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Surveillance Society & the Increasing Scarcity of Privacy

Below are some readings that dig into the increasing surveillance of today’s society. In many instances, these new surveillance methods are first being tested in Las Vegas & prisons, and then brought into every day life, most notably through companies searching for the next best way to track consumers.

Required Reading:

Recommended Reading:


Weekly Summary: Networking, Notworking, and What to do Next?

Networks – The Science-Spanning Disciplines - Anna Nagurney

Dr. Anna Nagurney is a professor in the Department of Finance and Operations Management at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the Founding Director of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks. You can read more about her on her blog here.

In Nagurney’s presentation (from 2005), she enthusiastically discusses the pervasiveness of networks in people’s every day lives and how they’re essential to the functioning of societies and economies. She notes that networks are imperative parts of business, social systems, science, technology, and education by providing their very infrastructure.

Background of Networks

Transportation is one of the most essential forms of networks, and can also be one of the most complex. Nagurney uses the concept of the transportation network throughout her presentation to help explain a number of different points. This network is so important because transportation is used not only to facilitate face-to-face communication, but also to provide access to other networks. Anna notes in her speech that there are 3 basic network components:

  • Nodes
    • Ex. Transportation intersections, homes, work places
  • Links or Arcs
    • Could have direction or be bidirectional or just represent connections without any type of direction
    • Ex. Roads, railroad tracks
  • Flows
    • Means various things within different contexts and applications
    • Without these, (with just nodes and links), one is essentially talking about a graph
    • Ex. Cars, trains

The Study of Networks

From a scientific methodology standpoint, to her, the beauty of studying networks lies in finding problems where one might think no network exists. Much like we talked about last week concerning the sense that there’s a plethora of virtual interconnections taking place every day on the street that go unnoticed, Anna searches for these happenings and looks to study how they interact as a network. She explains that, “the study of networks is not limited to only physical networks, but also to abstract networks in which nodes do not coincide to locations in space.” More specifically, the study of networks involves:

  • Forming these applications as mathematical units
  • Studying these models from a qualitative perspective
  • Creating algorithms to solve the ensuing model

The studying of networks has elicited 3 classic problems:

  • The Shortest Path Problem
    • The search to move flows in the most efficient way from an origin to one or more destinations
    • Ex. Transportation; minimizing storage needed for books in a library
  • The Maximum Flow Problem
    • Figuring out the capacity of the network
    • Ex. Network reliability testing; Building evacuation
  • The Minimum Cost Flow Problem
    • The search to find the flow pattern that minimizes the total cost, without exceeding capacity
    • Ex. Warehousing & distribution; biology; finance- asset liability management

This scientific approach to studying networks seeks to determine patterns within networks, which can then aid in unifying a variety of applications.

Characteristics of Today’s Networks

In the past, congestion was not such a huge problem, but now it is becoming more and more so. This can even be considered when talking about social networks, with Nagurney explaining that with, “a push of a button, you can reach 10s of thousands of millions” of people.

The behavior of users is also an important characteristic to consider. Users, both on an individual and group level, can behave in a variety of ways within a network. This can even lead to alternative behaviors and paradoxes, such as the Braess Paradox. The paradox highlights the cost to society concerning user optimization vs. system optimization.

The Supernetwork

Nagurney postulates that it’s time for a new paradigm: that of the supernetwork. These supernetworks can be connected, multilevel, or even multi-criteria. It’s important to not only study individual decision-making, but “the effect of many competing, collaborating, cooperating.”

With these supernetworks, come new tools to study them, including game theory and optimization theory. She also lists a few common applications of these supernetworks, including knowledge networks, teleshopping decision-making, and electronic transactions.

Nagurney then explores how these supernetworks can integrate social networks, by looking at types of relationships. The value and strength of the relationships that are fostered become the “flows” in social networks. She explains that establishing relationships incurs costs, but with higher relationship levels comes a reduction in costs and risk and an increase in value. The belief in social responsibility of the users and the fact that social networks are dynamic and ever-changing are important factors to consider when studying these networks.

The Principle of Notworking - Geert Lovink

Dr. Geert Lovink is a Research Professor of Interactive Media at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and an Associate Professor of New Media at the University of Amsterdam. His book The Principle of Notworking was published in 2005.

Throughout the first section (“Multitude, Network and Culture”) of Lovink’s book The Principle of Notworking, Lovink mainly quotes George Yudice, Antonio Negri, and Michael Hardt. (In 2003, Yudice wrote the book The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era, where he theorizes about the changing role of culture in a world that’s becoming more global-oriented. Negri and Hardt co-wrote the books Empire (2000) and Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of the Empire (2004). While Empire was about corporations and global institutions coming to the forefront, Multitude centered on the population of the ‘empire,’ explaining that this body is defined by its diversity.)

Lovink begins his book by explaining the importance of analyzing culture as a resource, rather than a commodity, which he argues is especially important when discussing Internet culture. He believes that the commercial efforts of the dotcom models during the late 1990s were “wrong.” He argues that the, “culturalization of the Internet is at hand,” and, like Nagurney, seeks to present the importance of the user over the system.

Much like Nagurney stated in her presentation, Lovink also recognizes that an important aspect of Internet culture is that it is in, “a permanent flux.” He explains that experts on the Internet are still having trouble comprehending this, though, mentioning that it is a “cultural turn.” He notes that those having trouble seeing the Internet as something constantly changing still see the Internet as a commodity and tend to hold theories of “religious nature.”

In accordance with his belief of the importance of the user over the system, he believes that more sufficient research is required on the subject and does not believe Nagurney’s scientific approach is adequate. With this, he thinks that new media needs a language of its own, which will be more inclusive of his idea of networks as “post-human.”

Lovink also explains the importance of having different communities come together (similar to a point Nagurney makes). He sees this happening with the outsourcing of IT, which allows for the chance of “cultural mingling.” But, while networks have the opportunity to foster creativity, cooperation, and a sense of liberation, they can also be used for the purpose of control. This is mentioned through his discussion of the ‘protocol’ theory and Gilles Deleuze’s ideas of ‘the control society.’

What Lovink believes defines today’s networks, he describes through the term “notworking.” It is elements that go awry within the make-up of the network from yesterday that help to shape the network of today. These examples of “notworking,” such as spam and viruses stem from the “frustrated mind” – those, “who breach the consensus culture,” and are pushed to the outer boundaries of the network.

Review of The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (2 Reviews + 1 Response)

The Exploit: A Theory of Networks is a book co-written by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, which was published in 2007. It is a theoretical book about how networks operate, their political implications, and how flaws in the system can lead to positive change. Galloway is an associate professor in the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University. Eugene Thacker is an associate professor of new media in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Review 1: Daniel Gilfillan

Daniel Gilfillan is Associate Professor of German Studies and Information Literacy, and Affiliate Faculty in Film and Media Studies and Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. Read more about him and his work on his Academic Portfolio site.

Gilfillan’s review of The Exploit mainly focuses on commending Galloway and Thacker for presenting a contemporary understanding of networks. Like Lovink, Gilfillan, Galloway, and Thacker recognize that networks are used for control purposes and consumerism (also referencing Deleuze and his “control societies” and “dataveillance” concepts).

What Gilfillan is mainly concerned with is the concept of pushing past this, “system of control,” by taking advantage of openings within it, which can lead to something new and progressive. Similar to Lovink’s point of what makes networking is the “notworking,” Gilfillan agrees with Galloway and Thacker that it is these “flaws” within networks that makes progressive change possible. In relation to this, Gilfillan discusses Galloway and Thacker’s belief that there is a new balance between networks- an “alliance between ‘control’ and ‘emergence.’” But, a new type of asymmetry must be found that takes advantage of inconstancies within a network; Galloway and Thacker call this need both the “antiweb” and “an exceptional topology.”

While networks need hierarchical systems of control, it is also important to have aspects of a decentralized system of distribution. This helps to allow for this asymmetry, and hence, flaws within the system. Gilfillan notes that it’s here that allows for the possibility for “counterprotocol practices,” making advancement possible: “it will be sculpted into something better, something in closer agreement with the real wants and desires of its users” (from Galloway & Thacker).

He gives the following definitions as a guide to the exploitation of these flaws:

  • Vector: The exploit requires a medium where an action or motion can take place
  • Flaw: The exploit needs weaknesses within the network, enabling the exposure of the vector
  • Transgression: The exploit then creates a change within the ontology of the network, making the “failure” of the network an alteration in its topology

Review 2: Nathaniel Tkacz

Nathaniel Tkacz is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, where he’s researching the, “political dynamic of Open Projects (projects influenced by the principles and production models of Free and of Open Source Software, but translated into different domains).” Read more about him and his work on his research site.

While protocol was a minor detail in the overall message presented by Gilfillian, this was the main topic of discussion for Tkacz. He explains, “protocol is a set of rules or codes that enables, modulates, and governs a specific network and also a general logic of governance for all networks.” It is a form of control and a way of, “directing flows of information,” which he equates to the Panopticon in Foucault’s disciplinary society.

But, this protocol allows for the exploitation of the flaws within it- it becomes the “target of resistance.” Rather than changing existing technologies to promote transformation, “protological struggles,” emerge that entail, “discovering holes in existing technologies and projecting potential change through these holes.” These “holes” are called “exploits” by hackers.

From here, Tkacz goes on to explain a number of ‘limitations” he feels the book has. Tkacz believes that the way the book was structured created some limitations in itself (the book was written as a ‘network,’ which Tkacz believed left things underdeveloped). Another problem that Tkacz sees is that the book relies too heavily on the “old centralized/decentralized dichotomy,” rather than holding firm to one of the main claims of their book: networks can take numerous forms. A third dilemma he had is that he found the idea behind the authors’ protocol/exploit argument less persuasive as it moved from the specific, more important details to the general points.

Author Response: Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker

The authors begin their response by noting that Gilfillan mentioned one of the key points of the book: “the uncannily anonymous, network tactics demonstrated by ‘pliant and vigorous nonhuman actors.’” They explain their interest in the view that networks are, “something beyond the human altogether.” While networks might have once originated from human means, in their functioning as a network, they have lost their most essential human qualities. Viruses on networks don’t thrive because the network is “down” and not working properly; rather, they excel because of the very fact that the networks are working just as they should be. This is similar to a point that Lovink makes of networks being “post-human.”

Looking at both Gilfillan’s and Tkacz’s mention of Foucault and Deleuze being used in The Exploit, Galloway and Thacker clear up their reasoning behind using Foucault’s ideas. The two authors were not looking at Foucault’s work concerning discipline-surveillance; rather, they looked to build upon his work in biopolitics and security. Similarly, the authors note that the influential aspects of Deleuze did not just lie in his essay on “control societies.” Rather, it was in connecting that concept to his interest in the notions of immanence and univocity (the belief, expanded upon from Spinoza, that there are no numerically separate substances).

The authors ultimately ask: what should be done concerning these networks? “Should we as humans learn to be more like nonhumans?” They explain that there have been a number of responses to their question throughout philosophy. But, there are three in particular that they deem important. The first being the “’master of the universe’ attitude.” This says that exploits, such as viruses, must be eliminated. The opposite of this viewpoint is that of the agnostic. Here, it is accepted that, “the world is lost in the hands of technology, dry and lifeless after the passage into modernity.” The third thought process is that within this “dry and lifeless” world, lies something new and emergent at the core.

The authors leave us with the question, “Can there be an ontology of networks?” Must there always be an outside mediator to the network? Can a network topology express itself from within?

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.

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?

Fear vs. Love

In The Trap by Adam Curtis, I noticed how people were acting out of - fear.

Things didn’t feel right.  There existed this eerie sense of ‘something wasn’t right’.  Check out –  The Roots – Don’t Feel Right.   Robert Nash suffered from schizophrenia which lead to his game theory equilibrium that ultimately served as a model for fighting the Cold War.  The US and the Soviet Union did not communicate with each other.  Thus, it engendered a large scale and extremely dangerous prisoner’s dilemma with nuclear arms race .  Paranoia and hysteria from the spread of communism set in.  People felt trapped.  People were scared. Isolation of each side bred this large scale stratagem.  How childish can we get?!?!  Come on, pick up the red phone and talk to the other side already.  Instead, the two countries just sat in their opposing corners plotting, spying, walking around a little, scheming, flexing their muscles to threaten the other side, and ultimately causing the other to fear nuclear annihilation.  Nevertheless, competition between countries at times can get very ugly.

Then R.D. Laing, James Buchanan, Margaret Thatcher, Isaiah Berlin, and others utilizing these theories of humans acting out of selfishness and strategizing in their best interest somehow impacts politics, economics, psychiatry, anthropology, etc. affirming this bleak and dismal perspective that we are ‘trapped‘.  Interestingly enough, when the game theory was tested on RAND’s secretaries, they did not betray each other as was expected.  Instead, the secretaries disproved the theory that humans act out of selfishness and fear of being betrayed by another all the time.  Now why couldn’t the US and the Soviet Union do the same thing???  Did the fact that the secretaries were women have anything to do with the results?  Was it a gender issue?  Take a look at Dilbert as he understands the dilemma that he faces…

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Since the Cold War was marked with fear, paranoia, hysteria, isolation, entrapment, etc.  I thought to myself, “What if the US didn’t act out of fear or selfishness?”  Why does the US need to always feel the need to win and assert itself as the dominant power?  Why does the US feel that democracy is better than communism?  Is it because we fear the control of the state?  Hmmmmmmm…. Interesting >  Obviously, the montage-littered and propaganda-like documentary  demonstrated how the US and even Britain pushed democracy and the ideals of freedom throughout the world to combat their fear of communism from overtaking the world.  However, even democracy and liberty came with a price tag.  This inherent theme throughout the video of fear and entrapment from the loss of freedom lead me to investigate the two polar opposites of fear and love.

Fear vs. love.

Do they sit at opposite ends of the spectrum taunting each other like two little kids at the playground or are they innate feelings and/or emotions deeply imbedded in us in which we act out of – either selfishly or unselfishly?

What is fear?  What is love?

>>  First I’d like to start off with a debate found in the movie Donny Darko (2001), where Donny (Jake Gyllenhall) is sitting in health class arguing that you can’t dilute the whole gamut of human emotions into acting out of love or fear. Or can we?  See for yourself:

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Why do we fear being controlled?  Why do we fear given up our freedom?  Why do we fear losing our free-will to choose?

In the case of the Cold War, the US feared annihilation from nuclear bombs.  The US feared communism and its entrapment. So, to combat this fear, the US tried to assert its ideologies of democracy and freedom at all cost.  The fear of losing the war motivated the US to succeed and be the best.  Thus, the Soviet Union and communism fell and the US and democracy succeeded.  But what triumphed?  And at what cost?  Why did we feel the need to push our Western democracy and idealogy of freedom on Iraq in 2003?  Was the US acting out of love for protecting its freedoms and ideals and/or was it also acting out of fear from losing that to others???

Here is Chazz Palminteri acting out a monologue from his play and adapted screenplay A Bronx Tale (1993). This brings us to another tangent of fear vs. love in the sense of Niccoló Machiavelli’s The Prince.

It is precisely this moralistic view of authority that Machiavelli criticizes at length in his best-known treatise, The Prince… Thus, in direct opposition to a moralistic theory of politics, Machiavelli says that the only real concern of the political ruler is the acquisition and maintenance of power For Machiavelli, power characteristically defines political activity, and hence it is necessary for any successful ruler to know how power is to be used. Only by means of the proper application of power, Machiavelli believes, can individuals be brought to obey and will the ruler be able to maintain the state in safety and security.  - Excerpt taken from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

So how do we reconcile love and fear?  Is it an issue of power then?  Why are we at the political level of the state or even at the smallest level of human relationships so concerned with power and authority?  I definitely believe that the Cold War and any war for that matter is obviously rooted in the struggle for power, authority, dominance, selfishness, and pride.  And yet, fear and betrayl became the driving force behind the “Cold” War.  It was cold, lonely, and scary.

And yet oddly enough, I feel that fear can also produce respect and reverence, but it can also produce ineffectiveness and pressure to perform.  This was evident in The Trap when Britain adopted a plan to measure everything out and create targets, quotas, and requirements that people had to meet.  What this ultimately resulted in was people ‘gaming the system’ to look good.  Fear can be a dangerous thing because it can cause us to act in a way that is selfish and dangerous.  I think that a balance of both fear and love is ultimately the best > For example, I will use the relationship between a father and son to illustrate my point.

The son should respect his father and fear him.  The fear should keep the son acting in a morally pleasing way.  The son should fear the consequences if he acts in a way that displeases the father.  On the other hand, the son should love his father because the father protects the son, teaches the son, gives to the son, and overall loves the son.  In this way love and fear are working hand-in-hand.  Too much of fear or love is no good.  For example, too much fear can hinder and stifle one from growing.  On the contrary, too much love can also be harmful.  A parent doesn’t always give their child everything that he or she wants all the time.  Sometimes, the parent acts by using discretion and forgoes giving the child what they want because its not beneficial to them.  In other words, love can limit the freedom of a person to act in a certain way for his or her own good. Besides, fear can also hinder one’s freedom to act in a certain way for his or her own good.  Either way, love or fear has the power to limit the person’s liberty to choose or act.  In the end, acting in love and in an unselfish way would be the best option in my opinion.   However, when you choose to love you will ultimately enable the possibility to restrict your freedom and forgo your power.

So I will leave you with the Machiavellian question >  Is is better to be feared or loved?

1st Travelogue: The Aftershocks of Ineffective Therapy

The part of The Trap that caught my attention and particularly disturbed me was the discussion towards the end of the documentary about negative liberty and the attempt to use this political philosophy on Russia. I had trouble agreeing with the concept of negative liberty because it promotes a society without ideas. To me, this seems utterly contradictory to true freedom, which is what was trying to be accomplished. While negative liberty promotes the individual’s ability to do whatever they please, it also hinders the individual from finding purpose in one’s life. Consequently, in the case of Russia, it seems that authorities were creating an illusion of freedom for the population, rather than providing true freedom and reform.

When the group of American advisors, led by Jeffrey Sachs, tried to put the theory of negative liberty into effect through their plan of “shock therapy,” it proved to be a disaster. A Time Magazine article notes that in January of 1992 when the therapy was being implemented, “The lines outside food stores in Russia grow longer and longer, and the people standing in them grow angrier and angrier.” Yet, this idea of “freedom” was continually pushed onto the society.

I feel as though Sachs and his group of advisors were too strict in their plan, not allowing for mistakes. They tried to push a certain viewpoint on the whole of society, without taking into account the people of that particular society. Isaiah Berlin, the philosopher that further defined the idea of negative liberty from the time of Kant, even noted that being too steadfast to one idea will only lead to its collapse:

“It is seldom, moreover, that there is only one model that determines our thought; men (or cultures) obsessed at their models are rare, and while they may be more coherent at their strongest, they tend to collapse more violently when, in the end, their concepts are blown up by reality – experienced events, ‘inner’ or ‘outer’ that get in the way.” (from ‘Does Political Theory Still Exist?, 1962; http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/berlin.htm)

I do not think a specific, structured mode of developing a society and promoting a certain notion of freedom will ultimately succeed. The plan must have room to grow and breathe with the society it is supposed to be helping. Additionally, to take away the ability for individuals to control their own lives and develop their own sense of fundamental purpose, for the sake of being free to do as they wish, is inherently not free.

First Travelogue: The Trap & New Media

Next week we will start our first journal series. Please follow these instructions:

  1. Watch Adam Curtis’s The Trap: What Happened To Our Dream Of Freedom
  2. Each choose one topic that stood out, intrigued, irritated, disturbed or made you tick in any way and try to discover the discourse around it through research and expand it through your own commentary.
  3. Write at least one posts to the class blog before Sunday, 4pm. Make sure to include references and links where needed and to expose the discussion in an enticing post that would make the rest of the class interested enough to discuss it.
  4. Choose at least three of the posts published by other students in the class and comment on them (in the post’s comments section).
  5. Be prepared to present the posts you chose to react to next week to the class.
  6. Additionally: Write a short comment to the Trap post about how do you see the relevancy of the trap to the new media discourse.

Required material:

Suggested Material:


  • Read the two articles and listen to the On The Media segment
  • Summarize it for us in a nicely accessible post to be published by Sunday 4pm
  • Be prepared to present the article in class
  • Post to del.icio.us some links that expand the discussion either about the text or about key themes in it.
  • Enjoy.

See you all next week.

The Trap / Adam Curtis

A BBC documentary series by Adam Curtis. More about it from Wikipedia.

I have embedded all the files here in the blog but in case you have a problem watching or prefer the option to watch it in full-screen, I have also uploaded it to my server, where you can download it as a Quicktime video.

Part I:

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