More things about algorithms

Here’s the brand-new series of articles about algorithms, published by investigative powerhouse ProPublica (very relevant to this week’s topic!):


Here’s the Khan Academy course about algorithms (in class, I showed the first video from this course, which gives examples of various kinds of algorithms):


Also shown: Google Trends and Explore Google Trends; and FAQs about trends on Twitter.

We mentioned “brute force” algorithms (e.g. for winning at checkers) vs. machine-learning algorithms, which were necessary for this amazing achievement: How the Computer Beat the Go Master (March 2016).

TED Talk by Wael Ghonim

This is the video I mentioned in class, in which Wael Ghonim discusses how the Internet must change to support social change in the world. Wael was mentioned in the Week 3 readings as the well-known creator of the Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said,” which helped to unite Egyptians in a mass protest during the Arab Spring in 2011. Thanks to Osama for this link!

An added note: In an article I like very much, scholar Merlyna Lim expands on the “We Are All Khaled Said” example:

Previous movements in Egypt “had already created a basis for a mass political action. Indeed the story of Khaled Said can also be read as a culmination of the longstanding online campaign against torture waged on blogs such as Wael Abbas’s Egyptian Awareness, Nael Atef’s Torture in Egypt, and Bloggers Against Torture. However, the critical new important element introduced by the “We are all Khaled Said” movement was a strong symbolic representation, an iconic figure to fight against the authorities” (Lim, 2012, p. 241; boldface added).

Think carefully before you claim that one blog or one hashtag started a movement! There is often a long history of activism before the spark that lit the fire.

My Storify for my presentation

As part of your topic presentation grade, you will create a Storify so that others in the class can easily access your resources. Here is mine:

NOTE: If you viewed my Storify on Monday morning, it’s possible you saw an earlier draft version that was incomplete. It has been fixed.

Pay close attention to two things:

  1. The value added by my carefully selected resources. It took many hours to find these. They were not the first thing in Google. For every resource included in my presentation, I probably read or viewed 10 others and rejected them.
  2. The outline format in my Storify. It’s not my whole presentation. It’s not my Powerpoint. But there is enough to jog your memory so that you can find a resource that you saw during my presentation. It includes my five points. It’s designed to be useful. Your Storify should too.

In order to create your Storify, you should first watch this how-to video.

Student blogs and posts

Every student’s blog is now listed in the sidebar of this blog. If you’re viewing this on a phone, the list is below the posts. Scroll to see the list. On a larger screen, look on the right-hand side.

Note that you can see the title of each student’s introductory post. That title is a link to the post. This is important because each week when you write the title on your blog post, the title will appear here, and the title needs to follow the “slug” rules in the assignment for that week. For example, this week the rules are:

SLUG: The TITLE of your blog post about these articles must begin with the words “Internet and democracy.” This will make it easy for me (and other students in your class) to identify this first graded post in your blog! DO NOT use blog or post or 1 in the title.

By using the exact first words as per the instructions, we can all see whether your most recent post is the post for the newest assignment.

First week: How to access the course readings

I’m happy to announce that all the articles for this semester are available now in ARES Course Reserves (see link at right).

PLEASE NOTE that to get access to the articles, in most cases you MUST be logged into the UF VPN.

Find out HOW TO INSTALL THE UF VPN client. Or save time and simply download the UF VPN client installer. (The UF library has some additional information about the UF VPN.)

If you have any trouble with the VPN, contact the UF Computing Help Desk.

Most articles have a convenient link that says “View this item.” In most cases, this link will take you to a page that shows only the abstract for the article. On that same page, you can find a link to download the PDF of the complete article.

In all cases, you will have FREE access to the PDF file, or to a Web page containing the article. You do NOT need to pay for ANY articles (but you must be logged in with the VPN to get this free access).

How effective is surveillance?

Here is a short article from ProPublica, a well-respected independent non-profit news organization:

What’s the Evidence Mass Surveillance Works? Not Much (Nov. 18, 2015)

Very pertinent to yesterday’s presentation and discussion.

Transparency is a big issue: The government claims surveillance has helped to prevent some attacks, but no evidence is given. We are simply supposed to believe the claim because the government said so.

When we talk about political participation in Hong Kong

One of this week’s articles, by Leung and Lee (2014), can be discussed in the context of the 2014 Hong Kong protests, in which tens of thousands of people shut down Hong Kong’s CBD (Central Business District) by camping out in tents, sitting, walking, and holding signs, starting in September. Police drove the protesters away with relatively little violence more than two months later in mid-December 2014.

This popular video (it has 556,000+ views) gives a fast and accurate summary of Hong Kong’s relationship to mainland China and provides some context for why the protests took place.

It’s 6 min. 37 sec. and well worth the time. If you want to skip the history of Hong Kong and go straight to the part about the 2014 protest action, go to 03:40 in the video and play from there. But the first half is really good too.

The English subtitles on this video are great, by the way. Chinese subtitles are also provided!