Saturday, March 11, 2006

Myspace and Transparency

I'm going to remix three views of Myspace. The first is from USA Today, entitled "What you say online could haunt you". The second is a set of notes from a talk given by Danah Boyd. The last is my own.

USA today is basically a warning that the Myspace is visible to others. The stories were about kids who thought they could freely post private comments which were in conflict with their public persona. They share then common attribute of a mistaken believe that the system was private, or somehow obscured from view of those in public.

Danah talks about three spaces, Public, Private, and Controlled.

The kids all thought they were in a private space. It turned out that the schools and other authorities managed to extend the controlled space of their lives into MySpace. It's especially ironic given the name of the site.

The surprise at being called out on one's hyprocrisy and the pain that can result aren't pleasant. Some will grow from this experience, and the others will simply find or build a more private space.

We face similar societal learning in many other spheres of life. The sharing of MP3s is a social act, which initially via Napster had a postitive overall impact for everyone. The sales of CDs got a shot in the arm, and a lot of people got to hear new artists and learn more about music. It was a public space.

The RIAA managed to change Napster from a Public to a Controlled space. Their actions shifted from trying to seek the copyright protections expressed in The Constitution, into a witchhunt.

The loss of Napster as a space to share copyrighted content freely was accepted by many, including myself. Not satisifed with cutting their own throats, the RIAA has been joined by MPAA and turned it into a crusade against any type of electronic file distribution.

There are many reasons to want to distribute a file, the RIAA and MPAA do it all the time, but they have monopolies on non-electronic distribution, so it's easy to see the motivation here.

The bought-off Congress has pushed through ill considered legislation which has further pushed along the anti-distribution crusade, which is starting to look like a war on the internet.

Eventually this will all come to bite back in one kharmic retribution. Why? It reduces transparency of the internet by encouraging encryption of traffic. This will make it increasingly hard for the NSA and others to gather intellegence. In one fell swoop, the crusade has managed to counteract untold (classified) amounts of investment in electronic espionage and monitoring systems.


The right to privacy isn't in the Constitution, it wasn't necessary before the communications revolutions of telegraph, telephone, radio and internet. The current climate isn't going to allow it to be amended to the constitution.

The right to find others in pursuit of building a private space, however is readily apparent. The boundaries of society are shifting, as they always have. The countermeasures against monitoring and social control will be adopted, and this will just become one more chapter in an endless story.

Over time even lies become become transparent.

Thank you for your time and attention.


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