Friday, September 24, 2010

Orders: Follow with Caution

After viewing Standard Operating Procedure and reading the interviews of Errol Morris, I found my mind as well as my moral compass significantly boggled. We mentioned in class the struggle between what one feels is morally correct versus what an authority figure is telling that individual to do. Many of those interviewed in Morris's film talked about how they were "just following orders", even though they were aware of the inappropriate nature of their behavior at the time. Some, like Sabrina, said they were taking the photos in Abu Ghraib to, in the future, indict those committing the crimes. However, I feel that these individuals should have possessed a higher level of self-awareness which would have prevented them from taking the photos if not committing the acts of abuse in the first place. Then again, these individuals were soldiers and were usually taking direction from superiors. As a soldier in the U.S. Military, one is indeed taught to follow orders and effectively trained to obey all orders of their superiors. It is my feeling, though, that if one was disturbed by the uncouth procedures, one would at least think to question the authority figure.

Philip Agre - author of Surveillance and Capture: Two Models of Privacy

After reading Philip Agre's essay Surveillance and Capture, I think it would be interesting to hear Agre's opinion on modern technology and surveillance methods. Philip Agre published his essay in 1994 and since that time, technology with surveillance capabilities have become more common and more integral to our society and how it functions. Agre mentions the invasive nature of tracking labels on postage and other trivial things that we, now, take for granted or as commonplace. It seems that in today's world versus 1994, our lives are saturated with technology and these "tracking devices" we no longer bat an eyelash at the thought of having our activities observed. Due to this almost constant presence of an observing force, some people alter their behavior. This is most present, in my mind, in the social situations of adolescents and minors. Many underage people drink, yet are careful of hiding photographic evidence by cropping or editing photos from weekends. Those who aren't cautious occasionally get caught and suffer the consequences. This is a much more colloquial situation as compared to the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, but is another example of the level of self-awareness that is necessary in today's society.

I would be intrigued to see Agre's reaction to the Abu Ghraib photo scandal. I look at it as a panopticon example. Effectively  in this case, the guard incites a behavior and then punishes it. Conversely, the prisoner does what is considered wrong merely because the guard instructs it.

Friday, September 17, 2010


After reading Engelbart's Augmenting Human Intellect, I realize how many of us, now in the 21st century and having grown up immersed in technology, take these tools for granted. Admittedly, I got a little lost in the jargon, but I feel that added to my awe for his accomplishments. I find it sad that we pay so little homage to the inventors, like Engelbart, who laid the groundwork for the great technological feats we have achieved so far. Where would our society be without such great minds with even the most basic intent? It was interesting, as well as disorienting, to hear about these objects that we encounter on a daily basis in a theoretical sense or as very basic working plans. That goes back to us taking such advances for granted. How many of us could honestly say that without technology we would maintain our efficiency? Many people are discouraged by man's heavy reliance on technology. In reality, is there really anything to bemoan? Instead of lamenting our dependency on computers, instead perhaps we should applaud Engelbart's success.