Social Change in the Digital Age


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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33 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    When I read this I thought of “minority report” and the retina scanning adverts that popped up. Frankly, this, and the scanning of cell phone activity with in stores, etc. gives me pause. Where’s my opt out?

    My data is mine. You want it, you should have to pay. The last thing I want is Nordstrom acting like the NSA and hoovering up my data too.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

      Those little grocery store “Membership” cards? I don’t mind the idea of keeping my privacy away from grocery stores but… they keep offering me 12 packs of diet pop for 3 bucks and coupons for the ice cream I like.

      Paying 3 bucks rather than 4 (or 5!) feels like making a worthwhile trade for them keeping track of my name and the list of the products I’m most inclined to buy.

      Which does make me wonder… if it’s worth two bucks per 12 pack to them to offer to me… what is it worth to them, on the bottom line?Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I cannot remember a time where it felt like people were ready to just let people do their own thing more than today. […] At the same time that personal freedoms seem to be blooming there are serious concerns about the government’s spying capability.

    Agreed. At times I’ve been asked whether we are more or less free today than in the past, and I find it difficult to answer.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to James Hanley says:

      As a gay man married to a gay black man let me answer for you. Yes. Actually -hell- yes.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to North says:

        Good point. Though I think Hanley’s right that the question overall is difficult to answer. Some people gain freedom in some dimensions of their lives even as others lose other freedoms.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North says:

        Well Yess…. I suppose so. As a white man I admit my freedom to do some things has been curtailed. On a serious note I have less privacy than I used to (but I am almost agreeing to this loss, it seems, since it comes via the use of services I would not have had available before). On a less serious note, as a white man my freedom to terrorize racial and sexual minorities is probably significantly reduced. Also it’s no longer cool to persecute the Irish which is a cut that stings a lot for this great great grandson of an orangeman.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to North says:

        I guess that depends upon how you define freedom. At the risk of opening up a new front on SSM, I’d argue that in the case of marriage, people are less free. Sure hetro and SSM is legal, but what about the poly? What about people who might want, say a marriage with a 10 year agreement with future options? Nah, by expanding the legal acceptance of marriage to SS folks, true marriage freedom has taken a small step back.

        Now, as to “people doing their own thing”. Yes, that’s an attitude that’s growing, but no where near enough to counter the massive survellience sate.

        @Kim Ofc plotting is free, right up until the gov’t decides that you’ve had enough freedom, or they’ve completed their lists and the SWAT teams come in and firebombs you with teargass fired from a bearcat.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to North says:

        @Damon I don’t think I follow you. Prior to SSM being legal Poly marriage was still illegal, so were your other examples. So on a strictly marriage front I fail to see how you could accurately call the marriage current situation less free. Some people who could not marry now can. No people who could marry now can’t. You’ll have to show your work on that assertion.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to North says:

        Currently, you need the state’s permission to get married-if you want the marital benefits. Before, it was only hetro’s that could get married. Now, another group has been granted that privilege. So, more people are currently ALLOWED to get married. What’s happened is that folks have petitioned Caesar to grant a boon and it’s been given. You define that as “freedom”? I sure as hell don’t. I define martial freedom as getting married how/when/with who you want to with no one telling you “no you can’t do that”. So, freedom has been reduced because the SSM folks have actively put themselves under the yoke of “marital control” of the state.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to North says:

        Damon – I understand the point you are making, however I think it’s concern-trolling. Are you suggesting that the best thing for our freedoms are to get the govt out of the marriage business altogether? If so, then I think that is a step backwards as there are a lot of good reasons for the government to promote marriage and the only bad is that they control access. The best way to fix that is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater but to expand access as the people see fit. If creating new types of marriages (10-year, poly, whatever) makes the most sense then we should push in that direction.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to North says:

        @Mike Dwyer

        Mike, I’m not “concern trolling”, and yes, it’s my firm belief that gov’t should not be involved in marriage, that all the legal / tax / etc. “benefits” granted to married couples, should be ended—full stop. As to your comment “The best way to fix that is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater but to expand access as the people see fit.” I see no reason why “the people”, which is another way of saying “the gov’t”, should have any damned say in how I choose to live my life or who I marry.

        Now, if by some miracle, things changed so that we all could get married anyway we wanted to anyone we want to, I’d be fine with that as a second, less optimal, choice, because everyone has the same benefits, etc. No way is that going happen though. People are too interested in telling other people how they should live their lives.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to North says:

        But Damon – you’re contradicting yourself here. You say, “I see no reason why “the people”, which is another way of saying “the gov’t”, should have any damned say in how I choose to live my life or who I marry.

        Are you suggesting that unless your chosen type of union also comes with legal recognition it doesn’t count? Because you can have any kind of marriage you want in a private ceremony. You’re advocating for a system where no one would get any kind of legal benefits from being married and yet you’re complaining that you can’t get those benefits. That doesn’t jive.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to North says:

        It used to be only 98% true that anyone who wanted to marry could have a private ceremony and call themselves married. In Utah, both of those were illegal for polygamous marriages. That law was, very sensibly, declared unconstitutional a few months ago, so now it’s 100% true.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to North says:

        No Mike, this is what I’m saying:

        Ideally there should be no legal/financial/etc. benefits for a civil marriage. And anyone should be able to structure a marriage how they so choose. Marriage would, in essence, become a contract.
        The next ideal marriage scenario would be for the current legal/financial/etc. benefits that SSM and Heteros currently enjoy and apply them to everyone. It would be available for the poly, for folks that only wanted to be married for 10 years, or whatever, however those getting married so choose to set up their marriage.

        My preference is for no one to get the “marriage benefits”. Baring that, everyone should be able to get those benefits in any form of marriage they so choose.

        As an aside: Religious marriages would be available from the respective churches but they could impose requirements, like the Roman Catholics do on for premarital counseling, etc.

        That make sense?Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to North says:

        Which of course raises the issue of why the community has any interest pro or con in marriage.
        You could dispute the data showing that committed coupling and household formation provides measurable benefit to the community in terms of wealth generation, lower social ills and so on.
        However, the community- virtually all communities- believe this, which is why marriage has always been a community celebration. Heck the strongest arument in favor of SSM wasn’t “I wanna do my own thing” but rather, “we want to join in the wonderful benefts of marriage”.
        So the question is, what sort of argument for turning marriage into a private contract, could be persuasive to the rest of us?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to North says:


        This: “Ideally there should be no legal/financial/etc. benefits for a civil marriage. And anyone should be able to structure a marriage how they so choose. Marriage would, in essence, become a contract.”

        This, again, seems like a contradiction to me. Why bother with a contract? If you and I are friends, even besties, we don’t need a contract for that. Or if two people are very, very serious boyfriend and girlfriend and even live together, we don’t need a contract for that. A contract seems to imply that marriage is something different. And if it is, then maybe it’s not such a bad thing to create some basic rules around it?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to North says:

        Civil marriage IS a LEGAL CONTRACT. It is a standardized contract specifying legal details on inheritance, child custody, binding financial dealings together, legal decision making power in medical emergencies and how to deal with breaking the contract(divorce). That is all that civil marriage is; a standardized legal contract. If people want there own contract they sign a pre nup. Nobody but very rich people do that. All the other stuff people put on marriage is religion or other beliefs, which there are no laws about. Same sex marriage is at it’s most basic, allowing a gay couples the ability to enter this form of contract and benefits that come from it. That really doesn’t sound all that scary now does it.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to North says:

        To answer your question: “So the question is, what sort of argument for turning marriage into a private contract, could be persuasive to the rest of us?” You support begging a functionary for permission to get married? Sure, your boon may be granted, IF you conform to what “the govt” or “society” thinks is a marriage. Didn’t we just go through that with SSM?

        Well you wouldn’t have to, unless you wanted certain legal arrangements.

        You’re correct that a civil marriage is essentially a legal contract. BUT you have to ask permission and consent from the state. And right now, only SSM and hetero folk are “permitted” marriage. As I’ve posted several times before, what about the rest of the folks that are still disenfranchised? No, my preferred solution is to remove the state’s involvement in marriage completely so there is no need to ask for permission.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to North says:

        @damon I didn’t have to get permission to get married. Just filled out the form paid the fee and off we went. Really nothing to it. The state doesn’t deny straight people getting married and it shouldn’t do that to go people.

        If you want to somehow get the state out then you have to come up with some other way of having a contract and a court like system to arbitrate them. But we do have courts already that handle contract disputes that follow from the law. Who else is going to set contract law and have judges to rule on them? I’ve heard this argument before but its never made any sense to me. We have a court system and laws to deal with contracts already.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

      Oh, ye of little faith.
      Of course we are more free.
      Is not the plotting of revolution proof that we are free?

      Rest assured, the freedom won’t last forever.
      Twenty years from now, the internet will not be freely available.Report

  3. Avatar veronica dire says:

    Personally I think a digital future will likely be pretty great, once we get used to it.

    Assuming we don’t kill ourselves off in some stupid war or eco-disaster or whatever. And we solve the energy problem somehow. And all of that.

    But yeah, infotech and the interwebz, pretty great stuff, changed my life.

    For me there is no real difference between “online friend” and “friend.” The two concepts merged completely ages ago. I like this very much. Really. I have so much connection, so much support.

    But then, the ads on Facebook are pretty scary.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to veronica dire says:

      The genocide’s already been planned, sister.
      (and yes, I really hate to death that first world
      countries are planning Genocide in the twenty
      first century).Report

    • Avatar North in reply to veronica dire says:

      I’m with Veronica here as well. For this country boy finding the internet was like the golden gates flying open and the light streaming down while angelic choirs cried out in joy.

      I think most of the naysayers and worriers are overwrought. The adaptability of humans is enormous and the young are already massively more computer savvy than their preceding generation. Hell, if we’d drawn the trend line in the 90’s we’d have honestly worried that everyone would be conned out of their money by Nigerian Princes. The kids that are growing up in this tech environment will swim through it like fish in the sea; only to us older folk they’ll look like they’re flying.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to veronica dire says:

      There is tremendous value in the communities of common-interest that develop because of the internet.

      There’s tremendous value in the ways the internet lets people connect.

      But there is also a dark side; the bounds of privacy are unclear. We don’t have the right to know who’s collecting information about us, who markets that information, who purchases it and what use they make of it. So it seems to me that more transparency is needed; if we are to live our lives so transparent, what that spawns should also be visible and methods of recourse for abuse available.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to zic says:

        There’s another dark side, the increased likelihood of confirmation bias.

        Communities of common-interest can quite often forget that their banding together from common-interest can lead them paradoxically to forget that not everyone that holds their common interest is represented. This can lead them to making category errors even regarding their own understanding of their common interest, and even worse, it can lead to massive correlation problems.

        For an example of the “worse”, see: (autism, suffers of) and (antivaxxers, preachers of)Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @patrick, I recently stumbled into one of those red-pill/blue-pill sites by accident (following a link from facebook). Did not realize the contours of the territory until after I’d posted that the op was silly (a post that women should always wear long hair because short hair on women is ugly), I basically had a whole lot of dude begging me to stop and take the red pill.

        I think the meme of Fox News illustrates. The risk of epistemic closures and echo chambers grows exponentially with the internet. But there’s a lot more outside the echo chamber that one may stumble upon, just as I stumbled down the rabbit hole of the MRM for a few moments. Platform accounts (disqus, in this case) make that very easy to do.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire in reply to zic says:

        One of those MRA sites?

        I have to say, those dudes are so off-the-charts horrible that I cannot even be mad at them. In fact, they kind of hit a level that goes past offensive, past pathetic, well into the range of hilariously grotesque. gets a frequent chuckle from me.

        Plus, you know, know your enemy and all.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Red-pill blue-pill? (Or am I better off not knowing?)Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

        @mike-schilling, I was introduced to this in Tod’s post on the men’s rights movement; a creed taken from the Matrix; you take the red pill to see reality (the matrix) or to see the ways mens rights are now violated all the time. Essentially.

        Forgive me if I’m insensitive to their plight and unwilling to take the red pill, I don’t particularly feel like being a female character in The Story of O. As the reality options get presented on the internet nooks and crannies I’ve found where red-pill/blue-bill usage is common, the way the users speak generally bolsters the opposite of what they’re trying to establish.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to zic says:

        I have no idea why the Men’s Rights Movement thought that they could take their ideological lexicon from the Matrix and be taken seriously.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to zic says:

        @mike-schilling Read Our Tod’s Daily Beast piece from a few months back.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to zic says:

        Thanks, Zic, I never saw The Matrix. I did like the Futurama take on it:

        [Leela]: Their bodies are used to generate electricity. The idea came from an old movie called “The Matrix”

        [Bender]: But… But wouldn’t almost anything make a better battery than a human body? Like a potato… or a battery?

        [Fry]: Plus no matter how much energy they produce, it would take more energy than that to keep them alive.

        [Leela]: I know, I know, it sounds absurd. In fact, when “The Matrix” first came out, it seemed like the single crummiest, laziest, most awful dim-witted idea in the entire history of science fiction.Report