“Totalitarianism is not only hell, but all the dream of paradise– the age-old dream of a world where everybody would live in harmony, united by a single common will and faith, without secrets from one another. … Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way, and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger and more perfect, while the adjoining paradise gets even smaller and poorer.”
– Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Schufa, the credit rating agency in Germany, which is run as a public company, wants to use data from social networks to determine private individuals’ credit worthiness [Sorry, no English link available yet. Google’s translated version is almost decipherable]. Some are going to see in this capitalism’s reconstruction of the individual for its own purposes. There’s something to that, but it’s been done.
Let’s try this instead: the medium is the message, and Facebook is just a medium for people to market a certain version of themselves, the identity that they’d like to have. Schufa just wants to wiretap the medium. Facebook is fun as long as it’s just playing dress-up. Look at me, mom, I have a sword! I’m a Jedi/pirate/knight/Viking/gladiator/samurai! It’s paradise because it’s transparent, but it just lets others see your idealized version of yourself, which need not be real. The medium is free and easily modified, so the message is frivolous and incorporeal. What happens when Schufa makes it real, when it has consequences, when, if you claim to be a Viking, you’re expected to pillage a village or go back to Vinland? All of a sudden the Monopoly money becomes real, so how’s your portfolio looking? Hope you’ve got a couple of railroads/rich uncles.