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Teknikbolagens icke-tekniska mognad

Internet och teknikutvecklingen har alltid nått nya mognadsstadier. Hittills har det varit just tekniska mognader. En synlig och som haft stor effekt på hur företag marknadsför och distribuerar tjänster är hur vi gått från desktop till mobil, och nu är det ljud och assistenter. Men ett intressant mognadssprång vi bevittnar nu är inte direkt tekniskt utan i allra högsta grad mänskligt, filosofiskt och politiskt. Pådrivet av teknik, javisst. Det kommer handla om integritet och privacy i väldigt hög utsträckning framöver. Från makronivån pådrivet av utvecklingen inom AI som tvingar silicon valley att för första gången ställa sig frågan “vad är det att vara människa?”, till mikronivån “men vänta, vad sjutton gör ni med min data?”.

Balansakten att hitta ett godtagbart läge för en användare som ändå ger utvecklarna affärsmöjligheter är en tyst förhandling. Vi använder teknik och tjänster mot vissa garantier och löften (som vi ofta i efterhand blir medvetna om, inför nästa förhandling). Här är vi traditionellt villiga att gå långt eftersom vi får mycket fantastisk mycket tillbaka. Men det finns en gräns och den blir vi mer och mer medvetna om, och förhandlingen kommer att se annorlunda ut framgent. Teknikföretagen kommer, tror jag att se på, och agera, annorlunda i denna balansakt. Mer långsiktigt och medvetet än kortsiktigt och opportunistiskt, vilket man ändå får säga varit fallet. Zuckerberg har i svallvågorna av deras privacyproblem och analytica-skandalen lovat att förstå saker och ting lite bättre.  Roger McNamees bok på ämnet Facebook och ansvarslöshet (och aningslöshet?) lär ju vara läsvärd, och the WeatherChannel får ju verkligen förklara sig.

Ett extremt exempel

Apple går dåligt på börsen. Något som självklart kan förändras lika fort, men Exponent hade ett intressant inlägg kring Apples home turf hårdvara (podd) som kanske inte är deras  blockbuster framöver. Och har man då slagit på privacy-trumman när man hade en underbar hårdvaruaffär – fortsätter man slå lika hårt när/om mjukvara blir huvudsaken? DuckDuckGo valde Apple Maps självklart för att man är en privacyfokuserad passande match. Kanske är Apples bästa “produkt” privacy och inte iPhone, påpekar Fastcompany (intressant tanke). På nationsnivå handlar det självklart om exempel som “skandalen” med Huawei.

Inget av de exempel ovan behöver visa sig vara signifikanta eller talande för vart detta leder. Men det är tämligen säkert att en ny typ av mognad och sätt att agera verkligen har kommit till tekniksektorn, svepande summerat, som kommer innebära någon form av personlighetsförändring i branschen. Från att fått vara helt nyfikna och progressiva, ofta till och med blåögda (och gillats för detta), till något annat.

the role of journalism and reader participation

There’s an important discussion going on here in Sweden at the moment, about online newspapers and the possibility to comment on articles, and wether or not it’s working. Some leading newspapers think it’s not at the moment. Leading representatives are heavily engaged in this discussion, that reached some sort of climax (and resulted in shut-downs or changes to the commenting functionality) due to extremely racist comments, but not solely because of that, during the tragic incident in Norway.

They are, quite rightly, looking at this from a technical, resource and reader involvement perspective. Recently a media industry expert (Sofia Mirjamsdotter, Resumé) said it’s no surprise that this happened (closing down, limiting and/or changing privacy policies) as none of the newspapers had a participation/comment strategy. That’s looking at things from a very narrow perspective given the massive impact of (possible) reader involvement in online journalism. You don’t have a strategy for comments, you have a strategy for online news publishing, if at all that’s what you choose to call what you do.

Anna Hjalmarsson of Aftonbladet hopes that in five years, they’ll have found better ways of handling discussions where readers openly, and respectfully, meet each other and newspaper representatives. She also says that many active commenters express themselves as if nobody from Aftonbladet is going to read what they write, as if the discussions in the comment fields is something for the readers only.

Now that’s spot on, and it’s most likely contributed to a negative language and a tone. If an official representative (i.e. article author) revisits and responds, well, we’d probably have a more nuanced discussion. Maybe even a professional one. A comment function has less to do with the possibility to make yourself heard, and more to do with getting a response, a reaction. We talk to/with people. If the response is from somebody calling you an idiot, wishing you dead. Well.

Björn Hedensjö of DN.se says they’re genuinely interested in reader involvement, but at the same time they have limited resources. He says that the editors must make an active selection when it comes to which subjects should be discussed and then also engage in that following discussion. That’s a very good start. Selecting what articles and pieces are most relevant and likely to inspire, and facilitate, discussion. And because selecting is already a key aspect of journalism, it’s a natural extension of that. What is news worthy and what’s not, is a constant question. Why shouldn’t what is talk worthy? Often they overlap, but far from always. They are different and have different selection criteria. Especially considering the resource issue.

So considering this, I think we arrive where the real challenge sits. The key question with regards to journalism in general today, is the role it plays in society. Media (organisations), traditionally defined by the properties of the specific media (TV was always very different from radio, technically speaking), the organizational structure (ownership and possibly political associations) and funding/financing (licence and/or ad financed).

Media has always been institutions in society. They’ve always helped shape culture in the broadest and biggest sense. But newspaper journalism has mostly been about them writing and telling us about things. It’s been about sender-receiver. It’s been like that because of the technical context when it started, and when it was defined, explicitly or not. The technical properties of media used, did that. It’s all a product based on what was even possible. Now that’s changed. When an article starts and stops is changed. Finite has become infinite. What news story telling is (can be), has changed. So really what needs to happen, which is the reason it’s not about a strategy for comments, but rather a strategy, and definition, of online news journalism, is rethinking the sole purpose and role of online journalism. Which, of course means, the role of journalism in general. In this case mostly, but not exclusively, from a written word point of view. I really hope the question is answered on this level, and not mostly on a technical level, as many comments seem to suggest.

anonymous opinions and public revolutions

“The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself,” said Poole. “To fail in an environment where you’re contributing with your real name is costly.”

– Chris Poole, 4chan

“REAL change comes from people putting their necks on the line. I couldn’t remember a time when an anonymous person really enacted change in, well, anything. It’s why I sign my name to everything, even stuff that could get me fired,”

– Robert Scoble

From ReadWriteWeb

Both arguments are true. And we’ve seen more than enough evidence to verify that so is the case. It’s not either/or. When given the option, people will chose that which fits. Sometimes speaking up in public is what we need. Sometimes we need to be anonymous. Away from internet, the anonymous would hold his/her breath. Online that’s not the case. That’s quite groundbreaking, is it not?

Sometimes an anonymous person can start a revolution. Other times, many anonymous discontent people might need one public person to ignite them all. Going from reluctantly quiet and anonymous, to supporting an explosion of support. Confidence in numbers.