Monday, August 8, 2011

(empo-tuulwey) Another reminder that technology is neutral #londonriot

If you listen to the starry-eyed among us, social media is Revolutionizing Human Existence. In the same way that the profound song "Understand This Groove" permanently affected relations between sentient beings, the existence of social media has quite profoundly changed the world...and all for the better. For those of us who thought that the Twitter reaction to the San Diego fires was a big deal, think of what has happened since. Social media has toppled repressive governments! Social media has helped looters terrorize people!

Wait a minute...

"The police are ahead of the curve in information technology and would have experience of the use of social networking sites by troublemakers," Steve O'Connell, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority that oversees London's Metropolitan Police Service, told Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. "The bad guys were using these sites to target areas quickly. Small bands of ne'er-do-wells were descending on high-quality stores to loot."...

Paul Lewis, a reporter for The Guardian in England, wrote in a blog post that he and his collegues have found that Research In Motion's BlackBerry Messenger, a text message service that only works between BlackBerry smartphones, is being used as a tool to organize the London riots.

To be fair, social media is absurdly vilified as much as it is absurdly praised. Take the title of this post: Facebook blamed for 1 in 5 divorces in the US. Was divorce something that suddenly started a few years ago? Or was AOL (as it was then called) causing divorces in the 1990s?

But this all reminds us that the technology, in and of itself, is neutral. It is how we apply it that can be good...or bad.
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