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Author Archives: ElzbthMllr

White House Visitor Logs: Transparency or Bust?

Question: Does the releasing of the White House Visit Logs promote transparency as the Obama administration claims that it does? Are there instances when this information has furthered investigative journalism? Are there instances when it hasn’t, but it could have? Can this information be exploited? Is there any level of accountability in the whole process? Is it true that the vast majority of names on the list are simply tourists? Does it simply lead to more speculation about why these meetings take place?

Original Assumption: My original assumption is that the publishing of these lists is a good thing. While it may not go far enough in disclosing information, my general feeling is that this is a good first step towards providing information that journalists can use as a source in their reporting. The list is made available online and is searchable (which is a lot more than you can say for other various pieces of information that are available to the public), and does go into providing a certain amount of data. I do have to say I am somewhat skeptical to what extent these lists are censored. I find this frustrating because there is really no way to know what information is left out, it seems anything can be classified as “confidential.” It also clearly doesn’t solve the problem of knowing about what meetings take place not at the White House (is there any way to figure out percentage wise the number of meetings that may be). There also seem to be several problems with the lists such as duplicate names, as well as the fact that it’s released 90 days after. I don’t see any reason that they could not be released sooner, 90 days seem a bit extreme.

Related Norms: The whole issue of transparency and the Obama administration is discussed a lot. People often hail the website data.gov as a huge shift in how information is conveyed both internally and externally to the public. And of course others criticize it and say it doesn’t go far enough. (See this article for a discussion of the UK Open Data site and why it is superior to data.gov). But it begs the question as to why we as a culture are seeing an increase shift in demanding transparency – whether its in disclosing earmarks in legislation, campaign contributions, information on how laws are being made, or just generally about where information comes from. It definitely seems as though the release of the White House Visitor Logs are along the same vein of transparency movement by the President. But it begs the question, should these lists even be released to begin with? If it proves that they aren’t providing valuable data, what is the point?

A few other points to consider…

Having played around with visitor logs over the past few days, there are several important characteristics that I noted:

  • It’s user friendly, specifically it’s easy to navigate, rarely crashes, and allows users to search for as specific or as general information as you want
  • You can download the data into various formats (Excel), this allows for the data to be used in mashups and other various forms by innovative and motivated users
  • It allows you to link lists and results searched for automatically to Twitter, Google, Reddit, Delicious, MySpace, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc.

In my next post, I will look closely at several instances related to all my above questions and assumptions:

  • How has the mainstream media covered this issue? Do they take a specific angle? Is it celebratory or more critical?
  • Are there examples of where this data has been useful in journalism and news stories.
  • Are there instances where the data may not have been used, but could have been?

I will also do a bit more digging as well trying to answer the following questions:

  1. How many names appear on this list? How many do not appear? (eg how many actual visitors vs. reported visitors)
  2. What kinds of visitors besides tourists appear on these lists?

Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks!

Welcome to the White House: Please Sign In

On January 29th, 2010, the White House released – for the first time in history – its visitor records for the previous 90 days. In included more than 75,000 White House Visitors (the 75,000 represented six months worth of visitors) – now the information is released on a monthly basis. It was part of Obama’s commitment to transparency (however, that definition itself is rather unclear).

The full policy of disclosure described on the White House’s blog site here.

At the surface, it appears there are several positive and negatives of such a policy.

Positives:

  • It is unprecedented for a White House to do this and they should be commended
  • The decision to do this was voluntary
  • It’s available online rather than in some dusty basement in Washington D.C. (which goes a long way in making information “public” in the 21st century). You can also download the information which allows for research potential.
  • Not only is it available online, it’s easily searchable and has quite a bit of detailed information such as visitor’s first and last name, meeting room, who they met with and occasionally a description of purpose of the visit.

Negatives:

  • It’s done 90-120 days after the fact. Is there a good explanation for this? Why can’t they do it daily/weekly?
  • The White House still controls the flow of information and acts as a gatekeeper (eg they can remove names for “security concerns” or any other purposes they want).
  • The “description” (eg purpose of the meeting) is often left out, when that’s probably the most important information!
  • Where is the accountability in this process? Is there any? Will it just encourage meetings outside the White House?
  • Who manages this list?
  • What about duplicate names (the White House admitted this themselves that this has been a problem)? Is it searchable according to the member of the White House who called the meeting? If not, why not?

Over the next few weeks of this travalogue I will continue exploring this issue, including delving deeper into the visitor’s lists themselves, and finding out what kind of information can be gleaned from this list. What kind of research can be done around the people who has access to these lists? Can this information be used successfully in mashups for example, to determine for example what visitors made campaign contributions, etc.

I will also examine instances in which the visitor’s list were useful for journalists, bloggers etc, as well as look at cases when they weren’t not used but could have been (and perhaps do some of that research myself if possible). I will also look further into the limitations of this kind of information.

I tried to get a good visualization of what this visitor log looks like, but was having trouble with getting a coherent screen shot that illustrates the user functionality of it. If you’re interested, you can go here to view all the visitors named “Elizabeth” who have been to the White House.

Thanks to everyone who helped me formulate this idea. I really appreciate it!

Travalogue 3: Some Ideas

I’m contemplating a few ideas for my third travelogue and they pretty widely in terms of their content.

#1 White House Visitor Logs: Last year, Obama announced that each month, the WH would release its visitor logs to the public (visitors from the previous 90-120 days would be made available online). The full policy is available to review here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/VoluntaryDisclosure/. What are the implications of this? What does it mean for transparency? What kind of information is gained from this and for what purposes?

#2 Google Buzz. Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint this week with Federal Trade Commission, urging the them to open an investigation into Google Buzz. I could find out more about the complaint, whether it has any merit and what will happen next. The only thing is I know we’ve talked about these issues before so wouldn’t want to go over them ad nauseam. But it could be a good way to get involved, talk to people, help them figure out how to turn it off, follow the EPIC complaint etc, see who else is joining them etc.

#3 Skype and Voice Over Internet Protocal (VoIP). Verizon just announced that it will soon allow its 90+ million customers to make free calls on Skype. Starting in March, subscribers with certain phones will be able to download a Skype application which allows them to call or instant message other Skype users for free. What’s behind this partnership? What’s Skype’s relationship with other telecommunications companies (I know its blocked in several case)? How was the FCC regulated this issue? What’s next?

If you have any thoughts about what would be most interesting and most relevant to this class, please let me know. Once I’ve picked a topic I can delve into explaining more of the implications of whichever issue I pick and how I plan to do the research. Thanks in advance for any comments.

Twitter and Geotagging: The Conclusion

This travalogue began several weeks ago with a simple question: Should I enable geotagging on my personal Twitter account?

In my research about what some of the risks could be for users who did enable geotagging, I identified several groups of people that could be risk. They included political activists whose tweets may be used for identification and prosecution of participation in political rallies, young people who may be at risk from lecherous marketers, and sexual predators, and high-profile individuals, such as celebrities, politicians etc who are often targets of the news media, the paparazzi and so called cyber-stalkers.

Although I do not belong to any of the above groups, I’ve decided not to enable geotagging on Twitter. I’m not denying there are benefits to geotagging, many of which I think Nadine has covered in her research on Ushahidi, however the circumstances that people find themselves in those types of situations that may benefit from it are different from my circumstances.

According to this article on The Next Web, only .23% of tweets are geotagged (this article was from January and I couldn’t find any more recent data, but I wonder if this number has jumped significantly). Regardless of whether other people enable geotagging, my main concern is about the ability of this software to track people’s locations with respect to personal privacy. I understand I’m inherently giving up my privacy by participating in Twitter to begin with, but I’m not comfortable with enabling people to track my specific location. I think I would begin to self-censor my tweets if I did enable geotagging, and that’s counter to the way that I want to be using Twitter. Even though Twitter allows its users to delete their geotagged tweets, it takes up to 30 minutes before this can take effect, plus the location information that has been gathered by third-party applications is not necessarily deleted. Plus, geotagged information is exact and links to Google Maps. I also don’t use third-party applications that benefit from enabling this kind of geotagging information, applications such as FourSquare, Birdfeed, Twidroid etc.

This short video from YouTube demonstrates how to locate a random person on Twitter that has their geotagging setting enabled and sums up in under two minutes why I don’t want to enable geotagging.YouTube Preview Image

Clearly I am concerned about privacy, and therefore I think Twitter should be commended for making sure that this service is opt-in. As we’ve discussed several times in class, people rarely change privacy settings that are default, and I think they’ve done a good thing making this something people have to consciously decide to do. This is what annoyed me about Google Buzz – they made it automatic! Twitter also allow users to selectively geotag, which means if I do find myself in a situation where I’d like to reveal my location (eg I’m in some sort of emergency), I would be able to do that.

Lastly I recognize that this issue of geotagging is not limited to the culture of Twitter but has larger implications in various aspects of our society and our given media environment. For example, every time I take a picture with my iPhone it asks if I want to record the location where the picture was taken from (I say no – so at least I tend to be consistent so far!) This travalogue has made me think more seriously about the use of location-based technology more generally, when I swipe my credit card for example I realize its effectively mapping my location at that certain point in time, but in that case only my credit card company has access to it. It reminds me of The Trap, and that I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m mapping my location to a large extent regardless of whether or not I enable geotagging on Twitter. But for now, since I still have a choice, I will choose not to further allow my location to be specified without seeing a specific benefit. I don’t see the benefit of enabling other people to pinpoint my location.

Who Is At Risk from Geotagged Tweets?

After doing some more research, the main problem that I see with geotagging is that it doesn’t just locate information but it locates people. Although I understand the benefits of enabling it, specifically when it comes to third-party applications, to me it tends to have an Orwellian connotation. In some ways its even worse than the world outlined in 1984, because instead of “Big Brother” watching us, we are giving up some of our most personal and private information out for free, to anyone who wants it. I also think it’s important to understand that tweets that are geotagged are accessible beyond just Twitter itself. At the end of 2009, Twitter made its content searchable by Google and Microsoft. This opens the information gathered via geotagged posts open Facebook’s status updates are also accessible in real-time search via Google as well.

There are several groups of people for which privacy issues related to geotagged tweets might be a problem. I will deal with two in particular:

Young People

Our society tends to have a priority on protecting  young people. Yet, it’s interesting to note that young people are not the primary users of the micro-blogging site (its main users tend to be white, wealthy, older males). Yet, if this demographic begins to use Twitter more, there could be serious privacy implications to any minors who choose to geotag their posts. They could be subject to a wide range of predators, from sexual predators, sex offenders, to less obviously harmful groups of people like marketers, who are interested in tracking where these groups go, when, and why, so that they can more effectively target their marketing campaigns towards them. Click here for some more demographics on Twitter users.

Public Figures

Public figures have always had to give up a level of privacy in order to hold esteemed positions, whether they are famous actors, or publicly elected officials. For whatever reason, Twitter has seen a huge amount of celebrities who use Twitter. These kinds of people who geotag their posts are opening themselves up to both rabid fans and so-called cyber-stalkers.

People Who Live in Under Repressive Regimes

I detailed the privacy risks a bit more in my first post this week so I won’t go into too much detail, but many times people will geotag their location to verify there are somewhere, (a rally, protest, etc). If this information is public, it could allow repressive governments to have access to this information, whether it is to arrest people, to locate them at the scene of a protest and prosecute them, or simply to track the habits and movement of dissidents.

A couple of other thoughts that make me question my initial dislike for geotagging…

  • If you have nothing to hide and understand the risks, what really is so bad about geotagging? What is it about the element of location that makes me (and others) uneasy about this?
  • It’s easy enough to turn off, it’s off by default.
  • As far as celebrities or public figures,, you could say they any public figure that does geotag their Tweets only have themselves to blame since it’s so easy to opt-out of geotagging, and it is off by default.
  • How is this information fundamentally different from what people post on Facebook?

To me, the most serious problems seem to be from young people not understanding the privacy implications and opening themselves up to predators.

Week 3 Summary: Networked Groups and Social Networks

Some of the major themes that tie this week’s readings together include understanding how technology has changed the way groups form and individuals collaborate, the way in which this communication happens in public mediated spaces and understanding what affects these are having on our society.

danah boyd: Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What?

danah boyd (who doesn’t capitalize her name on purpose) is a Social Media Researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet. In this podcast/article/presentation she discusses mediated publics and the relationship of these publics to teenagers in society. She points to four properties that are part of mediated communication spaces (e.g. publics) which are radically changing how younger generations are negotiating this public world:

  1. Persistence: What you say sticks around a long longer than they used to; things are no longer ephemeral
  2. Searchability: Today’s teens are faced with an environment where they are easily searchable, both to people that they want to be found by (friends) and by those they don’t (marketers, sexual predators, etc)
  3. Replicability: The ability for things to spread very fast online, it’s impossible to distinguish between a copy and an original
  4. Invisible audiences: We’re used to unmediated spaces, where we have a sense of who can hear us, with these mediated spaces, the audiences are invisible, so you don’t know who your audience is

With respect to social network sites (which she believes these sites should be called rather than social networking sites), she talks about three of their key features, including profiles, friends features, and comments. She sites that these features are often more public than adults are used to, but they are means by which young people use these sites according to their needs. boyd concludes by saying that she sees the internet as both a mirror and a magnifier for what goes on offline in the life of teenagers. Although for adults this may appear shockingly public, it is the environment that these kids are growing up in.

Questions:

  1. boyd talks about the distinctions of public spaces for young people vs. adults. Do you see this distinction as relevant several later? Or do you think that as older generations have begun to adopt these tools something has fundamentally changed? If so, how?
  2. Do you see a valid distinction n between social network sites and social networking sites? Do you think this is valid as these sites have grown in popularity and more and more people have adopted these technologies? Could you think of examples of each?

Clay Shirky: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (Event Video/Audio)

In this audio presentation from February of 2008, Clay Shirky (a professor in the ITP Program at Tisch) starts by reminding the audience we are living through the largest increase in human expressive capability thanks to the internet. This has led to a move away from a traditional one-way communication medium to a two-way communications system. As a result of this, group action has gotten easier, to the point of “ridiculously easy group forming.” There are several consequences to this world of two-way group communication, including the recognition that groups get complicated faster than they get larger. According to Shirky it’s not necessarily enough to understand the technology itself that allowed this to happen, some of it consists of even the most basic things like e-mail, but instead it’s only when the technology itself becomes boring, that its social effects becomes important. The spread of the capability and the massive adoption of its technology is what have the ability to drive social group interaction forward.

Shirky then discusses the ways in which the action of a group adds up to something more than just aggregated individual action. He points to four key steps. The first is sharing, a sort of “me-first collaboration” in which the social affects are aggregated after the fact; people share links, urls, tags, and eventually come together around a type. This type of sharing is a reverse of the so-called old order of sharing, where you’d congregate first and then share (examples include flickr, delicious, etc.) The second is conversation, that is, the synchronization of people with each other and the coming together to learn more about something and to get better at it. The third is collaboration, in which a group forms under the purpose of some common effort. It requires a division of labor, and teamwork. It can often be characterized by people wanting to fix a market failure, and is motivated by increasing accessibility. The fourth and final step is collective action, which Shirky sights as “mainly still in the future.” The key point about collective action is that the fate of the group as a whole becomes important.

Question:

  1. Shirky concludes that moving forward he expects an increase in collective action. Given that this talk was from February of 2008, can you think of some examples in which the kind of collection action he talks about has become more normal and integrated in our society?
  2. Have we seen the mass scale adoption of sharing, conversation, collaboration and collective action? Are we at a point now where we’ve seen the technology become boring? If so, where do you think the future lies?
  3. What do you think the relationship is between collaborative action and creative effective social change in areas such as human rights, the environment etc?

Clay Shirky Gin, Television, and Social Surplus

Shirky argues that the critical technology for the 20th century that served as a vast civic surplus was the sitcom; for decades Americans spent their free time watching television. He goes so far as to describe it as a “collective bender” akin to the actual gin bender experienced in the early phases of the industrial revolution. He says that we are at a point now where we are starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. The key point here is that while media has traditionally been based primarily on the notion of consumption (you produce, I sit around watching endlessly for hours), we are now actually moving towards an era where people like to produce and share just as much, if not more than they like to consume. Since technology has made the producing and sharing possible, he argues that we will see a new era of participation that will lead to big change. He concludes by asking “If we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen?” He bets the answer is yes.

            Question.

  1. What do you think? Do you agree with Shirky concluding statement? Can you think of examples either from your own life or those around you that illustrate his ideas?

Clay Shirky: “Sharing Anchors Community” from Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.

Shirky discusses how as groups grow, they become more and more complex. As groups form, coordination, organization and even communication becomes harder. His cites this complexity with the words of physicist Philip Anderson, saying that “more is different.” As these groups grow, it becomes impossible for everyone to interact directly with everyone else. Traditionally this has been solved by established hierarchies, in which institutions and organizations have established in order to run them efficiently. However, now groups are forming without the set boundaries and parameters that have traditionally shaped many kind of groups. New social tools relieve some of those burdens, allowing for a new kind of group-forming. He gives several examples that vary with respect to their contents: photos from the Mermaid Day Parade in Coney Island, the London Transport Bombings in 2005, and the 2006 military coup in Thailand. These are all techniques that use simple sharing to anchor the creation of new groups. The kind of tools that allow this kind of group forming to happen (Flickr for example) succeed not by increasing any sort of managerial oversight, but “by abandoning any hope of such oversight in the first place, instead putting in place tools for the self-synchronization of otherwise latent groups.”

Shirky cites these kinds of group as post-managerial organizations, and discusses just how new tools provide ways for self-assemble. Our new electronic networks are “enabling novel forms of collective action, enabling the creation of collaborative groups that are larger and more distributed than at any other time in history.” Shirky describes how these new communication tools and social patterns end up being a better fit for our desires and talents for group efforts. He then describes the concepts of sharing, cooperation, collaborative production and collective action, which I detail above.

What are the privacy implications of geotagging on Twitter?

What are the privacy implications of enabling geotagging on your Twitter account?

In November of 2009, Twitter added a feature which enabled users to selectively “geotag” their tweets with their exact location. They said the goal of this was to provide more of a context to users’ surroundings. It allowed users to tweet about places and add a context to their tweets, connect with users at a local level, and join in on local conversations. It was, and remains, an opt-in service, which meant that users had to enable the feature (it was off by default). While there are benefits (some of which are mentioned above) to enabling geotagging, Twitter asked its users to consider several issues including: geotagging uses your exact location, it is available to everyone (even if you delete it) and turning it off does not mean your old data will necessarily go away. It enables third-party applications to use this data, but can always be disabled at the user’s request. One advantage that came out of this decision was the ability of Twitter to track local trending topics in various cities or countries, rather than the summation of all trending topics worldwide. One of the primary disadvantages has to do with privacy – one can imagine a situation in which a user live tweets a protest in a country and an authoritative government uses the geo-tagged location to arrest them. One serious consideration for anyone enabling geotagging is that if you chose to remove your location history, you can do so on your settings page, but it can take up to 30 minutes. And, although you’ve deleted the information from Twitter, they cannot guarantee that the information will be removed from all 3rd party application copies. After enabling geotagging, Twitter updated its privacy policy (click here to read it). I noticed that in the policy “What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly.” Clearly this is both an advantage and a disadvantage, but in what sense is adding your exact location to tweet aiding the amount of information that gets put out there. Is it in a good way? The issues remain, should one (namely in this case, me) enable geotagging on my tweets?

Twitter: Geotagging and Local Trends

Last week, Twitter announced that it would soon enable its users to follow “Local Trends.” What does these mean exactly? Users will have the option to leave Trends at the default worldwide setting (translation: the “Trending Topics” you see to the right of your screen are the aggregate keywords, hashtags, etc of all Twitter users worldwide), or instead choose from various countries, or cities to see what the trending topics are more locally. If you aren’t familiar with how this works on Twitter, I’ve provided a screenshot of my Twitter account (@ElzbthMllr) from earlier this week that illustrates both what Trending Topics look like and the option that allows you to set your location to receive Local Trends.

Also related to location, Twitter has a feature called “Geotagging”, (see second screen shot below) in which a user has the option of enabling a feature that would allow for third party applications to annotate the users tweets with exact location information. It’s important to note that is in an opt-in feature, which means the functionality of it is off by default. In its blog about the introduction of Geotagging, Twitter writes that geotagging allows you to “tweet about places and add context to your tweets, connect with other users at a local level, and join the local conversation.” Off the top of my head I can think of one particularly popular third party applications that would benefit from this geotagging, FourSquare (a location-based social networking “game” that allows users to check in to locations via their mobile devices) but no doubt there are numerous others.

Throughout this travelogue I’d like to investigate what possible effects could evolve from the fallout of allowing users to follow local trends and the increase use of geotagging. For example:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to each of these Twitter features?
  • Will it confirm certain suspicions related to location-based tweeting that have been discussed (for example, the majority of people who tweeted about the Iranian revolution were not actually tweeting from Iran)? But even if that’s true, so what?
  • What’s the relationship between geotagging and web metrics?
  • How can the use of third-party applications that are made possible by geotagging help (or hinder) certain advocacy efforts, such as raising money for Haiti.
  • What effect, if any, would the “local” aspect of geotagging have on journalism?
  • On the screenshot you can read “The process can take up to 30 minutes.” Is this acceptable? What are the implications of that from a security standpoint, eg for protestors, etc.

Aside from exploring these questions, I might consider investigating and researching the intersection between geotagging, local trends and privacy. Potental issues for exploration with respect to privacy/location include:

  • Who has access to your tags that are geotagged? Just your followers? All users? The big-whigs at Twitter?
  • What can Twitter do with your tweets?
  • If you delete your account what happens to those tweets? Who controls them?
  • What are the privacy implications of all of this data? Is there there some sort of precedent for this?

If anyone has any ideas about which direction might be more interesting or more relevant to this class, please let me know. Or any readings or postings that have been done on this subject that might help inform my research adn thinkings on the subjects. I feel like I could attack this from either a privacy standpoint (which is clearly in my frame of reference due to this week’s readings about Google), or from the issue of advantages/disadvantages to geotagging and local trends. It’s also quite a large topic area so I may need to narrow it down a bit.

Thanks in advance!

The Trap

One of the key themes from The Trap that stood out and stayed with me after finishing the entire three-hour program was an idea discussed throughout the first segment, “Fuck You Buddy”. In this segment, the program’s exploration of game theory, and the work of the mathematician John Nash (for the first part of an interesting PBS documentary about Nash called A Brilliant Madness watch the video here YouTube Preview Image) the documentary explored the concept that all human beings are suspicious and selfish creatures that will engage in a type of strategic game play. Both The Prisoner’s Dilemma, as well as the similar problem known as “The Tragedy of the Common” (which was outlined in Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay for Science Magazine when he was a professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara), describes situations in which multiple individuals that act independently of each other, will consult their own-self interest. The Tragedy of the Commons is a type of multi-player version of The Prisoner’s Dilemma. What makes the concepts so disconcerting is that this process is supposedly rational, regardless of the fact that in the long-term it is not for anyone’s interest.

As someone who has worked for the past five years at a private family foundation, my work has been focused solely on grantmaking activities to non-profit organizations. The goal of this grantmaking is specifically to increase the availability of various types of public goods, and to fund public-service organizations that work to increase the vitality of the non-profit sector. The implications that individuals are guided by the exact opposite of altruism goes against the entire non-profit industry in the United States, which advocates for wide-ranging issues such as ending poverty, homelessness, hunger, environmental reforms, health reform, and better education.  The very existence of these kinds of organizations seem to disprove the central concepts of both The Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons.

It leads me to wonder would America have such a thriving non-profit sector if this kind of altruistic behavior did not exist but was rather marked by self-interested individuals? According to this article from the National Center for Charitable Statistics, (which serves as the national clearinghouse of data on the nonprofit sector in the United States) there are currently over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the US, with 997,579 public charities, 118,428 private foundations, and 453,570 other types of nonprofit organizations including civil leagues. This seems to speak to a clear desire by the American public, who often funds these kinds of organizations, to support non-profit organizations and their efforts. Another clear example of this is the recent fundraising efforts in Haiti (it’s reported that the Red Cross alone has raised over $10 million by having cell phone subscribers texting the word HAITI to 90999). If you were to examine this from the point of view of self-interested individuals you could argue that individuals make contributions to these organizations because it offers tax breaks, or that people get some sort of social status for contributing to these organizations.

This concept of selfish rational and self-interested human beings is discussed in the second and third segments of the program. If it’s true, as The Trap discusses and ultimate concludes in the third and final segment “We Will Force You To Be Free”, that “the freedom we live with today is a narrow and limiting one that was born out of the cold war”, we have to examine how future attempts to change the world for the better can lead to something that is the opposite of tyranny. The concept of changing the world for better, or for a collective good, are ideas that are very much ingrained into our society, even through government funded programs such as Teach for America. And the relationship between self-interested individuals versus a society that works for some notion of a public good inevitably brings up the questions of what role the internet plays in this dynamic.  For example, in the 21st century, does the internet and technology itself acts as extension of that freedom? Does it allow for greater fundraising efforts thus providing a stronger basis for non-profit organizations? Or perhaps, although it’s a less popular view, is it possible that the internet is merely a continuation in the repression of citizens?