The Internet of Things vs. The Need for Autonomy and Authentic Connection

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

We already know that the data we unwittingly give away allow corporations to follow us and predict our behavior, making them massively wealthy in exchange for their services. The “Internet of Things” (or IoT) weaves a myriad of intimate devices together—further deepening the corporate surveillance that promises to make our lives better for our own good. The IoT is here to stay, but the need for authentic connection, autonomy and selective privacy compels individuals, entrepreneurs, and communities to define the shape and character of these tools instead of being gently but certainly controlled by them.

In recent years, efforts to repurpose the tools of internet-based commerce and surveillance have shown up in a variety of forms. Decentralized, community Wi-Fi networks called meshnets are attempting to go global and provide communications between individuals that is both free and secure. Bluetooth transmitters called ibeacons are being used to tell the histories and current events of a place instead of marketing tailored items to unsuspecting passersby. A video chat portal was opened between two disconnected neighborhoods in Oakland so that the two halves could meet. And a whole host of other services and sites offer ways for us to gather the data we’ve given away, and sell or exchange it on our own terms—or to assert the right not to be tracked at all. Although privacy as we’ve known it is over, the means to build a world that promotes creativity and authentic dialogue is still in our hands.


Aarian Marshall,” How Controversial Advertising Technology Is Helping Writers Tell Stories in Austin,” City Lab, March 13, 2015,

Jeffrey Andreoni, ”Don’t Be a Prisoner of Your Own Data,” Shareable, November 4, 2014,

Jeffrey Andreoni, “Creative Community in the Age of Mesh Networks,” Shareable, June 10, 2014,

Laura Bliss, “Two Oakland Neighborhoods Connect Through a ‘Hole in Space’” CityLab, February 2, 2015,

Student Researcher: Steven Feher (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)