Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Category: Education (page 1 of 4)

This category dominantly identifies educational Web2.0-style posts.

How To Get Your Personal Information From Social Networks

Photo by Evan Long

Canadian news routinely highlights the ‘dangers’ that can be associated with social networking companies collecting and storing information about Canadian citizens. Stories and articles regularly discuss how hackers can misuse your personal information, how companies store ‘everything’ about you, and how collected data is disclosed to unscrupulous third parties. While many of these stories are accurate, insofar as they cover specific instances of harm and risky behaviour, they tend to lack an important next step; they rarely explain how Canadians can get educated on data collection, retention, and disclosure processes.

Let’s be honest: any next step has to be reasonable. Expecting Canadians to flee social media en masse and return to letter writing isn’t an acceptable (or, really, an appropriate) response. Similarly, saying “tighten your privacy controls” or “be careful what you post” are of modest value, at best; many Canadians are realizing that tightening their privacy controls does little when the companies can (and do) change their privacy settings without any notice. This post is inspired by a different next step. Rather than being inspired by fear emergent from ‘the sky is falling’ news stories, what if you were inspired by knowledge that you, yourself, gained? In what follows I walk you through how to compel social networking companies to disclose what information they have about you. In the process of filing these requests you’ll learn a lot more about being a member of these social networking services and, based on what you learn, can decide whether you want to change your involvement with particular social media companies.

I start by explaining why Canadians have a legal right to compel companies to disclose and make available the information that they retain about Canadian citizens. I then provide a template letter that you can send to social networking organizations with which you have a preexisting relationship. This template is, in effect, a tool that you can use to compel companies to disclose your personal information. After providing the template I explain the significance of some of the items contained in it. Next, I outline some of the difficulties or challenges you might have in requesting your personal information and a few ways to counteract those problems. Finally, I explain how you can complain if a company does not meet its legal obligation to provide you with a copy of your personal information. By the end of this post, you’ll have everything you need to request your personal information from the social networking services to which you subscribe. Continue reading

Publication – Digital Inflections: Post-Literacy and the Age of Imagination

Earlier this year I was contacted by CTheory to find and interview interesting people that are doing work at the intersection of theory, digitality, and information. Michael Ridley, the Chief Information Officer and Chief Librarian at the University of Guelph, was the first person that came to mind. I met with Michael earlier this year for a face-to-face discussion, and our conversation has since been transcribed and published at CTheory. Below is the full introduction to the interview.

“… [O]ne of the things about librarians is that they’re subversive in the nicest possible ways. They’ve been doing the Wikileak thing for centuries, but just didn’t get the credit for it. This is what we try to do all the time; we try to reduce the barriers and open up that information.”
— Michael Ridley

Self-identifying as the University’s Head Geek and Chief Dork, Michael Ridley leads a life of the future by reconfiguring access to the past. As Chief Librarian and Chief Information Office of the University of Guelph, Ridley spends his days integrating digital potentialities and the power of imagination with the cultural and historical resources of the library. Seeing the digital as a liminal space between the age of the alphabet and an era of post-literacy, he is transforming the mission of libraries: gone are the days where libraries primarily focus on developing collections. Today, collections are the raw materials fueling the library as a dissonance engine, an engine enabling collaborative, cross-disciplinary imaginations.

With a critical attitude towards the hegemony of literacy, combined with a prognostication of digitality’s impending demise, Ridley’s position at the University of Guelph facilitates radical reconsiderations of the library’s present and forthcoming roles. He received his M.L.S. from the University of Toronto, his M.A from the University of New Brunswick, and has been a professional librarian since 1979. So far, Michael has served as President of the Canadian Association for Information Science, President of the Ontario Library Association, Board member of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, and Chair of the Ontario Council of Universities. He is presently a board member of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network and of the Canadian University Council of CIOs. He has received an array of awards, and was most recently awarded the Miles Blackwell Award for Outstanding Academic Librarians by the Canadian Association of College and University Libraries. Ridley has published extensively about the intersection of networks, digital systems, and libraries, including “The Online Catalogue and the User,” “Providing Electronic Library Reference Service: Experiences from the Indonesia-Canada Tele-Education Project,” “Computer-Mediated Communications Systems,” and “Community Development in the Digital World.” He has also co-edited volumes one and two of The Public-Access Computer Systems Review. Lately, his work has examined the potentials of post-literacy, which has seen him teach an ongoing undergraduate class on literacy and post-literacy as well as giving presentations and publishing on the topic.

Read the full conversation at CTheory

Universities Struggle to Cope with Anti-Piracy Requirements

copyrightussatireUniversities in the US have been deeply burdened by the Higher Education Opportunity Act that President Bush signed into law last year. In particular, the Act require that “schools ensure they are doing all they can to combat illegal file sharing among students. The new rules, according to the wording contained in the legislation, requires institutions to develop plans to “effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material, including through the use of a variety of technology-based deterrents.” Schools must also “to the extent practicable, offer alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property.” Any institute found to be non-compliant could lose federal funding” (Source).

To combat unauthorized distributions, technological solutions such as bandwidth shaping and traffic monitoring need to be implemented. Such solutions need to be integrated with advanced DMCA response practices. Of course, some of the companies that are being courted to meet these demands are those that incorporate DPI into their copyright ‘solutions’. I’ve discussed, generally, how these technologies work on campuses from iPoque’s position when writing about one of the company’s whitepapers. In that post, I wrote, Continue reading

Three-Strike Copyright

3252727498_b002dc08f8To fully function as a student in today’s Western democracies means having access access to the Internet. In some cases this means students use Content Management Systems (CMSs) such as Drupal, Blackboard, or wikis (to name a few examples) to submit homework and participate in collaborate group assignments. CMSs are great because teachers can monitor the effectiveness of student’s group contributions and retain timestamps of when the student has turned in their work. Thus, when Sally doesn’t turn in her homework for a few weeks, and ‘clearly’ isn’t working with her group in the school-sanctioned CMS, the teacher can call home and talk with Sally’s parents about Sally’s poor performance.

At least, that’s the theory.

Three-Strike Copyright and Some Numbers

I’m not going to spend time talking about the digital divide (save to note that it’s real, and it penalises students in underprivileged environments by preventing them from acting as an equal in the digitized classroom), nor am I going to talk about the inherent privacy and security issues that arise as soon as teacher use digital management systems. No, I want to turn our attention across the Atlantic to Britain, where the British parliament will soon be considering legislation that would implement a three-strike copyright enforcement policy. France is in the process of implementing a similar law (with the expectation that it will be in place by summer 2008), which will turn ISPs into data police. Under these policies if a user (read: household) is caught infringing on copyright three times (they get two warnings) they can lose access to the ‘net following the third infringement.

Continue reading

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