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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Digitally Perplexed

We are all under the influence of social media. In some way, shape or form, whether we believe we are in consent of it or not, we are communicating with each other in ways that are downright scary. Algorithmically, someone or something collects and crunches results about us and like most things, has the potential of being harmful or good. 

It’s the fastest wave hitting though we still have not seen its forceful impact. And while this tsunami continues to take shape and form in Big Data's deep blue sea, I often ask myself why I continue to give so intently to the feeding of this wave.  

But every morning I reach for a voice that attempts to tell you something positive, funny or factual about landscape architecture, design, gardening and horticulture. Sometimes I post a favorite recipe, share an inspirational moment from the garden or an observation in nature but today I share something about me. And there it is – that digitally perplexing word – sharing. Most of us learned firsthand as children the meaning of sharing. It occurred in those initial moments of social interaction with our world and our peers. Whether it was a sandbox, the lunch table or kindergarten, we all had those moments when we were asked if we could share. 

So today’s observation comes from Terence Craig. He is the author of ‘Privacy and Big Data’. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a peek. This oversized book, which I read months ago, visually tells you in tidbits just the beginnings of this huge data wave. 

“It seems that we are back where we started. Historically, as small tribes of hunter and gatherers we had no concept of privacy. Then, as we became rooted in towns and villages, we continued to live primarily in the public square where everyone “knew our business.” With industrialization and the development of large dense urban areas, privacy was possible for the more privileged members of society and then, finally, for all of us. We have come full circle. Again, we live our lives in a public, although now digital, square where any person, company, or organization around the world can watch us, whether we want them to or not. There is more known about us than ever before. What does privacy mean in the world we now live in? This is not the first time (and certainly won’t be the last) that technology has leapfrogged ethics, bringing us to the age old question of what we can do versus what we should do. The question we should all be asking ourselves, our communities, our societies, and our leaders is this: does privacy still matter in the digital age? Yes, privacy still matters in this age of big data and digital devices. But what it means, how we regulate and enforce it, what we are willing to give up for it, how much power we give our governments over it, remains to be seen. Like it or not, we live in interesting times.”

So for the time being, my daily voice shall continue to be shared; even on Facebook, which most users’ feel  tap dance around ethics and values of what they share. As Craig points out above, ‘we live in interesting times.’

I shall remain digitally perplexed as this wave continues to build. There are some things in life we aren't in total control of and Big data, I fear may be one of them. So I shall resort back to what I know best - those childhood days of social interaction where ‘share’ had positive memories. I end this post with a powerful quote from a woman who chose to share her very public life with such humility. “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa’s words cross any bridge of digital data as she clearly lived the true definition of sharing each day.

Image by Ann Bilowz ©

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)