One of my tech folks called this morning with a concern about Google Earth. It seems there was a placemark entitled "Can’t fucking get there from here." The tech wanted to know if a student at the school might have been able to create that placemark for the entire school, since it seemed to be on multiple computers. I was able see that it was part of the Panoramio layer under the Geographic Web link. I assured the tech that a student at the school did not (to my knowledge) create the placemark, but that it was part of the Google Earth content contributed by the Internet community at large. The tech was still concerned about the language, and I promised to follow-up. This led me to an interesting discovery.
First, some background…Panoramio is a photo service similar to Flickr. It differs from that service in that geotagging is an essential element, and the ability to view maps with the photos is a key component. It does share some of the same Web 2.0 elements as Flickr, namely, that users contribute content, organizational structure, and commentary on other content. As a Web 2.0 service, Panoramio also provides RSS feeds and an API for its content so that it can be included with programs such as Google Earth.
I followed the link in the placemark to the photo’s page. The first few comments were an exchange between another offended user and the photographer about the language of the title. I contributed my own comment, which stated that the concerns were valid, since this was an active layer in Google Earth and was used by children for whom the language may not be appropriate. The photographer graciously changed the titled, and responded to me by saying that he had no clue that his photo and title might wind up in such a context.
So here’s the dilemma. In Web 2.0 content from one social network can wind up in a completely different context. In this case, the photographer probably intended his work for a more mature audience, completely unaware that it would be featured so prominently in something used by school children. Should we as social network authors self-censor our work because it might show up in some inappropriate context? Should such content be filtered, strained, and refined because it might (actually, probably) contain content that is not age appropriate? Or should we, as my tech had suggested, completely remove a rich tool such as Google Earth (and, by extension, the Internet itself) because it most certainly will contain content that offends someone? I think not.
Try as we might, we cannot prevent, block or filter everything we consider offensive from children. Our best bet is to teach them to be media savvy, and to learn how to interpret things in context. We can teach them that some may choose to use strong language, but that they themselves can show restraint in the language they choose to use. With any type of content available just about anywhere, context becomes almost as important as the content.
For this very reason, I have chosen to completely spell out the F-word in the placemark’s title at the beginning of this post rather than self-censor. It is an accurate reflection of the situation, and in this context and for my typical audience, I believe it to be appropriate. However, some narrow-minded control freak will now probably place my website on some block list. So be it. Such are the perils of Web 2.0.
[tags] Web 2.0, social network, Panoramio, Google Earth[/tags]
4 thoughts on “The Perils of Web 2.0”
I think you make some valid points. I definitely do NOT think we should simply block useful sites, tools, resources, etc. because there might be something offensive in them.
We are no longer a world where it is easy to “shelter” children from things that may be age appropriate. As educators and parents we need to discuss these topics with our kids so when they encounter offensive or inappropriate items, they know how to respond.
Teaching values, ethics, appropriate behaviors is where our time should be spent…
I read Talking Books while a kid. Still use them. These are recorded books available to people who are blind (totally or partially). I read books on a much higher age reading level as a child than most. My parents did not censor me; I made my own book requests after about the sixth or seventh grade.
Consequently, I have a hard time identifying with this censoring bit. I tended to ignore stuff I didn’t think was “decent”, or at least didn’t get shocked by it.
Sometimes I think people over-react to this sort of stuff.
Hello. Been meaning to have a look in since that exchange. Many other things intervening. Don’t recall exactly what I was thinking at the time, other than there were several things to consider in relation to the topic. A couple of thoughts, then:
Too right, Ken. I’ve been around enough kids who live outside the mainstream to know that they don’t bat an eye at things many adults would blanche at. It makes me wonder just what is being ‘protected’. Someone else’s idea of what we should be thinking? That seems a futile exercise!
As the author of the offending caption, the issue of censorship is just one of a few things to consider, given that I have my own ideas about what needs to be said and done. For me, properly considered censorship is a compromise between the interests of one person and those of another. For example, my intent in captioning the photo, and someone else’s intent regarding public discourse. So the way a request is presented makes a big difference in the outcome. In short, even censorship can be a dialogue, a negotiation. It should be treated as such, so that all parties are aware of the stakes involved, and the basis for negotiation.
That said, if anyone here is interested in a project that involves getting children out into their local landscapes, and in using the web to share their experience with children in another part of the world, there’s a project being cooked up here over the next few weeks. This would be a combination of guidance and self-guidance that might be obliquely relevant to the conversation above.
Well spoken, DP. Your project with the Durham Necklace Park looks quite interesting.