Participation: Are You In Or Are You Out?

Conversations are moving more and more into Facebook. In order to continue to participate, I’d have to accept Facebook’s philosophy, which includes the idea that third parties would pay to be able to spy on me and my family in order to manipulate what shows up on the screen in front of us

You might view my access to musical instrument forums as an inconsequential matter, and perhaps it is, but then what is consequential about the Internet in that case? You can replace musical instruments with political, medical, or legal discussions. They’re all moving under the cloak of a spying service.

You might further object that it’s all based on individual choice, and that if Facebook wants to offer us a preferable free service, and the offer is accepted, that’s just the market making decision. That argument ignores network effects. Once a critical mass of conversation is on Facebook, then it’s hard to get conversation going elsewhere. What might have started out as a choice is no longer a choice after a network effect causes a phase change. After that point we effectively have less choice – Jaron Lanier

This is one of the points made by Lanier in his book, Who Owns The Future?, that has stayed with me. Mainly because it’s a point I feel I’ve had most first-hand experience of, particularly recently.

Facebook is a platform that seems to divide people into those who do have a problem with it, those who don’t or think the situation “unwinnable”, and those who are (more or less) pragmatic. But putting this aside for a moment, I’ve been looking for alternatives to participation off Facebook; looking for those places elsewhere where the conversations can be had. seems promising, which then led me to the IndieWeb. But in the short-term (and other suggestions are most welcome) it seems just checking blogs, websites and, if you’re lucky enough, finding events to attend is the way to go. So I guess I’m nor in or out, but just hoping to participate in another way.




In any case, what both VanderMeer’s Borne and Roberts’s Bête do is describe a future (far future in one case, near in the other) in which human beings live permanently in an uncanny valley, where the boundaries between the human and the nonhuman are never erased but never quite fixed either, so that anxiety over these matters is woven into the texture of everyday experience. Which sounds exhausting. And if VanderMeer is right, then the management of this anxiety will become focused not on the unanswerable questions of what is or is not human, but rather on a slightly but profoundly different question: What is a person? – things and creatures, conscience and personhood

Alan Jacobs, insightful as usual, on his Text Patterns blog.