When reading the article about media and the Egyptian Revolution, I was reminded of the events that took place a year after high school. I understood the conflict and, like many people, thought the conflict was basically resolved with Mubarak’s exit. When exploring technology’s effect on political unrest, comes and understanding that technology has and increasingly is affecting these conflicts.
The Egyptian Revolution began through social media as outspoken citizens began to document the unrest and call for action. As social media has been shown to do, these groups and their messages spread like wildfire, evoking passion and a yearn for change. One particular woman, Asmaa Mafhouz, had an online video blog which people say is what actually sparked the revolution. Next came a domino effect of informing, sharing, and encouraging action.
I think that the possibilities that have arisen with new digital technologies, specifically social media, have a profound effect on the citizen’s role in political change. The only hurdle to creating change, especially in America, is taking a position that is able to inform, inspire, and implement change. Many people, especially in America, are ignorant to many of the problems in America and take the stand of “I’m not troubled by any of this”, further separating social, economic, and racial hierarchies. In order for real social change in America to happen, people need to think of politics and the decisions that need to be made as issues that should be made for the betterment of our country. Many people’s own self-interest and the fact that there are only two political parties throws out the possibility of positive change for the country as a whole as there is an opposite side who will disagree. We need to see the benefits that improvement as a whole will have on everybody in our country, rather than seeing it as betterment on a group-by-group basis.
Chan’s article regarding Digital Universalism and Culture documents the problems the arise when merging business and digital technology for a culturally unique historic and historic region of the world. Not only did the Chulucanas, a small town in Peru, have distinct culture, they were very far behind in understanding and implementing new technologies. The implementation of technology in this region was primarily used as a way to encourage quality sales of the peoples’ artwork. However, as the ideologies of consumerism were brought into these small towns, the artisans’ motives changes from cultural expression to the yearn for profits.
The Chulucanas produced beautiful ceramics which were a staple of that area. In the advent of national and transnational sales of the ceramic work of the Chulucanas people began to change. Rather than selling these pieces of work as cultural identity, they began to seek profits. The plan to expand the sales of the unique ceramics came with the price of diluted production. People began stealing styles and ideas that used to be specific to one artist or area, tainting the authenticity of the artwork.
When implementing technological and economic standards in rural areas of the world, adverse effects can occur–as seen in this article. One must first understand the culture of the area that they are essentially exploiting. If profit is the number one concern, many times cultural aspects of business and production begin to wade in order to produce more, sell more, and earn more. If one understood the cultural significance that the ceramics held in Chulucana beforehand, the way they went about selling the artwork may have been a compliment to their artwork and cutlure, rather than clashing and destroying it.
What do you think should be the appropriate steps to take in regards to implementing new technologies and economic practices in rural countries. How important is research in these steps?
When reading chapter 7, in Digitized Lives, a video I saw in the past quickly rose to the surface of my thoughts. This video, a “TED Talks” video by Jane McGonigal titled “Gaming Can Make a Better World”, ties into the reading, especially the last section, as Jane is also mentioned in the book. The fact that people are dedicating their lives to solving social problems via video games is an interesting one. Although debated, I am a huge believer in video games and their capabilities to not only teach about, but solve problems. The fact that so many millions of people play video games along with the amount of time spent playing these games astronomically increases one’s influence on the world, albeit a virtual one. However, if gamers began to play these alternative games in an individual of MMORPG environment, the amount of time spent on these social issues in a virtual world has the possibility to surpass the amount of time spent on the issue in a real-world setting. Although there are experts concerning these types of issues in the real world, sometimes outside influences like political ideologies, monetary influence, and governmental interests disallow for an open-minded, progressively alternative view on these types of issues. This gives way to the ability for all types of people, young, old, rich, poor, religious, atheist, and educated to propose their ideas for positive change in a forum that lacks corruption, bias, and prejudice–a truly pure setting.
Do I think that these alternative games will end global climate change, stop terrorism, or kill racism? No. I do, however, believe that these types of games hold the potential to solve many smaller problems in a collaborative environment that is pressure-less and open to a myriad of users, beliefs, backgrounds and, ultimately, ideas. These ideas, when proposed in a logical manner, may hold the key to solving less significant problems in the world.
Haraway begins the reading, informing the reader that she would attempt to connect two rather unrelated ideas in cyborgs and feminism. I thought the reading was extremely confusing throughout, however, her point about cyborgs is interesting. As we found out in class, everyone’s view towards what makes up a cyborg is different. To Haraway a cyborg is “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction”. This dualism is touched upon multiple times throughout the reading which made me truly debate with myself what a cyborg really is. Dualism was compared to mind and body, for example, is sued to compare reality and fiction. This comparison is also used in term of cyborgs–reality and fiction. To me a cyborg is when technology and humans are connected and have effects in a way that could not be done without one or the other. So in terms of cyborgs and dualism, I believe that one is not real without the other. In other terms, what is real is the sum of the two because, without technology or a human (when speaking of cyborgs) the other is left alone, no different than before.
I found this week’s reading regarding online identity’s connection with offline identity, through the lens of a Native American Regalia very interesting as I can relate to this search for continuity and evolution of the online self and offline self. The reason that I can relate to this reading, being a middle-class white male, is through my experience living in Alabama. While playing baseball at a University in Montgomery, Alabama I had a roommate who, by blood, was half African American, half Caucasian. My roommate, who I will call Joe, spoke with a Southern drawl being from Jacksonville, Florida. It is important to point out the distinct differences between races in the South. For the most part, southern white males dressed very similarly while black males dressed similarly as well. The contrasting styles of dress, along with other cultural factors such as musical taste, media consumption, and even vernacular made it fairly easy to distinguish one’s race. When confronted with the question about whether he considered himself black Joe quickly refuted, stating that he considered himself mixed–however more white than black. For the most part this matched up. If one were to judge Joe’s race by what could be seen on the outside–his fashion style, his media consumption, etc. one would consider him more white than black. I believe his passion to relate more with white stereotype in the south was fueled by the perception of blacks by the socioeconomic majority of whites. Despite the progressive nature of our country in terms of race relations, problems like prejudice, racism, and stereotypes seem to be much more prevalent in the south–as it has always been. When looking at his Facebook profile, Joe’s “likes” and information all allude to the fact that he considers himself to be more white. However, I think it is interesting to note that whenever Joe and I were in the presence of predominately black audience, Joe became more black. Joe used black slang and talked about culturally black things.
Did Joe do this because he felt the need to further connect with the other black peers? Or, below the surface, was Joe struggling with his identity as outside pressure–pressures that weigh heavier on mixed blacks in the south–pushing and pulling him from one side to the other? Why wasn’t his change of Regalia in his offline identity not reflected in his online identity?
When it comes to social media, we have had a fairly smooth introduction in regards to the nature of the content that we see. In the early days of social media one would occasionally stumble across a spam post which may be pornographic in nature. I also remember the video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging being posted on the early days of Youtube. Other than these random occurrences, users of social media have been sheltered from graphic, pornographic, or generally disturbing content. The introduction of those who make social media sites relatively safe, by means of moderating every piece of content that is flagged is disturbing.
The fact that one would have to witness graphic content on an extreme scale day by day is tragic in itself. The fact that we outsource American companies’ moderation needs to other countries is a whole another issue. What I am interested in is the alternatives to human-powered content moderation. These alternatives are slim, though. One could say we just take out moderation altogether. I think it is quite obvious why we wouldn’t take this approach as we wouldn’t want Grandma Jo to see Graham kill Joe. The next best alternative would be to have user-generated moderation, i.e. deleting content solely based of users flagging anything that they believe to be offensive. This doesn’t sound too bad, however do we think that it should be okay if one of your crazy Facebook friends from middle school starts flagging all things soccer because it’s a “communist sport”? The next best alternative is the current–outside moderation who makes decisions based on their perceived notion of morality–specifically in the United States.
I think it is interesting to ponder the last alternative that I can draw up–AI moderation. On the surface this seems like the best alternative. Smart computers moderate social media sites as humans do now, preventing one from witnessing the evil-doings in this world. The issue goes deeper, though. As computers and their computation speed and power are growing exponentially, so to becomes the possibility and reality that computers will be able to think as fast or faster than the human brain. With this improved computation speed, computers will be able to pull, analyze, and interpret data far beyond the abilities of humans. So if one were to instruct a computer or set of computers to moderate content, insuring that offensive material is stowed away from the users, doesn’t that mean the computer has to have a sense of morality? This being the case, where does the morality come from? Is it inputted by a human–who’s moral judgement has the possibility of being flawed? Or does the computer, based off of its experiences (analysis of information and data), create its own sets of moral guidelines?
For this week’s reading, I chose to read the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s July, 1995 report titled “A Survey of the ‘Have Nots’ in Rural and Urban America”. It seemed that, even in 1995, the problems of a lack of internet connection in households would hinder the less-privileged. Their thinking, despite the internet being a fairly new concept, was associated with the ability to access information quicker and easier when one has access to the internet from home. I think this is true to a certain extent. Information is, indeed, accessed much easier through the internet–there is no arguing this. However, looking back at this report 20 years later brings up that:
“NTIA’s research reveals that many of the groups that are most disadvantaged in terms of absolute computer and modem penetration are the most enthusiastic users of on-line services that facilitate economic uplift and empowerment. Low- income, minority, young, and less educated computer households in rural areas and central cities appear to be likely to engage actively in searching classified ads for employment, taking educational classes, and accessing government reports, on-line via modem”
This may be true, but access to programs to uplift individuals socially and economically are more available than ever today. So why do we still see economic and social disparity within inner cities and rural areas? I don’t think a lack of internet in the household is the problem. I do believe, though, that the internet has transitioned from being a strictly informational opportunity to a more social opportunity. Young people, in general, have become hyper-obsessed with their online image rather than their real-life standing. So to assume, as they did in 1995, that access to the internet would help pull the disadvantaged out of their socioeconomic hole was to think that the internet would be a driving force in the quest to socioeconomic prosperity. However, there are many outside factors which limit the disadvantaged from succeeding–all beyond mere access to internet.
How do you think that access to internet, in regards to the poor, can help in digging them out of their whole and allowing them to succeed? What is an example of an internet-based program/idea/etc, if any, that were viewed as opportunistic but didn’t actually succeed in its mission?