I want to assure everyone I’m not undertaking an update on my earlier post http://wp.me/pPrUU-M about a particular Deal or No Deal show featuring Gareth Robinson http://z6.co.uk/a4q5w8 because it has allowed me to coin a pun in the title, though it is quite fun! I am revisiting it because of the feedback I have received and some discoveries a friend has made that highlight several interesting points about how the internet is changing our lives and social conventions are altering.
The most interesting issue focuses on the nature of fame, our craving for it, and our changing attitude toward privacy in the internet age. Whether it is because of deep-seated insecurities or the breakdown of community and social support institutions, there seems to be a wish, especially by the young, to be recognised and popular with not just our peers but an anonymous list of extended friends.
This willingness to engage and a seemingly relentless quest for popularity amongst the internet generation, is causing the lines to blur further between what is private information and what is public. The concept of social media is to collaborate, co-operate and mostly importantly connect and swept up in the spirit of this new paradigm many are freely giving others unrestricted access to their most personal data. An eponymously entitled blog that I discovered refers to the phenomena of providing personal details about one’s self simply for the purposes of creating “buzz” or “fame” as “InfoWoRes” , or in other words “information without Reservation” http://wp.me/pTO00-4 . How much thought is being given to the implications of this style of unresistricted sharing of personal information, especially amongst teenagers, is unclear, but I suspect it is limited.
This will be the first generation whose every movement and moment is recorded. And this record will not only include every success, moment of joy, silly moment and detail of every friendship, but also every sadness, disappointment, transgression, stupid behaviour and falling out of friendship. The records are indelible. The constructs and technology behind “search” encourages us to digitalized everything, even historic writings, sounds, pictures, videos. Most teenagers though will have lived most of their lives online and consequently in the glare of the digital camera; so it is distinctly possible that their lives can already be aggregated into a single view.
In effect this means that today’s teenagers, as the most visible generation ever, are open to the most invasive type of scrutiny: “Trial by Google”. Anyone who can operate a search engine is capable of taking on the mantle of secret agent, social terrorist, or even worse a stalker and virtually anyone under thirty is a viable target. The psychological impact of lives lived totally lived in the public eye – ready to be interrogated, critically evaluated and appraised – is not yet fully recognised and most certainly not by the individuals sharing the smallest minutiae of their life’s. What sort of backlash therefore can we expect?
Gaz’s game on “Deal or No Deal” contain sufficient event – he turned down a £20,000 offer before leaving with precious little – and human interest – he wanted to lift his father out of potential retirement poverty but not sufficiently remarkable to warrant a mention at www.dealornodeal.com. My interest had been kindle by the fact that he used an aphorism “It’s not about the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away” and went on to allow this to guide his future decisions in the game. Heart ruling head, emotion triumphing over logic is why race goers and small private investors lose so much.
Obviously I was also quite taken by Noel Edmond’s incongruous use of the word “elicit” on mainstream programming, especially as it always has the potential to be heard as illicit by those – the majority? – who are unfamiliar with the word. Subsequent events not only serve to reinforce the irony in the potential linking of the words “elicit” and “illicit” , but also the large dose of irony in Gaz’s choice of aphorism as he stars in another event that could “take your breath away” .
A female friend had emailed me saying there were some screen grabs and other images, of Gareth Robinson or “Gaz”, on a fan board. Visiting the website I found the first few comments were quite “ripe” but not offensive so I added a link. Her next email said she had had a closer look and that someone either close to Gaz, or working for a film processing company – had posted some holiday snaps. The first was a run-of-the-mill hotel holiday shot ( inserted left). The second and third were definitely more intimate; one showing Gaz posing in beach shorts ( below left), and the other modelling a cosmetic mud pack with his arm draped around a young friend. The fourth, and last, was by far the most personal.
If this was a plan to raise Gareth’s profile – and he certainly seems to have a raised profile in the fourth photograph – it may succeed in gaining the attention of a teen magazine, or youth programme. To that end – if that is indeed his end! – I hope this update helps. However working on the basis that the photographs are not being “seeded”, in order to
promote him or stimulate viral activity (including generate bad puns for blogs like mine – sorry folks!), Gareth Robinson could actually be being exposed to the world – in its broadest sense against his will.
With the proliferation of images and their increasingly wide dispersal – caused by the explosion in digital technologies – this situation could easily just be the tip of a rather large iceberg. The ease with which data can now be accessed, and because of most peoples laxity about protecting personal information and their image, means the age of “Trial by Google” has arrived almost without ceremony.
No one quite knows what the social, political,economic and environment costs of the proliferation of data are going to be, however I believe for some people the price will be an extremely high one. The greatest damage to personal well-being could be if Governments decides to fully harness the processing power, increase monitoring and commence intervention. China’s censorship of search engines, and increasing use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleview/1758/1/128/ technology shows just how aware they are of the power of data and just how fearful they are of the free flow of unregulated information.
On a purely societal level the potential problems resulting from sensitive data being put into the public domain, with or without people’s knowledge or consent, could be substantial. We have already seen the effect omnipresent imaging (e.g. digital cameras and phones) – broken marriages, litigations, embarrassment – on those in the public eye but how long before the man-in-the-street is affected. Education, employment, relationships and even freedom of movement (.i.e. sorry Prince Harry that SS army fancy dress uniform doesn’t seem such a good idea now you want to visit Jerusalem does it?) . http://www.whiterose.org/pete/blog/archives/007409.html . Soon all it will take is a person with a warped sense of humour, or a grudge, plus the wherewithal to use a search engine and career ambitions could be curtailed and lives and loves potentially ruined.
Not many parents really know what their sons and daughters do on the internet during the long hours alone in their bedrooms. Images and thoughts can be shared globally on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace in an instant, however the pain and embarrassment can linger on. Just ask the heterosexual teenager who perceiving it to be harmless, agreed to do a sex act on webcam for a man offering to make a generous Paypal donation and was then recorded performing. The next day he was headlining as an image on the landing page of a “gay for pay” website and playing no small part in their ad campaign.
“Gaz’s” aphorism: “It’s not about the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away” now certainly has a completely different feel to it. One hopes its part of his own master plan (gives virally seeded a different meaning too!) but failing that that the person who posted the photographs doesn’t also have some videos to share.
Generally, societies attitude to male nudity has altered considerably over the last decade, and there is greater acceptance of certain related behaviours, but it would be nice to think that even if we subscribe to a more liberal outlook in public, that it would be possible to retain some semberlance control over our image. Alas, I think google really has put an end to that sort of luxury, but maybe a good first defence would be to eschew being photographed in compromising positions and avoid high profile game shows!
An InfoWoRes Topic?: If you liked this blog entry maybe you want to read a humourous account of how another handsome teen exposes himself for profile boosts, egotism and cash (product placements and ads). http://wp.me/pPrUU-1H Charlie McDonnell from video blog Charlieissocoollike’s is a clever young man fast approaching overexposure. He is also 20 years old on the 1st October 2010 will his popularity wane as he creaks into his twenties…….