February 07, 2008

Blogs, lies and videotape

A UK survey in 2006 revealed that 45% of mobile phone users lied about their whereabouts via text message.

Cornell researchers found that 100% of US online daters lie about their height or weight.

James Katz: We are entering an "arms race of digital deception".

_mg_1025 Genevieve Bell takes us on a 20 minute tour of lies and lying, and asks what digital secrecy means for our online lives.

We tell somewhere between six and 200 lies a day, 40% are to conceal misbehaviour, 14% to keep their own social world ticking over, 9% to increase popularity. Men tell 20% more lies than women. The former lie about cars, jobs, spare time and marital status. Women like about weight, age, marriage and shopping.

Sharing secrets and maintaining that secrecy is a great way to make friends when we're younger - and keep them.

Yet telling lies is always bad: legal systems constructed a version of the truth, most religions have clear rules on lying. Yet in many religions we also hear that it's OK to withhold information when reducing conflict between households or to make someone happy - white lies, it seems, are good.

Digital secrecy is rooted in deep social norms that date back years. There have long been traditions of the secret and the sacred in Aboriginal cultures, where the expectation is that all things are not open to all people, where the 'back story' behind a painting or story is what makes it enrichening - withholding information keeps that information 'safe' from those the community don't want to understand everything.

When technology arrived in the land of the secret we find ourselves able to lie about things we couldn't really lie about before: location, context, intent, identity (physical, aspirational, status and standing). When we set up online profiles we can lie both to get access to a site (how many Bebo users are actually under 13 years old, but saying they're 100?) or to protect our real information (lying about our age because we believe that a website doesn't 'need' to know it). We create avatars that look nothing like we do in real life (pink hair and wings belong to a close relation who, the last time I looked, only had the pink hair).

So what does the next generation of the web (Web 3.0 - yuck!) look like if it is constructed upon this foundation of confabulation?


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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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