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Jul 10, 2006

Comments

1.

Interesting. While I see the same exhibitionism running counter to the dire warnings from privacy advocates, I don't conclude that increased self-exposure is being imposed in a top-down way by some elite -- I see it as a bottom-up response to growing up in a culture that increasingly worships celebrity.

The lesson today is that if you want to be a star, you have to self-promote. No CIA-operated, Big Brother-like viewscreens are necessary; people will voluntarily queue up around multiple blocks just for the opportunity to compete to be selected to appear on a TV show in which they will be verbally or physically abused.

Celebrity is how you get all the cool stuff you want now instead of spending a lifetime working a steady job for it. (How boring!) If there's an elite to be criticized, it's the entertainment and news media elite whose products promote this "I deserve it all now" belief.

There's probably some correlation here with the loot drop tables of most MMOGs, but I've probably already dug myself a fairly deep hole. :P

--Bart

2.

No hole dug Bart, I think you've you hit the nail on the head there!

The OP is mainly about teenagers but I think it appears to forget to mention the irreponsibility of youth. Many "bloggers" will likely regret the amount of personal information they so freely broadcast. Show me a teenager who cares a hoot about next month let alone 10 years on.

3.

Yes, privacy is largely dead. I have felt this way since the dawn of the information age in the 1980s. And I'm fine with it. Privacy was always a convenient myth that existed simply due to the limitations of human perception. If humans all had x-ray vision, our notions of privacy would be much different. If we all had photographic memory, privacy would be much different. Modern technology simply removes barriers we've grown accustomed to for the past 10,000 years.

The obvious benefit to lack of privacy is the power of truth, the ability to have more, and more accurate, information. This, in turns, reduces to ability of others to deceive us, and allows us to make better decisions. The real reason MOST people want privacy is not that they think what they do in private is wrong, but that someone ELSE might (wrongly) think it is wrong, and treat them unfairly if they knew. All this does is drive such acts further into the shadows, which only allows them to be shunned further. By putting everyone's personal quirks out into the full light of truth, society will, after a period of uncomfortable adjustment, be better for it. People will better decide what really matters, what is truly moral, and what is simply fleeting social convention.

Bruce

4.

Ren>The kinds of data that surveillance activists fight to protect is just the sort of information that teenagers seem happy to splash all over mySpace.

They're happy to splash it over mySpace because they're doing the splashing.

It's one thing to wear revealing clothes to a club, but another thing entirely to have to wear revealing clothes the whole time.

Richard

5.

Professor Bartle wins again.

6.

We were discussing similar issues yesterday up at Teachers College, and one of the things we began imagining is how the virtual terrain might change with the increasing presence of GPS information. It's one thing to exercise free speech and to have a lack of privacy online so long as your physical location is veiled by the relative fungibility of IP addresses, nicknames, and so forth... and even those pictures teenagers are posting of themselves in compromising situations are self-selected, not a monitor trained on their actual bodies every minute like the model of the classical panopticon... but what about when that information is tagged with your exact global location, all the time? Imagine the consequences for, say, Chinese dissidents if every piece of online data came with a GPS tag locating its user. I think with some of the services Google is proposing it begins to become a possibility. Maybe one of the reasons privacy is so much less important to these kids is because ultimately the identities they're creating online seem in some way divorced from their bodies, certainly from their physical safety? Perhaps we should think about this when people propose creating a Metaverse which in some way replicates "real" space.

7.

What happens when the teens are splashing and they don't realize the implications the splashing might have on their future? There have already been cases of social networking sights being used by parents to screen potential college roommates. It may seem ok when the parents see the potential roommates interests are drinking or something of that nature, but what about when the parents reject the roommate because of race or religious affiliation.

Many teens might be writing things on their blogs right now that will cause a future employer to question hiring them. If I write about taking some recreational drugs when I am 17 and my employer Googles me when I am trying to get a job at 24, don't you think they might wonder about my history of recreational drug use?

These are just a couple of examples there are more. Teens seem to be reacting to technology the way most teens do... without thinking about it. This could eventually cost some of them, simply because they don't realize it might eventually cost them.

8.

I think a key point you're missing is control. When The Decider decides to spy and share the results of federal spying on my life transactions, that is out of my control. I have no way to contextualize or shape the meaning derived from that information. I do not control the availability or the array of information itself. In a place such as MySpace or Flickr">http://www.flickr.com/">Flickr or 43Things or any other social networking app., I control how and which information I dole out. Often I can control to whom, as well, by choosing to label things as public or shared with a group.

9.

There's a wonderful (and fun) "near future" sci-fi book called "The Truth Machine" by James Halperin. The basic premise is that in the near future, due to concerns about the ease with which WMDs can be created by increasingly small and low-funded groups, a way to determine, perfectly, whether or not someone is lying is a necessity for the continuation of our "American way of life." Similar to the contest to find a way to measure latitude, the President puts a prize out (money plus government contracts plus a monopoly for some years) for the company that can create a Truth Machine.

I won't give away the main plot points, but, of course, the machine is created and creates all kinds of... issues. It starts out the size of a phone booth and gets down to the size of a watch that everyone wears all the time. In the beginning, civil libertarians (and many others) decry the use of the machine as a fundamental attack on our basic rights. The Supreme Court eventually finds in favor of the device, ruling that citizens have the right to lie (in many circumstances; we're not talking perjury, libel, etc.)... but that right does not abridge the right of other citizens, or the government, to determine the truth of a statement.

What happens? Eventually, people stop lying. Sociologists, near the beginning, posit that we'll all blow up because there are so many "social lies" ("I love what you've done with your hair!") that are deep parts of our culture. Nope. In the book, everyone just, a) stops telling them, or b) mitigates them, or c) doesn't ask questions they really don't want a truthful answer to.

It's a fun book (there's a whole crime, drama intrigue plot on top of the truth machine business).

10.

As to youthful propensity towards "openness..."

"Gimme a head with hair..."

I see two issues here, one being "inside" the other. The desire to create MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, etc. pages with all kinds of personal info, connections, friendmarks, pics, movies, sound-bites, etc., need not be something that violates any kind of privacy issues. I've seen loads of MySpace pages that don't tell you anything about a person beyond what bands, books, and other content they like. Which is one of my main points here -- that we are now so defined by our media, that we must "wear it" somewhere in order to demonstrate who we are.

If I spend 20-60 hours a week immersed in media... how do I show my colors? Where are my clan markings? They have to exist on the "skin" of a creature that inhabits that world if possible, eh? The hippie clothes, hair, language, music, sexual behavior etc. of the 60's were a rejection ("drop out") of the corporate, white-collar world. They existed in the places (fashion, music, gatherings) where that world showed its skin.

If my world is largely in the mediasphere, I must show who I am in that world. And my "tat2z" will be ones that are lifted straight from that world; pics of media stars, screen caps, sound bites, links, anime, tags, music, movies, etc.

I really don't thik it's about fame, per se. I think it's about attempting to exist AT ALL in the world that's most meaningful to you.

If the medium is the message, and you live in the medium, you need to be part of the message in order to feel alive.

Privacy enters into this as a sub-issue because how much of "us" we consider to be appropriately garbed, grabbed and blabbed in the mediasphere (cyberspace, whatever) will depend on how much of our "private" person we are willing to invest. But that has always held true in the other places where personal-to-public environments meet, such as fashion.

A woman chooses to wear a very short skirt. Some people won't mind at all and may think, "That's attractive," or nice or sexy or whatever. Positive reaction. Some will be neutral, as they do not relate fashion choice to moral/ethical nature. Some, though, will think, "Slut." A man does not wear a tie to a semi-formal occasion. Same thing. Some may think, "He's got the style to pull it off and look good." Some will be neutral. Some will think, "Slob."

Young people tend to make more choices based on short-term gain. And, as pointed out, don't see that the guy in the next booth over from where they're getting drunk and telling racist, nasty jokes might be the hiring manager they're trying to impress two years down the line.

I have a six-year-old son. My advice to him, in another four years or so when he starts (I assume) wanting to post to something like MySpace, will be, "Don't say anything, ever, that you wouldn't want me, your mom, or a college dean to read."

That doesn't mean you can't be frank, honest, interesting, funny or "yourself."

But it does mean that there's a time and a place for looking like a slob, and a time and a place for a nice tie.

11.

btw, i find this story, which i first heard on radio, relevant to our discussion. watch out how you portray yourself in the grid, your next employer may not like it. or conversely, use the grid to create your most employable self. yeah, that's right, create an identity for hire. i'm eagerly awaiting the first lawsuit on discrimination in hiring based on Googling (now an OED verb) a fabricated persona. who will sue first? the employer, for false representation, or the unhired applicant, for unfair hiring practices.

12.

I agree with Richard that it's because they're doing the splashing, and I think they're also confident of a kind of peculiar anonymity that comes with being one in 6 million -- no one is particularly going to single out *their* private information unless they are in a social software network or school network because there's so many millions competing with attention.

>The obvious benefit to lack of privacy is the power of truth, the ability to have more, and more accurate, information. This, in turns, reduces to ability of others to deceive us, and allows us to make better decisions.

Bruce, this assumes that everybody in the system has access to all the information all the time, and that everybody is on a level playing field unable to deceive. But they don't, and they aren't. In games and virtual worlds, the game gods have it all, and they dole it out. They're the only ones who really have the story; the rest of us have only a partial story.

Personal information and identity is one thing; take it further and imagine the ramifications of business and I think it becomes even more troubling. At no time in history has a state even with totalitarian ambitions had access to so much information about so many people's private fantasies and commercial public behaviours as they do in games and worlds.

The company knows more about your business than you do, because they have more information about your purchases, wish lists, habits, and customers no matter how much you scrape. It means that they have profound control over all businesses or sub-partners in their domain, and they can dole out that market information at will to favoured third-party sites, and these sites can have more or less free data-scrapping powers.

Everything you buy, every avatar you've talked to, every store you've been in, everything in your inventory, every currency you've exchanged, it's all aggregated and some portion of it preserved (with the ability to capture and harvest all of it merely a space and time problem to be solved with money or staff time). This is a phenomenal amount of market information the likes of which companies dream of and pay dearly for. Imagine if you could find out instantly not just how many people come to your store and how many dresses they buy of which style, which you can on the client side, but could also link that data to real-life age, sex, location, income server-side. I think the protection policies with this mother lode of data are only very loosely in place.

>In a place such as MySpace or Flickr or 43Things or any other social networking app., I control how and which information I dole out.

Linda, that's true, but what you can't control is the way in which all this data is scraped by outsiders, linked among your different social sites that you feel are kept separate, tracked among different manifestations in games or shopping sites, aggregated, etc.

Ren, I wonder if more study could be made of this interested idea, that in heavily exposed public spaces, people actually adopt very stylized and regulated behaviours, consciously and unconsciously.

Recently, when my young teenage son simply deleted his MySpace page (called "committing 'Myspacicide'" these days) because he thought it was "lame" and "for girls," this act had such reverberations that his AIM buddies lit up the wires in concern, and I even had an adult in another household call me up on the telephone in concern to tell me his son said my son was missing from MySpace. I marveled at this.

13.

Andy said:

"If I spend 20-60 hours a week immersed in media... how do I show my colors? Where are my clan markings?"

Bravo, Andy, I think you've hit the nail on the head. Sites like MySpace are the digital extension of the bumper sticker, a way of proclaiming and celebrating the social/media/political space that one chooses to occupy. In the context of media, this is made necessary because the long tail, etc. means that people now live such complex media consumption lives that preferences/affinities defy simple description. Modern tribal markings are complex and layered so this is about sharing... about imploring others to understand one's point-of-view and the perspectives in which one has steeped. I think it's nice, though I do with they'd keep their clothes on, for their own sake, and to preserve their parents' sanity.

14.

I just got out of a good presentation by the founder of LibraryThing (www.librarything.com), Tim Spalding. He came to talk here at OCLC because... well... we're a library services company, and so we have much in common. LibraryThing is a social network built around the books you've read. You don't have to own them to catalog them on the site, though most people seem to use it that way. And once you catalog your "library," you can tag titles, search, write reviews, etc.

Sound like Amazon.com? Not so much. Because it's non commercial in the extreme. It's about *reading* not *buying* books. "This is what I have read," is the ground level of the data. People then "get social" based on that data.

How excited are you when you find someone who has read an obscure book that you love? And how much do you love arguing about which book in a certain series is the best? Or the worst? Book lovers are incredibly social... about books. And LibraryThing has had amazing growth (55K users and 3.8 million records) in less than a year. Members can catalog with an account that users as little personal data as a username and password; nothing more. Or they can add all kinds of other data at their own choice.

To me, aps like this -- differentiated based on some kind of real interest -- are much *more* social than something like MySpace, and are much more likely to last and be meaningful to their members. I don't think a 49 year old professor of Greek studies who has spent a couple hundred hours cataloging his collection of 1,209 titles will quit LibraryThing because "it's lame" and "for girls." No offense intended to the kids; joining and quitting (easy in / easy out) is a feature of many childhood activities. How many of us started hobbies or "collections" that lasted only weeks or days?

Here's my 25-cent prediction -- Unless something really significant is added in terms of new content creation capabilities or telco tie-ins, MySpace is going to die or be waaay less than it is right now in under 2 years. Something else will take its place, for sure... but I'm not sure there's enough "there" there to make it stick.

15.

>There have already been cases of social networking
>sights being used by parents to screen potential
>college roommates. It may seem ok when the parents
>see the potential roommates interests are drinking or
>something of that nature, but what about when the
>parents reject the roommate because of race or
>religious affiliation.

The question is whether or not you feel it's right for parents to reject roommates on such grounds. If you feel it's okay, then this is good -- the parents were empowered to make a decision they couldn't otherwise. If you feel it's not okay, then this is also good -- it reveals the parents' bigotry and enables you, the school, or the child to do something to stop it. The fact that increased information may enable parents to GET AWAY with discrimination, if no one stops it in that case, is no argument that such information should be hidden.

>Many teens might be writing things on their blogs
>right now that will cause a future employer to
>question hiring them. If I write about taking some
>recreational drugs when I am 17 and my employer
>Googles me when I am trying to get a job at 24, don't
>you think they might wonder about my history of
>recreational drug use?

Again, it depends on whether or not you think employers should or should not be able to decide not to hire someone on that basis. If so, then certainly this is a good thing... the company benefits from the openness. If not, then you should be concerned about laws that allow companies to do this, not trying to hide the truth from them so they don't have the opportunity. Perhaps you think people should be allowed to use drugs at 17 and yet not have that held against them later. I'm sure some companies will feel the same way, and you'll be better off working for such a company HONESTLY than working at another that you have to hide your past from.

Bruce

16.

Brief excursion: Andy, on the strength of your comments about LibraryThing, I looked it up -- it just sounded so cool. (I'm such a geek about my paperback collection that I actually wrote an entire fuzzy-logic database system 20 years ago to keep track of the darn things.)

Good Thing: Here is the final comment on the LibraryThing home page: "And if the buzz page doesn't convince you, you cannot be convinced. Go away."

/applaud

Bad Thing: There's a 200-book limit before you're expected to pay up: $10/year, or $25/life. That's not a Bad Thing because it's too expensive, but because any fee at all will stunt this tool's early growth.

That's especially true if you believe that publicizing something (like one's favorite books) about oneself online is today's way of expressing individual identity in an ever-more-connected world.

Maybe a better approach would be closer to the eBay model of a per-transaction fee -- perhaps a small charge per search? I think some of the online genealogy sites use this approach; you can upload your family tree for free, but searching costs money.

Or would that approach do more damage for the intended use of a "here's something about me" tool?

At any rate, thanks for the pointer!

--Bart

17.

Travis Ross>What happens when the teens are splashing and they don't realize the implications the splashing might have on their future?

Whatever it is, it's not nearly so bad as if someone else does the splashing and that has implications on their future.

>It may seem ok when the parents see the potential roommates interests are drinking or something of that nature, but what about when the parents reject the roommate because of race or religious affiliation.

Discrimination based on religious affiliation - great! People get a choice over what religion they are. I know I'd be a happier parent if I knew my children weren't sharing a place with mad cultists.

Discrimination based on race - awful! You don't get to choose what race you are. OK, so some "no choice" things have disruptive consequences (eg. a girl applying for a room in a house full of boys), but race ought not to be one of them.

That said, you already have this kind of thing in the US. When you want to buy a house you can look at the ethnic breakdown of the neighbourhood and decide if you really want to live among all those s. We don't have this in the UK (it's illegal), but it seems to me that knowing what race your child's potential room-mate is falls into pretty much the same category, just writ smaller.

>Many teens might be writing things on their blogs right now that will cause a future employer to question hiring them.

Or they may be writing things which cause the future employer to hire them. Or the future employer may have embarrassing teenage years captured by a search engine, too.

>If I write about taking some recreational drugs when I am 17 and my employer Googles me when I am trying to get a job at 24, don't you think they might wonder about my history of recreational drug use?

Of course they would. Shouldn't they?

You'd just tell them you made it all up to impress your friends anyway. Just because this stuff is on MySpace, that doesn't mean it's all true.

>Teens seem to be reacting to technology the way most teens do... without thinking about it. This could eventually cost some of them, simply because they don't realize it might eventually cost them.

I agree. What they see as private conversation is actually public. Once they realise it's public, that chances the nature of the conversation (Ren's panoptican argument), but by then it's too late.

Then again, it may be that having a whole generation of people who have had their teenage unguarded comments recorded for all eternity learn to live and let live a bit more. "I was a prat at 14" does not mean "I am a prat now". Google records don't change, but people do.

Richard

18.

The "live among all those s" in the above post should say "live among all those {something not you}s". I used angle brackets instead of curly brackets, though, in true BNF style, forgetting it would be interpreted as HTML...

Richard

19.

Richard > Then again, it may be that having a whole generation of people who have had their teenage unguarded comments recorded for all eternity learn to live and let live a bit more. "I was a prat at 14" does not mean "I am a prat now". Google records don't change, but people do.

This is what I was getting at. Is there a shift? Take holding DNA on file as an example – with many this is an issue of principle. The state should not be able to do this unless they have good cause and for a limited time for limited reasons. I don’t want to argue the pro’s and con’s of this specifically but more point to underlying assumptions behind this stance.

There is a difference between me choosing to post pics of myself and stories of all kind of misdeeds, and the state (or a company) choosing to record and hold these data.

But you can see why people would believe that one would bleed into the other. There’s some stuff in ethics of technology about the idea that society functions on assumptions about memory, records and access. People forget you had that fight at schools, thoughts in your diary are only see be you or curious parents. mySpace – it’s all out there.

But as Richard notes, people will grow up with this, if they shift to cope with the fact that everyone has something odd about them online somewhere – when it comes to the state holding DNA will be ‘whatever’ on the basis that if I know who you wanted to snog when you were 14 you are not going to care about abstract sate records too much, its just another bit of your data blueprint.

But I flip flop on this. I do wonder if there is really a shift in the whole scope of what was in / out of being thought of as private and even the very notion of the value of privacy, or whether there has just been a simple trade.

I guess we might put it in a simple question (that there might be studies on): what does the average 13yo NOT want their peer group / their teachers / their guardians to know about them.

Sub-question – is there a consistent shift over time.

20.

@Bart: It's funny about the pricing model at LibraryThing. He started out to make it "profitable from day one," so that he could keep it up as a hobby, do it without outside VC cash, and not worry about having to have advertising or outside support. He originally intended it to be a tool for him and some buddies. He has done no advertising, and in one year has upwards of 55,000 registered users, more than 70% of whom choose the $25-for-life model. In his case, the pricing structure doesn't seem to have hurt the system, and (he told us) his "members" (he does not refer to them as "users" or "customers," and when he did once in a blog post, they got all up in his grill) are fiercely dedicated to adding bibliographic content to the site. And as soon as one member adds stuff about a book, you can, essentially, "clone" it to your collection's data. So added content brings value to all other members.

It's a neat tool/social site. When folks are willing to pay $15/month for an RPG or $45/month for cable tv or $7.50 for a first-run movie... I was, frankly, surprised at how low his pricing was. $25/life to join a 55K member book-club that now qualifies at the 50th largest library in the US... that's not bad.

21.

>Discrimination based on religious affiliation - great! People get a choice over what religion they are. I know I'd be a happier parent if I knew my children weren't sharing a place with mad cultists.

Religious believers aren't necessarily "mad cultists," and people who specify generic religious affiliations don't expect to be discriminated against by being perceived as mad cultists. Few mad cultists in fact designate themselves as such; this is the eye of the beholder.

The OP said "religious affiliation". You don't get to chose what religious affiliation you are seen as possessing, much like race (really no choice there) or class (with its more subtle cues). Christians, Jews, Muslims, all have the experience of having imposed on them by others the baggage of their perceived religious status. regardless of whether they as individuals happen to be religious believers or not.

Religion very much bleeds into culture. Religions are perceived as having cultural traits. Ethnicity and religion are sometimes bound together as concepts hard to pry apart for some religions and some ethnic groups.

22.

Agreeing wholeheartedly with Prokofy on this one. And getting along with people who are different than you are -- assuming difference that do not lead to violence -- is one of the main things that I was taught college was all about.

One of my hallmates, for example, at Cornell had never met a practicing Christian before. His folks, extended family, friends, etc., were mostly atheists and/or non-practicing Jews. We'd been friends for months before it came up in conversation that I was, in fact, a "born again" Christian. At which point he looked at me like I'd sprouted horns and declared myself a transplant from the Planet Vogon. He knew that my politics were as liberal as his, and he knew from much conversational experience that I was not (nor am not) a prosteletyzing "mad cultist," right-wing, fundamentalist-type, bent on "conversion." He had a lot of good questions for me -- some quite far out -- and I for him.

Had we been able to "select" dorms based on preferred religious affiliations and standard "tagging," we would not have ever met. And would have had a poorer college experience.

23.

Whether or not such diversity makes for a "poor college experience" eitehr way is a matter of opinion, and people should be free to choose whether or not to associate with such people. If the COLLEGE feels that's important (which most do), they can make rules to govern such things. So in the previous example, the parents wouldn't be able to deny a particular roommate. It makes little sense to "hide" the person's true background to avoid discrimination; all that does is enable the discrimination to continue unchallenged.

Bruce

24.

Before I started my current PhD on MMOs I was looking at online chat practices across different cultures. One thing which struck me was the difference in openness about identity between Maltese and New Zealand chat users. Focusing on IRC, I noticed how NZ channel regular users often offered information about themselves including a pic on a supporting website, while in Malta being sent the person's pic much less personal information about them involved a long screening process. These sorts of identifying details were seen as rewards for extended online friendship rather than freely available information.

The reason for this secrecy was rather straight forward. On a 25km, 375000 people country like Malta it's far more likely that the person you're chatting to is connected to you somehow. And the potential for information you give out about yourself being used against you is more immediate (whether this used against you is being stalked, bitched about at work or whatever). This practice has remained unchanged on the single most popular chat room on the island (which at times reaches over 6000 users) today from ten years ago. Teens remain as careful about their identity as adults were back then, because the possible repercussions of that openness are imminent. And those repercussions remain no matter how much open information is available, because people are set in their ways and in some countries, the pull of traditions is stronger than is often given credit. I don't see how Bruce's logic regarding the openness of information making things more acceptable would ever become a practical reality. For it to become so, the majority of populations, and indeed cultures, would have to have to be equally open to such a use of technology and undergo the adjustment you mention wholesale. If this might be possible in one country (which I doubt it is) it is not neccesarily the case for the rest of the world. Prejudices run deep and strong and no amount of openness of information is going to change that. It is really worrying to constantly read sweeping statements about how people react to technology x and y without taking into consideration how different cultures assimilate technologies differently depending on their immediate social structures.

25.

Just a comment from the other side of the Channel..to show the culture bias on these subjects.

The British "panic mode" on the subject of ID card shows how different privacy is understood in different culture.

ID card is just part of life in France. The huge majority don't care. I might had to show my ID to police three/four time in 40 years! You mostly show it for boarding planes (as everywhere)!

France is not a so bad police state with British buying holidays homes everywhere...

On the other hand, CCTV in public spaces triggers a lot of privacy concerns in France. Only 911 allowed government to pass some intrusive CCTV laws. For example, a video footage of a stealing employe can't be used in court if the employee wasn't warned about the camera. And if you warn, unions in your company will probably strike for Big Brother tactics...

I spent 4 years in UK (before 911)and CCTV is everywhere without a lot of fuss!

As a tenant, my UK landlord was doing an "inspection visit" every 6 months to check the property. In France, once rented, he will be trepassing for breach of privacy! The list can go on.

Privacy is a big word with a lot of meanings. We all give up liberties but their importance vary by country/culture.

26.

I would also recommend Daniel Miller and Don Slater's The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach on Trinidad as a useful case study on how cultural differences influence the engagement of new technologies.

27.

Thanks for the reference Thomas, and good points Elrana.

28.

Prokofy Neva>Religious believers aren't necessarily "mad cultists,"

No, but some are, and I'd be pleased to know my kids weren't room-mates with them.

>and people who specify generic religious affiliations don't expect to be discriminated against by being perceived as mad cultists.

You're the one who's doing that perceiving, not me. All I said was that I didn't want my children to share a place with mad cultists. I didn't say that I objected to my children sharing a place with anyone who held religious views. You managed to associate "mad cultists" with "religious people" all on your own.

>Few mad cultists in fact designate themselves as such; this is the eye of the beholder.

Of course, and my eye beholds some of these supposed religions to be mad cults. Therefore, I'd be grateful for information that enabled me and my children to avoid them.

>You don't get to chose what religious affiliation you are seen as possessing

Oh yes you do! Otherwise, why do any religions attempt to evangelise?

>Christians, Jews, Muslims, all have the experience of having imposed on them by others the baggage of their perceived religious status. regardless of whether they as individuals happen to be religious believers or not.

How can you be a Christian or a Muslim if you're not a religious believer? Isn't religious belief a qualification for being a Christian or a Muslim? If a Chistian converted to Islam, would that make them still a Christian?

I suppose, given that you said "Christians, Jews, Muslims" together, you do feel that it's legitimate to characterise people as inately one religion or another. Christians and Muslims are followers of a religious doctrine, whereas Jews are a race, yet you conflate them with ease. Yes, most Jews do follow Judaism, but there are plenty that don't. Criticising someone for being Jewish is to criticise them for something over which they have no control; criticising someone for following Judaism, however, is to challenge their beliefs, not their being. If challenging beliefs is not permissible, how can humanity ever advance its knowledge?

>Religion very much bleeds into culture.

I agree. Language does so even more. Is it wrong, therefore, to criticise French speakers for (say) not rebelling against the sexism inherent in their language?

>Ethnicity and religion are sometimes bound together as concepts hard to pry apart for some religions and some ethnic groups.

I agree. In some cases, it's impossible (eg. the Parsees identify their ethnicity and their religion as being indivisible). Even so, shunning someone because you don't like their ethnicity and shunning someone because you don't like their professed world view are different things. People should be allowed to criticise Zoroastranism even if all Parsees are Zoroastrans, so long as it's the doctrine and not the ethnicity that is being called out.

Andy Havens>Had we been able to "select" dorms based on preferred religious affiliations and standard "tagging," we would not have ever met.

If he'd been a girl, you still wouldn't have met (assuming you were in an all-male dorm).

Actually, you probably would still have met even if tagging had been available. You both came from politically liberal backgrounds, so you both would probably not have used the tagging system anyway. If you were super-keen on avoiding other religions, you'd have applied to a college that specialised in teaching from a perspective of which you approved.

[Warning to onlookers: I fully expect this conversation to go rapidly off the rails. My apologies in advance.]

Richard

29.
Bruce, this assumes that everybody in the system has access to all the information all the time, and that everybody is on a level playing field unable to deceive. But they don't, and they aren't. In games and virtual worlds, the game gods have it all, and they dole it out. They're the only ones who really have the story; the rest of us have only a partial story.

Actually it also totally disregards the possibility of fabricated information. If you loook you'll probably already find cases of completely artifical profiles, as well as profiles which have been created to intentionally damage other peoples reputations. Its funny how people seems to start with an innate trust of the information provided by any new media, and only begin to recognize the potential for repurposing and damage later.

30.

@Richard: We weren't in all male dorms : )

And I didn't really mean for my example to be completely declaratory, but merely directional. I don't think I would have objected to an atheist room-mate or hall mate, nor would have my parents. I grew up with lots of friends of various religious (and non) persuasions, and it was part of "learning to live and let live" in my house. I don't know if David's parents (or he himself) would have objected to "dorming" with a professed, practicing Christian... but his views on my "self tag," and mine on his would have probably kept us from being friends, had we initially been wearing big flashing hyperlinks that said "MY ATHEIST BLOG-ROLL" and "BORN-AGAIN SITES-I-LIKE."

One of the criticisms of the fracturing and multiplicity of the new media is that there is "something for everyone," and that we, therefore, do not heed reasonable, shared voices anymore, but flock to ones that we already agree with; i.e., liberals listen to "Air America" and conservatives to "Rush Limbaugh." I'm not sure that's true across the board, but the same might be said for how we self-identify more granularly on the Web.

In real life, you have lots of subtle, social cues as to who I am and whether we might get along. You might decide, at any point, to mitigate various other things you learn because, "That Andy is a nice enough fellow." Or, even though we agree on many issues, you might decide to avoid me, because I'm a total ass-hat.

Online, you have only my words and tags, links, pics, banners, blogroll, etc. My meta-me. My memetic encoding without any (or much) social or emotional dressing.

I'm not saying that's bad... it's just different. I've made some good friends through online connections whom are very different than folks I would have ever met in Meatspace. Some were "vertical" match-ups, who had interests (like gaming or writing) that coincided with mine, and we struck up virtual/eLationships. Some were "horizontal" leanings, where there just seemed to be a "click" in personalities. But that latter happens a lot less than the former. Because there is, as I said, much more metadata online and much less meet-a-data.

Now I'm done being faux-clever. For now.

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32.

Andy Havens>We weren't in all male dorms : )

I'm surprised you got time to discuss anything theological then, heh heh.

>I don't think I would have objected to an atheist room-mate or hall mate, nor would have my parents.

I wouldn't have objected to a non-atheist one. It really depends on the individual: there are some extremely irritating atheists around who pursue their (paraphrasing here) new-found sense superiority over superstitious relics of the past with a zeal befitting the staunchest of religious fundamentalists.

That said, there are some religions (and especially some cults) which promote rather unfortunate views right at their core. Having one adherent of these in a dorm of 16 people or whatever isn't so bad, but having 10 of them? Now it's not so clear as to whether it's a life-enriching experience or not.

>I don't know if David's parents (or he himself) would have objected to "dorming" with a professed, practicing Christian... but his views on my "self tag," and mine on his would have probably kept us from being friends

Perhaps. Then again, would you have chosen only to be friends with people who had the "born again" links on their home page? It seems to me that you and David both seem to regard religion (or lack of it) as not something that dominates your every waking moment, and you perhaps wouldn't have wanted to hang out with people who might be so into it that they regarded it as a competitive sport ("I'm more Christian than you", that sort of thing).

>In real life, you have lots of subtle, social cues as to who I am and whether we might get along. You might decide, at any point, to mitigate various other things you learn because, "That Andy is a nice enough fellow."

Yes, I certainly didn't pick up on your having been born again ("there's one born again every minute" - atheist joke). You talk a lot of sense, so that's why I value your opinions. OK, I don't always agree, and now I've found another thing I disagree with, but so what? I don't even agree with things I said myself 10 years ago, so I'm hardly likely to question your judgment. As you say, that Andy is a nice enough fellow (but, unlike as you say, I got this online, not face to face).

>Because there is, as I said, much more metadata online and much less meet-a-data.

Spoken like a true advertising executive!

Richard

33.

@Richard: And I didn't pick up on your atheism. Why would I? This isn't a blog about religion. Until it was used as an example in situ, it didn't have a place in the discussion.

I appreciate your compliment r.e. "You talk a lot of sense..." Coming from you, on this site, that's meaningful to me. Thanks. But let me ask you a question: had this comment been my first, instead of my 42nd (according to a TN search of "posted by: andy havens"... hmmm... 42...), would the mention of my religious affilition have colored (or coloured?) your assessment of my opinion, and possibly future opinions? I can't tell. Back at you -- what you write seems emminently reasonable and well thought out. You don't come across as one of those preachy, fire-and-brimstone atheists who want to convert me to their sect of non-belief ; )

We have some context here for our discussions, and so this one data point (religion, in this case) won't pull our overall opionions that far off what has been established already. My observation is that we're seeing new data points for opinions and judgemens emerge on the Web for which we have yet to establish context. Or for which we are establishing wrong, contradictory or confused contexts. Witness our disagreement, here, about whether a simple insurance ad is a "good thing or bad thing" r.e. the overall cultural sentiment towards gaming.

David and I were able to establish a number of contexts simultaneously by being in a place together, hold conversations, observe each other -- with other people, too -- all in ways that are rich with various social and communicative sub-texts and meanings. On the Web, I think we are more myopic.

BTW... the dorm was mixed-gender, but each floor was single-sex. As opposed to Risley Hall, another dorm on campus, that was mixed even on each floor. They never did anything but... well... engage in additional contextual development.

34.

Andy Havens>had this comment been my first, instead of my 42nd (according to a TN search of "posted by: andy havens"... hmmm... 42...), would the mention of my religious affilition have colored (or coloured?) your assessment of my opinion

It would have depended on the context. If it had no apparent bearing on the discussion in hand, I probably would have been wary, yes. Then again, I'd have been wary if you'd stated something over which you had no control (eg. "I'm black" or "I'm gay") for no apparent reason.

>You don't come across as one of those preachy, >fire-and-brimstone atheists who want to convert me to >their sect of non-belief ; )

One of the self-defence mechanisms of Christianity is faith, ie. believing that for which there's no evidence precisely because there IS no evidence. Even if this were the place for religious argument (and it's not) (well, maybe Unix vs Windows), I wouldn't preach atheism at you...

>On the Web, I think we are more myopic.

On the web, but what about virtual worlds?

>BTW... the dorm was mixed-gender, but each floor was single-sex. As opposed to Risley Hall, another dorm on campus, that was mixed even on each floor.

I was in a mixed-gender (what Americans call) dorm, on the same floor.

>They never did anything but... well... engage in additional contextual development.

Some of our lot did pair up briefly, but they soon got over it. The main "things I wish I'd known before I signed up" were that there were about 5 (from 16) hard-core members of the far-left Socialist Workers Party there. They were neither Socialist nor Workers, and their idea of a Party was trying to get people to eat cake they'd laced with cannabis, but we still managed to get along most of the time. Although I did come out of the experience more rounded than I went in, I'd have preferred to have got my rounding under less stressful circumstances.

Richard

35.

The information age, or the period in which very large numbers of people started enrolling in the universities, basically kickstarted the reality of verbal camouflage. Individual institutions started publishing more documents than any internal review agency can really have under their purview. I would hazard the guess that this figured strongly into the development of database filtering technology.

Similarly, by having large swathes of the population documenting the mundane, it become effortless to weave threads of the unorthodox into public thought. It isn't necessary to concentrate those thoughts into essay, ontologies or ideologies any longer. Perhaps it is time for the essayist's peroration.

36.

I wouldn't like to see the debate on privacy rights shaded by the behaviour of kids because, and I remember this very well from my own past:

[drum roll please]

Kids are stupid.

Obviously not your kids. Delightful little tinkers one and all, I have no doubt, and forever given to making wise and insightful statements that have you rewinding your housewide 24-hour cctv feed and posting it on your blog with the title "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings springeth forth wisdom!"

But honestly, have you seen the average myspace page? These people have a long way to go before we set them loose on a waffle grill without supervision.

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