The Ongoing Discussion Around Online Content
Posted by Kim Smith mccroryk0613
There are a lot of high-visibility, high-impact cases happening right now regarding online content. From the battle over net neutrality, to copyright infringement cases (see Oracle vs. Google) to attempts at quelling fake news (see Facebook’s QAnon battle) to the ongoing battle to end cyberbullying, they all straddle the line between free speech and public responsibility. The outcomes will affect our experience online, and thus, as Mary Chayko discusses in Superconnected (2018), our online socialization experience.
Who we are online should not be considered different than who we are in our daily offline lives. “It makes sense to think of the self that is created, performed, and exhibited online as a manifestation of the self that exists offline as well” (118). This is especially true for those that are growing up in technologically rich environments. They “generally become rather comfortable with technology and are less likely to view the online and offline experience as separate contexts” (129). It is thus reasonable for us to expect the same litigious, participatory, diverse, and consequential culture online as we are afforded offline. It is also reasonable for communities to react strongly to the cases that affect their social development (how they see themselves and how they’re seen by others).
What is different is the amount of data mining and surveillance we’ve become accustomed to when we’re active online, and how this is used by others. “Online communities are characterized both by watching and by a high awareness of being watched” (89). If this were to happen in our daily lives, there’s little doubt anti-harassment and anti-stalking laws would be leveraged. Instead, we participate in what Chayko calls an “attention economy” (76) where the attention we’re paid when we’re online is the real currency. This attention can empower us to reveal beliefs and habits that we may not otherwise find a niche for in offline society. The more time and attention we invest in these niches, the more we’re likely to find groups of individuals with the same non-mainstream thoughts and habits.
Digital media provides individuals with platforms and tools that can be used to express all kinds of ideas and impulses.”Mary Chayko, Superconnected (2018, p119)
The success and longevity of these groups, which sometimes develop into reaffirming echo chambers (82) and narrow agents of socialization (115), are affected by the outcomes of cases pertaining to our online experience. In a litigious society like the US, this is unsurprising, but it nonetheless has an impact as to how we’re socialized and develop our sense of self both on and offline. We form opinions based on what’s legal, on what’s morally justified, on what feels like corrupt overreach. Sometimes, a legal verdict is seen as biased censorship, forcing groups underground, sure of their oppression, an attempt to hide the truth (here’s an interesting conspiracy FB profile I sometimes scan). Other times, it’s seen as a sensible means of protecting gullible consumers from being deceived or corporate developers from being deprived of what they’re justifiably (and financially) entitled to.
I’m not sure how I feel about online censorship and copyrighted vs. public domain code overall. I think there is danger in misleading content around government and health, but I do not know who should act as the source of and enforcer of ‘the truth.’ I think net neutrality is crucial for innovation and healthy self-identities but can be harmful for kids if they stumble on the ‘wrong’ content. I think the Oracle vs. Google case can create a messy minefield. I think that conspiracy theories are endlessly entertaining, and I struggle with censorship. I have also seen friends fall hook, line, and sinker into ridiculous echo chambers fraught with wild ideas that take away from genuine enrichment. How do you feel about the pending cases, their impact on our online lives, and how this may or may not translate to our experiences offline?
About Kim Smith email@example.com Grad School: Technical and Professional Communications Madison, WI
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