An Open Letter to Lanier

Dear Mr. Lanier,

I have recently been reading your book You Are Not A Gadget for class, and while it’s not a book that I would usually read in 4 days, I did read your run-on rant on how everything has gone so, so wrong and how “new media” if we dare call it that has ruined every possible hope of a new civilization.

It should have been obvious, Mr. Lanier that since you start your book by criticizing your book that this was going to be…peculiar.

“It’s early in the twenty-first century, and that means that these words will mostly be read by nonpersons…”

also, ouch!

“—automatons or numb mobs composed of people who are no longer acting as individuals. The world will be minced into atomized search-engine keywords within industrial cloud computing facilities located in a remote, often secret locations around the world.”

You are right, Jaron. But see, even though I am the human rarity reading this book, I did use search-engine keywords and cloud computing services to read your book, and so did you probably throughout writing and publishing this book.

I agree with you that the world is becoming more technology-oriented, but that doesn’t mean we will turn into gadgets, much like the silver space suit still hasn’t made its debut in everyday culture as expected.

We are increasingly depending on technology, and it is taking a toll on us, but it has its upside. It has a huge upside that I‘m worrying you’re missing out on. Open culture didn’t drive creativity out the window, it’s just that we are still living in the capitalist world we’ve always been living in. Profit will always be the winner. Expecting that to change just because we are introducing a new medium and new platforms and new ways of publishing and connecting isn’t good for you. Because some things will simply not change in life.

The internet isn’t all low-quality content looking for money, the internet is not a big “slum”, it’s where you look that matters. Who says that only signed artists should make music, what deems them good anyway but the audience, the people?

Concerns over who is “running the internet” is a valid argument, I’ll give you that. But the “lords of the cloud” are systems and companies, and they are run by people. It always comes back to people and it always did.

Living in an open, digital culture is not a threat to my humanity, value and contribution. I am not a gadget, no one is a gadget and no one is turning into a gadget.

Networking For Good

How we network as individuals and within groups has changed with time and technologies, and with such change appear advantages and disadvantages that are being studied to determine how the future of networking would look like.

In the book Networked:The New Social Operating System, authors Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman discuss the three major revolutions that have transformed how we form social circles and interact within them: the networks revolution, the internet revolution, and the mobile revolution. The book also focuses on how this change has affected our networks as individuals, how we now approach our relationships with our families, friends, and work mates.

In this post, we take a look at two examples of how the new concept of networking can help us understand where bigger networks link together, where interactions doesn’t only take place within a network or from individuals to the surrounding few networks they belong in, but across networks to make it more possible to serve a bigger, mutual goal. One is a feature social networks have developed enough to offer, the other is a result of public collaboration across different networks.

1- Safety Check-in

After the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015, Facebook offered the Safety Check feature to alert the noch! network of an individual who has his location set to an affected area that they are Bye fine.

Mobile phones would show a simple alert from Facebook that reads “You appear to be in an area affected by X disaster, are you safe?” and there would be two options “I’m safe” or “I’m not in the area”.

As rescuing efforts tried to free people from under the rubble among the rising deaths, it was an effective way to check on someone in the midst of chaos, and a quick way for users who were near all the distress to assure their loved ones, friends, families, and every other network they were part of that they were alright.

Google has also been working on a People Finder feature to locate an individual’s network in the aftermath of a disaster.

This addition to the functions of social networks show how the technological revolutions happening so far (the networking revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) can be integrated to serve our interpersonal communication. They are here one step ahead of how our social intuition works, as they usually are. It relieves us from the worry of an additional task in a difficult time of emergency.

2- Crowdsourcing help on a large scale

Seven days ago, a picture tweeted by Icelandic journalist Gissur Simonarson went viral. The picture was of a Syrian refugee father selling pens on the streets of Beirut with his sleeping daughter on his arm.

After the great amount of support under the hashtag #BuyPens, and questions of how to locate this man and help him support himself and his children, a crowdsourcing campaign was launched to raise money for him with a goal of $5,000.

In 6 days, the campaign has raised over $178,000 so far and there’s still 8 days left. more than 6,700 people from all over the world donated through the website. The story has been picked up by news websites and blogs all over the world.

A common expression between commentaries and entries on this type of crowdsourcing is “gives me hope”. Social media has gathered people everywhere with all their differences under one giant umbrella of accessible information, and whenever something happens on that big of a scale that changes someone’s life or helps a cause, we are reminded that it isn’t social media itself that does damage when it happens, but how people interact within their networks on social media. Connections aren’t formed by the medium, but by the people.

In these ways, the three revolutions have transformed how we perceive information and interact with each other, whether it is within our small circle or with the more generic networks we are sharing with millions of other people.