Amy Gay - Manifesto

1. We should be aware of how our use of technology has changed us, and we should take steps to change ourselves if we don’t like what we’re becoming.

According to Nicholas Carr our brains are plastic and repeated behaviors result in altered brain structure (27). Carr also argues that our use of the Internet is changing our brains, causing us to process information differently (38). I agree with Carr’s point, and I think that we could benefit from being conscious of the behaviors that shape our brains and our thoughts.

While I think Carr generalizes a bit too much, I agree that the Internet is a cause of a few undesirable traits, such as short attention span, poor memory, and a decreased ability to read long or complicated prose. I do not think these traits are present in all Internet users; however, I do think that the Internet has made them more prevalent. Since our brains are so plastic, I do not think we are stuck with these negative traits forever and that if we intentionally reintroduce behaviors that exercise those neural pathways, we can change our thought processes.

Some may not want to exert the effort required to achieve this level of self-awareness, but for those who think this a worthwhile task, the result could be greater control over one’s own mind. Consciousness of the way we are changing our brains through behavior could help us intentionally reintroduce behaviors into our lives so that we do not lose traits that we wish to keep. We could also use this practice to develop traits that we wanted to have.

2. The personal information that websites gather and share should be closely monitored.

In No More Privacy Paranoia, Farhad Manjoo argues that lack of privacy on the Internet is essential for many of the conveniences we enjoy and that the privacy audits Google must now submit to could result in fewer of these services. However, Google is being punished for violating its own privacy policy and for publicly sharing private information, which seems to indicate that these privacy audits are necessary.

So many websites collect private information, and since it can be profitable to share this information, it is probably very tempting for companies to do so. Since companies do not always hold themselves to their own standards, some form of privacy audits for all websites gathering personal information could help to ensure that private information is protected.

The implications of monitoring websites that collect personal information could be an initial decrease in search engine features, but I think that these issues would eventually be worked out and that privacy audits would ultimately result in our information being safer. I agree with Majoo’s argument that we would not like the consequences of completely banning the collection of personal information online, but I do not think that just because we like some aspects of a company’s use of private information we have to accept that company’s misuse of the same information.

http://www.slate.com/id/2290719/

3. We should use technologies such as the Internet to hold governments accountable.

Before the widespread use of the Internet and methods of fast communication, such as cell phones, information could be controlled much more easily, and governments could get away with hiding more information. Now, because people can easily post information online about events they may have seen or experienced, and some websites, like Ushahidi, collect this information in one place, people can now access information from widespread areas that governments may have previously withheld from the public (Shirky 15). Since it is so easy to share information and organize social change online, it would make sense that these tools could be used to hold governments accountable or pressure them to take action. What is best for the general public is not always what is best for the people in power, and technology can put some power back in the hands of the people.

Using technology to share information and pressure governments would probably result in social unrest in areas that have previously been heavily controlled, but I think the end result would be more accurate government information and more fairness in governing. However, I can also see how the ability to freely publish and access information could occasionally cause problems, since people are likely to report some things that could actually harm both the government and the public.

4. We should not replace all paper publications with e-paper or electronic publications.

In the article Top 10 E-Paper Technologies In the Next 20 Years, Chris Jablonski lists e-paper technologies that are likely to become available in the future. Though I do not think e-paper itself is inherently bad, I do worry about it replacing some traditional forms of publishing, such as books, magazines, and newspapers. The experience of reading on paper versus reading on a screen is quite different, and I think that both of these experiences should remain available to us.

E-paper also makes it easier to change something that has already been published, which is not necessarily a good thing. Information could be easily omitted from books, and updated versions of texts could replace previous versions. This ability to change published works would take away the sense of completion and permanence from publishing, which would probably reduce the quality of works being published for the first time, and it would also make it easier for information to be censored.

One of the primary implications of retaining some paper publications while also using e-paper technologies would be the continued use of resources to produce paper. However, recycling could potentially reduce the number of trees cut down, and I would also argue that e-paper must be manufactured from other materials too. Retaining some paper productions could also help to maintain the quality of published works and ensure that there is a more permanent way of recording written works.

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/top-10-e-paper-technologies-in-the-next-20-years/2477?tag=mantle_skin;content

5. We should not rely on the Internet for human interaction and friendship.

Shirky says that many fear “the decay of face-to-face contact” as a result of digital media use, but he argues that digital media instead brings people together (38). Though I will admit that the Internet does make planning and spreading information easier, I do not think this means that our ability to communicate face-to-face has not declined.

Some may think that face-to-face communication is becoming unnecessary since we have other ways of communicating, but I would argue that communicating in person allows for emotions and impressions that are difficult to portray or interpret online to be shared. The ability to have a meaningful face-to-face conversation with someone is something that will probably atrophy if it is not practiced. In interacting with people, we give and receive visual cues, and the intonation of our voices also conveys information. If we become unaccustomed to communicating with these cues, our interactions could become less meaningful.

Other implications of choosing not to rely on the Internet for human interaction could be an initial sense of disconnection, especially for someone who goes from relying on the Internet for this need to relying on oneself to find meaningful relationships that do not revolve around Internet use. Personally, I think that conducting friendships in this way is a lot less superficial.

6. We should not use technology for the purpose of controlling the general population or deceiving them in harmful ways.

In I Don’t Want To Be A Superhero Heather Chaplin discusses Jane McGonigal’s book “Reality Is Broken: How Games Can Change Us and Make the a World Better Place.” In one section, she mentions the idea of creating a “game layer” over the world and using this to provide intrinsic rewards to workers and consumers, rather than extrinsic rewards such as money, so that corporations make more money and people do more work for less compensation. If such a system were successfully established, businesses or governments could potentially control portions of the population, and people could be unfairly treated.

Chaplin specifically discusses control achieved through games, but it is possible that later technologies could be used in a similar way. Some people already pay real money for virtual products, and this is evidence that McGonigal’s world could become a reality under the right (or wrong) circumstances. McGonigal seems to think that a game world would make people happier, but I think it would be wrong to deceive people through the use of technology or by any other means and that this would not truly benefit people, even if they were happy.

If others adopted this principle, I would hope that the implications would be that McGonigal’s game world never happens and that people are left to make their own decisions. Another implication of this principle is that “control” and “deception” would have to be defined. These definitions could possibly cause problems for advertisements, online games, and other Internet services because these technologies could be said to influence or control people. This is not what I am advocating, but the statement has some room for interpretation.

http://www.slate.com/id/2289302/