At the beginning of the quarter I attended the R-Shief conference ran by Professor Laila Sakr at UCSB’s Social Sciences and Media Studies building. The conference was very informative, inspiring and eye opening all at the same time.
I found understanding the beginning of the talk a bit intimidating, as it was a process for me to conceptualize the technical terms and processes used to explain the website and software building procedures. Another part that I found a bit intimidating was the fact that the website is all in arabic, meaning I, or other people who don’t speak arabic will not have access to viewing the site’s information. However, this simple fact is very respectable, as it is about a team standing their ground, keeping true to the language and origin of the site, and not conforming to any main stream form of translation, only to make it more widely accessible. A restriction such as this may even inspire someone to learn the language, and work to preserve or inspire a community who may want to focus on keeping the language alive for a longer time.
As the talk unfolded, I found the work these intellectual and passionate individuals were doing very inspiring. Since they have been working on creating a website from scratch and using it to gain digital information which could help for further research, and data collection. Hearing the group speak and explain their work and what their website does made it seem possible to create a database online platform of your own, of course with the proper training, knowledge, experience, and outlook.
As I was feeling inspired and astonished to be seeing the behind the scenes of website and database collecting process, a couple of the audience found the new information they were finding to be intimidating and a bit dangerous, if the information were ever to get into the hands of someone who would use it for the wrong reasons.
During the talk R-Shief presented how they collect data on who tweeted or said certain things about certain events, specifically the Egyptian Revolution, and
store it for research and prediction purposes. The idea that someone is watching and collecting information on what you are posting seemed to be frightening to some people. Although, I do agree that the fact the public has access to my information can be scary, I am completely aware that what is posted online is public and made widely available to a large number of companies, and people, not only R-Shief. However, it becomes worry some when you may be punished for something you posted online if the information and your public post gets into the wrong hands or is seen by the wrong set of eyes.
As long as access to this information is used only to do research and not for punishment of any sort, I don’t see the harm in being spied on by an online data source. It is important to always keep in mind the risks that come with posting certain things and to review your privacy settings if you want your information to remain private, otherwise there is a virtual world which has access to every click you make, and anything you tweet or post, as it is important to use a collection of postings to make predictions, research and worldwide improvements.