Snowden has shown us that in the digital world a level of surveillance is possible and practiced that would never have been accepted in analogue democracies. Now people start to rebel.
The significance of Snowden's revelations goes far beyond the use of private data by intelligence services but actually relates to the social acceptance of the digital world. The big questions Snowden has asked us, is how comfortable we really are in todays digital world, what price we are willing to pay for this digital world and what are the risks and side effects.
Here a comparison with mass food production could be useful. Through the development of more effective methods of meat production and the cultivation of food crops, including an ever higher degree of 'doping' with chemical fertilizers and hormones in animal feed food has become widly available at decreasing prices. This is a good thing in principle. At the same time we are becoming aware of the side effects: inhumane animal husbandry, swine flue, SARS, water shortages, increase in human allergies, diseases, obesity and increase in CO2 emissions through increased meat consumption. One response to these effects was the movement 'Back to Nature,' the production and marketing of organic products.
Replace mass food production by mass digitalization. The digital world has brought us Search, Wikipedia, Facebook, Online Gaming, the Arab Spring, eBay and Amazon. However, it has also had side effects such as isolation, data harvesting of personal date for marketing and other reasons, and the comprehensive monitoring by intelligence agencies a la Big Brother in democracies and dictatorships alike.
Is this the time for a movement 'Back to Analog'? Defitely Maybe. As with 'Organic' which remains a niche in the mass production of food, 'Analog' does not need to replace the digital world. But Organic is increasingly important (e.g. 15 percent share of Berlin's food shopping) and has influenced by his standards the mainstream of food production.
With an Analog movement it could be similar, i.e. a growing niche which influences with its standards the digital mainstream, e.g. on the use of personal data and user information.
It is unlikely that intelligence agencies across the world will give up on the powers they have gained through digital. But if more people spend more time in the analog world the value of digital surveillance will decrease, and so will the value of digital marketing etc.
Then Analog could become the New Organic.
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Andre Wilkens ist ein Berliner and a European and has lived and worked for many years in Brussels, London, Turin und Geneva. He works in civil society and deals with politics, society, communication and the spaces in between. He is publishing regularly on those issues in German and English.