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LOLcats, Porn, Proxies and Censorship

Based on my Tripod experience, I’d offer the hypothesis that any sufficiently advanced read/write technology will get used for two purposes: pornography and activism. Porn is a weak test for the success of participatory media - it’s like tapping a mike and asking, “Is it on?” If you’re not getting porn in your system, it doesn’t work. Activism is a stronger test - if activists are using your tools, it’s a pretty good indication that your tools are useful and usable.

In late 1996, we noticed that Tripod was receiving a great deal of traffic from Malaysia. Searching through the server logs, we found lots of pages in Bahasa Malay talking about “Reformasi” and “Anwar Ibrahim”. I had to visit the Political Science department at Williams College to figure out that we were apparently hosting much of the Malaysian opposition political movement, dedicated to helping deposed and imprisoned deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim return to power. Malaysian media was largely closed to opposition voices, but investment in internet infrastructure meant that the opposition was able to access the internet and publish material that couldn’t be disseminated any other way. (Several of these pages still exist on Tripod.)

A Transparent Life

Even if we don’t all end as stars of our own personal Truman Shows, it won’t be easy to opt out of the transparent digital community that is taking shape. Social pressure to conform is powerful, and setting limits is hard. Next time a vague acquaintance asks to be your friend on Facebook, can you really say no?

New forms of social etiquette are badly needed to govern the hyper-transparent world that is emerging. So are technologies to help people gain more control over their online existence. Before being encouraged to opt in wholeheartedly, people must believe that it is still both possible and acceptable to opt out.

More of a fluff article from Financial Times about living in this age where what we do is so transparent. Has a few key points but doesn't have much depth to it.

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