Links: Deflating the ideology of Silicon Valley

July 3, 2013

Six months ago I wrote a blog post which I never published about the BBC and the ideology of Silicon Valley.

My thought was that the values of the BBC (one nation conservatism, British, consensual, public service, Lord Patten, creative elite) were incompatible with the dominant ideology of the digital world (individualistic, neo conservative, free market capitalist, a belief in scientism, USA, Ayn Rand, atomised, start-up).

I’m glad I didn’t publish this post since in the ensuing six months the ideas and assumptions on which big digital companies operate have been called into question. Here are a few more recent examples:

Under pressure from campaigners and advertisers Facebook has been forced into doing much more to deal with unpleasant content on its platform. Appeals to the first amendment, and the argument “hey, we’re just a platform/community, the community just policies itself” don’t wash with European women (and men). And Google are discovering that confusion is, as it always is, sex.

Far from not doing evil it seems that the major tech companies are involved in helping governments in some way with surveillance. This may not be a bad thing. Anyone who liked to watch Spooks may be comfortable with the idea that their government is using the internet to catch bad guys. In Spooks allies spy on each other all the time. But it does undermine the idea of tech companies as heroic defenders of freedom fighting to keep “the state” at arms length. In fact government and the market are deeply connected. Which is why we want Google to pay taxes. This is a culture clash between some ideas in the US (the government is always bad, taxes must always be low pr even avoided) and some European ones: a good citizen pays tax.

While I don’t agree with all of Sue Gardner’s arguments for Wikipedia and the “free and open” internet, she is right that the digital world seems unbalanced: not enough public space, too much commercial space.

Leigh Alexander’s has penned abrilliant analysis of how the video games industry needs to “grow up” if it is to become mainstream. (While this article about Minecraft shows how a game can have a safe and responsible ethos).

Until now some of the world of Digital has been a bit adolescent, with all the virtues (energy, desire to question everything, creativity) and vices (lack of empathy, mood swings, irresponsible behaviour) of a teenager.

The Register (and Shanley) nails this in its article summarising Sean Parker’s’ rather adolescent defence of his controversial wedding.

Grow up? We all have to, eventually…

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