Web 2.0: The Re-launch of Stepford Wives – I’d rather be a GOAT.

Privacy. It seems to be a big topic. It feels like through all of our learnings in WEB101, the real push with all of it has been about Privacy. Subliminal and not so subtle programming are aimed directly at the uni student: beware, be careful, the internet is out to get you and to hurt you if you don’t get a specific balance of online content that is news-centric not personal-centric. Having never been concerned about online privacy before, I find it quite staggering how much of a strong push there is from Tama and the tutors toward privacy.

I’ve always been an open book, and I guess this flies in the face of how I live my ‘real life’ in the ‘real world’ and now I’m wondering why I am meant to invent a ‘new me’ to live in an online world. Why is it so essential that I hold back, moderate myself, ensure that I am only partially immersed? Well from what I can gather, it’s because bad things will happen to me online if I don’t. If I don’t post something silly about myself, somebody else will and later on in my life when I decide to run for President, that silly post will be used against me by the media. Obviously for this scenario to work, we’ll just need to ignore the fact that I’m almost too old to do anything silly, and I don’t live in America or ever think I would run for President of anything. But the key change to who I am offline to who I am online would be that I would have to STOP being intrinsically HONEST and OPEN and ACCOUNTABLE.

Because to be secretive is to not be honest or open. It’s hiding yourself and your actions away from people. It means you do not have to be accountable for your actions because nobody will see them. Is this who I really want to be ‘online’? Is this who my university want me to become? A nameless, sexless, ageless emoticon who never interacts but only broadcasts a moderated and carefully constructed point of view? This is what I think they are trying to sell us.

I am a sensible person. I do sensible things. I doubt very much if I could create a digital shadow even if I tried. Why? Well firstly because I don’t act in a way that is going to get me lynchmobbed. I don’t have pics of me drunk or stoned, practise magic or voodoo, cannabalise in my spare time or deliberately crash a car. I don’t get myself in those situations. The majority of my life is eating, sleeping, playing with the dog and now University. I don’t do anything exciting. I don’t do anything noteworthy. And I certainly don’t do anything that is going to get me in trouble with the law. So it will be hard to create a digital shadow that has my face to it, because I’m just far too boring to have one.

Secondly, I post a LOT of information about myself. Repeatedly. On a number of sites. You can see my full name (OMG!), my date of birth (MERCY, SAVE ME!), and my (SHOCK, HORROR) interests and hobbies! You’ll find them at a variety of web sites all over the Internet. Some are even in a different language! As I say, I’m an open book, so why would anyone try to create a digital shadow of me when there’s such an overwhelming smattering of ‘me’ by ‘me’ all over the internet. If there’s foolish action on film, I will be the one to post it, with a full explanation why. If there’s a strong opinion for or against something, I will be the one that states it and explain with full accountability, why I feel that way. Because I am, intriniscally, HONEST and OPEN and ACCOUNTABLE for my actions.

To hide half of myself, to prevent others from seeing parts of me, is to be misleading, dishonest and non-forthright. That isn’t who I am. And yet it feels so much like this is the new expectation, the new creed that comes with the privacy concerns of web 2.0. Because we have a wealth of information at our fingertips, we need to make sure nobody knows who is taking and learning and reading all this information.

I don’t understand it. I feel like there is an inherent contradiciton in here. We want this information, we want to be able to socialise with people from all over the world, we want to form true and real relationships with people, yet we must keep ourselves separate from the Internet, from all that WEB 2.0 technologies can give us. University is teaching me this. It’s teaching me that there is now a plethora of applications available for me to use, but that to use them is a bad thing because I will be exposing myself. We all will be exposing ourselves.

So the way I see it, there are two options for the human race. We can do as University suggests and hide ourselves online. We can give partial information and remain aloof to WEB 2.0 and all its glorious connections. We can live our lives in fear of a digital shadow.

Or we can become stepford wives.  We will all be ‘very aware’ of how there are no places that are sacred, no places away from the glaring light of publicity. We will have become one with publicity and internet publishing. And we will all be reverting back to the behaviour of the 50s, where we all were very moral and upright pillars of society for fear of what the neighbours would think, what the town would say, what the peer group pressure would do to us. We will be forever ‘on show’ and our behaviour will always be moderated and careful and aware that it can be used against us. Citizen Justice will be our enforcers and we will alter our behaviour to match our audience in very new and conservative ways.

And I truly think this is where our society will be headed by 2015. After all, history has shown us that societies swing back and forth with large sweeping pendulums between loose and tight morals. The 20s were a time of decadence and thrill, the 70s were a time of free love, and 2010 has been a time for the ‘me-generation’. All of these decades reverberated with lax morals and openess. Society was less ‘structured’ in those decades. And then there’s the opposite times in our history: the 1900s, the 40-50s, and soon the 2020’s. These periods are renowned for their rigid and conservative stance; their impeccable taste and narrowmindedness. And many of these societal shifts occured because of a shift discovered and created on the university campus floor. The education whirlpool guides and forges these swings and ‘new education’ ideas emerge. The societal shifts come around every fifty years or so and they counterbalance the very relaxed life of other decades.

So here we are, on the crux of the issue. We have a wealth of information available on the web. We have the capacity to bond with it as one because of Web 2.0 technologies. But do we do so? Because to immerse ourselves in that world will give our society two choices: be extremely closed and private, or be open yet conservative.

They aren’t particularly likeable options. And yet, history has shown us that like sheep to the slaughter, we will follow universities down the river until we drown.

As for me? I’d rather be a goat.

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6 thoughts on “Web 2.0: The Re-launch of Stepford Wives – I’d rather be a GOAT.

  1. Hi December,

    Since this seems to be a general response to Web101, and to the learning experiences I’ve designed, I’d like to comment on (and take issue with) the notion that what we’re encouraging is this:

    It’s hiding yourself and your actions away from people. It means you do not have to be accountable for your actions because nobody will see them. Is this who I really want to be ‘online’? Is this who my university want me to become? A nameless, sexless, ageless emoticon who never interacts but only broadcasts a moderated and carefully constructed point of view? This is what I think they are trying to sell us.

    Privacy is one of the underlying themes of the unit, in large part this is because in asking people to establish a web presence it’s vital that they do so in an informed manner, aware of the longevity of the information they post online. However, being aware is very different from suggestion people not share; what I’m hoping people take away is the ability to make informed decisions about their privacy and what they share. I’ve tried, too, to point out that having no presence isn’t really a good idea, either, because you need a position from which to speak (which is what web presence is about). Perhaps I do start from the pessimistic presumption that many people haven’t thought through their privacy online enough, but I’d be really disappointed if the message of Web101 was interpreted as saying people should stay offline. Far from it – what I hope people take away from Web101 is a sense of how important sharing is, how useful and enriching it can be, but doing so in a sober and completely informed manner about how that shared information works and lasts. If anything, my mantra that online conversations = content is simply to remind us all that conversations and sharing work differently when they’re digital.

    And while I’m delighted you feel that you’re happy being completely open, I think it’s realistic enough to believe that most people have some things they’d prefer to keep private, and some things they’d still like to share with some people, but not the internet-at-large.

  2. Hi Tama,
    Whilst I certainly don’t feel that WEB101 is pushing that people stay offline (hence my prediction of the stepford wives scenario), I do think the element of privacy and the need to be private and only partially fully ‘you’ is a strong point throughout the course so far. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed WEB101 (as I expect you know!) especially as it has forced me to look at things that I normally don’t even consider. One of those is privacy.
    I think we have been shown loads of video footage and multiple references of digital shadows throughout the course. Which has been good because it has all been working us toward the concept of Privacy and our web presence. But we haven’t seen a lot of ‘this is how the web works for you in a positive manner’ – well that’s my impression. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all – as you say, it’s better to have some sort of presence than none at all. But the overwhelming issues seem to be ‘how public should I be online?’. And therein lies my dilemma. If people are just people, then surely they should be the same online as offline? And if they are not doing that, following my logic, they are therefore being ‘deceitful’ or misleading.

    Which is why I reiterate my prediction that the Internet will lead to fundamental shift toward a conservative and more closed culture in the future generations than we now experience (eg Stepford Wives). I think people will take away what they have learned here and in other Uni courses, and be wary and concerned about what the Web will be able to offer them AS well as what it may be to their detriment.

    This conservative nature has already begun with the open internet debate regarding the Internet filter. The core essence of who we are as a society will change and evolve to be more cautious, to be more aware and to be more concerned about citizen justice.

    And I worry that if we don’t become a stepford wives society, there will be NO choice but to become a “nameless, sexless, ageless emoticon who never interacts but only broadcasts a moderated and carefully constructed point of view”. I cannot see any middle ground, particularly when we have all those smart Uni people (like you) who can see these societal shifts so much better than myself.

    • There are some really interesting points you have raised December, and I must admit I for one find your rantings (not meant negatively) on the discussion boards, twitter (now that I am a member) and your blog interesting and entertaining, although sometimes a little defensive, if that is the right word. Funnily enough it almost seems that the unit is structured to get us to think. Not just about terms (and how loosely we use them) and understanding the tools (wikis, blogs etc) but about social impacts (networking, content sharing, foot prints & shadows) which naturally revolves around our rights and understanding them (copyright, CC and yes privacy).

      Actually in writing this response I would say that the course largely focus on social impact – communicating, collaborating, our rights and privacy to help us get a full understanding of the web and ‘think about these issues [good and bad] critically’ (better reference our tutors on BB here) not just how to use it, because quite frankly anyone with internet connection can teach themselves how to use the web.

  3. My husband has just said in our discussion on this, that while lying is bad, sometimes being too honest is worse. We’re discussing Tama’s point of view and he’s trying to show me the light 🙂 He thinks the stepford wives idea wouldn’t work.

  4. I can see your point of view Dec. I am however a little more concerned about my general privacy, I am definately concerned about fraud using my personal details, but having had the privelage of knowing you personally I completely understand how you would be completely comprimised to be walking this particular path of privacy/not privacy. You are in essence an exceptionally open person with a strong belief that all things deserve the light of day good bad or indifferent it’s something I greatly admire in you. And I think I lean more on your side then not about privacy, I don’t care exactly what my digital shadow is, if some crazy photos from Facebook (Which I have none) end up somewhere else on the internet. I don’t want my private details fraudulently used and I would certainly not want any of my work or images illegally used for any purpose so I do keep an eye on that. It’s an interesting concept all and all, and I think it’s not just privacy that is going to account for the shift in society. Definately technology had made great changes in the way we perceive our day to day life (NET102?? LOL) But I think in the end it comes down to the question of whether you want to change your life to suit technology or change technology to suit your life. There is no prescriptive formula and I certainly don’t think that’s what you or Tama are preaching, but definately I can see how this is very much apart of who you are. And I think discussion and debate into all forms of privacy, mediations, filteration, and personal detail use could take up years even talking non-stop. A personal reflection that already has people discussing pro and cons!

  5. Yeah I hadn’t thought about fraud per se, mainly because while I’m open, I admit I don’t broadcast my visa card details or what-have-you. Identity theft is also going to contribute to the societal shift and that’s one aspect I hadn’t reflected on.

    Who would have thought that this unit requirement of personally reflecting could lead to so many new and crazy ideas??

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