Ben Rogoza

Digital Diversity Blog

What IS Digital Diversity?

Digital diversity is…

To me, digital diversity is all that digital technology brings to society. These are both good and bad. My video includes only a tiny fraction of what could be included in this definition. I looked at how music has changed with digital technology. Remixing is common, taking elements from many sources and combining them to make something your own. Digital technology has also allowed art to take on many new forms. In the video, Aaron Koblin takes plain, hard data and translates it into art. Text message data into dynamic, interesting shapes or TV usage data into sonic waveforms.

On the flip side, there are many things that digital technology has brought which are not desirable. I didn’t have time to expand into this aspect in the video. For instance, exploitation of poor workers assembling tech hardware in silicon valley is prevalent. E-waste is shipped to third world countries for “disposal”, and puts heavy metals and toxins into the ground, water and air. The digital divide was also a result of digital technology, in that there is a growing divide between technology “haves” and “have-nots”. This makes the poor poorer and the rich richer, and is very difficult to rectify, as there are so many intricacies in the way that people use and access technology. There is no one size fits all. Again, This side is not represented in the video, but is a very important aspect of digital diversity.

The long awaited video:

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Group work reflection

We just finished up doing a fairly in depth presentation on cell phones in developing nations in class last week. To accomplish this, we met many times outside of class. First in these meetings, we talked about what the general concepts we’d like to cover, and what angle we wanted to take with our thesis. We came up with our thesis by talking about what our assumptions about mobile phones were, as well as global assumptions of developing nations are. From this, we realized that though there are some moral and ethical issues which are problematic about mobile phones in developing nations, on the whole it seemed to us that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Here is one of the many examples of how mobile phones are transforming developing nations. Yes, mobile phones are western, push assumptions about usage and culture onto developing nations, but none the less, they are a necessary tool to stay current, connected and competitive within the modern economy, marketplace and society. When deciding to do our presentation as a video, we looked at the fact that we wanted to integrate many anecdotes and examples which were already documented in video. It seemed logical that, instead of trying to doing it smoothly in real time with a powerpoint presentation, we would just create an extended video explanation of our points and examples.

If I were to do this again, I’m not sure I would do much differently. I feel very satisfied with the presentation and video we produced, and the message that it portrayed. I think that it was interesting and engaging, though I might be a little biased.

This is our video from our presentation. It contains all of the content used to make our main point that communication technology, currently in the form of mobile phones, is connected with the development of nations.

Facebook

Dear Zadie Smith:

You argue that Facebook emphasizes the quantity, not at all the quality of connections between people here. I agree. In the movie, “The Social Network”, the fictional Mark Zuckerberg seems to be providing a venue for superficial interaction. The Mark character says “I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online”. The purpose is not clear, it could be sexual, or status driven (i.e. if I am friends with this girl, then I’m cool and popular). From 2010, the real Mark says: “Our role is to be a platform for making all of these apps more social, and it’s kind of an extension of what we see happening on the web, with the exception of mobile, which I think will be even more important than the web in a few years.” This implies to me that the goal is so socialize, on any level, regardless of the superficiality of the interaction.

From “The Young and the Digital”, Beth says: young people “stay tuned to their computers, managing their stables of friends and peeking into everyone’s social space”. Stables of friends. One cannot possibly have an intimate, deep connection with a “stable” of friends. This requires value to be place on keeping superficially connected to many people, as opposed to maintaining extremely strong friendships with a smaller number. Another quote from “The Young and the Digital”, a young woman at a family dinner party tells her cousin “I’ve probably been in about three or four different conversations the whole time I’ve been here.” and the author comments “Over the course of the evening she spent very little time talking with the people she was in the physical presence of”. To me, this is a perfect example of the slippery slope that technology provides. I know many people who spend their time talking on Facebook chat, texting, and on Skype. To me, there is a time and a place for this, but physical, face to face interaction is much more rewarding.

E-Waste and the Digital Divide

The “digital divide” can be defined in many ways. Commonly, this term is used to talk about differing levels of internet access available to different groups of people. In Digital Media Ethics, Charles Ess defines the digital divide as “the disparities between what are sometimes called “the information rich” and “the information poor”. Technicolor – Race, Technology and Everyday Life writes “The ‘digital divide’ has become popular shorthand for the myriad social and cultural factors that shape access to technological resources”. This implies that the digital divide is determined by who has the ability to access information through technology.

By necessity, digital technology has physical manifestations: computers, printers, hard drives, monitors, keyboards, etc. All of this is retailed as state of the art, fancy equipment which has a very limited life span. “Information rich” societies churn though this equipment at an alarming rate. How many computers have you bought and gotten rid of? I have gone through at least 4. This leads to e-waste, or old computers and peripherals, which need somewhere to go. Currently, we are shipping this stuff to poor regions of the earth such as Ghana (as shown in the Frontline special “Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground”) where people are exposed to heavy metals, carcinogenic chemicals and burning plastic.

The term “digital divide” must be reconstructed to include e-waste and who is being screwed by our consumption. We are widening the gap caused by technology by exposing these recipients of our waste to toxic, carcinogenic chemicals which destroy their health, their ecosystems, and do little to nothing to aid their economies.

A simple explanation of the ewaste problem we face:

Violent video games and desensitization to violence

The issue of violence in video games is fraught with uncertainty. Many in the media have sought to create a moral panic with our youth, while opponents claim that games have no effect on real life. The truth likely lies somewhere in between. Many argue that scientific studies have shown a correlation between violent video games and desensitization to violence. This is certainly true, but it has also been shown that there are critical flaws within many of these studies. Many seem to focus on a short duration response, and fail to take into account variables such as gender, or setting. (laboratory vs home)

This leads us to the conclusion that either side could indeed be correct because there is no good science either way. There is a tendency in our society towards moral panics with new technology and forms of media. This historical precedent leads many to disregard new media as similar to old media, when it may not be. Video games are inherently interactive. The player does not sit passively and absorb material, as he or she might watching a movie or reading a book. On the other hand, it has also been shown that we, from an early age, can make a clear cut distinction between play and non play scenarios. This would lead to the conclusion that violence during play is very different than violence in real life. As described in Digital Media Ethics, the benefits: “educational benefits from serious/educational games, including development of new skills taught via simulation and role play; entertainment, relaxation, and play as essential elements in life, etc.” and the harms: ” may be addictive; encourage violent behavior; will lead to social, moral decay, etc.”. It is unclear who is correct, but either way, violent video games are becoming commonplace within our gaming society.

For more info, click here.

Facebook and Revolution in Egypt

Image taken by: Mona Sosh

Egyptian people, who have now forced their former president to step down, have extensively utilized social media, such as Facebook and Twitter to spread organization, media and news between supporters. Digital social media has served as a functional alternative to TV and newspapers, which are state run and do not necessarily represent the people. Facebook allows users to post videos, pictures and text together, rallying supporters to their cause. The Egyptians in this video are using Facebook extensively as a communication device. They are also making an assumption that their opposition (the incumbent government) cannot use anything they post against them. Facebook is also designed by Americans, who will design in a framework around which Egyptians must utilize the tool.

There are many assumptions made about the technology. Americans assume Facebook and Twitter are for entertainment/interactive uses only. Egyptians have used both for disseminating information, and purposeful communication. The platform was not designed around political revolutions. Also the software is being used really on one side only: the protesters. Mugabe didn’t post updates on his cause, even though he theoretically could have. This gives the platform overall a bias. The protesters are framed as dependent on the technology for sure. It seems they wouldn’t have been able to communicate if it weren’t for Facebook and Twitter. This, to me, is false because they will always have word of mouth, and other direct communication channels. In this case, however, social media provide a direct and efficient communication channel. The protesters are not really seen as cosmopolitans in the video, they are rather presented as merely Egyptians, with their message and cause beginning and ending in Egypt.

Copyright and Trademark

In our Digital Diversity class, we have recently seen two documentaries talking about copyright and trademarks. Each presents a slightly different view of a similar concept: modern copyright law is non-functional. In one, “Guarding the Family Silver”, Moana, a Maori from New Zealand finds that a company in Europe owns the copyright to her name. This prevents her from legally selling her album entitled “Moana”, which also represents the physical manifestation of the ocean in Maori culture. Historically, the Maori pass knowledge, language and tradition from generation without “ownership”, however many modern establishments have been using Maori names, words, symbols, even their traditional ceremony called the “Hakka“. This causes their cultural identity to be spread without their control, which is unfair and immoral, but unfortunately perfectly legal within our modern system.

The “Hakka”, as performed not by Maori, but by a rugby team.

The second documentary we watched is RIP – A Remix Manifesto. This one is about the musical artist Girl Talk, who takes samples from a huge number of songs and mixes, mashes and mangles them into new, rearranged songs. This inherently breaks a huge number of copyright laws with each new song he creates, but brings an ethical question which is “at what point does a work become your own?” The video brings up several examples of songs which have been stolen, rerecorded and sold as original works throughout the years of commercial music industry. In the book “Digital Media Ethics”, Charles Ess recounts that “Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and for that matter, the signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence) famously argued that while we are morally obliged to follow just laws, we are allowed, even morally obliged, to disobey unjust laws.” Girl Talk disobeying unjust copyright laws to further creativity and innovation should not be penalized, but rather applauded. He is not just taking someones music, rerecording it and selling it, but rather taking snippets and tidbits and rearranging them into a symphony of sound which is something new entirely.

Here’s a Girl Talk classic, also with “remixed” video from RIP redone in animation. Or, here‘s another one which really makes audible the level of layering and sampling he typically uses.

Thailand and Twitter

Twitter is rapidly becoming a common mode of everyday communication between individuals, corporations, politicians, etc. Examples of the immediacy and power of Twitter can be found in Thailand. Since 2008, Thailand has been engaged in fighting between the existing, but newly formed government and opposition protesters and militants. Twitter has been instrumental to both sides for organizing and communicating freely. For the opposition, it is still free and unregulated and so provides an easy communication pathway. It has also played a very significant role by allowing quick communications at all levels of society. For instance, this story of a reporter in Thailand who has repeatedly used Twitter to help him out of dangerous situations.

Another foreigner in Thailand for the most recent wave of violence talks about his use of Twitter:

For more information on Twitter and Social Movements, go here.

Digital DiversityI

Hello WSU! This is my blog for our Digital Diversity class here at WSU. I’ll be graduating this May in Bioengineering. I am involved in entrepreneurship and mechanical engineering as well.