Pop Culture



  • Abstract
  • Definition
    Nature of Crimes
    Fighting Crime
  • Policy
  • Prevention
  • Detection
  • Measuring
    Crimes of the Future
  • Information Theft
  • Cyber-Terrorism
    Pop Culture




  • Increasingly, in recent years, high technology, especially computers, has become the focus of the public's attention in books, television, and movies. In many ways, the media has romanticized hackers.

    When Kevin Mitnick was captured -- it made headlines in news magazines and papers everywhere -- and the people responsible for tracking him down were glorified as defenders of cyberspace for all.

    Also with online pornography and violence so easily accesible, Net Nanny and Surf Watch have also made it into the spotlight. Issues like the V-chip, the clipper chip, the this-or-that chip are all making headlines. And legitimizing the entire affair is the news media. In the late 80's no newspapers had anything more than an occasional science and technology feature dedicated to computing -- now every Monday in the Los Angeles Times, every issue of Newsweek, and seemingly every week's major newscasts all cover some hot technology issue.

    It seems that Hollywood has heard the beckoning call as well, with movies like Wargames, Sneakers, The Net, Terminator, You've Got Mail. Technology both depicted in the movies and used in making the movies is getting a lot of press. A few highlights from the silver screen:

    Wargames, the early movie made during the height of the Cold war combined two large paranoias in the public mind -- the threat of annhilation by the Russians and computers taking over the world -- the second theme would return prominently in the Terminator movie serieds.

    Sneakers, made in 1992, can be considered a classic film relating to computer crime. In it the main villan Cosmo (played by Ben Kingsley) states many of the truths that we currently operate under -- the importance of perception of reality, information flow and security. While the techniques in the movie were outlandish and under some cases slightly flawed, the message still hits home.

    The Net: a popular movie, now a popular TV show, revolves around the concept of our very identities being held in digital hands with malicious parties having the ability to wipe out who we are, was carried to an illogical but entertaining conclusion. The lesson is learned though, we are what the records say we are -- but the threat of being erased in such away is probably still a ways off. More likely is the threat of having information leaked or taken about us.

    The Terminator (I and II): here the computer is the ultimate enemy. Designed to protect us against possible foreign enemies, an artifically intelligent computer gains self-awareness (a strong-AI goal) and proceeds to wipe out the human race. If ever a movie embodied the technophobia of the general public, the first terminator movie was it. But sense a shift in the tide, hollywood puts its happy face on for Terminator 2 -- computers are still the bad guys, but now they're the good guys too.

    To complete the about face, You've got mail! Online romance and comedy deliver the direction change -- as Hollywood correctly senses that the technophobia of yesterday is changing into an embracing of technologies to come.

    With technology seeping further into our daily lives, it won't be long before Hollywood will have great fuel for another paranoia-based slew of movies... But until then we can settle for glimpses of Powerbooks in movies like Independence Day, Palm Pilots in episodes of X-Files, Newton commercials featuring the Simpsons and episodes of Baywatch, Melrose Place, and name-your-favorite-sitcom featuring computer geeks, culture and getting it mostly wrong.