๐Ÿ“‘ The Digital Poorhouse

Bookmarked The Digital Poorhouse by Virginia Eubanks (Harper's magazine)
Think of the digital poorhouse as an invisible web woven of fiber-optic threads. Each strand functions as a microphone, a camera, a fingerprint scanner, a GPS tracker, a trip wire, and a crystal ball. Some of the strands are sticky. Along the threads travel petabytes of data. Our activities vibrate the web, disclosing our location and direction. Each of these filaments can be switched on or off. They reach back into history and forward into the future. They connect us in networks of association to those we know and love. As you go down the socioeconomic scale, the strands are woven more densely and more of them are switched on.
Virginia Eubanks compares the restrictive nature of the poorhouses of the nineteenth century with the digital spaces of today:

The differences between the brick-and-mortar poorhouse of yesterday and the digital one of today are significant. Containment in a physical institution had the unintended result of creating class solidarity across the lines of race, gender, and national origin. If we sit at a common table to eat the same gruel, we might see similarities in our experiences. But now surveillance and digital social sorting are driving us apart, targeting smaller and smaller microgroups for different kinds of aggression and control. In an invisible poorhouse, we become ever more cut off from the people around us, even if they share our suffering.

The digital poorhouse has a much lower barrier to expansion. Automated decision-making systems, matching algorithms, and predictive risk models have the potential to spread quickly.

In conclusion, Eubanks suggests that we need to work together to build a solution:

If there is to be an alternative, we must build it purposefully, brick by brick and byte by byte.

This reminds me of the point Brent Simmons made in regards to Micro.blogs:

Weโ€™re discovering the future as we build it.

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