Light and Gold

I think I want to make a post just to wrap up my thoughts for creation/consumption week.

Something about the whole “three wolf moon” argument that we had in class the other day has really got me thinking. Sure, there are a lot of people that spend a lot of time on the internet consuming information and products, and maybe it’s gotten to the point that the consumers exponentially outnumber the producers. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing at all.

The internet works in the exact same way as a capitalist economy– where there is demand, supply will be created, and in some cases, a supply will create a demand as new things become more and more popular. By that logic, consumers become creators in that they create the demand for content and for new products. Without consumers, there would be no platform for creation.

But one thing I definitely notice about internet culture is that there’s really no precedent or limitations for who can create content. Thus, we see a diverse representation of artistic/creative viewpoints that can be shared with people of all backgrounds. The infinite possibilities for new content inspires creativity in others that would not necessarily have pursued art (in whatever form) in a non-virtual setting. Most importantly, the internet has provided the platform, the how-to knowledge, the collaborators, and the cheapest available materials for people to attempt to bring their ideas to life. And with that you get videos like the one above, where you need nothing but built-in laptop webcams, basic video editing software, and 100 or so volunteers from around the globe to create a beautiful choir made up entirely of strangers.

Tl;dr, Even though a lot of the internet is made up of people who do nothing but instagram the waffles they had for breakfast, every so often you’ll get a little gem of creative genius like this that restores your faith in humanity and all its possibilities.

How to Create an App

In a world where everyone is glued to a smartphone, the market for Applications, usually shortened to Apps, has exploded virtually overnight. Apps allow users to do… well… pretty much anything. “There’s an app for that,” after all. Apps have been created to serve what seems like every form and function: mobile gaming, mobile banking, and mobile learning have all become phrases commonly used in our vocabulary today. It seems like things we once had to go out and do in the “real world” can just as easily be done from a phone’s touch screen, and you can bet that people are making a profit from it. But what exactly is an app? And how does it work?

As explained in the article, How to Create an App, Apps can divided into two categories: Native and Web apps. As you might be able to guess, Native apps take advantage of built-in hardware and software on the device to perform whatever functions they were designed for, and Web apps use the internet to do the same thing– that is, they actually function in the web browser, but “look and feel like a Native app”. Many apps are a combination of the two, having features that can be accessed with just the phone’s hardware, and additional features that are only available with an internet connection.

Apps are written in programming language, just as all computer programs are written in programming languages. For the Apple iOS, Objective-C is the primary Native app language. Android apps use Java, and Windows apps use C#. Web apps across platforms use HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.

Once past learning and writing the basic code for the app, app builders can use storyboarding design tools to format the layout and look of the app. Next, they program the logic and data storage of the app, which ensures that the app functions as you would expect it to. For example, you press a button and the button responds by leading you to a new page, where you then enter information, press another button, and have your information stored in the app for future reference. Once this is complete, the app can be tested, and then published for public consumption.

The article goes more in-depth about the programs available for app creation and development, and concludes by stressing the importance of continued development of mobile apps as people continue to demand these applications on their mobile devices.


A New Front: Cyber Crime and Warfare in the Digital Age

This article, titled “Cybercrime, Cyberweapons, and Cyber Wars: Is There Too Much of It in the Air?” discusses how the capabilities of criminals and terrorists has evolved with the advent of increased online traffic. Criminals can produce and/or sell fake documents, malware, credit card and bank information, bulletproof web hosting, and hacking services such as DDoS attacks and bot spamming for a relatively low cost. And they still make a huge profit because the market for those things has expanded so greatly.

The use of malware and hacking techniques is not limited to the criminal underbelly of the internet. In fact, law enforcement and counter-terrorist forces have had to don the black hat in order to prevent so-called “cyber-terrorist” attacks. These attacks are easy to launch with very little skill in computer programming– in fact, according to the article, they can be waged with little more than the malware available on a petty cyber-criminal’s website. Even so, counter-cyber-terrorists seem to be one step behind their adversaries, and the effects of their efforts have been mostly negative for the general populace. Violations of privacy and freedom of information by intelligence agencies in its attempts to combat terrorism have become more and more popular in the news, especially following the Snowden leaks.

Mapping the Internet


Image credit to Nicolas Rapp for Fortune Magazine

This article by Andrew Blum provides a terse but relatively complete description of how “the internet” makes it from your friendly neighborhood ISP to that little box on your desk– or pad, if you’re into the whole tablet thing. He tells us about the infrastructure of the global fiber-optic cable network that oh-so-speedily transmits all of your favorite cat videos (if you’re still confused on how that works, I recommend this video from the discovery channel). He talks about the “middle-mile” and “last-mile” problems that plagued internet providers in the 90’s and 00’s– which is essentially when ISP’s asked themselves “How are we going to quickly and cost-effectively convert digital information to analog information to digital information while also moving it from Point A to Point B?”

One thing that I frequently find myself forgetting is that “free Wi-Fi” isn’t actually free. Blum explains that the cost for this magical, invisible thing we call “the internet” varies with direct proportion to the distance of Point B from Point A, i.e. the farther you are from an internet exchange point, the more you have to pay to instagram your blueberry overnight oats complete with recipe.

You’re probably thinking “Well yeah, that’s pretty obvious and totally logically sound, so why is it important and/or relevant?”

Good question, Friend! The implications of this distance to cost proportion mean that companies who can afford to purchase spaces that are physically closer to internet hubs immediately have an advantage over their competitors, who have to wait longer to receive their information. Not to mention that fast internet equals less waiting for your page to load equals more time to actually get things done, and we all know that time equals money. Q.E.D., fast internet equals money. In the grand scheme of things, this means that the speed of the internet literally has some power to dictate which companies will be successful. Spooky thought, right?

That’s not all, either! As Blum states in his article, “‘Internet¬†exchange points’ […] for the most part, follow geography and population,” meaning that where there are people there is internet, and vice versa. This means that “boom towns” tend to crop up around new internet hubs, giving the nigh-omnipotent internet the power to physically shape our world around itself. Forget ghosts and goblins, I’m being the internet for Halloween.¬†