Excess – Control

By Vicky

Many of these readings made me think about the problem of control, excess, and privacy. When we have too much of something, how do we control it? Garbage needs to be efficiently handled because we will always be producing waste. “The sheer mass of waste would not allow it to be glossed over” (Bauman).  With digital waste, how do we control and get a handle of all the information we consume? We are constantly trying to master and control all the info we are fed, and even encouraged to continue creating excess of information, contrary to our negative view of excess as something we need to cut down on (plastic water bottles, food waste). Digital waste results in deadlinks, chemical residue from obsolete technologies, an endless overload of information. When you die, your social media will still live on for people to see. Like garbage pickers, data scientists have to “extract the nuggets of gold hidden under mountains of data”. Once we throw out information into cyberspace, we no longer own it and we lose control of our own personal data.The Economist article Data Deluge made me think about business intelligence used by sites like Facebook and Gmail. Our “likes” or “dislikes” can be sold to advertisers so they can tailor ads you see, when you private email your friend that you want to go on vacation and the next time you log into your Gmail an ad for Expedia or lastminutevacations.com pops up. These are daily examples of how we lose control of our personal data once its out there in cyberspace, to be sold like property. Tim Jordan’s piece Cyberpower made me think about the illusion of freedom and limited capabilities technology allows us. Only a select group of people in society, the programmers, have control of the format in which we can participate electronically. “Our individual powers in cyberspace are defined by the technology we are using and the capabilities this technology has to offer”. Twitter allows you a 140 character limit. “add post here” within these confines dictated by the programmer, even WordPress, the platform we use to host our ideas has limitations of restricting certain media formats, etc. We are allowed to freely create or express ourselves but are ultimately restrained by the collective bodies in cyberspace.

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2 Comments»

  cindypound wrote @

vicky – all so well put and so true. i’ve always found it interesting that people get so excited on one hand about the digital revolution brought about by user generated content…that its such a “power to the people” movement…but when you think about it…youtube’s whole business model is about making money of of content that they essentially get for free from the masses. same thing with facebook, gmail, etc. – free service in exchange for allowing them to monetize the content that you create for them. it used to be that content was created by institutions, monetized by those same institutions, and then consumed by the masses. in the old model, institutions had to actually pay for the content that they made so that they could monetize it. now they don’t have to pay for content any more, just storage and bandwidth. institutions have gone from being publishers to managers of the digital waste stream. something to think about.

  jen rhee wrote @

And we can’t forget the fact the format of sites like facebook, tumblr, twitter etc. also actively encourage the creation of more and more digital waste. Why do people feel the need to share so much, and so often? Talk about a culture of excess … the whole microblogging phenomenon is just crazy to me.


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