Big Brother a good thing?

Hey and thanks for stopping by!

Have you heard of Flash Robs?

A short description would be to start with your average Flash MOB, a social network and text-message organized group, comprised mainly of youths, who ‘spontaneously/on purpose descend on a particular area to do something unexpected. In this example they aren’t kids, but you get the idea.) Now, add in theft, violence, occasional assault, and other crimes. You have a Flash Rob.

And they are starting to sweep the continent.

A short Google search reveals them in Ottawa, Washington, Maryland, etc.

Organized online or via text.

Police are baffled on what to do.

So what does that have to do with us?

It seems the question is: how much monitoring should be allowed of online activity and text messages?

I don’t want this to turn into a knee-jerk reaction of monitor everything, or conversely to simply decree it as invasion of privacy.

Somewhere in the middle there has to be an answer.

Perhaps more poignant to us, what degree of responsibility do we are facilitators, educators, and adults have to ensure that technology in our spheres is not being used for illegal activity? And how can we do that?

At one point I taught in a school that had a program installed on every computer that allowed an administrator to log everything that went on that computer, complete with the ability to pull up a live screen shot of what was on any of the monitors in the school at any moment. That seems extreme, but yet I could understand the motive behind it – to a point. While I think there could be a strong argument that was an invasion of privacy, was it really? If you use public technology, should you be subject to that kind of close monitoring?

What about in schools? We have all seen the signs about not going to inappropriate websites; do we simply add in that anyone caught engaging in criminal/questionable activity will also lose their computer time? That seems weak, and a half measure at best. So what can be done, if anything? It’s hard enough to keep tabs on a single child, let alone a library full of them.

And that doesn’t even touch on Cell Phone usage.

There will be some who rightly say it comes down to parenting, and it does. But at the same time, we want our schools, libraries, and classrooms to be communities, and that means we have to take a certain responsibility for upbringing, instilling morals, and yes, correction and discipline – beyond just passing the actual problem on to others to deal with (parent, principals, police, etc).

I’m really stumped on this one as you may be able to tell. We want to people to engage in technology, in a digital and multimedia universe, and I think that is an admirable goal. But by doing so, we seem to open ourselves up to problem and challenges that we couldn’t imagine. Trying to stay abreast of them can seem daunting, but don’t we owe it to our students, ourselves, and society as a whole to pay more attention and seek answers?

How to do it though becomes a slippery slope. We don’t want the government and institutions in out computers and minds all the time. We want freedom of thought, expression, and speech. Those thing by very definition require a reduction in censorship, spying, and control. But what happens when that freedom turns ugly and illegal? This won’t be intervention against revolution and people rising up against tyranny, but crimes we all agree on that are wrong? (We’ll save the philosophical discussion on perhaps our society is set up wrong and hence forcing people to do these things. Or even darker, that we simply have been brainwashed to think this is how society should operate by an already existing ‘Big Brother’.)

How do we stop what is ‘good’ intervention now from becoming ‘bad’ intervention later?

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”, but at the same time “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.”

What do you think? How far should we go into monitoring things? Is it even our job? Or are we simply facilitators?



One thought on “Big Brother a good thing?”

  1. You probably know how I feel about this — I’m a libertarian at heart, and I am suspicious of ever handing over the authority of individuals to make decisions for themselves — including bad decisions. But that doesn’t mean I want bad decisions to be condoned or encouraged. Rather, I think it has always been the responsibility of educators to help students learn how to make good decisions for themselves and others, and to act in a way that benefits society. I think media literacy isn’t just an important thing; it is fundamental for everything we hope for our students and children.

    I agree it is worrisome to see how groups pervert social media. I’m not sure what to do about that either. I don’t want to cop out and say it is the dark side of the benefits we receive, but in a way, I think it is. The Internet offers powerful affordances indiscriminately, and we can’t control people who want to take advantage of those affordances to do awful things.

    Just an opinion.

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