We all now know that poor old Gordon got caught unawares talking about a prospective voter in unflattering terms. After a walkie talkie stroll a couple of weeks ago, he had to try and be diplomatic with a woman who had (at best) some seriously strange views and weird questions to ask. At worst, she was a bigot – and maybe many of us would agree.
I think it is very normal to do what Gordon did; grin and bear it, be polite to her face, and slag her off afterward. This according to most linguistic ethnographers is normal; Ron Carter found that the most common topic of everyday talk is about other people. Also sociologist Erving Gofmann would say that Gordon just wanted to save the woman’s face and not attack her in public; so was polite to HER, but then slagged her off after. I know we all pretend we don’t do this; but you and I know, that this is what we all do.
The advent of new technologies meant that Gordon got caught being normal. He thought he was talking in private, but his comments were broadcast publicly because he left his microphone switched on. So he attempted to talk privately; journalists overheard, and then publicized it across worldwide media. Gordon was revealed saying something in private, and the reaction given was outrage. He was slated in the press for this incident days and weeks after. I anticipate it will be re-called repeatedly in years to come. Poor Gordon.
Technology broadcast the words of Paul Chambers also, in ways he had not anticipated. Tweeting in exasperation about the closure of Robin Hood airport, he joked to his friends (he thought) that he would blow up the place:
“Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”
Poor old Paul; his tweet got read by a wider audience than he imagined, and he was contacted by the police … then done for time wasting.
How many of us tweet away; rabbit on on Facebook; blather on our blogs; (etc) without ever dreaming that more than our envisaged readership is reading?
We often forget how technology can make what we think of as a private space, a public one. By the same token, we sometimes confuse a public space with a private one.
We have to learn to be careful with new technologies. (Even when we remember their power most of the time …. sometimes we forget).
Here’s some nice technology for teachers: