To be honest, I was confused at what Ross was trying to say in his article. What I understood about this article is that there is “technoliteracy” in that there are opportunities to understand the historical significance of out a piece of technology. Also what I took away from the article is that Ross is comparing the hackers vs. technology-minded people to the hippies and their respective counterparts in the 70s. People of the Information Technology age need to have more technoliteracy and be more aware of their technological surroundings.
Ross’s article, Hacking Away at the Counterculture was different and how he related computer virus’s with AIDS was interesting. On pages 330-32 I found the “war on hackers” to stand out most in this article. Ross describes hacking and what he feels the meaning hacking is. However, I didn’t feel he had a strong argument and could have picked different examples to relate hacking to instead of AIDS, maybe even relate hacking to other technologies.
Overall the article was interesting but not one of the best we have read, and would have liked to see more of the technology side in the article.
In the article out of Pursell I was really interested in how the informational security crisis in a sense mirrored the AIDs crisis. It is common for people to equate a new threat to something they have already been afraid of so it makes sense why the public would project the fears they had about AIDs onto informational security, both were issues that did not yet have a clear resolution and so they were surrounded by a culture of fear. It was also very interesting how the article mentioned the duality of the concept of “hackers.” During the same time period hackers were described both as mature and juvenile, the descriptions changed as the need to defend or persecute hackers arose. It was intriguing also because there still exists some degree of unsureness about hackers today, although more defined and regulated today the mass public often still has a fear attributed to hackers and a lack of understanding towards who these people really are.
I thought it was interesting that the article in Pursell made the comparison between actual diseases and computer viruses. Even though SNL made a spoof about “safe software or no software at all”, it does not detract from the overall idea that computers were susceptible to hackers. With a new industry emerging there needed to be plans in place to protect people’s privacy.
I also found the slide show to be very interesting. While today we consider computers as a whole valuable, we then see pictures of computers being torn apart. It was interesting to think about the parts of the computer being more valuable than the whole computer to other countries. Also, to have an area that was basically a computer graveyard was astounding to me.
The Pursell reading was a bit difficult to get through. One thing that caught my attention was computer virus’s and AIDS. It was almost scary to see that people would compare a computer virus to that of the AIDS epidemic. I understand how using it as an analogy is beneficial to the complex parts of the computer system, but it seemed very dramatic. In regards to Ross’s attempt to define hackers, it was a bit confusing and he jumped from point to point. There were some interesting ideas addressed, but overall was hard to understand.
Looking at the slideshow not only made me appreciate the type of whole technology that I have, but also made me realize that technology in pieces is clearly valuable as well. It appears that the dump is heavily picked through to compete for the best pieces of used technology to then sell to make money. This is almost like the competition going on in America to have the most and newest forms of technology. In different parts of the world there clearly are different types of races to gain technology; whether it be certain metal scraps for money, or full functioning technological equipment and tools.
I find the culture around hacking really fascinating. On one side, there are officials who compare viruses to AIDS and those who create the viruses are criminals. Then on the other side, there are those who romanticize hackers as digital age cowboys or rebels. There is an entire culture and debate around hacking that is very important to many people.
When viewing the slide show of scavengers picking the valuable metal out of discarded computers in Africa, however, it seems obvious how unimportant that debate is. The people in the slide show are not using those computers for knowledge or fun, they are using them to survive. It was incredibly sad that these tools that could be used for so much are being stripped for parts.
While it makes sense to compare computer viruses to a disease, and the comparison between viruses and AIDS made sense since both were poorly understood, it still felt a bit insensitive to me. In regards to hacking, it seemed loosely defined in the reading – which is still true. If you ask an average person what hacking is, they probably wouldn’t be able to give a very detailed/accurate definition. The concept of hacker is likely to be more skewed if someone has gained most of their ‘knowledge’ of hackers from media, where they are treated as gods of technology who can hack anything and solve any problem as long as there’s a computer.
I had previously heard about the scavenging of parts before viewing the slideshow. It goes to show how little we think about where our waste goes and the implications of tossing things out when the newest thing comes along.
I really liked this week’s reading about the hackers and the Electronic Waste (E-waste). I have learned about E-waste in my other courses briefly, but never really saw the effect it had on other countries. Seeing the graveyard of computers makes me wish for a more efficient way to get rid of E-waste instead of just trashing it. Then again, the families in Ghana would have less money to spend if the E-waste went away, so I am a bit conflicted on the matter. The Pursell reading was rather interesting with comparing hackers and computer viruses to actual diseases. I feel like we should be worried and somewhat afraid of viruses. Our personal information can easily be leaked with the tiniest flaw in a security system. For example, Target had a breach in their system and now many customers may have had their information stolen. We just have to be careful as technology continues to evolve and always have some sort of understanding of how technology allows these breaches to happen.
I see the comparison between computer viruses and actual diseases like AIDS only as far as they both infect the host and are often misunderstood. Otherwise, I thought the analogy was insensitive and oversimplifying. A computer is infected through usually malicious means; AIDS is a disease, and people aren’t infected on purpose.
Anyway, “hacker culture” is a field of interest to me, if only because of the dichotomy of opinion surrounding them. The government typically associates “hacker” immediately with “malicious criminal,” and even when the hacker’s actions aren’t within the letter of the law, the morality behind their actions is often not black and white. On the other side of the coin, hackers can be romanticized as digital vigilantes, anonymous rebels that cause havoc to make a point. Either way, I believe hacking itself shouldn’t be considered good or evil, but depends on the intentions and methods of the hacker.
The photo essay was especially interesting, as well as really concerning. We often don’t think about where our technology goes after we are done with it, but they are physical objects and must be dumped somewhere. Unfortunately, this means that chemicals such as “lead, cadmium, antimony, PCBs
and chlorinated dioxins,” are released into the air and soil, and most likely wreaking havoc on Agbogbloshie’s ecosystem and the health of the residents.
From this reading, I learned something I have never thought abut before- there are two types of viruses being spread in this world- AIDs and computer viruses. I had a hard time seeing the comparison between the two, because AIDs is contracted by being with someone else who has it and then becomes deadly, seeing as our doctors have yet to find a cure for it. And a computer virus just affects your computer, it does not affect real lives and kill people, literally. But people do take computers so seriously and are so obsessed, that some people do feel like they died when their computers contracted a virus. It definitely put things in perspective for me with the pictures of kids and families using pieces of ocmputers, not to get on social media or do show off, but to survive.
“You can’t trust your best friend’s software any more than you can trust [their] bodily fluids – safe software or no software at all!” (326) A strong accusation by Andrew Ross, author of “Hacking Away at the Counterculture.”
What is hacking? Why do people do it? Why is the jargon based on human anatomy?
Editors of a popular technology magazine, 2600, suggest” any single invasive act, such as trespass, that involves the use of computers is considered today to be infinitely more criminal than a similar act undertaken without computers. To use computers to execute pranks, raids, fraud, or theft is to incur automatically the full repressive wrath of judges urged on by the moral panic created around hacking feats over the last two decades.” (330)
The viral scare of the late 80’s led to some government alphabet agencies (i.e. DARPA and NASA) to hire protection companies while other agencies forged laws to deter and pursue “sophisticated hacking.” (325)
Some sophisticated hacking is done by “professionals” but a large degree is initiated by teenagers. “Teenage hackers’ homes are now habitually raided by sheriffs and FBI agents using stron0arm tactics, and jail sentences are becoming a common punishment.” (330)
Scientists that have studied computer viruses have drawn correlations between the affected mechanical bodies and living viruses that disease humans. Such correlations lead to computer jargon based on anatomy. For example, a “virus” requires the use of a “host program” similar to fundamental biology; additionally, both within both specialties “worms” are known for replicating on their own. (326-327)
Hysteria caused by viruses have both created a consumer market for virus protection and “close[s] the ranks among privatized spheres.” (328-329).” The consumer market exists because of a newfound lack of trust in technology. Consumer additionally feel more intrusion in their life because a virus can access their personal accounts.
Hacking, though, isnt just negativity. Hacking has increased the technological know-how of many amateur technologists, it has shown flaws in the security of major programs, and lead to the manufacturing of overall better software developments. However the case, law-keeping bodies did not favor the “social menaces” but often settled for punishments that fall within the realm of a slap on the wrist. One hacker named Bill “The Cracker” Landereth , for example, was sentenced to “three years’ probation during which time he was obligated to finish his high school education and go to college.” (332)
“One of the aims of this essay has been to describe and suggest a wider set of activities and social locations than is normally associated with the practice of hacking.” (346) Hacking is not only done to terrorize the masses by elites in high-powered computer laboratories. Hacking is often done as meaningless fun by teenagers in the safety of their own home. This essay has also described the popularization or romanticization of hackers and how they were dealt with by government agencies. The publication of successful hacks and light slaps on the wrists inspire many bored teenagers to follow in the footsteps.
Like with the SNL reference in the Pursell reading, I definitely think that as soon as you become connected with the computer world that you are vulnerable to hackers, viruses, etc. As soon as you log into Facebook you see ads based on things that you have Googled so there is definitely validity to the paranoia of getting your information stored away by search engines and the government. I equate that though to the autonomy you give up in being part of a civil society: in order to get the benefits of technology, you have to be aware of the downsides to that technology. I also agreed with the Cornell findings that most hackers are juveniles or just in it for the thrill. There is a lot to be said for doing something that people say that you can’t do. I think that it is the hackers doing things for illegal practices that actually create the need for the hobby hackers. You always hear stories about hackers getting into a company network and then that company hiring those hackers to fix the areas where they are vulnerable to more attacks. These hackers remind me of Frank Abagnale that the movie “Catch Me If You Can” was based on. In that movie Abagnale created checks so authentic in appearance that banks were losing lots of money by cashing counterfeit checks. Once he was caught, Abagnale ended up helping the FBI to catch other forgers and counterfeiters and also helped to create check security used today. Sometimes it takes someone from outside of the bureaucratic world of business and government to see things from a different perspective and help to prevent people being harmed by the ones not just in it for the thrill.
The photo essay was sad on a few counts. It was sad to see the people not realizing what the donated computers could do for them in regards to access to the outside world and education. It was also sad to see just how desperate those scavengers are to survive and that their way to overcome that poverty via education was taken away by the need to sell the computers parts in order to survive. It helps to show just how the circle of poverty (especially in 3rd world countries) is soooo hard to break.
In “Hacking Away at the Counter Culture,” Andrew Ross compares the paranoia of hacking and computer fraud to the AIDS epidemic. The rhetoric was similar, particularly “the obsession with defense, security, and immunity; and the climate of suspicion generated around communitarian acts of sharing” (Pursell 326). The American media – and, to some extent, the government – went to great lengths to warn people of the dangers of both AIDS and computer hackers. (Ross refers to this as a “media scare with those historical fears about bodily invasion, individual and national, that are often considered endemic to the paranoid style of American political culture” (326).) The difference between AIDS and computer viruses, however, is that AIDS has a “lack of meaning or intentionality” while “the meaning of cybernetic viruses is always already replete with social significance” (328). I thought the comparison was interesting – and unexpected – and Ross presented it in a way that made sense completely. I also enjoyed the photographs of the computer dump site in Ghana. They were haunting, in a way, but they showed that computers aren’t as important in other parts of the world as they are in the United States: most of the computers in that “graveyard” are donations from wealthier nations, that are sent to the dump so they can be mined for valuable supplies. I think it says a lot about how much of a value we’re placing on technology.
The two readings for this week really stand in stark opposition to me. The Ross article examines the importance of being technoliterate to control the use of technology while the New York Times piece shows how efforts to increase technoliteracy in places with widespread poverty leads to E-waste dumps and scavenging. The juxtaposition of these two readings highlights the need for a reevaluation of how we understand technoliteracy and the digital divide. It poses hard questions such as “how can the global digital divide be reduced?” Knowledge is power, but donating computers leads to scraping, not knowledge.
I thought this week’s readings were incredibly interesting. Ross discusses different cyber attacks and how the compare to different diseases. That was interesting to examine because viruses in real life and in technology both act similarly. It does create a sense of paranoia that you can be attacked at any time you might not even know it. Now we are seeing a new type of crime in our culture, like hackers, which are increasing. This crime may not be so severe that you think that you won’t be affected but you never know. Its crazy to think of how much personal information is actually stored on the internet somewhere.
I also thought the NY Times Article was interesting as well. This dump is insane, so many people come here to scavenge for scrap metals or anything that’s of worth just to get some money. I’ve seen poverty like this before but its sometimes hard to wrap my head around it. The make shift shack really got to me that this is a real problem. The article mentioned that the trash that comes to that dump is mainly from Europe and America. But the photographer got some great shots and conveyed a great message throughout the entire slideshow.
Ross’s article was definitely an interesting read. The terminology used around hacking is very similar to that of illnesses, which is why I found the comparison of AIDS to computer viruses understandable. However, I was definitely not expecting it but it does make some sense, especially in the early ’90s when both were so under-researched and caused panic. The gallery of the technology graveyard was especially moving for me. I felt it shows another side to technology that can cause harm once it has been discarded. The technological artifacts are often ripped apart for the sake of finding scraps to sell. The land these items sit in has chemicals in the soil. In America, technology is seen as something new, innovative and always evolving. But in these images, it is apparent how in devleloping parts of the world outdated technology is used for its parts not its purposes. There is a direct contrast with how we view and use technology and how it is view by the people who live in the graveyards for our older technology.
Sorry about the late response!
The NY Times article immediately caught my eye. Last semester in my Environmental Sociology, we talked a lot about this problem with first world countries sending their electronic “garbage” overseas as a cheap method of disposal. Though it’s something that is easy for us to do, it’s incredibly detrimental to the lives of others. People in need are forced by their circumstances to dig through electronics that are harmful to handle, especially after being broken down or burned. The chemicals that are released are harmful to both human health and the environment. The already wealthy companies that send these containers overseas are often profiting from this action and further encouraging it. We have the means to reuse and properly dispose these materials, yet our greed keeps us from doing so.
I was a bit confused about Ross’ comparison between technology and disease. I think the general idea is that we see security and safety the same way we think of germs. I suppose this idea makes sense, but I’m not sure what the point of thinking about it like that is.