed the CD in and banished it entirely from my mind. Unfortunately, I will still have to give a presentation about the site next week, but at least for the moment I could know some respite.

Class came and went and I returned home and then immediately jumped in the car to run some errands. I didn’t need to go anywhere particularly far, so I just let the stereo play the Dream Theater CD that has been in there for probably 3 weeks now. I generally don’t listen to the radio.

Beyond that, there was no media usage whatsoever till I returned home. I looked at my email to see if any committee members had responded to an email I had sent last night about our upcoming meeting tomorrow. I also took a look at Twitter, and followed a few links to some articles. One was on the future of newspapers, and the other was on the state of gaming “journalism.”

I also found out that Words With Friends got bought up by Zynga. How fitting.

After this, I got to work on my presentation for tomorrow. I opened my thesis proposal and read through it, which I actually haven’t done in a few weeks. I spent the better part of September and October researching and writing the thing, so it felt a bit odd to return to it after putting it aside to work on… well, everything else.

I eventually needed a break from reading and rereading, so I decided to have dinner accompanied by the best show ever, Hell’s Kitchen. I had caught up on the show over the last few weeks via the main website, and yesterday’s new episode was now online. It’s the greatest in trashy cooking show reality television. And that is quite a distinguished market. I can really relate to what goes on it, but not because I can cook or have any aspirations for opening a restaurant.

No, I just like to curse a lot. Chef Ramsey is like an idol in that regard.

After the episode was over, I opened up Powerpoint with a resigned sigh. I then immediately posted on Facebook something to the effect that “a small part of me dies in an explosion of boredom every time I open Powerpoint.”

I then spent the next couple of hours creating the presentation. Most of the time was spent in Powerpoint, but some of it was spent going online and checking email or getting sidetracked by Yahoo News. Apparently a student at UF had his name and photo falsely tied to a murder. That’s got to make getting a speeding ticket an awkward affair.

Once the Powerpoint presentation was finished, I went ahead and emailed it to myself, then opened up Word to type up this entry. As it stands, I need to wake up pretty early tomorrow, and I didn’t exactly have a great night of sleep last night, so I think I will be turning in early. I plan on posting this, then spending some time going over the Powerpoint once or twice. After that, I want to get some sleep and just get through tomorrow.



Wednesday, in which I stand around and let other people do the talking.

December 2, 2010

I woke up at nine today and got ready for school. No time for news updates, not when sleeping in till the last possible second is the priority of the moment!

I spent the morning in the Interactive Media Lab in Weimer, ostensibly to finish up any last minute work on my website. Given that I’ve spent so much time on this website already over the last month, I didn’t honestly have much to do. I ended up becoming a back-up sounding board/troubleshooter for a few of the other students who were having problems with their sites. Not because I knew what I was doing or anything, since I totally don’t, but more because I was available and people were desperate.

I was cool with it, though. It kept me from having to look at my website any more than I had to. I’m kind of over it already. I just want to toss it into the grading abyss and never think about it ever again.



Which is made all the more sad by the fact that I still have to burn the site to a CD tonight to hand in tomorrow. And when I do that, I know that I am going to inevitably double-check everything one last time. Just to be sure. So, that’ll take an hour or three. Ugh.

Anyway, after lab I went to grab a quick lunch. I nabbed a copy of The Alligator, but I honestly didn’t read much of it. I was preoccupied with the upcoming presentation I had to give and all the worries that come along with that. I do recall reading about the really bad crash on I-75 that occurred yesterday morning.

I went to our classroom after lunch at about 1 p.m. Even though this was like two hours before class began, I went ahead and started setting up the computer for our presentation. I wanted to make sure I had all the links in the right order for a smooth flow, but this ended up being a completely moot point since we ended up bouncing around a bit as people brought up various topics. But that’s cool. I’m really glad the class was interested in the topic and had lots to say. The time honestly flew by and, before we knew it, it was time to go. Which is the best way a presentation can go.

Backtracking a bit, after I had set up the links, but before class began, I did check in to Twitter, Facebook, and my email via the iPod since I hadn’t had a chance to do so all day. Beyond shooting an @ reply to a friend on Twitter, though, I didn’t do much.

After class, I returned home and turned on the computer. I prepared dinner and watched a few videos on Youtube, then checked on the class blogs to see how I was supposed to go about putting our presentation online. I emailed Tianning the link to the online presentations and let her know we had a week to put everything together.

To unwind a bit, I fired up a podcast and played some Dragon Quest IX. I used to be a huge podcast fanatic in Japan. I was subscribed to something like 20 and would listen to them all in their entirety as I would ride buses and trains, bike to places, or simply when I was bored at work. When I became a graduate student, however, I slowly fell out of the habit of listening to them. It didn’t help that a lot of the shows I really liked ceased production.

I still listen to certain ones on occasion, however. Geeky ones. Which honestly, when we talk about podcasting, what else is there? As we speak, I’m downloading last week’s This American Life to listen to while I perform my totally final website check.

After I finished my podcast listening/gaming session, I checked on my news apps and the Gainesville Sun. The BBC had a story on the head of the FCC’s new proposal to maintain net neutrality, which is a pretty big deal. I believe this was the story Professor McAdams mentioned earlier today near the start of our presentation, to which I gave a puzzled look in response to. There’s a whole lot of news coinciding with this, as well. I mentioned yesterday a story about an investigation into how Google was allegedly giving preferential treatment to certain search results. There’s also Comcast’s apparent strong-arming of Netflix.

In other news, someone answered the question of “how can we insure Alan will read our story” by combining Japan, social networks sites, social network games, and people wearing ridiculous hats.

It’s like they can see into my mind.

Uh, there was also this. Yeah, I have no idea either.

I did another check of Twitter, and had a short conversation with a fellow student on Facebook. I then proceeded to work on my website till about midnight, where I finally burned the thing onto a CD and chucked it into my book bag. Forcibly.

I then pulled up Word and finished writing this entry. I look forward to passing out now and running around franticly tomorrow as I prepare for my proposal defense on Friday. Awesome.

Tuesday, in which there is no energy to be found.

November 30, 2010

I woke up at 11:30 and did a quick scan of the news headlines via the iPod. The main stories that caught my attention were the student riots in Italy and the European Commission’s investigation into Google’s alleged search manipulations. I quickly scanned the stories, since I didn’t have a ton of time before class started, then got ready to go.

I took my bike to school, as I normally do. Actually, I don’t think I’ve gone to school using the bus at all this semester, which is a bit strange. It’s most likely because it hasn’t been a particularly rainy season.

I’m quite comfortable with biking. It was also my primary means of transportation in Japan. The big difference is that, in Japan, I always use to ride around with my iPod blaring. Here, the first day I rode my bike on campus, I got pulled over by the UPD and kindly told to “not ride with headphones on again.”

So I haven’t. I instead entertain myself by listening to the music blaring from the passing cars instead.

I got to class early, so I pulled the iPod out again and checked email, Twitter, and Facebook. I saw that Professor McAdams had left some comments on my previous posts, which was cool. Since WordPress for iPod blows, I decided I would respond to them later.

My lecture began. We were discussing the future of media and journalism. This is a topic I think I’ve discussed in every single class I’ve taken at UF. I actually don’t mind it, though. It’s certainly a large enough discussion that you can come away with something new and interesting every time. Even if the general consensus at the end is “we’ll find out.”

Once class wrapped up, I went to Weimer to meet up with Tianning to discuss our presentation for tomorrow. We met at about 2:30 and worked until 4:30, comparing notes and showing each other the various sites and videos we found related to Internet privacy and surveillance.

I think we have a fair amount of content. I look forward to watching everyone leave class looking haunted and feeling paranoid. It’ll be great.

I said goodbye to Tianning and went over to the Hub to grab a bite to eat. I pulled a copy of The Alligator along the way and read it with my meal. The Alligator may not be the pinnacle of professional journalism, but I enjoy reading it since it’s essentially from my peers. It was only last fall semester that I was taking Reporting for the first time.

There was a solid column on academic snobbery and hiring practices (my words, not the author’s). This is a discussion I have with my father often, so it resonated with me. We’re both of the opinion that degrees can only carry a person so far and should supplement, but not replace, real world experience. It’s part of the reason why I am choosing not to continue with school after obtaining my Master’s.

I returned home after my late lunch/early dinner and considered what to do next. I took a look at my email, Facebook, and Twitter once again. There was nothing particularly exciting to be found there. I figured I should probably do more work on something, but to be honest, I felt a bit listless. I opted to take a walk to try to revitalize myself.

I didn’t take anything media-related with me on my walk, so I guess I don’t really need to spend any more time on it. So I won’t. Hurray for efficiency!

When I got back, I talked with a friend via AIM for a bit and found that I had lost my Words With Friends game. It was finally over. Hallelujah.

I browsed a bit and found a few more things to potentially talk about for the presentation tomorrow. I don’t even know why I’m still looking, since I’m pretty sure we won’t get to cover everything we have already. Still, there’s always the chance that people will be so tired/disinterested/over it that no one will speak and we blow through all our content. I’d rather not be left in the position of shrugging awkwardly and going, “Uh, that’s it. Thanks everyone, you’ve been a great audience.”

I took a look on Youtube and found a few new videos via my subscriptions, so I watched them. They are gaming related and probably of little interest to anyone else, but I enjoy them. They’re independently done, free and have short run times. All things I appreciate in my media.

I also took a look at the Gainesville Sun website and was pleased to see we’ll finally have some cool weather coming. I’m a big fan of the cold. I was less pleased to hear about the chance of rain tomorrow morning. Not a big fan of biking in the rain. But it looks like it will be alright by the time I leave.

After this, I pulled open Word and started writing this entry. This reminded me that I have to reply to Professor McAdam’s comments, so I’ll do that after I post this.

I plan on turning in earlier than usual tonight since there’s a long day ahead of me. Over the next hour, I will proofread my website once more so that all I have to do in lab tomorrow is clean up the CSS and add some comments to the HTML. After this, I may sneak in a bit of Dragon Quest IX before bed. Honestly, I’m not so sure. I’m pretty tired.

Sorry if there was less energy in this post than usual. On the plus side, it’s shorter!

Monday, in which I vow to find new friends.

November 29, 2010

When I first read about the leak, to say I was shocked and appalled would be an understatement.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s scale it back a bit.

I woke up at 10 today, which is earlier than I would have liked, but it was by design. See, I needed to find out what Amazon’s special deal was going to be! They’ve been doing this kind of annoying promotion where they give a cryptic clue referring to a particular item that will go on sale at X time for Y length. Before going to bed last night, I noticed that “the ultimate music party game” was going to be going on sale at 10 a.m. Now, there’s a lot of music games out there, but it seemed reasonable to think that it might have been DJ Hero 2, so I set my alarm and hoped for the best.

It was Band Hero for the Wii. To call that “the ultimate music party game” is at about the same level of hyperbole as me stating that this blog is “the ultimate in academic professionalism.”

Since I was already up and on the computer, I figured I would check out Twitter and Facebook. As you can imagine, that’s where I first discovered that highly classified and delicate information had been spread.

That’s right. Robbie Hilson had discovered my blog via WordPress’ infernal habit of alerting others when their blogs have been linked to. He then took it upon himself to release the link to this extremely confidential, yet totally open to the public, blog on Facebook.

Oh, the humanity.

Now I’ve got a bunch of people reading this nonsense and sending me positive reinforcement. Like I really need that. Stupid, supportive friends.

Lamenting the loss of the privacy I worked so hard to maintain by having a public WordPress blog that had my name all over it, I turned away from the computer and did the only sensible thing I could.

I went back to sleep. In a totally angry manner.

I woke up a second time at about 1:30. Since I had to stop by the front office of my complex to let them know the dishwasher wasn’t working, I decided to forgo the typical iPod news updates and just get dressed and ready to run. Which I did.

I picked up where I left off on the old Sota playlist. I think the reason I enjoy running to vapid trance is that it doesn’t really require much in the way of temporal processing. That way, my brain can focus on more important thoughts like “I really hope I don’t pass out in front of those girls at the bus stop” and “Man, it sure was fortunate those girls at the bus stop knew CPR.”

I returned home and checked my email, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog. Sage Alan is reaching all new levels of popularity. We’re at nearly tens of readers.

I shook my fist in the air and muttered “Hilson…” at no one in particular.

I then went to the iPod for my news. I suppose I could have just looked it up on the computer, but I am just kind of used to reading the headlines on the apps now. Besides, I needed to see if it was my turn yet on Words With Friends.

It was. I played a single U for the word Mu. Riveting.

Lots of stories about the Wikileaks releases. Leslie Nielsen passed away, which is a total bummer. A Mexican gang leader whose name I can’t recall apparently ordered a bunch of people killed. The President of South Korea thinks that North Korea shooting at them was kind of lame. I may be taking some liberties with the actual quote.

Oh, and President Obama mentioned something about federal workers having their pay frozen for a few years. It probably wasn’t anything too important, since the NYT presented the article using a photo with the caption “Stitches on President Obama’s lip were evident during a press conference about federal spending on Monday.” Since the fallout of basketball pickup games is clearly what matters most here.

Over the next hour, I played a game I like to call “doing anything and everything that isn’t productive.” It involves a lot of aimless Internet browsing, random IM conversations, and looking at Amazon every half-hour to see if anything worthwhile is on sale. It doesn’t involve preparing for the two presentations I have this week or working on my website. It’s the best game ever. I did manage to reopen my Word document and write this paragraph, though.

That’s me, alright. Getting things done.

I watched a few videos on Youtube of various game-related things and checked the gaming blogs. Microsoft’s Kinect is selling well. I have yet to be impressed by it. It’s not particularly fine-tuned and requires some very specific conditions to work properly. But I think the potential is there, and hopefully in another year we’ll see some great stuff.

I read this editorial on The Alligator that I noticed Robbie had posted a link to on Facebook. I then went to the Gainesville Sun website to see if anything interesting was going on around here.

Uhhhhh….  well, gas prices dropped by two cents. That’s going straight to the retirement fund.

After a dinner break, during which I watched a game review of Michael Jackson: The Experience for Wii (I think I’ll pass), I decided to go ahead and write up my comments for this week’s class blog entries. Once I finished with that, I saw a gaming deal I could not ignore on Amazon, which was Demon’s Souls for 17 bucks. This is a game that is reported to be extremely difficult and, since I naturally hate myself, I picked it up immediately.

I also noticed they had a clue that sounded like it referred to the original DJ Hero for a sale going up in 20 minutes. After some general complaining about the fact that I am not made of money, directed at no one in particular, I decided that I would definitely have to check back. After blowing time on Failblog, I did. It was indeed DJ Hero. It was not at a very good price, though. Lame.

Heartbroken, I went back to Words With Friends. Did you know that a xu is a form of Vietnamese currency? Yeah, me neither. I played it anyway.

I spent the next two hours gathering more research for the class presentation on Wednesday. Looking up US legal practices has never been more fun. I mean, check this guy out. I have never seen anyone so thrilled to talk about invasion of privacy laws. Calm down, you party animal.

Once I had all the fun I could possibly take at, I decided to read our final assigned chapter for MMC 5015. It’s from the book HTML, XHTML & CSS Sixth Edition. Its plot revolves around some terribly demented individual who enacts a plan to bore all graduate students to death by publishing the most incomprehensible book imaginable. I don’t recommend it.

At this point, it was close enough to midnight that I decided to finish writing up this post for the blog. After this, I anticipate playing some more Dragon Quest IX, which I did start last night, and then going to bed.

Good stuff.