Monday 21 November 2005

Big Brother Of Digital Living

In early November, reports surfaced that music CDs distributed by Sony BMG Music Entertainment had embedded hidden anti-piracy software known as Extended Copy Protection (ECP) inside personal computers used to play its CDs. The ECP software was installed in the form of a “rootkit” that were designed to evade detection by anti-virus or anti-spyware software. While the rootkit itself was not malicious, concerns quickly arose among security experts that other malware might easily exploit this rootkit to piggyback malicious codes. Initially, Sony BMG defended its policy on Digital Rights Management (DRM) by citing its disclosure on the use of such software in its End-User License Agreement (EULA). While I firmly support the need to protect copyrighted materials, I believe Sony BMG had acted in bad faith and not in the spirit of the EULA here. More importantly, such “big brother” mentality assumed an ignorance or indifference among its users that were quickly proven wrong in this case. Last week, the media conglomerate finally admitted to its wrongdoings and recalled all CDs using this copy-protection scheme. A removal tool had also been developed by the company to uninstall the unwanted software. Although its action may signal the beginning of an end to this DRM debacle, it also signals the beginning of a new threat in the era of digital living—the prospect of a big brother who is secretly watching every use of our digital media.

By Philip Jong • At 05:38 AM • Under Column • Under Tech • Under World
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Monday 07 November 2005

The Generation Gap Of Blogging

Last week the Associated Press reported a survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that found nearly a fifth of all school-age teenagers in the US had their own blogs. This compared to only about seven percent of all adults who were bloggers. The researchers cited the main reason that teenagers blogged was a desire to be in touch with friends and peers. What has not been said is that such finding also reflects a fundamental change in how our youths communicate with each other as compared to previous generations. This change is more than a mere embrace of new technology but a philosophical adoption of changing means in human interaction. In these blogs, teens can openly express their thoughts and feelings, often anonymously. Other teens can then post their honest responses online. Consequently, blogging has become the high-tech bridge on which open communication takes place in the teen world—a feat that the adult world of today has yet to master.

By Philip Jong • At 01:47 PM • Under Column • Under Tech • Under World
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Wednesday 31 August 2005

Does Video Game Violence Lead To Real Life Violence?

I am an avid gamer. I have played many video games that feature fantasized violence and stimulated killing of in game characters. In recent years, much media attention has been paid on linking video game violence to real life violence, especially in teenagers and young adults who are the primary consumers of video games. Reports of real life teenage and gang shootings have repeatedly cast blame on violent video games because of their potential to desensitize gamers to the murdering of human beings.

Scientific studies that attempt to establish a linkage between video game violence and real life violence have so far been inconclusive, and it is doubtful that a study can ever be done to conclusively confirm or refute this association. Even in cases where the accusers have claimed that the murders have been directly inspired by violent video games, isolated examples such as these cannot be used to establish an epidemiological association between video game violence and real life violence. A recent example is the highly publicized murder of three police officers in Alabama, US by a teenager who later confessed that he was inspired to kill after playing Grand Theft Auto from Rockstar Games. This is because it is not possible to exclude other factors that may be the true underlying causes of violent behaviors in these individuals or other factors that may confound the relationship between the two phenomena of interest.

We should be reminded that long before video games existed, classic works of literature also existed that were filled with stories of violence and murder. If we are to cast blame on video games, then we must also cast blame on these works of literature for promoting violence in our society. The fault thus lies not on whether violence should be portrayed but on whether violence is portrayed responsibly. If violence is accurately portrayed with due moral consequences, then individuals who are exposed may also absorb the moral value that keeps them from acting irresponsibly, regardless of the medium where the violence is portrayed. Blame should not be cast only on individuals who have committed the murderous act in real life; blame may also need to be cast on game publishers that choose to sell video games that portray violence in an irresponsible fashion.

By Philip Jong • At 11:23 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech
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Monday 29 August 2005

The Pitfall Of Blogging “On The Record”

Professional journalists are faced daily with the responsibility of going “on the record” in their writings. Those who are willing to speak “on the record” are often seen to be more credible than those who are willing to speak only in the shadow of anonymity. With few exceptions, this fact also differentiates good from poor journalism. Similarly, an unwritten rule of blogging is that you are forever bound to the words written in your blog. This is because once the content of your blog appears online, a copy of it will always exist somewhere else in cyberspace. Many search engines today, such as Google, cache the content of all web pages which they index. These caches then become indefinite records of what have been written by you online. Even years after the original blog is deleted, a copy of it may be retrieved online elsewhere. When I blog, I am keenly aware that my blog will also be “on the record” and that I will be ethically accountable to the words in my blog. Such is the price for establishing my voice in this online world.

By Philip Jong • At 03:03 PM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech
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Sunday 28 August 2005

Is On Demand Broadcast The Future Of Television And Radio?

The era of push content by the mainstream media is coming to an end. This traditional model has been used since the invent of radio and television whereby the user just passively absorb contents delivered by these medium. The invent of the internet has forced the mainstream media to shift the way information is delivered to its audience and to give its user the power on what content to select. The popularity of on demand television and radio signals another shift in the paradigm on how content is delivered through these medium. I am a heavy user of personal video recorder (PVR). The PVR allows me to select only the shows that I like to watch and gives me the freedom to when I watch those shows. Recently, I have become a Podcast user. Podcasting lets me subscribe to radio shows of my choice and listen to them at my leisure. Today, PVR and Podcasting have largely replaced my antiquated way of how I use television and radio. The future of these medium lies with on demand broadcasting where the user will have complete control of content delivery in both time and space. I doubt that Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of television) and John Baird (the inventor of radio) would have envisioned these changes on how information is delivered through their inventions.

By Philip Jong • At 12:33 PM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech
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Saturday 27 August 2005

The Two Faces Of BitTorrent

BitTorrent is fast becoming the next “killer app” for the internet. Created by Bram Cohen, it is now receiving mainstream media attention to the level that rivals that of Napster of yesteryear. Recently, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had both taken notice of BitTorrent’s potential to further privacy of copyrighted media such as music and movies. As with Napster, BitTorrent has gained mainstream acceptance because of its ease of use, large user base, and vast sources of free content. While BitTorrent has been used to distribute legal materials online, it has also become the tool of choice for pirates to distribute copyrighted materials illegally. Opponents of BitTorrent are quick to point to the unethical use of this technology as the reason why BitTorrent should be banned. Yet, such argument is self-defeating and ignores legal precedents set by past technological innovations that it is the user of the medium and not the medium itself which violates the law. The most cited example is Sony’s Betamax VCR in which the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sony against University City Studios in 1984.

There should be no doubt that any piece of technology, including BitTorrent, can be used for both good and evil. As a legal BitTorrent user, I believe that denial of such technoology only serves to limit the spirit of innovation that drives our progress. Instead, the solution should lie in striking a balance in the use of this novel tool for the betterment of society.

By Philip Jong • At 12:10 PM • Under Column • Under Tech
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Friday 26 August 2005

Is Blogging A Tool Or A Fad?

While many internet trends had started online, few achieved critical mass to remain sustainable. Blogging has become one such rare phenomenon. It is now ubiquitous among the online culture. The power and freedom to “speak” by blogging are powerful lures to individuals who are seeking a voice in the vast space of the online world. In this world, the integrity of an opinion is judged only by the character of the writing and its content, blinded to the tyranny of political, economical, and social oppressions. Yet, unlike traditional forms of print, blogging crosses all lines of geography, politic, and culture. Professional journalists, whose opinions are often the most valued in our society, are now blogging to reach out to new audiences that are otherwise not targeted by traditional media. An example was Brian Williams who became the first mainstream journalist and network news anchor to start blogging in May 2005 on “The Daily Nightly” at MSNBC. Blogging is not a fad but a tool of communication that is here to stay.

By Philip Jong • At 10:37 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Tech
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