Sunday, March 25, 2012

When Privacy Controls Aren't Enough...

Those of us maturing in the Facebook Age have undergone a quick schooling on internet privacy. By now, most of us know to carefully control access to our social media profiles for fear of what acquaintances, employers, and even family members might see (don't get me started on the year that Aunt Cindy found a picture of me smoking--- not a pleasant Christmas conversation).  However, employers are now trying to circumvent these attempts at privacy by demanding new employees release their social media passwords during interviews.

This situation raises some interesting questions about citizenship and public space in the digital age. Those who oppose these measures claim that demanding access to an employee's social media presence is a profound violation of privacy, and legislation is already being drafted in Maryland and Illinois to make the practice illegal.  Facebook, itself, has threatened to sue employers who demand passwords.

Personally, I see both sides to the argument of whether or not this level of employer-snooping should be illegal. On the one hand, if we consider our virtual selves as an extension of our human selves (as I have argued here before), then it makes sense that we have some degree of privacy based on our historic conceptions of liberal citizenship and the public/private sphere distinction. In other words, what you do in the privacy of your home, or on your homepage, is your own business. There would also be a strong legal argument against the practice among public sector employers by invoking the right to privacy read into the 14th Amendment.

On the other hand, if we consider the internet, itself, as an extension of the public sphere, privacy is no longer the issue. Privacy remains in the home, away from the computer, and what we freely choose to reveal to the world-wide-web is a matter of public speculation.

Beyond these philosophical questions, the situation sheds light onto current labor relations in this country. If Facebook had been around 15 years ago, when the job market was far less grim, would this occur? If unemployment and under-employment were lower--- if people were less desperate for jobs and employers did not have such a wide pool of applicants--- would employees stand for this level of invasiveness?

Unfortunately, we are living in times when employees do not have the luxury of refusing demands. So, if you're in the job market, be prepared to defend that rant against Corporate America and those pictures from Spring Break 2007. Until then, readers, set your privacy settings-- like your aspirations for a better tomorrow-- very high.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Learning is Struggle

In this recent blog post, psychology professor Nate Kornell explores a fascinating aspect of learning: challenge. He argues that clarity can actually be an impediment to learning, as it is only through challenges that people correct their misconceptions and reach true understanding.

As a former teacher and life-long student, I find this to be very true. As much as we are wont to believe that students miraculously learn through a teacher-dictated-top-down approach, learning is really a self-directed process.  As Kornell states, “According to growing mountain of research, understanding isn’t enough. It’s the struggle that makes us learn.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Are You Reading?

I'm deviating from the blogger path right now, but I'm very curious what online news sources/journalism you all read.  I've included my list below.  I'll include a blog list in another post.  I'd like to say that I get the time to regularly read all these, know... Netflix... shit....

Al Jazeera English ** This is where I read most of my news, actually.
The Hill
Freakonomics Blog ok, I know I said no blogs, but I consider this a pretty useful source of info
Mother Jones love/hate, but they've been on point lately
Miller McCune -- just found this; it's AWESOME
Daily Kos
Real Clear Politics ok, they mostly consolidate news, but they do a damn fine job of it
The Nation

Of course, there's the usual suspects, too: WSJ, WashPo, NYTimes, etc.

So now it's your turn? What are you reading? What's good?


ps I know this post sounds like a pretentious "omg, guess how much *I* read?" thing. Eh, get over it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Putting the Electric Car on the Back-Burner

Last week, GM announced that it was temporarily suspending manufacture of its Volt hybrid electric car, claiming that there was not enough market demand at the moment to justify production. Sales of the electric car have fallen short of projections, recently, despite several government interventions at the local and federal level to boost sales. These interventions included a $105.9 million grant to help produce battery packs and $151.4 million grant to produce battery cells,* a tax credit to buyers of electric cars, and the ability to drive in High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in the state of California.

The decision relieved many Congressional Republicans, who opposed the heavy hand of the government in this particular branch of the automotive industry and, needless to say, the President's ringing endorsement of it. They claim that, as Pennsylvania Representative Mike Kelly said in a recent House hearing, “When the market is ready...[the car] won't have to be subsidized.” Without delving into whose interests these Republican leaders serve (hint: it rhymes with Shmig Boil), their claim overlooks several key points that expose the most insidious myths of “free market” in this country.