Archives for posts with tag: usa

A look into Anonymous‘ most recent cyber protest

By Lory Martinez

OP USA Poster

Infamous hacker group “Anonymous” threatened a massive cyber attack on US servers earlier this week  to protest American foreign policy. The plan, dubbed #OP USA, was to be Anonymous’ successful follow-up to #OP Israel, but it did little to no damage to US sites.

According to the group’s press release, “#OpUSA will be initiated on 7th of May 2013 and will target American websites & servers. The hackers say they are targeting the USA for its war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The hackers also said the attacks will be done in solidarity with the innocent victims of american drone attacks especially the innocent children.”

However,the plan backfired and instead reinforced relations between the groups’ victims-the US and Israel- in cyberspace. The Times of Israel reported that Israeli hackers promised to fight alongside American cyber-defenders, if the need should arise. The Israel Elite Hacker team, formed in the wake of #OpIsrael, tweeted, “This is a message from the Jewish Nation to our friends in the #USA,” the group said. “Although we have cowards for leaders, we take care of our friends!”

In the states, our cultural response had less of a “friends stick together” feel. It was simply a matter of memes:

The Internet reacts to #OPUSA

Some food for thought, from all of us here at The Media Review.

A note: Even though the semester is over and our show ended this past week, we will still be bringing you updates and commentary on the media well into the summer. Thanks for listening and reading!

University of Maryland to Offer Four Free Cour...

University of Maryland to Offer Four Free Courses Through Coursera (Photo credit: University of Maryland Press Releases)

A look into learning in 2013

By Alex Baer

Lenny Scaletta once famously asked, “What’s a mook?” To the fellas of Mean Streets, a “mook” is a loser or a schlub. But for many of us in 2013, “MOOCs” could be a saving grace.

What’s a “MOOC”, you ask? It stands for Massively Open Online Course, and is the newest addition to the e-learning community. In addition to providing assignments, readings, and videos, as in traditional distance education, MOOCs also offer open forums for interaction between students. Unlike online courses offered through a university, MOOCs are free, and open to anyone with Internet access.

Within the past year, MOOCs have skyrocketed in popularity. Coursera, whose founding happened just over a year ago, has over 3 million students, up from 1.7 million in November. Offering courses from over 30 universities from across the nation, including Duke, Columbia, and Princeton- Coursera’s clout grows stronger with each passing “semester”. My personal favorite is Canine Theriogenology for Dog Enthusiasts.

The SUNY system is also unveiling a new e-learning system. Dubbed “Open SUNY,” all online courses within the State University of New York system will be available to all of SUNY’s 468,000 students. Open SUNY is a drastically different system compared to its contemporaries, as it is not only built upon an existing public higher education network, it is also held to the same standards of that institution.

There are many benefits to a MOOC; as it is online, time zones and physical distances lose importance, learning happens in an informal environment, and you don’t need a degree. However, completion rates are usually incredibly low. Many courses see a sharp decline in student participation within the first week. Duke University knows this problem firsthand. In their first offered MOOC, “Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach,” almost 13,000 students registered. Just over half of those who registered watched at least one video, and only 346 students even attempted the final exam.

Not only do MOOCs suffer from the more frivolous types of academics, their very nature is proving to be a bit of a detriment. Although the Internet is the great equalizer of our day, making all users into potential MOOC students, it could also mask those who may not be completely ready for the level of work. As Coursera relies on students to grade one another, the grade you get from the single Mom in Portland might not be the same grade you would have gotten from that 17-year-old from Arlington.

In addition to MOOCs, there are other styles of e-learning. For instance, MIT, Harvard, Yale, and other prestigious universities have posted entire lecture series and entire courses in video lecture format on their channels, with no fee or membership needed, in everything from Boat Design to Game Theory to Robotics. Khan Academy is also a big name in the e-learning circuit, and has over 4,000 video lectures on everything from cosmology to healthcare.

The biggest drawback to MOOCs and the e-learning movement as a whole, is the lack of interaction. Services like Coursera have gone to great lengths to promote peer to peer activity, especially with respect to group discussions, but the convenience of online learning is also its Achilles heel. Despite your most valiant prayers and efforts, you can’t turn off and walk away from that Molecular Genetics lab, or your “dull-as-dishwater” Macroeconomics lecture.

MOOCs are easy come, easy go. You can sign up for as many as you please, but for the moment, your commitment is entirely up to you. This argument could also be said for traditional, brick-and-mortar post-secondary schools, but the repercussions are much heavier on that end. Free to sign up also means free to drop.

But whether you’re eagerly awaiting high school graduation, want to brush up on your organic chemistry, or just want to learn about the world around you, it’s just as easy as the click of a mouse. For an old-timer who remembers that phrase ending in “…opening up a book,” it’s a sobering reminder of the world we live in. But it is also a triumphant celebration of the drive to learn that burns within us all.

Areas of the U.S. where "dew" and &q...

Areas of the U.S. where “dew” and “do” are pronounced differently. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A look into the Accents of the Southern Tier

by Alex Baer

Fourth of July, 1960. Columnist Norma Gauhn has dire words for Americans in the “jet age”: dialects are disappearing. So-called “speech experts” predict that “mass communications, compulsory education,” and the emergence of driver culture would soon homogenize American accents.

On the surface, it makes a good bit of sense; with distance made inconsequential, people aren’t as separated- one of the key factors that leads to the emergence of different dialects. Dialects, in layman’s terms, are variations of a language, different in their vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. For most American English dialects, the differences lie in their pronunciation.

While some accents do seem to be receding (how many New Englanders still sound like JFK?), what is becoming more and more apparent is that despite Skype, free long distance, and YouTube, dialects in the United States are changing more than ever.

As some of our listeners in the Southern Tier may know, one of these newfound dialects is in our own backyard. Coined in 1972 by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the Northern Cities Vowel Shift refers to an emergent accent relatively new to linguistics; spoken by over 30 million people from Milwaukee to Syracuse, it has scientists scratching their heads.

The accent has some key features that distinguish it from other American dialects: the backing of ʌ, the short u sound (as in uh), the fronting of aw, and the diphthongization of ae. What the heck is a diphthong, you say? It’s two adjacent vowels that lie within the same syllable. I just used one; the ie in lie is a diphthong.

For example: whereas someone would say “my mom got a cat,” someone from Rochester might say “my mahm gawt a kee-at.”

Any avid YouTubers out there might be familiar with Jenna Marbles, a Rochester native.Fans of classic Saturday Night Live also might remember Bill Swerski’s Superfans, a famous and early example of the accent.

Vowels are the key to understanding this linguistic change. There are short vowels (like in bat, or bot), and long vowels (like in boat, or beet). Long vowels have stayed the same since around the 1400s, but short vowels haven’t changed since the time of Charlemagne… until now.

William Labov, who identified the accent with the help of fellow linguists, is one of the leading experts on the dialect. Labov has likened this shift to “something like a game of musical chairs.” With each vowel sound fighting for their own phonological turf, a chain shift has occurred.

Together with Sharon Ash, Charles Boberg, published The Atlas of North American English back in 2005. Over 750 subjects were interviewed, from almost 300 communities, over 11 years. Called a “snapshot of our rapidly changing language,” it documents everything from the modern Bawston accent to the North Country (or Inland North) accent, and many more.

At any rate, it does seem that fears that mass communication is pushing us into a single accent are quite unfounded. We learn language from personal interactions, talking face-to-face with our friends and family. Even as cables and fibers turn us into a globally interconnected culture, we still retain our almost tribal identity of the people we interact with on a regional level.

So the next time you find yourself at a Syracuse game, or talking to a hometown Brewers fan, really listen. You just might learn something!

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