Context-centric cultures & call-out cultures

John Ohno
5 min readAug 18, 2018

The ‘right to be forgotten’ addresses a real problem, but does so by making that problem worse. The problem: people are willing to use information taken out of context as a weapon against other people.

This is not a technical problem. It is not a human nature problem. It is a cultural problem: we have allowed misrepresentation (whether deliberate or the result of insufficient effort) to become acceptable.

Misrepresentation should not be a major problem in a world like ours, where more context is more easily accessible than ever before. Technical or UI changes could be made to increase the accessibility of the context, and perhaps that’s worth doing, but increased access to context is not going to disincentivize creating and accepting misrepresentations. Misrepresentations are not treated as pieces of useful information to be further integrated, but as weapons. (This is called “call-out culture”. It’s not a new problem, and it doesn’t vary in intensity across the political spectrum.)

The ‘right to be forgotten’ tries to make out-of-context information useless as a weapon by removing even more context (in a scattershot way, driven by the whims of a corporate approval committee). This addresses one particular aspect of misrepresentation’s new increase in popularity — the ability to sift through more data in order to find possible criticisms — but ultimately fails to recognize that the full context is typically easily found & the success of misrepresentation is mostly due to factors that…

--

--

John Ohno

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net