Privacy or Openness. A shift in values?

While catching up on my Tweets tonight I noticed one from @shareski (and swooned over by @speters!) pointing out that Twitter made a cameo appearance on CSI, as shown in the video below…

It’s always interesting to see a less mainstream technology such as Twitter showing up in a very mainstream place like a top rating TV show… it’s sort of like being a teenager and seeing your dad wearing the same brand of clothing as you… You just sort of get the feeling that he’s only doing it to appear cool…

It seems to me that seeing Twitter on CSI signals a recognition of that technology, sort of the two ends of the long tail coming face to face for a moment. It’s like reading a novel where the main character is a webdesigner or a podcaster, rather than a lawyer or an accountant.

I’ve never watched CSI so I don’t know who they two characters are, but I really liked the exchange between them in this scene where they are looking through the victim’s Twitter page for clues. As they browse the page, one guys comments that because the victim was a blogger she may have left a clue amongst her tweets, and with a slightly sarcastic tone he says “Some people just don’t value privacy.”

His partner retorts that “They don’t expect privacy. They VALUE openness.”

His colleague snorts back… “Whatever.”

Listening to this exchange made me think about why some people are maybe less enthusiastic about embracing web 2.0 technologies. Whether they realise it on a conscious level or not, perhaps for many it really is about an idealogical struggle between two world views. Between valuing privacy or valuing openness. Many of our kids today seem to value openness more than they value privacy. Perhaps this gives an insight into why they are so willing to connect and share, so ready to engage in social networking practices, so willing to make connections online… perhaps they are growing up with a completely different mindset about the value of openness versus the importance of privacy.

As society’s values change it can create a shift in our ability to see things from a new perspective. My parents generation generally valued things like thrift, savings, hard work, stability, personal sacrifice, and yes, probably privacy. That’s quite a different picture I get of many kids today, where they seem to value things that are almost antithetical – living for the now, spending and materialism, flexibility, what’s-in-it-for-me, community and openness.

As an educator I have to keep reminding myself that there has been some fundamental changes in what my kids value compared to what my parents taught me to value. While I don’t want to put a blanket statement around this and make silly sweeping statement about “all kids today”, I think there is certainly some truth to the idea that there HAS been an underlying shift in values that cause our kids to see the world through a sightly different lens than we do.

And even more importantly, we need to make sure our response to this difference is not just “Whatever.”

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Privacy or Openness. A shift in values? by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

5 Replies to “Privacy or Openness. A shift in values?”

  1. Thanks for posting the actual segment from CSI, as I did not see it. Your thinking about privacy vs openness is “right on” as we all think about using web 2.0 tools in schools.

  2. There may be other factors than just a difference in values that cause kids to be more likely to embrace new technology. For example, today’s kid/teenager has a lot more expected of them than kids from 50 years ago. They are constantly pushed and told that making good grades isn’t enough to get into college. They also need to be athletes, musicians and volunteers. Today’s kid has to be everything, everywhere, all the time. If they want to have a social life, too, they have to resort to communication other than face-to-face. This is simply the reality for this generation.

  3. Great point Chris,

    Yesterday I spent the afternoon with teachers and the evening with parents discussion digital citizenship. As we looked at social networking privacy certainly arose as a key theme. Valuing openness and understanding the benefits is a great leap for many. Never having benefiting from an online connection as you and I have makes it simply appear invasive and someone voyeuristic.

    I tried to find an offline example they could relate to. I mentioned that recently we had a provincial election. Many people chose to post political signs on they yards to make a statement while others choose never to reveal their political views. Both are fine and acceptable choices. But the key thing is that in that context people understand the ramifications of both choices. I’m not sure they understand their choices in the digital world.

    When someone chooses privacy over openness, they do so as a default response because they have no reason or understanding to see why openness can be a good thing. That’s our challenge.

  4. Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) talks about this in his seminal post on the next phase of the Internet.

    The less inviting side of sharing is losing some control. Indeed, at each layer — Net, Web, or Graph — we have ceded some control for greater benefits.

    People running Internet systems had to let their computer be used for forwarding other people’s packets, and connecting new applications they had no control over. People making web sites sometimes tried to legally prevent others from linking into the site, as they wanted complete control of the user experience, and they would not link out as they did not want people to escape. Until after a few months they realized how the web works. And the re-use kicked in. And the payoff started blowing people’s minds.

    Letting your data connect to other people’s data is a bit about letting go in that sense. It is still not about giving to people data which they don’t have a right to. It is about letting it be connected to data from peer sites. It is about letting it be joined to data from other applications.

    It is about getting excited about connections, rather than nervous.

    So this idealogical struggle is part of an ongoing process. 20 years ago there were many who thought that connecting up all the computers in the world was a crazy, dangerous, pointless thing to do! (Some still think that – they work mainly in the network security teams of corporate IT departments).

  5. Thanks for your thoughts on this post. I have found them quite thought provoking. I really enjoyed the Tim Berners-Lee quote… I read his book “Weaving the Web” a few years ago and was struck by his sense of openness and his genuine altruistic desire to make the world a better place because it was the right thing to do (How different would the Internet be if someone like a Bill Gates had created the www? I doubt it would be based on open standards, equality, egalitarianism and freedom… Thank goodness it was invented by someone with a desire to make the world better and not just to figure how to monetise it!)

    Yes, I’m excited about the connections and am more than happy to trade some privacy in exchange for that freedom to express the things that matter to me.

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