I take screenshots of things I think are strange or perhaps illuminate something about the strange world we now inhabit. Think of it as my personal take on The New Aesthetic. All of these images are pulled from my actual life and interactions with former classmates, friends, coworkers etc. There are a blurred out series of iffy pictures down there if you’re easily offended you might opt to skip this post.
Here are two options our new filtering system currently gives when you try to access a blocked site1.
Misspelling aside, this warning is not pleasant. It assumes what I’m doing is bad and that I am acting with bad intent. Apparently I need a scary warning. I am being treated like a deviant. This does not please me.
Well, am I blocked? Is the site down? I don’t know. This message does nothing for me and leads to frustration and irritation. I suspect the filter but have no obvious way to confirm it2. Super.
The message I want is simple. Let’s choose something with a blue or green background. It can be unique looking so teachers can spot it easily but it can also be calm and polite. Maybe something like . . .
There’s nothing wrong with treating people with respect and politeness. The scary page isn’t going to deter people who are interested in bypassing the filter and it only insults those who are going about their business with legitimate intent.
It’s basically the notes from a presentation at eTech. I found the ideas and applications really interesting. If you want to see examples of Web 2.0 being used in amazing ways to change the world, this is the post for you. It ought to lead to some deeper thinking about the technologies and their possible applications both in schools and elsewhere.
I thought this quote could apply to schools who are filtering in the typical “block all student communication” manner.
(referring to getting a site blocked) This is a good thing if you’re an activist. Most Tunisians don’t identify as activists and might not be engaged with politics. But, like Americans and Europeans, they’re interested in seeing cute cats being adorable online. When the government blocks DailyMotion, it impacts a much wider swath of Tunisians than those who are politically active. Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites. And even those who could care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they’re willing to censor the millions of banal videos on DailyMotion to block a few political ones.
Blocking banal content on the internet is a self-defeating proposition. It teaches people how to become dissidents – they learn to find and use anonymous proxies, which happens to be a key first step in learning how to blog anonymously. Every time you force a government to block a web 2.0 site – cutting off people’s access to cute cats – you spend political capital. Our job as online advocates is to raise that cost of censorship as high as possible.
But every filtering enterprise to date is a failure and a disaster, and it’s my belief that every filtering effort we will ever field will be no less a failure and a disaster. These systems are failures because they continue to allow the bad stuff through. They’re disasters because they block mountains of good stuff. Their proponents acknowledge both these facts, but treat them as secondary to the importance of trying to do something, or being seen to be trying to do something. Secondary to the theatrical and PR value of pretending to be solving the problem.
The quote is from a Cory Doctorow article on filtering that is worth reading. I realize that some filtering will be in schools no matter what but the poor quality of filtering teachers and students have to deal with is unacceptable. The way decisions on filtering are (too often) made by those without any educational experience is unacceptable.
gyrhead wrote an interesting comment saying, in part,
If you have a one size fits all filtering solution like Bess you will end up with a very restrictive environment; if you go with your own locally managed and customizable solution you will have much better results.
I think that’s true up to a point. For me, it all depends on who is managing things locally. Too often it’s technology, as opposed to instruction, making those decisions and too often decisions are made out of fear rather than through rationale thought.