Once again, Morozov indicts the tech press. Do we want a horde of gadget reviewers or critical thinkers? Read his “How to Stop a Sharknado” on Internet ideologies, public intellectuals and politics at the German site Zeit Online.
Given the shadowy practices of data-harvesting and the ubiquity and permanence of social media information, what kinds of young people will choose to run for office?
By now we’ve been trained to record only those behaviors that reflect well on ourselves, lest our employers interpret our cocktail-crushing prowess the wrong way. But Facebook’s privacy settings are clumsy and easy to circumvent. Elsewhere, blog posts, life-tracking data, consumer preferences, and check-in beacons can just as easily be ripped from their context and misdirected to an unintended audience – and meanwhile, the social networks, publishing platforms and shopping hubs just keep multiplying. For those young people interested in running for office, this poses considerable danger.
In Julie Cohen’s Configuring the Networked Self, the legal scholar reveals how much of our thinking on privacy is stifled by the language of authenticity and illusory control. She begins by reminding us that many of the corporate and political actors who favor strong protection for trade secrets share an economic interest with those who lobby for weaker privacy protection. What connects these two is the desire to commodify information and to harness “infrastructures that render individual activity transparent to third party observers.” Companies want to sell us targeted ads, but they don’t want to reveal how they construct their targeting system. Couched in favorable market language, we’re offered an enhanced, personalized experience, discounts and entertainment, social freedom – in exchange for our participation in an all-enveloping apparatus for market research. Still, we aren’t exactly sure what we’re giving up.
Highly educated Americans tell the world that young people are increasingly distracted or emotionally incompetent due to incessant pointer-clicking and unrelenting thumb-pressing. From the stuffed genre of airport-friendly socio-criticism, we’ve learned that networked technologies are making us lonely and small-minded. Apparently no one has ever sent Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, or Sherry Turkle, of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other, a tastefully brief Snapchat. In their best-selling sermons, “the Net” is the devil. Search engines, hyperlinks, and texts ensnare our intellect with the seductive fork tongue of reptilian temptation.
That Paul did not emerge from a mountain of seclusion like Muhammad or Zarathustra, that he did not return a walking Deepak Chopra of prophetic wisdom and Gandhian patience, is not so surprising. In fact, Paul’s failed experiment helps to refute the Internet fear mongering that has propelled the notoriety of the professional “thinking about the Internet” class.