Final Project: Digital Diversity Is…

Digital Diversity refers to the way in which digital technologies such as the Internet, cell phones, and social networks have affected and changed our society and culture.  Recent advances in digital technologies have connected the world in a way previous unimaginable. “We – especially young people – are thoroughly interconnected through, and thereby saturated with, what are sometimes called “New Media” or digital media” (DME 6).  We can get the news, talk to friends, watch movies, and listen to music basically anywhere, anytime with digital devies such as cell phones, laptops, ipods, etc.  However, the cultural effects and waste generated by these varous digital devices are not always positive.

“The cultural and social significance of new information technologies has been a constant topic of debate for scholars and cultural critics since the 1980’s” (Technicolor 2).  New digital technology has created a gap between groups of people known as the “Digital Divide”.  This gap refers to the main users of the technology and the people who assemble and deal with the waste who cannot afford the technology.  The main users of digital technology are generally white, wealthier people living in Western cultures.  The people that have to deal with the electronic waste are mainly in West Africa and China where the e-waste gets shipped and dumped.  As we saw in the movie “Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground”, e-waste from the US and Europe is shipped to poor, underdeveloped countries where it is burned and salvaged for the precious metals.  Another less fortunate group in the digital divide is people assembling the different technologies such as computers are usually lower class, minority women working in large factories.  Inner cities are also way behind in the digital revolution though there are programs working to change this.  We must realize the consequences of the digital technologies and how they have impacted our world and culture.  Digital technologies have had many incredible benefits and done a lot of good in the world, but we must not forget about the impacts and consequences that come with new technology.

Sources:

Ess, Charles. Digital Media Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009. Print.

Nelson, Alondra and Tu, Thuy Linh. Technicolor- Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. New York: New York University Press, 2001. Print.

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Assignment 11: WikiLeaks Reflection

When we were first assigned WikiLeaks as our project I was a little skeptical.  I had heard of WikiLeaks because of the recent media coverage of the exposed U.S. diplomatic documents but I did not no very many details and had never been on the cite.  I was not alone in this lack of knowledge.  In the initial group meeting, I discovered that only one of our group members had ever been on the website.  Josh had fairly extensive knowledge of how the website worked and basic background information about the controversial founder, Julian Assange.  After our first meeting we decided that everyone would get on WikiLeaks and become familiar with the website and brainstorm topics that we could focus on for the presentation.  When we met for our second meeting we narrowed down the main points of our presentation and determined our thesis.  Once the thesis and main topics were determined, we divided up the key points so each person would have one topic.  Each group member was responsible for the research and PowerPoint slides for their specific WikiLeaks topic.  The final step was combining the slides and formatting the slideshow.

Everyone agreed to do a PowerPoint presentation because it would be the easiest for a presentation and no one had the knowledge or software to edit videos.  If I would have done anything different I would have made a more interactive presentation or something a little more creative like the group that did the late show skit.  Unfortunately we had to present on the first day so we were pressed for time.  I was very pleased with this group.  Everyone got their portion of the project done on time and the group seemed to mesh well together.  I also learned a lot about WikiLeaks and the profound effects that it has had on the world.  Overall I was very content with the group and how our project turned out.

“Always On” Media Log

As a part of the “Always On” generation, most of my daily activities involve digital technology in one way or another.  With so many new digital devices and technologies, it is easy to always be connected.  As Watkins says, ” We have evolved from a culture of instant gratification to one of constant gratification” (Young and Digital 160).  The pie chart below breaks down my digital media usage for a week.  The chart is fairly skewed because of the Pandora category that accounts for roughly 40% of my total usage.  This occurs because I am almost always listening to Pandora or some online radio while I’m on my laptop whether if it’s for school, work, or recreation.  Multitasking while online is inevitable.  As Watkins points out, “They (the yound and the digital) multitask habitually and according to many observers, they also do it instinctively” (Young and Digital 162).  Even as I am writing this blog I am listening to pandora, and have my facebook and email open on my dual monitors. 

I would like to analyze the amount of time I spend texting because this seems to be the largest ‘non-school’ related use of media in my daily routine.  I was fairly suprised when I added up the hours I spend texting in any given day.  Texts are generally very quick and take a minimal amount of time, but when you’re sending several hundred texts a day it adds up fast. When it was all sad and done I averaged an hour and fifteen minutes of texting everyday.  This is a significant chunk of time and would add up to a fairly indepth conversation.

The difference with new digital technologies is that it allows you to communicate with multiple people at the same time and does not distract you from your main focus for very long.  Over the process of writing this blog I have sent and recieved half a dozen texts.  Texting allows for you to talk to people at your convenience. (Pause to text) It also makes it much easier to stay in touch with friends who are a long distance away.  The person I just paused to text is in Colorado.  Digital media has made it much easier to maintain and expand on existing relationships, even when physically seperated, without completely disrupting your day.  In my experience, new digital technologies such as texting, facebook, and skype are helping strengthen existing relationships.

Generation Facebook

Being apart of the “Generation Facebook”, I would have to agree Smith’s argument “that a lot of social networking software explicitly encourages people to make weak superficial connections with each other (as Malcolm Gladwell has recently argued), and that this might not be an entirely positive thing…”  We’ve all been there, you get a friend request from someone you barely knew back in highschool but you don’t want to be an asshole so you except their friend request knowing that you’re never going to look at their profile and don’t really care what they’ve been doing.  This superficial friendship, as Smith pointed out, has no significant meaning other than status.  People want more facebook friends because it makes them look and feel more popular.  Social status is a huge part of social networking.  People want to feel more important than they really are.  No one cares that you just ate a turkey sandwhich for lunch, but that doesn’t stop people from posting it on facebook.  I believe Smith would agree that this example shows just how boring this generation has become.  We have began to live virtually through Facebook rather than having our own ‘real’ experiences.

The founder and inventor of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, (featured in the video above) had no idea the impact his creation would have.  “You don’t even know what the thing is yet.  How big it can get, how far it can go.  This is no time to take your chips down.  A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool?… A billion dollars” (The Social Network). No one could have predicted how popular Facebook would become or how it would change the online experience.  Facebook has gotten to the point where it dominates the web and millions of peoples lives.   “Three-quarters of the people in our survey visit a social-networking site at least once a day” (The Young and The Digital xv).  With half a billion people on Facebook,  the social impact of Zuckerberg’s Facebook and other social networking sites is real.  “Society as a whole is beginning to reckon with the social consequences of young people’s persistent engagement with digital technology…”(The Young and The Digital 41)  As Smith mentioned in her arguement, the impacts of this new way of connecting and communicating may not always be a positive thing.  The superficial, weak connections that dominate the majority of social networking sites likely aren’t benefiting anyone.  Only time will tell the lasting effects of new social networking sites.

The Benefits of WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks is most commonly known for all of the negative effects that it has had.  However, there are many benefits to having sensitive information about corruption or potentially embarassing information exposed to the public.  WikiLeaks has good intentions.  “WikiLeaks states that its  “primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations.”” (Wikipedia)  Wikileaks intentions are to bring to light the ways that governments have wronged their people and the truth about their political leaders.  It exposes corruption and wrongful acts.  One recent cable stated that the Afghan president recently recieved a $52 million paycheck after visiting the United Arab Emerates.  Political corruption such as this needs to be exposed so the people can learn the truth about their leaders and what their government is actuallydoing with their money.  WikiLeaks also promotes freedom of speech.  In an interview on the Colbert Report, Julian Assange eloborates on the beliefs and policies of WikiLeaks and how it’s intent is to promote freedom of speech that will benefit the people, not the leaders that govern them. WikiLeaks has many benefits and can help the progress of democracy.

To learn more about Wikileaks follow the provided link to introduction to WikiLeaks.

Assignment 7: E-Waste

The rapid growth of technology has not come without consequences.  Digital and information technologies have created a gap between people who have easy access to digital technology and those who have very limited access.  This gap is known as the Digital Divide.  Though there are many advantages to all the new high-tech devices and technologies, we must not “…assume that we can diffuse these technologies in any cultural setting whatsoever without harm” (DME 118).  Many believe that technology can solve everything and that more is better. “Clinton promised to put “a computer in every classroom by the year 2000″… and one in every home by 2007…” (TRT 18).  Though this is a great idea, we can’t forget about the massive amounts of waste that a program like this would generate and what happens to all that waste.  Western, high-tech cultures must be aware of the reprocussions of  the advances in technology and the increase of high-tech devices.

One of the largest contributers to the digital divide is the massive amounts of e-waste that is produced and shipped to poorer countries.  E-waste  refers to electronic waste that it produced from new technological advances including computers, laptops, printers, cell phones, and ipods.  As seen in “Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground”, e-waste from the US and Europe is shipped to poor, underdeveloped countries that do not even have access to the technology that is being dumped there.  As seen in the above image, young kids in Africa rummage through the remains of burnt e-waste in search of gold and other precious metals left over from circuit boards.  Just by shipping all the electronic garbage to other countries, developed countries are widening the digital divide.  E-waste has separated people based on those who can afford to dispose of the technology and those who have to deal with the waste.  Consumers need to be aware of what happens to all of the electronics they throw away so they will hopefully be more responsible in their consuming habits.  Recycling companies need to be honest about what is happening to the waste and develop more responsible recycling methods.  By reducing e-waste we can help slow and eventually reverse the digital divide.

Assignment 6: Getting Past either/or

The debate was over the question, do copyright laws prevent creativity?  There are two main sides to this debate.  I was on the side of the debate that argued that copyright laws do not hinder creativity.  Some of the key highlights for this side are that copy right laws are critical to protect the creators rights.  The thought behind this is that “… authors, artists, software designers, and other creative agents will take the trouble to innovate and develop new products and services that will benefit the larger public only if those agents can themselves be assured of a significant personal reward (usually money)” (DME,  74).  Copyright laws also promote competition and research.  Competing companies are willing to spend the time and money to research and develop new technologies and expand on existing technologies because copyright laws ensure exclusive rights once the technology is developed.  Without copyright laws, companies would just wait for someone else to develop new technologies and devices and steal it to reproduce the same device without spending any time or money to develop the technology.   Without copyright laws the progression of technology and inventions would come to a halt.

On the other hand,  copyright laws have gone a little overboard.  The copyright laws have been manipulated to the point that they no longer benefit the creator.  Major corporations are buying the rights and making billions of dollars off of the copyrights.  In 1998, the Copyright Right Extension Act extended the exclusive rights to 70 years after the creators death.  It is known that throughout history people build apon there predecessors.   Walt Disney took many of his ideas, such as Cinderella, from previous inventors.  He happened to have the business savy to copyright these stolen ideas and create one of the largest corporations in the world.  This is not what the original copyright laws were intended for.  The video below shows how people build off of current media and add there own twist while mocking how ridiculous the copyright laws have become. 

Both side of this debate have valid points. Copyright laws are essential in a capitalist society, but they have been taken to an extreme that are no longer benefitting the creators.  Copyright laws need to be reasonable and encourage creativity.  There must be a balance between copyright laws and creative freedoms.  The laws should benefit the original inventor, not a faceless corporation.  It may help to make copyright laws go back to  protecting the creator for their lifetime plus 14 years like the original law intended.  This provides a fair amount of time for the inventor and their family to receive the benefits of their creation.  Copyright laws should benefit the original inventor and encourage creativity.

Assignment 5: Cairo and Facebook

There is no doubt that the internet has revolutionized the way that people communicate and spread ideas.  Social networking has change the way that we communicate and share ideas and information.  Social networks such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter have provided a platform for the silent majority to get their voices heard.

The ongoing revolution in Egypt is largely attributed to Facebook and Twitter.  These social media networks provided a forum for the youth of Egypt to get their voices heard and share their opinions.  They were also able to upload videos of corruptions and interviews of protesters.  One of these interviews is shown below.

Facebook and Twitter have acted as much more than “just a tool” in this revolution.  These online forums provided a place for the youth to spread their opinions  and organize an entire revolution.  Facebook was able to spread their message that they are tired of being controlled by a corrupt government to the entire country.  As this message spread throughout the internet, so did the number of people backing it.  This protest could not have been this successful if the people had not been able to band together, share their opinions, and organized a time and place to initiate the protest.  A Newsweek article provides an indepth analysis of how organizers spread the word of the protest and the consequences of their involvement.  Technological advances like Facebook are the largest contributer for the success of the Egyptian revolution.  None of it would have been possible if it wasn’t for the new advances to mobilize the masses and spread the word to the greater public.

Assignment 4: Copyright Laws- What a Bunch of Crap!

How stupid are the people that run this country?!   The greed and selfishness of the corporations that control this country is disgusting and shameful.  If the U.S. is the world’s supposed “melting pot” of people and cultures,  why doesn’t this apply to digital media as well?  After watching “R.I.P., A Remix Manifesto” and “Guarding the Family Silver” I am much more informed about intellectual property laws.  “The man” would have you believe that intellectual laws are in place to protect creativity because “authors, artists, software designers, and other creative agents will take the trouble to innovate and develop new products and services that will benefit the larger public only if those agents can themselves be assured of a significant personal reward…” (Digital Media Ethics, pg. 74).  However, as we learned in the movie “R.I.P., A Remix Manifesto”, the publishing corporations benefit much more than the actual inventor.  The copy right laws include everything from words to organisms.  Lets think about this for a minute,  if you can legally get  rights to organisms U.S., what’s stopping me from obtaining copy rights to plants, animals, or even human beings.  Where does it stop?  What idiots actually passed this bill?  The copy right laws are a giant scam that ensure that the rich get richer and the people in power stay in power.  It is our duty as citizens to ensure that these outrageous laws do not govern or control our society.

I had a personal connection to the video, “Guarding the Family Silver”.  Last summer I travelled to New Zealand and stayed with a Maori tribe volunteering to restore a sacred lake.  I spent hours each night talking to the native peoples about world politics and the Maori people.  One of the largest problems with Western copyright laws are that they are specific to an individuals rights.  The Maori culture emphasizes a collective community in which all information is shared openly and is not owned by an individual.  An example of this is the famous Maori dance, the Haka.  Corporations want to buy the rights to this ancient war dance, but the Haka is a part of the Maori culture that belongs to all the people.  There is no single owner of the dance to buy the rights from.  The Maori people are open to sharing all ideas and cultural knowledge rather than controlling who has access to it.  Imagine what we could accomplish if we could just get the rest of the world to think this way.

Assignment 3: What information is Google recording about you?

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What does Google really know about you?

Like most of us, if you spend an hour or two a day surfing the web, the odds are that Google knows more about you than you may think. Most people are aware that Gmail stores all of your emails and searches them for key words, but you might be suprised by what else Google knows about you.  Features such as Google Toolbar and Google Web Accelerator are very useful tools when searching the web but you may be surprised to learn that Google records all of this information and even the URLs you visit.  Google reords the URLs of the webpages that you request and all of the information you input into these URLs including usernames and personal information.  Google records this as “sensitive personal Information” which includes things such as confidential medical records, racial and ethnical origins, political and religious beliefs, and sexuality.  To read more about what information Google is recording see References.  If you’d like to continue with this collective blog and learn what Google is doing with this information go to Who is Google Distributing to?