So Long, Fair-well…

Well… I’m going to be honest; this class wasn’t my first choice and I wasn’t too interested in the majority of topics, but am glad that I’ll be walking away with some specific knowledge that will better my life and that of others. For me, the most important things I learned through this course was about being participants or produsers in this culture, the environmental impacts because of e-waste and lastly the amount of data centers in the world.

Schäfer and Bird were among my favorite reads and the perspectives on participatory culture and technological determinism. One of the important things for me was being re-educated on the fact that now because the internet and web are so widely available to any kind of person, we really need to be careful with what we take in as fact or just someone’s opinion. I know I have fallen into this trap before. A friend of mine who was reputable had posted this amazing speech by Billy Graham on Facebook. I quickly shared this with my friends to later find out Billy Graham did not say this but someone else. It was still a great speech none the less but I then had to clarify that he did not actually say this and felt silly for sharing false information. Bird also talked about being a “produser” in this culture, which this course has made me. Prior to COMM 2F00 my “produsage” stopped at Facebook status updates and I am definitely looking forward to going back to my role as a consumer rather than producer, but glad for this experience at the same time.

The other two aspects of this course that I found interesting were the environmental impacts of e-waste and the data centers. It’s awful what the North has done to the South in regards to illegal dumping of non-reusable electronics. After learning about this and the history of planned obsolescence my future purchases, reasons for use and disposal of such items will definitely be more thought out and on a need basis rather than a want basis. To end this last entry of my blog off, let’s talk about the giant ironic elephant in the room; participating in an online content producing course that teaches about the environmental impacts of data centers that house everything we have done, used and uploaded to our blogs. Things like this cracked me up throughout the course as we learned about the harmful effects of choices and behaviours in the online world, that we ourselves were then creating and adding to the problem.

I have looked forward to the completion of this class, and by no means am I trying to be disrespectful, where I can now delete this blog as it otherwise will just sit here in cyberspace taking up room it doesn’t need. How many others will do the same? Or will you leave it to sit idle like the 80 percent of energy used to house it does?

Implicit Segregation

The world we live in is not fair and to think so would be irrational. Looking this week at inequalities in technology and the digital world, Dana Boyd and Eszte Hargittai first look at the inequalities in the real world and how this translates to the online world. Although I am aware of the online social inequalities that have led to the high numbers of bullying cases over the last several years, I was intrigued, but not surprised, to see the findings of Boyd in how real life segregation transfers to our online worlds and specifically in the life of teens. I feel this is however a very intricate relationship, especially on the topic of “race”. As Boyd points out in “Inequality: Can Social Media Resolve Social Divisions?” when interviewing teens from schools that claimed to be culturally inclusive and the teens felt that there was no division in the school, it was quite apparent that when they entered into the online world there was clear evidence of segregation between these school’s classmates based on “race” and socioeconomic status. The teens interviewed were a bit shocked to see how the segregation unfolded online as they were not explicitly aware of this implicit behaviour. This is why I feel it can be a tricky subject as even though some people have no conscious intention of this segregation something within their implicit nature has in fact created this divide which can be due to a number of things deeply rooted in their subconscious. Overall, speaking generally, this inequality is always going to exist in the digital world as long as it exists in the real world. “Race matters in cyberspace precisely because all of us who spend time online are already shaped by the ways in which race matters offline and we can’t help but bring our own knowledge, experiences, and values with us when we log on” (Boyd, 2014, p.158).

I feel there is, and should be, a real concern for inequality in the digital world. Inequality is already such a major issue all over the world and by bringing it online sadly amplifies the problems. “The mere existence of new technology neither creates nor magically solves cultural problems. In fact, their construction typically reinforces existing social division” (Boyd, 2014, p.156). Inequality in the online world is faster, instant, reaches hundreds more than offline and can become a viral noise. The internet, although prospected for positivity and collaboration between all individuals, has given that everyday person accessibility to voice their own opinion (Schäfer, 2011) and has added to this mass production of inequality.

In the winter I had the pleasure of listening to Wolfgang Lehmann talk about his study, “In a Class of Their Own: How working-class students experience university” and this topic of online inequality can be a reflection of some of his points on segregation. Those coming from a lower income home tend to have fewer resources and let’s say maybe don’t have the same kind of access to computers and the internet as the more middle to upper class students. Being “online” is a huge part of university and although they would have access to these resources at school it would still take a little more effort and time on their end to do what is required of them compared to someone who has the accessibility to these things anywhere they go. And lastly Boyd points out that just because someone has access to the internet doesn’t necessarily mean they have access to information because it does take some skill to find and narrow down what you are looking for. For me this was a major learning curve coming back to school and trying to locate specific reputable articles to supplement my papers. A task in itself!

Are My Ideas Worth More Than Your Ideas?

togetherness

This week I came to the conclusion rather quickly that I would be an ‘inclusionist’ Wikipedian. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that is advertised as “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit” (Carr, 2011, p.191). It is now know that there is more of a hierarchical system in place that governs the content that’s added and deleted which has created some controversy on how “open” this platform really is. In controlling the structure of Wikipedia two rival groups have formed; those being the ‘inclusionists’ and ‘deletionists’, of which the ‘deletionists’ have current run of the site. The philosophy of the ‘inclusionist’ that is presented in Carr’s writing is what I would choose to support. The philosophy is that there shouldn’t be any limits set on the amount of information on Wikipedia and keeping it as that open system that anyone can edit. I have found the ‘deletionists’ really only argue one point expressing that Wikipedia needs to remain quality driven and reflect the seriousness of a printed encyclopedia. I asked myself the question, why can’t both philosophies co-exist? Apparently this is not possible and to think so I would be referred to as a ‘delusionist’.

I concluded my choice of being an ‘inclusionist’ once I read that no one topic is of more significance than another (Carr, 2011). This is a philosophy I believe in as part of my central focus of life, coming from Christ. In the first book of Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) we are given a metaphor of the body and all its working parts (i.e. the hand, ear, eye etc.) and that one part cannot say they don’t need the other parts as they are all important to the greater whole. Wikipedia is not limited in its capacity to produce articles like a printed encyclopedia so, besides the detrimental data centers housing this information, I do not see any reason why Wikipedia cannot include any article under the sun. Furthermore, Ford (2011) points out “wiki-lawyering” as “the behaviour of Wikipedia’s self-appointed deletionist guardians, who excise anything that does not meet their standards, justifying their actions with a blizzard of acronyms” (p.263). I don’t feel that in a wiki platform there should be this degree of power over what content meets the standard of a select few.

Due to this control over the content on Wikipedia it has limited its own resources. I would side with the ‘inclusionists’ on their view that as a wiki it should be opened more in a broader sense to a global level and this would mean less control for the ‘deletionists’. Making Wikipedia more global will open it up to a whole new perspective and world of information. It would truly be a worldly encyclopedia. Ford (2011) points out that there are still whole continents that are unexplored on Wikipedia and to make this platform stronger there is a need to expand beyond our own knowledge to that of the worlds.

As I have personally been to different parts of the world and experienced these new and different cultures, I totally agree that Wikipedia would become stronger if they tapped into these resources and were inclusive of all worldly viewpoints. Wikipedia shouldn’t have the power to edit and delete content because it doesn’t follow our way of thinking, but rather embrace the differences of our world and give meaning to what is perceived as the lesser of things.

Haters Gonna Hate…

I’ve had the “pleasure” of reading a piece by Robert Gehl titled, “Why I Left Facebook: Stubbornly Refusing to not Exist Even After Opting Out of Mark Zuckerberg’s Social Graph”. I use “pleasure” sarcastically as I found this literature a bit of, for lack of better words, a pity party. Gehl argues that although Facebook claims to be this participant driven, democratically run entity, that in fact this is just a mask of false security and there is no democracy behind them. I feel Gehl makes a few valid points regarding the issues around privacy and intellectual property and the issue surrounding those who don’t have Facebook potentially being “excluded from social or professional events or discussions” (Gehl, p.225). Other than these areas I found myself disagreeing with majority of the other points Gehl was trying to express; which he did through a number of quotes from other Facebook quitters but never giving us his clear reason(s) why he walked out on Facebook.

While reading this article I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at the absurdity of the points being made or feel sorry for those people who had been quoted for why they left Facebook. Now to be clear this is my opinion, not fact, from my life’s perspective and experience with Facebook. I feel Gehl is trying to make his points by turning Facebook into something it’s not. Facebook is not a country, it’s not a search engine, it’s not “the internet” but it’s a company. And like any other company its shareholders have a say in how it’s run, not the people who use or consume products from the company, as what was trying to be depicted negatively on Facebook’s part for not listening or allowing proper voting on passing new terms of services in 2009. Sorry but the users don’t call the shots, those with shares and voting rights do.

Another point in the article that was silly is what happens after you leave/quit/delete Facebook. This thought that even though you have chosen to remove yourself from this social media site, are you really gone when pictures and/or comments of you remain, and in the case of a deceased person a memorial wall? This is not just Facebook specific and I feel is weak point to be made. The relationships you have with people outside of Facebook aren’t just deleted when you decide to move on. Example: in a romantic relationship that may end there is bound to be photos and letters and items around that still exist from that relationship even though it has been terminated. Likewise, my personal information at Brock University; I had been unenrolled and inactive for five years with no plans on returning but when I did, this past September, with the click of button there was all my information from years ago, my student ID and photo, my grades and financial history. These types of personal footprints and existence don’t just disappear when you say it’s time, same goes for Facebook.

I could pick a part so many perspectives within this article but I do not have the luxury of that today. One last major thing I could not disagree more with was this concern around privacy. The number of people who had problems with what they were producing on Facebook being seen by the wrong people and tearing families and relationships apart and blaming this on the privacy issues of Facebook? COME ON PEOPLE! Instead of trying to keep your multiple lives and personalities separate, be accountable for your own participation and actions and stop blaming others.

Link

The Many Sides of E-Waste

Ever think about what happens to your electronic devices when you are done with them? If not, maybe you should. Below is a link to my new Pinterest board, where you will see numerous ways, some positive and some negative, of what happens to our devices after we dispose of them. Furthermore, the board is a collection of items showing the effects of E-Waste on the environment, animals and our fellow humans and what we can do to remedy this.

Ghana

Pinterest – The Many Sides of E-Waste.

Digi Days…

Technology is bitter sweet, maybe becoming more bitter than sweet as it continues to evolve. We live in a world full of new and growing technology. It surrounds us daily and has many forms. It can be something as simple as the pen you use to write with every day, your electric toothbrush (that I hope you use several times a day), or more elaborate things like your car and computer. Along with the above, and much more, some things I use daily are my cell phone, camera, and let’s not leave out the television. The TV being an example of how technology can be bitter now a days because it has found ways to creep into our daily lives taking away from more important things, like family time spent together, where we see each family member in separate parts of the house, alone, staring at these screens rather than doing something together.

Technology, in most forms, is rather easy to come by here in North America. As I said we are surrounded by it and just going to the store you encounter traffic lights, radios, and automatic sliding doors, among others. We don’t own these technologies but if we wanted to acquire a certain item we can do so with ease. Regarding the items I use daily, my phone, camera and TV, I can easily get in my car and head to the store to pick these up. In this process alone so much technology is used. From the moment I get in my car, I listen to the radio until my destination, follow traffic light signals, wirelessly lock my car, enter the store without having to physically open a door, ring up my purchase through the computer and then pay for it via a debit/credit machine. The list goes on and it is amazing how much we rely on technology every day.

Let’s focus on my phone, camera and laptop. In updating these items it comes down to cost and interest. I don’t use my laptop often and it’s not something of huge importance for me, so I’m happy using the same one until it becomes completely unrepairable. I have owned two laptops in my entire life, both of which still function well. My camera and phone are a different story. Phones can be rather inexpensive today with the different contracts and rebates that are available. This low monetary cost along with the improvements over the years in cell phones has me updating my phones before they expire. One of the major things for updating my phone is the camera capabilities. I love taking pictures so to have that option on the go with my phone is huge. As I have become older, and learned the value of money, my camera updates have become less frequent. Prior to that I often purchased the newest models as the megapixels and optical zooms were always increasing; then with the creation of water, shock and weather proof cameras, I had to have them!

The items I have bought over the years still work great and I have never had to dispose of them as garbage. That said I do have a drawer full of every cell phone I’ve ever owned! I’m not too sure why I struggle parting with these but with my laptops and old cameras I’m happy to pass them along to next person who needs them. My family tends to get my hand me downs and they are happy with that! My Aunt and Cousin happily make use out of my old laptop and my Mother and Grandparents enjoy my older but newer cameras! Other dated things, like film cameras, I’ve donated to other causes and they have always been in great working conditions, never disposed of as garbage.

Digi Digi2

Technology has its impacts on the world and though I can say I’ve considered the social impacts, I have not been aware of the environmental impacts it has. Learning about the effects on the wetlands in Ghana really opened my eyes to this. I can sit here and say I had no part in that because my devices are still being used, but that would be ignorant. Through my lifetime I have used so many computers, printers, televisions, radios, appliances and so on, that now that my eyes have been opened to this awful reality I must be accountable and rethink my technological practices and their consequences outside the comforts of my cushy first world home.

Any Press is Good Press…

Who knew this “hashtag activism” was such a controversial and debatable topic? Not I and it looks to me that people can take things a little too seriously. Google defines the term activism as “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.” Now we add “hashtag” to this activism definition and what we get is the ability to campaign for certain changes through the use of these online specific topics which are grouped together by preceding a term or phrase with a pound sign (#).

I had known about hashtags prior to this course and never saw them in a negative sense. That is unless someone over uses them through social media, which has now become humorous to me. Caitlin Dewey quoted The Urban Dictionary as part of her writing in the Washington Post with its definition of “hashtag activism” as follows; “the kind of activism undertaken when you “do something” about a problem by tweeting or posting links to Facebook, without any intent of ever actually doing something. Nothing more than a nonsense feel good gesture so that one can say they “did something about” whatever trendy cause they’re pretending to care about. Usually only lasts a week or two before the cause is completely forgotten (i.e. it stops being cool to forward/retweet on the subject).” We have learned previously about participation in this immergence of new media and I would say that by choosing to repost or add your own commentary to these hashtags that support different causes makes you an active participant. Therefore you become an active member in campaigning towards change, whatever it may be, which the definition of activism depicts. So how is standing in front of a building or in the streets with signs campaigning for change any different or less active than sharing that sign or campaign message with several hundred people via the web? Besides the physicality of it, I don’t see the difference. In a protest video of #BringBackOurGirls posted in Dewey’s article, a gentlemen says the following “We want them [the government] to try. We want them to reach out. We want them to show effort and show that they care.” In regards to protesting and sharing the message to people of the world, how important is the means of spreading this awareness? As long as the message gets out there who cares about the reason why people repost it.

With any action there are consequences that come along side also. In the instance of hashtag activism I see far more positive consequences than negative. For instance by using hashtags via social media such as Twitter or Facebook, Levinson points out that a tweet can reach millions of people within seconds of someone posting. This becomes a simple effortless broadcast of information which is uninhibited by the agendas of other mass media outlets, such as the news (Levinson, 2013). Hashtag activism is much cheaper for both the parties advocating for the cause and also for any police or service needed to keep a physical rally controlled. That brings me to my next point that activism through the use of hashtags is far less violent or brutal than physical protests. I was in Montreal during the 2012 student protests and was amazed by the amount of police presence all over the downtown and university areas. Not only was this a large expense in tax payer dollars but the police used physical force and means to control this protest resulting in injuries.

From personal experience through the #NoMakeUpSelfie I saw a drawback to this hashtag activism. It boils down to how someone is using a hashtag for a cause and whether they have knowledge of the validity or not. A friend of mine had seen these selfies of girls with no makeup. Along the way the cause was not being portrayed correctly and the meaning was lost, which then lead to my friend posting a “No makeup selfie” of him with a rather ignorant comment. This obviously sparked some comments from his female friends who knew the cause and who were personally affected in some way from breast cancer. This is a prime example of how sometimes these causes can get lost in translation when people repost just to jump on the “hashtag activism” bandwagon. In everything we do we must remember to stop, think and be ready to stand up for our choices.