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April 11, 2005

Big Mother - Mom is looking out for you

The clued-in debate regarding the surveillance (or transparency, depending on which side you stand) society is finally getting rolling in Denmark.
Until recently the debate has strictly been between those claiming the use of (f.ex. DNA) technology for the protection of society at-large from murderers, rapists and the like, versus the crowd fearing an Orson Welles-ish dystopian 1984 society.

This weekend's cover story in Weekendavisen's Idéer (Ideas) section, "Mor passer på dig" ("Mother watches out for you"), seems to hint at researchers taking serious not only the default-setting-is-public meme of Flickr, Fotolog and, well, yes, the Internet, but also the rise in public demand for tax-money, not individual good, to solve society's deficiencies.
In another article this weekend, this time in Information, sociologist Henrik Dahl no-bullshit quote is

Derfor sætter jeg min lid til, at staten i kraft af mandatet fra den almene vilje, vil påtage sig opgaven med f.eks. [...] afbøde de negative virkninger af [asocial] opførsel. Information April 9- 10, 2005, "Fællesskab – blålys eller politisk projekt?"

As Dahl also puts it, society has become so fragmented that we have no or little self-interest in posting resources into helping the junkie down on the street corner. We would rather spend our time in the sun with our children and pay -- through taxes -- the state to alleviate us of these problems (as Dahl puts it: "de forpester ens tilværelse") like we also pay them to take care of our health, the environment, and our elderly.
If indeed we as indivuals have become so selfinterested (and disempowered) that the state has become a monopoly in society, we as citizens, companies or families, will need to realize that a stronger state with stronger infrastructure will have to be put into place. The infrastructure, be it technology or law will always have a potential for misuse at the individual level (just look at the Patriot Act).

I am not pledging for a dystopian society (who would?), but giving public services a better infrastructure -- the obvious one which most seem to have accepted is electronic medical journals -- while still assuring transparency and protecting the rights of the individual is clearly the path upon which we must move.

So while "Big Mother" is by no means a new metaphor (I actually prefer "Big Sister" -- annoying, but caring) as claimed in the article, it is nonetheless inspiring that someone finally dares take up the debate without fear of being branded by the '68-generation of nay-sayers. The debate continues, probably with a lot of nay-sayers, tonight at KafCaféen at 20.00.

Posted by Nikolaj Nyholm at April 11, 2005 10:22 AM

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