So, if any of you are interested in why i’m going quiet for a little while… here ya go. This is roughly a basic account of my ethical views of some social networking technologies and decisions that certain policy makers have made. On a personal note: it’s summer in BLN, that’s enough of a place to be living for now! 🙂
I’ve struggled now for many years with the idea that technologists can become celebrities. And I find it even more challenging now that because of how some social tools are currently being built — we are rapidly encouraging fame metrics as social capital.
Broadcast technologies: blogs, facebook, myspace, foursquare — you name it in “social media”, run on the same basic premise that virality is good. This mainly has to do with economics of certain types of business models. The problem is the lens’s that are created with this kind of discourse in mind, create certain kinds of interactions — which of course scale exponentially and grow virally. Meaning, they are based on one sided growth models. Models might create a “trapped” feeling. I mean just think of a virus or addictive drug. Something doesn’t feel balanced.
So my concerns and ethical controversies stem from the fact that … I believe technologists to be tool makers for the world. In my eyes, in our current post-nu-neo-industrial age we are in many ways doctors and healers, while simultaneously artists and creators. We are able to build tools for the world that can help shift cultures at a rate never seen before. This however is not something to be taken lightly. It’s like giving someone a super power, without a direction-steering sidekick. The work we do has significant impact on the evolution of communities, cultures, and specifically on the growth and development of every individual we touch. It’s a responsibility we have to our own communities to offer them helpful tools and not destructive ones. We understand this stuff, you should feel safe in our hands.
Facebook for me has done a lot of things to help advance the digital frontier in the last number of years. Namely, it has brought identity trust to the web. Most folks don’t know that Facebook’s main objective was to de-anonymize the web, thus making it not quite so “scary” of a place for most people. They know their friends are there because there is the persons real name there, so then it must be ok. This is actually a great advancement in the progress of digital technology. However, the cost of this was that they don’t allow alias’s or “personas”. That is they don’t allow for one persona to have a nickname or other identity — therefore they tie all connections to just one modeled identity. This arguably is not a healthy strategy for humans. Psychologically, we perceive ourselves performing in different contexts and those different situational experiences hold different performance identities for us. Not allowing us transparent tools to manage this causes us more stress. Easier: I wear different clothes to work than I do when I go out dancing and FB makes me basically always wear one outfit, this pisses me off cause I can’t dance as well in button up shirt as I can in a stretchy tank top. And I don’t get the respect I deserve at work, when I come in 1/2 naked wearing a sweaty tank top.
Moreover, there are real privacy concerns that have been breached by some of their automated opt-in strategies for viral growth and also controversial decision making in the design of some of their privacy accessibility controls.
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve played with my own notion of identity and broadcast, using Facebook and trying to sort out it’s purpose to me. My online social management is rather complex and includes many different spheres of both personal and professional relationships. I’ve switched from mainly professional to mainly personal use on FB. I’ve hyper-managed all the different contexts and groups, and broadcast only to those relevant information. But finally, I gave up and left my own burden of choice to whoever the heck is reading whatever I am babbling. In the end, it’s a challenging game and one that I’m beginning to question seriously…
Is this really a good and valuable tool anymore? Or have the decision makers already set the direction in an irrecoverable direction? Have we advanced past its use on the web now? Isn’t it time for it to change?
Anyways, I’m saying all this basically… cause I’m bored of the interactions and lens’s to my relationships that FB is offering me. So, with my summer holiday, I’m going to test out some time off for awhile. I’ll see how it goes for a little while then make more lasting decisions.
It’s been totally fun getting back in touch with many of you and catching up. Have fun and enjoy the summer!
I highly recommend pools and dancing…