Internet Obsession

In Korea, a Boot Camp Cure for Web Obsession

Compulsive Internet use has been identified as a mental health issue in other countries, including the United States. However, it may be a particularly acute problem in South Korea because of the country’s nearly universal Internet access.

It has become a national issue here in recent years, as users started dropping dead from exhaustion after playing online games for days on end. A growing number of students have skipped school to stay online, shockingly self-destructive behavior in this intensely competitive society.

Up to 30 percent of South Koreans under 18, or about 2.4 million people, are at risk of Internet addiction, said Ahn Dong-hyun, a child psychiatrist at Hanyang University in Seoul who just completed a three-year government-financed survey of the problem.

They spend at least two hours a day online, usually playing games or chatting. Of those, up to a quarter million probably show signs of actual addiction, like an inability to stop themselves from using computers, rising levels of tolerance that drive them to seek ever longer sessions online, and withdrawal symptoms like anger and craving when prevented from logging on.

To address the problem, the government has built a network of 140 Internet-addiction counseling centers, in addition to treatment programs at almost 100 hospitals and, most recently, the Internet Rescue camp, which started this summer. Researchers have developed a checklist for diagnosing the addiction and determining its severity, the K-Scale. (The K is for Korea.)

In September, South Korea held the first international symposium on Internet addiction.

Somehow, I’m not convinced that the problem lies with the network….

Living in a Surveillance Society (II)

The Picture Of Conformitypdf

All this surveillance, monitoring and eavesdropping is changing our culture, affecting people’s behavior, altering their sense of freedom, of autonomy. That’s what the experts say: that surveillance robs people of their public anonymity. And they go even further, saying that pressure for conformity is endemic in a surveillance culture; that creativity and uniqueness become its casualties.

While there are benefits to surveillance — the sense of security, the ability to view crime scenes — the loss of autonomy represents the downside of our surveillance-heavy culture, says Jeffrey Rosen, a George Washington University law professor and author of “The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age.”

“You need a sphere of immunity from surveillance to be yourself and do things that people in a free society take for granted,” says Rosen. Things like going to the park or to the market. The loss of such autonomy is one of the “amorphous costs of having a world where there’s no immunity from surveillance.

“This will transform the nature of public spaces in ways we could hardly imagine,” he says. “People obviously behave differently when they’re unsure about whether they’re being observed. We know this from personal experience.

“I’m not at all suggesting that Orwell’s ‘1984’ is around the corner,” he continues. “But things will change, and some of the changes will be good and others will be bad.”

[…] In fact, we can be watched and tracked from so many different angles in so many different ways that hints of the Panopticon are hard to ignore. That was the invention of the 18th century British economist Jeremy Bentham, who conceived of the Panopticon as a circular prison in which warders could see prisoners at all times.

The Panopticon would create in the inmate a sense of “conscious and permanent visibility,” and yet he “must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so,” wrote philosopher Michel Foucault in his 1975 book, “Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison.”

Today, says [Harvard social psychologist Shoshana] Zuboff, we operate within an “information Panopticon.”

“In our modern dematerialized world, you don’t have to build a building to have permanent surveillance over individuals and their behavior,” she says. “You can do it with an information system.”

A Look At Comcast’s P2P Network Shaping

Mounting Peer-to-Peer Pressure for Comcastpdf

The Comcast controversy strikes at the heart of some of the biggest debates engulfing technology, including how much control network operators should have over the flow of information and entertainment over their systems and how aggressively they ought to monitor content and adjust delivery speeds. Comcasts moves reflect a basic assumption that peer-to-peer networks are primarily used to send pirated material, including songs, TV shows, and full-length movies. Specifically, charges have focused on Comcasts throttling of files sent using a peer-to-peer standard called BitTorrent that by some measures is as popular for sending video today as Napster NAPS was for sending music in the late 1990s.

But reaching conclusions over the fairness of Comcasts moves and the legitimacy of peer-to-peer content wont be easy, since not all peer-to-peer traffic is made up of ripped-off tunes and flicks. Companies such as Joost, Vuze, and even BitTorrent—whose founder, Bram Cohen, created the original peer-to-peer protocol—have struck deals to use peer-to-peer technology to distribute programming by dozens of mainline content owners such as CBS CBS, PBS, and Viacoms VIA Showtime. These content owners see peer-to-peer techniques as a promising means to go from todays grainy YouTube-quality content to deliver full high-definition resolution to consumers via the Internet.

What’s more, many experts contend that Comcast and other network owners will never succeed in accurately filtering out peer-to-peer traffic, and certainly not just the illegal stuff. Files can be easily disguised to avoid detection with a few programming tricks—say, adding some descriptive bits to make a movie clip look like an e-mail.