digital knowledge. digital culture. digital memory.

20.9.07

Debating digital existence


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My buddy Robert W Martin (not the guy in the picture) wants to live his life online. But he wants to do it without owning any of his own hardware. To readers in Fiji, this may sound like a yaqona induced fantasy, but Rob lives in a large city in Canada. For about CDN$40 (FJ$60) per month, he gets a connection at home at a speed of about 512kb/s, up and down, with no practical usage limit. At work, his connection may be as fast as 1Mb/s and similarly fast connections are available at numerous Internet cafes for anywhere from free to CDN$5 (FJ$7.50) per hour, not to mention various mobile networking options with various speeds and prices.

With affordable and fast connectivity like this, all he needs to do is get a free webmail account, an online office application service like Google Docs, a file vault, maybe a photo hosting site, and then a bunch of IM and P2P accounts and he's set, right? But here's the problem, like most security professionals, he's paranoid.

He calls his quest the search for digital existence:

This means not having a computer of my own. No desktop, no laptop, not even a wifi-connected smartphone. I want to exist online and experience the richness of the web without having to own any hardware. My access will be through public access terminals and Internet cafes, and by borrowing bandwidth from work, friends and family.[Digital existence revisited, The life and times of Robert W Martin]
Rob has invited me to hammer through some of the difficult questions with him in a blog2blog conversation.

Rob, you suggested that we address these questions:
  • Can you really trust webmail?
  • Do you really want your files hosted online?
  • How much encryption do you need?
  • Do you need your own access device (keyboard, computer, PDA, etc.) or can you trust public computers?
Good ideas, but first I want to know why. Why do you want to live on the net without your own hardware? Why do you want digital existence?

Photo by: Cayusa

7 comments:

dtabureguci said...

Wow! Imagine, digitally existing...Now we can travel the world in a few gigabytes! All we need is our body!

dtabureguci said...

An afterthought: Hey Chris, I wouldn't mind living on the Net at all! I think it would be cool and convenient because I would be able to do anything from anywhere in the world where I can access my stuffs.
I am sure the application of digital existence would be very useful to a lot of people. I would sure like to experiment with it!

thrashor said...

while the idea of uploading your personality and memories and floating around cyberspace if both frightening and intriguing, this is not what rob means by "digital existence". he just wants to be able to use all his stuff online without relying on carting his own equipment around.

dtabureguci said...

:) Yes, i thought so. An interesting concept though.

cheers.

Wilson said...

ghost in the shell ftw ;)

Anonymous said...

From a security perspective having 3rd parties hosting your data is a terrible idea - you can trust noone but yourself, and as such need to own the hardware and provide yourself with these services (webmail, photo hosting etc etc). One server can host pretty much all one individual needs, and is easy to set up to be remotely accessible. Dynamic DNS and such make this easily possibly even on cheap consumer DHCP lines. Buy an SSL cert and access everything through a browser.

Robert said...

In response to the last anonymous post, that is certainly valid. However, you still need to have some way of physically accessing your hosted server. Unless you carry around a laptop EVERY time you want to access your information, you need to have a way of trusting your access point. I don't want to have to carry a laptop everywhere I go, although that does give the greatest level of assurance (assuming of course that one knows how to configure and secure the host and the client, but that is a different story). Maybe the ultimate solution for DE ends up being a host server that you run yourself and a way of trusting the access points.