Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Facebook "Tracking"

 Oh man, have I lost sleep over this project. What was originally supposed to be a project about "Facebook stalking" turned into something way more personal. I have always realized but never totally acknowledged the ways in which Facebook makes me feel insignificant. For example, I look at what everyone else is doing all the time and I compare what people are doing to what I am doing. I compare how many friends people have to how many I have. I take very personally what people say about me on the internet. To narrow the message of my project down, it's that we DON'T need to know what everyone is doing all the time.

Had Facebook been around in 1994 when Philip E. Agre was writing about surveillance and capture, he would definitely have labeled Facebook as a "tracking" device. A few examples he gives of "tracking" are GPS devices that allow us to find directions while we are sitting in our cars, and package tracking using bar codes after we ship out of UPS. It's not that these systems aren't useful. My GPS has definitely saved my butt a couple of times, and tracking packages on the internet is a nice convenience as well. It's just that these systems are invasive. It's like we have given up our privacy in order to live a more convenient life. Facebook is the worst perpetrator. Now it's so convenient to track our friends that all we have to do is sit down at a computer and we can know every detail about their lives for the past 3 years.

Richard B. Woodward, a more contemporary writer, seems to share many similar ideas with Agre. While Agre compares tracking devices to Nazi Germany, Woodward states in is article, "Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870:"

"In defiance of George Orwell's warnings, most people
seem unconcerned by the erosion of the wall between
a private and public self. Snapshots and home videos, once
confined to a family scrapbook or attic trunk, are now
indescriminately shared."

Both men seem to agree that the ability to track people should only belong to some sort of dystopic society, and that by allowing ourselves to be tracked so easily we are careening dangerously on the border of "Big Brother." Is Facebook a great way to keep in touch or are we sacrificing our privacy so we can be monitored by the ever watchful eye? And what about the smaller repercussions? What about our sanity? Can we stand to know every detail of our friends' lives and have them know every detail about ours? 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Internet- Our New Best Friend

I think what astonishes people the most is how human technology can be. In the book Computer Lib/Dream Machines by Ted Nelson, Nelson accuses people of categorizing computers as “dull” and “sterile” machines that can only perform mundane tasks. He wants to people to get friendly with computers because this will enable computers to reach their full potential. Tim Berners-Lee also envisioned very human relationships with computers, and thus his idea for the internet was born. It was supposed to be a system that could work like a brain and could make connections between people’s thoughts, like a synapse. Not everyone in the world is as comfortable as these two men are with the idea that computers can be so human. In the article, “Art After 2.0” by Lev Manovich, Manovich poses the idea that the internet has shifted gears since the ‘90s and is now mostly a communication medium. Whether his views are neutral or not, they do show that the human machines that Ebbers-Lee and Nelson envisioned are now becoming a reality. Not only does the internet now sometimes know us better than we know ourselves (hello, Facebook?), but we can connect to other people better than we have ever been able to connect before via blogs, YouTube, chat, photo websites, and many more. Perhaps one of the first people foresee the scary side to the internet was Josh Harris, who, in the ‘90s, created a hotel with residents in which the residents were filmed at all times, even their most private moments. Near the end of this experiment the tenants seemed to be going crazy, claiming that they felt like they had “lost themselves” due to the constant observance. Whether we will lose ourselves completely to technology in the future still remains to be seen, but the reality is that the internet has now become the brain-like organism that Berners-Lee once envisioned. Now all it needs is a body.

Monday, September 12, 2011