(The above comic found here: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/cnews/article.php/3715291)
By the way, Mark Zuckerberg being named Time’s 2010 Person of the Year is a joke. Be assured that insightful criticism (not to be mistaken as futile ranting, mind you) is forthcoming.
Finally, here is the Part II promised long, long ago… hope you enjoy!
Is there any defense for social networking under democracy’s banner? After all, Zuckerberg seems to think so. Zuckerberg says that the power of democracy is at work in Facebook and that, by giving everyone a voice and “power,” the system will end up in a really good place. Well, Facebook does reinforce interest-group politics. But it does not serve democracy— at least, not deliberative democracy— because a) it does not encourage people to have their opinions challenged, and b) it thwarts delving deeply into issues. So, though social networking strengthens interest groups, it does not benefit deliberative democracy.
The web as we know it is a sort of mathematical tool; Zuckerberg would like it to be a kind of omniscient god. For Zuckerberg’s open web wish to come true, everything will have to be owned, in a sense, by one potent force. If lots of power corrupts a lot, this only spells trouble. But could this ever even happen? This is where the present tension between Facebook and Google comes into play. Less than a year ago, Facebook made it so that users could access Facebook relationships, without logging in, on over 10,000 independent sites. In April, Facebook rolled out an array of developments, specifically the Open Graph and Social Plugins, aimed at increasing Facebook’s capacity for power. In October, Facebook entered into a search engine partnership with Microsoft. This friction between search engines underscores the real battle, one over the future of the web. Facebook contends for a social web, Google primarily for a content web. Through Facebook, Zuckerberg is daily prying information out of the hands of Google, broadening Google’s “blind spot” as its servers receive data which Google cannot reach. It is certainly not implausible that Zuckerberg’s social web revolution will succeed.
Zuckerberg’s vision also lends itself toward a social stigma around those who have privacy concerns. In Zuckerberg’s eyes, exposing your life online somehow endorses integrity. This has raised some sparks from Alan Jacobs, that loveable blogger for The New Atlantis. “So I have some sort of obligation to make it easier for people to get in touch with me?—to match my life to the ‘expected way to make connections’? That seems like a philosophically suspect claim to me,” he said. It is indeed an unsound claim, but it is the claim that will possibly be at the heart of Web 3.0. Jacobs’ offers two further complaints worthy of note. First, he hints that Zuckerberg’s ambitions are just another instance of American culture’s unceasing war against introverts. Second, he notices that no one seems to be able to provide a decent response to those who share his own reason for not using Facebook: “I’m not freaking interested.” Problem is, if Zuckerberg’s social web comes to be, it’s doubtful that one will be able to opt out of surrendering one’s personal information, whether he’s interested or not.
“On Facebook I know who you are because I know who the people are who you know,” said Zuckerberg. This sounds like nonsense because it is. But this much is true: whoever is in charge of this one, huge web family Zuckerberg envisions will have access to an unprecedented amount of information. Amusingly, Zuckerberg critiqued Google by saying that no one wants to be part of a surveillance society. He assures that in his social graph, users will be allowed to decide which information they make public and private. Unfortunately, it is just the case that whatever information one puts on Facebook is effectively public, regardless of privacy settings, because it’s officially owned by Facebook. Not to mention that Facebook’s record of abiding by its own terms of contract has been, well, far from sterling. Let’s not even bring the government into this. Do people really want the web to be one extension of Facebook? Centralizing power on the web will only lead to the abuse of information, as web history has proven time and again.
“Up until now all the advancements in technology have said that information and data are the most important thing. The most important thing to us is that there is a person sitting behind that keyboard. We think the Internet is about people.” These are the interesting words of Facebook’s senior platform manager, words which fall short in so many ways. The Internet is in its element when it deals with data and information; it is not in its element when it deals, in a much removed way, with human beings. Computers are for information, not for meaning and purpose in one’s life. Overemphasizing linking us to who we know, ZuckerWeb would separate us from the strangers surrounding us in the real world. This is precisely why Zuckerberg’s vision of web future is disordered: it wishes to revolutionize the web’s role from tool to society. The web can serve man well as an instrument; it does not, however, make for a wholesome and meaningful place in which to live.