Via Bruce Schneier, Irish writer Maria Farrell explains how a feminist perspective leads to some creepy realizations about smart phones:
Here are some of the ways our unequal relationship with our smartphones is like an abusive relationship:
- They isolate us from deeper, competing relationships in favour of superficial contact – ‘user engagement’ – that keeps their hold on us strong. Working with social media, they insidiously curate our social lives, manipulating us emotionally with dark patterns to keep us scrolling.
- They tell us the onus is on us to manage their behavior. It’s our job to tiptoe around them and limit their harms. Spending too much time on a literally-designed-to-be-behaviorally-addictive phone? They send company-approved messages about our online time, but ban from their stores the apps that would really cut our use. We just need to use willpower. We just need to be good enough to deserve them.
- They betray us, leaking data / spreading secrets. What we shared privately with them is suddenly public. Sometimes this destroys lives, but hey, we only have ourselves to blame. They fight nasty and under-handed, and are so, so sorry when they get caught that we’re meant to feel bad for them. But they never truly change, and each time we take them back, we grow weaker.
Feminists are often the canary in the coalmine, warning us years in advance of coming threats. Feminist analysis of Gamergate first exposed the online radicalization of legions of angry young men for whom misogyny was a gateway drug to far-right politics. More practically, when the US military finally realised the enemy could use running app, Strava, to track the habits and route-maps of soldiers based in hostile environments, domestic violence activists collectively sighed. They’d been pointing out for years that the app is used by stalkers and aggrieved exes to track women. I’m not the first person to notice that in cyber-security, feminism is a secret super-power. Checking every app, data-set and shiny new use-case for how men will use it to endanger women and girls is a great way to expose novel flaws and vulnerabilities the designers almost certainly missed. So, while looking at our relationship with our phones through a feminist lens may be disconcerting, it’s incredibly useful, and in a deliciously counter-intuitive way.
I'll be mulling her thoughts over for a while.
Today's other tasks include cleaning my house and writing code for about four hours.
Since my company is closed today, and I have no obligations until late this afternoon, I'm taking my time fixing a bug and deploying a software package. So I actually have the bandwidth to read these articles right now, as opposed to "someday:"
- Citylab has a list of terms and myths they'd like to retire, including "Artisinal" and "Wider roads = less traffic." (They also have a list of traffic myths that need retiring too.)
- Back in November, Paris' Orly airport couldn't give pilots runway visual range because of a Windows 3.1 glitch. You read that right. (And notice that PC Mag's site still uses classic ASP. That, right there, is irony.)
- Cory Doctorow points out the security and legal problems with self-driving cars, from which one should draw more general lessons about the intersections of law, ethics, and code.
- Anita Sarkeesian reviews "The Force Awakens" positively. (If you're familiar with Feminist Frequency, you know why this is noteworthy.)
- Talking Points Memo has announced the 2015 Golden Duke Awards. Winners include Dennis Hastert, Kim Davis, and other people deserving ridicule.
I do have to fix this bug, though. Better get back to it now.