What Is Digital Diversity?

4 05 2011

Throughout this entire semester we have brought up and discussed dozens of different aspects, opinions, and perspectives around the rapid digital globalization of our world. As digital media reaches a continually larger audience and becomes more and more integrated into many people’s daily lives. It is important to look at what this technology is doing to us as a society and how it is affecting us – and to realize who exactly is part of this new “digital revolution”, who is being left out, and why. It is easy in a college setting to forget not everybody has a laptop and a smart phone attached to them at all times. Reflecting on my own life and how much digital technology is a part of it – then comparing that to the lives drastically different then my own it helps open up my eyes to the digital divide.

I feel that as time goes on, digital technology will continue to grow and thrive, and make the world a “smaller” place through more information and media being exchanged, faster access, and connections to more places. As we incorporate more people into this digital world everyone should be conscious about sharing the technology with new citizens – both the good and the bad. The best way to begin narrowing the digital divide that currently exists in society is to disperse all the qualities of technology – education, waste, privacy, economic benefits, pollution, and many other things equally among all cultures, populations, and nations that are a part of our global digital community.

Final Project Process Review

29 04 2011

For our Final Project in DTC 475 this semester, our group was assigned the topic of analyzing the impact of mobile phones in developing countries.

Our initial plan was to try to create a video for the presentation and utilize the digital media and technology we have been talking about so much in class. We also felt we could make a more engaging presentation with visual interest that kept the class more focused and interested on our topic if we had video elements. It also turned out to probably be the best way we could portray the impact that mobile phones have on these developing countries. Our topic was not video game violence or copyright, or anything else that realistically anybody in our group had any understanding of. Only those people experiencing the impact of cell phones in these developing nations could really portray what they can change and do. Our thesis questioned whether cell phones were really having as big of an impact on the development of these countries as we were thinking they could, and honestly, the answer was a resounding yes. Are cell phones required? Probably not, but hearing people discuss the ways they have impacted their everyday life, safety, and businesses, they certainly are a tool that is helping them, and their respective nations. All things considered, I think our group did really well and found some interesting ways that mobile phones are changing how a population other then ours lives their life, and it has the potential to be an important tool that benefits their way of life drastically.

I think our group did a good job of presenting and arguing our thesis through this video. Our first run through of the video had too many other people’s opinions through videos online, and not enough of our own input. Once we begin reworking the video we added our arguments to the video in the form of voice overs, which turned out to be a successful alternative. If we had more time and more experience with video manipulation we perhaps could have made our video even more engaging, but I feel given how busy everyone in our group was, and the time allotted, we crafted a successful and informative video that really digs in to and questions our topic, what do you think? check it out!

Digital Media Multi-Tasking

17 04 2011

In class we read portions of the book The Young & The Digital: What the Migration to Social-Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Furture by S. Craig Watkins. As the title suggests, the book dealt largely with the phenomenon of the current trend in younger generations away from traditional media to digital media. Watkins discusses his ideas that the reason our generation is migrating towards digital media is it’s anywhere, anytime quality. We access digital media daily through our computers, phones, MP3 players, and other devices. As part of a study on his work, I tracked my digital media usage throughout a week, including how frequently I used digital media to communicate, get information for pleasure, work on school work, or watch videos. Below is a chart showing how much I used each of the different kinds of digital media.

As you can see, Music and School Work on the computer make up a majority of my digital media use. And although those two catagories make up a majority of my digital media usage, neither involve getting infortmation or even entertainment really. (The music most frequently serves simply as a backdrop and way to avoid distractions while I work on floor plans, drawings, and projects on programs like AutoCad and Photoshop) Most of my entertainment is in the smaller sections of the chart. Thinks like Youtube, Online TV, and General Internet Use. My entertainment and information is accessed through what Watkins refers to as “fast entertainment – this ever widening menu of media content that we can consume easily and on the go.” (Watkins, pg.157) Wired Magazine, a source cited in Watkin’s Book coined the phrase “Snack Culture” to refer to the downsizing of media in order to allow users to acquire it quickly and more frequently. Websites like Youtube, and Twitter often take credit for starting the movement of media towards easier and faster, but this funny, albeit frequently correct time line suggests our society has been progressing towards it for some time. But my use of digital media to acquire entertainment and information all but proves that snack culture, at least for me, and likely for many of my peers, is a way of life.

I spent under 25% of my time using digital media in a week on the stereotypical entertainment and information websites – things like youtube, forums, and blogs. But I undoubtedly acquired much of the information that I found interesting using those sources. Sports scores and weather on my cell phone, all the WSU sports information via websites like cougfan.com and cougcenter.com, keeping up to date on my social life by checking facebook and my e-mail at least a couple times daily. But none of this media is designed to keep me on it for long. A few minutes here, and a few minutes there to check the daily news, and then I’m off and running to class or to meet my friends. I don’t have time to wait until after the commercials on ESPN sportscenter or CNN News to see the next story. In his book ,Watkins argues, and points to some data suggesting that use of this data isn’t as fast and efficient as it seems to be. He points to a study where they looked at individuals doing a primary task online and found that the task was “interrupted by an average of four e-mail alerts and three IM alerts. many of the study participants responded within seconds to either e-mail or IM alerts, causing an interruption in the execution of their primary task.” But the study goes on to suggest that “users spent about ten minutes of the e-mail or IM switches caused by incoming messages…Many of them tended to browse through other peripheral applications, thus further delaying a resumption of their primary task” (Watkins, pg. 179) But my use of media does not conform to this study, and I think as things like cell phones and smart phone applications become more and more common, users will access small information and contacts from others with minimal interruption to the tasks. A study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center analyzing media usage among children suggests that as digital media use rises among children (which according to the study is occuring) cell phone devices and computers will increasingly continue to be the main form of media accessed by children. In fact, according to the study, since 2005 the number of children, ages 6 – 11 who own a cell phone has doubled to 20% in 2011.

Source Cited: S. Craig Watkins, The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social-Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future Beacon Press, Boston Massachusetts 2009

Facebook: Representation of our Generation?

1 04 2011

We are the Facebook Generation – we are labeled as such, we frequently live as such, and we will be remembered as such. But perhaps we should question being labeled by something like Facebook. It’s unfortunate enough that all our personal information we’ve posted on the web site will be around long after us, but do we really want to be remembered as the generation that mastered such fantastic technologies as the pointless status update or being tagged in pictures taken at times or places we immediately regret as soon as we see the “tagged” update pop up. Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook is constantly talking about “connections” and about making the web more about social interaction.

“The web is at a really important turning point right now. Up until recently, the default on the web has been that most things aren’t social and most things don’t use your real identity. We’re building toward a web where the default is social.” – Mark Zuckerberg

But as we have discussed in class, and as most can attest to, most profiles on pages like Facebook do not accurately represent real identities, and is sitting in front of your computer behind these identities really “social”? In Zadie Smith’s article, “Generation Why” questions are posed about these very ideas “are we alert to what the software is doing to us? Is it possible that what is communicated between people online “eventually becomes their truth”? In the film the Social Network, a semi fictional tale about the creation of Facebook, internet entrepreneur Sean Parker, creator of Napster makes an eerie prediction of the future. During a discussion with Mark Zuckerberg he states “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities and now we’re gonna live on the internet.” – Sean Parker, the Social Network Film. But how can living on the internet really provide substantial connections if, arguably, nobody is really the same as they are online?

In our readings on the ethics of digital technology we know that software and technology, like social networking, is hardly neutral. It creates and constricts users to social ideas and norms, based on the whim’s of the designers. Maybe we need to rethink the notion of living entirely online through websites like Facebook. Use the site as a tool, use the site to create networks and share ideas and art – but there is a real life too. I’d much rather be part of the “social-networking-not-just-on-line generation”. The Facebook generation needs to take some time away from removing tags of themselves in embarassing situations, and really reflect on what we can do away from the computer, and create more meaningful connections with our peers.


Zuckerberg preaches about "connection"

Zuckerberg preaches about "Connect" - a key word in nearly everything he says

Zuckerberg preaches at a function about "Connecting" - a key word in most of what he says.

E-Waste and the Digital Divide

2 03 2011

The words “digital divide” are often thrown around and referred to when discussing technology, especially on a global scale, often simply referring, more or less, to the haves and have-nots when it comes to access to technology and internet, as in this Wikipedia definition. “Digital Dividerefers to the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. It includes the imbalance both in physical access to technology and the resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen.” Certainly, access is a piece of the definition, but is it really what the digital divide is all about? Myself, and others, suggest there is a lot more to this digital divide then simply who does and who does not have access to a computer. As the authors of Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life points out, there are factors other than access. On the first page race and gender have come to shape the ways computer technology gets used and by whom, and the establishment of the digital divide as a regular topic of political debate” So, are race, gender and class divisions an overlaying reason for inequality in digital access? Could you more accurately point to race as the reason for the digital divide, rather than access? In class we watched this video. Entitled “Ghana: The Digital Dumping Ground” it unsurprisingly starts out in Ghana, where it shows boys – young boys – sifting through mountains of discarded monitors, keyboards, computers, hard-drives, televisions, and countless other digital artifacts to melt them down and salvage scraps of precious metals to sell. These digital relics – called E-Waste – are by and large, ours as Americans. The video outlines the process of our E-Waste being loaded in barges, shipped across the oceans, and dumped in developing countries for them to deal with. In fact in the video the camera zooms in on labels on the garbage, finding ones from US corporations and even the Philadelphia School District Ghana isn’t the only one either: These images from China and Vietnam, respectively, confirm that.

So adding in this information about the export of E-Waste and the damage it can cause to other countries, there is more to the digital divide then access and race, gender, or class issues. This is a new aspect. This is developed countries, such as the US,  and Europe, sending our garbage, often disguising it as “donations” or “gifts” according to Ghana: A Digital Dumping Ground, to developing countries and causing physical and environmental damage.

There is certainly something to be said for everyone having a computer and access to the internet as a means of getting closer to narrowing the digital divide, but as we see here access won’t cut it. Technology has so many positives – access to information, networking, other cultures, and education – but it also has negatives – chemicals, waste, and environmental damage. For the digital divide to be truly closed we need to globally distribute the access and the positives of technology AND the negatives and the waste of technology. Until countries, like the United States, guilty of illegally shipping our E-Waste away, start dealing with it, there will not be digital equality.

What Lego & the Maori did Right/Wrong

17 02 2011

In class my group and another group debated the topic of the appropriateness of Lego’s use of Maori words and traditional stories in their Bionicle toy line. (Read more here)While my group and I debated on behalf of the Maori’s tradition, despite a lack of copyright or real legal claim, and in opposition to Lego’s legal, but perhaps questionable, use of the traditions in the design and marketing of their product, I saw some good points in both group’s argument. The very nature of our debate made it our main goal to polarize the matter, with one view as inherently good, and one inherently bad, however, as Charles Ess points points out in his book Digital Media Ethics, the media’s coverage of new technologies is often more harmful then good when they “Sensationalize” or “strongly polarize, precisely by casting the emerging phenomena in dualistic terms of good (prevailing norms) and bad (emerging behaviors as threatening those norms)” 1, in turn creating moral panics.

Looking at LEGO’s side of the debate their main point was that the company did not break any copyright laws, which they did not, however perhaps their biggest argument against the “improper use” accusation is perhaps more of a critique of copyright laws and lends itself to discussions of what can and cannot be copyrighted, and perhaps there is a more appropriate option somewhere between free-use and copyrighted that falls in a “stewardship” category, however that could also be very easily abused.

The biggest point of my group, defending Maori’s rights to have some sort of effect in how their traditions and culture are used by outside companies and other entities, is the lack of communication from LEGO prior to the production of the toys. However, in the video we watched in class, Guarding the Family Silver, other companies complained that although that may have been an intention of theirs, prior to the use of Maori influences in products, there is no one place to go or person to talk to. Perhaps the Maori, instead of targeting companies, need to look amongst themselves to establish a liaison between the Maori and the rest of the world, so those wishing to celebrate or utilize Maori heritage can do so in an appropriate manner, easily. If Maori traditions were used properly they could all be more successful, and even be a source of local pride and bring interest and income to the area, as the New Zealand All Black’s Haka has become prior to football games.

1 Ess, Charles Digital Media Ethics, Polity Press Malden MA, 2009, pg. 141

Is Twitter revolutionizing revolutions?

14 02 2011

When reading the media coverage about the revolution in Egypt, there is no doubt that new digital technologies, such as twitter and facebook, have played an important role in the protests that forced Hosni Mubarak to step down from his presidency over Egypt. The internet played such a prominent role in the revolution that the government allegedly ordered it to be shut down in an attempt to slow down the protests. But during, and prior to the shutdown of the internet, protesters and activists utilized the growing social networks online, in addition to door to door protesting, to give fuel to the revolution. Facebook pages and websites urge people to get involved in the fight against corruption, while floods of traffic on the website twitter offer alternative perspectives to the local media, this page shows 30+ tweets from Egyptian citizens and reporters during the revolution that paint a picture of the state of the country. My personal favorite, from CNN reporter Ben Wedeman, is pictured below:But while the media is certainly discussing the impact of the new digital technologies in the revolution, there is little deeper discussion into them. Media, and protesters, point to Tunisia’s recent successes with the technology in their own struggles as a reason for the use of the new technologies, and nearly everyone anticipates that digital media outlets will continue to be widely used in future disputes and protests at a variety of scales, from local to global. However I think the most important thing that this new medium for protest and information allows for is the creation of multiple perspectives. Through mediums such as blogs and tweets,  thousands of people are painting a picture of a situation, rather than a mere  3 or 4 different news station reporters and a room of editors showing a story. We, as outsiders looking in, see a more complex and more complete view of situations, allowing the rest of the globe to see a more accurate portrayal of the real issues. While there will still be issues with these mediums, such as information leaks and privacy concerns, right now digital media has found a place in global politics, and will likely be relevant for years to come.