Michael H Goldhaber on Tue, 8 Dec 2009 03:13:19 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> Handoko Suwono: Facebook paves its way to IPO

Prem et al.,

These issues come up over and over, but those who raise them also have  
the responsibility of in effect setting up a panopticon to scare  
others into not daring to make political acts.

Current capitalism involves plenty of bamboozling, including one  
capitalist or firm bamboozling another. In fact, some firms, such as  
Lehman Bros. manage to bamboozle themselves. If a firm can get hold of  
anything it thinks it might be able to sell to someone else, it will  
advertise that as highly advantageous, whether it truly is or not.  
Internet firms using cookies find themselves capable of collecting all  
sorts of data supposedly related to users' habits and preferences .  
These firms  claim this stuff is of value and try to sell it. That  
does not mean it actually is of so much value. Mostly they try to sell  
it to advertisers; that leads to the following sort of scenario.: You  
once bought, say, a pair of shoes of a certain kind. So the advertiser  
tries to sell you something connected with that purchase, ranging from  
similar shoes to laces, to vacations in the sort of country in which  
such shoes might come in handy. If you are sufficiently intrigued, the  
worst that happens is that you buy the additional items. But  
inevitably, given finite resources of both money and attention, you  
learn to filter such ads out. All that happens, most likely is a  
slight shift in sales from one set of companies to another. That does  
little to affect the overall picture of capitalism or the problems  
with it.

Of course, both companies and governments also try to collect data of  
other sorts that might possibly help them decide what customers to  
avoid, what workers to be wary of, what citizens might harm government  
plans. They have done this sort of thing for centuries, and it's not  
entirely impossible that Internet records are of some additional use  
in this regard. But it's pretty obvious that current government or  
even corporate attempts in this regard are far from foolproof. Nor  
would they necessarily rely on the kinds of data likely collected by  
Facebook. To act as if  being politically open on such sites is  
dangerous as, you do Prem, does  discourage political action that most  
people otherwise would consider safe. Not only are capitalists often  
fools, but so are government spy agencies. It does no good to act as  
if they are superhuman.

Why are you not trying to encourage important sorts of protests rather  
than setting up Facebook and sites like it as straw men? Can't you  
find more salient aspects of current society to criticize? There would  
seem to be plenty.


On Dec 5, 2009, at 12:44 AM, Prem Chandavarkar wrote:

> I agree - the question is one of transparency and not capitalism.   And
> this happens because in current capitalism one unwittingly leaves an
> information trail even through very mundane and routine activities.  So
> for  example if I purchase something with my credit card, I am offering
> information on  who I am, where I live, what I buy, when I buy, what my
> shopping patterns  are, and more.  Somebody gathers this data, analyses
> it and and then acts on  it in a way that will ultimately affect me in
> some way.  And I do not know  what is happening behind the scenes and how
> actions by some pretty powerful  folks are being targeted at people like
> me.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mail.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@kein.org