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Technology - the Good, the Bad & the Really Ugly

Posted by: Dissol

Tagged in: Web 2.0 , Twitter , London Riots , Facebook , Arab Spring


So I have posted several times recently on the same topic - on how technology, especially Web 2.0, Facebook & Twitter have been instrumental in the "Arab Spring". The World has been able to witness the brutality of several theocratic dictatorships, and how they try to suppress the Freedom of Expression. It has been remarkable to be able to track these in "real time", and even to interract with people on the ground. It enables us to circumvent the bias of different media outlets (although I still highly rate both the BBC & Al Jazeera very highly). That is the good.

The bad? The riots in the UK. Again, I used social media to track them, and to again make sure that family & friends living in the regions were safe. But it is also becoming apparent that the rioters were also using the technology, or more specifically Blackberry messenger service. Take a look at the excellent BBC report on its use: Clearly, the rioters were not demonstrating for any great social change, but rather they were aiming to loot. There have been many people trying to analyse the reasons for the riots, but I think most of their conclusions are meaningless. This was mindless violence by shitty little teenagers who were out to cause trouble, and perhaps pinch something nice at the same time (I was once a shitty little teenager too - although I never rioted, I did some pretty awful things at times...for no good reason). There are calls for the UK authorities to limit the use of this sort of technology in these situations. That is ridiculous; any of these teenagers is more computer / techno savvy than the civil servants, and if they closed down the Blackberry messenger, then they would quickly find an alternative. Better to use the technology against the rioters, and to track them. There are several websites such as Catch-a-looter, and twitter streams that are helping police to track these idiots down.

Now the ugly. I have a strange (very strange if you know my musical tastes), convoluted connection to the US band Sugarland (who play both types of music - country & western! - no some of their songs are amazing really). They were due to play at the Indiana State Fair, but a violent storm swept through just before they were due to appear, and the stage fell down on the crowd, killing at least 5 people and injuring many more. There are various videos on YouTube. Because of my connection, I was tracking the disaster, and was really horrified with some of the awful, ugly, disgusting comments left on the videos. It was a simple concert, no political, or religious, or patriotic event. But many people seem to have taken pleasure in this tragedy, and somehow claiming some sort of divine judgement. That is just ugly. I am sure the band members will make a proper response to this awful disaster, but the comments on YouTube (many of which are now being deleted) show just how low some people are in this world.

I am still an optimist though, and I am sure that the technologies we have, and the ones we will have in the future can & will provide benefits to societies all over the world. Just sad that some sections of societies abuse them...

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