EDUCATION AFTER THE PANDEMIC: REFORM AND RENATIONALISATION

By Howard Green

Tony Blair, upon his election into government in 1997, famously declared that his top three priorities were “Education, education and education”. At the other end of the century, Vladimir Lenin proclaimed that education that didn’t teach about life and politics was indeed a “hypocrisy”. Education has been a central focus of politics for over a hundred years, and today is no different. As the Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted conventional ways of learning for many, the modern British educational system needs short term and long term reform if it is to adapt to the issues of the 21st century. With the advent of Zoom lessons and online assessments, now is the time to explore the full potential of digital technology as the new frontier of education.

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HATEBOOK: DOES THIS GO AGAINST YOUR COMMUNITY STANDARDS?

By Jonathan Lee

Cw: hate speech, extremism

Ever seen a comment on Facebook that really riled you up?

Probably. But I mean one that really floored you – stopped you mid-scroll, and in a red mist, made you click those three innocuous little dots on the right and Submit to Facebook for Review?

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SOCIAL PRESCRIBING – CURING LONELINESS IN OUR DISTANCING SOCIETY

By Nicholl Hardwick, for The Grow Organisation

In contemporary Britain, our lives are pervaded with unique health and economic pressures. Capitalism, globalisation, Brexit and the internet have all contributed to a new era of loneliness, community isolation and disconnectedness. We may go days at a time without speaking or having sentimental engagement with another person. In particular, elderly members of the community frequently fall to the wayside as our distancing society ceases to encourage them to function as active participants.

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THE MYTH OF THE MILLENNIAL

by Jonathan Lee

Ten Things Every Successful Social Justice Blogger Does.
Exasperated Writer Was About to Give Up, What Happens Next Will Have You In Tears!
The Five Worst Millennial Clickbait Headlines That You Just Won’t Believe.

Horrific isn’t it.

I was recently asked what my biggest pet peeve is about the way people talk about my generation. Perhaps the phrase pet peeve is one of my pet peeves. Maybe the fact that even the words – pet peeve – make me cringe, may say something about me and my reluctant membership of Generation Y.Continue Reading

DEEPGREY (9)

by Rob Harding

(Part 9 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Part 1part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8)

I stay hidden while Adil opens up again, rates the police on their app, and sends them packing. Once that’s done, Adil’s daughter nods to me. ‘You’re welcome.’ She says. ‘Now, if you don’t mind?’

I stammer my thanks and head out the front again. Adil nods to me and lets me duck under a shutter, and back out onto the street.

There’s no sign of the police, or the hijacked DeepGrey workers, or anything particular. A Community Security bot has rolled into place at the far end of the street, but if I don’t go near it it won’t ID me and do the digital equivalent of the staring-eyed pod person screech. I’ve long since resigned to having to work around the damn things, and these days I only vaguely keep track of the forum posters who fight a constant arms race with their glassy-eyed developers out in San Francisco or Vientiane, or wherever the fuck has the most reliably gullible investors this week.Continue Reading

DEEPGREY (8)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 8 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Part 1part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7) | CW: violence

The woman on the street is making those noises as the shouting starts again, the raw-throat all-out hate that only hysterical men can shriek. I barely recognise what they’re saying.

The woman coughs and sobs again, and I hear a fleshy impact, like the sound of a shoe hitting a stomach.

And then there’s the wail of a siren, right around the corner, and the burglar-alarm scream of an LRAD blots out all other sound. A huge armoured police car with tires as tall as I am comes grinding down the street, a pair of armed officers walking alongside it. The turret on top is swinging to bring a grenade launcher to bear against the fight. Hopefully they won’t fire it. I like this jacket, and the stink of chemical riot dispersant is designed with a half-life of about fifty years.Continue Reading

DEEPGREY (7)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 7 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Part 1part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6) | CW: violence, language

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I push the shop door open, and nod to Adil. He smiles back, salt-and-pepper beard twitching, and goes back to watching an old taped football match on his TV. I like Adil, even though we rarely talk. He’s a paid-up inhabitant of the Real World, the proverbial Englishman whose home is his castle, running his shop and veg garden like the world around him isn’t going to hell. I imagine his sitting room’s a comfortable throwback to the last millennium, kettle boiling and football on the TV glaring off the brown wallpaper.

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ENGINEERING UTOPIA: CHINA’S PROJECT FOR DESIGNING ‘TRUSTWORTHINESS’

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by Justin Reynolds

Visions of a great civilisation enjoying ‘peace under heaven’ have haunted the Chinese imagination from the time of the sages to today, when President Xi Jingping’s ‘China Dream’ of a prosperous ordered nation is propagated ceaselessly by the state-controlled media.

Here hypermodernity is filtered through ancient virtues. China’s gleaming new cities, high-speed rail links and technology parks are studded with billboards urging honesty, modesty and filial piety. Its vast wired economy is screened for decadent Western influences, blocking Facebook, Google and YouTube, and magazines infatuated with celebrity gossip or ‘crude language’. This year the ‘Great Firewall of China’ was reinforced when the state banned VPN services used by millions to break through to the global web.

Now China is finetuning the ultimate technological fix for designing a virtuous society: a ‘Social Credit System’ that will use the data produced by a population of some 1.4 billion citizens in the course of their daily interactions with digital services to rank them according to ‘trustworthiness’.Continue Reading

DEEPGREY (6)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 6 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Part 1part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5)

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Speaking of, I decide it’s time to go for a walk. Staying active is good for your mental health, which is why every single public park and footpath is perpetually rammed with DeepGrey drones trying to keep their brains stable enough to run the god-spreadsheet – in my case it also helps immensely with the dysphoria, which is useful because nothing else is going to any more.

I pull on a bomber jacket and a baseball cap, opting for relatively shallow heels in case I need to out-sidle a DeepGrey recruiter. For once I’ve got enough money for a solid grocery shop, and near me there’s still a place that takes cash, earned scandalously but (in my opinion, anyway) honestly. I feel a solid meal coming on tonight.Continue Reading

DEEPGREY (5)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 5 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Part 1part 2, part 3, part 4.)

Once you write off the shambling hordes of DeepGrey-infected marketing consultants who make up most of the population, what’s left? The Nazis, of course. That persistent yet cannibalistic and insular sub-species, still reeling from the swift and brutal Consequences that followed their atrocities during the Meme War. When the War began, the tech industry was on the verge of realising what human society took several world wars to realise: fascists are poisonous to any system they’re allowed to root in, and should be rapidly expunged with fire and extreme prejudice. Continue Reading

DEEPGREY (4)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 4 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here.)

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This thing that’s now installed on the brains of nearly three billion people, across pretty much all but the top levels of every single first-world government (and even then, one wonders if MPs have always been this weird and robotic – oddly, history would seem to confirm yes). What does it do?Continue Reading

DEEPGREY (3)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 3 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.)

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I kind of like the attack map. It’s nice to visualise the whole thing, even if perhaps ten percent of what I’m seeing is actual data derived from a fearsome net of analytics tools and keyword tracking.he rest is pretty colours and lines for the cheap seats and the press. It’s a nice reminder to stay on my toes, as well – that grey blob that covers three-quarters of my screen would love me to let my guard down so it can eat my brains and make me sell insurance.Continue Reading

THE UNDERCROFT – ART, SPACE AND POWER

by Laura Potts

Artistic culture and practice has changed drastically over the past few centuries. From Renaissance painting and its high-minded focus on aesthetic and documentary purpose, to the eruption of absurdist Dada work in 1915, to the stark political statements of much modern art. The aesthetics of art and its chosen themes are not the only thing that has changed though; the spaces where we encounter art have also transformed.

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DEEPGREY (2)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 2 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour. Read part 1 here.)

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I do the digital equivalent of slipping off the main street down a back-alley, activating two spongy ‘legal’ VPNs at once to provide the paper-thin security necessary to sneak an actual functional VPN into life without precipitating a time-delayed ISP shit-fit. It’s a sort of rite of passage, at least for British free-internet users, to accidentally break the vestigial mess that is the remains of the Snooper’s Charter and get a whiny message in the actual mail six months later complaining about it. The word ‘terrorism’ was almost entirely inflated to meaninglessness well before Meme War propaganda began labelling the entire world simultaneously with it in white-hot strobe-flashing GIFs, so the strident accusations and threats that are all the government can do about you breaking the rules aren’t particularly punchy any more. It can be another strike towards losing your net neutrality privileges, though. Besides, much nastier things lurk in the same patch of those particular legal waters, and the absolute last thing you want to do is thrash about and make a fuss.Continue Reading

TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR CHILD DEAL WITH A CYBERBULLY AT THEIR NEW SCHOOL

by Janice Miller

Being the new kid at school has always been hard, and schoolyard bullies have existed since there were schools. But bullying has evolved over time and the majority of it now exists online. One of the main problems that children face these days is online harassment – also known as cyberbullying. This form of bullying can be extremely potent because the harassment is often anonymous and can be spread to hundreds of people in a matter of minutes. Here are some tips for parents on how to help your child if they’re facing this situation.

 

React appropriately

If you find out your child is being cyberbullied – either from them or from reading their texts/social media messages – the first thing you should do it react appropriately. Don’t overreact and ban them from the internet, or go on a tirade in front of their friends. Don’t under-react by saying that it’s just what kids do and they must learn to get over it. Both of these approaches will only make -the problem worse. React appropriately by letting them know that you understand their situation, you think it’s serious, it’s not their fault, and you will help them get through it.

 

Tweak privacy settings

Most social media sites and blogging sites where cyberbullying often occurs have tons of privacy options that you can use to help thwart a cyberbully. Block any users that are bullying your child on their Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr accounts. Report abuse.

 

Talk to the appropriate authorities

You’re doing your child no favors by keeping their cyberbullying under lock and key. You should contact your child’s school and see if they can intervene. If the cyberbullying is severe and contains threats of violence or extreme invasion of privacy (posting sensitive information about your child, leaking hacked materials) then you should certainly contact the police. Cyberbullying.org notes that parents of cyberbullies may become defensive and confrontational if presented with evidence of their child’s activities, so it pays to be careful in this regard.

 

Create a healthy home environment for your child

Focus on the elements that you can control – for example creating a healthy, stress-free environment at home. Make sure your home is clean and de-cluttered. Practice healthy habits with your family, like a good diet and a focus on getting enough exercise. Redfin.com notes that natural light in the home plays a key role in overall happiness and wellbeing, so keep your curtains open and spend a lot of time with your kids in the backyard.

Finally, you want to create a home environment where communication is open and honestly is rewarded. The best tool you have to help your child fight against cyberbullying is knowledge, and you can’t know what your child feels if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about it. Withhold judgment, overreaction, and any punishment for their online activities. Simply listen and offer help.

 

Teach your child that they must be better than their bully

Your child must know that when they go to school, it’s paramount that they rise to a higher level than their bully. They should know that retaliation is never a good idea, as it often emboldens the bully and make them more aggressive. They should always be kind to everyone and do their best to ignore the bullying.

It’s unfortunate that kids these days have to deal with cyberbullying, but it’s a prevalent problem. Bullies aren’t going away, and neither is the internet – so this problem is likely here to stay. As a parent, it’s your job to keep communication lines open, intervene when necessary, and teach your children how to react to a bully.

 

Please note: The Norwich Radical and the author are not cyberbullying experts, nor do we presume to be taken as such. The above are suggestions from a contributing parent, and should not be considered the golden standard in the case of cyberbullying.

Featured image via Pixabay

 


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DEEPGREY (1)

by Zoe Harding

(Part 1 of a serialised prose fiction endeavour.)

Download the attachment, click the link and whoah hang the fuck on here.

It’s not easy to properly rip a headset off your head. They tend to tangle on your ears, or else there’s a cable somewhere that gets in your hair and insta-knots itself until it might as well be glued there. When I had long hair it was even worse, but even my current slightly-longer-than-a-buzz-cut approach still manages to trap the occasional stray wire in its velcro-like hooks.

Still, I manage it, because when you’re the sort of person that I am, you develop a pretty impressive set of reflexes for certain situations. Part of that is down to the still-can’t-quite-believe-that-happened bullshit that was the Meme Wars leaving its scar on our collective psyche. Some of the shit the Russians worked out how to do with flashing lights and the Mark 1 Eyeball remains impossible to describe, both due to of its design and because of the gag limitations of the human stomach. But it’s also partly down to my own situation which is sadly far from unique but also far from common.

I feel the sort of revulsion you get when you accidentally stick your hand into something dead. In the first few hyperventilating seconds after I rip off the headset, it dawns on me that what I’ve just witnessed indicates that that, metaphorically, is pretty much what’s just happened.Continue Reading

THE QUESTION CONCERNING TWITTER – IS HARASSMENT LESS REAL ONLINE?

By Eve Lacroix

Content warning : Article mentions rape threats, harassment, racism

In The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger argues that technology is a means to an end, and that technology is a human activity. The two are not mutually exclusive. Technology is a means to facilitate our lives, eliminating manual or tedious or repetitive tasks. We use technology for our human need of community, connecting to friends and family through social media, searching for partners on dating apps.

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THE INTERNET IS BREAKING

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by Pip Morgan

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” -Vladimir Lenin.

The internet is breaking, this news greeted my ears during the early days of last summer, the man speaking on the radio (the expert), was trying very hard to make the problem intelligible to the layman, explaining the momentary stammers and false starts. Interestingly this is the recent diagnosis that the internet received; at running the risk of over simplifying; it is ‘on the blip’.

All over the world there are anonymous administrators monitoring the waves, and giving it the occasional zap with the equivalent of a defibrillator when servers become overloaded.Continue Reading

EVERYDAY DOUBLETHINK – ONLINE LIFE AND ALTERNATIVE FACTS

By Sam Naylor

Kellyanne Conway has been making headlines this week. Sent out to explain away Sean Spicer’s bizarre comments regarding the crowds at Trump’s inauguration, she said “we feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put alternative facts out there”. Alternative facts, huh? How’s this:

Last week saw the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America, Bernie Sanders. As the world witnessed the honesty and good intentions of the new administration firsthand over the next few days, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 surged (it sold out on Amazon). Commentators were broadly bemused. Why, with a president of unparalleled frankness ascending to the Oval Office, was a narrative of lies and alternative facts, paradoxes and doublethink, a story of a nation which unashamedly proclaimed “War is peace, Freedom is slavery, Ignorance is strength, becoming so popular?

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THE LEFT’S IMAGE PROBLEM

by Zoe Harding

We have an image problem, you and I – yeah, you and I. Us. Lefties. Radicals. The chances are – if you’re reading this site – that you’re fairly left-wing. You’re a general believer in the doctrine of ‘don’t be a dick to other people’ with the sub-clause of avoiding ‘fuck you, got mine’, even if our specific approaches to doing so differ. I’ll be speaking in very general terms in this article, because I have 1000 words to work with.

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HOME OFFICE STATEMENT

by Zoe Harding

(Note: The below is based on an actual statement released by the Home Office, which can be found in its unadulterated version here. The adulterator takes no responsibility for the government seeing that you’ve visited this web page, even though they will)

Dear Concerned Citizen

The Investigatory Powers Act dramatically increases transparency around the use of investigatory powers by making it so we can see everything. It protects both privacy and security for MPs only and underwent an unprecedentedly low level of scrutiny before becoming law because everyone was distracted with Brexit.

The Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat (Current threat level: Be Very Afraid, Trust Us. We Won’t Tell You Why), it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe. And the powers they need to see what you’ve been doing on the internet even if you aren’t a criminal. Maybe you’re buying them Christmas presents but they hate surprises. Have you thought of that?Continue Reading

THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS YOU’RE READING THIS

by Zoe Harding

CW: pornography

Just a heads-up: The government knows you’re reading this.

Literally. Amidst the endless torrents of nonsense spewing from the ongoing Brexit negotiations (update: Theresa May throws up hands, announces ‘Fuck it all, God will sort it out’) and the dawn of a new chapter in the great story of democracy, the government the British people did not elect and didn’t really ask for passed some of the most intrusive legislation a British government has ever passed. The Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, is due to be signed into law in a couple of weeks, and it manages what can only be called a very British Government feat in being both poorly-worded and terrifying.

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WHY TRADITIONAL CAMPAIGNING NEEDS A COMEBACK

by James Anthony

The other week, I made the decision to purchase train tickets for a 4AM journey down to London, just a few days before all of my university coursework was due. As with many other activists across the country, I was off to spend the first day of December in Richmond Park talking to voters for the parliamentary by-election taking place there. Some people might call that a stupid decision – and they’re probably correct – but there is an important reason as to why I did it. It’s the same reason that I trudged the streets of Norwich in May and again in June this year putting bits of paper through letter boxes and knocking on doors as I went around. I believe that traditional political campaigning holds the key to winning elections.Continue Reading

DATA-MINING: STILL THINK YOU HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE?

By Gunnar Eigener

Data is a commodity. It is a digital blueprint of our lives that we leave behind wherever we go on the internet and in life. Many of us consider it to be of little interest. After all, what does it matter where or what we shop for? Who cares about the sites we search for via Google and what pages we like on Facebook? Well, it turns out that our governments and private companies do.

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THE CORPORATE UNDERGROUND

by Mike Vinti

The lines between the underground and mainstream music worlds have been blurring for a while now. As with the majority of issues facing the music industry these days, this is largely because of the internet. While it’s been an undeniably positive force on music itself, allowing fans and artists to connect more easily as well as opening whole new worlds of music to potential fans, it’s also made underground music more marketable.

This may not sound like a bad thing, and to a large extent it isn’t. While it would be great if musicians could live off credibility alone, in the ruthless world of capitalism in which we live, you need to be stacking that P if you want to survive. Where this increased marketability becomes less positive however is when corporations start getting involved.Continue Reading

SESAME CREDIT AND THE FUTURE OF THE INTERNET

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By Zoe Harding

We live in the future. It’s easy to forget that.

Just look at the internet. A set of technologies that jumped from military geek-toy to utter ubiquity in just two decades. While only 3/8ths of the world’s population have regular access to the internet -the vast majority of them in North America, Europe and the CIS (the former Soviet Union countries) – other nations are rapidly expanding into the chaos of the digital frontier.

Interestingly, the largest nation on the internet in terms of raw population is the People’s Republic of China. From a single email in 1987 (‘across the Great Wall, we can reach every corner of the world’), China’s online presence has expanded to nearly 689 million regular internet users on 3.24 million domestic web sites by the end of 2015.These are not ancient dial-up PCs labouring in greasy internet cafes either- 83% are using smartphones and China’s broadband network is extensive and widely-used. The Chinese online gaming markets are huge, their domestic online shopping and social media sites are economic giants in their own right. Chinese netizens have been an unholy headache for their government too; while the government owns all internet access points through state-owned telecoms companies, and attempts to enforce various rules through the so-called ‘Great Firewall of China’, as with all online systems hackers have been easily able to penetrate their security and discontent is expressed regularly online.

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Photo: json.tv

The Chinese government has done its best to prevent this.The BBC reported in 2013 that nearly two million people were employed to monitor web activity online, and profanity filters, overt censorship and more covert measures like bandwidth throttling are widely used to shut down people expressing unapproved opinions.

The latest attempt to bring China’s restless netizens under control is a new credit-rating system being developed by the Chinese government, China’s Amazon-rivalling e-commerce giant Alibaba, and the media/internet/gaming/ISP company Tencent. Now, credit-rating systems are pretty much ubiquitous in the western world, and while they undoubtedly cause a fair amount of misery, it’s no more by design than the rest of the economy, right? In most countries, a credit-rating system is designed to rate an individual based on how able they are to fulfil financial commitments based on previous dealings. Just another economic widget, albeit one that can, and does screw people over on a regular basis.

Sesame Credit and its ilk are something else. Sesame Credit is a social engineering tool specifically designed to control and quantify social behaviour on a massive scale.

Scary stuff, huh? And while a good start, that video doesn’t begin to do the system justice. Sesame Credit is currently one of six corporate pilot schemes being run with the blessing and involvement of the Chinese government, with a full mandatory rollout planned in 2020. They aren’t trying to hide the system or its purpose, either. As laid out in the vast and repetitive design document the Chinese government released in 2014, the system is designed to ‘establish the idea of an [sic] sincerity culture, and carry forward sincerity and traditional virtues.’ It’s also supposed to be used to fight corruption and financial crime, but the main focus appears to be on finding a way to control and keep track of China’s vast and growing population.

The system already pulls down vast amounts of data, and has already had a profound impact, even in its early beta phases. Your Sesame Credit score already has access to all the data generated by Alibaba, which provides a vast array of online shopping, auction, payment and financial services, as well as dating sites, taxi companies and utility companies. The higher your score, the more ‘trustworthy’ you are considered to be, and the more perks and bonuses you unlock, like deposit-free car rentals or money off hotel rooms. There’s currently no set downside to having a negative score beyond losing said bonuses, but as the score is available for anyone to check users are incentivised to keep it high. The developers have refused to explain exactly how this score is generated, but they have confirmed that it includes elements based not only on how much you buy but also what you buy. The company tracks time spent in-game and purchases to attempt to build an image of the individual. Buy lots of nappies, you’re probably a parent and ‘more likely to have a sense of responsibility’, giving you a higher score. Play video games all day and your score goes down. In addition, it tracks financial credit scores, qualifications, even whether users bothered to settle taxi bills and bills with small retailers.

sesamecredit

Photo: Zheping Huang

While the current systems are still largely financial entities, a number of disturbing trends are already apparent. For one, Sesame tracks ‘somewhat unusual types of information, such as a person’s hobbies and whether he or she has a financially irresponsible friend.’ The latter component is particularly disturbing; it incentivises social division and provides tangible benefits to ostracising the less financially stable or fortunate. Imagine having to stop talking to a friend because they missed a rent payment, and facing financial loss or ostracism yourself if you don’t. Worse, imagine having to cut yourself off from a friend because their ‘hobbies’ fell onto the negative list. China’s LGBTQ+ record isn’t the worst in the world and it’s improving year by year, but the country only removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 2001 and then there’s shit like this. Social credit systems provide a way for this sort of institutionalised prejudice against subcultures and minorities to become omnipresent in the name of social harmony.

…if this system works, and makes dissent in China slightly more difficult, imagine how long it’s going to be before other governments start looking at similar ideas?

The reaction in the West to this story has of course been tinged with the standard Far East response, a mix of cultural othering and ‘It can’t happen here’, but let’s examine that. Of course, China’s closed internet and more overtly restrictive government provides a better environment for systems like this to be widely implemented, but Sesame Credit is much more than just top-down government and corporate rule-sets. The combination of bonuses and arbitrary scores essentially functions as operant conditioning, in a manner already seen in hundreds of absurdly popular free-to-play games. It’s the same mechanics that compel people to keep playing Clash of Clans or Eve Online- social pressure combined with compulsive design.

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Image: Peter Nicholson

Scarier still, it’s working. Early adopters are enthusiastically using the system, some lured by financial gains and others by patriotism. Scores pop up on dating sites and social networks. Currently if friends join Sesame Credit, your score goes up regardless of theirs. As this slightly less hysterical article says, the current system is purely financial, and serves more to enforce customer loyalty. The potential, however, is entirely real. Even if the government-mandated system is abandoned, the existing systems make life significantly easier for the Chinese government to snoop if it wants to. Worse, if this system works, and makes dissent in China slightly more difficult, imagine how long it’s going to be before other governments start looking at similar ideas? Given the British government’s complete disregard for the privacy of its own citizens, a self-reinforcing system for stifling dissent that leans heavily towards the carrot end of the spectrum rather than the stick has to have caught their interest.

Featured Image: http://blogs.globalasia.com/madeinprc/tag/infografias/

ONLINE DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

by Faizal Nor Izham

One novel I’ve always been meaning to finish is the the award-winning sci-fi classic Neuromancer by William Gibson. Since the initial publication of the counter-cultural novel in – of all years – 1984, it went on to inspire the ‘cyberpunk’ movement in the science fiction genre, as well as the ‘high-tech, low life’ type neo-noir aesthetic that often goes with it. Neuromancer has also gone on to inspire popular films such as Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.

But what makes the novel so prominent in popular culture is that fact that it was the first to coin the term ‘cyberspace’, i.e. a ‘consensual hallucination‘ replicated artificially by millions of interconnected computer users – which in turn makes up the Internet as we know it today. The story revolves around a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack (not dissimilar from Keanu Reeves’ original role in The Matrix). This in itself can be seen as an allegory for counter-cultural movements literally taking place within this ‘Matrix’ – a term first coined by the novel way before the movie of the same name was released – a world within the world, similar to the setting of the Tron films.

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YIK YAK AI

by Jake Reynolds

I recently downloaded ‘Yik Yak’, the anonymous social media app prevalent among student communities, out of curiosity. I’d heard terrible things about it — it was posited as an anonymous forum in which people hurled insults and putdowns at one another in an act of self-generating bitterness. But when I opened the app, and scrolled through the comments as they rolled in, what I read didn’t feel like anger to me. It instead filled me with a strange and distant sadness. Yik Yak AI is my best attempt at rolling everything into one.

I need you to know I am hungover I need you to know
I went out and got alcohol poisoning I am in bed eating
pizza I am the real deal I need you to know I am the god
of all your comedy give me what I need I need you to
know I am jealous of you but I cannot say it properlyContinue Reading

THE SMART CRUNCH

by Andrew McArthur

The world looks on with bated breath as the FBI and Apple discuss the access rights to the iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino killer Syed Farook.  But the world isn’t interested in the injustice of another American killer being granted his rights to privacy, despite the lives he ruined.

If the FBI is granted access rights to Farook’s device, the integrity of smart technology would suddenly be thrown into question. If you follow the work of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, then it becomes clear that the security of most electronic communications has been compromised for a long time.Continue Reading

THE END IS NOT NIGH: THE REVOLUTION IS ALREADY HERE

By Gunnar Eigener

“Political action without the support of radical
mass movement inevitably becomes hollow.”

Chris Hedges

 

Positivity seems in short supply. Looking at the news and you might think that the end of days is upon us. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Relax. It might just be a glimpse, but there is something on the horizon.

There is no doubt that there are many terrible things happening to the planet and to its people. Yet history has taught us that in times of adversity people come together. It is easy to see how often people go against the wishes of their governments, to act humanely, decently. Just think of the migrant crisis and see how Europe have reacted. Think of the images and stories of citizens giving up their possessions and food and water to help strangers on their gruelling journey. In times of difficulty, humans are capable of great and generous acts. Under the right circumstances we will think nothing of giving away our material goods and food to others in need. If only we could realise that every time is the right circumstance.

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STUDENT POLITICS – JAPAN’S NEXT BIG THING?

by Faizal Nor Izham

The words “democracy” and “Asia” aren’t always known for going together. But with the proliferation of the Internet and social media, Asia appears to be learning a few lessons from other developing nations when it comes to democratic reform. The Arab Spring, the online democratic movement which eventually culminated in protests in Tunisia and Egypt, is surely a recent example that could be learned from.

The Internet has certainly had a liberating effect on this region, previously known for being conservative in terms of political expression and dissent. The Japanese political sphere, for example, is usually not renowned for being politically active or outspoken. But that’s slowly starting to change.

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PERSONAL MEDIA: RISK OR RESPONSIBILITY?

by Jess Howard

It’s easy to say that a vast percentage of the Western world is able to access the internet on a daily basis. Laptops, computers, tablets – the list of accessibility is almost endless. And then, of course, we have smart phones. A hand-held device that allows you to become a researcher, writer or photographer at the swipe of a thumb. Our hands have control of who we want to be, what we want to see, and when we want to see it. Be it on a train, buses or during our walk to Starbucks for our morning latte.

Personally, embarrassingly, I don’t think I could function without my phone. As a writer I am constantly jotting down article ideas or passages for potential short stories. Some stay, some are discarded, but the majority of them are stowed away in the Pages app on my iPhone. I fall into the same category as everyone else when it comes to my pocket-sized, electronic best friend.Continue Reading

THE MYTH OF ASIAN DEMOCRACY

by Faizal Nor Izham

Although Asia as a whole will always be making great strides economically, much more remains to be seen in the way of democracy and human rights. There has always been the myth that Asian values and democracy are incompatible — a well-known fact in Asia, especially in the more developing countries — but in the Internet and social media age, there appears to be a renewed demand for freedom, especially when people’s livelihood and most basic rights are in jeopardy.

However, despite these assumptions, a more thorough analysis shows that Asian history is actually rich in philosophies and traditions that are well-steeped in democratic ideals.Continue Reading