Katie Stitt - Manifesto

Manifesto Part 1
1. Individuals should be able to permanently delete personal information from all forms online without penalty.

After reading Caty’s ethnography about deleting her Facebook account with difficulty, in addition to our many class discussions regarding information online, I believe information should belong to its owner. This means that if the owner chooses to remove content from an online forum/site, the information is permanently removed without a trace.

Our consensus stems from our previous experiences with posting personal information, only to find out that the information is retained by a web site. On Facebook, for example, once a user removes content, Facebook simply stores it in case the user wishes to return to reactivate a profile. If this action is meant to be permanent, there should be no trace of the information once it is pulled down. If sites (or users) are concerned about returning to content, sites should provide an option to save data or permanently erase it. Regardless of the user’s decision, the site should honor it.

2. Anonymity should be allowed in order to exercise First Amendment rights

Our discussion in class on November 9th brought me to this conclusion. We discussed the pros and cons to banning anonymity online, and while I tended to agree with the proponents of banning it, I had to reconsider my position.

It was hard for me to write, especially considering the many consequences that are results of anonymity on the Internet. (bullying, threats, etc.). But as I weighed these considerations, I decided that the right to free speech – bad speech included — is just more important. This is tricky, since the framers of the Constitution had no idea there would someday be a World Wide Web.

The First Amendment may provide the right to free speech, but not all speech is protected.

Obscenity is unconstitutional, thus illegal. Many forms of speech fall under this category. Although people may want accountability for obscene anonymous comments (and I include myself in this group), right now, there just isn’t any legislation that deals with it. I believe people have the right to post anonymously, but that right must fall under the parameters set by our constitution.

The hope for this point in my manifesto is that legislation will more efficiently deal with speech online. It is a new arena, almost untapped by legal restrictions. This is helpful, but when speech falls under the obscenity category, or threatens the lives of citizens, the law needs to step in.

3. Technology should not replace literature, but act as a supplement to learning
As a class, our discussions often debate between allowing technology (primarily the Internet) to replace print documents. In theory, technology provides a wide array of tools that can be used to educate, and many institutions capitalize on this approach. The reality is that learning should involve some tangible elements. Children learning to read should be given Dickens, not just a television show that highlights common concepts.
Jay’s considered reply about how Dora the Explorer is ruining the cultivation of imagination for children coincides with how a very digital culture works. This culture uses technology as a replacement for traditional learning methods outside the classroom. In school, children learn in a more traditional method, but then have difficulty adjusting to different learning styles. Today, neither model of learning is working on its own. Instead, technology should be used to satisfy the learning abilities of digital natives, but an emphasis on literature is still essential. The key is to strike a balance between the written word and the typed, the imagination and the movie. Using technology as a supplement to learning satisfies the need for digital participation while traditional materials solidify concepts.
4. Social media should not be substituted for real human interaction

Social media has become almost a replacement for face-to-face interaction. In this TIME article, the author shows how using social media defines relationships. Some even cling to the notion that news is not official unless it is posted on the site.

While Facebook and other social media outlets are great modes of networking, a source of escape, and a total waste of time, it has begun to emphasize the need to label and clearly define human interactions. It has almost reached the point where cultural norms are now being cultivated through online culture. In many instances, people do not interact outside of Facebook, and relationships online often differ from face-to-face interaction.

By ignoring real interaction, humans are lowering cultural relationship standards. The absence of nonverbal cues and speech inflection is poorly replicated through sites’ attempts (Facebook’s “Like” feature). Real interaction is the key to maintaining relationships, and while social media is an outlet for communication, it should not replace the value interactions that occur in the flesh.

5. Humans should not be modified to live forever
Ray Kurzweil may believe in his supplements and that it is a small step towards immortality, but he misses the point of human existence – its transitory nature is what drives humankind to act and achieve. Kurzweil fails to understand that death is a natural process, even welcomed by some. His fears and insecurities have culminated into a theory that can only in disaster. If life were to continue forever, what would we value in it? Immortality would be a lonely existence and costly to our resources.

Kurzweil’s firm belief that society will move into the “singularity” is a concept rooted in a machinist attitude that leaves faith in human nature behind. I would much rather live a short and fulfilling life than a long one completely dependent on mechanical operations. Humans are imperfect, and it sounds as though Kurzweil cannot handle that truth. Imperfection makes us human. It drives us to be better, whether that is through invention, action, or reflection. Living forever would not make humankind perfect; it would make us drones.

6. Society should serve as watchdogs for technological development
While society usually relies on “experts” for information, sometimes the lack of transparency is frustrating. Clay Shirky would argue society has a duty to contribute to the whole, whether it is through a website dedicated to cats or through an investigative blog. In his blog, Shirky teams up with Carr to discuss the role of newspapers online and how experimentation online is essential to learning what works, what should be developed, and what should be left behind.
With so many opportunities to contribute digitally, individuals should consider it a civic duty to voice their opinions, concerns, and hopes for how technology is shaping culture. It is a reciprocal function and not necessarily deterministic. Individuals need to speak up about how cultural norms are changing. Society is in a position of control over technology, and it should be exercised.