Manifesto: Barrett Sorrells

1. As individuals, and as a society, we should be concerned about the amount of personal information a company like Google collects about us.

After reading and discussing Sivas book, TGoE and discussing in class the ways in which Google tracks its users, it is shocking to learn of all the information they gather. Just by using their search engine, Google can manipulate which advertisements appear on your browser based on your previous search histories, and it copies and “makes available trivial or harmful information about us that lies in disparate corners of the internet” (84). Also, Google in combination with its email system, Gmail, can relate your information to services that are operated by Gmail, such as the way Virginia Tech can now access all of your Google information via your required VT/Gmail account. I believe we should have more control over what information Google collects and also how that information is distributed or stored. Society would benefit from this because most people aren’t even aware this tracking algorithm is being used and it would allow users to develop their own security settings which deal with their personal information. Think about it this way, if Google were to get bought out by a foreign corporation or even a country, the personal information of millions of people would be accessible to this entity to do with as they please; or perhaps, as Jessie pointed out in class one day, you apply for a job with a company linked with Gmail or some other Google byproduct, and they see that you searched for ‘robot sex’ in the fall of 2012 and passed over your application because it raised a red flag.

2. We ought to embrace the development of artificial intelligence which can help advance our species.

Before taking this Living Through Technology class, I never really considered the possibility of artificial intelligence going as far as what Hollywood has dreamed up. After reading Turkles book, Alone Together, and seeing how far we have already advanced in the field of robotics, artificial intelligence may not be that far away. Turkle talks about how the first virtual robots were computer programs that responded to inputs from the user, then came early children toy version like Simon and Speak and Spell, that turned into the virtual pets know as Tamagotchis, those evolved into the Christmas frenzy toy Furby, and from there a boatload of robotic toys took over the market: AIBO, My Real Baby, Cog, and Paro. All of these robotic gizmos were designed to help develop the minds of children and adults alike (Paro was designed more to offer companionship to the elderly). I feel that the advancement of these robotic objects will help children develop communication skills and promote their ability to care for others. I also believe the more we embrace the technology of robotics, the further we can push for their evolution into something like the robots featured in the motion picture I, Robot (minus the part where they try to take over humanity). This should be considered for our manifesto because robotics will eventually be found in every household and we should make ourselves and other conscious of its benefits towards mankind.

3. Parents should limit the amount of time their children spend on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and educate them on what/how much information they provide to these sites and the people who can view the information.

With the excessive amount of time children are spending on social networking sites, parents need to monitor their online usage and monitor what the kids are posting about themselves. According to Turkle, “Thirteen to eighteen are the years of profile writing,” and, “students had to write one profile for their applications to middle school, another to get into high school, and then another for Facebook” (182). Children are putting too much information on their profiles which can be accessed by their peers, teachers, employers, and even strangers. Their posting of pictures of themselves can reveal their identity to unwanted persons, their location if the picture is uploaded from a mobile device, and can prove to be detrimental if viewed by prospective colleges or employers. I personally don’t have kids, but I have cousins who fall into the age range listed above and I would hate for information they posted on Facebook to get into the wrong hands and cause them harm in some way. Society as a whole would benefit from parents being more vigilant about what their kids can and can’t do on social media sites. This would be a good inclusion for the manifesto because it can currently relate to your younger siblings, but it could also provide other people your age and mine with great guidelines regarding what information they allow their future children to incorporate into their online profiles and social networking sites.

4. With the creation of digitized mapping systems, such as Google Maps, we should find it easier to locate specific locations and have visual references to guide our searches.

In 2009, Google expanded its company by creating Google Street View, an extension of their already popular cell phone application, Google Maps. Street View allows users to take a virtual 360° street view tour of the area you are searching for. The purpose behind this is to provide visual reference points for people who are using Google Maps to find a specific location. Street View can show you an actual picture of your search location and specific spots close by to enable you to find it quicker and more efficiently. I personally have used Street View to help me find a restaurant in downtown Charlotte. I searched for the address on Google Maps which offered me the Street View so I knew what the outside looked like before I got there. During our class discussions, many of us said we didn’t really have a problem with Street View because we have used it and find it very helpful with locating specific places. If more people were to implement the use of Google Maps and Street View then there would be much less confusion when trying to navigate congested areas and this could lead to better safety for pedestrians. While this may not seem like a major competitor for the manifesto, I do believe the overall satisfaction it would bring more users would be beneficial.

5. Search engines and web browsers ought to automatically include an easily accessible “Do Not Track” feature for people who don’t wish to have their browsing history tracked which can then manipulate advertisements and links that appear on the browser windows.

During one of our ‘Consider This’ sessions this semester, I started a post about how Google Chrome had recently adopted the Do Not Track feature that “allows users to tell advertisers to stop tracking their movements around the web and prevents advertisers from showing ads targeted towards them.” I found two separate articles which explained how the DNT functioned and why it was made available for public use; however, they also explain how complicated it is to access this feature. You have to sign on to your Google Chrome account, access the settings page, access the advanced settings page, access the privacy page, and then check the Do Not Track option. For anyone who isn’t technologically savvy, this may prove to be too hard for them to find and thus they would not be able to enable the DNT option. Not to mention that the majority of users don’t even know this option is available to them. I think people should be notified of their right to enable changes such as DNT and the web browsers should make the option more accessible to every one of its users. If everyone were given the opportunity and the knowledge about changing this option on their browsers, they could reject advertisements from companies they find harassing or lewd and they could prevent their browsing histories from being sold to advertisers who may display embarrassing or incriminating advertisements to others around you. This should be taken seriously because the information you provide to a web browser shouldn’t be shared with third parties without your consent.

6. Google should be allowed to scan millions of books from around the world in order to enhance the public’s access to these books.

With the development of the internet and the easy access to it in developed and developing nations, a database like Google Books is a great way to scan books from all different genres and allow users to access them from their computers. This project involved scanning the libraries of several colleges and universities (Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and UVA) and even major metropolitan libraries such as The New York Public Library. Google’s purpose behind the Google Books initiative was to allow the public to access millions of books that would otherwise be unavailable to many individuals and to provide a collective data source of those books in order to keep them in digital form, thus ideally forever. After many years of lawsuits involving copyright infringement, Google was allowed to operate Google Books by agreeing to pay royalties to copyright holders for books downloaded from its system. I believe that the digitization of millions of books from libraries all around the world is an excellent idea because it provides millions, if not billions, of people with access to those books. This could help individuals with their education by providing sources not previously available and could help authors by making their lesser known publications accessible to individuals who share the same interests. We should embrace the digital storage of these books because it will preserve them for our generation and many generations in the future and will provide an infinite amount of learnable knowledge for those generations as well.