Interesting articles on issues ranging from a small town fighting for asylum seekers to stay, to Cambridge Analytica.
I wrote this piece early this year, before the Elon Musk twitter storm that led to theTesla battery installation a couple of days ago. It appeared in the latest edition of The Stick, and given the chat around the battery installation, I thought it was worth re-sharing the piece, and thinking about the impact of these recent developments beyond the novelty.
On September 28, 2016, South Australia was hit by a once-in-50-year storm. Despite being a world-leader in integrating intermittent renewable energy generation into a constrained electricity grid, the state’s energy system was tested by the extreme weather event.
Over 40 per cent of South Australia’s energy is generated by wind and solar power, and there are no longer any coal-fired power stations operating in the state. The only back up power comes from the neighbouring state of Victoria, heavily dependent on brown coal. Unfortunately for South Australia, and the advocates of renewable energy, the storm caused the state to lose all power. The statewide black out, which dragged on for days, was an unprecedented and catastrophic engineering failure. However, South Australia’s failure should not be seen as the failure of the renewables transition. Instead, it is a prime opportunity to understand the delicate engineering challenge of integrating new, intermittent and asynchronous sources of power into ageing infrastructure reliant on conventional power generation. Understanding what happened in South Australia enables us to understand what is possible with today’s current technologies, and what truly stands in the way of a complete transition to a carbon neutral future.
So what happened on that fateful Wednesday afternoon?
According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)’s final report into the events, South Australia’s series of woes began with two tornadoes with gale force winds of 260km/hr knocking out three major transmission lines. When a transmission line is damaged, it often short circuits. As a result of such a “fault”, the line almost immediately disconnects, protecting the rest of the system. Almost. For a fraction of a second, the voltage dips in the grid, and it was these voltage dips that lead to the cascading failure of the system.
Typically, power generators — whether wind, gas or otherwise — are designed to “ride-through” a voltage dip, allowing them to continue to operate through a fault. However, unbeknownst to the AEMO, responsible for operating energy markets and power systems, several wind farms in South Australia had been set up with a protection feature limiting their tolerance for disturbances. If the number of faults in a specified period of time exceeded a pre-set limit — for instance, two faults in two minutes — the safety mechanism activates and a wind turbine will either reduce its output, stop operating or disconnect from the network. Strangely, this critical protection feature had been left out of all simulation models submitted to AEMO, so the market operator had no idea that their wind turbines were vulnerable to disconnection due to voltage dips.
The damage wrought by the weather caused six voltage dips to occur over a two minute period. Without warning, nine wind farms activated their protection features and 456MW, or almost a quarter of South Australia’s energy demand, was lost from the system. The remainder of South Australia’s generation was wind and “slow responding thermal” (gas), and therefore unable to pick up the slack in time. Instead, Victoria, the neighbouring state, which was already providing 24 per cent of South Australia’s electricity requirements at the time, began to compensate. During the seven seconds of power loss from the wind farms, the system began to draw significantly more electricity than the single interconnector between the two states could handle.
It was like trying to light a football field from a single powerpoint, blowing the proverbial fuse. The interconnector tripped, and Australia’s fourth largest state became an “electrical island”. The entire population of 1.7 million was plunged into darkness. It was known as a Black System event, and it took 13 days for the last of the remaining customers to have their power restored.
South Australia’s Black System ushered in weeks of finger pointing and blame shifting among politicians, energy operators, pundits and consumers. Conservative politicians blamed renewable energy, renewable energy purists blamed the market operators and the majority of the state and nation simply wanted the problem to be solved.
Part of why the South Australian example is so important is because it is tackling what is known within the industry as the “energy trilemma”. This is the tension between energy security (reliability), equity (affordability and accessibility) and environmental sustainability. As we move importantly and inevitably towards sustainability, there can be no question that energy security and equity will be tested. How they balance out is being watched very closely.
From an engineer’s perspective, the focus is often squarely on reliability. The challenge of integrating intermittent renewable power generation sources into a system that hasn’t been designed for it means the energy supply is not always as resilient, and therefore, potentially less reliable. This poses a significant political risk for leaders and often the argument for baseload coal and gas generation is offered as a solution. However, in this case, AEMO found the operations of the gas generators had little to no material effect on the event, to the dismay of renewable energy opponents. Yet a quarter of the state’s energy was coming from Victoria, largely powered by brown coal. So although South Australia may not have coal-fired power stations within its borders, it is still in some way dependent on their operation for baseload power. The answer for the perfect mix of power generation is certainly not clear cut.
What is clearer however, are the broader consequences of such an event and the potential loss if it is interpreted incorrectly. The lessons learnt from these massive engineering failures provide invaluable insight into how to design out a system’s weaknesses. Technical industries rely heavily on learning from major incidents; the oil and gas industry, for example, designed many safety systems from lessons learnt after Piper Alpha in 1988 and Macondo in 2010. The opportunity here to improve the system and avoid a similar incident in the future not only benefits South Australia, but can also have a global impact. By demonstrating how renewable sources of energy can be integrated into an ageing electricity grid, South Australia is providing a blueprint for the energy transition globally.
That is, if the interpretation of the event and the subsequent discussion remains true to the technical findings.
Unfortunately for engineers, the reality of the energy trilemma means that the technical solutions alone are not always enough, and run the risk of getting lost in posturing and agendas. The political and economic challenges are steep. Tackling these requires moving away from blatant and dogmatic ideological approaches to a view that is committed to achieving the optimum balance of sustainability, affordability and reliability. This may mean not turning of all fossil fuel powered generators tomorrow, but it also means not shying away from pushing for the carbon neutral future that we need to survive. For whether we like it or not, if we don’t get sustainability right, there may not be a world for us to live in where affordability and reliability matter at all.
Thanks for reading! This is my first technical piece, so please share any thoughts / feedback / comments below! ❤
The niqab, burka and things women women use to cover their heads and faces due to faith are of great fascination for much of Western society. Much of the commentary precludes opinions from the ‘primary source’ (women who wear these items of clothing), and as such there are significant and often damaging assumptions made about the subjects.
‘Subjects’ is an uncomfortable but apt term, as many niqabed Muslim women are seen as foreign objects of curiosity and conjecture. They are rarely ever perceived as human women who have hopes, dreams, kids, families, gardens, laundry and all the same dramas as every other human.
So given the fact that I don’t wear the niqab, what gives me the right to talk about this topic?
Nothing really, to be honest, and I do my best not to talk on behalf of, but to hopefully propose alternative narratives in an effort to change perceptions. This post is one such example.
As you may or may not know, I spent the first half of 2012 in Sudan with my grandmother, learning how to cook, become a ‘good housewife’ and studying Arabic at the local university. The university I went to, unbeknown to me at the time, turned out to be an Islamic based - and very traditional - institution for international students from all over Africa. This meant that the classes for men and women were separated and many of the women were from all over Africa, rather than just Sudan.
I was fortunate enough to befriend many of my fellow classmates, although it was an interesting experience as our life experiences were very different! Funnily enough, because we were in an all-women class, all the ladies would remove any niqabs they wore and many would have their hair out (the 45 - 50 degree heat wasn’t conducive to many layers of clothing). As such, my ideas of them were not founded around what they wore but their varied personalities and stories. I’d actually forgotten they all wore niqabs until I saw the following photographs on a former colleague’s Facebook page:
What are these photos, you may be asking? Are we seeing women being trained up for some crazy operation that we don’t understand?
No, what you see are African (Ugandan and Nigerian) women being trained as mechanical engineers and technicians.
Not only do these women have to brave the standard ‘women in engineering’ perception, they have to do so in an extremely hostile and patriarchal culture. They learn how to take apart engines, weld and manufacture equipment, and do so with flair.
It is inspiring.
They’re smart and driven, but also feminine and devout. Sure, it isn’t easy. There is no denying the difficulties… but these are examples of women who do almost everything they want to, and what they wear in no way oppresses them.
Kinda cool huh? Glad you clicked? I am too :)
This piece appeared in the Weekend version of the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend...what do you think?
A recent YouTube sensation has reignited an age-old conversation about the dearth of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
GoldieBlox, the crowd-funded toy company claims to be on a "mission to inspire the next generation of female engineers". It is doing so by selling toys themed around invention and construction, and pitching them to girls. The concept of encouraging girls into these disciplines at an early age has merit. Yet if society is serious about encouraging more women into technical areas, a variety of factors must be addressed. It must start early, but effort needs to be spread across the board to entrench change.
An Early Start
An introduction to the technical world at an early age would be a great start. Unfortunately, these disciplines continue to be seen by society as largely unfeminine, leading to an unconscious bias in the way we talk about them with young girls. This bias is then internalised, affecting their interests, subject and career choices down the line.
However, an early introduction does not necessarily have to be swathed in pink and lace to appeal. It can simply be in the types of activities young girls are exposed to. My father, an engineer, took my brother and I to science and rail museums, bought us a microscope and Meccano sets from a very early age. Our gender was no point of difference and the family environment was such that science and engineering were seen as interesting and exciting for all.
To say that female minds are less attuned to technical fields is fallacious and dangerously misleading. Correlation does not equal causation; and anecdotally, girls tend to do quite well in technical subjects. Perhaps that can be related to the fact girls are unlikely to choose a "male-dominated" subject unless they excel at it, because of societal expectations. We have not yet earned the right to be mediocre.
By actively engaging girls, the exciting realities of what science, technology, engineering and mathematics actually involve can be better illustrated and communicated. A clear understanding of what engineers do is often lacking, and the stereotype prevails. The image of a mechanical engineer as a man working on cars and covered in grease is all too common, notwithstanding the fact that it is often far from the truth.
Another critical component of attracting girls and retaining women in these fields is the use of role models. This is imperative, and they should not only be celebrated simply as anomalies due to their gender but as inspiration by virtue of their achievements. The talent pool of role models to choose from at the moment is solid and inspiring, but hardly expansive. Engineers Australia's Statistical Overview of the profession describes the situation diplomatically. "Australia has some extraordinary women engineers but this should not be confused with improvement in the status of women in engineering." For more role models to exist, we need more women achieving at higher levels in industries. To do so, labour market imbalances and obstacles to women's true engagement in these sectors must be addressed.
In 2011, the proportion of women in the engineering force was 10.9 per cent. Unemployment numbers between men and women in engineering were also starkly different, with 2.5 per cent for the former and 9 per cent for the latter.
Ultimately, the numbers will remain low if society continues to perceive technical disciplines as a fundamentally male-dominated space. Until this deeply entrenched gender expectation shifts, girls and women who choose these fields will continue to exist in minorities. We must focus on the way we talk about and present these disciplines to our young girls to ensure they grow up with choices free of gender bias.
What are the ingredients required for a sustainably innovative, entrepreneurial, and growth-oriented environment? Australia was recently named among the top quartile of G20 countries in which to be an entrepreneur. There were five criteria: access to funding, the country’s “entrepreneurial culture,” the tax and regulatory framework, access to education and training, and the amount of collaboration and support between the private and public sectors. Australia placed fifth, behind the United States, South Korea, Canada, and Japan.
These benchmarks reflect the factors required to engender strong entrepreneurial capacity within a nation and also point to how companies can turn the entrepreneurial capital within their ranks into profitable innovation.
What can we learn from Australia’s high ranking? How can companies make the most of the current environment and foster an innovative, entrepreneurial culture? Must governments take the lead in creating such a culture, or can companies create it themselves?
Salacious photos are not something to generally be given the time of day. When the topic comes up as part of another 'scandal' in politics or a celebrity's life, I tend to shake my head and wonder what the person was thinking.
Notwithstanding this, a subplot running through this week's 'The Newsroom' episode was cause for reflection, particularly around this idea (or myth!) of privacy in today's world.
The subplot in question was explosively introduced in the opening scene. Nude photos of one of the characters, Sloan (a respected TV anchor), had been posted up on a site. These photos quickly went viral, and the channel is left to deal with the results. The interesting thing about these photos was that they were taken with her consent by an man she was dating and trusted implicitly at the time. When she dumped him, he took the due 'revenge' he felt was 'owed' to him through by utterly humiliating her.
'I am feeling something very I don't know how to describe right now', Sloan says on the show.
Betrayal perhaps? Insecurity? Utter helplessness? One can only imagine what it must feel like to have a truly intimate moment be broadcast online.
Her confidante at the time said it was rage - or will quickly turn into rage. Sloan finishes the episode in the boardroom of said jilted lover, punching him out and getting a little revenge of her own.
There are a number of interesting readings of this plot. Sloan's character is a genius; she's a well respected economist and commands audiences of hundreds of thousands. Surely, a thirty year old highly educated woman wouldn't put herself in this situation. Surely she would think to delete identifying photos if they were taken, even if she had consented?
Well if recent history is anything to go by, people do very silly things with cameras and phones without seeming to think about the consequences (or in the case of Anthony Weiner, even seeming to care). In this case however, Sloan wasn't doing anything technically 'wrong', so that argument is less substantial. It does raise the question about the line between an individual's public and personal life though, particularly in an age where this is becoming increasingly blurred.
She sights her implicit trust in this guy as the reason she didn't expect this sort of revenge. 'It wasn't a bad breakup - but even if it were, would this be okay?!', she asks, and rightly so! Humiliation and the essential defamation can regularly - and do regularly - annihilate reputations. We all know that reputations are the easiest things to damage and the most difficult to repair. So the act of distributing the photos we can agree, is immoral.
Is it criminal?
Whose responsibility is it to ensure these things don't happen?
Is your privacy always your individual responsibility or should is there an implicit trust in relationships with people - and institutions - that should also bear part of the burden?
It feeds into a larger question about an individual's right to privacy, particularly with the exposing of PRISM, the actions of the NSA and even the likes of Google implying that privacy online is a myth.
Unfortunately, it is increasingly difficult to effectively operate in this society without being online. So how does one walk the line? Are we all to always be on-guard and take precautions, accepting that being selective about what we share - even to our closest friends - is never really actually private?
What will happen when people growing up in this online society become leaders of state? Will there never be any surprises because everything is already online? Will our moral appetites change because we become accustomed to every single infraction being displayed and obsessed with the world over? Or will there be an industry based around the erasure of online profiles to give people an opportunity to 'start afresh'.
What do you think?
One of the very worthwhile groups that I work with is the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, and I've gotten involved this year to try to increase their student involvement and relevance. One of the ways we are doing so is with a Student Night, this week! I don't really want to use this space as just free-for-all advertisements and plugs, but I thought this would be worth it.. (and I really like the posters I made!). We have an awesome line up set up - including:
Martin Johnstone - BP Maintenance Planning Superintendent Jonathan Martin - Arrow Energy LNG Implementation Manager Michael Rosengren - Asset President BMC Milton Carruthers - Hatch Associates Principal Mechanical Engineer Leslie Yeow - IMechE QLD President, Energex Ranehipura Dharmasiri (Daya) - IMechE rep, Queensland Rail Jacqui Mcgill - General Manager, South Walker Creek Mine Jessica Holz - Umow Lai Consulting Engineers Belinda Herden - Turnarounds Engineer, BP, IMechE Young Member of the Year Award Recipient (2012)
The details can be found HERE on the Facebook page (and that's where you can register!). It's this week on the 11th of April!
...and I know this is what you have been waiting for, here are the posters!
In other words, only white people can stand in for the human race as whole.
No act of sexism is too small to ignore: a good piece about changing cultures. The interesting link here can be made with changing of any cultures; as the author says, there is no point in half draining the toxic swamp.
An arresting article on South Korean women who have had plastic surgery. Apparently, they see it just like putting on makeup…what an interesting cultural difference.
An amazing piece by an young Asian-American lady, who found her niche when she always thought she was an outlier… beautiful personal essay: Outsider / Insider. Also from Rookie Mag, a beautiful piece about losing your original culture when you are brought up in a different country.
Stop and realise…these are our good old days. We are living them now! How exciting is that?
The difference between being alone, and lonely.
A reflective piece on being an expatriate and what it is like when you come home. Leaving Australia for good.
From a more technical point of view, how will this non conventional gas boom affect US economics and politics and the rest of the world?
Enjoy your week!
Hillary Clinton is extremely popular right now. Will she be the first female candidate for US presidency? What do you think about her policies?
An interesting Freakonomics experiment: Have a question? Let Freakonomics flip the coin for you!
Thinking of volunteering abroad? 5 expectations to avoid!
Jeremy Fernandez, a TV presenter, has an experience with racism and asks, why do people want to still vent their hate in 2013?
From the Harvard Business Review: Now that it is February, it is time to think about the year in earnest. The question is, do you want to have a year that matters?
Muslim fashion finds its flow! There are a fair few fashion ladies in the Muslim world getting amongst it, here is just one example.
Lastly, a lovely tune heard on the radio recently. A little strange, but an amazing sound.
*Click images for source.
Since finishing school and university, I have found that I miss the formal learning side of those years. Luckily though, I have access to the internet, and with that a plethora of interesting tools; courses, podcasts and interesting articles to keep the brain busy and working.
The Conversation is an independent source of analysis, commentary and news from the university and research sector viewed by 550,000 readers each month. Our team of professional editors work with more than 3,600 registered academics and researchers from 240 institutions.
I get the daily newsletter in my inbox every morning and it is a fabulous bit of e-kit, with often plenty of thought provoking discussion and perspectives to keep my mental juices flowing.
2. The Economist Easily my favourite weekly magazine, it also has a robust online counterpart with good articles, forums for discussion and lively debates galore. Oh, and it isn’t just about economics.
3. TED If you haven’t discovered TED, you haven’t truly lived on the internet.
4. Khan Academy Videos on everything and anything. Fabulous, and very informative…and many mates at uni used this to learn their courses.
5. Vocabulary.com A fun way to learn new words, and very comprehensive! I have an issue with retaining all the new words I learn, but adding something to the vocab every week is probably a way to go.
Vocabulary.com is the easiest, most intelligent way to improve your vocabulary. It combines an adaptive learning system (The Challenge) with the world’s fastest dictionary (The Dictionary) so that you can more quickly and more efficiently learn words.
7. Sociological Images They say: Sociological Images is designed to encourage all kinds of people to exercise and develop their sociological imagination by presenting brief sociological discussions of compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of sociological inquiry. I say: This is the whole “critical thinking” part of English class I loved.
8. Sporacle Mentally stimulating procrastination through quizzes!
9. MIT’s open courseware As MIT are so awesome, they let you access all their knowledge. For free. You can download the study material, the lectures, the videos and learn it all yourself. Go!
We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.
Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.
This website is gold. Fabulous resource for anything…I’ve signed up to a few courses that begin in January so I am looking forward to it!
So there are some tools that can keep the little grey cells stimulated…what about you? Do you find anything particularly useful?
This is an archived post, originally written for Future Challenges.
The Stop Online Piracy Act, SOPA.
The Protect Intellectual Property Act, PIPA.
These are a few examples of many governments’ attempts, both within Australia and internationally, to fight what they see as “cyber crime” or ensure “cyber security”. The question to ask however, is whether these attempts are true steps forward in fighting unlawful and harmful action, or whether they are misguided endeavours to control users, and how effective are they in reality at either of those roles?
We live in an increasingly online society; Information and Communications Technology (ICT) plays an intrinsic role in the daily lives of most Australians, so much so we almost no longer consciously realise it. Like any tool however, ICT can be utilised for both lawful and unlawful pursuits and as such, “cyber crime” has become an issue of consideration for those concerned with the security of the nation, including the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
“High Tech Crime” is the purview of the AFP and is defined in Commonwealth legislation within Part 10.7 – Computer Offences of the Criminal Code Act 1995 . This includes crimes that rely on the use of ICT, or which target ICT equipment, data and services. The Australian High Tech Crime Center (AHTCC) was formed in 2008 and looks after these types of attacks; intrusions, denial of service (DoS) attacks, destruction of data and distributing malicious software (AHTCC 2011).
The AFP’s role is relatively understood, they pursue individuals and groups who have broken the relevant legislation. To aid this, in November 2011 the Australian Government made movements towards joining an international treaty fighting internet crime. This is hoped to reduce the estimated $1 billion in risk to Australian companies from cyber crime every year (The Australian, 2011).
Internet filters however, are a different beast and there are questions about their efficacy and the motivations behind them.
In 2009, the Australian Government began a campaign to introduce an ISP based internet filter to “block overseas sites which contain criminal content” (ABC News, 2009). This would be done through the creation of a “blacklist”, which would be maintained by an independent body in order to “protect Australians from unsuitable material”.
The actions however, brought resounding criticism from a multitude of corners, including the Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), who rightly posed the question:
“Exactly what will be blocked? Who will decide and why is it being attempted in the first place?”
The EFA’s Vice Chair Mr Jacobs suggested that “the ease with which users can circumvent the filtering raises questions about what it is actually trying to accomplish” (ABC News, 2009). This is perhaps the main issue with protection in the form of a filter or restriction; freedoms are reduced and controlled by a third party without any input from the public or the constituents.
Not only did the EFA raise concerns, but groups such as “No Clean Feed” erupted, encouraging users to take action against the Bill, and take action they did.
In August 2009, in response to the AFP breaking up an underground hacker’s forum, the AFP’s computer system was hacked and the individuals accessed both police evidence and intelligence about federal police systems such as its IP addresses (SMH, 2009).
The disruptions didn’t stop there; in 2010 hackers coordinated attacks on various government sites, debilitating the Australian Parliament House’s website and making Kevin Rudd’s website the home for “Operation: Titstorm”
This operation was conducted by the group “Anonymous”, the same group who have taken down Sony and attacked various government sites (such as Nigeria and Syria) in a form of “hacktivism” and are extremely vocal against all forms of internet censorship.
The bill hasn’t been passed completely, however it may no longer need to as four Australian ISP’s have now voluntarily blocked over 500 websites, setting an interesting precedent (Chalk, 2011).
So there is a lot happening; internet filters are imposed, hackers are accessing and committing “cyber crime” despite security measures, new types of crime are emerging as well as traditional crimes being aided by technology. What does this mean for the future? Where does this leave our global community? Can we have our computer and internet freedoms and still expect to be safe and protected?
Currently we are in a period of transition. We deal with new forms of crime with traditional methods of crime fighting. We deal with the symptoms and attempt to stem the flow rather than deal with the source.
Information and Communication Technologies are a tool. In the same ways that cars and knives are tools than can be used for lawful and freeing activities as well as dangerous and deadly activities, technologies are a tool that can be used for great good and vice versa.
It should also be remembered that young people today are growing up in a society where ICT and the freedoms they provide are taken as the norm. As such, removal of these freedoms is most likely going to be seen as a step backwards and will be fought vehemently.
In any society there is the requirement for some rules and legislation in order to prevent crime. However, for crime fighting to be effective, the focus should be on the crime itself and not on restricting the medium by which the crime is being conducted, particularly when it can bring so much good. The types of crimes are changing and perhaps that should be the focus of protection efforts. It may also be worth thinking about looking at why these crimes are occurring and dealing with the causes rather than simply focusing on the symptoms. Easier said than done definitely, but if we are to live in a truly global society, how can you have true and free global interaction if someone picks and chooses what you are free to access? How is that freedom? Is it a case perhaps, of accepting the fact that no society can be as truly free as we want it to be?
Hanging out with friends and family increasingly means also hanging out with their technology. While eating, defecating, or resting in our beds, we are rubbing on our glowing rectangles, seemingly lost within the infostream.
I came across a great essay on the false separation between what we see as offline and online and the fetishisation of the offline…read on for more.
Facebook doesn’t curtail the offline but depends on it. What is most crucial to our time spent logged on is what happened when logged off; it is the fuel that runs the engine of social media. The photos posted, the opinions expressed, the check-ins that fill our streams are often anchored by what happens when disconnected and logged-off. The Web has everything to do with reality; it comprises real people with real bodies, histories, and politics. It is the fetish objects of the offline and the disconnected that are not real.
Those who mourn the loss of the offline are blind to its prominence online. When Turkle was walking Cape Cod, she breathed in the air, felt the breeze, and watched the waves with Facebook in mind. The appreciation of this moment of so-called disconnection was, in part, a product of online connection. The stroll ultimately was understood as and came to be fodder for her op-ed, just as our own time spent not looking at Facebook becomes the status updates and photos we will post later.
The clear distinction between the on and offline, between human and technology, is queered beyond tenability. It’s not real unless it’s on Google; pics or it didn’t happen. We aren’t friends until we are Facebook friends. We have come to understand more and more of our lives through the logic of digital connection. Social media is more than something we log into; it is something we carry within us. We can’t log off.
Solving this digital dualism also solves the contradiction: We may never fully log off, but this in no way implies the loss of the face-to-face, the slow, the analog, the deep introspection, the long walks, or the subtle appreciation of life sans screen. We enjoy all of this more than ever before. Let’s not pretend we are in some special, elite group with access to the pure offline, turning the real into a fetish and regarding everyone else as a little less real and a little less human.
We’re not friends until we are Facebook friends…
Isn’t that the truth these days? We speak about our “online” lives as if they are a different life but in reality, it is nothing more than an carefully curated extension of ourselves.
Online cannot exist in a vacuum, and Nathan highlights this in his piece. The internet and “social media” (as if it is a “thing” that can be defined), is only another tool for us to interact with as we see fit. In the same way that the clothes we choose to wear are an outward reflection of our beliefs or the image we wish to project, the parts of our lives we choose to share speak volumes about how we wish to be seen.
I can’t stop myself from thinking about how everything I say and write on the internet is there forever, which at times (quite often, in fact), makes me hesitate. That permanence makes me apprehensive. Makes me think twice, three times, four even, before choosing to share something. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of our oversharing culture? Doesn’t it fly in the face of presenting the “raw” individual? Isn’t that why we follow celebrities and athletes on facebook and twitter, to get a glimpse behind the polished curtain of their presentation and see the person underneath?
Perhaps I am a little old fashioned and believe that not everyone has the equal right to access all parts of me. Some parts should still be earned. I still believe in the concept of privacy, however laughable that may be in the 21st century. There is still a space in society for the private and the public sphere, and you can choose to erase the line between the two or keep them completely delineated… that is still a personal choice that exists.
After all, Facebook, Google, Amazon and every damn Silicon Valley company may be able to track every move online, bank details, movements and purchases… but they still have no idea what we are thinking. We still have the power to buck our supposed trends and preferences, be erratic, unpredictable and unplug.
That is the beauty of being human.