Resisting Big Tech will take more than hashtags
I recently came across an excellent resource for those of us who would like shrink the power and influence Big Tech wields in our lives. It’s not a meaningful choice to discriminate between the giants, to choose between Google or Apple. Rather, the real fight is for less totalizing tools.
Instead of tools of industrial-scale control and convenience, we ought to look for more convivial tools that encourage and support action at a human scale.
If better big technology is possible, it almost certainly must begin with small technology that is transparent, humane, and puts people above profit.
There is an actual Small Technology Foundation which is run, appropriately, by a couple and their dog. Check them out for a fuller explanation of the “small tech” ethos. I immediately downloaded the pair’s Better Blocker for the very reasonable price of $2.79 and it performs better than the major apps (AdGuard & Adblock Plus) I used previously. An important factor in my decision was Better’s refusal to let advertisers pay to unblock ads and whitelisting respectful ads. Respectful ads, made with the principles of Ethical Design, don’t track users and “respect human rights, human effort, and human experience.”
If you’re a Safari user on Mac or iOS, buy Better Blocker and support small tech that puts people first. For everyone else, start with Good Reports, the resource I alluded to up top. Good Reports is the latest project from Mark Hurst of Creative Good. Hurst hosts the very, very good podcast Techtonic (also an old-timey radio show) and has been working to create convivial digital tools since before I got my first email address.
Good Reports features recommendations “for genuinely good, helpful, non-toxic tools” that go far beyond tweaking privacy settings in Google or Facebook. Many of the recommendations are less convenient that Big Tech’s options, and most ask for a fair, reciprocal exchange: money for goods, but all are good.
Choice Episodes of Techtonic
- Alan Jacobs, author, "Breaking Bread with the Dead" (Oct 5, 2020)
- The Big Tech hearings - and Lisa Macpherson from Public Knowledge (Aug 3, 2020)
- Jason fried, cofounder of Basecmap, on launching Hey.com, a new email service (June 15, 2020).
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