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Monthly Archives: April 2012

The issue of ‘Privacy’ has been a major bone of contention ever since the earliest forms of networking and distribution of information. Now with the highest number of people connected to the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, fears about privacy and the line between public and private content is being severely questioned.

While the video ‘How the Internet can Read Your Mind’ [http://www.shockmd.com/2012/05/02/how-the-internet-can-read-your-mind/] explains the rudimentary process in which certain programs are able to formulate and estimate to an extent a “picture of your life,” the video in my opinion does not convey the dangers of these programs and how they can lead to personal information being misused for ulterior marketing ploys. The video explains how programs are able to pinpoint a persons location to within 100 metres using GPS coordinates available from Twitter’s tracking system. The same process is used to estimate who you may become friends with in the future and can assume your sexuality with an 80% rate of success. Though suggesting the many “positive” aspects of a program storing a litany of personal information, such as “identifying medical conditions” & “recommending good places to eat,” the video forgets to mention some of the negative elements of companies collecting personal data.

For one this information that is being filed has not been directly consented by the vast constituency of users. Many people who use these social media outlets are unaware that their personal information is being harvested and used for these networking companies gain. The article ‘Twitter is Tracking You on the Web,’ explains how, “every time you visit a site that has a follow button, a ‘tweet this’ button, or a hovercard, Twitter is recording your behaviour. It is transparently watching your movements and storing them somewhere for later use. Right now, that data will make better suggestions for accounts you might want to follow.” If we take into consideration how much we rely on computers for personal day-to-day activities it’s fairly obvious that a large portion of things we do online are private. Obviously I do not mean this in any suggestive manner, although many of our activities online such as  banking, what we might Google or order online, and conversations with friends and family

I find the idea of the ‘Commons Movenment,’ quite an interesting one. Stefan Meretz describes the idea of ‘Commons,’ in ‘Ten Theses about Global Commons Movement’ as more of a “global interrelated character,” as opposed to just a “coherent agent.” I personally interoperate the notion of a “coherent agent,” as a broader and more simplistic term that can often pigeonhole a certain social trend. One could compare the notion of the commons to the idea of communism or socialism, which indeed it can attribute many of its elements to. Jay Walljasper’s article, ‘The Commons Movement is Now,’ characterises the ‘Commons,’ as more of a “political mood,” explaining how, “growing numbers of citizens—including many who never before questioned the status quo—now seem willing to explore new ideas that once would have seemed radical.”

Michael H. Goldhaber, questions the idea in ‘Attention Shoppers,’ of the “information society,” where people are employed specifically to “manage and deal with information.” Howard Rheingold writes in his blog that, “I receive tons of new information related to my work every day and often it feels overwhelming. So it is very easy to overlook important information that can impact our business.” This is where the idea of “infotention” sprung from, suggesting that we are only able to receive and take in a certain amount of content on the web. Rheingold explains how we need to train ourselves to manage and file this information, which is ultimately a “combination of attentional discipline and information-handling tools,  a method for turning information overload into knowledge navigation.”

James Temple writes in ‘All Those Tweets, Apps, Updates May Drain my Brain,’ that “the modern world bombards us with stimuli, a nonstop stream of e-mails, chats, texts, tweets, status updates and video links to piano playing cats,” which is ultimately leading to “growing concern among scientists that indulging in these ceaseless disruptions isn’t good for our brains, in much the way that excessive sugar or fat – other things we evolved to crave when they were in shorter supply.” Are our attention spans shortening with this increasing amount of information being virtually thrust in our faces each day? Tiffany Woolf illuminates some of the problems she had with cognitive functions, explaining how she often finds herself reaching for her phone when spending time with her son, whilst wanting to check her e-mail while her kids what television. Maybe these patterns have engraved themselves into our muscular memory. I guess this is why companies such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ have so much power and control, as they are apart of almost all of our daily routines.

The volatile political mood of our era bears some resemblance to the late 1970s when liberalism was losing its footing and conservative policy makers refashioned their old political rhetoric, based on social exclusion and apologies for capitalism, into a shiny new philosophy: “the market.” Previously the thrust of right-wing thought had been focused on what they were against (civil rights, labor unions, social programs, etcetera), but by claiming the market as their mission, they were able to emphasize instead what they were for. The success of that rebranding has led to many of the problems we now grapple with today.

Goldhaber also goes on to explain how, “activists across many social movements, now aware that an expansive political agenda will succeed better than narrow identity politics and single-issue crusades, are starting to experiment with the language and ideas of the commons. This line of thinking also makes sense to some traditional conservatives who regret the wanton destruction of our social and environmental assets carried out in the name of a free-market revolution.” We are able to see these social movements influenced by the power of technology and networking in scenarios such as Occupy Wall-street, which triggered a mass outburst of social frustration around the world.

Michael Erard explains in, ‘A short Manifesto on the Future of Our Attention,’ how political scientist Herbert Simon in 1971 believed that, “the more information, the less attention, and the need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” Ultimately, I feel that it is important to manage our time and the amount of certain information that we absorb each day. My Mum is adamant about the idea of “everything in moderation,” and I see this as an important idea to stand by.