Week 1 brainstorm on Empowerment

During today’s (Friday) class we were split into groups to talk about various ideas linked to the theme of ‘Empowerment’. My group talked about the issue of censorship and surveillance, which was brought up quite a lot in Klaus Schwab’s article The Fourth Industrial Revolution (week 1’s reading for Media 6). The way technology is heading, in terms of it’s ability to track everything we do, could lead to what we called the ‘North Korea’ option; where the whole of society is tracked and limited in terms of what they can do/view due to censorship laws. A slightly more commercial version of North Korea would be a society where everything civilians do becomes data, essentially a 100% ‘open information’ society where there would be no privacy. This potentially means that people would have microchips put in them – this would be their I.D, their credit card, maybe their phone and it would make it incredibly difficult for anyone to commit crimes (and get away with it). Information would be (and is already being) sold to companies to target specific people and insurance companies (particularly health insurance companies) would be able to track a client’s well-being and charge them more or less depending on this factor.

Society could also end up going in the complete opposite direction due to the advancements of technology; everything could become globalised and decentralised and governments would have less of a role in society. Civilians could become autonomous and (kind of) ‘be their own boss’, working for online platform businesses such as Uber. This decentralisation would make it harder for governments to track exactly what people are doing (for example, not knowing exactly how much money they are making and thus being unable to tax them the correct amount of money) and also potentially eradicate the ability to censor any media content.

This brought us to the question that was raised in this week’s reading: to what extent are civilians willing to trade their privacy for technological advancements? According to Astrid Scott, who talked at this week’s lecture, very few people actually care that their personal information is being used by commercial corporations.

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