Coming to grips with the “Internet of Things”

So, I suppose this is tangential to this week’s readings (or maybe at the heart of them), but I kept going deeper and deeper into the Internet as I studied the issues of privacy, ethics,

and problematic internet use (PIU), straying far from my topic, getting lost in all sorts of sidetracks.  For example, I came across the word “paraphilia” in one article and didn’t stop to look it up, but then I came across it again. I was reading an article that mentioned the fact that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) ( was updated in 2013 and would now include PIU, which I found interesting and relevant to this week’s readings.  So, I went to the DSM site and found, in fact, that “Internet and Gaming Disorders” is included in Section III, which is apparently a research section because it explains, “By listing Internet Gaming Disorder in DSM5’s Section II, APA hopes to encourage research to determine whether the condition should be added to the manual as a disorder.”

It was at this site that I saw “paraphilic” again, so I decided to do a search and spent over an hour just reading up on those.  I won’t offer you a link, but you can Wikipedia it and see at a glance why I got distracted. Or perhaps I’ve just been sheltered?

Anyway, I don’t think I would qualify as one of the addicted just yet, but this is the kind of thing I worry about — getting sucked in to the Internet “black hole.” I mean, I really had to force myself to stop going everywhere willy-nilly and exert some discipline — problematic internet use? Scott Caplan makes a distinction between impulsive (lack of impulse control) and excessive (a lot) and says that what might be seen as excessive might just be what is required for a student to complete an assignment (that’s probably me, so far), whereas compulsive use is more likely to result in negative outcomes (p. 724-725).

Speaking of negative outcomes, before I started this course, I thought about Internet privacy challenges mostly in terms of social media and the fact that some people seem to lack

Note that most of us still score a "C" for personal security measures.

Note that most of us still score a “C” for personal security measures.

boundaries with regard to self-disclosure.  Now, I have a much broader (and more disturbed) understanding of the privacy challenges we face, including the fact that it’s so easy to track our digital footprints. Still, like the people in this Varonis report, I do very little to protect my privacy.

Maybe there’s regulatory help on the way? According to this November 12 article from Politico (, the Federal Trade Commission is going to start taking an interest in privacy issues because of so many everyday objects (“thermostats, toasters, and even sneakers”) that are getting connected to the Internet.  Some of the more interesting ideas: pill bottles that keep track of whether you took the pill, refrigerators that tell you when the milk will expire, and forks that track how fast you eat, all of which could embed sensitive information about individual consumers that could then be inappropriately shared.  This echoes Carina Paine and Adam Joinson’s concern that areas of our lives previously considered offline are now areas of privacy concern and being magnified online (p. 16).

Some trade groups are concerned that this new interest from the FTC might inhibit innovation, so it should be interesting to see if the FTC will be able to do much reigning in.  By the way, when I went to retrieve the Political URL, I saw an article about “hacktivist” Jeremy Hammond getting 10 years in prison, so of course, I had to stop writing and spend another 45 minutes learning what that was all about.  Oh well, I guess that’s the nature of the “Internet of Things” (that’s the name of the FTC workshop).

Finally, I found Steven Katz and Vicki Rhode’s piece, “Beyond Technical Frames of Human Relations,” a bit hard to absorb.  If I understand their argument, it’s time to move beyond previous ethical frames to “human-machine” sanctity, which “recognizes the new relationship between him and and machines as whole entities” (p. 250). Call me old-fashioned (for sure!), but I don’t want to have “reciprocity” with my machines (p. 251). The authors bemoan the fact that some mechanized procedures and processes, most notably content management systems, seem to operate according to the machine’s specifications and for its own purposes rather than for people or organizations (p.235), but their proposal that we humanize our machines so that they become “you”s rather than the objects that they actually are seems to be a prescription for making the situation worse.

Did I just not understand this? Do I just need to come to grip with digital “being” and the “Internet of Things”?

Posted on November 17, 2013, in Metablogging, Social Media, Society, Trust, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. You say “Call me old-fashioned (for sure!), but I don’t want to have “reciprocity” with my machines.” I think you make a very valid point here, and I (and Sherry Turkle) tend to agree with you. However, I interpreted the Katz and Rhodes chapter a little differently.

    I got the impression that Katz and Rhodes have observed that machines (and other technologies and digital media) are becoming increasingly personified and taking on more human-like traits. Therefore, I thought, they presented the framework of the 6 ethical frames to help us identify where our relationships with technology fall within the spectrum, and to understand certain things about each of those frames that may help us come to terms with them and communicate more effectively within each one.

    I think it will still be possible, and necessary, to identify technical relations in all of the other frames as well as the being frame.

  2. Your post made me laugh! I think anyone who has done any reading online has fallen prey to the 45 minute side-track! That is the major downfall of hyperlinks, as far as I am concerned – sometimes I get so far away from my original story, I forget what I was reading in the first place! I agree with Jessica in regards to the 6 ethical frames. It was a hard one to digest, for sure (I barely have a grip on it myself), but if you can look at it as how technology has permeated our lives (vocabulary, devices, hardware, software, etc), it might make a little more sense. Table 9.1 helps a bit, too.

  3. I know, I know, I’ve way oversimplified it, and you’re both right. I think I was just in a bad internet mood when I read that chapter. Thanks for your perspectives!

  4. I think it’s interesting you say that you have a broader understanding of privacy challenges but feel that you don’t do anything to protect your privacy. I have to say, I do feel a similar way but I feel that I don’t really need to go out of my way to “protect my privacy”. I assume what I post can be read by anyone, so I don’t post anything that I’d care too much if people saw. If someone wants to know I tried a red velvet latte at Dunkin Donuts (and loved it!), what’s there to be concerned about? It’s not like I provided critical details about myself, friends or family.

    I think more of a digital “being” is where we’re headed. I think some of this can be positive, like the pill bottle that keeps track of the dosages that you mentioned in your post. But I wonder how much of this is going to make us like Wall-E!

  5. Goodness, I can see why you didn’t post a link to the definition of paraphilia! It does describe how some people feel about their digital toys, though. Many of us even suffer from a slight case of infatuation. For instance, how painful it can be when you realize you left your cell phone at home…some people drive home to get it (I am one of those people) and others don’t give it a second thought.

    To me, it doesn’t seem like a case of turning a machine into a “you,” “she,” or “he.” It’s about machines becoming an extension of already living creatures – us. In some cases, this is actually already physically happening. For instance, look the field of prosthetics:

  6. I found this idea of machines becoming an extension of already living creatures really quite interesting. It is a rare day across campus that I do not walk around and see almost all students attached to a device–a definite extension of themselves in machine fashion.

    The video provided here was really quite amazing, too. It makes me think of Star Wars (Luke’s machine replaced arm) and the Terminator. I see people who are part machine or whole machine with a human exterior. With prosthetics, we see advances in technology that are quite powerful and blended human with machine.

  7. I’ve lost a staggering amount of time to Youtube, forums, and sites like Wikipedia. I’ll start looking for something in particular, and then I will lose focus and wander around until I realize how much time has passed. I have to be careful when I look something up at work or when I am working on homework. Just a few minutes ago, I lost about 10 minutes to Youtube after watching the video below about the prosthetic leg.

    My wife and I recently watched the movie Robot and Frank, which I recommend. In the film, the main character is given an interactive robot to care for him because he is not able to take good care of himself. It is strange to think that this might be the direction of the future. We might not all have a robot like Frank’s, but we might have some sort of interactive AI that helps us stay organized or reminds us of things. I’m all for things that make me more efficient, but I’m not sure I want to become more dependant on technology than I already am.

  8. Thanks for sharing your ideas! I want to comment on the last part of your post. You mention that Katz and Rhodes emphasize our need to accept the relationships between humans and machines. I am with you! I think machines are created to engage in processing tasks and not necessarily for relationships.

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