Monday, April 6, 2015

Is Big Brother Really Watching?

In the first chapter, “Failing to Forget the ‘Drunken Pirate’,” of his book, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger manages to tie the theme of this week’s class, judgment, with the idea of collective societies’ ability to forget. He posits that technology, and more specifically the internet and abilities of Web 2.0 type websites have expanded the ability of our collective memory beyond the capability of the basic human mind and in this, we need to be weary in how this changes the paradigm of how we theorize both memory and how we forget.  It seems clear that the author believes there is a disconnect between our human and digital memories, and not rectifying this disconnect could lead to some pretty serious consequences.
Mayer- Schönberger begins the chapter relating a social media horror story which I believe exemplifies many different things. First and foremost, it seems to exemplify how little savvy or thought can go into what we post online in social media. This ties into judgment in two levels. One: it illuminates the judgment we have to put into what we post online. Two: It shows the judgments others make on us in what we post online. Mayer-Schönberger ties this into the idea of our collective and individual memories noting, “This case, however, is not about the validity (or stupidity) of the university’s decision to deny Stacy her certificate” (2). He goes on to add, “It is about the importance of forgetting.” I think this frames memory and the process of forgetting into an interesting and important dynamic with this concept of digital memory as something that never forgets. I think a lot of this certainly ties into our own personal responsibilities to what we decide to or not post, as the author notes, but I wonder what we as a class think about how this speaks to teaching about develop voice and identity in our writing.
Mayer-Schönberger notes the example of Andrew Feldmar, a psychotherapist, how, in an interdisciplinary journal, admitted to using LSD, and then being banned from crossing the border because of it. One would think a safe place to divulge this information would be in an interdisciplinary journal in the context of one’s career, but with no criminal record and a simple Google search, this gentleman was banned from crossing borders in a country. I think the author here is asking us to question how far is too far? Mayer-Schönberger seems to be saying that, in our current state, context means nothing and keywords can damage a life as much as a criminal record.
The author seems to note that in the past, before this digital memory was prevalent, we had a culture of forgetting, where our past actions and mistakes were memories we chose to forget and as such there wasn't as much of a danger for them to come back and haunt us. I post the question, however, is this really true? Our method of keeping records is surely not as efficient as it once was, but Mayer-Schönberger examples of criminals records being “forgotten” I don’t think is as convenient a comparison as he would make it out to be. This being said, I agree with his supposition that being a slave to our past actions isn't fair and the convenience of this digital memory makes it harder to outlive mistakes we have made in the past.

I don’t think Mayer-Schönberger has the answers to how we change this paradigm of the digital memory never forgetting, but I do think he is right to question us being both more aware of it and growing savvier in our use of it. While I think at times he plays loose with some of the terminology he uses in regards to our collective memory and its history both of “forgetting” and remembering, I’d be lying to say this is the first of these types of articles this semester that didn't give me pause for thought about how I feel about some of these technological issues that we face today. While typically I am not of the fear-mongering sort and think we should be more embracing of technology in our lives,  Mayer-Schönberger certainly re-frames the argument in a way that speaks to the larger discussion on judgment (both by ourselves and on ourselves) that needs to continue.


  1. Thanks, Erik, for this thoughtful and honest post. There are numerous pedagogical implications for this culture of not-forgetting - we can see this in the schoolteacher posts that show their classes how quickly an image can circulate through our Facebook feeds. And I hope the rest of you will discuss possible assignments, like the digital footprint assignment mentioned by Brian or Allen (I can't remember).

    However, I want to meditate a bit further on Mayer-Schönberger's argument in favor of forgetting. On the one hand, he is clearly right that digital memory keeping is invading our privacy and pasts in a way that needs to be recognized and carefully regulated. On the other hand, I'm very nervous about the broader and possibly worse implications for encouraging a culture of forgetting. We don't have to look far to see signs that implore us to "Never forget," usually some act of genocide or form of state violence. Consider Ernst Renan's famous saying: "forgetting is a crucial factor in the creation of a nation." For some, that may sound like a positive statement, that nation-building is a good thing. And of course nation-building can be a very good thing. However, the kind of forgetting to which Renan refers is a kind of historical oblivion, in which the crimes of a people must be forgotten in order to encourage patriotism. We see this all the time in politics today, especially those who want to push what they call "American exceptionalism" in schools. It's the kind of American history that ignores colonial violence, violations of civil rights, and civil disobedience. If we forget any dark times in American history, it's easy to be naively patriotic.

    While I don't think that Mayer-Schönberger is thinking this broadly in his argument to expire digital records, I do think we have to be moderate in our embrace of forgetting. These kinds of movements can sometimes be slippery slopes . . .

  2. Thank you, Erik, for your analysis of the reading for this week; I appreciate the ideas and questions you have raised both from personal experience and from questions I have as a student and teacher.

    I have two younger sisters who both use social media as their primary means of engaging with the world--whether appropriate or inappropriate is yet to be determined, but which often makes me cringe. I have no easy answers for this perpetual desire to share every minute detail of one's life, but I do wonder at what my sisters and others risk by posting so much of themselves online without considering the viewer. I made a mistake not too long ago with regards to posting something on Facebook and someone not a friend of my own (this person was a friend of someone who "liked" what I posted) sent my post to my boss who recommended I remove the post because, although my boss did not find anything offensive, someone else did. While I could delete the post, I could not delete the screen shot the complainant took of my post--I no longer had control over my own posts and had fallen to what my father had warned me not to fall for all throughout my youth. And if someone was to gain access to this screen shot, what would they think? You wrote: "This being said, I agree with his supposition that being a slave to our past actions isn't fair and the convenience of this digital memory makes it harder to outlive mistakes we have made in the past." I agree with this statement, but I wonder if we ever try to "forget" anything. For example, we all read, or have read, history books and what have you, so is that record of history (or the writer's interpretation) a form of "forgetting?" When does something become "irrelevant" over us actually "forgetting" something? Or is the term "irrelevant" the wrong word? I am not quite sure.

    I agree with Alex that we must be "moderate in our embrace of forgetting," mostly because I think there are lessons left to be learned by looking back at history, at our mistakes, whatever. Failure to do so, especially with the growing technological trends, can result in considering ourselves invincible, or impervious to the consequences of our actions. Based on previous conversations in class, I think this is why having a conversation with students about appropriate online behavior with regards to academic work is important, especially if we use those programs in our courses. I am interested in what everyone else thinks though!


  3. Eric, nice post. The Mayer-Schönberger chapter certainly left me wanting to continue reading the rest of the book. He does a good job tossing out a number of possible claims that it would benefit us, as members of society and teachers, to know. It’s odd to think that we may regret creating digital footprints (or personal histories) that could possibly contain our whole lives because, as you say, they will come back to haunt us. Doesn’t seem that we often want to be able to remember everything, to have all the answers?

    I think that Mayer-Schönberger is alluding to the fact that our digital footprints can come back to be shown/quoted/whatevered against us. While it would be nice if they were used to show how awesome each person is, it’s probably not going to be, or is, the case. Much like our discussion last week, it seems as we move further and further into an age where most human acts are documented, we are also moving further into an age of incredible scrutiny. So, we begin to think towards our students: How can we help them navigate their media presence and how to evaluate these media? However, a bigger claim is raised. As Mayer-Schönberger suggests, the never ending, digital memory may leave people to fear decisions, knowing that every decision they make will be documented. This comes from the idea the those rare people with perfect memory feel “shackled by their constantly present past, so much so that it constrains their daily lives, limits their decision ¬making ability, as well as their capacity to forge close ties with those who remember less” (13). He goes on to say, “The effect may be even stronger when caused by more comprehensive and easily accessible external digital memory.”

    It’s funny how the other readings, the more pedagogical ones, suggest that the explosion of media creates an engaging participatory culture that only helps us interact and make decisions. For example, Jenkins says towards the beginning of his piece, “We suspect that young people…will feel greater comfort interacting with one another via electronic channels, will have greater fluidity in navigating information landscapes, will be better able to multitask and make rapid decisions about the quality of information they are receiving…” (10). DeVoss and Co. are right there backing up what Jenkins and his sweet MacArthur funded peeps are saying, showing how in order to be a part of a society full of new media, we must be willing to take risks and learn from one another, to move towards a writing culture that is constantly digitally participatory. While DeVoss and Co. may be showing how to properly train teachers in tech, they are mostly practicing and preparing to teach the skills that Jenkins has mapped out.

    I can see that students may feel overwhelmed by their own digital footprint but I do not think that it is something that should debilitate their learning. I think the skills that Jenkins outlines are good and can lead students to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. But that doesn’t mean we can forget about wasted pirates – and neither should our students.

  4. Excellent blog post, Erik! Mayer-Schönberger’s chapter was very interesting, highlighting an issue of online life I have largely ignored. I can always remember being told cautionary tales of posting things on the internet one may not want others to see. I’ve heard stories similar to Snyder’s, where a simple Facebook comment or picture has been enough to get them fired or passed over for a job offer. In the cases where the pictures (like Snyder’s) or comments (like Feldmar’s) are benign, cases like Mayer-Schönberger’s describes drive me up the wall. Like Erik said, being held accountable for our past—which is exactly that, our past—isn’t fair, and there is no denying that the internet grants our past a longevity it may not have had prior to the digital age.

    However, there are also those who put less benign things online. An offensive statement from an employee, perhaps even relating to their customers, is something an employer should deal with. A teacher discussing their students on their Facebook page in a negative way should be dealt with as soon as possible. But these are all events that are not distant happenings, these are happening in the now, where any tech-savvy student might dig it up and discover what their teacher is saying, and will feel it as a personal blow. On the flip-side, if a student gains access to a teachers Facebook posts—their social media account where they post about social things, which often involves alcohol because it is a perk of being an adult—and sees posts about the faculty Halloween party, the teacher’s reputation will not be forever tarnished, even if there is a red solo cup in their hand with some liquid or another. The student has certainly seen worse from their parents, their friends, or even themselves.

    So, while we must always be cautious of what gets put online, the idea that we should censor ourselves from sharing our life on a page that is for many designed as a source of information for friends and family is ridiculous and prudish. It comes down to the question, “Will what I post next be something someone will take honest offence over or will they clutch their pearls and make a fuss because it isn’t ‘proper’?”

  5. Thanks, Eric! I'm glad you chose to write about Mayer-Schönberger's piece. Even though we've probably all heard the warning "be careful what you post online" echoed many times throughout our lives, some of the shocking accounts in this article left me feeling pretty uneasy. Even though I've thought about this topic a lot and have heard similar horror stories, Mayer-Schönberger's theory that our inability to forget is affecting our behavior, keeping us "lost in the details of our past" and compromising "our ability to act firmly in the present," is quite disturbing. These consequences are far greater than the threat they pose to future careers, and reputation; this "constantly present past" is psychologically damaging our perspective, and furthermore redefining that perspective. We all know how necessary it is to be mindful of words or photos we post online, but to what degree? Almost anything can be offensive to someone somewhere, if taken out of context. So how do we emphasize the importance of this “comprehensive trail of our actions” without overstressing it and compromising our students’ abilities to live and make decisions in the moment? I can see this being a really difficult concept for high school students to understand. And as teachers I think there’s only so much that we can do to help our students in this regard. We can show them articles such as this, and warn them of the consequences of posting racy pictures, or offensive rants on facebook, but as we’ve discussed in class, we can’t control what they actually do online when they get home. We can try to be as preventative as possible, and perhaps we have a responsibility to, but maybe it’s equally as important to teach them the importance of context, and how to make judgment calls, and how to deal with posts that they don’t agree with, or find offensive.
    As with many things, it seems that the best we can do is lead by example. As DeVoss and co. explain, “in each of these cases, teachers are invited to extend their understanding of what it means to be a writer and teacher of writing given the digital tools they are afforded without losing sight of the core principles that guide their work: modeling good writers and responding to writers.” I think it’s probably more effective to encourage students to be able to build good judgment within themselves rather than trying to constantly preach about what’s appropriate to post online. Therefore, the way we encourage this respectful online behavior shouldn’t be to isolate posts, or pictures, and ask them whether or not they’re appropriate to post online. Obviously, there are examples of things that are offensive, or violent, that they shouldn’t be posting no matter what the circumstances are. But articles like this give examples of things that people regret posting, but shouldn’t be condemned and shunned for. As the article point out, our society has proven itself to be one that is quick to judge, or critique, and if we stress the importance of each individual to be wary to what they post, without teaching them how to react to post’s that might initially offend them, we’re only further fueling this culture “that is ever unforgiving because it is unforgetting.”

  6. Thanks for your great post, Erik! I’m also very interested in Mayer-Schönberger’s chapter, and I especially like the title of your post “Is Big Brother Really Watching?” It reminds me of our annotated article “Free Culture”, in which there is a sentence says “The consequence is that we are less and less a free culture, more and more a permission culture”. You are partly right. The culture we are experiencing seems quite like the one in 1984, where what we post on the Internet are being viewed and even scrutinized all the time; but ours is even harsher: we have no idea who is watching us. Our employer? Our students? Or someone who we even don’t know them in person? But is this problem a hard on to solve? Someone may say we can avoid being watched on by remaining silent. It’s similar to the Miranda’s Warning: You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. However, in such an information age, can we give up our right to voice for the fear of being caught by some cynical “friends”?

    Honestly speaking, I’m an active SNS user, especially on WeChat, an instant messenger that can sent text or voice message to your friends and also add posts to your Moment (like the feed on Facebook). As more and more friends are added on my friend list (my parents, teachers, students I have tutored, even their parents), I become more and more conscious of the content I’m posting. Fortunately, the APP developer seems to be aware of this spectator crisis too, so they’ve added a function to the APP: grouping your friends by different tags, so you may decide which group can see your post. It’s really helpful, I have to say. I like to post everything new onto my feed: the food I eat, the place I go, the tons of readings I have to do within one week… I feel better when only my best friends and relatives can see these. It is, to me, more like a digital diary as a complement for my bad memory.

    Aha, here it comes, the word MEMORY. Mayer-Schönberger's argument in favor of forgetting is also worth discussing. In spite of the “never-forgetting” characteristic of digital memory, which may in the near or far future be against us, we cannot be so critical as to ignore its benefits. I’m all for Alex’s idea that a culture of forgetting might be dangerous, especially in terms of history and politics. Considering how many endangered works and historical accounts have been saved thanks to the technology? But I do agree that in some cases, being a slave to our past actions isn't fair and the convenience of this digital memory makes it harder to outlive mistakes we have made in the past.

    As how to bring these concerns into class, I feel quite obliged to consider the rhetorical situation more consciously when they are doing writing, especially digital writing, because there are a larger number of unknown viewers besides the teacher and the classmates. I will tell my students: think twice before you write, be humble and be well-behaved, or what you write might become the testimony against you someday.

  7. Thanks for the post, Erik. Reading this chapter and your post have made me think about my own online presence. I’ve never post anything of a questionable nature, but I have been to parties and subsequently seen myself in photos holding a drink. I’ve never bothered to un-tag myself in these, assuming they are private, but now I am reconsidering this. The problem though seems that these photos will remain somewhere even if I try to get rid of them. Mayer-Schonberger offers the perspective that the damage that Stacy and Andrew suffered was “self-inflicted” (4). This, however, is always accurate; anyone can post any photograph or statement about any other person. Because of this, the question becomes this: is anyone in charge of their own (online) identity? Certainly people have the ability not to post inappropriate material, but this (especially with shortsighted teenagers) will happen anyway. Also, people cannot control what images or content appears online, and in a world where nothing can be forgotten, this content will remain. Considering this, can the world ever be recaptured where we can forget, and would that be a good thing?

    This is a difficult question to answer, but the reason for this inability to forget stems from a desire for more information. Google stores the monthly “30 billion search queries” in an attempt to bring more accurate or desirable information (4). It is a question of pay-off. This new world, where the world’s information is instantly accessible to all is necessarily one where nothing can be forgotten. The question is not whether we can re-learn to forget, but whether we would want to, considering the alternative. Perhaps we are still in a transitional period. In years it may be the case that incidents like Stacy’s are viewed as absurd, where our institutions will have to be less concerned with the private lives of its employees. In the same way that it now seems absurd to think of a time when schoolteachers needed to remain unmarried, or they could not fulfill their duties.

  8. You've brought up some controversial points, Erik! Everyone’s heard the phrase “history repeats itself.” And it seems to me that what Mayer-Schönberger is suggesting, is that maybe with the shift of our culture moving from a culture of forgetting to a culture of remembering, we may not need to remake the same mistakes: “Forgetting plays a central role in human decision-making. It lets us act in time, cognizant of, but not shackled by, past events,” (12). As Alex points out, it’s quite dangerous to foster a culture that prizes “forgetting,” because then society seems to leave out acknowledging its mistakes such as slavery, genocide, racial and gender inequality, etc. Technology has shifted cultures to remembering everything, big and small. While this may be advantageous for educational “big pictures,” like the civil rights movement and the teaching of the holocaust, the constant surveillance and permanent digital footprint sometimes have adverse effects on individuals professionally and criminally, as in the case of Stacy and Andrew.

    My undergraduate institution CONSTANTLY stressed how we should NEVER post anything on Facebook that we would not want our bosses or our parents to see, because once you post something up on the web, even if you take it down- it’s still out there! Someone could have copied and saved it, the image, video, or verbal post, can always be retrieved. And as every teacher and administrator at UCI stressed, graduating students who are bright, capable, and qualified CONSTANTLY lose job offers when prospective employers check their social media sites. It’s too bad that Stacy’s school didn’t help her to prepare her public image and instead stopped her from pursuing a future career. Whether a company cares about what their employees do on their free time outside of the office really varies by employer, but professionals should always err on the side of caution. Top-level executives have even been fired over ONE careless tweet. (CHECK OUT The un-forgetting culture is unforgiving regardless of social stature. However as Mayer-Schönberger points out, “It is not technology that forces us to remember. Technology facilitates the demise of forgetting—but only if we humans so want,” (14). Humans control technology, so humans can either choose to adapt to technological advances and surveillance or curtail it; we are not powerless.

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  10. (1/2) Great post Erik! I’m glad that you challenge Mayer- Schönberger assertion that we once lived in a culture of forgetting when we weren’t so shackled by past events. There’s no doubt that the internet has changed our notions of memory/forgetting but Mayer- Schönberger’s binary insistence that we are moving from a former “default of forgetting to one of remembering,” seems a bit reductive (13). He talks about how important forgetfulness is to humans and there seems to be an inherent sentimentalizing of the simpler times of the past. I also found this to be problematic in Lessig’s “Free Culture.” Though Lessig does rely on analogies to the past, he also seems to assume that the present moment is unprecedented in the way in which it will radically transform culture (as does Mayer- Schönberger). This assumption leads Lessig to valorize the “American tradition” and what he calls “something very old” that seems to be slipping away from us. As we have seen, from our early exposure to the Phaedrus, people have been lamenting the advent of each new technology as the thing that will irrevocably change humanity for a very long time. I’m not arguing that it hasn’t/isn’t irrevocably changing us, but I think it’s a little short-sighted to think that there was ever a time when we weren’t being irrevocably changed.

  11. (2/2) I do think that Mayer- Schönberger compellingly points to the unexpectedly haunting effects of perfect memory. However, I agree with Alex, a cultural “default of forgetting” might be even more dangerous (13). As I was reading Stacey’s story I couldn’t help but think that perhaps memory wasn’t the culprit. I think that things like Facebook call for a kind of synthesis of selves that perhaps we aren’t used to. When I post something (I almost never do for this reason!) I have to consider my family seeing it, friends from high school who knew a different me a decade ago, friends now, my colleagues, some people who I’ve “befriended” for whatever reason and don’t know very well at all. So there’s this sense of having to perform all these competing and contradictory roles at once, a kind of demand for synthesis, for a re-centered subject which feels very strange and unnatural. Sometimes these contradictions remain irresolvable and one of our colleagues sees a drunken pirate photo and has trouble reconciling that drunken pirate self with the “work” self that they’ve become accustomed to.

    One thing I think is particularly weird is how FB did those stories – “A Look Back” [] which started with when you joined and picked your most liked posts, pics, events etc. and made it into a kind of narrative video with music. Essentially, it synthesized and re-packaged your FB life and sold it back to you. When I think back to the exciting possibilities of fragmentation and multiplicity that Jay David Bolter talked about (he was thinking more about digital writing) it seems ironic that our online lives are often reduced to master narratives. The problems, posited by Mayer- Schönberger as the persistence of memory, seem to me to be irresolvable conflicts within our all-encompassing avatars.

  12. Thanks for your post Erik! This is an issue that I can go around and around on, and it is clearly something that we can all see from lots of different angles.

    I absolutely see Alex's point about the danger of forgetting, especially on a cultural and historical scale. Both in our own lives and in larger social and political realms, it is crucially important for us to recognize, remember and acknowledge the mistakes of our past so that we can learn from them and do better as we move forward. This ties in to accountability, and whether we as humans and as nations are honest and hold ourselves accountable for the errors of our past. In some ways the internet can undoubtedly be helpful in this regard. Even in the last few years we have seen (and have already discussed in class) situations where the constant recording and documentation of the smartphone/internet generation has resulted in increased transparency and open conversation about important issues like police brutality that were previously hidden or suppressed.

    However, the examples discussed in the "Failing to Forget the Drunken Pirate" intro hit on a separate issue as well, which is the question of privacy in the digital age. For some reason many in our generation (and possibly even more in generations after ours) feel the urge/right/obligation (?) to document and publicly share their thoughts, feelings, opinions, shoe purchases, etc. on an almost constant basis. And then we are shocked and appalled when others criticize or form opinions about us based on what we share. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it is absolutely ridiculous and wrong for someone to lose a job based on a Facebook post. But at the same time, at least to some extent, it seems naive for us to be totally shocked when it occurs. While Facebook and Instagram present the illusion of privacy by limiting our content to those we designate as "friends," at this point we all recognize the limitations of those privacy settings, and when we post something online the reality is that we have only very limited control over where it may eventually end up.

    Which is not to say that we don't (or at least shouldn't) have the right to privacy online and control over who can see, comment, or (most importantly) act on the content that we share. Some of the situations that Mayer-Schönberger detailed were horrifying, and obviously this is a question of degrees (how inappropriate is the post, how extreme the reaction, etc.). But the reality is that the Internet has blurred the lines between public and private, and we are increasingly going to have to consider what this means for our lives. We used to be able to function and present ourselves differently in our work, school, or personal lives, but those divisions are now a lot more fluid. To some extent we may need to act accordingly, at least until our society (and our legal system) clarifies what can and cannot be used against us.

    Clearly lots to say on the topic! But for now, excuse me while I go delete that keg stand picture from freshman year....

  13. Word to the wise: don’t Google yourself. The Internet knows a scary amount of information about you. Well, maybe not you, but after reading your post, Erik, I couldn’t resist the urge to see if anything incriminating from my… adventurous college days would show up in the search results. Thankfully I didn’t find anything incriminating, but I did find a bunch of pictures and links to my friends, which means the Internet – and thus anyone savvy enough to aggregate the data – could compile a tapestry of my social life just from a Google search.
    On a practical level, though, I don’t think this bothers me all too much. I agree with you Erik that although this is new territory in terms of privacy and memory, doomsaying may be going a little too far. This is new territory like any other, and like any other nascent adventure mistakes are made and then recovered from. In some ways I feel like my generation has been the sacrifice for Internet etiquette. Web culture bloomed around my generation in a way previous ones never experienced. This isn’t to say there is anything inherently good or bad about the concept – it’s just timing. I was equally as lucky to have grown up alongside the Harry Potter books, but I don’t consider that anything more than a happy accident.
    What I think being the first generation that’s grown up alongside the Internet does mean is that, for better or worse, my generation laid the ground rules for being a citizen of the web. And I do think that that has required of us a shift in what we are calling memory here. What I see most likely happening, especially as my generation slowly creeps up the career ladder and assumes positions that are responsible for hiring prospective employees, is a more complex and nuanced approach to someone’s history. The only difference between the stupidity of older generations’ youth and that of mine is that there was no way to capture the stupid moments in a public medium; now that there is, I can see things like business ethics changing so as to make anything, say, older than four years inadmissible when doing an Internet search of someone’s history. Or maybe this is just wishful thinking.
    One question that will have to be navigated, as you and others have pointed out, is where exactly the line is drawn for ‘admissible evidence,’ so to say. One example that comes to mind is the heat Trevor Noah, the appointed heir to John Stewart’s throne on The Daily Show, got after old tweets of his making off color jokes about race and gender. The latest of the jokes is five years old now, but this didn’t stop the media from latching onto them as evidence to question Noah’s appropriateness for the role of host. The jokes are certainly bad – both in quality and in taste – but is it right to eschew five years of working in comedy in making a judgement call? Perhaps I’m wrong, but this feels like an example of a double standard – going after someone for something deleterious in their past when there is every likelihood an investigation into each of his descriers could reveal something equally as embarrassing. I don’t really have an answer here, I just think it’s an interesting example of this new territory of ethics we’ll have to get used to navigating as the Internet weaves its way even further into our daily lives.

  14. Thank you for your post, Erik! Like many others, this article has made me rethink my own social media postings. While I don't find any of my statuses, or tweets, or pictures offensive, who's to say who else does? And how do I know if someone hasn't taken a screen shot of it, even though it's been deleted.

    It is true what they say though that once you put something on the Internet, even though it's private, it's out there forever, especially with the ability to screen shot and to just do a google search. And this is something that so many people forget. I went to UMass Amherst where pointless riots happened with frequency and one student was quoted in the school paper as saying "Riots are a right of passage at UMass. You have to go to them." Now, I did not know this girl, I don't even remember her name. But I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, when you apply for jobs or grad schools they're going to google your name and find this and you may be passed over." People need to remember that once it's out there, it's out there forever!

    Now, that's not to say that I agree that this is the way it should be. I don't think that people should have to relive their past mistakes over and over again. I don't think they should have to walk into job interviews afraid of what the interviewer did or did not find. I think the fact that we have to censor ourselves or go on a picture deleting frenzy before interviews is, as Tiril said, ridiculous and prudish. How are we, as educators, supposed to teach students how to use social media, when we're afraid to share that political cartoon that we found hilarious? How are we supposed to tell students that social media can be a good thing, when we're afraid to have that picture from that party sophomore year where we played drinking games?

  15. Erik, excellent work! I was pretty intrigued while reading the Mayer-Schönberger article, and I couldn’t help but feel drawn in two directions. The first thoughts I stumbled across while reading were my science fiction-fueled, paranoia-driven fears, and the second were my practical considerations. Let’s go for it!

    If there’s anything I’ve taken away from my dystopian fictions of choice, it’s the horrifying idea that we will proudly hold up our shackles, believing them to be nothing more than pretty accessories that we’ve put on ourselves. From Brave New World to Fahrenheit 451 to BBC’s Black Mirror, there is an underlying anxiety about the fact that we’ll be too entertained to realize the scope of our oppression. As such, my alarmist concern (connecting to the “Free Culture” article read for today) is that while we are jumping onto every new technological bandwagon, we are unaware of the consequences until it’s too late. So, ten-plus years of social media has led to our being unwittingly monitored, our actions being documented for future use/exploitation/evidence/whatnot.

    Consequently, I feel my palms start to sweat when considering the fact that “Comprehensive digital memory represents an even more pernicious version of the digital panopticon. As much of what we say and do is stored and accessible through digital memory, our words and deeds may be judged not only by our present peers, but also by all our future ones” (Mayer-Schönberger 11).

    On a more practical note, I think we are at an interesting juncture in which we need to be conscientious of our digital footprints while still allowing ourselves to make them. As Brian stated, “students may feel overwhelmed by their own digital footprint but I do not think it is something that should debilitate their learning.” So how does one – whether student or teacher or employee or employer – navigate this field? Well, I’m not really sure. I know that for me, the key is being mindful and trying to figure out what forms of social media truly intrigue me. As such, I jettisoned my Facebook account early in my teaching career, but have long maintained a private Instagram, blogs, and even a Twitter account (#ENG613)!


MOOCS: A Problematic Solution to the Disinvestment in Public Higher Education

I agree wholeheartedly with Bady’s cynicism of the speed, inevitability, and necessity of the MOOC movement. From 2011-2015 I direct...