In Zuckerman’s study as well as in the video of the panel discussion it was taken into account whether bloggers use their real name or blog anonymously. It was said that using your name can increase your risk of imprisonment or torture if the government sees you as a potential threat. However, blogging anonymously is said to have not as much of an impact when it comes to creating a community and backing your beliefs. It is easier for internet users to trust and support a blogger that they can picture than to join the protests of an anonymous figure.
That discussion reminded me of the R-Shief lecture in which it was discussed whether research on specific users should be supported or refrained from in order to protect them. In my opinion, all bloggers should make the decision about how much information they want to reveal for themselves and I am convinced that this might sometimes be a tough decision to make.
How you want to present yourself in the online world probably also depends on your type of engagement. Zuckerman distinguishes between thin and thick engagement. The first one is a type of support that requires your physical presence at a demonstration, your signature on a petition, etc. but usually not a lot of thinking. There are others organizing those forms of activism and doing the major part of thinking for a bigger group. With thick engagement on the other hand, you have to figure out what needs to be done and act accordingly.
I suppose that people active in thick engagement are more likely to be prosecuted by the government, as they might be seen as the agitators, whereas the thin engagers might be considered the followers. The “followers” might not be as worried about using their real name because they feel less at risk, but the “thinkers” might also choose to use their real name, because identifying the source of the thoughts might make them more convincing and impactful.
After the R-Shief 4.0 workshop I realized how important the language is to be able to understand what you are researching about. I agree on the fact that if you are going to be working and investigating the problems of a country, it is very important for you to emerge in that country. Apart from living in it and experiencing what the natives are you should learn the language, because with the translation many expressions and particular words are lost this is due to the lack of an exact translation of the information or specific words. Reading about the problem, in this case, of the Middle East in Arab will enrich the researcher on his field and will make him become twice as aware as if the information had been translated to another language.
However a bit of controversy will rise because no translation will mean that people who are just interested to know about what is happening throughout the world, won’t have the privilege to get informed and therefore the ignorance will increase drastically as people will just know things that happen in their county or the countries that speak the same language. It’s impossible to learn every language in the world, therefore having information translated will allow creating a change as more people would be aware and willing to take part of the development.
R-Shief overall has many interesting ideas that will allow media to become more accessible and the users to search for what they want and the way they want that information.
One aspect that I found especially fascinating during the R-Shief lecture was the question on whether more data about the users should be collected. Professor Sakr stated her concern for the user’s security since the R-Shief software might not only be used by people with academic intentions. Governments or other groups might try to find out which users are spreading opinions that oppose their agenda and try to mute, imprison, torture or even kill them. The question on whether scientists should be held responsible on what others do with their findings is not new and in this case I am with Professor Sakr. It is of course interesting to learn more about the users, but the negative consequences of creating such an open-source software are too blatant and likely to ignore. The helpful insights that scholars might get cannot outweigh the fact that such a tool might lead to the killing of human beings fighting for their rights.
Another highly discussed issue was the aspect of translation. R-Shief does not translate any of its findings and Professor Sakr explained that with the unreliableness of automatic translation tools. She furthermore said that if one wants to do research on a country, one should either study the language or at least consult a translator as that is going to lead to a far better understanding than just looking at a automatically translated text. While automatic translation tools might have improved over the last years, they are still not as intelligent as a human being can be. Language is such an important part of culture and it shapes our understanding of the world, language itself transmits more than the mere content. Automatic translation tools might face problems if there is no linguistic equivalent, if different dialogues are used or puns are made. One video that adequately shows that automatic translations should not blindly be trusted can be found below.
The event, unveiling R-Shief 4.0 was immensely interesting and relatively easy to process for someone who has little to no familiarity with the discourse of data analytic. Initially, I noticed phrases/ terms used by Professor Sakr regarding data and the analysis of data that were human and compelling. This included “bringing people together”, “meeting new people”, “archive”, “bridge”, “provide humanities based vision into condition of human beings” and “text as primary source”.
The thought that the internet was a text itself, one that is audible as well as visual, is engaging and has lasting implications. R-Shief’s capacity to gather lots and lots of data and arrange that data into visualizers is remarkable and historically crucial. In the context of modern day technology, people learn through visuals, online visuals, graphs, statistics, etc. Depicting trends and correlations with data from real people in real time can give academics and average people more to understand about the world and one another.
Professor Sakr’s declaring that they are not doing predictive analysis, despite the 18-36 hour declaration regarding Tripoli, is important. As she continues to explain, that is a dangerous path to go down. Another dangerous path to go down is studying and following certain individuals. In a modern state of mass surveillance this is not what we need and as Sakr states, people are not “lab rats”. Its important to protect people as this potential to collect data from individuals to study individuals can and has been used against individuals, especially activists.
One of the goals, understandably, of R-Shief is to balance scale-ability and user-ability. This democratizing data analytic source can and will continue to be used by average people, but also needs to be able to process more and more information and in different ways. This is an amazing project and especially for someone who is a visual learner, these data visualizers have an impact on me. I personally can’t wait to see where this resource goes in the future, around the world and even locally at UCSB.
While I attended a lecture as one of the events I needed to attend to for one of my courses. At first I had no idea what it was and how it was connected to anything about digital activism. But some of my questions were answered as the lecture was being presented. I found out the basic information about R-Shief. It is a multi-layered program that collects, organizes and displays different types of data (keyword searches and hashtags) from Twitter. Than once the data is finally collected it is able to be graphed and displayed of the most common keywords being search and the spike in popularity of said keyword on any given time and day. The site collected data in several different languages like Spanish, English and Arabic.
Another aspect of this complex program is what is the overall purpose for this site? As well as who would use it and why? Some of those questions were answers in the general background history of the program. From what I’ve learned it is meant to be a research tool for academics and scholars regardless of discipline. It’s about research and gathering data of incoming trends, ideas and social norms happening in the Middle East. I found this very interesting and was given a sum up version on how it actually works through a couple of demonstrations.
Last element of this program I learned from the lecture was where they wanted to improve on and answered some questions from the audience. Their overall goal for this program is to continue to evolve and be able to actually track where these messages are coming from. As well as pulling the data from multiple social networks like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook just to name a few. Lastly their final goal is to have this program user friendly and be able to have it integrated at the university level and they’re in the beginning steps of integrating it here at UCSB. My final observation was a question someone asked about the program to possibly translate the original language to English? She replied no and displayed a strong opinion that translating should be put into the hands of real human translators instead of computers. Overall it was an interesting lecture of innovative technology and the multiple uses the program has to offer.