Reevaluating the Role of Technology

Privacy, surveillance, and the power of social media were major themes in 2021

Text reading "2021 Technology" over a purple pattern made of eyes, surveillance cameras, and app icons
Banner illustration by Chanelle Nibbelink

Reevaluating the Role of Technology

During pandemic lockdowns, technology became both our saviour and our nemesis when it came to maintaining relationships, doing our jobs, and going to school. This was supposed to be the year when we adjusted to our new normal, but 2021 has proven that the revolutions just keep coming—from porch-cam surveillance networks to sex-toy data leaks.

These are the conversations we were having this year about technology and its role in our lives.

@TheWalrus on Twitter
“Facebook neighbourhood groups can be a lifeline to new arrivals. But they’re also a window into the ongoing fights between the haves and the have-nots, writes @navalang. Is tech creating more divisions than bonds in communities?”

@TheWalrus on Twitter
“For so many Indigenous people social media has become a tool to see our experiences. I grew up thinking that everyone knew about the atrocities that the Canadian government had done to Indigenous people. The truth is that in Canada we don’t.” – @SarainFox

@TheWalrus on Twitter
“The internet of millennials has grown stale: overly posed pictures, inane hashtags, and SEO-friendly self-branding. In the early months of self-isolation, @sadplatitude downloaded TikTok, an app where a younger generation embraces idiosyncrasy.” – @thewalrus
@Pocket on Twitter
“The story of what it was like to live through 2021, told through the articles that were in our Pockets. Featured in this collection are articles from: @Nature, @propublica, @TheCut, @WIRED, @thewalrus, @NewYorker and more! #PocketBestOf” – @Pocket

@TheWalrus on Twitter
“Out now on The Conversation Piece: Who is really changing the world?
@AnandWrites, a former columnist for The New York Times and writer of three bestselling novels, looks at this question on this week’s podcast.” – @thewalrus

@TheWalrusCA on TikTok

“Erica Lenti wrote about her quest to make her dog internet famous #pets #instafame” – @thewalrusca

@TheWalrus on Facebook
“Tamara A. Small, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph, spoke about digital technologies and democracy at Facebook presents The Walrus Talks at Home: The Future of Speech Online.” – @thewalrus

@TheWalrus on Twitter
“Food Writer and Cookbook Author @taraobrady spoke about how profits and pressure have radically altered digital content production at @Facebook presents The Walrus Talks at Home: CanCon Online.” – @thewalrus


Have your say:

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@jduffinwolfe on Twitter
“My big takeaway from writing this piece for @thewalrus — LGBTQ2+ battles for the right to safe sex outside paved the way for digital privacy protections today.” – @jduffinwolfe

@internetmaggie on Twitter
“Despite the hype, Deepfakes don’t target politics, but porn. Rather than hurting powerful politicians, they target most vulnerable workers in our midst, women and porn performers. Read my new piece in @thewalrus.” – @internetmaggie

@hilarybeaumont on Twitter
“At international borders, there’s a new gold rush for tech companies who want your biometric data — with little regulation or disclosure. For people migrating under desperate circumstances, surveillance can mean life or death. My latest for @thewalrus. ” – @hilarybeaumont

The Walrus Staff

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Dear Readers,

For years, experts have raised the alarm about political polarization. It’s been said the left and right can’t talk to each other. Blame the political climate. Blame the rise of tech platforms and social media algorithms. But we don’t talk enough about the difference in the quality of the information that we receive and share.

As more and more media outlets die and as parts of Canada become “news deserts,” there are two types of citizens emerging: those with access to high-quality, fact-based journalism, like the kind you’ll find in The Walrus, and those without it.

One thing all reliable media outlets have in common: it takes time and adequate funding to produce good journalism.

If you like reading The Walrus, we ask that you consider becoming a monthly supporter. Your donation helps us keep The Walrus’s fact-checked online journalism free to all.

Jessica Johnson
Jessica Johnson