, Salem, MA


August 2, 2013

Watson: Online technology is not neutral


We are entertained and distracted by what is on our devices, and perhaps one way to understand how they change us is to consider what we don’t do or experience while we use them.

Paradoxically, for all our “networking,” we may be atomizing. With computers, each of us can be an individual actor, a brand, a newsletter, an expert, a domain or our own interest group. We can hole up, empower our own online persona and surround ourselves with data that increasingly matches our previous searches.

And ironically, despite being upset with recent disclosures about the government’s surveillance of our phone records, we are making every facet of our personal and business lives utterly dependent upon computers. We seem insufficiently concerned that private corporations — who mostly depend on us to be acquisitive, compliant, and conformist — monitor every keystroke we make and every website we visit when we’re online.

The Internet has been a wonderful thing. Social media were the tools that enabled the Arab Spring. But technology is not neutral, and it is raising many issues. What consequences — many unintended — will predominate is something for us to attend to.

Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at

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