What is Digital Diversity…

5 May

Throughout the semester, we have learned of many examples illustrating what digital diversity is, and along the way we have also seen what digital diversity is not.  Without understanding the latter, circumstances that undermine the idea of digital diversity, how can we comprehend the full meaning of this generalized phrase?  It is widely known that the exponential growth and use of digital technology in our day-to-day lives has become associated with terms such as efficiency, multi-tasking, and globalization, but what we often don’t think about are the more invisible issues that are associated with this phenomenon.  What about the terms disparity, inequality, and stereotyping, and all of the cultural/social/political issues that are embedded within these terms in the digital world? In the first half of the video, examples of these more invisible issues are brought to light in acknowledgement that digital diversity is more than about being ‘connected’ or simply having access to technology.

The second half of  the video shows examples of what digital diversity is.  Digital diversity is an intersection between technology and people which erodes social, political, cultural, gender, and racial barriers through equal access to technology, technological education, collaboration, and freedom of expression.  The idea of “remix” facilitates collaboration and freedom of expression, recognizing that ideas should be shared and built on, transcending traditional intellectual property  ideals and excessive copyrighting.  The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program is an excellent example of digital diversity because it provides developing countries technological access while emphasizing the importance of providing education with access.  The OLPC program is also successful in the way that it was designed for the cultures and people that actually use the laptops.  Often cultural differences are ignored in the transition between HC (high-context/low-content) and LC (low-context/high-content) cultures, but in this instance communicative preferences were adapted to rather than imposed on the users (Ess 119).  This section conveys how dynamic, fast-paced, and multifaceted the digital world is, and that to understand it and keep up with it you have to be flexible and embrace it, without relying on the technology itself as a singular solution, and without using either/or mindsets to confront issues.


Work Cited:

Ess, Charles (2009). Digital Media Ethics. Polity Books.

Videos:  YouTube – Ghana eWaste burning Caravanos

YouTube – The Silicon Valley Entrepreneur – What it takes to be a Venture Capitalist

YouTube – Happy birthday bitches


YouTube – Singing  Happy Birthday  against Copyright!

YouTube – Cat singing Happy Birthday song

YouTube – Happy Birthday Song Copyright

YouTube – Girl Talk Tour Day 31 (Chicago) 11.08.08 part 2

YouTube – OLPC Mission, Part 2- The XO Laptop, design for learning

Images:  all images found on Google

Music:    Groove Armada, “Shameless”

Girl Talk, “This is the Remix”

Final Project Recap

29 Apr

In developing our thesis for Slacktivism and Social Media, our group researched the recently developed topic of slacktivism and found that this was not an either/or situation, although many people writing about slacktivism thought that was either good, or bad.  Instead we found that slacktivism holds positive and negative attributes within the development of digital social media activism.  We then began to research different ways in which slacktivism can both contribute to activist ideals and also how digital media activism can become slacktivism, helping to illustrate that this was a multifaceted subject.  Our presentation style emphasized this idea through the structure of a late night talk show, where each guest presented a different aspect of our research through a dialogue between the guest and show host.  Through this presentation style we hoped to grasp the attention of the class with a more creative approach to conveying information than the conventional verbal presentation

I feel that our presentation was fairly successful, and that all of our planning and preparation paid off.  If anything, I think it would have strengthened our presentation to have some hands on research through interviews, polls, etc.  Because  slacktivism is a recent development in the area of social media, there is not much in the way of scholarly articles or research available, so conducting our own could have revealed some enlightening results.

Assignment 10: Implication of the “Always On” digital life

18 Apr

After logging my digital consumption of the past week and plotting it in the above pie chart, nothing surprised me in the way the various categories were distributed, as I am fairly conscious of how I spend my time.  Looking back on my log though, one thing I would change if I were to document my digital consumption again would be to have two pie charts; one exclusively for computer usage and the other exclusively for mobile usage such as cell phone and iPod.  The reason behind this is that what this chart doesn’t adequately demonstrate is the relationship between these two categories; more static devices such as a computer/TV compared to mobile devices such as a cell phone/iPod.  As Craig Watkins states in The Young and the Digital:

“We have evolved from a culture of instant gratification to one of constant gratification… the social- and mobile-media lifestyle represents a new cultural ethos and a profound shift in how we consume media- in smaller and steadier portions and on smaller and more mobile screens. (Watkins 160)”

There are several interesting things about this quote and how it relates to my digital consumption log.  Watkins mentions our cultural transition from instant gratification to constant gratification, an idea that is directly related to and facilitated by the current trend of ‘going mobile’-whether it’s through a cell phone, gps, tablet (iPad), mp3 player, etc.  Making these technologies mobile gives us information, entertainment, and communication at our fingertips whether we’re walking through campus on the way to class or hiking through the woods hunting elk.  Thinking about this in relation to my pie chart made me realize how much time I spend on my cell phone, not only texting or talking but also surfing the internet, checking my email, playing games, listening to music, watching YouTube videos… the list goes on.  Because I can do these things anywhere… sitting in class or on the toilet, I find that I am constantly filling my down time between activities with digital consumption… checking my facebook, playing a quick round of ‘Angry Birds’, texting a friend.  Because these frequent acts of digital consumption come in small “bites”, usually a few minutes at a time, I didn’t attribute them to contributing much to my overall digital technology use.  Only after taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture through documenting my digital consumption as a whole did it become more apparent how this idea of “constant gratification” comes into play.    If I had initially broken my log into static and mobile, it would have clearly illustrated how much I utilize the mobile side of the spectrum.  Studies have shown that “mobile devices are becoming increasingly more popular with children. Four of the top five electronic devices owned by children are mobile platforms.”  The constant availability of digital consumption through mobile devices is essentially what enables the constant gratification that Watkins speaks of, and is not a development that should be overlooked when considering how mobile technology affects us both socially and mentally as we continue this trend of increased multitasking and consuming digital “bites”.

The Social Network and “Generation Facebook”

1 Apr

In Zadie Smith’s article, “Generation Why?”,  the author argues that as we become increasingly reliant on social media such as Facebook to interact with one another, many aspects of our lives become a byproduct of Mark Zuckerberg’s ideals of ‘connection’; which Smith believes encourage a superficial understanding of ourselves, of each other, and also create a disconnect between virtual and reality.  In moving towards a more transparent online lifestyle, Smith suggests that we are following this trend without questioning its side effects. 

As Mark Zuckerberg states, “The thing that we are trying to do at facebook, is just help people connect and communicate more efficiently.”   Smith sees Zuckerberg’s simplified view of ‘connection’ and ‘efficiency’ as shortcuts in creating relationships that detract from real world interactions.  If we rely solely on the internet, i.e. Facebook, to form our social relationships then yes Smith is probably on to something.  But the fact is, most Facebook users don’t rely on the platform itself to provide all of their friends and interactions.  From my experience, using Facebook is more of  a tool to facilitate real world interactions, and can actually strengthen those real world relationships rather than encourage real world social isolation.

Smith also argues that as Facebook becomes a means of shaping our social identity through ‘likes’, wall posts, and photos, we become the information that we provide.  Facebook’s recent additional features that enable us to see what our friends are buying, what they are watching on TV and so on enforce this idea of information-driven identity.  Smith believes that this reduces our individuality in the way that it encourages following the masses and also detracts from our ability to protect certain information from third parties such as advertisers.  This will continue to be an important issue as we continue into “Generation Facebook”, where we seem to have less and less control over our information, whether it’s our social security number, email address, or our shopping preferences.  “If we are our information, then it would seem that our rights to control our information are even more extensive and important. (Ess 58)”

As Zuckerberg’s Facebook continues to encourage the notion of social transparency, boundaries between personal, public, and professional become increasingly blurred.  As Craig Watkins states, “These are issues that many of us are likely to have to confront as digital media and communication technology makes the line between public and private or personal and professional less distinguishable. (Watkins 38)”

Smith’s belief that we are not questioning the social implications that come with such an influential platform such as Facebook are, I believe, a very valid observation.  From the movie, Sean Parker says, “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!”  Because it appears that Facebook is only gaining momentum, and will continue to play a large part in our day to day lives, I think it is important to understand possible effects that our online lives have on our ‘real’ lives (positive and negative), and to understand where and how these two intersect.

Social Media + activism/slacktivism

11 Mar

With the development of social media that give individuals the potential to reach large and widely ranging audiences in the matter of minutes,  broadcasting one’s political, religious, and social beliefs via status updates, blogs, online groups, etc.  has become a common way of raising awareness of issues ranging from disaster relief to climate change.  Many people have  become reliant on such digital media as a means to promote activist ideals, hoping that raising awareness of issues in the digital world will translate into productive real world action.  The effectiveness of this tactic remains to be proven, and instead the term “slacktivism” has arisen which is commonly associated with many instances of online ‘activism’ such as clicking “like” to a “Help Support Haiti” group or copy/pasting a political message to one’s online status.  By one person’s slacktivist efforts, it is unlikely that significant real world change will result.  On a larger scale though, by combining  thousands or even millions of  slacktivist’s “like’s”, awareness groups, etc., to what degree do these efforts translate to further action and/or productive outcomes?  Further research will also be necessary to determine to what degree this reliance on social media adds or detracts from conventional activist methods such as demonstrations, sit-ins, strategic litigation, etc. 

Links:  From Slacktivism to Activism: Participatory Culture in the Age of Social Media   

        The Brave New World of Slacktivism

        Four Motives for Community Involvement   

        Red Cross Haiti text message donations raise $7 million   


E-waste and the Digital Divide

1 Mar

Because people around the world have become increasingly reliant on technology as a means of economic, political, and social interaction the issue of ‘equal access’ on a global scale has become an underlying issue in battling the digital divide.   Although efforts have been made to narrow this divide through the global diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICT’s),  “the disparity between the (information) rich and poor is growing, not shrinking, both within such countries as the United States, and between the rich and poor nations of the world (Ess 127).”  Over the past couple decades, developed countries have continually exported their used/outdated electronics to developing countries with the initial intention of spreading technological access to those who would not otherwise be able to afford it. Often though, shipping containers full of computer parts and other electronics that are sent to countries like Nigeria or Ghana contain only a small percentage of working components, leaving the rest to be disposed of in ‘e-waste’ landfills where they are then burned and melted down for the trace amounts of gold, copper, etc by people who can barely make enough money to feed themselves by doing so.  This crude form of recycling poses many health risks to the people exposed to the harmful toxins (such as lead and plastic) that are burned, as well as to the environment which is degraded by the leaching of toxins into the air and the ground.   In the video, “Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground”, a man who used to live in one of the dirty, toxic smoke-filled ‘dumping ground’ villages as a boy commented that twenty years ago before the arrival of e-waste, the area was “a pristine landscape”.  

While the initial intention may have been to spread technological access to developing countries,  an industry revolving around the disposal of ‘e-waste’ has arisen instead because it is cheaper to simply export electronic surplus (working or non-working) to a developing country rather than paying to have it recycled.  This new development has exacerbated rather than resolved the digital divide, partially because it was assumed that by simply sending computers to developing countries, the people living there would automatically transform from information poor to information rich.  The issue of ‘equal access’ was not considered past the point of providing the electronic device.  “The digital divide isn’t just about personal computers; it’s about access, education, content, telecommunications infrastructure, and more (Nelson Tu Hines 15).” 

The irresponsible exporting of e-waste ultimately poses an ethical dilemma of doing what is profitable or doing what is ‘right’.  In other words, continuing to ship surplus electronics to developing countries because it is “cheaper” and ignoring the negative impacts that e-waste is having on developing countries, or recognizing that it is an unsustainable way of moving forward (socially, environmentally, and especially in the way that it increases the disparities of the digital divide) and making a change.  Obviously, e-waste is not just going to go away as we continue to buy, use, and dispose of electronics at increased rates.  “Global volumes of computer e-waste are expected to triple between 2010 and 2025 and by around 2025, the developing world will generate double the developed world’s waste computers (http://news.discovery.com/tech/three-reasons-ban-on-ewaste-is-wrong.html).”  Looking ahead it’s apparent that the solution to this problem will not be to ban exporting surplus electronics altogether because so many people in developing countries depend on them, whether it be through e-waste scrap or usable refurbished computers.  To improve the current environmental/social and digital divide situation,  there needs to be a responsible and efficient means of recycling that replaces the current cycle of e-waste disposal, as well as strategies implemented to educate and train the people that receive refurbished electronics.

Video Games + Violence: Getting Past “either/or”

21 Feb

Over the past few decades the relationship between video games and violence has come to the forefront of social and political debates.  In the discussion of this issue, more often than not an exclusive “either/or” conclusion is presented where the advocate or critic provides an absolutist opinion stating that video games are strictly “bad” or strictly “good”; that they can only harm society or that video games only provide social benefits.   When evaluating the complex and somewhat subjective issue of “whether or not video games encourage socially damaging desensitization“, exclusive reasoning is limiting in the way that it rejects relevant information just because it’s an opposing view when in fact it actually helps to frame a more complete and balanced perspective of the issue.   Exclusive reasoning does fit certain realities, “a basic light, for example, is either on, or off, but not both” (Ess 140).   For this ethical issue though, an “inclusive” approach is necessary because each side of the debate offers valuable research and insight that uncovers: how violence in video games can actually be damaging;  how violence in video games is not the sole catalyst, but may be a contributor to “desensitization”, and how these video games provide intellectually engaging benefits.  A great example  of an inclusive source is  http://videogames.procon.org/, which provides an unbiased database of to-date pro’s and con’s of playing video games.

In some ways it is hard to deny that violent video games may have negative ‘desensitizing’ effects on the people who play them.  Because the violent images presented in video games can be extremely repetitive depending on the game and how often one plays, it could be argued that simply through repetitively experiencing these violent games our perception of real-world violence could in time be numbed to a certain extent.  To what extent is hard to quantify though because ‘desensitize’ is such a subjective term.  Although there have been studies that have proven negative short-term effects of violent video games (arousal and aggression), none have yet proven long-term effects.  But even if a clinical study was able to prove potential long-term effects, that does not necessarily mean that every kid who plays video games is at risk to become the next school shooter or mass murderer.  But on a smaller scale, maybe the recurring violent themes of video games have attributed to the increase in youth bullying, as some kids may take these violent themes, consciously and/or subconsciously, as acceptable ways of handling real life issues.  It is possible though that video games are only one of the contributors to the negative effects that they are commonly blamed for.  Certain studies pointed out that considering other relevant factors (such as quality of parenting and personality traits that may encourage aggressive behavior) combined with violent video game play provide a more balanced perspective of the singular effects that video games possibly have.  In other words a child who is neglected by parents or given little positive guidance and is attracted to violence could be more likely to be negatively affected by violent video games than a child whose parents provide positive mentorship and has no fascination with violence.  Exclusively blaming video games for various social problems is a narrow approach that distracts us from understanding the bigger cultural/social issues that we often look past.  On the other side of the spectrum, some have given credit to the violence in video games as a positive aspect that acts as a moral testing grounds for kids to experiment with what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”, as well as a place for people to release real-world aggression in a non-violent way.  All in all, it cannot be absolutely concluded that video game violence does or doesn’t promote desensitization; the specific nature of each circumstance should first be taken into consideration where factors such as personality, parenting, culture, age, education, etc. combined with playing video games provide a more inclusive perspective of what effect playing violent video games could have on a gamer.

In this video, Dr. Michael Birch presents an inclusive view of video games by first pointing out that they can provide benefits before stating why he thinks they should more strictly regulated.

Assignment 4: Movie Post

2 Feb

The videos “Guarding the Family Silver” and “RIP: a Remix Manifesto” present very controversial and critical views that confront us as we proceed into the Information Age.  Because advancements in digital technology have enabled a global free flow of information to exist, this has presented major implications culturally and socially.  While Moana Maniapoto (Guarding the Family Silver) suggests that this new development has detracted from cultural identity and history, Brett Gaylor (RIP: a Remix Manifesto) believes that this free flow of information can strengthen a culture by building on the past and giving people the democratized power to spread ideas.  Moving forward, it is clear that there must be a balance between protecting historical/cultural values while not letting the past limit the present in attempting to create a more free future. 

The issue of copyrighting or patenting has enabled corporations to control intellectual property whether it be a song or a distinct cultural word.  This practice has invaded both cultural preservation and idea-spreading.  In the case of the Moari, significant cultural aspects such as the word Moana as well as the Haka dance were blindly appropriated by foreign companies purely for monetary gain, disregarding the cultural value they hold in New Zealand.  The Moari saw this as stealing cultural identity.  In the case of the artist Girl Talk, remixing artists’ songs to form his own unique compilation was not something he felt was theft or copyright infringement, but instead as working toward building a new form of culture based on freedom of speech and the spread of ideas.  In both instances, the exclusive claiming of intellectual property by corporations had negative effects in the way that it promotes diluting culture and inhibits the spread of ideas.  From an ethical standpoint, corporate use of copyrights/patents should be aimed at protecting culture and encouraging the spread of knowledge in the way that it benefits everyone, not just themselves.  The Free Software movement is an example of embracing the issue of intellectual property versus free spread of ideas. “Rather than relying on copyright schemes as oriented towards either economic incentives or protecting authorial rights as the engines of creative development and distribution, the Free Software movement begins with a more communitarian sensibility, one that is inspired in part by a deep conviction that the potential benefits of computer software (and information more generally) should be shared as broadly and equally as possible (Digital Media Ethics, 76)”.

WikiLeaks: U.S. Government Perspective

25 Jan

After reviewing the U.S. Government’s perspective of WikiLeaks, opposing attitudes towards this organization can be seen. Please view the following video before proceeding.

 In the video, Barack Obama speaks in favor of open source information. Although he does not specifically address WikiLeaks, Obama’s says, “the more freely information flows the stronger a society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable”. This statement coincides with WikiLeaks’ goal of bringing a level of transparency to government. Obama also states that he is a “big supporter of non-censorship” as it is one of the foundations that give strength to the United States. While the president publicly declares his support of the free flow of information, the interior of several federal agencies contradict this optimistic view of organizations like WikiLeaks.

Within these government agencies, WikiLeaks is seen as a threat to national security rather than an opportunity to uphold democratic ideals. Employees of the CIA, Pentagon, and State Department are closely supervised to ensure that they are not accessing websites such as WikiLeaks. If caught accessing WikiLeaks in any way, whether it be at work or at home, employees are subject to disciplinary action. Furthermore, major universities have been warning graduates seeking government positions with intelligence agencies to be prepared to answer questions in relation to WikiLeaks. Within this security screening process simply viewing WikiLeaks in the past could be reason enough to deny these applicants employment. The Pentagon has especially rigorous anit-WikiLeaks restrictions. Any Pentagon employee that receives any WikiLeaks information, regardless if it has already been made public, must report it as a security violation. Failure to immediately report such material and delete the information from their computer would result in disciplinary action. Although it should be recognized that according to the government, some information must stay classified and that leaking information can jeopardize soldier/civilian safety, it is clear that internally the U.S. Government does not share President Obama’s open support of sources like WikiLeaks. Media sources such as CNN offer additional perspectives regarding WikiLeaks.



Giraldi, Philip. American Conservative, Feb2011, Vol. 10 Issue 2, p23-23

Here we go…

24 Jan

Along with majoring in Architecture, I am also minoring in Fine Arts.  Besides being a nice change of pace from the intensity of my arch. curriculum, the couple of photography classes I have taken have spurred my interest in the field both artistically and technically.  Eventually when I have more time and I’m not a poor college student I would like to get more involved in the photo. scene. Until then, flickr will have to fill my photo cravings. I recently started uploading a few photos to my page, so if you need a distraction check it out!  I have always had an interest in how new technologies affect us beyond their intended use whether its on a social, psychological, or cultural level so I’m looking foward to exploring these issues this semester.