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16 April 2008


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Fascinating post Josie. I love the internet as panopticon idea. I also think you're right that it's all about context. At the moment the tools we have to define who can see what are pretty basic - these will inevitably become much more sophisticated as time goes on, as will people's natural navigation around these issues.

Social norms will emerge as time goes on - I guess we're the guinea pigs at the moment! It's fascinating to see it all panning out in front of our eyes, especially right now with Twitter.

Education also has a huge role to play too as you say. My question is who's going to do it?

Love the way you think, Josie.. I'm wondering, as the amount of information (refined and "spontaneous") that emerges about individuals increase, does the threshold at which a particular piece of information about someone is considered "salacious" change? In other words, are we getting more tolerant of deviance (pinching road signs) amongst our associates, as we have evidence of such deviance by more and more of them?

Great question Craig. I think that things will carry on pretty much as they are: If you are my friend, and in most other ways sane, I'd probably be prepared to overlook some salacious behaviour - particularly if it didn't impact on me/my ethics directly. If I was interviewing you for a job in the police force, I'd take it very differently. There is some evidence to suggest a degree of context being taken into consideration - i.e. marginally/socially acceptable dubious behaviour being regarded as more excusable in young people than in older people. If you're asking does the online discussion of this kind of activity water down the general ethical/moral standards of the online population I'd have to say - its far more complex than that, and further clouded by the cyclical/generational change which is recurrently mystifying or horrifying to an older generation (think of the outrage surrounding the behaviour of flappers in the 1920s for example (one of many).

To answer your question Antonio - I can only really talk within the UK policy context, but digital literacy needs to be policy led and financially supported. It needs to be on the national agenda in a way that it isn't at the moment. Right now, digital literacy is addressed in a disparate range of generally piecemeal and poorly funded/supported initiatives. It needs to be ON a national agenda - education & skills, industry and culture and the Home Office are all miniseries which could do with thinking about what we might mean by digital literacy and how we are going to support it nationally. Sure, its an important issue for institutions, teachers and parents but they need support in contributing to the national discussion. Unfortunately we don't seem to have focused leadership in this area.

Interesting post, Josie. I'm speaking as someone who definitely doesn't fit into the category of hoping I can hide with a common name!

In some ways, though, I see this ability to get information a way of going back a few generations; when typically people didn't move far from an area; when everyone knew their neighbours' business. The difference is that now that "village" is so much bigger; and whereas in a village you were likely to know who was a part of it (and, who was the biggest gossip; hence who to hide from when possible); now it's just not possible to know who is looking at you.

We've gone from the openness, to the privacy of the net curtains, to openness behind the net curtains.
And we have to learn how to manage that.

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