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August 30th, 2011

shadowspar: An angry anime swordswoman, looking as though about to smash something (Default)
Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 01:46

The Nymwars rage on. Much has already been said, and I'm not sure how much this will add to it. However, there are a few things I really want to get off my chest about G+.

The importance of the ability to choose your own name, psuedonym, or other identifier has been extensively covered by the tireless work of [personal profile] skud, the contributors over at My Name Is Me, the crowd at Geek Feminism, Botgirl Questi, Identity Woman, and many other folks.

But -- I just want to state how insulting, how infuriating, how incredibly patronizing and condescending it is for someone to tell you that they know better than you do what your name should be.

And how belittling, how othering is it to have someone tell you that there is something wrong with your name; that your name is not right; that your name and the identity tied up in it are invalid, or not adequately "real"; in need of alteration or repair?

IMNSHO, this kind of behaviour -- coming from an impersonal service like Google, no less -- is the height of disrespect and impudence, and it most certainly merits a rousing "fuck you".

How dare someone tell you that they know what your name is better than you do.

Second, in this video, Brad Horowitz mentions that minors (under 18 years) aren't allowed to use G+ yet, and says (jokingly or not) that there are no minors on the service at all. In the offline world, we all know how effective age controls have been at preventing determined underagers from getting hold of things like alcohol, tobacco, and porn. I'm sure keeping them out of G+ will be a veritable cake walk. Good luck with that.

Third, one of the arguments most frequently trotted out is that G+ is a private service. If you don't like it, don't join; they don't have any obligation to serve you. While this may be true after a fashion, think about how many private services you have to use in your day-to-day life to really function as a full member of society. Banks, telecom companies, couriers; hell, even retail stores. How would your life look without a bank account; without a phone, or internet access in your house; without the ability to easily buy products or services you need or want. While any private business can refuse to serve you for no reason whatsoever, in most jurisdictions anti-discrimination laws or human rights codes get created so that folks with unpopular attributes (you know, like being black, or queer, or an immigrant) can, at least in principle, access the private services they need to get by in day-to-day life.

We're not there yet on the frontiers of the Internet. We don't yet know what combination of private services will become well-nigh mandatory to fully participate in our digital society. Google Plus could very well end up being one of these, especially since it's now being touted as an identity service, and could eventually end up being a key part of things like job hunting or online payment.

Finally, the language that Schmidt and others use seems to suggest that they think of anyone who doesn't have some kind of strong identifier bound tightly to them as being "fake"; translucent; somehow less than a real person. This not-so-subtle implication is a crock of shit. Humanity's got on for thousands of years without wallet names; even more telling are the fleeting encounters you have with strangers every day. You may chance to exchange a smile, a scowl, a knowing glance, or a passing kindness with dozens of folks who are anonymous, or nearly so; and they are just as real, if not moreso, than some faceless executive who sits in an office and dictates policy about identity.