The common myth that “the only way you can exert control (over algorithms employed by websites on the Internet) is limiting it and controlling how much you interact with it” limits people’s awareness that they need to acquire more literacy skills

The only way you can exert control is limiting it and controlling how much you interact with it

Bari Weiss (“Walkins Welcome” Podcast episode #132 [13:08 – 13:18] )
Sat down with the incomparable Bari Weiss and had a wide-ranging conversation about how we lie to ourselves, self-censoring, faux outrage, antisemitism, and why she believes that the fight of our lifetimes is the fight against illiberalism.

The context of Ms. Weiss’ statement is a discussion (actually an interview with Bridget Phetasy) involving 2 alternatives:

  1. Living in a civilized world with a smartphone connection to the Internet


  1. Living on a deserted island with virtually no technology whatsoever

In this context, Ms. Weiss follows a common fallacy — that the only ability an individual has is to “unplug”, to be either “on” or “off”.

You might think I am stalking Ms. Weiss, because I have already mentioned another one of her statements several yeas ago (see this “Fun Love status update“) … but actually I almost feel as though Ms. Weiss is stalking me, since she repeatedly appears as a guest on some of the media channels I pay attention to. Maybe I should reconsider which media channels I choose?

This is, indeed, my response to Ms Weiss (this time): We are not limited to choosing between online and offline. We are free to choose many things — including:

  1. The software we use;
  2. The websites we visit;
  3. Our own views;
  4. Our own expressions;
  5. Our own actions, interactions, activities, wants, desires and much, much more…

Of course the basis of such freedoms in the context of a civilized society is some level of socialization, and in the particular context which Ms Weiss and Ms. Phetasy discuss quite vociferously, I would strongly advise them to brush up some on their own literacy skills in order to better understand the term “appropriate technology” in the context of the 21st Century.

How do I showcase my projects and more importantly where?

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Before I go much further, I must share with you my dilemma. As a student, we were required to create digital portfolios and blogs of our work. At the time, I used the Penn State blog as my platform. This worked out great when I was a student and employee of Penn State, but now that I have moved on I had to move my lovely portfolio as well. This process didn’t go so well and I wound up with fragmented bits and pieces of my work scattered about the internet.

The Foundations of Context

Context is basically content’s habitat — whether that be paper and ink, pixels on a screen / monitor, bits in the ether, whatever.

The technological basis of content cannot be overlooked. Media is not merely a channel, it is also the technology itself.

In my previous post, I pointed out that the most basic notion of context that most of us have grown up with is actually bogus: Fact vs. fiction … neither exist in reality.

So what does exist?

For the past several centuries, the answer was, for the most part: Paper. Within the past several decades: A whole lot more. Today (and tomorrow, and for the forseeable future): The Internet. I don’t know of a good way of measuring content (Hal Varian has historically measured it by simply counting bits — but as I used to say: it might not be very reasonable to consider a megapixel-sized photo of a black room to be a million times as informative as one big fat zero), but I do feel quite confident that most of it will at least be duplicated online (even if it doesn’t live there exclusively or “in the first place”).

Most people recognize that the habitat of the Internet is networked computers. Yet only a few people recognize that the habitat of the Internet is also alpha-numeric characters (plus the “hyphen” symbol) — and a couple of these people might include the founders of Google (since the original name of the company is equivalent to the number of combinations of such characters which are possible in each top-level domain). Hardly anyone recognizes that the habitat of the Internet includes the governments / legal systems that are responsible for regulating the technology.

If we want to understand online media, we need to understand how the sausage is made, including the languages used and regulations (and similar standards) which govern it.