Follow the Yellow Silk Road

Everyone has been involved in Online Deviancy whether they realise it or not. Pirating a movie, downloading an album, this is theft. Yet we have been desensitised to crime online because it is as easy to download the new Marvel film as it is to check our emails. But there is a section of the internet not so easily accessed, and far more severe crimes being committed.

The Silk Road has been recognised the most sophisticated and dangerous online market. A black market site that primarily sold illegal drugs. Silk Road uses Tor software and Bitcoin for accessibility and anonymity.

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A 2015 documentary Deep Web tells the story of Ross Ulbricht, the known creator of the Darknet site. Dread Pirate Roberts or DPR was his pseudonym on The Silk Road site. The documentary gives us a human face to the dark site. Ulbricht ideology is not onDeep-Web-2015-203x300.jpge of violence or harm, but in fact of freedom. He wanted a free and safe space to buy drugs. A community message board was available on the site, where members would warn against Overdosing on Drug. Yet the media paints Ulbricht as a Druglord.

Ulbrichts arrest came about when FBI agents became uncover members of the Silk Road. His arrest and trial was huge in the war against drugs and the war against online deviancy.

An issue raised in the Documentary is that of how the FBI access the Silk Road servers. The servers ran on tor which should have hid the location of the server.
To hack the server without a warrant is as illegal as searching a house without a warrant. It is a question of law of privacy. If the government can access your personal data without a warrant than this could have a detrimental effect to the right to privacy. The trial of the Ross Ulbricht has set a precedent of internet privacy.

Although The Silk Road has been shut down, other Dark Net websites have been created. There seems to be a constant reactions to the governments investigations or laws. More and more websites challenge the laws.

In the Trail, Ulbricht admits that he did in fact create the Silk Road website, but he was not DPR. Ulbricht has been sentenced to life in prison with no parol.

The documentary highlights how the government intervenes in online activity. How anonymity can be problematic when crimes are being prosecuted. But it is more importantly a commentary about Online Deviancy. The Accessibility of illegal items, the anonymity of those who buy and sell illegal items online.

Porn is in the Air

Whether it be a page 3 girl, or a blurry video on an old Nokia. My generation was exposed to some sort of pornographic content from a young age. But how has this early insight effected our culture?

The line between what is appropriate for children and what is not seems to be flexible in the past 10 years. This can be seen particularly in children’s movies. Disney’s most recent feature film Zootopia had a number of sexual innuendos that may have been a result of this. The lead character Judy, a rabbit has 200+ brothers and sisters. At one point she utters the line “Us rabbits are good a multiplying”. Seemingly harmless plot points may fly high over the heads of children, and may give adults a giggle. However there is something to be said allowing thinly veiled sexual jokes into G rated films. Is this a result of a pornified culture that sees sex as casually as any other activity?

It is important to note that children’s movies have included sexual innuendos for many years. The animaniacs was a show I watched every Saturday morning. Yet it was not until last year did I understand a not so subtle Sex joke in one episode. A simple word play on Fingerprints and Finger Prince.

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So perhaps it is not harmful to expose children to such jokes in their films or tv shows. However the fact that this is accepted and allowed is a commentary on how Porn has influence our society.

How we perceive sex has changed, personally I feel it has changed for the better. Not too long ago, sex was shamed and hidden behind the doors of married couples. In an internet culture where you can watch porn, you can discuss sexual desires and explore areas of interest, we have become more open about discussing sex. I can speak for those my age where the idea of sex is no longer a thing to be whispered about, but a topic of conversation. Personally I feel this is healthier and this has certainly been aided by the readily accessible content online. Men and Woman in the early 20s are freely discussing ‘something I read online’. There seems to be a freer sense of exploration as a result of this. Sexual orientation is not so ridged and confining. Men are more open to idea of experimenting with other men. This is a major change from a once homophobic and masculine culture. Women are experimenting with other women. And while both of this experimentations may have happened in a pre-internet society, it was shammed or hidden.

While I have explored the negative impacts of a Pornified culture. The dehumanisation of women, the sexual impotence as a result of over consumption of Porn. There is something to be said for how Porn has also impacted society positively.

 

Da Vinci’s work was just FanArt

 

Fandom and subculture go hand in hand in a sense. A Subculture is a group of people with a common interest. They are a smaller group in a larger culture. Fandom consists of a group of people who are fans or have an interest in a particular topic, genre or hobby.

When I hear fandom, I think primarily of Tv, Books and Movies. We use the term to sum up a group of people, “Harry Potter Fandom! JK Rowling releases a new book”. While theses groups are targets for marketing strategies, they are more of a community.

Almost every interest in the media at the moment has a following, a fandom. When the ABC show Scandal began, it had a cult following. In the show, those who work for the crisis management firm call themselves ‘Gladiators in Suits’. Not long after the first episode aired, did fans of the show identify themselves as Gladiators. Soon, Gladiators would live tweet the new episodes every week. The fandom grew and the shows creators and stars began using the term ‘Gladiators’ to identify the fanbase. This is an example of an organic Fandom. The creators of the show did not give the fans this term to identify with, it grew naturally. The network ABC has since used it in its advertising campaigns.

This sense of community has in turn created more content by collecting more fans. Every Thursday, ‘Gladiators’ live tweet the new episodes. ‘Gladiators’ can meet up and find others who watch Scandal. ‘Gladiators’ can share their theories, opinions and predictions on various social medias. The Scandal Fandom grows which has boosted the shows popularity and there for, more episodes are produced.

While I use the Tv show Scandal as an example, it is evident in other Tv Fandoms. Pretty Little Liars have their ‘PLLArmy’ who have a massive community on Tumblr and Twitter. Glee had its Gleeks, Doctor Who fans identify as Whovian.

Fandoms spread across all aspects of popular culture. Individual singers and actors have their fans who identify themselves; Justin Biebers “Beliebers” , Benedict Cumberbatches “Cumberbitches”. This is no different than BeatleMania in the 60s, it is naming your obsession so you find your peers.

In class we discussed “Crazy about One Direction” a documentary about the One Direction Fandom. An insight into the fans of popular boy band One Direction. Some could and have villinised or judged these fans. Calling them ‘insane’ or ‘pathetic’ however I see them as no different to Scandals Gladiators or Pretty Little Liars PLL Army. One Direction are up on a stage (literally) to be adored. They are a lifestyle. To marry one would mean you wouldn’t have to worry about money or school. To be one you be rich and adored by all. It is a fantasy. Let the fans live their fantasy. Just as the PLLArmy feel they are involved in solving the mysteries the characters have to solve. It is escapism and sometimes a welcomed escape. Towards the end of the documentary we start to see that some of the fans have tough home lives. They are responsible for younger siblings, they are bullied, have no friends. It is very easy to sympathies with these fans when you understand why they need an escape. By fixating on a boy band, however intense they may get, is their outlet. Their sense of community, of belonging.

Fandoms and their subject have a symbiotic relationship.

Fandoms produce content of their own. By being an active member of a fandom, you engage with the subject and build upon it. Fan art and fan fiction are works inspired by the subject of the fandoms. While they have sexual connotations, the majority of fan work is a simply the fans interpretation of the content. This could be seen as a manifestation of the fans own desires and creativity. Some could say Da Vinci’s work is simply fan art, inspired by the bible.

Once again, it is a shared experience within the fandom. Admiration and appreciation for your work could only be valuable from your peers. That is to say, like minded people understand your creativity and opinions.

Just as the many subcultures before, and the many to come, Fandoms give a sense of identity and belonging.

GE Update

I have been following Averil Powers Campaign for the Dail for the duration of three weeks. Unfortunately she did not receive enough votes in the end.

However her voice was still heard across social media as she requested a recount.

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Her twitter feed gave her followers and followers of the GE16 hashtag commentary on the recount.

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However the recount was a fruitless endeavour. Loosing by only 44 votes, Power failed to get a seat in the Dail.

She realised a statement on Facebook to thank her supporters.

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Although she was not elected, Powers campaign was strong especially on social media. Her twitter feed was constantly update with information about her opinions on various issues. She raised awareness of her campaign and continued to update her supporters.

Over the course of the three weeks, Powers Facebook page gained over 200 likes.  ( 4, 034 likes recorded in my last blog post). Her twitter followers are now at 11,800 which is an estimated bump of 800 followers in three weeks. From these figures, it is evident that her social media campaign mobilised a lot of support.

In the final days her Facebook and Twitter focused on taking action. To use your vote, let your voice be heard and get out to vote. While defeated, it was a very narrow defeat which may be attributed to Powers strong social media presence.

Moral Panic at the Disco

Subcultures are a place to identify and belong. But what happens when your subculture finds itself painted with a taboo brush. Moral Panic is how the media educates those outside of a subculture about the subculture. However this leads to a miscommunication and a distorted portrayal of the subculture itself.

If we take one subculture in particular, you can start to understand how the medias use of Moral Panic can warp the publics perception. Emo subculture has perhaps suffered from this skewing of perception the most. Emo is synonymous with self harm and suicided. However it has lost its original meaning.

Emo began in the 1980s, it is a style of rock music. The lyrics are often dark thoughts or expressive. Emotional music. A diluted version or punk and goth, yet still a major subculture. Emos identified themselves with dark colours. Mostly black clothing, with black hair. Men and Women would don black makeup. All of this a physical representation of the music.

In the early 2000s Emo resurged and became somewhat mainstream. Bands such as Green Day, My Chemical Romance and Blink 185 were on the charts yet still represented the mo sub culture. So when Emo became mainstream, it also became subject to moral panic in the media.

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This Moral Panic created is due to the stereotypes of self harm. The lyrics of many emo songs can be seen as dark. Which has lead to the stereotype that if you are a emo, you are depressed. Hannah Bond, a 13 year old fan of My Chemical Romance committed suicided in 2008 leading many to blame her music as an influence. Hannah’s mother was quoted by many news sites as saying

“There are [emo] websites that show pink teddies hanging themselves. She called emo a fashion and I thought it was normal. Hannah was a normal girl. She had loads of friends. She could be a bit moody but I thought it was just because she was a teenager.”

http://www.digitalspy.com/music/news/a95516/emo-blamed-for-teen-girls-suicide/

Suddenly this music genre encourages and glamourise suicide and self harm.

In Ireland Central Bank is a known hangout for Emos. A shared space where likeminded people can form a community.

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What is to be said about how Moral Panic can influence a subculture. By creating a narrative that Emos are self harming and committing suicided, now the subculture is tainted. Suddenly you are judged and a cause for concern based on your music tastes. Would this have been the case if the media didn’t create a panic? Stereotyping the many based on the few can be detrimental to a subculture.

Hashtag Politics

While the world is busy jeering and gawking at the presidential candidates in the United States, Ireland is about to embark on its own General Election.

My constituency is North Dublin Bay, which provides a vast range of candidates from every party. There are five seats available and nineteen candidates.  Some candidates seek reelection; Richard Burton (FG), Sean Haughey (FF). Where as some candidates are once again asking for your vote; Stephanie Regan(FG), Deirdre Heney (FF).

Avril Power is one of five independent candidates running for a seat. By using SmartVote.ie I was able to further understand Powers views on specific issues. For example we are both in agreement that  ‘Abortion should be permitted in cases of rape, incest or when the baby is unlikely to survive outside the womb’.

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Her activity on social media seems to be more than other candidates. Her eleven thousand Twitter followers far exceeds that of other candidates in her constituency (Sean Haughey’s 1,397 and Richard Brutons 7, 381). Averils official Facebook Page has 4, 034 likes. She does not seem to be on Instagram or Snapchat.

(Numbers recorded on of February 7th 2016)

Her offical twitter account comes with a description;

Senator, Dog Lover and Whitecollar Boxer. Retweets are not an endorsement.

Her account is full of retweets that show various events, issues she has been involved in. It is unclear if this is Power herself retweeting or an employee, however it is extremely active. However both her Facebook and Twitter show her engaging in conversation with anyone who has a question or comment. Her Facebook promises a response ‘usually within an hour’ So in this sense, she is using Social Media as a instantaneous communication platform with her constituents.

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While the majority of conversation on Twitter is positive, there are some negative points about Powers Posters around her constituency. Many of her poster were below the legal height or had littered local streets. However Power engages in conversations, which looks to be an attempt to curb this negativity.

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I will be interest to follow Averils Social Media presence over the next three weeks and through the General Election.