“Thing 9″ for the MSc module Theory and evaluation of eLearning:
Roaring off in a Cloud of dust
I quite like cloud computing, yet I still don’t feel completely comfortable with it. It’s great knowing that my “stuff” is available from anywhere on just about any platform, but it’s the availability that puts me a little ill at ease. Will my “stuff” be there as I left it when I come back? There is something reassuring about holding a possession, feeling its presence securely in your hands. The more worth that possession has the less comfortable it feels to entrust it to some entity over which there is no apparent control. Yet, as Naughton (2011) points out, comfortably within my memory we did it all the time. Only 20-30 years ago all significant digital storage involved mainframe computers. There wasn’t a cloud continuum as such, but there wasn’t affordable local personal data storage either. So why do I feel uneasy? Is data security the full storey?…
Where do Google ads pop up from? Why are they invariably relevant to your current task or writing? How do they “know” what you are thinking? As Noughton (2011) ellaborates, with data in the hands of commercial concerns rather than secure institutions they are able to use that data in ways we may not fully appreciate. Moglen (2010) notes that “We aggregated processing and storage increasingly in the middle and we kept the logs” and it’s these logs that can be analysed and interpreted to provide information about our on-line habits, the content of our communications, even our location via mobile networks logs.
Quoting directly from Moglen (2010):
So, out here in the dusty edges of the galaxy where we live in dis-empowered clienthood, nothing very much has changed. As you walk inward towards the center of the galaxy, it gets more fuzzy than it used to. We resolve now halo where we used to see actual stars… …So “cloud” means servers have gained freedom, freedom to move, freedom to dance, freedom to combine and separate and re-aggregate and do all kinds of tricks… …Clients have gained nothing. Welcome to the cloud.
But what does all this mean for my relationship with CiteULike and Diigo? Essentially it’s as I said at the outset, I don’t yet feel fully comfortable. Nothing is really free and these “free” services must have a price. Whether that price is insecurity of data integrity, insecurity of personal privacy, or my own insecurity of entities “knowing” me, I’m not fully decided. At present, while I have an appreciation of the “worth” of these fully portable information aggregation services, I do not understand the potential costs and can not see a clear advantage over my current “anonymous” methods of data gathering.
I have more motivation to explore new tools, techniques or ideas when awareness of them is paired with a purpose to which they are suited. With that in mind I may well have quite different views after I have used CiteULike and/or Diigo in the second part of this unit…
Moglen, E. (2010) Freedom In the Cloud: Software Freedom, Privacy, and Security for Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing, a speech to the Internet Society’s New York branch on Feb 5, 2010. http://www.softwarefreedom.org/events/2010/isoc-ny/FreedomInTheCloud-transcript.html [Accessed 01-Mar-11]
Naughton, J. (2011) At long last, there’s a silver lining in the age of cloud computing in The New Review section, The Observer, Sunday 27 February 2011, p21. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/feb/27/networker-cloud-computing-security [Accessed 01-Mar-11]