We have to ask who’s creating this technology and who benefits from it. Who should have the right to collect and use information about our faces and our bodies? What are the mechanisms of control? We have government control on the one hand, capitalism on the other hand, and this murky grey zone between who’s building the technology, who’s capturing, and who’s benefiting from it.
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This is a moment to ask as we make the planet digital, as we totally envelop ourselves in the computing environment that we’ve been building for the last hundred years, what kind of digital planet do we want? Because we are at a point where there is no turning back, and getting to ethical decisions, values decisions, decisions about democracy, is not something we have talked about enough nor in a way that has had impact.
I think that what I want to say is that the polemics around the discourse of the Web are too binary. I think that one of the problems that we have in theorizing the Web is that we tend to moralize it in binaries. I get it. It’s bad. The Web is bad for you. Or the sort of free culture is always like, “It’s really good. It’s great. Free culture is great.” It’s neither.
I became tired of knocking on the same doors and either seeing the same people or different people. But I really just felt like I was in this cycle of faux liberation, where I would feel a victory, and the victory was probably formed around the RFP for the grant that we needed to get in order to do our work.
What does it mean for human rights protection that we have large corporate interests—the Googles, the Facebooks of our time—that control and govern a large part of the online infrastructure?
We asked our six thousand members to write to their candidates and say, “If you get elected, do you promise to take statistical training from the Royal Statistical Society?”