It might sound funny to say that I was not surprised by anything I read so far in terms of Astra’s book “The people platform” or “New noise” by Simon Lindgren. For a tech-savvy myself, I might fall under the third way umbrella that approached the internet with a careful skepticism and neither fall under utopian cheerleaders and techno-evangelists nor dystopian doomsday’s fans and technophobia’s.
In his book “The shallows: what the internet is doing to our brain”, Nicholas Carr is not denying the positive and powerful role technology is playing in our lives, however, in this era where many people started to develop some forms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), he argues neuroplasticity, a concept that is related to how our brains rewires itself in response to stimulation it encounters. In this world, where anyone with a keyboard and internet connection can publish and share anything through a click, where the highest mental activity performed is searching Google for answers, one should pause and reflect to examine how the internet is reshaping our thinking and hence our lives.
In recent years, it’s no longer the internet that is the focus of debates between supporters and skeptics but rather social media with its huge impact where the medium now matters more than the content itself. Marshall McLuhan says “The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts; rather, they alter patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance”. Recently, two major incidents fired up social media and specially twitter, Charlie Hibdo and Chapell Hill shooting. Anyone with a brain in her head can see how media played a big role in labeling the first incident as a hate crime and a terrorist attack and the second as a dispute over a parking lot. In both cases, people were killed; the act of killing was condemned but the aftermath of each incident varied based on how these media decided to drive people’s attention and shape their response. Is the cyberspace still argued to be an egalitarian sphere?! I just wonder.
Who is better than ISIS to understand the role the social media is playing when it produced its video of burning the Jordanian pilot alive or beheading the Qubtic Egyptians in Libya. The message of fear it aimed to deliver was easily spread using the media because they understood that the attention paid by the media was higher in these cases than the media itself gave to the daily killing and burning of people by Assad regime in Syria, or mass killing by Shi’at in Iraq to Sunni Muslims, etc. In this modern world where violence is deeply rooted in people’s life but denied on the surface, one can’t argue that movies like “Natural born killers” truly depicts how modern societies are and what both Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino did was showing that through a picture!
Its 2015 when I finally decided to buy a smartphone. The idea of being connected all the time with all people haunted me and prevented me from having an internet connection on my mobile. The idea that the internet is this big connected nation where barriers are not there is a lie! Big time. It is not news that today’s man is just half an idea half a man. Trying to run in pace with this rapid development only hindered our own development. Our ignorance of the complication of the online world affected our perception of online freedom, privacy and ability to communicate without being surveilled, judged and analyzed.
When Edward Snowden decided to reveal NSA mass and global surveillance program, he was motivated by “I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity, or love, or friendship is recorded, and that’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under“. His realization that he don’t want to live in an Orwellian society is the reason why we have more awareness of our own privacy and taking protective measures of our activities online. Employing technology itself through cryptography to protect our communication, anonymity, the great and important role played by investigative journalism, hacktivists and whistleblowers to expose atrocities done by our name and against us.
I might sound a bit technophobic right now, however, without this very technology and its vital importance to media we won’t be standing here right now listening to people like Jeremy Scahill, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and their digital magazine The Intercept and their wonderful work to analyze Snowden revelations. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! says “The media is absolutely essential to the functioning of a democracy. It’s not our job to cozy up to power. We’re supposed to be the check and balance on government.”
Nevertheless, the way politics is interwoven with technology as we are seeing is challenging and imposes lots of questions everyday on topics like Net Neutrality, surveillance and freedom of flow of information which is the essence of the internet. Trials and prosecution of Anonymous hackers under poor and ill-defined hacking laws was taken to extreme ruling where a hacker from Texas was charged with 440 years in prison! Journalist Barret Brown was sentenced to 5 years in jail for alleged connections with Anonymous as well. Not to forget to mention Aaron Swartz, Reddit computer activist who took away his life after being charged with 35 years in prison and more than 1 million $ fines. In the US where the espionage act is now woven in the face of journalists, hactivists and whistleblowers to intimidate them and prevent them from exposing corruption and misdeeds of governments, will only encourage people like John Kiriakou the former CIA whistleblower who exposed CIA torture program who said after being freed from jail “I will do it all again”.
Those like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz, John Kiriakou, to name less, whom are showing how technology is really ruling our lives from both perspectives is the ones who will drive change to our lives or as Jeremy Scahill puts it “Real change in our society, regardless of what profession people are in, is going to come from people who have a passion burning so strongly in their heart that they don’t even identify it as work that they’re doing; they identify it as a way of life“.