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(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.
 Alan Jacobs, “Against Facebook Fascism,” Text Patterns, January 15, 2009. http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2009/01/against-facebook-fascism.html. 10/22/2010.
 Carlson, 10/22/2010.
 Fred Vogelstein, “Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet— And Keep Google Out,” June 22, 2009. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/ff_facebookwall?currentPage=2. 10/22/2010.
(This is the unedited version of an article I wrote for my college newspaper, The Rambler. It was published earlier this month on nice glossy paper. It is rather lengthy so I think I will just post part of it for now. In this article I tried to tackle some of Facebook’s problems from a different, rather philosophical, angle. Tell me what you think! Part 2 will be coming soon.)
The Disconcerting Dreams of Mark Zuckerberg
by Savvy J. Buckner
“But civilization is to be tested not so much by the dexterity of inventions as by the worth of what is invented.” –G.K. Chesterton
Twenty-six year old Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest billionaire in our cosmos, has fathered a philosophy that is this very moment redefining the web and our understanding of human relations. He is honest about the novelty of his experiment, but what end-product we should expect has been a little murky. In fact, it is only by studying Zuckerberg’s past words and actions together that a blueprint of his dream emerges. The Web 3.0 envisioned by Zuckerberg parts ways with the traditional Internet; it is grounded in different, and worrisome, first principles. The key to understanding Zuckerberg lies in his concept of the social graph. Zuckerberg calls this graph the core of his work, adding that his philosophy of the world and the inter-connection of things are embedded in it. Basically, the graph refers to a global digital mapping of both humans and objects, defined exclusively by their connections. The web Zuckerberg looks forward to is one in which the default is social and everyone is known by their real identity. One vast, united front that is “smarter” and more “personable.” On every page you click on you receive advertisements and recommendations tailored specifically to you, based on your web history as well as the history of your friends. Everything, yes everything, is inter-connected in Zuckerberg’s dream world.
And Zuckerberg’s philosophy, incarnate in Facebook, has been eaten up. Lauded as an advanced method of communication and sharing, Facebook’s climb to superstructure status has been more of an elevator ride than an upward haul. Over five million online users have adopted Facebook, and the number continues to rise. Zuckerberg’s philosophy is evidently invigorating, but not necessarily healthy. There has been an appalling silence in the space where a natural question should have been raised. Why? Why build our entire web structure on this idea of social sharing? Zuckerberg’s own answers are inadequate, even humorous: “Ultimately, just being able to map out all these things in one graph is just going to be really valuable for understanding what all these people and things are and what they’re doing.” “The idea is that people don’t exist in isolation. You are the set of things that you are connected with. It’s your real identity, and these are real connections that you have.”
Zuckerberg’s plan is paradoxical; his gentle words about community and sharing and social are misleading in the case of the virtual network. While Zuckerberg would have us believe that it is possible to foster true friendship via social networking, he fails to see that there is something fundamentally withheld in such a relationship. Zuckerberg wants the web to be used more personally. But social networking is depersonalized by nature, the most frequent messages are ones broadcast to the public, and screen communication is ever in competition with everything else that can, and does, pop up. On the web, relationships are less people and more objects you can choose to click on and play with when you like. Relationships on the web simply are not real; they are removed and only receive “life” from the user’s interest in them. Most people still agree that it is unhealthy to use the screen as the primary sphere of one’s relationships. Yet this is exactly what Zuckerberg’s philosophy encourages: the pouring of one’s whole life into an avatar. This is a disquieting thought, especially considering that these online communications cannot occur without abandonment, to some degree, of real-world relationships.
Zuckerberg’s words also falls short when we analyze how social networking functions, or fails to function, as a community. Social networking does indeed aid the flow of the web. But it clearly does not refine the quality of information that people share. Unlike a real and healthy community, Facebook demands neither service or sacrifice for the greater good, nor preparation for it. Technologies like Facebook center on self-interest, not genuine cooperation. In the context of community, Zuckerberg’s hope for more openness again falters. The true communal instinct fostered by social networking is found in the abnormal curiosity of users. As Sebastian Waisman noted, the whole success of online networking is due to one feature: “the ability to look at other users’ information without their knowledge— in other words, to spy. ” It is also troubling to compare social networking to a community because social networks contain practically none of the repercussions that offline life does. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg says that Facebook always tries to emphasize the utility component. Reasonable enough. The ease of having all one’s contacts in a big lump is undeniably attractive. But there is a grave discrepancy in Zuckerberg’s words. On one hand, he wants to build one big social community online, based on utility. On the other, he wants us all to have a more “meaningful” web experience. How does utility correlate with meaning? It seems more likely that, if Zuckerberg’s web comes around, both real life and the web will suffer as their roles become increasingly confused.
(To be continued…)
 Nicholas Carlson, “Zuck: Facebook’s Future is Not As a Web Site,” Business Insider, June 13, 2009. http://www.businessinsider.com/zuck-facebooks-future-is-not-as-a-web-site-2009-6. 10/22/2010.
 Sebastian Waisman, “The True Face of Digital Democracy,” The New Atlantis, Number 24, Spring 2009, pp. 89-93. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-true-face-of-digital-democracy. 10/22/2010.