Archive

Monthly Archives: August 2013

Article I wrote for the free publication Cardiff Times for their July 2013 Edition.

As a student coming to Cardiff Metropolitan University from Northern Ireland, a country still feeling the effects of past decades of sectarian violence, the vibrant make-up of Cardiff, for me, is without the doubt the most positive aspect of the city.

The University itself has overseas partnerships offering programmes in Egypt, Korea, Morocco, Sri Lanka and Singapore, allowing students from over 140 countries to study its various under-graduate and post-graduate degrees. On my own Graphic Communication course this is reflected in the make-up of my fellow course-mates who have come as far as wide as Sweden, China and Portugal. As an individual who is keenly interested in the wider world and current affairs I have viewed this as only positive as it has presented me with an opportunity to learn about other cultures and their aspects from people whose origins are rooted there. In this regards this has contributed to a mutually beneficial experience.

During my experiences in my first year within university I encountered not just academic challenges but a huge personal challenge. Since I can recall I have always found it harder to socialise than most other people. This problem was intensified when I came to university – a whole new environment for me where I had to make new friends. During the following two years however due to my own effort, determination, help from the universities student services and my tutors I have greatly improved my social and communication skills through Speech and Language Therapy at the local hospital and the broader university environment. Although I would admit I have not achieved my full potential in this area my existing improvement as a consequence of this support has given me the confidence to eventually do so.

Towards the end of my degree and with the prospect of my future looming ahead of me I decided that I wanted a future career not in design, but journalism. Fortunately I found opportunities with the help of my course tutors within university to help me develop appropriate experience and skills in this area including writing for the universities online newspaper, Retro, in addition to my own blog. In these various aspects I therefore ultimately view the decision to come to Cardiff as a positive personal step as it forced me to recognize and face my social and communication difficulties.

As a student with no interest in the clubs that my course mates flock to during the night I have travelled on various occasions to the Chapter Arts Centre to see some interesting non-mainstream films on limited release such as the horror anthology ABC’s of Death or Kill List. This reflects my own personal interest in Horror cinema. If I decided to do neither I would like to think that I would be one among very few university students who prefers to watch Newsnight than going to the city’s nightclub’s, if only for the fact I find Jeremy Paxman’s questioning style to be potentially more interesting than the possibility of watching my fellow drunken students dance until the early hours of the morning. When my course mates decided to avoid clubs themselves however nearby pubs provided a more enjoyable location to have a nice, quiet drink with course-mates.

Outside university the most striking part of the landscape is the Millennium Stadium. While I have never been a fan of rugby this does did provide quite an impressive site during trips to the city centre. As a Liverpool FC fan, watching the 2012 League Cup Final in a pub with a fan that supported both Cardiff City and Manchester United was, however, certainly an interesting experience. It is perhaps an indication of the character of the city’s residents that I was met with friendliness despite my team’s victory on penalties, always a excruciating experience for any football fan on the losing side.

Yet I can genuinely say all these aspects have made my three years in Cardiff a unique experience that I value both at an academic and personal level. After I eventually figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of life I will definitely consider returning at some point in the future.

Advertisements

Since the internet’s inception, followed by no immediate regulation, individuals have used it for dubious or potentially criminal means. Arguably, today the most dangerous threat is its use by terrorists.

With revelations concerning the extent of our own security service’s involvement in the American Prism programme recently coming to light authorities have inevitably defended such an approach by security services for preventing several terrorist attacks since 9/11. Inevitably this attracted strong criticism from human right and liberty groups as an attack on personal freedom and privacy.

In recent weeks however this same privacy that elements of web grants to individuals is, arguably, one factor which has led to cyber-abuse and bullying of Caroline Criado-Perez and now the tragic death of Hannah Smith, reportedly due to cyber-bullying. What this points to is an inherent tension between privacy, transparency and personal security within the context of what is a relatively young technology.

cyberbullying_f

Cyber-crime. As potentially dangerous as terrorism.

Though he was originally referring to beginnings of american democracy rather than the internet Alexis De Tocqueville remark that “Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.”, in this respect, seems perfectly relevant.

In many aspects the internet can be seen as a force for democratisation. As with democracy however certain restrictions are required to prevent a state of anarchy. Anarchy in any context can lead to tragic and dangerous consequences. Certainly the use of social media at the beginning of the Arab Spring indicates the potential of the internet. The domino effect as dictatorships fell after one another was partly because of the interconnectivity that the web brings to our contemporary world. Perversely this makes the internet one of the most powerful democratic forces, but due to ever faster technological advances the most difficult to police. Several factors work against those domestic authorities who try to police it. One of these is geographic location and its close relation to police jurisdiction. Since police forces have jurisdiction only over crimes that take place in the geographic location where they have authority and laws differ nation to nation those who commit cyber-crime can escape jurisdiction by simply residing in another country. They can potentially be extradited but this is a lengthy and difficult process even when treaties between certain countries allow it.

Anonymity is also seen as a factor that emboldens users. Commentators and Caroline Criado-Perez herself have indicated how the screen psychologically distances perpetuators from their victim and the consequences of their actions.

Within this context it is interesting to note that on the same day that the BBC reported on death the United States criticised Vietnam for introducing new a decree restricting its citizens from discussing such basic issues as current affairs. Campaign group Reporters Without Borders responded by stating “If [the decree] takes effect, Vietnamese will be permanently deprived of the independent and outspoken information that normally circulates in blogs and forums”.

When Censorship is taken to levels such as in China and Vietnam which clearly limit freedom on a such a level this is clearly not conducive with basic democratic principles. In these countries the authorities justify such measures in an attempt to control those voices, such as bloggers, who are critical of the communist parties policies and protect national security and interests. Would such measures have prevented such a tragic death there. Maybe, maybe not. More importantly what it does highlight is the equal importance of a citizens safety and well being to national security and the balance necessary between personal freedom and security to achieve both.

In the era of 24hrs news channels and the internet a terrorist attack will inevitably attract more media attention and there may be cases where subsequent sedurity measures have prevented terrorist acts. Ultimately however, individuals, aswell as a countries national security deserve to be protected from online threats.