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My Computer, Is It Really Mine?

                                                                      by Anna Rae                                                                                                      May 2006

historyfishBasically, I am trying to figure out why I am so hostile to computer file directories like ‘My computer’ and ‘My music.’  It's pervasive rhetoric that shows up even on web sites where I’m forced to sign up for ‘My organizer’ and click to log on to ‘My stuff.’ 

I mean, ostensibly, these ‘My’ files and categories are there to help me.  They allow me to keep track of files I like and use often.  So why do I find them so distasteful and obnoxious?  No, let me revise that--Why do I loathe them viscerally?

And I’m thinking it’s because I feel like some unknown someone has decided which part of 'my' computer I can use.  Someone out there is trying to spoon feed me into the corner.  And I better be grateful for ‘My’ little bit, or else.

But--it is all 'my' computer.  The whole darn thing is supposed to be mine!  And, far from helping me to categorize, I get the feeling the whole ‘My’ thing is designed to keep me out.   

I dislike being led by the nose by somebody whose whole goal in life is to control as much of my computer as possible.  Time for an update!  Gosh, did you know your subscription has expired?  And by the way, while you are trying to get your email, our programs are going to suck every smidgen of bandwidth possible so we can link you to the Marketing Mothership and hit you up for something special today.  At the same time, our robot snoopers will check everything you've done in the last 24 hours, and scan every 1 and 0 on your harddrive.

I mean, I’m glad 'they' (whoever 'they' are) are interested in providing services that help me to keep my computer running.  And in general, I like to have technology that functions.  But I want to be in charge of it.  All of it.  I feel similarly about my refrigerator.  A 'fridge is just a thing that runs.  It doesn't need a critical update, and all of it is mine.  When I open it up, there isn’t a sticky note in it that says “my shelf.”  I get the whole thing. 

Come to think of it, I object to the word ‘my’ just in general.  What a selfish word.  My!  My!  My!  It sounds like a dozen four year olds hovering around a single moonpie.  On 'my' very desktop, I am forced into the rhetoric of possession and greed.  My Computer, My Documents, my this, my that. 

It used to be that I could just rename the offensive files.  The offensive ‘My documents’ easily became ‘Joes documents.’  Except now I can’t do that without the whole thing imploding into quivering metallic shards.  The thing can crunch data in picoseconds, but it’s too stupid to find my newly named directory.   What the heck?  Meanwhile, some background process is "updating" something again.  And somehow every cookie ever baked ended up in file directories I'm not even allowed to see.

As Gollum might say, it’s not its business.  Did they have trouble like this in the dark ages?  Did overlords swoop down to decide where you would sleep and what you would get to eat that night?  Did they have oppressive categories like My Bedroll and My Tent Stake and My Bowl of Gruel?  Can I take My Sword and take My Revenge perhaps?

And then there is all this “registered users” stuff.  Maybe I don't want to be “My” organized, and I really, really, don’t need another “My membership.”   All I want to do is view a web page, not join a sorority.  But if I want to get to the weather page, I've got to register with the queen of weather marketing.  And how many cookies is that?  I want to view the weather not open a bakery! 

“My” this and “My” that.  Even “Your” would be better because at least that would be honest.  I am being dictated to.  I am being told where my bedroll will be.  But--and here is the truly insidious part--to be forced to call it “my” documents makes me complicit in my own subjugation.  Suddenly, I have ownership of my own oppression--after all, it’s mine, right? 

Do you think the Romans, when they enslaved the barbarians, locked their prisoners up with “my” shackles and “my” chains?  Heck, no!  Those were “your” shackles and “your” chains, thank you very much.  While it feels frustrating enough to be relegated and subjugated within my own domain, it is even more infuriating to be condescended to about whose submission, exactly, is required. It's "surf" not "serf," okay?  There's an important difference here.

So no.  I don’t want my hand held, thank you.  No, I don’t want a goshdarned cookie and I don’t care to be led around like some four year old who needs to learn how to curtsy and look nice at the party.  Don't touch that!  Don’t make a fuss.  Don’t rock 'My' boat.

I guess I can set the browser to reject all cookies.  And I can try to neutralize the 'my document' language by saying ‘the my computer.’  I can dialogue like this, “Save it to 'the my documents' file” or “check in 'the my computer' folders.”  Then it doesn’t feel so invasive.  But I think the true fix is at the factory.  What's with all the invasive programming?  It's a computer, not a protectorate, and it's supposed to belong to me.  Second, when subjugating me to “my corner,” don’t pretend like I had anything to do with it or act like I’m happy about it.  And third, my computer is not the free marketing expressway.

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