(B)Logging: To Anticipate Future Investigations
What may seem unimportant now, may turn out to be of great interest later
Logjournal (replica from Grand Turk)
Remediation of disturbing features of logs into blogs
The current blogs have a lot of remarkable things in common with old traditional logs. With the theory of remediation (Bolter & Grusin, 1999) in mind you could easily state that the old medium of the log has remediated in the new medium weblog (blog).
Some disturbing analogies can be found in the follow up from the old logs to the new blogs. There has been a history of cover up and loss of information from (b)logs, particularly when this information becomes evidence. There has always been hovering a sense of scandal around diaries, logs or biographies based on them.
The term ‘black box’ frequently used for the Flight data recorders in airplanes for example is derived from a technical method that has not the same functionality actually. Black box testing works as follows: The test designer selects valid and invalid input and determines the correct output. There is no knowledge of the test object’s internal structure. An important notion is that the working of the system itself is not revealed. With the Flight data recorder all technical details on a flight are logged in order to reconstruct a situation after it has happened to prevent this exact situation to happen again in the future. This way of logging and the objective of the log report is transparent by nature. In that sense the black box is more of a physical metaphor in the way that you can actually open the box and access the hidden information. Maybe you could state that Google’s search algorithm is a real contemporary black box, for nobody knows the algorithm itself but the only way to test it is to change the input or desirable output. Though you will never know whether all possible paths through the test are executed.
The main target for the log is that it can be read and studied after a situation has occurred. At the exact instance of writing it is not yet known whether it will be read at all or what people actually will read. That is why it is of great importance that all details will be noted. All records should be authentic and may not be removed or mutated.
In august 1994 the log journals (the unit logs) of the Pentagon had to be released for investigation concerning the Gulf war-syndrome. Due to the detailed day-to-day information about the whereabouts of all the units and the information about every possible chemical alert it was concluded that the symptoms couldn’t stem from biochemical warfare. But you will never know whether all used information was authentic, not removed or mutated prior to the investigation. Particularly when the interests at stake are this high.
In the way that blogs are frequently banned, blocked or get lost by authorities you could say that the black box metaphor also works in the way that the information leading to transparency about the occurrence of a certain situation, is hidden. So journalists, medical specialists, victims, citizens and other are deprived of information and literally left in the dark. If we were only dependent on technique you could say that ‘the medium is the message’ (McLuhan, 1964) in the sense that the log on itself is neutral and can provide us with all sorts of information to help us prevent future mistakes. But because the power over information is in men’s hands it is more the case that ‘who-ever owns the medium, owns the message’ (Enzensberger, 1970)
On October 4th 1992 an airplane of El Al crashed into a 12-story appartment house in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The disaster became known as the Bijlmerdisaster. In October 1998, 6 years later, the investigation on the event was reopened because of the alarming amount of ill people connected to the disaster. One of the most disturbing aspects of the disaster was the fact that the ‘black box’ was never found (or more precise was found by rescue workers and handed over to authorities who claimed to have never received it). This is even harder to believe when you know that the Flight data recorder was designed to stand out (bright orange), to survive great fires and survive falling from great heights. The Cockpit voice recording was copied by the police, the original recording destroyed and later the copy got lost. A person could never believe no chemicals being involved, with people in astronaut suites on the scene falling from helicopters, and that the information was simply ‘lost’. Also in this case the stakes were too high to believe this account.
Dave Warren, inventor of the Flight data recorder
‘Important’ logs versus microblogging
Is there any difference between the logs of great men or of great (military) operations and the blogs of apparently innocent and harmless citizens who are microblogging about their daily dinner or favourite TV-series (on for instance Twitter, www.twitter.com)?
Maybe the separate blog alone is not a complete log. But certainly the combination of traces you leave on the internet becomes a log. Authorities can trace your whereabouts on exact locations, dates and times on the internet. They know who you know and can combine all this information into interesting profiles. This is exactly how it used to work in the old analogue days. The log entries of a person are correlated with other records from machines, news, weather forecasts and so on.
On April 16th 2007 a boy shot 32 people at Virginia Highschool after posting a video message on YouTube. On September 26th 2008 a similar thing happens in Finland. These video logs are banned from YouTube, not to be accessed by normal users anymore.
Could I conclude that maybe it is of no particular interest what you blog when you’re not famous? But for sure when you get famous everything you and your friends once blogged about TV-series or dinner will become of particular interest in investigations by authorities. One thing you can also count on is that this information you are now willingly sharing with whomever you like, or with people you don’t even know, will be closed of from the public eye and will become a black box, disappearing when loaded. Even when you’re not a possible perpetrator but a possible victim, you’re log will be closed the way this happened to Marlies van der Kouwe who disappeared around September 24th 2008 and got her profile on Hyves (SNS) closed.
Enjoy Twittering but keep in mind that you will never know whether or what information will be of interest in future investigations.