Highlights of the discussion:
- We discussed Zittrain's point about the fight between generativity and control; there's a worry that because of problems with open platforms (viruses, spamming, etc.), people will move more and more away from general-purpose computers to appliances with strict control and little opportunity for customization (examples: the iPhone, the Wii, TiVo). On the other hand, we talked about the Wii as a tethered appliance and instances of people successfully hacking the Wii controllers--including CMU's very own Johnny Lee's low-cost Wii-mote smartboard.
- Privacy (p. 231) – Data is being centralized, and we can't monitor which applications are capturing which data about us. Do we just need to “get over it” in regard to invasion of our privacy? It seems to us that more and more (younger?) people are more willing to share their data. This bothers the librarians in the group, who have always been taught to keep patrons' data private.
- Security - is the Internet as dispersed as we believe? Will it be easier to compromise large amounts of PCs?
- Empowerment through technology - People in Tunisia are creating maps of prison locations using Google Maps so that prisoners' families can find and visit them.
- Democracy and the Internet - There's concern that people won't be properly informed; they'll get the news they hand-pick for their RSS reader and only opinions they agree with, resulting in an "echo chamber" effect. As a counter example, following the recent election on Twitter gave an idea of how the "Twitterati" felt about various news items, and you couldn't filter by opinion.
- Convenience vs. Security – People love Google Docs, Gmail, and other networked applications. But what would happen to your records if Google stopped offering these, or the Internet goes down? The convenience is great, but local backups are worth having.
Thanks to everyone who came out to discuss this book! If you'd like to get a head start for next time, we'll be reading Genetic Witness: Science, Law, and Controversy in the Making of DNA Profiling by Jay Aronson, a faculty member in our History department. The discussion will happen in early February.