22 April 2012

Whether the digital era improves society is up to its users – that’s us

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Social media in particular has inexorably changed the world, driving openness and fear – but it is not beyond our control, argues Danah Boyd in a long essay for The Guardian.

“Most technology designers engage in their trade to make the world a better place. Technologists love to celebrate the amazing things that people can do with technology – bridge geography, connect communities and transform societies. Meanwhile, plenty of naysayers bemoan the changes brought on by technology, highlighting issues of distraction and attention for example. Unfortunately, this results in a battle between those with utopian and dystopian viewpoints, over who can have a more extreme perspective on technology. So where’s the middle ground?

One of my favourite maxims about the role of technology in society is called Kranzberg’s first law. He argues that “technology is neither good nor bad – nor is it neutral”. It’s irresponsible to assume that the tools being built just wander out into the world with only positive effects. Technology doesn’t determine practice, but how a system is designed does matter. How systems are used also matters, even if those uses aren’t what designers intended. For example, as social media has gone mainstream, some fascinating shifts have emerged that require reflection. Yet, even as the conversation becomes more important to have, it’s often hard to talk in a nuanced way about the role that technology is playing in shifts that are already underway.”

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31 July 2016
[Book] The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age
The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green New York University Press May 2016, 368 pages > Read online for free Do today’s youth have more opportunities than their parents? As they build their …
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A nudge toward participation: Improving clinical trial enrollment with behavioral economics
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UX in government: Why we need to stop calling it “citizen experience”
Cultural anthropologist Jamie Lee writes that she is fully on board with UX’s role in the public sector, and that she is an advocate for its unique role in more ethical governance with, rather than …
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Politicians need to commit to ethnographic research if they want to understand people
Business anthropologist Simon Roberts has campaigned hard for the "Remain" side in the UK referendum and is deeply disappointed. He now explores a topic that I too have been arguing for some time now: Politicians, …
28 June 2016
[Book] The Ethics of Influence: Government in the Age of Behavioral Science
The Ethics of Influence: Government in the Age of Behavioral Science by Cass R. Sunstein Cambridge University Press, September 2016 In recent years, 'Nudge Units' or 'Behavioral Insights Teams' have been created in the United States, the United …

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