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?