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Predicting the next Twitter

Predicting the next Twitter

Boffins at De Montfort University Leicester, UK, have put together a team tasked with predicting the next big thing in terms of communication technologies, in a bid to tackle ethical pitfalls before they become a problem.

Over the past few years, widespread internet adoption and the pervasiveness of mobile connectivity have afforded some technologies rapid growth, but have also generated downsides. For example, internet banking has led to an increase in the amount of phishing email attempting to trick users into handing over account details, while the rise of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of personal information available online.

Under the two year project, entitled Ethical Issues of Emerging ICT Applications (ETICA), researchers at De Montfort are aiming to identify information and communication technologies that are likely to emerge in the next 10 to 15 years and spot any unforeseen drawbacks ahead of their widespread adoption.

Dr Bernd Stahl, reader in critical research in technology in the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility at DMU, said: “There is a large public interest in the type of ethical issues that new technologies may raise, in ways of understanding and classifying such issues and ways of avoiding or addressing them.

“Some technologies and their applications, such as social network sites like Facebook or Twitter, are easily identified as areas of future ethical problems.Analysing the ethical issues that may result from them is a difficult but important task if we want to be proactive in developing technology that is beneficial to individuals and society.”

ETICA researchers will identify and list the future applications and ethical issues that are likely to arise from each possible application and devise a method to grade and rank them. They will then focus on the top five issues they consider to have the highest priority and will make recommendations to policy makers based on their findings, as well as investigating governance models to see which are most likely to successfully address the ethical issues identified in the project.

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14 comments

  1. Sasha Hawke 16/04/2009 @ 3:17 am

    Its the same old conundrum. Provide high end security and draconian style rules and you inhibit freedom and creativity. Provide no security and you have a haven for hackers and spammers alike. I think its an individuals choice how much they want to reveal about themselves online, and not the fault of the application.

  2. Mike 16/04/2009 @ 4:14 am

    How about using your time and effort to help invent something useful instead of trying to get governments involved in shutting down useful inventions before they even exist? I would be ashamed if I found out that my money was helping to fund such counter-productive “research”.

  3. Randy 16/04/2009 @ 9:44 am

    The next social media fad will be a “Social Networking Predictor”. It will feature real-time social media rumoring which will bring productivity to its knees.

      • David Coveney 18/04/2009 @ 10:15 am

        People said this about the web itself in the early days. Now we know that if you give your staff (or at least perhaps the ones without drone jobs) good access they can find information and carry out research far more easily than they ever could before.

        Before that it was telephones.

        Communication is important – Twitter is about staying in touch, albeit quite loosely, with a broad range of related people. It’s just one of many ways to do so – whether it suits an individual is as much about their work and social circumstances as about productivity. For some it will ruin it.

        Incidentally – people misusing communications tools at work is nothing new. I refer you to the novel Ella Cheever Thayer wroted called Wired Love about a young couple who fell in love through short messages sent to one another at work. It’s immediately geeky. And it was written in 1879: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/24353

  4. Dean Procter 16/04/2009 @ 11:33 am

    Identity is the issue.

    Ethics is absent, equality is absent and freedom from persecution is absent with current forms of identity.

    The one-way authoritarian approach to identity practiced by governments is the antithesis of equality and democracy.

    Identity is the foundation of democracy.

    It is also the next big thing, in so many ways. The enabler.

  5. Brendan Dunphy 16/04/2009 @ 1:52 pm

    Dubious motives, assumptions and research at best; this really does nothing for furthering innovation or the public good or the image of DMU or Dr Stahl.

  6. Gando 16/04/2009 @ 8:10 pm

    I’ve been recently thinking that perhaps the average person doesn’t care about “productivity” as much as they care about communication with others. I see the use of these tools more as a rejection of a 60 hour work week, and a rejection of a fear of sharing and a move towards a life that includes being open and closer to others — even if it starts in a virtual way.

    A social revolution, as it were.

    Leveraging such tools, changing the bleak atmosphere of business in the US, and changing our ideas on productivity might soon be businesses only choice.

    -G

  7. ajolie 17/04/2009 @ 1:54 am

    As a hollywood star who uses twitter to communicate with my loved ones, I’d say you’re wasting UK workers’ hard earn money. Please spend your time on ways we can stop the government from taxing us, getting us into wars and wasting our hard earned money. Angela

  8. Allen Green 17/04/2009 @ 12:34 pm

    Here’s a twist – I’m jamming with youth groups to help them co-design the kind of mind-media apps that they choose to use for envisioning and enacting urban greening projects – ranging from planning through planting. This makes social networking a means to grow social capital from the ground up. Web 2.0 works for prototyping ideas in a safe haven quickly and mobilizing chosen solutions with flash mob effectivenss…a la Kogi taco truck’s rolling happenings in L.A.

  9. J.L.Lee 17/04/2009 @ 3:18 pm

    On-line Social Networking is CRAP! Why give the FBI and other law enforcement monkeys a free personal database to peruse and select their next victim of abuse. If you think they don’t look, you’re naive!

  10. Moshe Kigler 18/04/2009 @ 9:41 pm

    Its a bit ironic, using an old approach for solving future issues. If there is one thing we can learn from the mass Internet collaboration tools (i.e. Twitter, etc’) is that the new ethics will be decided by the crowds and not by a governing institute.

  11. David Alssema 05/06/2009 @ 2:44 pm

    It comes down to how much information is entered. Applications just make it easy to access.

  12. Sydney 07/06/2009 @ 6:02 am

    Again let the users decide. Its a debate that has people on both sides.

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