Technology is Agnostic
JEFF JARVIS, author of Gutenberg the Geek (Amazon Publishing), Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live (Simon & Schuster, 2011) and What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009), blogs about media and news at Buzzmachine.com. He is associate professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.
He is consulting editor and a partner at Daylife, a news startup. He consults for media companies and is a public speaker. Until 2005, he was president and creative director of Advance.net, the online arm of Advance Publications. Prior to that, Jarvis was creator and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly; Sunday editor and associate publisher of the New York Daily News; TV critic for TV Guide and People; a columnist on the San Francisco Examiner; assistant city editor and reporter for the Chicago Tribune; reporter for Chicago Today.
Jeff Jarvis: Technology is, in a sense, agnostic. It can be used for good or bad. It can prove things or it can make them worse. It’s up to us as to how we use them. I believe that the internet can be essentially humanizing. If you look at, let’s say, Facebook there is a lot of talk about privacy and technology and all this stuff. I think that the real use of Facebook is very simple. It’s sharing. 845 million people are on Facebook not because they’re drunk, not because they’re insane, but because they want to connect with other people and they can now, and they do so through sharing, which is essentially social and essentially generous.
Now you can take that beyond Facebook into other areas. I wonder these days why, for example, we’re not very, very open about our health. Well, we’re not for a few reasons: one is employment and two is insurance, but those could be handled legislatively; the other reason we’re not open about our health is stigma. We’re afraid of what people will think about us because we’re sick. Well, that’s a terrible commentary, a very dehumanizing commentary on society today to think that anyone should still be ashamed of being sick. We’re well past the Black Death. So I think we’ve got to look at our norms as a society and realize that there are benefits to being public. There are benefits to sharing and to connecting. In health, if we all shared our health data--I'm not saying anyone should be forced to, but I'm saying if we did, if we could, we’d probably find new correlations, perhaps even cures.
So we’ve got to examine that as a society. Now that we have these tools that enable us to connect, then how do we use them? The internet is often thought of as a medium. People in my business, media, look at it godlike in their own image as a medium. I don’t think it’s that at all. I think the internet is a connection machine. It connects us with information and transactions and actions, but especially it connects us with each other, and I have to believe--I'm an optimist--that that’s going to make society better. If you don’t start from an assumption of faith in your fellow man and woman, then I don’t think you believe in the value of democracy or free markets or reform religion or, for that matter, journalism, education or art. If you do believe that the other people around you are essentially good and want to be good, then let’s use these tools to bring that out in people, and that’s the most humanizing impact I can imagine.
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Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd
The journalist and author believes that the extent to which technology benefits humanity is up to us, its users.
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