Reconsidering the internet: Authority, accuracy and ethics NEW
I am not naturally inclined to understanding computers or the internet. I get it, but I also don’t. Before I started working at Pomegranite, the amount of time I spent on my laptop and more specifically The Internet was minimal (maybe an hour a day if at all). This hour would consist of checking my emails – as I was at that time frantically searching for a job – and having a quick browse through my Facebook feed. I spent the majority of my time watching yoga videos (Yoga with Adriene – definitely check her out).
My point is that it was a foreign and scary world to me. Having been to university and written many research essays, I understand the importance of verifying and understanding the sources of one’s information. I understand that you can’t quote Wikipedia and that a journal article far outweighs an obscure website. I understand this, but I also had a strange and great respect for the authority of the internet. For me, the internet seemed like a place that must have some checks and balances in place to ensure the accuracy of information and not necessarily truth but rather reliable information. (Truth is not something that can be easily defined or given. It is sometimes relative and I will not get into this philosophical debate today!)
When I started at Pomegranite, my responsibilities accumulated gradually. I went from managing a few Twitter accounts to a small amount of social media and a large amount of website building. This is what Pomegranite does – they build websites and manage your online presence. So why am I telling you this? In short I came to realise that changing and putting content into a website on the internet is dangerously simple. If I can do it then really anyone can.
My point here is not to say that we should disregard everything on the internet, only that perhaps we should come to the conclusion, as I have, that the internet is not always an authority. We should come to understand the space for how it behaves. The internet is constantly changing.
Jane Singer in her article ‘Norms and the Network’ argues that ethics are about interactions and the internet is a point of global interaction. She argues for a fluid interaction point where we understand that instantaneous information will mean that error occurs or, more accurately, information morphs and changes as time passes. I think this is a useful way to think about the internet.
So next time you are browsing the web, keep asking yourself: what is my relationship to the information that I’m consuming right now?