Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Walls

Responding to Danah Boyd.

There is a very big difference between our putting walls around our own space, and other people putting walls there.

When we build or buy (or rent) our own walls, we choose when they are open or closed - when the door is locked or unlocked, who we let in, whether the curtains are drawn or open, etc.

That's called a home.

When other people control the walls, they choose whether or not to open them (which is why the invasion of search engines in Friendster comes as a rude surprise), whether the door is locked or unlocked (which is why having your personal data owned by Fox is discomfiting), etc. When other people control the walls, you can't simply pack up your (digital) possessions and leave.

That's called a prison.

Of course even these generalizations are misleading.

Sometimes our own home is a trap. Sometimes we wall ourselves off from the rest of the world, keeping ourselves apart in ways that are not healthy. It's like when the emergency services can't gt through your front door to respond to 911. Or when we hide in the basement and pretend the tsunami outside is not real.

And sometimes the prison is a sanctuary. When we cannot afford walls of our own, or when we are in danger of being pursued by predators, or we need a place for a large group of us to meet in private, then we want a place with high walls and guards around the perimeter.

Walls - like most other things - are ethically neutral. Neither good nor bad.

It's what we do with them that matters, and what other people do with them to us. If the walls increase both our security and our freedom, then (all else being equal) they are good. If they reduce our security and freedom, they are not so good.

From my perspective, the best wall is one with a door, and the best door is one with a key.

2 comments:

  1. As you're growing up as a teenager, there are a number of things that you look forward to; getting your drivers

    license, graduating from high school, going to your senior prom, having your first date and having your first beer.

    The problem with this last one is that the drinking age and the thing you want make it something that you just can't

    have yet. And still, you want it and will go to any lengths to get it.

    Underage beer drinking is certainly no secret and to try to sweep it under the carpet isn't going to make it go

    away. But the most odd thing about underage drinking when it comes to beer is that even after kids sneak their first

    beer, they still want to have another one. If you're wondering why that sounds so strange then you need to think

    back to when YOU had your first beer. It was pretty nasty tasting. Let's be honest, beer is bitter and is an

    acquired taste. Very few people, if any at all, enjoyed their first beer. Many even get sick after it because of the

    taste or the fact that they're not used to the alcohol yet.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome your comments - I'm really sorry about the moderation, but Google's filters are basically ineffective.