Technology – Is it worth it?

My GPS or phone can tell me to take a different route because my current path has heavy traffic… but only because I’m allowing my location and route to be shared and combined with other people’s to predict traffic.

I can contact my friends at almost any time… as long as I’m ok with the fact that they can always contact me and I need to keep my phone with me at all times.

I can have relevant ads show up, telling me about the latest products and deals that interest me… but only if I’m ok with the fact that my searches, data, personal information and preferences are being tracked, recorded, data mined and build into algorithms that know more about my interests than I do.

New technologies afford us many oppertinitues, usually in terms of increased connectivity, access to information and speed. And it’s amazing. Without a doubt the average person living in North America has more access to more information than anyone in human history. What’s more the production and distribution of citizen media is now easier than ever before. But at a cost. Is the average person aware of just how much of their personal information they are giving up? And now that its so easy for everyone to blog, and tweet and write an article or post a video how much low quality, irrelevant content and misinformation is now on the internet? Here’s a few examples to consider:

1. Facebook
Affordances – lets me connect with my friends, chat with them, share photos, videos, links, find news, look at the information of people I don’t talk with regularly, share thoughts and so much more.

Costs – access to location, access to pictures, access to private messages, a complete archive of every action, every word I have ever typed into the website. Oh and the fact that I get dozens of notifications distracting me on a daily, no hourly basis. And that’s after turning off as many settings and options as possible.

Facebook is in a way a citizen media – it is primarily hosting user generated content. But what about different types of citizen media, like citizen journalism?

2. Twitter
Affordances –  Allows people with smart phones to live tweet events, groups can combine their social media power to trend topics to draw attention to issues, media can be shared publicly and instantly.

Costs- all tweets are archived, and citizen journalism can lead to misinformation. How often does twitter think a celebrity has died, #RIPcelebrityname trends worldwide just for the person to be alive and healthy?

3. Alternative news papers and blogs
Affordances – allows individuals to publish and circulate their own news. Allows people to access information not biased by corporate interests.

Cost – misinformation and a lack of adherence to professional or ethical guidelines.

We have the most access to technology, the coolest inventions, the greatest connectivity ever. But it costs us a lot of our personal information, and forms of citizen media runs certain risks.

Is it worth it?

To put it simply… Yes. To reject this technology would be crazy. What we need are informed users, who make conscious decisions about what they use, what it allows them to do and what it costs them. We don’t need luddites, we need people who think about the technology and media they engage with. Something like the Slow Media movement.

As for affordances and costs of citizen media, while there is a lot of opportunity for misinformation and a lot of junk on the internet because anyone with a computer can make anything nowadays it’s worth it for the opportunities it provides. Movements like Black Lives Matter, environmental activism and local community interests can come to light thanks to citizen media.

So check your setting, delete unnecessary apps and decide what you’re ok with sharing. Step outside the mainstream and pay attention to citizen media news sources but ask questions. We have technology offering more affordances than ever before, so use it.




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