Monday, June 13, 2011

More on personalization; loving our devices; censor-proof Internet

Three interesting articles, two that have languished for weeks awaiting my attention, and one more recent.
  • The Trouble With the Echo Chamber Online by Natasha Singer (New York Times, May 28, 2011) draws on Eli Pariser's recent book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You (see my earlier post) and an interview with Pariser, among other sources, to explore the downside of personalized Web searches and other online experiences: Increasing isolation.
  • Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts. (New York Times, May 28, 2011) is an op-ed piece by John Franzen and drawn from his May 21 commencement address at Kenyon College, in which Franzen contrasts "the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love." It's a better than average commencement address, but, to my taste, the profundity mandate implicit in the genre gives the talk a sophomoric tone.
  • U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors by James Glanz and John Markoff (New York Times, June 12, 2011) describes a "global effort" to develop technologies that will be able to do an end-run around Internet censorship, such as an Internet server that can fit in a suitcase. The goal is to empower groups struggling against "repressive governments."

    It's one of those ideas that give me a momentary thrill followed by a longer-lasting chill. I'm all for providing non-violent support to dissident groups, but it seems likely that these technologies could also be used for nefarious purposes. Once a technology is deployed, it will be imitated and re-deployed, and not necessarily for democracy-loving purposes. Would it be a boon for terrorists? For rogue governments?

    The only answer I have is that if the U.S. can develop these technologies with good intentions, others with bad intentions could develop them, too. Perhaps it's best to be ahead of the curve.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director