Is Facebook Making Us Sad?

Thank you to Philip Clark for the invitation to NightLife this week! Facebook use and social implications is such an important topic with 2 billion monthly active users presently (and set to further increase).

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More than 1 billion people sign into Facebook every day which includes approximately 9 million Australians - to either post a selfie, to get the latest happenings from around the globe or to see what their friends have been up to. One would assume that the world’s most popular networking site would enhance our life in some way, but surprisingly new research suggests the opposite. Could social media be taking a toll on our emotional wellbeing?

Professor Katina Michael from the University of Wollongong, and Psychologist Philipa Thornton join Phil Clark to discuss the impact of social media on our lives.

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Duration: 49min 29sec

Broadcast: Wed 6 Sep 2017, 10:00pm

Published: Wed 6 Sep 2017, 11:40pm

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Secret criminal chat world of 'online underground'

Key Link


Katina MichaelUniversity of Wollongong
Rebecca BriceABC Radio
Dan DeFillipiWeb Designer
Glen McEwanAustralian Federal Police


Fraudsters, hackers and other cyber criminals are taking to synchronous online messaging systems to communicate and even educate one another while evading police detection, according to an academic from the University of Wollongong.

MARK COLVIN: Law enforcement officials trying to crack cyber crime are increasingly focussing on what's known as the Deepnet, or the hidden web. That's the virtually untraceable level of the internet where many criminals communicate with each other.

An Australian academic says fraudsters, hackers and child pornographers don't just transact business on the Deepnet, they also use it as a sort of college of crime.

But there's an upside to the secrecy, as human rights organisations adopt similar approaches to expose abuses.

Rebecca Brice reports.

REBECCA BRICE: That online chatter is getting harder to police, according to Katina Michael, an associate professor from the University of Wollongong's School of Information Systems and Technology.

KATINA MICHAEL: Well since the mid 1990s, when the internet came about, criminals have sought new ways to communicate online. And they've done this using traditional things like newsgroups.

Some of the more way that they're getting to become undetected, however, is using things like internet relay chat. And internet relay chat allows for synchronous communications. That's communication which is not stored and you've got to be online to read and receive and send messages at any one point in time. So they're becoming increasingly elusive.

REBECCA BRICE: They use these methods, I presume, to avoid police?

KATINA MICHAEL: Yes they do. And because there's so much data out there, and because the communications are synchronous, it's very hard for police to actually detect these kinds of communications.

And the other thing is, they're actually not committing a particular crime sometimes by discussing certain elements of activities. They may not be saying that they've actually done it, but they are sharing details about, for example, ATM (automatic teller machine) machines or sharing information about skimming devices or technology.

REBECCA BRICE: Child pornographers use the same methods, she says.

Synchronous messaging is also being adopted by those reporting crimes.

Katina Michael.

KATINA MICHAEL: There are lots of human rights splinter organisations trying to use the same techniques to report on crimes against humanity.

REBECCA BRICE: And this is if they're going undercover to try to track human rights abuses, is that your understanding of how it's used?

KATINA MICHAEL: That's right. So they would necessarily go into an area of which they would wish to be undetected, perhaps do some first person interviewing, perhaps capture some video evidence or other proceeds and then go back and report on these in the first world.

MARK COLVIN: Associate professor Katina Michael from the University of Wollongong with Rebecca Brice.

Suggested Citation

Katina Michael, Rebecca Brice, Dan DeFillipi, and Glen McEwan. "Secret criminal chat world of 'online underground'" PM - News & Current Affairs Mar. 2013.

More here

Government cracks down on identity fraud

Key Link


Jane LeeThe Age
Katina MichaelUniversity of Wollongong

Article comments

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Australian Privacy Foundation board member, Dr Katina Michael, said that while the changes may help prevent businesses ''data mining'' people's personal information online, it could also cause problems for the majority of people who legally use different names in different forms of identification on and offline.

Suggested Citation

Jane Lee and Katina Michael. "Government cracks down on identity fraud" The Age Nov. 2012.

Academic Women: Some Reflections

Academic Women, Family, and Children

In the last 8 years I have written and edited five books, hosted 7 national and international conferences, received hundreds of thousands worth of grant monies, and travelled the world… but if you were to ask me what is most important to me in my life, I would instantly tell you my family. My three children especially, all born within the last 8 years, have provided me with balance and perspective and have kept my feet on the ground.

Little children are a great reminder of what life is about in all its simplicity- watching for a rainbow after a sudden shower-storm, looking for crabs at the local beach as they scurry back under the rock platform, and jumping into muddy puddles just to hear the sound of “splash”!

Continuous successes in a university setting can come in batches, at times however it does not come at all. For a long time everything you might touch might turn to gold- every paper you submit is published, every grant you apply for is awarded, and then, for no apparent reason there are quiet times when you feel you are trekking up giant mountains with no funding and with limited collaborations. During all these times, at least, your family is with you. I can say from experience, that it is the one constant factor in my life. 

It is for this reason that relationships need to be fostered with our partners and our children, friends and extended family, at least as much, as that 50 page grant proposal that was due last week. Of course we all know the time pressures too well. But it is quite usual I believe, for academic woman to feel torn in half, if not thirds or quarters. In the end it has to do with mental stability, emotional intelligence, and faith in one’s personal calling.

Feeling like you have the choice to start a family and growing your family when you want to as an academic woman is paramount. The pressures today to get your PhD, climb the academic ladder, and publish or perish, can make childbearing seem all but a distant dream. Recently one internationally recognised professor commented to me that he and his wife ‘snuck in’ their only child but that his wife did not feel she had the opportunity to have another child given the demands of her job as a lecturer.

I do understand the feelings of this woman; despite the rhetoric that every woman is entitled to maternity leave, and that most people understand the pressures of raising kids, I am at times surprised by comments that are nothing short of discriminatory. I recollect one senior academic woman who once told me that I was “very lucky to be on an interim fractional part-time professor’s appointment because that is generally unheard of”. I am good at ignoring such narrow-sighted comments as these, and revel in the fact that I have used every bit of leave I have ever received “wisely”. I have also always found that my teaching especially is even more passionate, each time I have returned from maternity leave.

Though still a young academic, I often think about the day I will retire from my university post… At that time I will no longer carry the title of Professor, but I will always be a mother.

If not for my family: my husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, and those special people around me who know who they are and encourage me onward daily, I physically and mentally would not be able to contribute as much as I have in the last decade or so.

Academic Women are Great at Sharing

At a time that knowledge exchange is being touted for its contribution to the generation of intellectual property, I think academic women, many of whom are natural communicators are doing wonders at sharing what they know.

For any academic woman just starting out, my advice would be to harness the power of the web but to use applications and tools wisely. I have seen some academic women burnt by the aftermath of very public social media web pages about their research and others who have managed their online profiles with prowess and have been able to draw international audiences keen to learn from fresh research outcomes.

Communicating knowledge today must happen via an online presence, but managing this online presence to exploit it for what it can offer is especially critical.

Given the many responsibilities that academic women have in the community- as mothers, as carers, as teachers, it is important that they are able to capture all those bits and pieces of wisdom they have learnt. It is not the quantity of information that matters but the quality of information that matters.

Women are sometimes poor documenters of their achievements, while it is well-known that men are good at detailing their achievements. I would encourage more academic women to jump online and document carefully what they are doing, as they are doing it. Some women might be surprised by the knowledge they have amassed over a calendar year, and by the number of different things they are engaged in on any given month. All of these pieces of information can be used (1) for providing a good case toward promotion or probation; (2) by others who are seeking collaboration partners or conducting research; (3) for reporting to your head of school or departmental unit; (4) to holistically raise the reputation of the organisation that you work for.

As the power of the Web becomes increasingly important in academia, I believe it is woman, many of whom are natural communicators, who have a great opportunity to experiment with a diverse range of media and applications- everything from multimedia video presentations to online blogs.

Reflections for: "From the Trenches" for the Focus, the ATSE Journal, about experiences of women in academia. These comments were submitted to our deputy vice chancellor research, Prof Judy Raper.

Cyborgs walk among us

Cyborgs walk among us

Higher education Conference

A university conference is tackling the big issues of technology and features speakers who have devices implanted under their skin, writes BENJAMIN LONG.

Program chair Associate Professor Katina Michael is expecting plenty of robust debate at the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society this week at the University of Wollongong.

The multidisciplinary conference, which closes tomorrow (with a further workshop being held on Thursday), has attracted the world's leading experts in the area of new technology and its social impacts.

"What is fresh about this conference is that it is bringing people from different disciplines to discuss the same subject matter from different angles" says Dr Michael, a senior lecturer in the School of Information Technology and Computer Science at UOW.

"There should be a clash of sorts, because I don't think everyone will agree with what is being put forward.

The conference is looking at issues related to cyborg technology, microchip implants, nanotechnology and social networking

"We've got information and communication technology specialists. We've got applied ethics researchers. We've got political scientists. We've got lawyers talking about regulation and legislation of emerging technology such as nanotechnology.

"We've also got commercial entities that have invested heavily, for example, in GPS innovations. We've even got a theologian talking.

"It's not just engineering focussed or humanities focussed. It's going to create a lot of dialogue between those who conceive, those who implement and those who eventually critique the technology."

More than 100 speakers from 17 different countries will address the conference, and 70 academic papers will be presented.

It is the first time the symposium has been held in Australia, says Dr Michael, who has been working on it since UOW was awarded the hosting rights in 2007.

Speakers are looking at emerging technologies in four broad categories - location-based services, social networking, nanotechnology and automatic identification - and looking in particular at issues of security, privacy and human rights.

A number of the keynote speakers are addressing issues around implantable devices.

Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer-Institute Information Ethics, Germany, is a leading ethicist in this area. He has been writing about these issues, says Dr Michael, since a time when "most other people were thinking this was the stuff of conspiracy theory".

Prof Capurro writes that while "ICT (information and communication technology) implants may be used to repair deficient bodily capabilities they can also be misused, particularly if these devices are accessible via digital networks. The idea of letting ICT devices get under our skin in order not just to repair but even to enhance human capabilities gives rise to science fiction visions".

Dr Mark Gasson, a senior research fellow in the Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, has an engineering background and looks at implants from a different angle.

In particular he is interested in implantable RFID (radio-frequency identification) devices, which have evolved to the point where they can be considered simple computers.

Dr Gasson recently became "the world's first human infected with a computer virus" when he had a chip implanted in his hand and then infected with a computer virus.

Taking a more idiosyncratic approach is another keynote speaker, Amal Graafstra, who is not an academic but rather an RFID implant enthusiast from the United States.

The owner of several technology and mobile communications companies, Graafstra has two RFIDs implanted in his body which do things like allowing him keyless access to his home and car.

Another of the keynote speakers, Dr Roger Clarke, a consultant on eBusiness, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy, and a Visiting Professor at the School of Computer Science at ANU, addresses the subject of cyborg rights.

"The first generation of cyborgs is alive, well, walking among us, and even running," Dr Clarke argues.

"Pacemakers, clumsy mechanical hands, and renal dialysis machines may not match the movie image of cyborgs, but they have been the leading wave."

He points to the case of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, a double leg amputee whose prosthetic legs enable him to run faster than most able-bodied people. Pistorius doesn't want to be known as a Paralympian and would rather race against able-bodied athletes. Should he be allowed to run in the Olympics?

Dr Michael hopes that one of the outcomes of the conference is a greater awareness of how technology is affecting our lives.

"Technology can be used for positive means, but it can also be exploited," Dr Michael says.

"It is a great medium to communicate with other people on, but just be aware that even intelligent and street-savvy people can be fooled, and that harm can come from it.

"For example, one of the issues of location-based social networking is that Facebook now has a function that enables you to have a status update, which is automatic and which identifies your location based on where your mobile phone is.

"People can look at that without your knowing - if you've got 400 friends on your friends list - and see that you are in Figtree or you are in Wollongong.

"That might not mean much to people at the moment, but somebody might be able to use that to say, okay, well you're not at home right now so I can go around there and take everything you have. Or they could use it to stalk you.

"We are talking about technology that is not just in the virtual world, but which has repercussions in the physical world."

Citation: Benjamin Long, June 8, 2010, "Cyborgs walk among us", Illawarra Mercury, pp. 1, 23.