With Great Power Comes Great Lack of Responsibility

Throughout the semester in our STS class, we’ve looked at how technologies can be tools for consciously implementing social ideals, but also how technologies can sometimes unwittingly be agents for forming or producing those ideals rather than just tools for implementing them.

The readings for this week ask you to consider the question of how technologies shape our social goals and behaviors. You will read articles on cybermobs and cyberbullying, from Anita Sarkeesian, to Adria Richards, to Violentacrez, to Anonymous. You will see both good and bad elements and outcomes, and have to think long and hard about the fine line between free speech and harassment, and between productive self-organizing of concerned citizens versus vigilante-ish mob behavior. You will be asked to consider the force that specific technologies exert in these cases, and how these cases connect up, ideologically, with uncomfortable instances of unchecked technological use by our government, such as in the case of drone warfare or the Stuxnet virus.

In class on Thursday I will ask each of you to play an active role in leading the discussion, so please keep this in mind as you write your your blog comment and please come to class prepared to share specific insights. This class will be about your ideas and the connections you’re making between various class materials.

Members of Anonymous at a protest

In 500 words or less, discuss the connections between the items that I asked you to look at for this week, and connect at least one issue raised in these materials to a topic, idea, or theory that we’ve talked about this semester. At the end of your post, pose a discussion question or discussion topic for class on Thursday.

Comments are due Wednesday, April 17th by 5pm.

23 comments

  1. Bobbie Bowman

    When I read these articles, I was reminded of SCOT theory because people have used the internet for things not intended when it was originally created. When the internet was first thought of, it was for military purposes, [like sustaining a command and control network in the event of a nuclear attack. Other systems such as SAGE] used cybernetics with the idea of tracking missiles in real-time. Now the internet is primarily used for communication, social media, vast information, and consumerism. With the SCOT theory being fully used, there are times when abuses of it occur by people who think that they are protected by freedom of speech, people who want to remain in control over a certain technology, and those who believe that they are doing the right thing by trying to “liberate” people from an “oppressive” government.

    One example is of the Reddit user who posted disgusting images of porn, underage girls, and offensive language while hiding under the idea of freedom of speech. One could argue that if he had the freedom to post graphic images and disturbing language that people had the right to know what his real identity was. However, he was allowed to freely post things of a graphic nature without his true identity being known for years and when Gawker released the information on this user, they were banned from the Reddit site.

    When Anita Sarkeesian spoke out against the way women are portrayed in video games, she had to endure cybermobs who threatened her with rape, posted sexually graphic images in her likeness, and created internet games that showed Sarkeesian being beaten. The cybermob created the way they responded to what they perceived as a threat to their control over the video game community. Not only are cybermobs used to bully and degrade people, but there are some cybermobs who think that they are fighting for people all over the world by attacking the internet capabilities of countries that they feel are “oppressive.”

    SCOT has left the internet a place with little regulation to control the behaviors of people using it to a certain point. Child pornography is heavily censored, but is censorship the answer when it comes to bullying, nonsexual graphic images, and language that some may find offensive? I don’t know if turning the SCOT theory based internet into more of an ANT theory environment would solve the issue at hand because limiting what people can do on the internet might limit new creations being put in place that others might be able to use and enjoy.

    • Marie Hicks

      Nice post, Bobbie. Can you sum up one discussion question for tomorrow that will get us into talking about the issues you outline re: how the social construction of technology can be used to understand the development of the internet?

  2. Aaron

    Based on the review of the material on cybermobs and casual technological misuse, I have an idea that social media or communications means such as Reddit or other anonymous platforms have similarities with cyborg technology. In this post, I will explain how I have drawn these conclusions.

    When you consider communications platforms that have anonymity, (such as Reddit or un-moderated forums) it allows users to create new identities that may be completely different than that which they had before technology enabled a new one. This is exactly the case with Michael Brutsch (Violentacrez). The technology of these electronic platforms enables individuals to create a “virtual” self, which may or may not be similar to their real identity. On a similar note, the cyborg technology we studied also allows a person to become someone different as a result of the technology. The common theme between these two concepts is that a specific technology allows one to transform themselves into a different person (or type of person). If the technology were to be removed from their lives, they would not be able to sustain the image or person that the technology helped shape and create.

    Looking at cyborg technology, we can take Steve Mann as an example. The camera he integrated with his vision enabled him to have new senses, which ultimately were required for his normal functioning. It was even stated that he is so used to the technology that he cannot see normally without it. Compare this to the alter ego of Reddit’s Brutsch. He used the Reddit communication platform to create a new self that is respected (and also hated) and honored in the virtual world, something that is lacking in his typical “normal” life. There was nothing exciting outside of Reddit that brought him the same acknowledgement that his virtual self did. When he was outed as Violentacrez, he initially stopped using the communications technology, but eventually returned to the anonymous world because the technology had such a great impact. It transformed who he truly was. He could not give up the technology, just like Mann could not. They both were permanently changed and impacted through different forms of technology. They both can be dubbed cyborgs.

    This insight proves that to be a cyborg, a technology does not have to be strictly “physical” to impact and change one’s life it can be something as simple as a communications tool.

    Discussion Question: Is it wrong when technology is used maliciously with good intentions? Examples of this are the Stuxnet virus damaging Iran’s nuclear operations and Anonymous’s use of attacks and hacking for political gain.

    • Marie Hicks

      Very creative and interesting post! And good questions at the end for tomorrow. Do you also have a discussion question or topic that pertains to your insight about “cyborgification” through non-material means?

    • Bobbie Bowman

      I didn’t look at it in that way before. It was a great insight into how the technology is used as an extension of a person where it becomes a new part of that person. It is a good example of people using the internet to turn themselves into a virtual cyborg. Great point!

    • juan

      I fully agree with you on how technology does not have to be physical in order to impact someone’s life in a personal way. We have sort of “evolved” into this technology, and without it we seem to be lost and useless. People have lost sense of their own identity in a way, and have focused more on how they are perceived as a person online, rather than as the true person they are due to this. I personally think that this is damaging the human race more than it is helping.

  3. Dwayne Charp

    ­ I would like to compare and contrast the articles from this week to the Ghana articles that we read a few weeks back . All of these articles revolve around the Internet and how different groups use them for social manipulation to gain something that they believe is important to them. Whether it’s the people in Ghana or the people that are a part of groups like Anonymous, they believe they can do as they please without any social consequences. As we know from reading some of the articles already this is not always true, but the physical detachment from their “victims” may give these users a feeling of invisibility.

    First, I am going to compare the social context of the types of individuals that we read about in both weeks. The Internet users from Ghana were for the most part not well-off financially and did not have on-demand access to the web. This can be seen in how they decided to use the technical resources, mainly scamming for a financial gain and communicating with relatives that lived abroad. The Internet users from this week were for the most part financially stable. For example, Michael Brutsch was a programmer for a financial services company, and Anita Sarkeesian was an educated feminist/media critic. These two individuals chose to use the Internet for their social and political beliefs, though Michael’s use was highly questionable. Basically the Ghanaians were using the Internet to help them advance themselves financially and socially. The financial part is questionable because scamming is not accepted in most societies, but it became a norm in theirs. Michael and Anita did not have to worry much about money so they chose to use their free time and resources to spread their social beliefs. More specifically Michael and Anita’s social beliefs are at the complete opposite spectrum from each other. Michael was well known to post controversial pictures of young women, and he claimed that he had a right to do so. Anita used her time to protest the way woman were represented sexually in video-games. If these two met in person a heated argument would be almost certain. So how did the rest of society react to the Ghanaians, Michael, and Anita?

    Let’s start with Michael and Anita, because the kickback from their actions was more visible. Michael was one of the main contributors in the Reddit community, and openly admitted to posting pictures of underaged girls. This forum, called “Jailbait,” became one of the most viewed threads on the website. Michael was doing this under a fake name and did not stop posting until his real-name came out. Anita on the other hand actually was using her Internet usage for a good cause. She was trying to fight against the way women were presented in video-games. Once her message spread across the Internet she became the target of 1000s and was basically cyber-bullied. The Ghanaians on the other hand didn’t seem to have many negative consequences from their actions, other than giving their people a bad reputation. What does this say about our social priorities when it comes to hiding behind a screen name online?

    The main question that I would like to ask is: With the youth growing up in this always-connected cyber age, will society members become morally detached from each other and will the next generation become less accountable for their actions?

  4. Matthew Otten

    Technology is a wonderful and scary thing. Many people agree that certain technologies, such as weapons of mass destruction, should not be put in the hands of every wanting citizen of the world. These large scale technologies are therefore well controlled, as we have previously read. As one goes down the technological chain, it becomes less and less clear. Drones should probably be controlled by the government, right? Rocket launchers, too. The debate is raging about assault rifles (though I would have to agree with assault rifle bans). What about handguns? Now, these technologies are all clearly designed with violence in mind. If we turn to informational technologies, it is hard to rally for control. Should I have my ability to upload videos to the internet controlled? Hint: It already is (you can’t upload child pornography anywhere, or even regular pornography on youtube) but the typical response is freedom of speech. Why should certain technologies be controlled, how much control, and what technologies should be free?

    Throughout this weeks readings, there were countless examples of what our professor labeled as casual technological misuse. Why were they couched as misuse? There is a value judgement (albeit a good one) in there. These uses violate some sort of standards we set for acceptable behavior in society. It is generally not acceptable for me to speak highly of raping women or posting risque pictures of underage girls (which should actually be posting any pictures of any person without their consent, sexualized or not, of age or not, by the way), among the other examples you can fill in from the readings. The technologies used (whether the internet, a specific part of the internet, drones, etc) allowed me to do something socially unacceptable in a way that I was not previously able to do, on a scale previously unknown. Casual technological misuse. Look at the gun debate. Can’t it be considered a clash of socially acceptable behavior? In the South it is socially acceptable to shoot an intruder (I’ve heard); in Britain, cops don’t typically have guns.

    So, values. We enforce values through a complicated system of socialization, scorn, rewards; a system that I don’t really understand, but it is done by social institutions. The family, the church, the school system, the government. Social institutions are amazingly conservative, though. They (excuse my anthropomorphism, please) hate change. There goal is to maintain what works; maintain the status quo. Technology IS change, and it happens to be quite the narcissist. Technology swoops in an offers new ways of doing that are not yet socialized; our values can’t reach them, because social institutions just don’t know how. Hence, the Amish.

    Alright. So social institutions socialize values and technology changes too quickly for social institutions to cope. So we change social institutions? Probably not. We forego technological change? Over my dead Android! I’ve got about 20 words left, so I doubt I’ll figure it out. I will say I’m open to suggestions. And, with seven words to spare, I’m…

  5. Jesse Ocampo

    A common connection in the articles on cybermobs and casual technological misuse is that people using technology want to remain anonymous. In the article “Checks and Balances” Evgeny Morozov argues that people don’t have the choice and complete autonomy to use certain technologies like self-tracking systems. He brings up the point that eventually people who decide not to have self-track systems will be assumed of hiding something.

    In the Ted talk video Anita Sarkeesian was harassed by a cybermob of an online gaming community for simply wanting to explore the sexual objections, stereotypes, and oppressive portrayals of woman in video games. The cybermob, mostly male, stole her personal information and made a ton of cruel comments towards her with intentions of silencing/removing her from the online space she was using.

    In the Reddit’s “ViolentAcrez Unmasked” article there is a problem with exposing people like Michael Brutsch because web communities like Reddit have structured their website were users operate under the freedom of flexible identity. Otherwise users on Reddit wouldn’t feel comfortable posting things like offensive speech towards racism or homophobia, or creepy guys posting pictures of young girls. By publishing ViolentAcrez personal information many other users are fearing the same will happen to them, which in turn undermines the communities structural integrity. If doxing becomes more common in websites such as Reddit were people glorify the power to remain anonymous, then there is a possibility that these website will become less popular.

    In the “Thug Mentality” article Richards took a picture of the joking developers, shamed them on twitter and on blog posts. Later the incident blew up and both employees got fired, however many men were upset with Richards for exposing the men and later sent her racially motivated death threats. The main argument against Richards is that she should have kept the men anonymous and not exposed them on the Internet for a silly joke that got them fired, but rather talk to the developers face to face and had the argument die there.

    The power of being anonymous on the Internet is also being used by groups of individuals to target countries that suppress their citizen’s rights and freedom. This could be a useful tool if used correctly, however, if certain technologies fall into the hands of the wrong people there could be lots of damage. For example the anonymous killing technology (drones) that the CIA uses to assassinate their targets in other countries like Pakistan has lead to the murder of many innocent people. The article of “Checks and Balances” relates to the article “On the presumed neutrality of technology” because both authors raise the issue of technology not being neutral and in turn it helps to shape our social system. For example, Morozov states that just because we now have the technology to readily connect with each other that doesn’t mean that we should take everything into our own hands as citizens. On the contrary citizens should delegate their concerns to their representatives who will argue on their behalf. Both authors agree that technologies are shaping the social system we live in today.

    Why does society continue to accept and instill technologies that allow individuals the power to remain anonymous and cause detrimental harm to other people? And do we really have the choice and autonomy to discontinue certain technologies in our everyday life?

    • Mei

      Nice. That power of secrecy that is granted through remaining anonymous is exactly what allows them to adopt their morals and values online as something completely detached from reality. Why do they have to remain a secret? Because that way no one will know who I am and that I did it. Once their identities are known, they are bounded by the boundaries of the social moral and ideals in real life.

    • Andy

      This was how I looked it as well. The internet has come far from being a tool we can essentially use for a benefit to a tool that can be used as a weapon. We use the internet to give us a voice and create an effect we feel we would not have if we did not have an audience of millions watching us.

  6. Daniel

    Modern technology has given people far more amounts of power in society, making it easier to gain social power through the use of social media and cyber bullying. This new typology of power can be dispersed through the uses of: programming, viral videos, viral propaganda, viruses, vandalism, attacks, promoting sexual deviancy, etc. In Evgeny Morozov’s interview, he shares ideas towards the use of technologies, implying that technology is good and bad depending solely on the user (which seems to be apparent in every article/video for this week). Social media and arising technologies can be cultural dangers in our new day and age. All of the videos and articles are relative in comparison to the idea that technology in today’s world are still generated and created through political artifacts (relating to STS this is very similar to Langdon Winner’s article). New technologies are created and then governed in design by its uses by their users, thus giving it even more political history. Just as Balabanian has said, technologies are neutral by nature, but then are used in ways to disavow the modern world and give individuals freedom or less. [Relook Balabanian--he isn't saying that technologies are neutral, but that we (incorrectly) presume them to be neutral.]

    New ways of cyber crime and propaganda has given individuals as well as the militaries new ways of destruction and vandalism towards culture, race, and gender. These actions are taking place right before our eyes, and making the life of an individual a bit more circumspect in the aspect of their physical and technological actions. Going further with Evgeny Morozov’s ideas we can see how technology transfers information from source to source and begins a chain of circumstances. Thus making society a bit less democratic in decision making. For instance, the drone situation in the in U.S. are attacks that remain discreet to the public eye, then were publicized through a twitter account of Josh Begley. This in theory gives social power to twitter by giving the public a news feed, and once again giving power to a civilian over the secret U.S. military operations. A tactic of cybermobbing and promoting news that otherwise would not be released (similar to the group Anonymous has been doing to countries). Technologies are offering a new amount of information to society that creates more and more conflicts in the world. With these new conflicts also come some retaliation such as, how people came into power through technologies and how social media and technologies make society less democratic. As Evgeny Morozov stated technology is all around us now and giving us this “big brother” effect especially in the United States.

    With all of this new coming of power through the use technology, do individuals need to watch their daily usage or is it inedibly going to overtake our lives with the “big brother” effect? (i.e. constantly watching us and regulating our actions.) Are these new technologies ethically correct or do they imply a non-democratic future?

  7. Mei Lau

    Underlying theme: Technology is evolving too fast. Rules and guidelines that set our boundaries in society are too slow or powerless to catch up to such exponential growth. The situation is slowly getting out of hand; these are all clear signs and should ignite people’s awareness to the severity of situation.

    The design of technology is moving on too fast. Internet is still a pretty recent technology to be developed and remained an entirely new territory for ideas to grow and develop. It was built as a social platform/technology, and as many other technologies that were used for purposes that they were not intended for, interpretive flexibility took internet and coding to another level. The tempting idea of unleashing all of the people’s darker, inappropriate fantasies online while keeping identity a secret, the ability to allow one to ‘act as another’, ‘what you can’t be in real life’ made the tool spread like a wild fire and serve as one of the primary motive in rapid advancement of the technology. Many people think that it is okay to do anything online because it is not ‘real’. While objections may be heard if such actions are seen in real life, people would often turn a blind eye online because ‘it’s not real’.

    But it is.

    The truth remains, that what is wrong would not be right simply because it happens under other circumstances. I understand where they are coming from but the reason it is ‘not real’ doesn’t, and cannot justify such actions; especially now that, it is, in fact, affecting us in reality. Internet and the ‘virtual world’ that it represents are becoming a big part of our reality and the justice system that is keeping us in check in ‘reality’ isn’t catching up in this new territory. The lack of boundaries and rules in the area causes the self-development of another detached set of values and ideals online among the groups of users. In addition, people like the so-called ‘Anonymous’ try to take the matter in their own hands and feel entirely self-righteous and justified for their action. While they might be acting out of good intention, they are not under control at all and acting purely out of their own will. Citizens’ rights and protections are given to them by governments elected by the people but who elected Anonymous? Who gave them the right to act on anyone else’s behalf?

    Programming and coding are basically weapons online and people are turning a blind eye to a bunch of hothead individuals roaming freely online carrying the online equivalent of guns. Freedom of speech doesn’t justify everything. When did stalkers taking inappropriate, sexual pictures of underage girls become okay? Saying if girls don’t want their pictures collected, shouldn’t have their pictures in bikinis posted is like saying females that don’t want to get groped and sexually harassed should not dress sexily or go to beach. What? What’s the logic in that? How is that okay? Logic that applies in the real world should not disappear simply because it is online. Legal systems should intervene.

    • Marie Hicks

      Mei, great job. This is similar in many ways to what Pooja is saying, but you add the issue of (too-fast) change over time to the mix. In a sense, you are both talking about the issue of technological momentum, and what happens when technologies gain enough momentum in society to become unstoppable (or at least not easily stopped or diverted from their current path).

  8. Pooja Agarwal

    A key topic that was introduced in the very first STS class, and continues to resurface with every subtopic that we explore relating to the influence of technology in our society, is the neutrality of technology. It has been concluded in multiple instances that technology is, in fact, not neutral. This can be attributed to multiple factors. One is due to the influence of technology on many groups in our society, whether it’s based on gender, race, or politics, and in turn the influence of these groups on the technology. Furthermore, the lack of neutrality can also largely be attributed to the fact that there is an individual or group of individuals driving said technology that have their own experiences, opinions, and mindset that impact the way they foresee or create the technology.

    There is, however, a very big difference between not being neutral and not being ethically or morally aware. Technology does not have emotion, or an ethical or moral sense; it does not have a human conscience. It is simply tools designed by humans, who do or should have the aforementioned human characteristics, to efficiently catalyze tasks in society that alleviate human efforts and save time. However, due to the fact that these technologies are becoming so prevalent and heavily relied upon, society is beginning to lose our senses of our morality, ethics, and emotion (i.e. empathy, sympathy), and in turn, society adopts the “lifestyle” of technologies, which completely lacks these characteristics.

    This is strongly illustrated by the collection of articles assigned for reading. “Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, the Biggest Troll on the Web.” Michael Brutsch, the man hidden behind the username of Violentacrez, was responsible for initiating vulgar threads with content involving “racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest” among many other more disturbing topics. Solely because a technology like the Internet, more specifically a website like Reddit, that promoted free speech, was available, users began utilizing the technology by first divorcing themselves from their moral and ethical senses.

    Another instance in which technology appeared to overshadow and rob users of human judgment and conscience is in the articles discussing the US use of drones, “unmanned assassination aircrafts” (Ohlhieser), as tools of counterterrorism. These tools were created for security and protection purposes; in contrast, they are posing as a threat and danger to thousands of innocent civilians. In the article, “A Twitter Feed that Follows Every US Drone Attack,” the statistics are eye opening: over 3000 people killed in nearly 300 drone attacks. The drones themselves have no conscious control over where, who, and what to strike; they are simply being programmed to carry out the attacks [or in many cases are controlled by a human operator on the ground, thousands of miles away]. However, this lack of awareness and ethical sense of the technology appears to be spreading to the users of this technology, who are not carefully considering the targets. As a result, countless lives are being risked.

    Discussion: How and in what ways is technology dominating our society to the extent that members of our society are forced to forego human characteristics, like moral and ethical judgment, and consequently adopt a “mindset” paralleling that of the technology itself, which completely lacks the aforementioned characteristics, when applying the technologies to our own lives?

  9. KBledsoe

    Social networking is a growing network where people of all ages can communicate. Even though this has a label of “social” how much of it is actually controlled by the people?

    I think this weeks readings show examples of Actor Network Theory and how they [who is "they"?--MH] control the things we do even socially. Also how social networking sites can turn into trouble for users. The creators of the social networking sites have the ability to change what they want on these public sites. Whether its facebook/twitter/vine/chive/pheed/timehop/myspace/ireddit people share a lot of information on these sites about personal life. The higher up people, for example the bosses, government, schools, have ability to use these sites and use what they post against people who are just sharing their personal lives and thoughts. The user on these sites are entitled to put what they want freely on these sites. They do have the right to set a profile private. There is nothing saying they even have to post anything on these accounts. When something is posted to a site there is always a way of going back to find it.

    People’s posts on these sites to friends and family can be inappropriate and sometimes can cause trouble. The actor network theory involves “powers” to have complete control of a technology and gives no control to a user. If a user decides to use a site and post on it they no longer have complete control as others can use the posts against them. When something is posted to a social network site it basically becomes part of the actor network theory. People with power: the police, deans, have the right to use these posts against you. Sometimes a post that has humor and no intention of hurting someone is used against a person. People go on these sites to have good intentions and connect with people but end up being controlled from creators or people with power. Is it right that a power above the people can have access to these? Do you think people realize that when they make a post they no longer have any control and it becomes actor network? [Kyle, you should relook ANT--there are some misunderstandings in what you've written--MH]

  10. juan

    The internet has been one of the best innovations ever, but like every other innovation, there is always some underlying problem which causes a stir in the world. In this case it is hackers and trolls. Everyone wants to have fun on the internet, just not in the same way as everyone else. Hackers and trolls dedicate their internet use to annoy other users and in a way make it miserable for them. I can relate in a way to trolls because when I’m not doing actual work on my computer, I’m searching the web or scrolling through facebook trying to find an interesting post which I can wittily write a remark to. It’s fun making fun of things or people, but there is a point where it becomes a bit too much! I know my limit, but when trolls begin insulting you personally or post insulting things on your public page it is way too much. Why do they feel the need to do this through the internet instead of up front in person? Just the other day I read about how a facebook user submitted the word “keyboard courage” into urban dictionary as a new word meaning being tougher through posts on the internet than in person. What is this world coming to? People are getting double personalities due to the internet! It’s kind of like how the Ghanaians created fake profiles as girls in order to convince American men to send them gifts. People take advantage of the internet and the generosity of the other users. I support trolling, but not to the point of actual mental damage.

    On to the hackers… I somewhat support hackers, but I do not support personal hackers. By personal hackers I mean hackers who deliberately pick out a certain company or person and just destroy their business and property. I think that is one of the worst things to do to someone. They just come in and ruin a person’s life. I can relate this somewhat to the reading of the castration and sterilization of minorities and people on welfare. They are living their lives minding their own business, and you just come in and destroy a great part of their life, that’s just not right! The government needs to start tracking these hackers faster and stop them from ruining the internet with their viruses.

    When I said I somewhat agreed with hackers, I meant that I don’t mind watching bootleg movies online or maybe downloading certain texts, music, or videos which would cost money for free. I find this very useful, especially being a broke college student. I mean who doesn’t like expensive stuff for free right?

    Do you agree with my opinions? Or do you believe that if possible, all hacking and trolling should be blocked from the internet? If so, what else do you think should be removed or blocked from the internet?

  11. Andy

    The articles that we were assigned to read for this week have introduced me to some of the darker rooms of the internet. Even though I spend a great amount of time online, plugged into my computer, I rarely stray away from my usual haunts. But this week I’ve realized that I am a poor member of our current society because I have very little awareness of the internet and I rarely interact on social media sites even though my generation encourages its uses I watch quite from afar as social media takes shape. I rarely contribute to the demands of social media or find relief for some dark desire that can be sated by venting, offending, or expressing an opinion. I am not in the know of things and I think that knowing trends on Twitter, knowing what people post on Facebook, tumbler, instagram.

    The internet is a great tool, that is the message that we are persuaded to listen to. The internet makes our lives easier, it is a tool that we can apply to every aspect of our life and we will be better for it. We are not told what kind of tool the internet is. Through this class I’ve learned to analyze how technology has developed and how technology interacts with our society and other societies. Based on the theories we have studied we can argue that the internet and specifically social media can be based on ANT or SCOT.

    I think that at first I would argue that social media is applied through SCOT because the internet and the use of this tool can only be shaped by our thoughts, desires, wants and actions. But if we look at it closely we can see that the internet is not solely just a tool, it’s not just a creative outlet. The internet is a part of our society, and social media is a part of the internet, but social media has become another form of speech, another form of socialization. It’s a form of interaction within our society that allows humans (actants) to explore any desires, thoughts, interests with anonymity, or so we think because as social media continues to grow we become a part of the system, we become a tool. We begin to give name to other concepts that are already in place in our society through our acts on the internet.

    The terms cyber- bullying, cyber-mobs, cyber-stalking, online harassment have developed upon the application of what we do in real life in the virtual world. Therefore I would say that we went from SCOT to ANT and like Evgeny Morozov states in the first article assigned we are abandoning important aspects of our society, aspects of citizenship, we want to be heard but we have little to say. I believe that the constant popularity and constant rise of unsavory and unethical topics of incest, misogyny, pornography, harassment among others are causing individuals to cross social boundaries; social rules that our society strives to contain and eradicate but it is easier to perform these things on a virtual setting because society cannot correct the individual or it takes society longer to track these individuals than it would if he were committing these acts in the physical world. My question would be: Can we reform the internet to a tool that can profit our society in the physical world?

  12. Marie Hicks

    Nice job, folks. It’s interesting to see how apropos this topic is right at the moment–with the involvement of twitter and reddit vigilantism in the Boston Marathon Bombing. After we discussed it in class last night, there were two more people falsely held up by social media as likely suspects–even though major news media mostly refrained from reporting them as suspects because it was as yet unclear that their identities had been substantiated. See: “In Manhunt, Media is Part of the Story”

    This is not too surprising, given that restraint has never been a value of an angry mob, no matter what technologies connect the members. But technology adds an extra dimension–it is an actant in these dramas, as Latour might say, and it exerts its own force even as people use it to channel their will. Generally, we don’t engineer restraint into consumer technology products: quite the opposite.

    The point of consumer technologies–from breakfast cereal to iPhones to facebook–is to get consumers to use them as much as possible. So technologies like these tend to encourage intense and unchecked use. Simultaneously, everything about our major institutions–from government agencies to large newspapers–is designed to inculcate restraint and accountability. Food for thought as we all think about how best to participate in civil society. Sometimes doing less really is more.

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