Publications

PESGB June 2010

Tue 01 June 2010

Category: Magazines

  • Book Review
  • PESGB Young Professionals

Plus much more inside

Editorial- Barrie Wells

There is a TV advert showing a person walking down a pavement, being rude to people, stepping in front of them, becoming exaggeratedly annoyed with anyone walking too slowly and generally
behaving like a jerk, with a punch line to the effect that, if you wouldn’t behave like this, why do so many people consider it acceptable behaviour when behind the wheel of a car? I think it’s a
rhetorical question so I won’t make the mistake of trying to answer it and anyway, as our universities are now intent on turning out psychologists in huge numbers instead of engineers, it would be
rude of me to rob them of something to occupy their time, but I would like to address the question of context-sensitive behaviour in relation to the internet, because it is an issue which affects our
Society and arguably needs addressing by the Society.
I’ll start with another rhetorical question: is it socially acceptable to walk into an HMV shop (purveyors of gramophone records and related recorded-music paraphernalia), pick up a CD, put 17p on
the counter to cover the cost of the cardboard and plastic, and then walk out? If not, why should it be acceptable to do the equivalent in the virtual world, simply by re-naming it ‘sharing’ instead of
‘stealing’? Society appears to accept different rules for on-line behaviour, and not just in this instance. A recent spat amongst British politicians led to the retrospective changing of Wikipedia by
one of the parties, just to make their leader’s opinion match the historical record. Not necessarily important if you regard Wikipedia as a collection of opinions posted by people with time on their
hands; very important if you have stopped using the Encyclopedia Britannica and now regard Wikipedia as being correct simply because most people believe it to be correct.
Fortunately, we can think for ourselves and hence find a middle course, but I want to use the example to illustrate an issue less important globally but quite important locally: the future of this
newsletter. In particular, the newsletter is paid for by adverts. Furthermore, the newsletter generates a sizeable surplus which is used to subsidise the core activities of the Society, both charitable and administrative. Some members have even cited the employment adverts as one of their primary reasons for reading the newsletter (even if they aren’t looking for a job, they just want to know what is going on in their field). Now, some companies are using the internet to place their adverts. The Society could switch its focus to its website and carry adverts there instead, and everything would remain the same, at the high level – if only the behavioural model on the internet were the same. But websites such as LinkedIn carry job adverts, at no direct cost to either party, so why should companies pay for adverts on the PESGB website? I could try to answer that rhetorical question by saying that, as an employer rather than as an employee, I would prefer to employ someone who changes job because they have made a life-changing decision to move on, have then undertaken some research and eventually alighted on my company as the one in which they want to spend the major part of their working days, rather than stumbling across a superficially better opportunity whilst cruising networking sites, but that’s just a personal opinion.
There are numerous cautionary tales illustrating a general reluctance to pay for on-line what would be natural to pay for off-line. When The Long Island News started charging for its on-line service (or it “moved behind a paywall”, in the jargon) the on-line readership dropped from 200,000 to 5. It is in this environment that the Society should be investigating new funding models – it may not be necessary this month or this year, but it will be sometime soon. Start thinking about it. Your Society Needs You (and your ideas).

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