Sunday, March 25, 2018

"How to be better at being pissed off at Big Tech"

From Cory Doctorow's Craphound:
My latest Locus column, “Let’s Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech,” looks at how science fiction can make us better critics of technology by imagining how tech could be used in difference social and economic contexts than the one we live in today.

The “pro-tech” side’s argument is some variation on, “You can’t get the social benefits of Facebook without letting us spy on you and manipulate you — if you want to stay in touch with your friends, that’s the price of admission.” All too often, the “anti-tech” side takes this premise at face value: “Since we can’t hang out with our friends online without being spied on and manipulated, you need to stop wanting to hang out with your friends online.”

But the science fiction version of this goes, “What kinds of systems could we build if we wanted to hang out with our friends without being spied on and manipulated — and what kinds of political, regulatory and technological interventions would make those systems easier to build?”

A critique of technology that focuses on its market conditions, rather than its code, yields up some interesting alternate narratives. It has become fashionable, for example, to say that advertising was the original sin of online publication. Once the norm emerged that creative work would be free and paid for through attention – that is, by showing ads – the wheels were set in motion, leading to clickbait, political polarization, and invasive, surveillant networks: “If you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product.”

But if we understand the contours of the advertising marketplace as being driven by market conditions, not “attention economics,” a different story emerges....MORE