What is digital diversity?

Technology and social media is changing the way that people around the world live, communicate, interact, and so much more.  Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook helped the people in Egypt band together to protest against their government.  Organizations such as One Child Per Laptop aim to help bridge the growing gap of the digital divide.  The increasingly technology driven world also can have negative effects such as e-waste, where 3rd world countries are used as digital dumping grounds.

Diversity is how people differentiate from each other, based on ethnicity, age, gender, religion, politics, philosophy, beliefs, or other ways.  The digital world we live in is changing the way that diversity is expressed and the way people share ideas.  Cultural hybridization or cultural imperialism can happen much quicker because of the way digital media is “greased” and informati0n can be shared at an astounding rate.

Digital diversity is the way people are differentiated within digital contexts.  It is what separates people from each other.

Sources used: Digital Media Ethics by Charles Ess, song “Technologic” by Daft Punk, video “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground”, movie trailer for the movie “The Social Network” and images found on google.

Group Work Reflection

We began our group project by researching the way race and gender is represented in various video games.  We found various youtube videos like this one that helped point us to some video games that we might be able to use as examples.  We came up with our thesis because we found that race and gender stereotypes in video games has increased since video games first came out.  We already knew a lot about certain games like the Grand Theft Auto series, but it was interesting to see all the other games out there.  We were surprised to find some older games that included stereotypes as well, not just the new ones.

Originally we were going to do a powerpoint presentation, but after we saw the one group do a talk show we decided to try and do something more creative.  That is why we decided to make a movie.  One thing that we wanted to do, but we ran out of time, was to interview some students around school and ask them their opinions on race and gender stereotypes in video games to get an idea of what other students think.

Staying Connected

This pie chart shows the different types of digital media that I use.

As you can see, I spend a significant amount of time playing online computer games.  Since I am a college student, I spend most of my time in front of a computer.  I also have an iPhone that I have with me at all times.  I definitely feel like I am “always connected” to the digital world.  If I forget my phone at home one day I feel like I left a part of my life.  My phone is how I keep in contact with my friends, family and classmates.  I can even browse the internet and check my email from my phone.  Watkins said “Today, when you ask students to turn off their computers, mobile phones, and iPods, you are asking them to turn off their lives.” I really relate to this statement.  Watkins also says “Asking young people to disconnect even momentarily from the vast swirl of content and comrades they engage throughout the day generates anxiety, discomfort, and cultural alienation.”  One interesting thing I found is that “always on” is also affecting young children as well.

I think that my “always on” media use has had an effect on my social life.  In one case, internet, email and mobile phones and texting have made it much easier to keep in contact with people that I can easily lose touch with.   (For example, friends who went to different colleges than me, or family members who live in other states.)  But because social networking sites and texting are so easy and convenient, I have noticed that I don’t speak to some of these people on the phone or in person as much as I used to.  Technology can be helpful but it is important to “unplug” and have real social interactions as well.  Similarly, when I play online games with my friends this can sometimes replace face-to-face interactions with virtual ones.  For me though it has been very helpful because I have been involved in a long-distance relationship.  Online games give my boyfriend and I a chance to feel like we can “hang out” when we don’t have the option of seeing each other for weeks at a time.  This is an example of how virtual interactions can be just as important and meaningful as physical ones.  There are some people though that take online gaming to the extremes, and have no “real” social life at all.  So there are positives and negatives to being in an “always on” world.

The Digital Divide

I learned about the notion of the digital divide from the text Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life which says: “in a quickly changing digital era of quicksilver developments, deals, and innovations, the racial disparities in computer access, training, and employment have been lamentable constants.”  Access to technology is not the only barrier to digital equality, there are many other aspects that come into play.  For example, “e-waste”, which is electronic equipment nearing the end of its useful life, can add complicity to the notion of the digital divide.

In the movie “Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground” we saw the consequences that technological advances affect places around the world.  E-waste from the United States and other advanced countries are dumped into places such as Ghana.  Many people do not even know what is happening with their discarded electronics when it is really being dumped into other countries.  For example, this article discusses the “safe” disposal of old electronic but they are most likely contributing to the e-waste dump sites like Ghana. These dumping grounds have created a way of life for some people, who scavenge through the toxic e-waste to find salvageable parts.  Even in China, they dump their own e-waste into less well-off areas of the country. This creates a somewhat digital divide within its own country.  The wealthy companies and people discard their electronic waste and it is sent to the poor areas.  This waste can be sorted to find working devices to sell or broken things which can be salvaged for precious metals to sell.  As more countries become more advanced in technology, the e-waste will only increase.

Adding e-waste into the notion of the digital divide shows how ethically complex this issue really is.  Not only is there a digital divide in the access to technology, but also in the consequences of this same technology.  While people in the United States are trying to give access to people who don’t have computers, we are really just increasing the amount of e-waste.  When you think of it this way technology has some negative consequences along with the more obvious positive ones.



Does copyright limit creative freedom?

On one side, one can say that current copyright laws limit creative freedom.  As I saw in the film RiP!  A Remix Manifesto, using the works of others can inspire creative and unique works.  However, as I also saw in the film in the case of the artist Girl Talk, remix can be a huge copyright infringement.  What started out to be a fun creative hobby turned out to be a successful musical artist.  But since Girl Talk remixes other songs to make new ones, he could be sued for copyright infringement.  People can argue that this is unfair and limits the creative freedom of young upcoming artists just like Girl Talk.  People like this cannot afford to pay for the rights to use the songs that they remix and they should be able to create their own unique songs however they wish.  The problem with this is where do you draw the line?  How much do you have to change a song for it to be considered “different” enough?  What could start out as a fun hobby could quickly turn into the exploitation of others’ work.  Copyright laws are in place to protect the original author so that they get credit and monetary benefits from their work.

On the other hand, people argue that copyright laws are necessary and do not limit creative freedom but actually encourages creativity.  Originally, copyright laws were formed to encourage people to create by ensuring that they will benefit from doing so.  And even today, copyright laws continue to encourage creativity and new ideas, particularly in the areas of research and medicine.  Some research and the development of new medicines can be very expensive.  Copyright laws protect the creators to receive financial benefits so that others cannot just “steal” their ideas and sell it themselves.  Similarly, you can’t use someone else’s words without citing your source or you will have committed plagiarism.  Originally copyright laws were put in place to protect the author for 14 years. Nowadays however, copyrights can be extended to long -past the author’s death.  For example the “Happy Birthday” song, which was written by the Hill sisters in the nineteenth century, is now owned by the Time-Warner Corporation who receives profit anytime someone wishes to present the song in a film.  It seems as though what was once a protection of the author has now turned into a  business’s way to exploit and profit off of the works of people who have long since passed away.

In any controversy, it is important to consider that there is not always one right answer and one wrong answer.  One must remember not to always think in “either/ors”.  This concept is explained in the Digital Media Ethics text: “However tempting and common it is for us to think in terms of exclusive either/ors (one thing can be true — or the other thing can be true — but both can’t be true simultaneously), in point of fact there is a second kind of “either/or”: the inclusive either/or, so-called because it includes (rather than excludes) the possibility of two things being true simultaneously.”  In order to choose a stance on a subject one must consider ALL options not just the ones presented.

Technology: more than just a tool

In the case of the revolution in Egypt, technology has played an extremely important role.  Technology and digital media has enabled the people of Egypt to band together to form a revolution against its government.  Primarily through the means of social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter, individuals have been informing and persuading others to join their cause.  Through these means, many young people have become aware and involved.  The revolutionaries are not just thinking about themselves and the consequences they may face for standing up for what they believe in.  They are doing it for their country and the general well-being of the pubic.  Because this revolution is forming on the internet, it is making the whole world involved.  “Digital communication media makes us cosmopolitans (citizens of the world).” This quote was taken from chapter 4 of Digital Media Ethics” and I think it describes perfectly the situation in Egypt.  The digital communication is making the whole world involved in the revolution in Egypt.

Cultural Appropriation and Remix in the Digital Age

For my Digital Diversity class I watched two films that discuss their views of appropriation in the digital world.  The film Guarding the Family Silver, talked about the Maori people in New Zealand.  They were discussing how ideas, objects, or art from the Maori culture are being used by others in the media.  Since there is no copyright on the ancient art and ideas of their culture, people are free to use these ideas or images in media.  The people of Maori origin may find the misuse of their cultures images detrimental to the image of their culture.  They cannot protect these images and ideas because they were created and passed down from their ancestors, not from one person.  Alternatively, the film RIP: A Remix Manifesto holds a different view of intellectual property.  This film discusses how media should be free in the public domain and how laws and corporations are limiting the creativity of people by enforcing strict copyright laws.

It is tough to decide which view is better.  On one hand, I believe that people should be able to use the artistic work of others to create their own unique work.  But if every creation is in the public domain it is hard to make sure the creator can profit from it.  Or in the case of the Maori, there could be other impacts besides money like the impacts on their culture.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social networking site where you can upload posts of up to 140 characters at a time.  Some people also refer to Twitter as a form of microblogging, because it is used to share short bits of information with others, similar to the way blogs work.  It is primarily used by people from the ages of 18-34.  People use Twitter for many different uses, primarily social messaging.  The site can also be used for news reporting or  business advertising and economics. It has even been used during emergencies and for various social movements (Thailand, Burma, Tunisia).

About Me

Hi! My name is Shannon Flerchinger and this is my blog for my Digital Diversity course.  I am a senior electrical engineering student at Washington State University and I am 22 years old.  I’ve never had a blog before but I am excited to see how it works!

This is a picture of my boyfriend, Mat, and I at a WSU football game. Go Cougs!