Facebook is creepy

My wife and I had a debate yesterday about tweens and their use of technology. The crux of her argument was that kids constantly being on Facebook, MySpace, etc. did something to take away their humanity. My perspective was that such technologies have just the opposite effect, in that they invite their users to create and interact with others, instead of just passively consuming. I think it’s a normal response to be wary of new things taken up by the next generation, especially if it seems radically new. If you consider just what these technologies do, however, I don’t think they’re so different from what already exists. YouTube isn’t much different from television, Facebook is the new party line, and Blogs are the new books.

In fact, even though we don’t consider them to be “technology” simply because they’re not new, books are really just an example of some of the most successful technology ever developed by humans. There’s an interesting post yesterday by Michael Wesch about how print media changed society (the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution) and the potential that participatory media could have. He also notes a potentially creepy idea brought up by Howard Rheingold – that such media records “a great deal of public behavior… in a way that makes it suitable for systematic study,” creating a digital panopticon.

Jeremy Bentham proposed such a design for prisons, so prisoners could easily be observed without their knowledge. All of which sounds an awful lot like Facebook, which takes the information from your profile (unbeknownst to you) to deliver targeted advertising messages. In China, there are supposedly “five-cent commentators” – people who are paid to post comments supporting government viewpoints.

This is not to discount the potential for change that participatory media has, but just something to keep in mind. Books, certainly had their own problems at the beginning (“So if I want a copy of this book I have to copy it by hand?”).

On a completely unrelated Jeremy Bentham note (how many times a day does one get to write that?), Lost is starting in a little over 2 weeks, and I am super stoked.

Prison photo by Friman, from Wikipedia.

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Posted on January 4, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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