Musings on “IRL Online”

Greetings, all. Here’s to hoping things are continuing well with you in your lives which, as was indicated at the beginning of the podcast for us to listen to for this week, are experiencing something different and unique. At the beginning of the podcast they discussed the misinformation campaign regarding the polio vaccine in Pakistan. I can say I was unfamiliar with this, but it saddened me. In some ways I think we may take for granted how easily some of us can sniff out something patently ridiculous online. Maybe it’s just me being jaded about things I read on the internet, or maybe I have spent enough time online to know how to fact check and bounce things off of other internet-savvy people, but I try very hard not to play into internet hysteria. That being said, and there being no judgment of mine for the situation there, it does go to show what terror can be caused from shrill misinformation, especially where public health is concerned. I think about the coronavirus situation we are all living in and have to constantly regulate my attitude and behavior towards it. If I allow myself to delve too deeply into news surrounding it and anxiety it is causing I will surely become lost. But at the same time I cannot be naive in how I’m living in this temporary new world, lest I make mistakes personally and professionally.

Beyond this, of the podcast I was most interested in the Snowden segment. As he mentions, our baseline for how we need to recognize the interaction between ourselves and the surveillance capitalism we are (somewhat) unwittingly a part of is that the 4th Amendment stops at the government, and even in that it only stops them from themselves taking part in surveillance the way companies take part in it. As he points out of AT&T for example, they had held onto data collected of people who were or were not even a part of their service for over a decade, and would sell “location information” and “social graphing” data to law enforcement agencies. But more specifically, this information for how intricately it could be utilized to speak to habits and the personal lives of those it was harvested of, required little in the ways of authorization to use officially by these government agencies. And although it was not initially brought up with regards to the aforementioned point, one of the earlier thoughts raised in the discussion was that people feel we have little choice but to use products we don’t even trust – and seemingly that we don’t trust for good reason. I enjoyed the little expression Snowden gave of “Privacy is what says, ‘you belong to you’…” It does seem that we are losing a hold of that these days.

I also enjoyed Adam Alter’s segment on the podcast as well. The issues of screen overuse and privacy are certainly not isolated. The more we depend on our experiences being had, and even validated, through apps and services, the less we expect that those apps and services could work against us. The celluloid of yesteryear didn’t turn around behind our backs to be used to sell us things and have our lives led in certain ways, so how could Facebook or Snapchat? We’ve been discussing for some months now how difficult it is to perceive the data economy we are products of working underneath the surface, but seemingly one of the best ways of fighting against it as Alter suggests, is to simply remove ourselves from it. Maybe it’s just because I rarely take pictures at all, and even less often share those pictures across digital spaces, but I can get behind the message here.

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