The Serfdom of Crowds

The Serfdom of Crowds, which is an exerpt from You Are More Than a Gadget, brings up many points worth discussing regarding the internet.  The central thrust is people’s relationship with technology.  Are we shaping technology or is technology shaping us?  Are we a riverbed with currents of technology carving out the banks, pushing how we create and consume information, or is there a form of intervention?  Do we strengthen areas that appear weak, try to keep the changes from being too disruptive?
The first point in this article is that we are smarter than we give ourselves credit.  Technology tricks us into lowering our standards.  Are we amazed because the end result is amazing, or are we amazed because it was better than we expected?
The second point addresses the limits and drawbacks of social networking sites.  Before Facebook and Myspace, people could still share content with each other if they wanted.  The streamlined service and interface weren’t there, but anyone with a webpage and an email account could have been interacting with friends and strangers on an hourly basis.  What Facebook does though is force you to exist in there parameters.  List your relationship status.  List your job.  Where you went to college.  Enter your age, your name, your religion.  Enter the database.
Thirdly, what is the point of social networking sites?  Who are they for?  Jaron Lanier tells us to follow the money.  He argues that the real customers of social networking sites are the advertisers.  They pay money.  They pinpoint ads.  They try to shape adds to meet specific demographics.  The golden ring is all of that information people have logged about themselves.
Finally, the article sums up with a forecast that the most important content our culture is creating is advertisements.  We ask writers and musicians to give up their content, to allow it to be mashed up, but what if you did that to a Coke commercial?  This is a stretch.  I don’t think our society has become so commercialized that advertisements are our true product.  While we have changed tremendously in the last two decades, we will continue to change.  Technologists talk or used to talk about information overload.  The same will happen with advertisements.  Eventually, we will become just too saturated to take in more.

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