William Davies has an extraordinary, timely article at the fantastic Open Democracy website: The age of surveillance: a new "dotcom boom"? (thanks be, once again, to wood s lot). Myself, I have nothing daringly neutral or witty to say about it. But maybe I'll think of something later. Read the whole thing; there are funny comments about "bedfellows." Here's an excerpt:
The most important lesson that marketers and futurologists can learn about new technologies is not to extrapolate too far from the “early adopters”. Be it cars, telephones, televisions or computers, the long-term implications of new tools are never apparent at the outset, but only emerge once they have become ubiquitous across society.
(By the way, I'm personally very pleased that this blog does not have a category called, "Culture War." And *not* because I deny that such a term exists. Being careful about the words one chooses to dignify, such as through uncareful repetition is, "in my book", by no means an unimportant task. Nay, duty.)
Ridiculously late and off-thepage update: As may have been mentioned before, I think Google is a bit monolithic, and scary.
The car began life as a rich man’s toy, but its most profound long-term consequence was the growth of suburbs. The television was initially an object of fascination for the family to congregate around, rather than the perennial and solitary experience that it has become for many individuals. In recent years, we’ve witnessed what happens when mobile phones and internet connections shift from the margins of society to the mainstream.
William Davies is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr), and author of a new report, Modernising with Purpose: A Manifesto for a Digital Britain.
Marketers use the term “tipping-point” to describe the moment when a product makes the transition from being unusual and eye-catching, to being pervasive and invisible. One minute an item is being paraded like a trophy, of rarity and novelty value. The next it is a necessary accoutrement, without which modern living would seem impossible.
The language of “early adopters” and “tipping-points” is generally used when looking at the fast-moving though ultimately frivolous world of consumer habits. But perhaps we can identify something analogous to a tipping-point that took place on a more historically significant level, around five years ago, in the eighteen months that followed the dotcom crash.
Speculation about the shape and politics of the “digital age” had been rife for decades. The tipping-point in question occurred between the collapse of the Nasdaq and that of the World Trade Center, when one narrative about the function of digital networks in our society stuttered to a halt, and another one emerged. The underlying purpose of mass digitisation changed...
In the wake of the London bombings of July 2005, the pessimistic question has to be asked: did that period between April 2000 and September 2001 represent a tipping-point? As moronic and greedy as the dotcom boom and its associated fripperies may have been, there was an innocence about all of that investment and innovation, as if the benefits would flow later somehow or other.
But having been drawn into the digital age by the allure of its newness – just like any “early adopters” – we may now be settling down into a surveillance society where privacy is at best conditional, and contingency is monitored and dealt with. Historians may one day reflect on the bizarre coincidence by which westerners exuberantly flooded their societies with digital technology for very little reason whatsoever, just in time for it to be put to use as part of the largest international policing programme ever.