FRANTICALLY GRABBING last-minute items, I rush out the door to get my middle-school son to his pregame warm-up. “Oh, don’t rush; it will only take us 25 minutes to get there,” says my son. Surprised, I question where he got that information. Looking up from his phone, he replies, “Google sent a notification on my phone since my calendar has the game with location.” With some marvel in his tone, he remarks, “Every morning Google Assistant tells me how long it will take the bus to get to school.”
Humans have always shared information with each other, but the advance of digital media altered the time and geographic constraints that once shaped our historical patterns of communication. This transition ended the “Gutenberg era,” a period of human communication marked by a dependency on print, authorship, and fixity, and launched us into an era of communication marked by openness, collaboration, and easy access to information.
Despite the rapid pace at which we churn through this information, our new communication styles are also shaped, paradoxically, by permanence. Every share, post, or comment is archived, creating an online trove of information that identifies every person and their connections: where we get our news, what we look like, what sports team or social causes we support, who “likes” our church on Facebook, and, in my son’s case, our current whereabouts, our travel route, and destination points.
The internet is forever
In the world of digital ethics, the “endless memory of the internet” has recently attracted a lot of attention. How do we live in a world that increasingly does not forget?