Monthly Archives: October 2012

Social Construction of Technology

The best thing about being a taught masters student is the other students.   They make seminars so rewarding.  In seminars with undergraduates you would often find lots had not done the reading, didn’t talk and seemed to be totally unwilling to engage with the subject.  Many times I went to seminars expecting a rewarding and interesting discussion about the subjects raised only to sit in silence for what seemed like hours.  Some seminar tutors filled the void with talking, others expected us to do so.  Being a masters student and attending a seminar is bliss.  The readings have been done, opinions are voiced and a proper discussion happens where people bring new interpretations and ideas to the group.

Yesterday I had a seminar on the social construction of technology.  It was great.  I felt this was the experience that I had been looking for during my undergrad years.

Technology and science do not follow a linear path towards progression.  People interact with science and technology and interpret them using their own knowledge, experience and bias.

Scientific discoveries and technological advancements can sometimes take a long time to be accepted or used.

For example, the theory of evolution.  We all know there are people who prefer creationism to Darwinism.  They believe despite the evidence that humans were created by God.  They believe this over a century after ‘The Origin of the Species’ was published.  One day mankind will come to a consensus on the issue, just like they did over the earth being flat and the sun revolving around the earth.  Future generations will look back and only see the two points, one day mankind believed God made the earth a la Adam and Eve, the next they realised it was not so.  We can sometimes assume the same of past scientific discoveries and forget the confusion and doubt that they may have bought.

It is the same with technology.  Technology is not the result of a long genius coming up with an idea, he needs support and help from his peers.  In order to invent the lightbulb Edison need electricity to be utilised and stored, something which others had been working on for centuries.  There also had to be a social need for electric light.  If electric light was so fantastic Edison would not have needed to ensure the price of the bulb was so cheap in order to lure others away from gas lighting.

A big thanks to my web science colleagues for making my seminar so enjoyable.



Digital Privacy

I went to a debate last week discussing digital privacy and would we willing to pay to keep our data private.  The debate was very interesting and really got me thinking about how important privacy and digital privacy is important to us within a modern relationship.

Specifically I am thinking about my future research and wondered if digital privacy fell within its boundaries.  In a modern relationship do we have a realistic expectation to privacy or should we share all?

Does a partner have a right to be your friend on Facebook?  Do they have to follow your locked account on twitter?   Can they realistically demand to have your passwords, read your texts? If we move away from digital privacy we can ask if a partner can read a diary, a journal.  Are these the same things?  If the answer is no, what do we do if our privacy is violated?

What if you have done something to cause your partner to distrust you?  Do you still have the same expectation to privacy or should you forfeit those rights?

Personally I come from a position of privacy, I have been keeping my own secrets since I was seven.  For instance, I am female and subject to a normal female reproductive cycle.  Where I am on that cycle is entirely my business.  Nobody else needs to know if I am menstruating, just finished or just about to start.  This need to remain private comes from observing the attitude of people who want to explain your behaviour based on your biology.  You know the kind, “Oh, she’s in a bad mood because of PMT”.  No, I am cross with you because you are a moron.  I am not a slave to my biological makeup and nobody should try to explain me based on it.

I think everyone has an expectation of  privacy.

Have a read of these for more interesting stuff.

Four more years…..

I have been fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to study web science at the University of Southampton.  The course lasts for 4 years, the first year is a masters and the last three are for a Ph.D..  I am very excited.

My summer will be spent in the garden reading for the next four years.  I have rather a lot of feminist criminological theories to plough through as well as technical stuff about the internet and the world wide web.  Giddens too, Giddens is always on my reading list.  If anyone wants to donate to me Amazon vouchers I would be eternally grateful!

While the next four years will be a challenge and I hope a very interesting one I am worried (when am I not?).  I am worried that I will not be up to the challenge, that I am not clever enough.  My support network of very good friends will not be around as they are all getting jobs or something.  While I hope to make new friends, what if they don’t turn out as good as the ones I had?