Aquinas (or someone medieval) was right to believe that all actions contain an element of being good and bad; the proportion of which, depends, ultimately upon what the action is. We may draw good or positive consequences from evil, or horrific, or distressing acts and conversely, we may find unexpected and negative effects from what were intended to be good actions. That concludes my preamble.
In considering all the ‘fad’ things of the past few years, they seem to all point to some large global database that is accessible to all. It almost seems dictatorial in a way, but what seems more disturbing is that the forces of the free consumer has led to its wide proliferation, it is a ‘voting by feet’, if you would.
What kind of things do I refer to? Well, all sorts: iTunes, with its local area network capacities; Facebook, for being, well, Facebook-ey; Twitter, Linkdin, publically accessable RSS feeds. While the positives of these things are seemingly obvious, greater interconnectedness, the establishment of communities, interests and relations that are not constructed by geographical location but by shared interests, beliefs, or practices; breaking down of social barriers, particularly for the severely physically disabled (I am considering Second Life in particular); and, well, a more accessible face to contemporary technology.
This sounds all good right? Well, consider that each small ‘innovation’ does have an effect on privacy and the possibility of being monitored. The debate about policing the internet will inevitably rise (as it does in all sorts of other issues), a discussion which must be had. As people wholeheartedly embrace so many of these interesting innovations and dotcoms, we may find our rights and privacies slowly diminishing, and once this occurs, we have no-one to blame but ourselves. Perhaps a Leviathan appeal can be made: that the individual is at their most fundamental, stupid and ambivalent to the security and welfare of the whole such that an outside agency representing the manifold of individuals holds to protect all.
The fascination with the new should be seen with disdain and interest, while excess in either element may hinder us; a more critical use of the internet is crucial; the question is, how do we teach or foster this kind of attitude? I could assume that more familiar internet users (e.g. those who have been involved with or users of the web since the 1980’s or 90’s) have a native savvy about them; those who have grown up taking the internet, and new technologies for granted often have an uncritical acceptance of what it can do.