The March 2011 issue of Wired Magazine has an article by Andrew Keen, the author of The Cult of the Amateur, in which Keen discusses the implications of sharing enormous amounts of personal information online. What these implications may be, he is not exactly clear about. There is a strange mix of paranoia and nostalgia underlying his words, motivations that don’t usually offer specific examples.
He oversimplifies the nature of sharing (“we will all know what everyone is doing all the time” and be able to inspect everyone “every instant”), he blames the tools and the tool makers rather than the users (“[the] increasingly ubiquitous social network” that “invades” our private spaces), and he assumes that everyone online is motivated primarily by their need “to broadcast [their] uniqueness to the world” (Ok, I’ll give him that one).
On the other hand, Keen brings up a number of legitimate concerns. As businesses and advertisers learn how to monetize social networks, all the information that we normally consider private (or, at least, wouldn’t normally give to a person holding a clipboard in a mall) is ripe for harvesting.
And I would add, personally, that there is something to the idea that the increasingly public nature of our daily lives changes us, sometimes in undesirable ways. (For a more than dramatic example, check out the documentary on dot com boomer, Josh Harris, We Live In Public). We come to expect more of ourselves, perhaps too much as we continually project ourselves into cyberspace and await the feedback of the masses.
But I digress. Give Keen’s article a read and let me know what you think. There is much here to disagree with, but what is there in this article that we can agree on?