Going to Candy Mountain

I don’t tweet, tumble, like, post, subscribe or comment.  It’s not that I am a luddite.  I love technology, I count the Atari 2600, IBM 386 and Amiga 500 as some of my best childhood friends, even now with a full time job and a one year old daughter I still find time to battle 10 year old Americans on Xbox live.  I have just finished building my own SFF PC complete with laser cut perspex windows, my home network streams music, video and photos to a mutlitude of devices in many rooms, and I am a card carrying member of Codecademy.  I teach Robotics, I build robots and of course I am enrolled in this course.

As much as I love technology, I loathe the idea of been “connected”.  I grew up with the Web 1.0 and that’s how I like it.  The concept of anonymity was a powerful driver of the Web 1.0.  It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from or what you did.  The Web 1.0 opened up the world by removing barriers to knowledge and creating a place where everyone was equal and free to express their thoughts and opinions.  Although the Web 2.0 is still very much about knowledge and freedom, anonymity is going the way of the dodo.  Individuals and companies including Google have expressed their desire to remove anonymity from the web and have taken active steps to do so.

In his book Reach, Jeff Utecth embraces the interactive nature of the Web 2.0 and outlines how to build and promote an online brand/identity.  I on the other hand have been actively trying to do just the opposite.  Amongst other measures designed to protect my anonymity, I have four different email accounts, and multiple online handles.  It makes me extremely happy to know that whenever you type my name into google you get nothing that relates to me.  Whilst my preference for anonymity could be seen as a reflection of my old-school view of the web it is also grounded in more substantial concerns.  By remaining anonymous I hope to avoid identity theft, prevent my life from been compiled, categorised and sold to others so that they in turn can try to sell me stuff, and above all I want to keep my personal life and work life separate. Although some people are happy to share their every thought and action with the world I consider sharing your life with others to be an intimate act, a privilege which you extend to those few people who you choose to invite into your world.

My preference for anonymity goes hand in hand with my disregard for online networks.  Hanging out online is of no importance to me, although I can understand the importance of hanging out for teens as they negotiate their identity and relationships I am no longer in this stage of life (my Facebook page hasn’t been updated since 2007) and I will be interested to read what the Living and Learning with New Media report has to say about online use as teenagers enter their early and late 20s.

With regard to using the Web 2.0 to find knowledge and assistance I mess around online and lurk in forums to find the information that I need but I do not geek out online nor would I entertain building and maintaining a network for information purposes.  In fact, I still use the Web in 1.0 mode whereby I view at as library.  When I have a question that I need answered I search the web for an answer and take what I need.  Maybe it would be more efficient for me to post a question in a network and have the answer come to me but I doubt that I could build a network large and diverse enough to answer the questions that I have and I can’t imagine that in the space of a year I would have enough questions that couldn’t be solved with a simple google search and would thus justify the time and effort to maintain such a network.

My final rationale for wanting to remain offline is that as the Web 2.0 has become more about interacting with others it has also become more about the promotion of self.  Creating and manipulating an image of me, promoting me, bragging about me.  The Web seems to be increasingly filled with self-serving vanity projects.   Are teachers who blog better teachers than those who don’t?  Is my life enhanced by learning about your latest promotion, achievement, amour, or cultural experience?  Is posting a comment with the other 200 hundred at the end of an article contributing to a discussion or just adding noise to a shouting match where everyone is listening to no one but themselves.

Given all this, I know that you cannot stop progress.  I now have a twitter account and multiple RSS feeds subscribed to my Google reader and when you type my name into Google this blog will now appear.  At some stage in the near future I may no longer be able to avoid an online existence.  Perhaps this course will accelerate that process.

So how do you feel about the demise of anonymity, and the value of online networks?


5 thoughts on “Going to Candy Mountain

  1. Hey Andrew,
    (is that your real name?) Some very interesting thoughts. I am inclined to agree with many of them. YES I do find it uncomfortable that web users, in particular bloggers, are usually sprouting about how good their lesson, unit, activity, meeting was and that everyone should do it. I did share some of the same sentiments. I unfortunately find that I don’t have enough to share as I don’t think much of the things that I do BUT the few times that I have put things on the web there is definitely a buzz when you get feedback. I think THAT is the most important aspect. That living in an increasingly open and shared environment that CONVERSATIONS are being had about various learning activities.
    It is not the same as a discussion with a colleague about how to improve things but it can be just as powerful. It is true that you can find people in these networks that have similar educational beliefs as you. By sharing, comparing, changing, tweaking content with a WIDE community of educationalists surely nothing but improved outcomes will be the result.
    I agree with separating personal from work lives as much as possible but I respect the people that are putting themselves out there. Generally we have no secrets to hide and if we did MOST people aren’t going to put it online. Within a school we are part of a community. It is VERY hard to keep teachers lives out of the community even without the digital networking aspect.
    Reluctantly I share things on the web. I value the feedback that quite often comes with that. I have learnt an incredible amount from these networks and it is now time that I start contributing (somehow even though I don’t think my stuff is very good!) so that we can all move forward.

    Thanks for sharing an alternative point of view to most of these digital cohorts.

  2. as much as i agree with your points, and understand your valid reason for feeling the way you do, i still think we should view the internet as a tool. granted, as time we will be forced to spend more and more of our time using it (i can hardly believe you don’t use facebook!), but it is up to our personal discretion.

    in the future i imagine we will have to have our ‘real’ online presence, which will not be anonymous, and we will have avenues to speak and seek information anonymously. unfortunately at this point we haven’t developed clear ways in which to do that. well, there are but most people don’t know how to navigate them. as the internet matures, i am confident that these issues will be worked out. i can’t imagine a world where everything i’ve ever written or said or done will be linked back to me. every once in a while i say and do some really stupid stuff!

  3. Hi the-person-who-calls-himself-Andrew,

    So much like the comment above I wonder just how much you are willing to take in your Web 1.0 world before you start feeling guilty that you’re taking and not giving. Even in a Web 1.0 world someone was giving of free information. Forums and chat rooms a like back in the day.

    My blog started because I felt a need to give back to the community of blogs, forums, chats, and everything else on the web that I was learning from. That people so freely gave their information away, for me to learn from that I felt I should give something back in return. Web 2.0 just makes it a lot easier for everyone to give back. I find it interesting that you are such an avid user of technology and have been for a long time and yet you ‘feel’ no need to give back. Or maybe you do but the whole privacy thing has you freaked out. :)

    As for that…I gave up on privacy years ago. I bought a condo in Seattle not to many years back and you can find out everything about it including the price I paid, the load I received and all other information on the Internet, put there without my permission by the local authorities because it’s public record. My phone number even unlisted shows up in paid databases. My picture even before I started a blog was used in newspapers and magazines and nobody asked me if they could use it.

    So privacy is something we think we have but has been gone for a while now. The only thing that is still private are my thoughts….for now anyway…and good thing because I know the next million dollar idea is rolling around in there somewhere. :)

    Glad you’re here….glad you’re taking the plunge and maybe we’ll learn who you really are in the process.

  4. Like you I value my personal life and like to keep what happens outside of school private. I like the fact that I have a life outside of school. Personally I think it is healthy.

    Do I need and want everyone in the world to know my personal details? Not really. Do I need to know other people’s personal details and private information? No I don’t. I think it is sad that the world we live in is so fascinated by other individual’s lives and there are people/companies out there who make a living off it. Frankly I don’t care if someone had a bagel for breakfast.
    With online networks and the advances in technology allowing anyone to obtain personal information about whoever they choose there has to be greater responsibility with how it is used.
    Who knows, in 20 years the word anonymity may not even be in the dictionary anymore. Great blog!

  5. How’s this for anonymity? I read this article (which a friend shared on Facebook) “Can Interviewers Insist on ‘Shoulder Surfing’ Your Facebook Page?” (link to moneyland.time.com)

    Really? A prospective employer can ask you to open your Facebook account during an interview?

    The question is though….would you do it?

    I have a Facebook account and I enjoy being able to keep in touch with my friends through wall posts and photo sharing. My settings are as private as I can possibly make them and I have hidden what some online friends. I’m not entirely sure that I would like to rely on some of their accounts to be instrumental in whether or not I get a job though.

    It definitely makes for interesting discussion.

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