By Courtney Ryan and Rebekah Graham

A considerable part of the untruth’s spread during “Superstorm Sandy” on various social media sites was largely due to Twitter user, @ComfortablySmug. The Twitter blogger’s identity was released, revealing his real name to be Shashank Tripathi. Tripathi was, at the time, a hedge fund analyst and campaign manager for candidate Christopher R. Wright, for the House of Representatives.

A series of tweets containing false information began making it’s way through other Twitter uses and was even reported on by national media. The misinformation instilled unwarranted fear in many New York and New Jersey residents. Tripathi began his false statements, starting with “BREAKING.” One of the tweets recounted that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) had been flooded and another one saying Con Edison, a power company, was planning to shut down all power in Manhattan. Tripathi has over six thousand Twitter followers. Many of his tweets were retweeted hundreds of times.

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While some of the information @ComfortablySmug tweeted was true, there was much that was not. For instance, ALL bridges to and from Manhattan were being sealed off.  There were bridges shut down because of the storm, but not all. And the subway was going to be shut down for the remainder of the week. This was also not true.

As a Senior Communication major, with a minor in Journalism, I, (Courtney), have written my fair share of articles which were distributed and available to the public. These articles required conducting interviews and quoting the source of my information.  Journalism demands truth and accuracy. While I am not much for cliché sayings, Stan Lee wrote in the first Spider Man movie script, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.” The person you are interviewing is giving you a part of himself or herself. They have entrusted their story to you and possibly even their reputation or image. I have come to understand the responsibility that is placed on me every time I interview an individual and relay what they’ve said, whether through direct quotes or summarizing.

Journalists follow the AP Stylebook as their guideline. Twitter, a fairly recent social media site, allows any individual with access to the Internet the opportunity to tweet and be tweeted at. There currently is not an enforced standard that Twitter users must follow when tweeting. With that said, I believe we each need to held accountable to what we say and in this case, write, whether it is for a news article or the popular social media site, Twitter.

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What was @ComfortablySmug’s driving motive to pass on false information? Was it for attention? Was it because of anonymity and the feeling of being able to say anything without consequences? Maybe. I don’t know.  In the end, his identity being revealed and he relaying a public apology served justice. “I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology,” his opening statement reads. Let this incident be a warning on the dangers of spreading false information and the importance of taking responsibility and pride in what you write, because who knows who might end up seeing it.


Over the last two decades we have seen enormous growth and development in
the world of the Internet. For artists it has opened up a whole new
medium. People now can have access to something no matter where they live.

One creative example of the Creative Culture online is an application that
was created by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. Check out this Ted Talk video where
Jonathan Harris talks about this creation. We Feel Fine is a way for people to look a the Internet
as whole and see what the majority of people are feeling at a given time.

Another example of a creative way of sharing ideas is the website called
KickStarter. This is a website where inventors and artists can get funding
for different projects. They make a short two to three minute video
selling their idea. Then the viewers can buy into the project. The creator
can get the funding they need and the audience can get in on the product.

There have even been radical activists that have used the internet to
display their art and to make a statement. Ai Wei Wei (Link to his
twitter) is one of those activists. He is a Chinese Artist that uses his
art to make strong political statements. He has gotten himself into much
trouble with the Chinese Government to the point where he was arrested and
beaten by police. Despite being threatened and abused by the police, that has not stopped
his art from continuing. Check out this video from one of his latest

The world of the Internet has opened up so much for artists to express
themselves. There seem to be no limits on what people are creating. With
the addition of the Creative Commons license people can now collaborate more than ever. Here is video that discusses
the importance of the Creative Commons. We really like how they made the
point about “How can we have a shared culture, if we can’t share

On Friday September 16, 2012 Harrisonburg’s local mosque and Islamic Center was defaced by spray paint. The mosque is the Islamic Center for not only Harrisonburg, but the entire Shenandoah Valley. The next day, the nearby Redeemer Christian School was similarly defaced. It was shocking and upsetting to not only the members of these respective places but also to the surrounding community.

Almost immediately the local community responded, and within hours had scheduled a gathering that Sunday to show support for the mosque and the school. Through the efforts of a few local figureheads, word spread quickly, and the event had nearly 1,000 attendees. It was a great show of support by the local community and made quite a powerful statement about the community we have here in Harrisonburg.

One of the reasons the even was so successful was the use of social media; namely Twitter and Facebook. Word of the vandalism spread rapidly through Twitter and Facebook. Subsequently, word of the solidarity event on Sunday spread quickly as well. A Facebook event page for the event invited hundreds of people.

Having attended the event personally, we were amazed at the amount of people that had been assembled in such a short time. It was also neat to see how genuine people’s support was, and we felt a lot of pride that the city we have been calling home had such a positive reaction.


This event is a prime example of how social media can quickly mobilize a community and call them to action. It is useful for the spreading of information, organizing, and championing a cause. On a much larger scale, we have seen similar effects in the revolutions of the Arab Spring.

Citizen Journalists are people just like you and me that want to show the world what they are seeing. Live streaming is their medium and it has been an import tool recently, especially in the Occupy movements around the country. A citizen journalist needs just one piece of equipment, a smart phone, preferably with unlimited data.

Citizen Journalists are known to go to protests and just film what is happening around them. They are documenting what the protestors are saying as well as watching what the authorities are doing. This has been a way to hold the police and security personnel accountable for their actions. Often times there is corruption during heated events.

When a citizen journalist streams their footage live, people all around the world can watch it in real time on a computer or from another mobile device. The program that is most used is called UStream. It is free to create an account and to download its App. Because of this, anyone can become a citizen journalist.

With this tool there is power, but there is also responsibility. Now more than ever people are able to track the news almost instantly. They can see what is going on right then no matter where they are. Because live streaming is truly live, there is no censoring. Protests can become violent, so when is it too much for people to see? I think this is the same question that new channels are faced with today as well.

We did find an example of a person being kicked off of Ustream. It was not a citizen journalist, but it was an artist. They were live streaming an art show where the artist was using a life size nude doll. Two hours into the show the broadcast was taken off air and replaced with the message: “connect violated terms of service.” It was interesting to see that Ustream really does monitor their broadcasters.

However there is a Citizen Journalist Code of Ethics, which outlines the expected behavior for people to follow. In the Code of Ethics it ha sections that talk about Vigilance, Honesty, Fairness, Courage, Compassion, Respect, Integrity, Accountability, and Humility.

Here is a link to a Citizen Journalist that we were able to meet and talk with. She had no training before she went to her first protest to cover it. You can watch here channel here.

Anonymous (Final #3)

Anonymous means “of unknown authorship or origin, not named or identified, or lacking individuality, distinction or recognizability. ”, but this time it means a little more. Anonymous is a hactivist group that originated in 2003 on a website called 4chan. This website was a place where hackers could collaborate on anarchic and revolutionary protest ideas. Anyone can join this group and they have a forum where anyone can post an idea and people can respond. There is not a single group behind Anonymous, but there are several websites that have strong ties such as 4Chan, and their wikis, Encyclopedia Dramatica and other forum. Encyclopedia Dramatica is a satritical website that makes fun of both encyclopedia topics and current Internet news.

Anonymous have been very active in many world events such as the Arab Spring, but more recently in the Israel and Palestine Conflict. They didn’t take a side in this conflict but instead offered support to both parties. When the governments would try to turn of the Internet Anonymous would provide a hack code so that the citizens would still have access to the Internet. One of the main ideas that Anonymous stands behind is that all people have the right of freedom of speech, especially on the Internet.

We found a movie trailer for the film We are Legion, The Story of the Hacktivists which is a documentary on the group Anonymous. You can check it out here.

Also, here is a helpful  timeline of Hacktivists.

The main controversy that lies behind Anonymous is that they are breaking into and stealing information that is supposed to be secured, but they are doing this when they believe that a corporation or country is hiding information or needs to be punished. This is how they protest. As of now the government hasn’t been able to find out the specifics about these groups, or even find a way to stop them. No one know how dangerous they could really be.

Andy Carvin is a man that many people like to follow, and you can too on Twitter. He works for NPR and tweets news from around the world. If you’re not up to date on twitter check out our earlier post on the Evolution of Twitter.

Andy Carvin was very active when it came to staying updated on the events happening during the Arab Spring that took place in early 2011. Although he was not physically present during the various protests and uprisings, he maintained up to date information and contact with many civilians and reporters that were present. In doing this he was able to track the movement of this event across many countries.

If you’re not familiar with the Arab Spring here a great video to watch.

The Arab Spring was/is when the people of many countries decided that “the power of the people was stronger than the people in power.” Protests spread across the Middle East and Northern Africa in many countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemem, and many others.

Now how does Twitter have anything to do with this? Well the people were able to tweet about what they were seeing and where the protests were going to happen. This allowed them to gather together and unite as a country and for the whole world to hear their voice.

We continue to see Twitter being used today almost two years later in the same way in the Israel and Palestine conflict, although this time rather it be people vs. government, it is people vs. people.

Twitter can become a very powerful tool, and we can learn how to do that from Carvin. He has built strong relationships with people around the world where he can watch their tweets or ask them to confirm the information so he can be sure that what he retweets is true.

Composite Poetry


On Friday in our Video Web Apps class, we had a guest speaker who led us in two rounds of Composite Poetry. This exercise is completely anonymous and can be used in classrooms, dialogues, or simply as a fun game with friends. Composite Poetry allows for individuals to express true emotions, whether humorous or serious, without the need to feel self-conscious.

We began our first poem by using words our guest had picked out from each of our blogs, prior to class. The challenge included using the words she gave us to create sentences about blogging. The second round included words from a video posted by two of our classmates. The words came from their song titled 12 Ways to Procrastinate, sang to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas. What started off as a mandatory class activity that did not thrill me, actually turned into a very fun class period that I enjoyed. I believe I enjoyed this because I could be myself. I could write whatever I wanted without having to be identified. I believe in this case, anonymity is key to having the most fun and letting loose.


Courtney and Annie