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What is your digital grid?

May 13, 2012

As consumers of digital technology do you not get the sense that the pace of change is increasing and impacting us with little time to sit back, watch, take things in, and try to make sense of it all.  Nowadays digital devices and digital environments tend to suddenly show up almost invisible to our awareness and quickly become an integral part of our digital landscape. The consumer acting, to often, as a passive bystander and paying little attention on how this impacts our lives.

Recently I was invited to set up Google Drive and realized this was one more service that I work and live by tied to one flavor of a digital grid. We as consumers of the internet navigate within a variety of digital grids which are the framework of our digital ecosystems. A digital grid is the interface we log into with a username and password that in return provides us with tools, information and services all within the confines of one brand, organization or company.  These digital grids have become essential to our communication, collaboration, creative output, and ability to share information in our professional and personal lives. A digital ecosystem are all the connections, hardware, switches, wires, boxes and components which tie us to the services and tools these digital grids provide. Common digital grids are for example Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft to name a few. Some dominate our digital ecosystems more than others. This market dominance is critical to these organizations and companies managing our digital grids.  This dominance translates into power and control over large groups of users’ information which generates huge incomes and profits for these companies and organizations. The price of this convenience, seamless integration, and menu of powerful tools and services at ones fingertips is being locked into a single organization’s/companies’ digital grid.  Millions if not billions of users like you and me live in these digital grids and cannot function without them.

There is immense motivation for the organizations and companies delivering these services to make the experience more unified, seamless and a one stop shop for all our needs.  In developing these architectures as digital grids the companies and organizations are provided with limitless information, access and control of personal/professional habits, relationships and behaviors of their users. The more diversity of mediums, tools and services delivered, the more users they get, the more information they generate resulting in income and profits. As our digital lives evolve in interacting within a limited number of digital grids out of convenience, ease and habit what is the long term impact to us as individuals?

Looking at the different privacy policies (here paraphrased on this link) of cloud data storage services for individuals for Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive and Dropbox  provides us with significant evidence of the change in ownership of personal/professional intellectual property and information. As our off line lives blend more and more with our online lives, all within a limited digital grid, organizations and companies suddenly have access to all the aspects of our lives.

For many of us the convenience of the digital grid out weighs the reality of having a third party, organizations, and/or companies access, track and own all our personal/professional online information. Unfortunately if one chooses not to work within certain digital grids ones options to interact with other users both professionally and personally becomes quite limited and in some cases even impossible.  Try to disconnect for a week, and not use  your most commonly used digital grid. What would your work week look like, what would your socializing look like, what would your personal and professional communication look like? Yes it is still possible at some level to live outside of the larger digital grids and try to use a mix of different tools unconnected to each other.  For most of us the effort, time, knowledge and logistics would require an immense amount of patience and skill to pull this off. At the end of the day the sheer convenience, seamlessness and variety of services the common digital grids provide us make opting out an impossible task for most of us. This reality has re-framed what personal and professional privacy is in our lives.

So, what digital grid do you live in?

John@https://beyonddigital.org/

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2012 10:30 pm

    Hi John,

    Thank you for shedding some light on all of this. It’s most helpful and interesting. I wonder if people will stay away from Google Drive because of their disclosure that they can do things to “one’s content” or will they decide they can’t do without it anyway. Somehow I think the latter…

  2. May 14, 2012 6:39 am

    I like to think of it as a side effect of the flattening of the world. In the old days we lived in a village and everybody knew everything and everyone shared in every invention as it would have been immediately put to common use. Stories would have been told and retold with little to no nod to the original teller.

    Concepts like privacy and IP are modern inventions that have everything to do with the illusion of individualism and not collaboration. The truth is that IP represents a portion of the investment, but I’m pretty sure that the guy who invented the wheel isn’t getting kickbacks from modern car design!

    The challenge, of course, is that there is the potential for these organizations to profit from other peoples’ IP, which is of course ridiculous. I suspect, however, that their wording has more to do with protecting themselves from prosecution by the entertainment industry than anything else, unfortunately.

  3. July 26, 2012 3:14 pm

    I enjoyed reading this as it helped consolidate my thoughts regarding the digital grid. I am very uncomfortable with companies mining my information; but I also understand that a company like Apple is a business and I rely upon the convenience. I like to believe that not putting too much personal information (where I went to school, etc) in Facebook gives me some control but I just might be fooling myself. Thanks again for a thought provoking read!

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