Consumers and IT: a Love/Hate Relationship
Consumers of IT are a mixed group, taking in buyers, users, those who are the subjects of personal data files, and those who, at least as far as they know, have no contact with these technologies. The relationship between IT and the public is complex, and characterised both by mutual dependency and, on the part of the public, suspicion. The value of IT in the organization of our lives is countered by resentment of its dehumanising tendencies. We expect it to provide a dependable infrastructure for our daily lives, so that we can take for granted, without question, that the correct salary cheque will arrive on time each month, the airline booking will be reliable, and the morning weather report accurate. There are many aspects of modern industrial life which depend on IT for their smooth operation, but where we rarely stop to ask if IT even has a presence. At the same time we do get concerned when things go wrong, when the computer has a fault, makes a mistake, or appears to be doing something we do not like.
This chapter starts by looking at our relationship with IT and the ways it is used by those who govern us. It then goes on to raise the issue of public rights, delving again into the problems which arise if personal data is never allowed as the property of the individual concerned. We debate whether there is a case for a show of public passive resistance to data gathering, to put an end to this fonn of commercial exploitation. Possible elements in a scheme of public protection are discussed, followed by an analysis of the many ways IT could be advanced in support of individual and local community living.
KeywordsPersonal Data Community Life Public Protection Modem Society Junk Mail
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