Manifesto: Kyle Zalewski

Social media users should pay close attention to what they post.

The responsibility of privacy should be on the user. It doesn’t seem to me that the burden of maintaining privacy should rest on a company that provides a free service. If someone decides to use a service to post incriminating/embarrassing/otherwise unsavory content, then that is their responsibility, not that of the company providing them service for free. On the site’s end, there is a certain amount of responsibility in terms of ethical practices. For instance, since their site is essentially a database of personal user information, it is their responsibility to withhold that information from third parties to the best of their ability. Although, even in that arena there is some grey area. Users agree to terms-of-use when they sign up, so when someone fails to read the contract and signs up to use the service anyway, they forfeit their right to complain (at least on the legal level). Facebook's terms of use, for instance, specifically details to which personal data they are entitled. It’s quite the long document, so for most people it’s a pass. Unfortunately, users are giving up a bit of their “rights” by simply failing to look over the terms. What does that mean for the user? They should be careful so that they don’t post something they may regret, because chances are, it’s not Facebook’s fault, it’s their own.

Content consumers should also be content contributors.

This statement is a bit tricky. What constitutes contribution? How do we measure if we are contributing enough for how much we consume? Simply put, we can’t. We contribute based on what we like to do, and not all of us are going to churn out a Youtube video per day to keep up with our incessant watching. The thing is, since the internet is a network, one contribution has the potential to reach hundreds, thousands, millions of people. A single contribution with a given number of reached audience is enough to justify, in theory, consumption equal to that number. But what is contribution? In my opinion it can be anything from a vote on reddit to a consistent blog post that reaches tons of people. The point is, in order for this great network to function properly, content must be both made and seen. The caveat is that many people may say “there are plenty of people making content to pick up my slack.” And that’s probably true. Therein lies the conundrum. How many people would it take to adopt that mentality before the infrastructure of the internet falls apart and spirals into decay? Who knows. One thing that’s clear, however, is that online communities in particular, such as reddit, rely completely on user interaction. The entire point is to make a post go to the top where people see it, vote, and comment.

The Google Books project should be allowed to happen as planned.

This one I actually agree with for the most part. I think that an online documentation of every print document (ambitiously) would be an incredible addition to the knowledge source that is the internet. While right now its already enormous, if everything ever put into print was also searchable, I think our collective intelligence would grow to extremes. What I mean when I say collective intelligence is our ability to learn from the best of the best in as timely a manner as possible. For me it’s definitely beneficial to have every work on a particular topic available on the same platform. Every work within a genre is immediately comparable to every other, and therefore the best can be easily decided in a public forum. The topic is hotly contested as seen here, but the arguments against usually come down to an issue of copyright or simply the tangible, physical aspect of book ownership. In my opinion, accessible knowledge is extremely important, so a reworking of copyright infrastructure is a reasonable price to pay. As far as the physical ownership of books, I think that we’ll always have that available, but it may be that books become less of an item of prestige as our print moves online. Collections of books are seen as indications of overall education, but who knows, maybe in thirty years the same thing will be said about a huge bookshelf full of hard drives.

Kids these days should slow down.

I don’t think most of us hear that specific phrase very often, but it’s at least vaguely indicative of how we as a generation view our elders’ perception of us. I understand that it pretty much means that our generation needs to pull our eyes out of our phones and spend quality time with the people around us. Maybe that’s true. But then again, are we simply changing the way we spend time? Maybe we’ve just adapted to the point that we spend time with more people at once than we can in the physical world. Either way, I see the point but don’t necessarily agree. I think it really comes down to how exactly an individual decides to use their technology. There is enough information online to make people geniuses at practically any topic, given enough motivation. Is that what someone is choosing to do when they ignore their family at the dinner table? Probably not. Yes, I think slowing down and spending time with important people is indispensable. However, slowing down is just not what our generation is programmed to do. There is a debate on the term “digital native” and what the exact implications of that term are. I think that simply because a generation is wired to mentally move at a faster pace, they aren’t necessarily less considerate.

People should be honest in their online identity.

There’s a line between posting selectively and deliberately making an online identity different from its real world counterpart, I just don’t think anyone knows exactly where to draw it. In our “Catfish” discussion on the wiki, we discussed the idea that people who have potentially misleading online identities can be brought together (and potentially exposed) for probably hilarious and embarrassing television. Do these people deserve to be publicly exposed for who they really are in front of whoever happens to catch it on tv? It’s a bit of a gamble to begin with to build a personal relationship with someone you’ve never seen in real life. I kind of feel for the people who get totally let down when someone they’re finally meeting up with for the first time turns out to be someone completely different. To me it just seems like irresponsibility on both sides. One person is intentionally misleading (in some cases) and the other seems simply careless. But as I said before, where exactly do we draw the line? Is a person at fault for being misleading if they don’t update their profile in a few years? Is it up to them to be liable if their appearance changes in some amount of time and they don’t update? What if they change political affiliations in real life but their online identity doesn’t reflect the change? We get upset when someone is completely different than their online self, but it’s difficult to say exactly when that happens, and when the intentions change from harmless negligence to purposeful deceit.

Browser companies should provide a Do Not Track (DNT) option.

This became a pretty two-sided debate in our wiki discussion. To me there is really only one reason that a company would want to include such a feature in their product: money. Let’s say that every other browser but Google Chrome has decided to include DNT. Given the public attention to privacy lately, they would immediately be recognized as an agenda-ridden dictator, and a mass exodus would probably be next. I think that public relations are incredibly important to Google (read: benevolent dictator), and so DNT was incorporated as soon as it became an issue. Is it their moral obligation? I really don’t think so. They are in the first place providing a free product to anyone with the means to download it. In similar fashion to the Facebook issue, I think that the user should be held accountable for their usage of a product. It’s just such a touchy issue because if someone really wants to have DNT and Google doesn’t provide, they can switch to a different browser in a few clicks. Boom, no more revenue from that person. It’s a temperamental world on the internet and businesses simply have to know how to compete. To say they “should” incorporate that feature, however is misleading. It implies that there is some moral compass by which browser companies are obligated to abide. Business wise it’s a good idea, but by no means is there some moral law being broken if they don’t choose to include it.