I’ve often used “munge” as a verb meaning to slowly chew up or gnaw away. It’s a good one.
The sense of alarm bells ringing is clear for me too, but alongside Doug’s two options for action – collective and governmental – can we also debate the merits of collective refusal as a kind of action or even of politics? Off grid, dark mode, alternative choices without any or much public visibility. Less confronting the enemy, more avoiding the fight.
Technology certainly complicates but perhaps does not fundamentally alter the questions we each face every day about how to handle our potential public persona. We always retain some agency around the question “shall I go into the market/ forum/ square/ pub/ herd/ company/ system?” whether these spaces are physical, social or digital. Each of us according to their information, their needs and their feelings will consciously or unconsciously weigh up the rewards and drawbacks of participating, of having visibility, of engaging with others according to the conventions of those shared spaces. I endorse the power of Google in my choice of its data storage solutions over a paper filing cabinet, just as I endorse to the power of civil engineering when I flush the toilet rather than dig a pit latrine. A Roman citizen attending the games subscribes to the Imperial ideology. I’m signing up for gains and losses in each case. What’s novel around tech is that we are so caught up in the energy of its emergence that many of us will right now be poor at deconstructing and perceiving accurately how big tech extracts its rent from us. That’s changing, gradually.
Rejecting digital visibility (permanently or occasionally, @Doug I admire your Dark Month policy) is a part of the response weaponry for the impending catastrophe Doug identifies. Preserves sanity, withdraws consent, saves energy. How about a third type of praxis, then, alongside Doug’s two action themes: observe and celebrate the constructive withdrawal from shared digital norms. I’ve been involved in a couple of projects that do this for education in refugee settings. By force not by choice, the digital sharing option isn’t available so the distribution of content comes back to basics around direct person to person contact (A bit like the example in Doug’s piece of Greek doctors treating Syrians and not taking a record of names). It’s effective (why shouldn’t it be?) and there’s something to learn from it.
Even though our lives may feature choice and pervasive technology, we can adopt positive habits like ask guests to leave their device at the door when they visit us, go for a walk without a phone so we don’t take and share any picture, read a book, meet a friend in person, delete our social media profiles, not sign up using platform-provider authentication etc.