It’s been pretty quiet since December, but there’s a website — nlparkingwars.tumblr.com —that tries to lay a little embarrassment on people who violate parking rules.
It lets people post photos of others breaking rules: parking on crosswalks, taking two spaces instead of one, filling fire lanes, parking on the sidewalk, and so on.
It’s part of a new name-and-shame world that’s grown out of having almost everyone carry a camera with them all the time via their cellphones. (It’s the same concept that has led to that most ridiculous of trends, the “I’m posting a picture of whatever it is I’m about to eat” photograph.)
But as electronics get smaller and more ubiquitous, there’s an interesting debate growing about where — or if — a line should be drawn about what you’re allowed to record in public.
The debate comes as the world awaits the release of Google Glass, a wearable computer in a pair of eyeglass frames. There are plenty of concerns about the device already, mostly from the point of view of whether it will go even further in distracting drivers, for example, and whether it should be banned from casinos and bars.
Google Glass will be able to uplink photos, sound and video almost instantly. Don’t like the way you’re being treated at the grocery checkout? Post it to the world and get a modicum of instantaneous revenge. What odds that your clip might be completely out of context — you get to be judge, jury and video executioner. It’s definitely not something that will do anything to moderate the tone of the already-fractious web.
Reporting on the rising umbrage about the intrusiveness of new electronics, the New York Times pointed to this 2009 quote from Eric Schmidt, then Google’s chief executive: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
Well, OK — but that attitude has the potential to make us edit every single aspect of our lives, and that editing may make life more politically correct, but far, far less honest.
The Times described an incident at a Silicon Valley conference called PyCon, where Adria Richards snapped a photo of two men telling off-colour jokes, which she immediately posted on Twitter. One of the two men was fired.
But the story doesn’t end there. As the furor over the photo and the firing grew, Richards’ employers felt the attention was damaging their business, and dismissed her.
“I don’t think anyone who was part of what happened at PyCon that day could possibly have imagined how this issue would have exploded into the public consciousness,” Ms. Richards said later.
Well, imagine it. Because the issue will only grow — and all of us will have to mind our p’s and q’s that much more.
Socrates once said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
The fully-examined life might not be, either.