Politics and Technology of Control: Introduction
The Net has great potential for “good” (e.g. innovation, economic growth, education, and access to information), and likewise is a great platform for the bawdy, tawdry and illegal. Is this platform about fundamental social, political and economic change, or about easier access to pornography, cheap pharmaceuticals, free music and poker at home? This question leads us to a host of interesting issues that weave their way through the course related to openness, access, regulatory control, free speech, anonymity, intellectual property rights, democracy, transparency, norms and values, economic and cultural change, and cyber-terrorism, as well as scamsters and thieves.
Preparation (Assignment "Zero")
- Reflect on what you believe are the most significant social, cultural, political or economic changes associated with the spread of digital technologies?
In a few sentences, please offer 2-3 examples in the Class Discussion section below and be prepared to discuss them during class.
- Chris Locke, Doc Searls & David Weinberger, Cluetrain Manifesto (just the manifesto)
Videos Watched in Class
The most significant changes and challenges brought on by digital technologies.
- Your ideas here...
While Arab Spring and Wikileaks immediately jump to mind when I think of major events and changes that were enabled by digital technologies, only recently did those events became a real force. While the freedom to immediately access an abundant amount of information (and information overload) in many countries is certainly a significant change brought on by digital technologies, the community should be seriously considered as well. I think our sense of community, for good and bad, has changed with the advent of digital technologies. You can be connected to so many people over the Internet in an instant and your community is independent of your geographical location. Examples include blogging, social platforms like Facebook, MMOs like WoW and Call of Duty, Quora, Reddit, and Internet Relay Chat (and tons more!). Aberg 05:24, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
I think digital technologies' most significant effects so far have included fundamentally altering how people view themselves w/r/t society as a whole. Previously people viewed themselves as either being recognized or ignored by media that monopolized the civic discourse on many levels, now there are plenty of platforms for people to present themselves and be legitimated on their own terms. Tools and platforms for creating and distributing art (movies, music, podcasts etc.) certainly play a role in that, but so have social networking platforms, where folks can connect with other like-minded people and coordinate brick and mortar, face-to-face interactions (movie screenings, lectures, art shows, discussion groups, etc.)David Taber 04:12, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Despite the assigned articles we just read about some of the ways governments try to limit online activity and sharing, to me the most significant changes brought about by the spread of digital technologies are all related to freedom of information and the vast amount of information now accessible. This has political implications in both huge and radical ways (like the way Twitter is used as a organizing tool in many of the Arab Spring movements) and in smaller ways that fit within existing political structures but empower the average person much more (with the internet, I can check any American Senator's voting record, write a letter directly to my congresswoman, etc.). It also has cultural and social implications in the way ideas spread and are shared and altered. Regardless of where you are born or living, you can find people who hold almost any political/social/cultural/religious views online somewhere, and make that your primary community, rather than the one you physically live in. The sheer amount of information and connectedness made possible by the spread of digital technology are at the heart of most major changes based off that technology. AlexLE 16:34, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
Freedom. Users have the ability to post any piece of information they wish using digital technologies. This platform is free and happens in real time causing an immediate impact. Put to good use these, digital technologies such as Twitter can connect high school friends in a matter of minutes. Likewise, the same communication method could be used to post a video bullying classmates for being different. The impact of both situations is immediate and with real consequences. The question remains how much policing is necessary to continue maintaining an accessible environment. HopeS 17:15, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
"Perfect enforcement" by the government utilizing the internet and the growing number of tethering devices is a an area of interest of mine. One would be wise to question the extent to which we are likely to be monitored by the government, knowingly or unknowingly, as technology grows. In addition, I am also interested in the drastic political change that social media is capable of spurring. I am interested in learning more about the extent to which governments may be involved, now and in the future. Lastly, I would like to explore potential innovative educational opportunities that may be created in developing nations with the advent of virtual classrooms and online academies. Cfleming27 22:34, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
The Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace treats the internet as if it were a public good. However, it does not consider that the Internet is not free and therefore it can and will be regulated to a certain extent. Governments will seek to regulate the Internet on some issues, while corporations that subsidize news, Web content, and even access - via mobile devices will censor the net on other issues. The remaining "free space" of the Internet and pressure that the public at large can apply to advertisers and commercial interests that build out the infrastructure access to the web, is the space that will be left over for this utopian "social contract" that will enforce Web behavior. Demands for increased access and less regulation will be met with the challenges of governments and entities that will provide that infrastructure, perhaps shaping the Internet in a very different way, and this is what I see as the next big challenge of the digital age. ˜˜˜˜ Rberk2012 20:27 January 23, 2012
I believe the most significant change brought forth by the internet has been the globalization of the marketplace. First, firms now have the capacity to do business without any real barriers, and in real-time. A small business in Germany, for instance, can now conduct business with a small business in the United States. Communication barriers have been eliminated. Firms can communicate with each other cost-effectively and immediately through things like Skype/VOIP and email. This also holds true for the business-to-customer relationship with the substantial role eCommerce plays for the majority of the population. Secondly, I believe the dissemination of information is another significant change. Questions and curiosities that may have taken a vast amount of personal time and research can now be accessed almost instantaneously via a cell phone with apps like Wikipedia. Similarly, one can even attend school without ever stepping foot into a classroom. JeffKimble 02:10, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
With digital technologies, access to information is available for everyone to access immediately. This can have both positive and negative consequences, depending on your vantage point. Consider WikiLeaks.org: For the government, it represents a gross breach of national security, but for concerned citizens, such organizations provide a public service, forcing the government to be more transparent. This raises a number of important questions regarding freedom of speech, privacy, regulatory controls, and even third parties on the web that host or store popular/unpopular content on their servers. Who has the authority to say what content is appropriate for public consumption? Anyone with access to the internet can publish anything they want, and unlike WikiLeaks, may make no attempt at redacting sensitive material. As Zittrain points out, the internet was designed to be “generative”; it was created to “accept any contribution”. Should the government have the power to censor such content, even if it stored outside of U.S. jurisdiction? If so, where does this censorship end? Joymiller 02:14, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Instant consumption of accessible information in an international context. Users have the ability to obtain as well as post unfiltered real-time data through an assortment of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. As the speed of information increases through these media sources, it becomes more difficult to verify the legitimacy of these sites. Readers must process the unfiltered information analytically and are obligated to perform own due diligence. Big business and government have acknowledged the use of social media as a tool to create a more efficient marketing plan through sentiment analysis. Szakuto 02:36, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
I am very interested in the digital divide from generational, economic, and geographic perspectives. When I was living in South Africa, the impact of slow, unreliable, and expensive Internet controlled by an entrenched monopoly had a very noticeable effect on my organization's ability to meet international expectations and on the degree to which people were willing and able to interact with new technologies. As certain regions blaze ahead digitally, it seems that other regions will only fall further behind the rapidly increasing expectations for connectivity, productivity, and innovation. I’m reminded of a section of Paul Collier’s The Bottom Billion (which I admittedly haven’t read recently so apologies for mangling this) where he discusses a window in the the 1970s where Africa had an opportunity to be competitive with Asia in manufacturing and the textile industry but, missing its opportunity, was unable to find a competitive toehold later resulting in severe economic ramifications. I’m interested in exploring how disparities in opportunity and access can be addressed and how the egalitarian, democratic ideals of many Internet users can be leveraged to reach out to people who are currently excluded from the system. Aditkowsky 02:48, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
The most significant changes brought on by digital technologies have been the increased ease-of-access to information around the world, the result of which has been a domino effect still taking place. The transfer of technology that is studied in economics, where a lesser developed country gains from the investment of a richer one, is taking place in the form of the spread of information around the world. This mass transfer has triggered milestone events in academics, economics, science and government. Significant challenges that may come from these rapidly developing technologies will be a divide on the interpretation of what they were developed for ("social" news vs traditional news media) and ultimately if they can be used to improve the quality of life for the majority of people. Brendanlong 02:50, 24 January 2012 (UTC)