Minding Our Minds   /   Summer 2014   /    Minding Our Minds

Governing the Ambient Commons

Malcolm McCullough

The Augmented City by Malcolm McCullough; courtesy of the author.

Superabundance amplifies the costs of poor information ethics.

The world is thick with buzzing information. It comes at us now not only on personal computers or handheld devices or car dashboards, but increasingly in the media-enhanced environments of cities and towns, malls and airports, imposing on our attention, beckoning us to attend. When does it all become too much? When do we know it’s too much?

For information, often the best solution to too much is more: Metadata, opinions, histories, filters, and background documents help lead the way. To restrict information would be unacceptable: The communications rights of individuals and communities must be inalienable, insuppressible, and not for sale. Yet among those rights might be ownership of your personal data, and a right to undisrupted attention. Thus, when media become situated and persistent, profound challenges emerge in information ethics. Questions of stewardship, expression, privacy, pollution, and attention theft all intensify.

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