Monday, October 07, 2013

BookPastor >> "#lightwebdarkweb"

TITLE: Lightweb Darkweb: Three Reasons To Reform Social Media Before It Re-Forms Us
AUTHOR: Raffi Cavoukian
PUBLISHER: Homeland Press, 2013, (192 pages).

As social media becomes mainstream media of communications and interactions, many are hyping up the merits and power of the new web media. From Facebook to Twitter, Google+ to apps on our smartphones, people communicate quickly and frequently, putting their whole lives on digital media at the expense of privacy and self revelation. In the recent case of the suicide of BC girl, Amanda Todd, bullying has taken on a cyber dimension. It takes a perceptive individual to start asking questions:
  • How do these new phenomena affect people, especially children?
  • Is it safe to share anything on social media, even with privacy filters?
  • What are the pros and cons of a digital lifestyle?
  • What can be done to guide children and young people on the Internet offerings and the seductions that come with them?
  • Is "free" really free?
  • What does it take to use digital media to help create a peaceful society, a sustainable earth, and a caring people?
These questions and many more are covered in this book cleverly titled, "Lightweb Darkweb."  Several months ago, Amanda Todd made headlines in Canada as a victim of cyberbullying. The author begins the book with a simple dedication to Amanda Todd. He then wastes no time to question the rising obsession with all things social media, and why people are so free to share everything about what they do, how they live, and what they are feeling at any time. As one who has lived through a "banana phone" and now embracing a smartphone, Cavoukian, a song writer, a ecology advocate, an entrepreneur, as well as a recipient of the prestigious Order of Canada asserts three reasons for reforming the current social media climate before it is too late.

First off is Safety. The unpublished letter to Facebook from the author and others, touches on the problem of the high cost of the free use of Facebook.
"Known security gaps in a proliferating host of mobile applications have converted mainstream social media sites into highly effective devices for predators and abusive bullies. And in what can only be described as the cruelest irony, Youtube now sells advertising on Amanda's desperate video cry for help, while in a well-documented trend, her Facebook memorial page was desecrated. Facebook has become a brand feared by parents, when it should be one they can trust. We appeal to you . . . . to lead industry-wide adoption of systemic security to block predators and abusers from accessing kids on major social media platforms, starting with Facebook itself." (15)
Amid the conveniences and efficiencies of social media, the problems are many. What about unintended audiences accessing our private information? What about unsupervised use by minors? What about the peer pressure that arises out of using or not using Facebook? For these, Ann Cavoukian sets forth seven foundational principles which deserve our reflection.
  1. Proactive not reactive; Preventative nor remedial;
  2. Privacy as the default;
  3. Privacy embedded in the design;
  4. Full functionality: Positive-Sum, not Zero sum;
  5. End to End Lifecycle Protection;
  6. Visibility and Transparency
  7. Respect for User Privacy.
Safety concerns also applies to cell phone usage, physical health as well as long term behavioural effects.

The second reason to start doing something about social media is Intelligence. When it comes to learning, we need to understand the difference between "healthy individuation" vs "unhealthy enculturation." Cavoukian borrows from many researchers critical of the way social media is changing the new generation. Sherry Turkle warns against the inability to experience solitude in an always ONLINE lifestyle. Nicholas Carr criticizes the deteriorating ability of people in "deep reading and comprehension" as they delegate learning to machines. Dr Dimitri Christakis highlights the negative aspects of prolonged stimulation of brains. Neil Postman gently reminds us that there is a cost in everything. The Internet gives us something, it also takes away something. Do we know what we gain and what we lose when we use the Internet? Other observations include:
  • widespread lack of critical thinking and motivation to learn among University students;
  • statistics showing more and more people wishing Facebook had not existed;
  • compulsive sharing of private information online;
  • recording and sharing everything;
  • loose language on social media that cannot be easily censored;
  • social media selling private information for profit;

The third reason is sustainability. It has to do with the conservation and wise use of earth's resources and social responsibility. For every iPhone or smartphone gadget, we need to remember the high cost of cheap goods. What about cheap labour by people living in the harshest and inhumane conditions to produce our modern technological toys? Are manufacturing facilities hurting the environment? Are there ways to stay green even as we advance our technologies? What about recycling programs and the reuse of electronic goods?

Thankfully, after expounding on the dark side of the Internet and technologies, Cavoukian gives some helpful tips on the light side. Here is a short list that I find helpful.
  1. Safety
    1. Data protection of information of minors
    2. Default setting of privacy information to be closed rather than opened
    3. Limiting; Unplugging on a regular basis; 
  2. Intelligence
    1. Using online media to promote offline activities
    2. Coordinated learning with school groups or community teams
    3. Learn the pros and cons of new media on a regular basis.
  3. Sustainability
    1. Ask questions about the devices we use
    2. Support your local organization that fights for free and fair labour and sustainability projects
    3. Vote with our bucks

I concur with Cavoukian that we need to reform social media before it reforms us.


No comments:

Latest Posts