The March 2008 edition of Harper’s arrived today, and in it is a wonderful example of how internet technologies are not value neutral. Ginger Strand’s annotation "Keyword: Evil" (which Harper’s has made available for free online) spans two pages as she uses call-outs connected to an architectural schematic to dissect the energy-use implications of Google’s planned server farm site, The Dallas, which rests on the Columbia River in Oregon. Two screenshots of the article:
Her discussion degrades Google’s "Don’t be evil" slogan, just as PB’s recent pollution and violation of environmental regulations degrades their overly green eco-friendly web page design (an example I use with my engineering students).
In several of my classes, when discussing Nardi and O’Day’s information ecologies and Cindy Selfe’s call to pay attention to the social aspects of technological literacy, we talk about how technology is not value neutral, that the decisions we make about the technologies (computer and other) we use resonate throughout the production cycle of those technologies, the governments who support them, the people who build them, and the people who live near where they are built. Many students haven’t thought about those kinds of implications; this article will provide another example.
For one of many non-computer-related examples, see Heather Timmons and J. Adoms Huggins’ New York Times article, "New York Manhole Covers, Forged Barefoot in India."