Last week, I went to see Professors Zittain and Lessig in conversation about the Dilemmas of Open Knowledge at the Harvard 375 roadshow in San Francisco. In response to a question about data and consumer privacy, Zittrain added on to the old maxim that if you were getting something for free online, you were paying for it with your data. Now, he said, even if you were paying for a service, a company was likely making money with your data too.
I’ve been thinking about Zittrain’s words all day following the Insta-Facebook announcement. One of the reasons that I like Instagram is that I hate giving my data to Facebook. I recognize the utility of Facebook as my de facto digital address book and as an event notifier, but I feel powerless when it comes to my data on Facebook. Even though I wiped out bands and movies that I like from Facebook years ago (I’m thinking it has been at least 4 years since I “deleted” this info), I still get Facebook ads related to this old data. And I hate that even though I disabled publishing of location and status tags on Facebook, my friends and family report additional data about me to Facebook. Even if it’s “private,” Facebook still knows it. Even if I hit ignore, Facebook still knows it.
Thus, I embrace Facebook alternatives, and I’m saddened when Facebook acquires these alternatives. With Beluga, I was sad because it was highly functional, and Facebook shut it down to force me to use Facebook messaging instead (I resisted). With Friendfeed, I nuked my own account. And now, as the Atlantic has posed, the billion dollar question is, “Will Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram cause an exodus?”
For now, I’m not nuking my Instagram account / app from my phone, because there simply isn’t a good alternative that I can think of off the the top of my head. Harking back to Zittrain’s words at the beginning of this post, one of the very few web services that I pay for is Flickr Pro, but given all of the churn at both Flickr and Yahoo lately, I have no idea what’s going with my data over there. Now, I mainly view Flickr as my backup for old family photos should an earthquake destroy all of our albums.* I swore off Picasa years ago because Google creeps me out as much as Facebook. So, I now feel that when it comes to posting photos online, I’m homeless. The only photo houses available are rigged with CCTV cams inside, so what am I to do?
*My backup method does not feel foolproof to me given Yahoo’s recent woes. I constantly worry about Yahoo sunsetting Flickr.
I wouldn’t want to re-live my high school experience, but I appreciate these wise words to kids from David Eagleman (interview here):
What advice would you give to a smart kid who’s now in high school?
Watch TED talks: smart people will distill their life’s work down to 20 minutes for you. Follow links through infinite trajectories of Wikipedia. Watch educational videos on topics that resonate with you.
There are a million ways to waste time on the net; reject those in favor of ways that teach you exactly what you want to know. Never before have we enjoyed such an opportunity for tailored, individualized education.
And be sure to get off-line often, to take digital sabbaths. As much as the net provides a platter of mankind’s learning, there is a different kind of learning to be had from a hike in the woods, the climbing of a tree, an afternoon building a dam in a stream.
I’m going to preface this post by admitting that at times, I have not followed the edict posted below. But, I think that I do a pretty good job of not blogging/facebooking/tweeting about truly traumatizing events. At least, not without deliberating a little bit and letting everything sink in, so that I can compose something that’s a little bit more analytical, rather than raw emotion (the times when raw emotion did peek through, I think that for the most part, access was password-protected).
I’ve been slightly discomforted lately by what Salon calls the era of the “Facebook Divorce.” Some friends have been oversharing, and I just want to give them one of those ever so rare-EChan hugs, before throwing them in a closet until their emotions settle down, so that they don’t mourn in public. This is akin to escorting the wailing widow at a funeral who collapses at the casket to the side room, to stop all of her friends and family from gawking at her. Yes, mourning should be shared, but quietly, for if not, you get a whole lot of rubberneckers, and leave your friends with that oh-so-icky feeling.
I’m trying to recall correctly whether the following art exhibit that a friend described to me was real or imagined. Perhaps you can help me out. A few years ago, my friend, who happens to work for a company that measures cellphone traffic, described an installation at a museum, where a light cloud was formed in direct proportion to cell phone emissions in and around the installation. In essence, calls and texts were visualized (that same interference you hear on your car radio, when you get a call on your iPhone, transformed into light).
If you asked me 5 years ago, to visualize cell phone art, I think projects of this sort, are what most people would have imagined. Thus, I am somewhat surprised, but not blown away with what, David Hockney is painting on his iPhone (story via Stribs). Or to put it properly, I am amazed that David Hockney is painting on his iPhone. This is not the first instance, of someone using his/her phone to create art; Jorge Colombo painted a New Yorker cover this May, but as these little stories add up, I’m excited for the day when I walk into SF MoMA and see an iPhone mounted on the wall, running through a slideshow of such works, and see the descriptive tile on the wall: “David Hockney / “Untitled” / 2009,” etc.
But perhaps the physical SF MoMA is the wrong way to think of the Museum of the Future.* From my Googling, I see that Hockney’s works are already on display in SecondLife homes. Perhaps the globally accessible Internet museum is it?
*”Museum of the Near Future” is more accurate, since this isn’t something that I expect to see in 10 years, but since the speed of information surpasses the speed of light these days, I completely expect this near the SF MoMA roofdeck sometime in November.
On separate thought involving iPhones this week. Based on the stat that 20% of all iPhone customers are in SF and NY, I was rather surprised by how common iPhones were in Singapore, but they were area. The iPhone is truly a global phone, at least in urban centers.
Funny, here I go, I’m going to link to the NY Times‘ Style Section, yet again, as it laments the Kindle and the death of literary desire, otherwise known as a crush that one forms on a stranger based off of what book s/he’s toting on Muni:
And as books migrate from paper, it means the death of the pickup line, “Oh, I see you’re reading the latest (insert highbrow author’s name here).”
Michael Silverblatt, host of the weekly public radio show “Bookworm,” uses the term “literary desire” to describe the attraction that comes with seeing a stranger reading your favorite book or author. “When I was a teenager waiting in line for a film showing at the Museum of Modern Art and someone was carrying a book I loved, I would start to have fantasies about being best friends or lovers with that person,” he said.
Back when I was a lit major, I used to have these crushes. But over the years something happened, and I don’t anymore. Perhaps it’s because I’ve met enough people who had the same favorite authors as me, and while it makes for great conversation, it never amounted to any sort of spark. Perhaps it’s because I take it as a given that everyone has read Faulkner and Murakami and haunts Green Apple, so it’s a non-issue. The closest thing that I can think of to a modern equivalent of “literary desire,” is link desire, where a couple of years ago, my friend TT and I were leafing through Yelp, and I thought someone was attractive because he listed this as his second favorite website.
(Addendum: I realized that the “Oh, isn’t Bolano amazing?” pick up line has been replaced with, “Have you seen this app yet for the iPhone? Let me show you.”)
It really impresses me how much the FAIL meme has taken hold. Between the FAIL blog and Twitter’s cute and cuddly Fail Whale, FAIL appears to be the Internet meme du jour. I think this has to do in large part to the fact that many of us want to photoshop “FAIL” over our 401K statements and the quagmire known as the Iraq war. It’s funny to contrast our humor-riddled pessimism with the grassroots HOPE message of the Obama campaign.