[-empyre-] the netopticon

Christina Spiesel christina.spiesel at yale.edu
Tue Jan 11 04:34:45 EST 2011

Dear empyreans,

Thank you, Simon for the invitation; I am looking forward to this. Being 
one who likes to work inductively, last evening, in anticipation of the 
start of January's topic, I paid attention to  themes on Google News.  
Among all the stories covering the shooting of a US Congresswoman, the 
plane crash in Iran, and other world events, there were:

This story about Iceland's protest over demands by the US government for 
the Twitter account information of a member of Iceland's  parliament. 
It is clear that borders and boundaries have been made much more complex 
because of the existence of the Internet.  Who has jurisdiction where? 
What laws apply? Is international conflict going to be mediated in the 
dark with everyone making it up as they go along? What happens to the 
rule of law?

And then, because of denials of its relevance, this graphic 
by Sarah Palin's PAC came to light, something non-Palin believers might 
never have known about but for those denials.  What do you think? Should 
it be dismissed as graphic flourish and metaphor for tough campaign 
plans or does it constitute a threat? Do you read it as gunsight cross 
hairs or, as Palin now claims, surveyors' marks? Did the press err in 
covering this as a US senator claimed?

There was a story about a Simone Beck, aged 42, who posted a suicide 
note on her Facebook wall and "none of her friends responded".  This 
story, attributed to Huffington Post, was removed with no explanation.  
I found it on a French website.  The only Simone Beck I've heard of was 
a collaborator of Julia Child's and would have been much older; in fact, 
she died at age 87. Did something real happen or was it made up to be a 
sort of Kitty Genovese (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitty_Genovese) 
story for the Facebook age? Then the story reappeared with an altered 
spelling: it was Bach, not Beck. How many readers of the first story 
ever will know of the correction? Where was the panoptic superego here? 
Or maybe there's a let's give Facebook some trouble spirit brewing:

The story about the 500 million person "nation" of Facebook came to my 
attention, At 500 million, Facebook is a little smaller than the US and 
a little larger than Indonesia.  Apparently there has been a viral rumor 
that it is going to close down on March 15, 2011. How did this rumor 
gain traction when it is so contrary to common sense? It is not hard to 
imagine that someone might start it for some reason, but why would 
people believe it? How could a site like Facebook just plan to close 
when it has received a large infusion of cash, is more famous than ever 
due to the wide public prominence of its founder, Marc Zuckerberg who 
hardly seemed to be withdrawing from the company, and millions of people 
like to use it? In fact, it is ever more tied into the overall web 
culture as it has thinned its walls to permit easy transmission back and 
forth, becoming more portal-like.

So where do I put this one 
published on a site I've only recently encountered, that reports that 
the Obama administration wants, through its Department of Commerce, to 
issue every Internet user a unique ID. True? False? Disinformation? And 
if true, does this constitute the end of all privacy on the Internet? 
Can the rich small communities that have populated the web survive? Will 
they be like the artists who were so successful with loft-living in SoHo 
that they were forced out by commercial interests excited by the renewal 
of the neighborhood that the artists had engendered? Can we safely use 
the Internet for communication as individuals if our every action, what 
we write to each other, watch, read, can be known by government as it 
occurs? Will there not be a massive chilling of speech?

This is my stream of consciousness as this conversation is about to begin.

Christina Spiesel


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