I have seen a number of documentaries on the topic of Wiki Leaks, Edward Snowden, even a few on the hacker group Anonymous, However, there was an interesting twist to the Netflix documentary: We Steal Secrets.
Before beginning, I feel That I can claim that I’m relatively up to date on the news. I source my news from different countries, knowing that anything in English probably has a spin, and different perspectives. I try to ensure that what I know (think) about the world is as accurate as possible. On the whole I believe myself to be well informed…,however, I am beginning to see a difference in being informed and being aware.
Perhaps it is more the importance of trying to keep the medium from being the message?
The art of the post, the tweet, the documentary, are all contributing to a renewed and polished idea of what information is and how it is transferred, and inferred. While watching I was interested to find that the individuals depicted seem to change according to the way they were presented by the producer/s of the film
Before continuing a preface: I don’t believe that anyone can ever know the whole story of an event as complicated and dynamic as either the Wiki leaks event or the myriad of events they exposed. The level of deceit and the complexities of these kinds of events are simply of too grand a scale for individuals to apply absolute terms like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. rather much like my reflections on this film, we need to continue to develop and reform our understanding based on careful and active consideration of information (not to be confused with facts..which are even more slippery), as well as a dedicated open minded pursuit of new or alternative views.
Perhaps the most dramatic shift was who Bradley (now Chelsea Manning) was. Using text as dialogue to represent the discussion between Manning and Adrian Lamo really depersonalized (for me) Manning’s character. Difficult to feel empathy for a soldier stationed in Iraq, who is transferring data onto a Lady Gaga CD. However as the film progresses, and the true character and emotional state that Manning was in while this was happening, really began to supersede the content. It seemed almost metaphorical that he ultimately had his ‘secret’ outed by Lamo. As the facts, or perhaps more importantly ‘whole story’ evolves the viewer realizes that this is a human with great access to information, but unable to manage the responsibilities that access entails.
Another complex portrayal of an individual who at first is portrayed as somewhat of a positive player in the stemming of the flow of this confidential information. However again, as the film progresses Lamo is moved from the role of whistle-blower to that of (not intending to trivialize) ‘tattletale’. By the end Lamo is made out to be someone who sold his confidant out, perhaps even a traitor to those in the digital / hacker community. Yet at the end we again are shown that this decision came at no small personal or professional cost.
The main character…the lynch pin…. the hero? All over the world Julian Asssange is/was seen as a liberator of information. Someone who puled back the curtain to show us what really happens when big governments do ‘stuff’. While less of a extreme of a shift the producers definitely seemed to turn Assange from the role of leader of a new era of information, liberator, to one of dictator, and manager of information. Moving from one that was seen globally as perhaps what the future may hold for a standard of openness and lack of secrets, to a cloistered, international criminal and potential sex offender.
The Power of Information
These basis of this global event featured nothing other than humans, making good/bad decisions. It was more a story of the human condition, than it was about information. It is very easy to vilify the characters that are presented to us, in tweets, documentaries, Facebook posts. We form opinions, and then disseminate them, solidify them often more as fact than simply opinion. The challenge for us as the consumer of information, then producer, is to remember that behind this digital representation is a person, often with an agenda. it seems important to always attempt to keep these two things connected and forefront. Perhaps it is not then the information itself that forms our understanding, but intention with which it is presented.
This is a vital point for us as well as our students to recognize. Differentiating between intent, and information is a skill that all travelers of the interweb need to become skilled in. Rather than being led to believe things we can start to determine understanding.