Cyber Conversation and Privacy Interrupted

Module 2- Major Blog Post

”The little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t even change what we do, they change who we are.” (Turkle, http://blog.ted.com/2012/03/01/places-we-dont-want-to-go-sherry-turkle-at-ted2012/)

This quote from Sherry Turkle in Places We Don’t Want To Go is important in starting to understand today’s technological presence in society. It is a rare thing indeed not to own a mobile device of some kind. The smart mobile device in your pocket holds everything anyone would need to know about you. You most likely have access to your Facebook account, your twitter account, and your Instagram, let alone your personal information connected to your phones account (i.e. your phone number, your address, your full name, and potentially a credit card number). Other than seeing business like people with a Bluetooth headset in their ear (looking absolutely crazy talking to themselves on the street), it is a rarity to see a cellphone being used for its original intention, MAKING A PHONE CALL! It is getting more and more possible for people to run their entire lives on their cellphones and other technology, and never have to blurt out a single syllable.

In this same article about Turkle’s TEDtalk, the author writes that “(t)here is a feeling that conversations are difficult because we don’t have the ability to edit as we talk, and so can’t present the exact face that we’d like to. (Turkle is quoted as saying) ”Human relationships are rich, and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology. We sacrifice conversation for mere connection.”” (Turkle, http://blog.ted.com/2012/03/01/places-we-dont-want-to-go-sherry-turkle-at-ted2012/). People would prefer to have an online relationship with someone, then to sit and have a real life, face-to-face, conversation with people. As I mentioned in my minor blog post last week, the concept of being able to edit yourself before making a statement online is one that people take advantage of. People in today’s society would rather have that option of texting each other, which can hardly be considered a conversation. When you text someone, the conversation is being broken up into small blurbs and blips, and often you aren’t giving that person your full attention. To have a conversation face-to-face with someone, you typically give him or her your full attention so to actually understand what he or she are saying, while being able to consider the tones in which they are saying something. All of us have been guilty, at some point, of misinterpreting what someone texted you. Whether it was supposed to be taken sarcastically and was taken seriously, or vice versa. Texting and e-mail does not allow for true conversation to take place.

This leads to another serious issue that is developing. Cass Giorgio wrote in her latest blog, “we are damaging our youth’s ability to self-survive…We are crippling our ability to be independent and act in our own skin, and therefore the rate of loneliness is increasing for future generations to come.” Since this texting phenomenon, the younger youth are not learning how to properly communicate. They grew up on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, and have always had access to a cellphone. They have developed their communication skills in an online sphere, and are therefore struggling to make solid relationships. I truly believe that online personas are a big part to the bully phenomena recent generations have been dealing with. We are constantly reading news reports (that likely pop-up in our newsfeeds online) about teenagers being bullied to the point where they attempt or succeed in committing suicide. Take into consideration the recent story of Amanda Todd, who was bullied online because of a leaked picture of her breasts, to the point where she committed suicide. A significant amount of this has the Internet to blame.

“Facebook allows anyone to put up any pictures or posts they feel like. Although you can set it so it doesn’t appear on your own “wall”, it is still up on Facebook for anyone too see. They do have the option to “report” a photo, but how are you supposed to report it if you didn’t even knew it existed?”(Marnie’s Blog). This quote from another student’s minor blog post is the perfect way to describe privacy implications that come along with having an online persona. There is no way to know who has access to your personal information. People have lists online of their friends on social websites and can be putting information you may not have approved on the Internet for all to see. This idea can be backed up by this quote:

“Online social networking can have a touch of private communication

to it due to its situational and mundane character, but mediated publics are obviously not private. This dilemma is, of course, a central part of the discussion concerning surveillance and privacy issues, and it is especially evident in connection with secondary uses of available information at social networking sites.” (Albrechtslund, 2008)

It’s a scary world, and not knowing who has access to you and your information is indeed a scary thought.

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Our Online Edited Selves.

The concept of an online alter ego is definitely an interesting thought. Lets all take a minute and be serious with ourselves…

How many of your Twitter followers have you met in real life, but still refer to them as “friends” in other conversation?

How many people on your Facebook have to ACTUALLY messaged in the last year, let alone ever talked to face-to-face?

For many people Facebook is merely a place to show off, and to judge people you’re supposedly “friends” with. Between posting pictures of that party last night where you had a great time (but only the ones where your smile isn’t too drunk looking, or your hair isn’t out of place) and updating statuses that let people know your inner thoughts (in an attempt to be witty), how much of the information you post is the real you?

I know that when thinking about my own personal social networking, I’m very careful about what I post and where. My Facebook is limited to family and close friends, where I feel more comfortable posting personal pictures and such. However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t only post pictures that only I like, or proofread and reword my status updates to sound more intelligent. It’s the same with twitter and this blog I’m in the midst of writing. Everyone, myself included, wants to feel a sense of belonging, and fear ridicule. Its only human nature. So when we tweet a comment and accidentally spell a word wrong, or even find our smartphone autocorrected a word to be something completely different than we intended, we edit it immediately so not to be called out on it.

So when asked questions such as “Is the presentation of self and the online persona the same?”, I’d have to answer with a loud and resounding NO! In face-to-face conversation we cannot just stop, backspace the memory we imprinted on the mind of the person we’re conversing with, and edit our words. Once things are said, they can’t be taken back. By having the option to edit our online selves, it allows us to sound smarter and (in some cases) be funnier or quirkier. The concept of being able to edit our words online influences the way we are perceived in both a public and private sphere. We all are capable of managing our online personas to how we want to be viewed, and who we want to view us. So why not pay closer attention to the details?

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Do YOU Feel The Power?

So, Technological Empowerment!

In my opinion, it’s more then having unlimited access to the Internet or having a cell phone in your hand. The empowerment comes from being able to manipulate that beautiful piece of technology you have before you to meet your individual needs.

I found a blog on www.toymakerproject.com where the author makes this point:

“If you buy a cell phone, and you use it to call your friends, that makes you a consumer of technology…but that doesn’t really demonstrate technological empowerment. You aren’t really changing it to meet your needs or building something new.” It takes a lot more then having access to technology to make one technologically empowered.

I found this quote from the course reading important in understanding where empowerment should lie:

“Over the last few decades, the pioneering work of the community media activists has been largely recuperated by the hi-tech and media industries … they remain dependent on key people who can research and create original products, from software programs and computer chips to books and TV programmes.” -The Californian Ideology, p 49

The concepts of the ‘virtual class’, consisting of computer scientists, developers and communication specialists, in my opinion, are the real empowered individuals. These innovative entrepreneurs are the ones enslaving us to our computers and smart phones, and without their applications, websites or computer software, we would still be using ancient methods of communication and production. Why use pen and paper to send a message through ‘snail-mail’ when we now have e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets to get the message across the world in seconds, rather than days. These outlets we are using on a day to day basis for communication did not just pop out of thin air. They were skillfully put together by a group of people (or in some cases, individuals) who are still putting in enormous amounts of time and energy to make it such a useful tool. They are the ones who are manipulating technology so that the average user (like myself) can find technology a useful tool to consume in everyday society.

So yes, although we have the ability to use technology to make us feel like we are ‘powerful’, having the technological ‘world’ at the click of a mouse, I don’t feel more then utmost appreciation for the developers and computer scientists who are creating these outlets that assist in making all of our lives easier.

 

Thank you developers. You guys are the tops!

 

Cited Sources for further reading:

http://www.toymakerproject.com/what-is-technological-empowerment/

Hay, J., & Couldry, N. (2011). RETHINKING CONVERGENCE/CULTURE. Cultural Studies, 25(4-5), 473-486.

And a good example of how one individual can use technology to empower many can be found at the following blog:

http://epistememanagement.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/technological-empowerment/

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