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October 30, 2011 § 4 Comments
MAKE SURE YOU’RE DOING YOUR SCHOOL REPORTS AND NOT ALL THAT CYBERNET STUFF
Yochai Benchler, “Networks of Power, Degrees of Freedom” (2011)
The series of tubed networks that is INTERNET allows users to bypass traditional channels of power, i.e. WikiLeaks. These new avenues aren’t in themselves game changers, not necessarily, and are a mixed bag politically (depends on who has the freedom and who has the power to do what for what reasons), but represent a shift away from older, more contained/containable models of control and towards bottom up (or perhaps more appropriately, every-which-way) collective-ish power, depending, again, on who exactly is doing what with what, and why, and how — details that need to be filled in before proper analyses can be run. Still, the shift in itself is a very big deal –not exactly “good,” not exactly “bad,” but certainly “different” and “important”– even if said power is still mostly nascent.
Tom Bissell, “The Unbearable Lightness of Games,” Extra Lifes: Why Video Games Matter (2010)
Video games are fun because they’re fun, and sometimes that’s a difficult position to articulate. It is easy to sound a bit douchey or apologetic when talking about video games, and this can be distressing. Because one’s love of games generally and/or one game in particular is so closely tied up into who one is. Making them an odd topic of criticism. Easier if you take more of a structural approach. Still, that I is a difficult I to navigate.
Yesterday my dear friend at lemonparty.gov sent me this, a newspaper article examining the “dark side” of Facebook’s ascendancy. He assumed said darksidedness would loop back to standard cybertroll rage brigading, so was surprised to find a much more nuanced argument about the unintended political consequences of Facebook’s fetishization of “authentic” user identity. As I have previously bleated, “authentic” user anything is a weird and highly annoying concept; it assumes that “authenticity” isn’t just possible but is the ideal mode of being online. This article doesn’t address the saliency of Zuck’s basic assumption (i.e. that “authenticity” is a real thing even in real life), but does suggest that Facebook’s push for “true” identity, which simultaneously solicits and exploits personal information, is naive at best and culturally myopic at worst.
Because sure, as a citizen in a relatively stable, developed country, it might be shitty that Facebook mines all your data, but having your real name attached to the fact that you like snowboarding and just ordered season 1 of the Gilmore Girls is unlikely to put you in any immediate physical danger. Again, if you happen live in a place where those sorts of details don’t matter to anyone but advertisers. In other parts of the world, “authentic identity” –here synonymous with “traceable identity”– is a huge, the huge, liability. Where you are and who’s in charge matters, and matters in a big way, as systems that keep privileged people connected with all the friends they don’t like can also be harnessed for various stripes of repressive fuckery — harkening to Benchler’s claim that networks themselves are value-neutral. It’s the people we have to watch out for, because a really kool social tool for one person can be a mode of oppression for another. Picture definitely related.
(thanks for the protip nightguy)