Private Becomes Public?

While reading some of the possible ideas for this blog post, I thought about the importance of technology in our daily lives. The biggest being our smartphones always in hand. We live in a society where our daily lives depend on technology. Our smartphones store important dates, our pictures, contacts, and confidential information. This made me think about just how confidential the information on our phones is. Sure, you can put a passcode on your phone, and now you can even download apps that are locked with a password to store credit card information or your social security number. But just how well is this information protected?

On iPhones, Apple uses a storage system called iCloud. According to Apple, iCloud, “gives you access to your music, photos, contacts, calendars, documents, and more from your Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Windows computer. iCloud stores your content and automatically keeps it up to date on all your devices” (Apple Website). The majority would say that iCloud is the ideal storage unit for your device’s information.

Many of you probably have read articles about leaked iCloud accounts of celebrities. In September of 2014, many celebrities found their photos from their iPhone online. The majority of these pictures were naked photos belonging to more than 100 high-profile singers, actors, and celebrities. The list includes Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and many more. The photos were uploaded to a public photo sharing website called 4chan and anyone could download them. The accessibility of these photos made others question how easy it would be to hack anyone’s phone.

While Apple’s iCloud has been known to be safe and secure, resources claim that hackers could have attained this information indirectly such as, “guessing users’ passwords or simply resetting their accounts by finding their email address and then answering traditional security questions” (Vincent). A fault with Apple’s “Find My iPhone” at the time did not restrict the number of password guesses, resulting in unlimited guesses for the hacker. Other experts argue that this could be the result of Dropbox, another image storage, leaking photos, but sources are convinced Apple is at fault.

Apple did not comment on the series of events, but has since changed the security measures of the users’ iCloud accounts. Now, you must include a capital letter, a number, and another character such as an exclamation mark in your iCloud password. Apple did not comment on the series of events.

This raises the question: how private is our information to the public, and who has access to our accounts? Apple has taken many new security measures to ensure the trust of its customers. Experts are telling people to turn off iCloud in settings to guarantee the security of your information for the future.

Article About the Safety of iCloud

Music as a Fluid Text

Non-percussionists may even find some comments disturbing.
Non-percussionists may even find some comments disturbing.

 In music ensembles, I’m given pages of marked-up, wrinkled pieces. People cross out entire measures, add in parts that didn’t previously exist, or change the  dynamics and tempo of the piece without much explanation. When the piece gets to me, possibly after years of use, I get to see the many different interpretations of one musical composition and add my own comments.

 As Casey has posted about in reference to Shakespeare, edits can change the meaning of a single text, and this is true with music pieces too. Take these two videos of cellists taking on the same piece, for instance – one performer uses a traditional approach, while the other incorporates beatboxing. Who is to say that one version is more valid than another?

Every time a piece is performed, it’s likely to be interpreted slightly differently by each individual conductor and player. Often, we learn about the composer’s original intent before playing the piece, but so many small changes and revisions are made each time it’s performed that you could say there are countless versions of every musical “text.”

In my opinion, the collaborative nature of a music score is comparable to digital humanities. I think of a music score as a fluid text, much like the digital Walden texts we use that allow readers to trace the various manuscript changes or leave their own thoughts in the margins. As Jack Stillinger argues in “A Practical Theory of Versions,” textual pluralism (what he calls the idea that every version of a work should be considered) is becoming more possible with digital efforts such as these. With music pieces, glancing at a marked-up copy of sheet music or listening to different performers can show you a wealth of interpretations that you may not have considered on your own. Working with digital literature seems to have similar benefits – I not only learn from Walden itself, but from the record of its changes over time and my fellow classmates’ varied thoughts about the text.

Can you own data?

The lightning talks that we’ve been having in class have expanded what I know about technology (which honestly isn’t too much), and also the way I think about technology. The topic regarding the Digital Millenium Copyright act made me question whether or not one can own data.

There are many methods that someone can obtain data. This can be through purchasing it online (ie. iTunes, GooglePlay, the App Store, etc.), or the same products can also be obtained through torrenting. While purchasing data such as music, from somewhere like iTunes, it may be legal, but it also costs money. Naturally, everyone is always trying to find ways to save their money and avoid spending it whenever they can. This is where torrenting becomes a popular habit. Why buy an album on iTunes when you can download it for free? Well, torrenting is illegal, so even though the album may have been free, it’s similar to picking up the album in a record store and walking out without even paying for it.Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.03.51 PM

One of the most commonly used torrent networks is BitTorrent. In order to send or receive files, one must have a BitTorrent client, a computer program that allows for the BitTorrent procedure. uTorrent, Vuze, and Xunlei are examples of commonly used clients. More than a quarter of a billion people are estimated to be using BitTorrent on a monthly basis.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 4.28.17 PM

A torrent file is a file on computers that contain metadata about files and folders that are to be distributed, and also it usually contains a list of the network locations of trackers. These trackers are computers that help participants in the system find each other and to form efficient distribution groups that are called “swarms”. A torrent file does not contain the content to be distributed it only contains information about those files, such as their names, sizes, folder structure, and cryptographic hash values for verifying file integrity.

You can pretty much torrent anything you want, such as music, programs, apps, movies, etc. Doing so can put your computer at risk because there are so many Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 11.48.02 AMways that your IP address can be obtained, allowing hackers to get into your computer or allowing yourself to get caught for illegal activity.

The lightning talk topic of “What is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act?” is very relevant to the idea of torrenting. The DMCA is a U.S. copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It is the criminalization of the production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services that are intended to circumvent measures (digital rights management) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalized the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. The DMCA’s main innovation in the field of copyright is the exemption from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries. So even though you may see your download of one song or one movie as innocent, you are in fact participating in criminal activity.

There are many different opinions regarding the topic of torrenting. One popular topic of discussion is the idea of torrenting music. Some people are completely against the idea, arguing that it is taking away money from the artists and the record label, while others argue that it is essentially the same concept as listening to music on the radio or giving a friend a mixtape. Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl feels very strongly about this subject. “I think it’s a good idea because it’s people trading music. It has nothing to do with industry or finance, it’s just people that want music and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the same as someone turning on the fucking radio, it’s the same as someone putting a cassette in a cassette deck when the BBC plays a special radio session. I don’t think it’s a crime, it’s been going on for years. It’s the same as people making tapes for each other. The industry is more threatened by it because it’s the worldwide web and it’s a broader scope of trading, but I don’t think it’s such a fg horrible thing. The first thing we should do is get all the fg millionaires to shut their mouths, stop bitching about the 25 cents a time they’re losing.” Now I personally agree with this opinion, that downloading music online may not be the worst thing in the world, however; there are some people, like Lars Ulrich of Metallica, who have a very different view towards piracy, “It is sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is.”  I think that a lot of these opinions vary based on the person and the type of piracy that is being committed. Torrenting a 99 cent song as opposed to a $500 program definitely is much worse, however; both are still technically a crime.

So overall I think that the idea of owning data is possible, because, much like buying or stealing a product from a store, you can buy or steal a form of data. It’s true that you may not own the physical copy, but you still own it on your device. As long as it’s a form of theft then I see it as ownership.

Is a “Digital Dark Age” Imminent?

In a recent article from NPR News, Google Vice President Vint Cerf suggested that our current times may be looked back on as a “digital Dark Age” due to our digital preservation of information. Many of our photos and documents will likely become inaccessible as certain softwares becomes obsolete, which could create a problem for anyone in the future trying to research our times. Cerf says, “We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realizing it.” He points to digital correspondence as one of the biggest losses of information, as most of us delete emails and the like with very little consideration. However, a great deal of research has been conducted on the written correspondence of authors, politicians, and other historical figures (Cerf refers to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln, a book written after intense study of Lincoln’s letters), and there is concern that research of this variety will be nearly impossible when looking back on our era.

Google VP Vint Cerf
Google VP Vint Cerf

The irony of one of Google’s higher-ups cautioning against digital storage is inescapable, though one possible solution is suggested, the “snapshot.” I have to wonder if resources such as the Digital Public Library of America, as discussed in class, would also be useful in this regard, though emails and other more personal files remain an issue.


Cerf’s prediction also seems to call the entire field of digital humanities into question. Though helpful in the present, will anyone in the future benefit from our efforts to digitize works that are already physically accessible, a seemingly more lasting format? Would our time be better spent working to collect the documents we have into books, and analyzing text in more traditional manners, giving future scholars a better chance at accessing the finished product?

Shakespeare and Versions

This was something that came up in another class of mine that made me think of some of the issues we were dealing with in this one. I’m reading Julius Caesar, and I found an interesting footnote about how Shakespeare portrayed Brutus’ reaction to the death of his wife, Portia.

Mark Antony gives a dramatic, involved speech that draws in the crowd
Mark Antony gives a dramatic, involved speech that draws in the crowd

Some context: In Act 4, scene 3, Brutus and Cassius, two of the main conspirators responsible for Caesar’s death, are having an argument over Cassius’s corrupt practices (he wanted Brutus to pardon a friend of his who was caught accepting bribes). Shakespeare is always trying to portray Brutus as a righteous senator, a man thoroughly dedicated to his honor. He also makes it clear that Brutus is a great proponent of Stoicism: one of the most famous points in the play is how Mark Antony is able to manipulate the crowd of plebeians with his common-man persona while Brutus is too emotionally detached to effectively reach out to them.

Now as Cassius and Brutus argue, insults and accusations fly, but they eventually calm down and apologize to each other. Cassius remarks that he’s never seen Brutus so angry, to which Brutus replies that his life has taken a grievous turn: his wife, Portia, has “swallowed fire” in order to take her own life, being unable to cope with her anxiety about her husband’s predicament (he’s about to go up against the armies of Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar). Cassius remarks even before Brutus’ confession that he doesn’t seem to be following his usual “philosophy” of Stoicism, being as wracked with emotion as he is. Afterward Brutus implores him not to speak of Portia anymore and tries to return to their discussion, but drinks heavily.

Enter Titinius and Messala, two military allies to the senators, and Brutus is all business again, completely obscuring the grief he showed moments before. Messala, thinking that Brutus has not heard the news, tells him of Portia’s death. Brutus responds as follows:

“Why, farewell, Portia. We must die, Messala./ With meditating that she must die once,/ I have the patience to endure it now.”

Cassius remarks that even though he is theoretically as much a Stoic as Brutus, he could never endure such a blow and hold so steady. Brutus then dismisses the topic, saying, “Well, to our work alive.”

Brutus and Cassius, Act 4 scene 3
Brutus and Cassius, Act 4 scene 3

So here’s the quote from the footnotes of my copy of Julius Caesar that really piqued my interest:

“Some editors suggest that this was the original version of Shakespeare’s account of Portia’s death and that he later deleted this and wrote in lines 142-57, preferring to demonstrate Brutus’ humanity rather than his Stoicism; the Folio printer then set up both versions by mistake. Line 158 would follow 141—as 195 would follow 179—neatly enough to make this an attractive theory.”

This is to say that originally, Shakespeare wanted to have Messala be the first person to tell Brutus of his wife’s death and to have Brutus actually be as impervious as he tries to seem, but he later changed his mind and chose to portray Brutus in a more human and relatable light, cutting Messala’s role as the bearer of bad news and limiting the discussion of Portia to the more emotional exchange between Cassius and Brutus.

This snippet related so much to what we’ve been reading about in this class, particularly in the Broadview Reader, that I got really excited. Not only does it tie in the history of printing with a little allusion to the state of printing in Shakespeare’s day, but it brings up the ever-controversial topic of versions and authorial intent: the words are all Shakespeare’s, but there are many possibilities as to what he actually wanted to say. The slightest edit can change the meaning of the scene and of the entire character of Brutus, and so create an utterly different version. We’re uncertain of what Shakespeare wanted to keep and what he wanted to cut, so we reproduce all of his words, but if he were able to choose, he might want to convey one version over another. It is up to editors to do Shakespeare justice and make sure that readers understand the possibilities.

A Woman on Walden Pond? (a sample blog post)

(This is an example blog post I created so English 340 students could see the potential style of a blog post, and begin to create your own. To get started, log in and then click on “+ New” at the top of the page. You can write about almost anything you want related to tech, digital lit, Thoreau, etc. etc. But, let me know if you have blogger’s block, I have some ideas I can share!)

I began this post with a question: What would it look like for a woman to go into the woods, as Thoreau did? What would it look like for a woman to join network marketing site Wake Up Now like Damien?

I don’t believe there are many popular narratives offering that possibility, or exploring that outcome. The only literary option that came to mind was Eat Pray Love, but one could argue that the protagonist’s ability to drop everything and travel the world puts her in a privileged

Maybe I'd like Thoreau more if he ate more gelato...
Maybe I’d like Thoreau more if he ate more gelato…

position not representative of all women. So, what happens when a regular-Joe lady decides to escape our capitalist rat-race of a society in a search to find herself?

Consider the world of gaming. Virtual reality scenarios could be considered a modern-day escape from the world. They don’t make you a living or offer the possibility of sustaining yourself financially, so I suppose you never truly leave the rat-race, but they offer a temporary escape into another world where less is at stake, and you can play out scenarios impossible in real life. Women are essentially barred from this space in a number of ways, including misogynistic and violent story lines and, maybe more importantly, actual harassment and threats. In the Gamergate controversy of 2014, gamers coordinated to threaten women involved in gaming, including Anita Sarkeesian, the creator of Feminist Frequency, a site dedicated to exploring “representations of women in pop-

Follow Anita Sarkeesian on Twitter at @femfreq
Follow Anita Sarkeesian on Twitter at @femfreq

culture narratives.” Sarkeesian received really upsetting death threats (and more), but she continued to speak about about representation of women in video games, and about cool+smart digital humanities topics such as anonymity, narrative control, and questions of access.

So, when women try to enter spaces offering escape, they usually aren’t safe. This is sad, because even Thoreau acknowledges that a retreat to the woods isn’t for everyone, and there are a lot of ways to find oneself in this world. Maybe the whole project of finding oneself is meant for the privileged, and is therefore totally flawed, or maybe the system at large people are escaping from should be fixed rather than run from, or maybe we need to work harder to ensure open access, as it were, in these escape scenarios….

I think it was Allison who said in class that she felt Thoreau came from a position of great privilege. And I agree. And in the end, I think the question we as digital humanists and admirers of Thoreau need to ask is, how can we engage with this work responsibly? How can we create safe spaces for everyone in comment sections, in games, on social media, or surrounding digital texts?

One heartening example: Remember our class discussion about Storify? Like Darby described in class, it’s a place of narrative control, where people literally embed things into narrative form. Another oft-harassed Twitterer is Black Girl Dangerous. She uses Storify to save whole twitter conversations as they happen, so even if people go back and delete comments, or make false claims about who said what first, she has archival proof of what happened and how. This is one way people venture into escapist places (Twitter) and use digital humanist-style tools to work toward safety in those spaces.

Any more examples of online harassment? Ideas for remedies? Arguments or agreements? Comment below!