Superconnected: The ownership of ideas and information security

While Dr. Chayko discusses information and communication technology in a number of ways, I was particularly intrigued with her discussions about idea ownership and information security. In this post, I’ll outline these ideas and contribute my own thoughts about idea ownership and the security of information within digital systems.  

Ownership of ideas

Dr. Chayko questions the ownership of ideas in chapter four. She ponders if we own our ideas and how we can attribute ownership to something that’s not yet tangible. I ponder this questions often in my professional and academic work. Of course, I cannot claim someone else’s ideas as my own, but at what point can we truly trace the origin of an idea? My freshman composition professor also used to tell my class that no idea is truly original because we always got it from somewhere else (he would always make this argument so we would source our information in essays). This is something that has always intrigued me.

Our ideas evolve from interconnected and disconnected empirical experiences. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know the origin of an idea or if it is truly my own. This begs the question of what is more important: the idea itself or the execution of the idea? Chayko notes that, while “specific intellectual contributions are legally protected”, general thoughts are not.  

As such, differentiating between general ideas and intellectual contribution is something that I personally struggle with as a writer. When I’m writing an article about a new IoT (Internet of Things) initiative, I am often inspired by things I see and hear around me.  In order to codify this ideas, I try to apply my own interpretation in the form of execution — going beyond the ‘what’ and venturing into the ‘how’, ‘why’, and ‘what’s next’.

That said, the current speed at which information propagates makes it exceedingly difficult to trace the origin of an idea or that idea’s originating execution. We seem to be in an era where the only way to truly keep our ideas private is to keep them to ourselves or to try to pursue legal ways to copyright and trademark ideas. Dr. Chayko is also not the only one who is pondering this question. There are many articles, like this article from the Guardian, that explore the idea ownership and plagiarism in the digital age. In this article, the author seems to conclude that the application of the idea is more important than the original idea.

I personally believe that we can be inspired by what others have written and be allowed to write about similar topics. With the speed of which information propagates, I don’t see how this can’t be a reality. However, I do believe original ownership of ideas should always be sourced from those who originally inspired us. We cannot copy the structure of their idea, (i.e. we should add to the conversation, not copy what they said.) To do otherwise would just be dishonest. In that regard, II believe the original idea and the execution of the idea are both important. 

Secure communication and information

Chayko made me ponder secure communication and information accessibility. She states, “It is important to consider exactly how accessible and open computer systems should be – how various kinds of information should be accessed and who should do the accessing.”

If only information security was as simple as stock photos make it out to be. Source: CG Business Consulting

My company deals with this type of question almost everyday with the line of work we do. We help customers connect physical objects or systems to the Internet – these objects or systems can be anything, but most businesses use us to connect valuable infrastructure or assets that they would like to keep an eye on from a remote location. However, when you connect an object or system to the Internet, it is now sending and transferring tons of data and information into internal systems and other places. My company helps make this process secure and safe so none of this data can be hacked or used for nefarious means.

But this is the problem with connected systems. While every IoT company will promise that they will safeguard against these things, there is no way you can ever stop someone from hacking into something if they truly have the means. Nothing can ever be completely secure, which opens up the question, “What should and should not be connected to the Internet?” While we are connecting physical objects to solve real-world problems in the world, should we?

Personally, I believe there are certain things that should be connected and there are some things that just shouldn’t be connected (for instance we don’t need connected basketballs and connected hairbrushes — yes, these are real things). The only objects that should be connected are the ones that offer continuous, recurring value for the business and for the customer. I believe businesses are responsible for making sure the products they are connecting add value not just to their business, but their customers’ lives. Only then can they justify connecting their systems and gathering information from objects and systems. 

Posted on September 16, 2018, in Creative, Literacy, Social Media, Trust and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Jeffreyuw,

    You make very good points in your blog. I often wonder how much of what I “know” belongs to me. Where did I hear it? Was it an opinion or a source that deserves citation? And then how am I to remember where I first learned of those things?

    During research and writing papers, I sometimes feel this panic that I need to have a citation for nearly every word! But the same goes true for even conversation or posting on social media platforms. For example, I am a strong organic food and product advocate. When I simply post my opinion on Facebook regarding glyphosate being detected in my favorite wine, I am posting my opinion but and I obviously learned about it from a different source. My intention isn’t to imply that I know this because I did the study myself, but in social media context it’s not likely that I formally cite the study. Possibly I would “share” the article but that is close as it gets to referencing a source.

    It’s easier for us to know the “rules” when producing academic communications or documents but not so much when it comes to our digital communications.

    Great post! Thought inspiring!


    • Jennifer,

      It is sometimes fun to trace back where we acquired a piece of information? Sometimes, I like to ask myself, what has caused me to believe this? At what point in my life did I start to accept this piece of information as “my knowledge.”

      Regarding citation, I face the same struggles. Digital spaces like Facebook are meant to feel relaxed and a place to share thoughts or opinions casually. When writing a post, you shouldn’t feel like you have to write an academic essay to share an opinion about something. But as fake news and untrustworthy sources become more rampant, it is more important, now more than ever, to cite sources and make sure they are credible before we share them.

      I think when you share the original article, along with your opinions, you are properly giving credit to the original source.

  2. Hi Jeffrey,

    I appreciation your application of the readings this week to IoT. I work in academia in the College of Engineering on our campus and we have an Internet of Things research center ( that is dealing with some of the very same issues you address here. How is it possible to ensure that someone won’t be hacking into the devices being manufactured? It seems that as quickly as technology is expanding, hackers are keeping pace. It almost feels like they are cracking codes as they’re written. As you said,”Nothing can ever be completely secure, which opens the question what should and should not be connected to the Internet?” As I’m seeing from our researchers and the companies they partner with, it seems as though the possibilities are endless. It’ll be interesting to see in the next 10 years what products are pushed to market and which end up falling by the wayside.

    Thanks for your post!


    • Brittney,

      I read an article the other day that stated in the next 10 years there will be more connected objects than people. It is insane and makes you wonder how security is going to evolve alongside all of these connected things.

      Thank for you linking this IoT research center. I didn’t know UW-Madison had a resource like this. One of my Particle coworkers is actually a graduate from UW-Madison and I plan to share this with her. Thanks!

  3. I remember feeling the same panic about plagiarism and ownership in my previous graduate school week, and I readily recognize the looks of terror on my students’ faces when they are ready to submit their researched essays. Thankfully, after teaching it for several years, I have a better grasp of when to cite (and tend to veer on the side of over vs. under citing); however, collectively, how much of own knowledge is ours alone, and how much of it has been created by various sources, including teachers, newspapers, videos, conversations with friends, etc. I feel like I’ve seen a much looser adherence to copyright rules online.

    Case in point: my mom was recently asked to run the Facebook and Instagram accounts for her local community’s arts page. They have maybe 50-100 followers, and they’ve been trying to post 3-5 times a week. She texted me to ask if she had to credit any images she put on those platforms. For instance, if she puts a painting of Monet’s on the page as inspiration for the week, does she have to source it. I advised her to, with much the same logic as above, but I certainly see many businesses (whose primary means of advertising is Facebook) borrow images and quotes without any credit to the source.

    • Amery,

      My freshman composition professor was a strong believer in over citing so I have become a strong over citer myself when writing academic essays. He would always argue that you can’t get in trouble for over citing, but you can get in trouble for under citing.

      You’re right about the loose adherence to copyright in online spaces. It creates a strange contrast between what we are taught in school versus how the actual world seems to want to operate. When I first started writing articles online, I didn’t feel worried about crediting others’ images because it didn’t seem like anyone else did. Now I am more conscious of these things, especially when writing articles that are related to my job. I don’t want my company to get in trouble because we stole someone else’s image.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.