A great session at CultureTECH was the “Internet as CounterCulture” session held by Paul Moore, Professor of Creative Techniologies at the University of Ulster, Magee Campus.
The takeaway message was that we have let the Internet get away from us. In 1991, there was an Internet but there was no Web, there were no ads and you couldn’t buy anything. As pre-occupied as we have become with the web, it runs on the pipes of the Internet and despite the fact the web has become a shallow, ephemeral and image-obsessed place, the Internet-proper retains (for the most part) the ethos of it’s adolescence (rather than the conception – as a US Department of Defense research project).
The Internet has long had a curious relationship with the government. While much has been made of how they spy upon us, I would counter that our taxes pay for us to be spied upon. And if our security forces were unable to spy, then I would expect them to be replaced with a service that can. After all, Google seems to have a very detailed picture of all of our movements and desires.
I’m not suggesting we should proactively resist the spymasters but really that we should not worry about those things which are inconsequential and instead focus our minds on those things where it becomes important. I am not remotely concerned if the NSA knows how many Internet Cat Videos I watch (it isn’t a lot). However I am concerned that my government is unable to accept my voice using a digital platform. Both of these examples are underpinned by the concept of identity and it is my feeling that “identity management” is a skill that is vital to learn. This differs slightly from the “info literacy” argument made by Professor Moore, or rather, identity management is a subset of “info literacy” theory.
The essential part of the conversation is the choice of whether you are anonymous in an information transaction or whether your identity is verified. We discussed how the new Fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S can potentially obviate your 5th Amendment (or similar) rights (if the items you purchase are illegal in the jurisdiction you are in). It invokes a conversation about the right to privacy and the need for identity verification:- these are arguments which are utterly opposed on a certain axis.
e.g. I may want to be securely identified
as a purchaser on Amazon.com
but I don’t necessarily want a
record of what I’m buying to be
Identity management is the first pillar of information literacy. The ability to recognise when your identity is being verified or when it is being accessed without permission is essential for an information-literate society. What’s missing is the toolset to be able to manage identity effectively and the mandate that online services must submit to these tools to allow citizens to not only make informed choices but act upon them (and, perhaps most importantly, be able to recover from poor choices).