[Air-l] Google is watching !

aoir.z3z at danah.org aoir.z3z at danah.org
Thu May 20 08:03:46 PDT 2004

> In conclusion: a sender bears resonsibility for knowing that any
> expression on the Internet is public and may be widely disseminated and
> stored forever. A reader bears resonsibility for knowing that the sender
> may (naïvely) not have intended to see a statement disseminatedas
> widely and for knowing that the sender may not be the one who is said to
> be the sender.

This is great rhetoric and possibly a philosophy that people should aim to
achieve, but it does not at all reflect the practices or actual
assumptions that people hold.  I cannot help but shudder every time i hear
researchers or technologists trying to configure the masses (see Grint &
Woolgar).  Espousing that people should get over it or learn completely
obfuscates and fails to hold liable the underlying structures that give
users the impression that their posts are more contained than they are.

People derive social context from the environment.  No matter how much you
intellectually know that something is public, when you are engaged in a
discussion, you respond to the discursive points at hand.  You do not
consider the abstract notions of persistence and searchability because the
cues you are given signal otherwise.  Even the basic conception of public
that comes from the physical world does not properly reflect the structure
of public in a digital world.  In other words, you are asking people to
simultaneously engage in the present and in the abstract; to assume that
people will wake up and realize how is naive at best.

Furthermore, while Derrida can argue that writing is only readable when it
exists in the absence of a sender, a receiver and a context, people
engaged in written communication online do not operate like that.  They
are purposely constructing their words for a target audience and they are
not always aware of the implications of an alternate audience.  Try
speaking simultaneously to your boss, your child and a stranger about
something with a significant emotional value to you.  It's really really
hard.  And it's much harder when the stranger might be posed to criticize
anything you say in front of your child and boss.

My point in going meta is that even we, who all know that the web is
public, fall into the trappings of our own rhetoric.  When we construct
the texts for this list, we are responding to points, authors and in a
context.  We are not constructing manuscripts that are meant to be
understood outside of that context.

We are researchers.  If we're talking about the ethics of quoting text, we
must also think about the ethics of projecting our values and assumptions
onto the masses.  While some folks are really keen on education, i'm
personally far more interested in understanding why people make the
assumptions they do.  I do not believe that people should be held
responsible for what is truly difficult to conceptualize and does not fit
into any set of practices that they know.  I actually believe that the
responsibility lies far more in the hands of the technology creators.  It
is they who have the ability to reflect how data is and can be used
(transparency) and they who have the ability to enable users to control
how data can be spread.

New architectures may create new norms, but so long as people are working
within the frameworks that they know, it is unreasonable to expect them to
suddenly grok a whole new conceptual model.  At this level, i have far
more faith in the kids than i do in educating current users.


- - - - - - - - - - d a n a h ( d o t ) o r g - - - - - - - - - -

taken out of context i must seem so strange
(ani difranco | danah.org/ani)                      .. musings ..
v-season: events.vday.org                       (misbehaving.net)

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