Topics in Emerging Media and Communications

Blown to Bits

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“The truth of the matter is that as a society, we don’t really know how to deal with these consequences of the digital explosion.”
-Blown to Bits
The digital explosion challenges our definition of the individual. Why? Because the digital explosion manifests everywhere, all the time, and it hasn’t stopped yet. in their book, “Blown to Bits”, Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen, and Harry Lewis discuss how we are in the middle stages of the formation of the digital revolution and we have no idea what the final shape will look like, nor do we understand our place as individuals or communities within the new framework. We are all acting as information consumers and producers shifting, morphing into each other’s roles with no clear guidelines of how to interact in the new world.
A large portion of “Blown to Bits” focuses on privacy. Personal privacy has shifted drastically in the name of convenience and accessibility. People are willing to give away their information for a small benefit with little concern regarding the distribution, theft, and exploitation of said information. We have an awareness that we should guard against security breaches, but we are slow in taking the necessary steps for protection. For example, how many of us actually read through the terms and conditions when we sign up for an online account?
Ignoring our right to privacy puts the individual in a vulnerable position, not just for those who are willing and able to exploit for illegal purposes, but for those who want to know more about us. The individual is  blind to how their actions are monitored. The structure of the internet allows for seemingly endless amounts of storage and what better way to utilize that storage than keeping track of how consumers think? Performing a simple web search can provide a profile of your interests and needs, “the search tools that help us find needles in the digital haystack have become the lenses through which we view the digital landscape. Businesses and governments use them to distort our picture of reality (110).”
So in essence, a search is not just a search, it is a powerful form of control. You are being led through the mire, shaped by an algorithm designed to nudge you in a certain direction. “Every communication technology has been used to control, as well as to facility, the flow of ideas (237).” Freedom, even on the internet, is not free because you have valuable time and consumer dollars to spend and someone out there knows better than you how to spend it.
Most of the time we willingly ride along with the flow of information, unaware of the control cogs working in the background, but what happens when we feel “freedom” on the internet has gone too far by threatening our right to privacy? The threat often causes a reactionary response, a public outcry that leads the charge to set strict regulations to protect the privacy rights of the individual. The problem that legislators have come up against when trying to determine protections is that stricter regulations mean inhibiting the flow of communication.
Let’s stop the loss of privacy by shutting down the internet!
Unfortunately, we cannot control how our private information is exposed by restricting technology.  We have to acknowledge the social component of the issue, which in this case is our willingness as individuals to give up our freedom for convenience. Designing better controls and safeguards, strengthen policing, and reassuring a frightened public is fruitless because all that electronic privacy and information is just a cloud of bits. We need to confront the perception of personal privacy. “What will replace that if the concept of personal identity becomes meaningless?” Will the very notions of privacy and identity be destroyed in the explosion? (297)”
In “Blown to Bits we see the internet is still exploding, privacy boundaries will continue to be breached, a person’s fingerprints will be mapped across the internet. It is meaningless to try to control the sharing of electronic information in this developing world. The idea of individual of privacy is a construct, a myth, so you might as well stop the resistance and go with the flow.

Written by HiuHiMedia

January 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm

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