[-empyre-] contesting the netopticon

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Jan 24 03:24:47 EST 2011

Hi Jon, Alison, Davin & all,

 >Is this a remarkably low-effort way to appease and deal
 >with the immense social pressures of teenage-hood, or more
 >like slavery to the second by second pressures of tending
 >to your social networking personae? Perhaps it's both (and
 >more), but either way it reminds us that the mediation of
 >our digital selves remains something we must let the end-user
 >authenticate on a case by case basis: truth and lies fill the
 >netopticon and perhaps this anecdote is one example of "the
 >inter-penetration of the netopticon with technologies of
 >surveillance in real life" that Christina raised this time
 >last week?

There is also another element worth consideration which adds yet another 
layer to the situation of networked personalization which relates 
strongly to the netopticon.

Hal Roberts from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard 
University writes that, "in fact, it is likely that this collection of 
search terms, IP addresses, and cookies represents perhaps the largest, 
most sensitive single collection of data extant, on- or offline. Google 
may or may not choose to do the relatively easy work necessary to 
translate its collection of search data into a database of personally 
identifiable data, but it does have the data and the ability to query 
personal data out of the collection at any time if it chooses (or is 
made to choose by a government, intruder, disgruntled worker, etc)." 

A pretty interesting book I have been reading at the moment by Konrad 
Becker & Felix Stalder called 'Deep Search. The Politics of Search 
beyond Google'. Amongst various essays by others, they propose the 
concept of 'The Second Index' - "Privacy groups have drawn attention to 
the problem that user-specific location data can also be accessed by 
third parties without a user’s knowledge or consent and that the victim 
may remain unaware of being tracked, thereby rendering ordinary mobile 
phones useful tools for personal surveillance."

And we hear of employers checking up on what their workers are saying 
about them on-line. I personally know of one individual who was taken to 
task at an interview because the interviewers noted that they had openly 
called their x-boss a twat on Facebook. Organizations now ask their 
workers to act with caution when using these platforms. Reminding them 
what they say or share about themselves, the company or the people they 
work with can have an effect on the reputation of an organization, its 
public image and status. There is a danger as people negotiate this 
change in public/private identity that they will become too 
self-conscious in sharing their own ideas and life experience. There are 
serious issues concerning how mentally vapid and shallow our societies 
will become if everyone self-censors according both to the lowest common 
denominator of peer-pressure and according to their career orientated 
sensibilities – some feel that we are already there. Self-censorship 
happens a lot in specialized and academic fields, and if this behaviour 
bleeds across into peoples’ everyday lives, it will become even harder 
for society to develop authentic dialogue and debate around important 
social and political issues.

There is already a backlash by various groups and individuals critiquing 
Twitter and Facebook, saying that these social networking 
facilities/platforms do not connect people but isolate them from 
reality."A behaviour that has become typical may still express the 
problems that once caused us to see it as pathological," Sherry Turkle. 
Social networking under fresh attack as tide of cyber-scepticism sweeps 
US. http://tinyurl.com/4suzj94

 >Wikipedia, however, is perhaps a rather more edifying example
 >of a p2p mechanism in and of the netopticon, where the possibility
 >of false information making its way into the collective gaze and
 >outpourings of this knowledge bank, forces the onus onto every
 >user of wikipedia to check the facts, just as any self-respecting
 >journalist would do when researching an article or essay. And
 >surely this is just what you want from any authority of information
 >that is not seeking to inculcate you with propaganda; i.e. not to
 >believe everything regardless, but to question its truth, and to
 >question its provenance and its quality. This is built into the
 >very operational fabric of wikipedia and partly perhaps as a result
 >of its netoptic authoring mechanism: everything on there is probably
 >true but not definitely true, making it usable but also making us
 >ultimately the ones responsible to authenticate its information for
 >our own use.


Wishing you well.


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