Want to know what your mom thinks about sharing WesBoxes? Scroll on.
Last week I squeezed my hand into my narrow postal cubicle and found a pretty standard assortment of Wesleyan junk mail: some coupons for Dominos, a direct deposit receipt, some CFA flyers about the so-called “arts.” At the end of the slot was a nondescript envelope. It didn’t belong to me.
If you’ve read Friday’s Argus, you know already that shared mailboxes were a thing before Usdan came along and that they’ve made a comeback due to increasing class sizes. The incoming class gets the outgoing class’s block, which can no longer accommodate the number of students, so recent freshmen have begun to share. But why do upperclassmen who formerly had their own mailbox get subjected to sharing? Any number of reasons: either they went abroad and a dissatisfied student hijacked their spot, or they were simply on the border of two class blocks (read: I don’t fully understand the ins and outs of this process or how these upperclassmen are subjected to sharing later in the Wes game). I was abroad last Spring, so I am now sharing a Wesbox. But nobody told me.
What I wanted to talk about was the pervasive vibes of culpability I got throughout the workings of WesStation. When I went over to ask them about the things in my slot, I started innocently asking about the whys and hows of this system.
"Being a Stalker"
Well guys, in an unprecedented feat, Wesleyan has thrown itself onto the forefront of progress on these internets. Instead of outsourcing to Google, we’ve beat them to the punch. Google has been trying to craft a Facebook competitor, and everyone knows Facebook serves one and only purpose: stalking. If you want to talk with people, you can just go to the ACB and be a homophobic, antisemitic misogynist even though you’re a female-bodied queer Jew in real life. Or maybe you could interact with people in real life (yeah right, bro). The Wesleyan version cuts to the chase, giving you a picture of the person and where to find them.
We’ve always had the stalker guide, but on September 15th, it’ll be new and improved! Based on Dean Culliton’s email this morning (let’s not kill the messenger), let’s look at the pros and cons:
Wesleying co-founder Holly Wood ’08 sends in this article from Sunday’s New York Times on diminishing privacy in the information age. The latest hit? Roughly 100 students at MIT have been given free smartphones that track their every action–calls, texts, music, e-mail, and so on–in an attempt to provide a detailed picture of their dorm’s (Random Hall) social life:
[A]bout 100…students living in Random Hall at M.I.T. have agreed to swap their privacy for smartphones that generate digital trails to be beamed to a central computer. Beyond individual actions, the devices capture a moving picture of the dorm’s social network.
The students’ data is but a bubble in a vast sea of digital information being recorded by an ever thicker web of sensors, from phones to GPS units to the tags in office ID badges, that capture our movements and interactions. Coupled with information already gathered from sources like Web surfing and credit cards, the data is the basis for an emerging field called collective intelligence.
But even its practitioners acknowledge that, if misused, collective intelligence tools could create an Orwellian future on a level Big Brother could only dream of.
“Some have argued that with new technology there is a diminished expectation of privacy,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy rights group in Washington. “But the opposite may also be true. New techniques may require us to expand our understanding of privacy and to address the impact that data collection has on groups of individuals and not simply a single person.”
WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
NY Times: “You’re Leaving a Digital Trail. What about Privacy?”
Helicopter parents can now reach new heights of invasiveness with a growing trend of making reports of students’ every move available for viewing online by parents:
With some programs, not only is a student’s grade recalculated with every quiz, but parents can monitor the daily fluctuations of their child’s class ranking. The availability of so much up-to-the-minute information about a naturally evasive teenager can be intoxicating: one Kansas parent compared watching PowerSchool to tracking the stock market.
Clearly there’s some useful potential here, but it sounds like that can easily devolve into a massive time-sucker, where parents can procrastinate the arduous task of raising children by obsessively poring over the minutiae of their kid’s daily existence.
Is the next generation of college students going to have been raised on this kind of thing? Will they still have personalities?
NYTimes: I Know What You Did Last Math Class
In a move sure to strike at the hearts of Facebook stalkers everywhere, Facebook has announced that profile and pictures views will no longer be private. Rather, it will show up in the News Feed like everything else. Users will have the option of controlling who sees what with Facebook’s new privacy controls, but the default setting will include stories about whose profile and/or pictures you are viewing. According to the NYT article:
“Privacy just isn’t what Facebook users are seeking,” said creator Mark Zuckerberg in response to queries about the latest set of changes. “If the masses wanted privacy, we wouldn’t have seventy-million users. The News Feed wasn’t popular when it was first introduced either, but eventually our users will become accustomed to this new level of social interaction. Our users want to see when their friends are checking out their pictures, and they want their friends to know what they are browsing.”
The announcement comes on the heels of sweeping changes to the social networking site’s privacy controls. Critics label these new controls as difficult to find and beyond the understanding of the average user. Most changes the company has made in the last three years have met with a luke-warm response from users, yet the site continues to see hundred of millions of hits per day, with nearly a million new users per week.”
I’ve always thought this was sort of inevitable – but I’m guessing that quite a few people are more upset than I am. On the bright side, when future employers are looking at pictures of us doing stupid shit while blackout drunk, at least we’ll know it.