In reviewing my posts, two themes became apparent to me, although the first supports the second such that the second is the primary focus. The first is a tendency toward addressing the majority of digital studies topics through a philosophical lens. This seems reasonable as in studying technology and its relationship with individuals and society, we are fundamentally addressing the same general themes and topics as broached in philosophical discussion. Arguably all of the topics that comprise digital studies must seek to understand (or at the least assume) human nature and perspective, which consequently, is likewise a fundamental aspect of all philosophical debate (this explains the significant influence of eastern philosophy in my writing). Put another way, the issues (topics) of digital studies, as with all social issues, arise from human nature.
Second, and more notably, for the good of society, every individual needs a healthy, general skepticism towards information provided to them. This has been true since humans developed language and started sharing ideas. In talking about this general skepticism towards information, we must ask the essential question: as technology progresses, how does it affect how we are given and perceive information? This question of perception exemplifies philosophy/metaphysics relevance in digital studies topics.
To answer this question, we must discuss the nature of technology as a tool wielded by a conscious mind. While clear in terms of email, this statement becomes less clear when considering if artificial intelligence can be advanced until it develops consciousness, or even if there is a method to determine consciousness. Regardless, the technology sustaining modern society can be accurately considered a tool. Societies many misconceptions about technology were introduced on the first day of this course and have remained a focus throughout. Society lacks wholistic understanding of technology (black box) and fills this void of knowledge with assumptions. One such inconsistency is personifying technology past its realistic nature as a coevolving tool, but a tool nonetheless, with society. Again, how does technology affect individual perception which extends to societal perception? As technology has advanced, information has become more readily available, individual thoughts can be amplified and shared further, and information has overloaded society.
Skepticism, as the desire to know something with as much certainty as possible, has always been an evolutionary advantage, and the majority of people (the poor) have always gone along with information given to them by the media or government. Technology saturating society with information at an accelerating rate has further encouraged individuals to believe the first information they hear regardless of its backing. It is increasingly important that things be “brought into perspective” and for every individual to desire credibility and value their personal judgments.
This can be seen in my first post titled, Will the Internet Remain the Land of the Free? As this was written while my knowledge and overall thoughts were underdeveloped, I do not directly discuss the media or the power of using information to influence others. Instead I discuss the general trend in government policy towards further enabling major organizations to maximize their influence (power). Congruent with the purpose of the primary theme in my writing to bring things into perspective and bring light to the responsibility of each individual, I state, “The responsibility of maintaining freedom of information on the internet falls increasingly on the users themselves.” There is a villainous marionettist in neither the media nor the government, instead, the dangers of the media and government arise from the summation of human nature that is these massive, complex social structures. With this perspective, the only reasonable solution is for every individual to own up to their responsibility to combat their natural tendency towards efficiency (resulting in complacency and laziness that causes society to become all the more easily influenced).
In my second post titled, What is the True Economic Impact of Data Centers on Their Local Communities, I directly discuss popular news outlets manipulation of reports (information) influencing the publics opinion on the economic impact of major data centers. I specifically note the Washington Post article, Could Centers Bring High-tech Flash but not Many Jobs to Beaten-down Towns, which not only highlights negative aspects and undermine or ignores positive aspects but does so by appealing to readers emotions. While it is no secret that the most effective method of persuasion is through emotional appeal rather than facts, major news organizations harm society by attempting to provide people with the organizations opinion rather than providing credible information and encouraging readers to come to their own conclusions. Of course, news organizations desire profit and since individuals don’t want to think for themselves, this style of reporting is (as discussed earlier) a symptom of human nature. This further exemplifies the responsibility of every individual towards combatting this, as opposed to the easier (and less responsible) answer of somehow implementing policy to change to restrict how news is reported.
In my fourth post titled, Troll’s Accidental Gift to Society, (a revised title might be Troll’s Unintentional Gift to Society), I present the perspective of internet trolls as beneficial to society. As I explain, “The truly frightening individuals are those who have the self-control to oppress others discretely and without others knowledge”. I must note that the term “troll” has acquired a broad definition. I mean to say that sickly playful trolls bring the power of manipulation of information into light and leave observers skeptical of statements lacking backing without significant harm. This effect minimizes the seriously harmful impact caused by intentional trolls (like the Russian’s in the 2016 election) spreading disinformation have on society and democracy.
These reoccurring themes in my writing are general, but it is their broad relevance which speaks to their value. It would certainly be interesting, if lacking utility on its own, to further explore the idea that all social issues arise from a general human nature as an amalgamation of individuals nature. The theme of the importance of identifying every individual’s responsibility towards combatting in their own lives is rooted in the previous idea as it would be a fallacy if overarching social issues did not arise from individual’s nature. Further exploring this idea would certainly be worthwhile as it is a generalized explanation of my overarching theme that healthy skepticism towards information and leadership is in the best interests of society. Effectively motivating individuals to take due responsibility in combatting social issues such as disinformation, greed, and discrimination (understood as symptoms arising as a result of society fundamentally being the summation of individual’s human nature), would be more beneficial than offloading responsibility to politicians as we so commonly do. The question still remains, how could one effectively motivate individuals to be fully accountable and to internalize their responsibility in shaping society.