Rough Essay Structure

Two possible ways of presenting this argument:

a) The Balanced View:

Introduction: Hackers are regarded as the heroes of 21st century
Reasons against: Hackers does not posses the values of a hero(refer to this input). In fact the term “hackers” alone refers to many but not one, and it is hard to discriminate good from bad when generalization is used
Reasons for: Hackers have infiltrated system to reveal inner schemes and human abuse for instance (refer to this input).
Conclusion: Hackers cannot be the heroes of 21st century because they do not posses heroic attributes and most importantly, the term “hackers” is already generalization. Suggest a single person as the hero instead.

b)The Persuasive View:

Introduction: Brief Introduction about hackers and plans to prove that hackers cannot be the hero of 21st century.
Reasons against: White hat hackers have indeed contributed to improvement of company security (refer to this and this input).
Reasons for: Hackers does not possess heroic attributes: when we look at an entity consisting of hackers (in this case Anonymous) we can prove that the hackers, and even Anonymous itself does not fully possess the attributes of a hero. Hence a need to find the “true hero”.
Conclusion: Closes with Aaron Swartz’s case study, and how we as graphic designer (as well as other people) can learn from him.

 

The latter seems to be a better option. Hmm… :0

 

 

Heroism Unmasked: One Year and Seven Days Ago — What Can Aaron Swartz Teach Us.

A special shoutout to Daniel: Thanks for shedding light on Aaron Swartz, for without it I would have totally missed out on such an inspirational figure :3

A look at one of the many unsung heroes and what has Swartz taught us.

Computer programmer, hacker, writer and activist Aaron Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights apartment on 11 January, 2013. He was faced with federal hacking and fraud charges for downloading millions of academic articles using MIT’s network (in which, after his suicide resulted in Anonymous’ Operation Last Resort). While he was still alive, he debated with his then-girlfriend Quinn Norton whether the Internet would mourn him if he had died.

Looks like he was wrong.

Thousands of Netizens gathered to mourn his death after his suicide, and Swartz even had a memorial website set up for him by his parents.

In the following we will examine Swartz’s believes and how other people thought of him, and how that in return can teaches us as a Graphic Designer, and all in all, as a human being.

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“We won this fight because everyone made themselves the hero of their own story. Everyone took it as their job to save this crucial freedom.” — Aaron Swartz.

In the victory of the netizen’s fight against SOPA (and PIPA), Swartz (and the netizens) has taught us to fight for what we believe in. Really push an idea forward if you have a good rationale behind it and believe that it will work out (at the same time make sure your work doesn’t gets you in trouble, say, a three-month suspension without pay).

Age does not matter. Passion and interest does.

At the young age of 13, Swartz was co-authoring a version of RSS, a system that allows streaming of news from across the Internet onto a single reader. This tell us graphic designers to harness everything around us with our passion and interest and turn them into inspirations (i.e. don’t sit on a chair and wait for inspiration to drop on you like an apple).

If you are good at something, make the best out of it.

In his later teens Swartz helped in building and selling a news message board called Reddit, which eventually grew into one of the Internet’s most popular site. The lesson here is simple: Never stop making good works (despite some of them might be shitty, “it’s your taste that matters,” says Ira Glass).

Make things that impacts human life.

In just 17 years of his life, Swartz had made a legacy out of his life — by creating the coding backbone of Creative Commons License that allow artists and writers to claim or waive certain rights to control their works or share them online (Yang, 2013). Well but of course we graphic designers cannot code (not to say all of us can’t learn coding either) like Swartz, but we have the responsibility to create works that are influential, communicative, and the best of all if possible, make an impact (be it big or small).

Share things.

Let’s be a little more objective here, we’re talking about the sharing of ideas and inspirations, based on a claim by Albert Einstein — “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” There is no harm in bouncing off ideas from our peers and let and things go wild. Do a little mix and match of ideas and you will end up with even more ideas (and happier designers with less stress). Swartz’s Creative Commons License later gave birth to ‘copyleft movement’ community that devotes themselves to building an economy of culture based on sharing.

“I think Aaron was trying to make the world work – he was trying to fix it.”
—World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee.

In Swartz’s fight for network neutrality, copyright reform and information freedom, he had once again teach us graphic designers to fix and face our problem(s) in the course of our work/life rather than just running away from it. Because an unresolved problem will always result in more problems in the future. Take miscommunication for an example, it occurred to me once when we were told that a project submission was two weeks later, only to have known after two weeks of endless working and revisions, that the actual deadline is “postponed” and re-submission is allowed. After that, critique was given by another lecturer and almost all of us had to do another revision. The problem here is, we could have gotten our critique earlier during the first 2 months of our project, and we should have been informed that there are certain restrictions and criteria that our work must fit into. But we didn’t. In the end, the lecturer’s work was delayed and we had to rush like mad cows (literally) to complete it (not to mention that our wallets are going to be a goner again. note: the project is heavy print-related).

“…he was just doing what he thought was right to produce a world that was better.”
—Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig

Advocate of freedom of information, co-founder of Demand Progress, fighting for rights online (refer to SOPA) and succeeded – Swartz was just doing what he believes that would create a better place. And we, as graphic designers, too, should produce works with rationale according to what we think is right, and hopefully by the end of the creative process produce something that is truly communicative and impactful to the community that we live in (and even better, to reach out to other communities around the world).

And to end this:

“Aaron was steadfast in his dedication to building a better and open world, he is among the best spirits of the Internet generation. I am crushed by his loss, but will continue to be enlightened by his work and dedication.”—  Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle.

Let us all remember the great things Aaron had done to the Internet community, and be inspired by him to do even greater things, be it in our profession, our life, or on the Internet.

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Watercutter, A (2014). One Year Later, Web Legends Honor Aaron Swartz. Wired Magazine. [Online] Available at: <http://www.wired.com/underwire/2014/01/aaron-swartz-documentary-clip/&gt; [Accessed on 18th January, 2014]

Poulsen, K (2013). Aaron Swartz, Coder and Activist, Dead at 26. Wired Magazine. [Online] Available at: <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/01/aaron-swartz/&gt; [Accessed on 18th January, 2014]

 

In Search of Heroism: Unsung Heroes

Limit is the Sky

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

What makes Anonymous did what it did and why? Gabriella Coleman, Professor of Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, McGill University have an answer for that. He says that what’s happening right now is a generation of people whose lives are so connected with the Internet, that when they see threats to their culture they are willing to fight.

And we are talking about this small group of people, the good ones — the ones that believe that justice must be served and human rights are not to be taken away, the ones that believe in freedom of speech, and the freedom of internet, and they fight in the name of these.

A sub-community within Anonymous.

Turns out that, it wasn’t the hackers that doxed personal information; it wasn’t Anonymous – be it the early Internet Hate Machine or the latter half-hero community; and it wasn’t the heroic symbol of Anonymous that is tarnished by it’s desire for publicity either.

It was the ones who believed that human rights should be justified, that corruption should be fought, hypocrisy should be demolished, and state and corporate secrecy should be dissolved; it was the ones who fought the endless netwars with this believe.

They do not seek publicity, they just want justice to be served, corruption to be eroded, and human rights to be equal again, and they do this with the mask of Anonymous.

Because morally thinking, those who aspire for equal human rights and justice would never do wrong, and even if they, by any slight chance do, it was because the circumstances forced them to do so.

To bring up Green’s statement of a hero for examination, Green says that “a hero is always in the shadows and never in the spotlight and they would not have it any other way.”

And the arguments for Green’s statement:

  • Do we know who are these Anons are in real life? No. We only know they belong to one entity — Anonymous.
  • Have these people ever put themselves in the spotlight? No. Only the symbol of Anonymous gets all the PR.
  • They would not want to have it any other way either. If they do, there will always be a way for them to publicize themselves.

All in all, it is the believes and fights carried out by these masked people on the Internet makes them the hero.

The masked, unsung heroes.

In Search of Heroism: The Mask of Anonymous

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This input will be an attempt to examine and validate the symbolism of Anonymous as the hero. As an Introduction, Anonymous’ symbols are associated with the Guy Fawkes mask and headless suited men, both representing the idea of anonymity:

1-vendetta-guy-fawkes-mask-on-black-849146

The Guy Fawkes mask has been recognized as Anonymous’ signature icon and can be traced back to the times of Project Chanology’s street protests, in which many of its participants disguised themselves with the Guy Fawkes mask.

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By looking Anonymous as a symbol and not a community, examination of campaigns conducted shows attributes related to Internet Freedom, Liberty, and Pro-Human Rights. Validation are quoted based on Anonymous’ operations and/or its outcome.

  • Operation Titstorm:

“No government should have the right to refuse its citizens access to information solely because they perceive it to be unwanted”
— Anonymous email to the Australian press

  • In protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Anons did it through legal channels alone (no DDoS, no hacking and doxing) by sending  black fax, emails, phone calls, pizzas called to the office.
  • A leak from Edward Snowden, an ex-NSA employee and system administrator confirming the NSA not only has vast capabilities to intercept, store and analyze the digital traces and footprints of citizens and foreigners alike, but in so doing has broken numerous laws and lied to Congress. It confirms that what Anonymous are fighting against is not just a mere illusion.The leak, along with the many others from US soldier Chelsea Manning leads to an eventual targeting of security firms and governments (Coleman, 2013).
  • In wake of Anti-SOPA protests (e.g.Operation Megaupload), Anonymous launched a worldwide protest in regards with the strengthening of intellectual properties at the cost of internet freedom (Norton, 2012).
  • By providing technological assistance to activists on the ground during the Arab Spring, many of Anonymous’ leaks have shed light into the inner schemes of private security companies’ craving for government contracts for surveillance or propaganda.
  • By exposing grave human rights abuses, for instance with OpRohingya in Burma, has gave way to numerous street demonstrations.

The validations above almost proved that the symbol of Anonymous itself is the hero, but Coleman’s finding tells us that, when compared to Green’s opinion, even the symbol of Anonymous is not the hero.

Coleman’s finding:

“Anonymous’ forte is publicity. It can create a PR nightmare for its targets.”

“Unlike peasants, who seek to remain inconspicuous and anonymous, geeks and hackers, even Anonymous, indisputably call attention to themselves via their volatile, usually controversial, legal and transgressive political acts.”

Validation: See Operation BART, Operation Megaupload, Operation Sony, all the campaigns by Anonymous would not be successful if Anonymous did not forge publicity out of the operations themselves.

Green’s argument:

“A hero seeks justice, but does not brag about it nor seeks attention.”

“…a hero is always in the shadows and never in the spotlight and they would not have it any other way.”

Although Anonymous fought for Human Rights as well as liberty, but its appetite for publicity has rendered even the symbol of Anonymous itself not a hero.

And thus the quest to search for the true hero continues…

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Norton, Q (2012). Anonymous Goes After World Governments in Wake of Anti-SOPA Protests. Wired Magazine. [Online] Available at: <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/01/anonymous-internationalist/&gt; [Accessed on 14th January, 2014]

Coleman, G (2013). Anonymous in Context: The Politics and Power behind the Mask. [PDF] The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Available at: <http://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/no3_8.pdf> [Accessed on 14th January, 2014]

In Search of Heroism: Plot Twist — Hackers Are Not The Heroes

By reading through the few previous posts on Anonymous one should have come to a realization by now, that the term ‘hackers’ are rarely brought up. In fact, by referring to Coleman’s writing, he says that hackers, while make up a part of the Anonymous community as well as being regarded as the elite ones, are not the ones who control the evolution of Anonymous. In fact, the appearance of their name on various medias are due to the crazy obsession of the media has towards them, topped by their hunger for sensationalism.

Also one thing that worth mentioning is: Hackers are NOT responsible for DDoS attacks. DDoS attacks are conducted by individuals with the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC, refer to this post) or via a botnet (a large network of compromised computers). Confused journalists often report DDoS campaigns as a form of hacking (click here for an example of misreport and a follow-up correction)

In fact, if we do an analysis of hackers [from Anonymous] by comparing it with the attributes of a hero, we can draw a conclusion that they are not the heroes at all.

From previous post, we see the hackers doxed personal information during the course of an operation; an early input also shows losses of giant corporations like Sony due to doxing . In short, hackers are responsible for infiltrating servers to expose weak security or searching for critical information to be leaked. These two case studies has shown that the hackers from Anonymous does not show any heroic attributes at all and hence, validating the conclusion made earlier that hackers are in fact, not the heroes.They are just a small piece of puzzle that makes up the whole picture.

Who is the hero, then? Could it be the icon of Anonymous? A quote by Bruce Wayne from Batman Begins tells us that there is a possibility that the icon of Anonymous is the hero, not the community that it is made up of.

People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy, and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood; I can be ignored, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.
— Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins (2005).

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Batman Begins (2005). [Film] Directed by Christopher Nolan. USA:DC Comics et. al

Coleman, G (2013). Anonymous in Context: The Politics and Power behind the Mask. [PDF] The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Available at: <http://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/no3_8.pdf> [Accessed on 14th January, 2014]

In Search of Heroism: Anonymous Today

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The Anonymous today has grown into an apparent multifaceted organization which chooses its targets randomly. But Coleman claims the opposite, as participants usually choose targets responsively (follow up case studies validates Coleman’s argument).

The bottomless appetite that the press have for sensationalism has made Anonymous’ notoriety an ideal subject of coverage. Riding on the endless hunger of the media, Anonymous has made themselves heard through various media, including the Internet — Operation Payback, Operation Megaupload, Operation BART, Operation Quebec, Operation India, Operation Last Resort …… the list goes on.

In examination of the relations between the Anonymous today and the qualities of a hero, the findings were:

Anonymous still fall short from becoming a hero because:
Anonymous displays a mixed characteristics of a hero and anti-hero;
Anonymous uses illegal method in the course of its operation;
Anonymous still, during the course of its operation, conduct acts of trolling for ‘the lulz’,

and the following validates it:

Operation BART: In response to the jamming of mobile phone signal on its station platform in order to disrupt planned protests against police brutality by the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), BART’s database were hacked and its customers information were leaked(doxing). The follow up act was a submission semi-nude photo of BART’s spokesman, Linton Johnson to the “bartlulz” website with a bold rationalization (not to mentioned that his personal information was doxed as well):

“If you are going to be a dick to the public, then I’m sure you don’t mind showing your dick to the public” (Bartlulz, 2011).

Operation Megaupload: Following the shut down of the popular file-sharing site Mega Upload and it’s founder, Kim Dotcom arrested. Anonymous launched its largest DDoS campaign to date (Coleman, 2013) in which US government and record label sites were taken down 15 minutes after the shut down of Megaupload, in which Anonymous tweeted:

“The government takes down #Megaupload? 15 minutes later #Anonymous takes down government & record label sites. #ExpectUs” (YourAnonNews, 2012).

Here we can find that despite showing some characteristics of a hero, which is, fighting for the people’s justice against police brutality (Operation BART) and the believe of Internet freedom (Operation Megaupload, which confirms us if bills like Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is legalized, Internet censorship would be occurring not less equal than that of a person’s breathing), Anonymous still demonstrated some anti-hero attributes such as the submission of BART’s spokesperson’s semi-nude photo online to taunt the associated parties and the leaking of BART’s customers’ personal information.

Anonymous has definitely gained the limelight for its operations, driving admiration and fear out of people at different times, and both properties are exhibited in Operation BART alone: admiration for Anonymous’ stand against police brutality, and fear for Anonymous’ ability to strike fearlessly and mercilessly (most of the time illegally by doxing).

Examinations so far has shown that Anonymous is beginning to show some heroic attributes, but its anti-hero characteristics still overshadows its heroic attributes. Could it be, after all, that Anonymous is not the hero that we’re looking for?

 

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Coleman, G (2013). Anonymous in Context: The Politics and Power behind the Mask. [PDF] The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Available at: <http://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/no3_8.pdf> [Accessed on 13th January, 2014]

YourAnonNews (2012). The government takes down #Megaupload? 15 minutes later #Anonymous takes down government & record label sites. #ExpectUs. [Twitter] 20th January. Available at: <https://twitter.com/YourAnonNews/status/160114848917757952>

 

In Search of Heroism: Early Days of Anonymous

There are different kinds of people who worship different kinds of heroes as mentioned in the previous input.The hero we are looking for here is a hero that does not do evil to other people, a hero that teaches good value which gives and eye opener to a person, and a hero that could possibly save the world from its corruption.

“Free-speech is non-negotiable.”
— Anonymous participant (Coleman, 2013).

Claiming that, Anonymous has only shown one side of its dynamic attribute. Truth is that, there are still many factors that contributed to the cause of Anonymous’ hacktivism besides the freedom of speech. In the upcoming inputs, there will be an in depth examination of Anonymous and its core, to find out — and determine, whether that Anonymous could be regarded as the hero of 21st century.

Early (year 2005) depiction of Anonymous shows that it doesn’t fit in the category of the hero we’re looking for —  a combination of deception and defiling Internet trolling acts with offensive and racist names like “Gay Niggers Association of America.” had landed Anonymous with the title of “Internet Hate Machine” (Fox News, 2009) by Fox News.

This “Internet Hate Machine” slowly gave way to more complicated trolling acts, and with the eventual participation of Anonymous in it’s first ever successful political protest driven by vengeance, and have themselves labelled as hacktivists — #OperationTitstorm, where a coordinated DDoS attack landed on the Australian government to protest legislation aimed at curbing pornography by requiring Internet service providers to use filters. This once again has shown none of the qualities of the hero we are looking for, but it is the sign that shows growth of Anonymous from Internet trolling to participating in political protests, giving away to more political activism participation in the future — the protest against SOPA for instance.

aBK6ZAz_700bThis could have easily become a poster material for hacktivist group Anonymous.

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Coleman, G (2013). Anonymous in Context: The Politics and Power behind the Mask. [PDF] The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Available at: <http://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/no3_8.pdf> [Accessed on 12th January, 2014]

Fox News (2009). “4Chan: The Rude, Raunchy Underbelly of the Internet,” April 8. In Coleman, G (2013). Anonymous in Context: The Politics and Power behind the Mask. [PDF] The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). Available at: <http://www.cigionline.org/sites/default/files/no3_8.pdf> [Accessed on 12th January, 2014]