Generation Wiki

We are Generation Wiki. We are interconnected collaborative creatures, and we like to share. But how do we fit into a Wikileakable world?

 

By Ethan Wilkes

We are Generation Wiki. We are interconnected collaborative creatures, and we like to share. We link and like, comment, post and poke. We Yelp when we’re hungry, Skype when we’re lonely and Gchat throughout the day. Our cell phone bills are light on minutes and long on data almost every month.

We are the first of our kind. A computer has sat comfortably in some nook of our home for as long as we can remember. We grew up trying to find Carmen Sandiego, and came of age to the beeps and cackles of a 14k modem connecting to America Online. Before we had our own car, before we had our own cash and before we had a fake ID, we had chat rooms, instant messages and inboxes. We had an entire world wide web of possibilities with which to explore beyond the confines of our bedroom walls. Our rebellion was data-driven, a battle cry of zeros and ones where power grew out of the results of a search engine.

We are broadcasters, mini-content creation machines and this is how we communicate. But while we may share more publicly, we are hardly the open books some claim us to be. Our online profiles reveal little more about our character, competence and intellect than our choice of clothing does because we know our boundaries, however unspoken. In fact, we are remarkably self-regulating and adept at maintaining privacy in a very public manner. What we share tends to be topical, trivial and rapidly replaced. The way we share it is marked by a unique etiquette.

We don’t SMS the way we e-mail, we won’t send a message for what we can comment on and a chat window is not the same as a phone call. We don’t type the way we speak and we all understand that. Sometimes we chastise our parents for not getting it. “No Mom, text messages are not for conversations!” They are for clarification of questions, confirmation of meetings and the occasional witty witticisms between the sexes. “Don’t photo comment on Facebook asking if I ate dinner!” It’s simply not the place.

We are aware of these ambiguities of the digital age, and we are comfortable with them. They are the products of a networked world where information is in abundance and easily diffused; it is the only world that we have known. So imagine how confounding we find the reactions to this Wikileaks debacle, many of which are so oddly out of date and knee-jerk.

The e-mail sent by our Office of Career Services that made international headlines and the mailing lists of other policy schools, along with similar messages sent to the student bodies of Boston University School of Law and Michigan State University James Madison College, is evidence of this reality. To be sure, no, no one muzzled our right to free speech, and contrary to the Village Voice description Columbia is not “fascist.” But the simple truth that someone, somewhere thought we would do best to keep a lid on it—to say nothing of the statements emanating from Congress and the State Department—shows how remarkably misguided the thinking is on this issue.

What seems to be missing is an understanding of what Generation Wiki has known all along about information gone viral: we consume, comment and move on; the story dies when we are done with it. Trying to put the genie back in the bottle is no way to deal with an exposé once it has gone online.

Furthermore, Wikileaks will not be a one-off. Whatever comes of the website, Julian Assange or Bradley Manning does not negate the fact that in the absence of a far more heavily restricted internet we live in a Wikileakable world. No matter how secure our servers, how rigorous our clearance processes or how thorough our legislation, we will never eradicate the human element from security or the technological platforms on which treasure troves of classified documents, corporate secrets or other private data can be obtained and blasted across the public domain.

The million-dollar question that nobody seems to be asking is: where do we go from here? The current strategy of trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted does not seem terribly effective for the digital age. As students of policy—as Generation Wiki—we’d do well to think of an answer, because those managing the current crisis do not appear to have a good one.

Tags:

Ethan is a 2012 Master of International Affairs graduate. Originally from New York, Ethan worked in China prior to attending SIPA providing strategic advisory on public affairs, public diplomacy and government relations. Ethan currently works in the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy at the United States Mission to the United Nations and is the former Editor in Chief of The Morningside Post. His writing has appeared in the The Guardian, The Huffington Post and Asia Times, among others. Ethan holds a B.A. in International Affairs and Comparative Politics from the American University of Paris.

8 Responses to “Generation Wiki” Subscribe

  1. m December 15, 2010 at 4:32 PM #

    Genius…
    p.s I love you 4 spilling the contense of my heart! <3

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. We Are Generation Wiki « First generation - December 12, 2010

    […] http://themorningsidepost.com/2010/12/generation-wiki/ […]

  2. Generation Wiki’s web savvy | Ethan Wilkes - December 14, 2010

    […] This article was originally published at the Morningside Post and is crossposted here by permission of the […]

  3. Generation Wiki’s web savvy | Ethan Wilkes | Facebook and social networking news - December 15, 2010

    […] This article was originally published at the Morningside Post and is crossposted here by permission of the […]

  4. Help! De overheid snapt niks van het Internet | Kletskous - December 15, 2010

    […] over Wikileaks te praten als ze ooit een carrière bij de overheid ambiëren.. Het artikel staat in de studentenkrant van de Universiteit van Columbia en is ook gepubliceerd in The Guardian.Een paar citaten:We are Generation Wiki. We are […]

  5. Memories, Dreams, Reflections » Blog Archive » A lot of media sources dealing with wikileaks - January 2, 2011

    […] Wilkes, “Generation Wiki’s Web Savvy,” The Morningside Post (Columbia University), December 11, 2010. “…in the absence […]

  6. Generation Wiki’s web savvy | Ethan Wilkes » The Social Media Experiment 2011 - January 3, 2011

    […] This article was originally published at the Morningside Post and is crossposted here by permission of the […]

  7. Generation Wiki - August 18, 2012

    […] article was originally published in The Morningside Post. Read more about: […]

Leave a Reply

A Photo Essay: Millions March NYC

  By Jane Rebecca Marchant On Saturday, December 13th, over 50,000 people protested the failure of grand juries in Ferguson, […]

SIPA Eats Its Way Through New York

The student group, “SIPA Eats,” brings students together to try new cuisines from around the world served right here in New York City.

Ebola: The Most Dangerous Disease is Panic

America’s response to rare diseases could use a dose of perspective

No Time To Waste: SIPA Recycling Levels Low

Students from SIPA’s Environmental Studies Program audit recycling rates at SIPA, find surprisingly low numbers

Big Themes, Big Expectations, Hit and Miss at ‘Fireside Chat’

Columbia’s annual graduate student fireside chat with the university president was lack-lustre at best.

Letters to Fabio

Fabio, a fourth-year MPA student, shares his pearls of wisdom to students seeking advice