There are indications that utopian views of technological advance are being pushed back by more measured appraisals. This utopianism was out in full force during the Tunisian, but especially Egyptian revolutions. The techno-utopian view is that new media deterministically imply democracy. (This isn’t entirely dissimilar to Thomas Friedman’s ‘Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Resolution’ (countries with McDonald’s don’t go to war against each other…).)
However, Evgeny Morozov’s book, The Net Delusion argues against this, saying that actually the web enables dictatorial regimes to surveil its citizens in unprecedented ways. Today, an article in the Guardian quotes excerpts from a talk given by Julian Assange, in which he describes the Internet as “the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen”.
Are these weak signals of a more nuanced approach to technology? Or are they simply representations of technological distopianism? I suspect the former, and welcome such a move.
…but sometimes we do. So a new startup, Memolane, wants to help us remember. You sign up and then add the services you want to add to your digital memory lane. Memolane then collects pretty much everything you’ve done using those services (Picassa, FourSquare, Twitter, and so on) and puts them in a time line. The right to be forgotten? Forget that. This is the most amazing instantiation of the internet’s memory that I’ve seen.
And I write this having just created my own memolane. It goes back to 2006, when I first posted a photo online using Picassa. I have to say that I’m sitting here looking at my screen with my jaw on the floor. It is completely remarkable.
The privacy issues here barely need stating: hack this, and you’ve hacked all of my Web 2.0 activities for the last five years. Having said that, the Memolane folk are very clear about privacy being extremely important to them.
I need to go and stare at my timeline for a bit longer and say wow a few more times. Perhaps then I’ll come back with something more intelligent to say. Until then, eat your heart out, Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger.
(Thanks to the New York Times for bringing my attention to this.)