Monday, March 31, 2008
I enjoyed Phelan's chapter CyberWalden, in which John M. Phelan looks at the internet as a separate reality and compares the cyberspace of today to other mediums. The vividness of HDTV, Phelan argues, falls short of computer and internet because "the machine is part of us." The interaction and feedback that is instantaneous on the internet creates the feeling that the user is inside cyberspace. This "real time feedback" Phelan relates to the call-in shows and participatory broadcast media as the first step in creating feedback media. "What was a public, is becoming an audience." Awesome line, Phelan.
So I come to the end of the book, Communication and Cyberspace, and of course, Neil Postman is there telling me that everything that I just read doesn't solve any problems that the computer set out to solve and that...whoops...we already solved those problems. Sounds like a digital immigrant to me. I agree that the influx of large amounts of information on the internet make it more difficult than other mediums to pick through. But would we prefer that every time a user logs in they have channels/websites they can visit, one at a time? The beauty behind the internet is also its Achilles heel; the more information, the more responsible the user must be in searching. And just because no one would facebook friend Neil Postman, does he really have to take a shot at virtual reality, social networking, emails and TV and call them all an escape from real problems? The digital world is a world inside of our own, it is not an escape, it exists here and now and is the most efficient medium at updating and informing people on current events and news. So Postman, take a deep breath, have a drink, and maybe sign-up for an anger management community or something online...you know, the fake escape world that everyone in the 21st century is enjoying so much.
Although this way of communicating has exceeded all other forms, it also presents an immediate setback. While the radio and newspapers were able to reach out to millions of people at once, computers have the same ability but to a much greater degree. Although this form of communicating makes these older forms such as facsimile as well as the postal service obsolete to some extent, it doesn't make it more effective. Cyberspace is limitless and this makes it control decentralized. Our behavior is most affected by those we care most about or see most often. However, we can not see everyone through the internet because of it vast multitude. This means that although cyberspace has the greatest range but not the greatest effectiveness because of its target audience. If you were to publish a story it would be better to start of small with perhaps a local newspaper instead of a site online because the chance of anyone caring about who wrote the article or what it's about is very slim. Cyberspace is the best for mass communication because it branches out to the most individuals, but two way communication is more personal because any question can be monitored and responded to, and this form of communication is much better than one-way in controlling human behavior
Let me know what you think!
In chapter nine, Ron L. Jacobson comments on President Clinton's Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Act was the first piece of major legislation regarding ownership guidelines for United States telecommunications since 62 years prior with the Communications Act of 1934. The Act had two major purposes, to consolidate telecommunications ownership and to try and deregulate the internet in order to provide mass availability. Critics of the act believed that the government needed to keep a closer eye on a media source (mainly the internet) that could provide such an expansive, efficient, and convenient source of news and exploration for the public. In order to do this they forced the ownership of all telecommunication networks to consolidate into only a few major companies (i.e. AT&T and the Bell companies). Behind the rally cry for Universal Service (free public telecommunications access) the consolidation seemed to most as a necessary evil. The way I see it is the government wants to expand the information highway for public appeal, and more importantly for corporate aspirations. At the same time, a medium which can offer the public such an expansive (and invasive) source of news and information, free of charge, is a scary thing to go unregulated. Therefore, the government has rallied behind the idea of Universal Service while sneaking in the idea that this "unregulated" service will fall under the ownership of only a few mammoth companies. The red flag that surfaces for me after sifting through all of this information is, do I really believe that these major news and network providers are unbiased to political coercion? I mean did the government really go to AT&T and tell them they were going to expand their business by legally forcing thousands of small private network companies to come under their (AT&T's) ownership and not ask for anything in return? And were the major companies chosen for consolidation decided upon by drawing straws, or were these the best major companies in the business who would be the most compliant with the current politicians involved? We look back to The Wire and Scott Templeton...We know that the news which is provided to the public will ultimately have political implications on how people and events are viewed by the public, whether the news is true or fabricated. By trying to keep the telecommunications network under the ownership of only a few major companies so that the broad casted news and information can be more easily regulated, is the hand of the American government breaking the innocence of objective news? Check out this youtube on how FOX News is completely biased because of its infiltration by right wing support.
Although I do have my doubts about political involvement in my "objective" news, I believe that the movement towards Universal Service is a positive evolution, regardless of the ownership issues.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Neil Postman asks us the function of the internet, asking us what problem it has come to solve. If books enabled the Protestant reformation, what will the Internet function for our society? Perhaps we are asking to break free from the consumerist standards broadcast by radio, television and print newspapers. Aside from letters to the editor, where is the voice of of the recipient? like the Protestants who wanted individuality of though from the Catholic church, I assert the idea that individuals, once again want to communicate their individuality and independence of thought from mainstream capitalist societal standards.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
“…Wikipedia is facing an identity crisis as it is torn between two alternative futures. It can either strive to encompass every aspect of human knowledge, no matter how trivial; or it can adopt a more stringent editorial policy and ban articles on trivial subjects, in the hope that this will enhance its reputation as a trustworthy and credible reference source.” (from "The battle for Wikipedia's soul")
Wikipedia, being open to the public, is causing a large amount of trivial information, which I suppose it what Postman would consider, “disconnected from theory, meaning, and purpose” (390) (the author of the article gives the example of how there are more articles that are more in depth about Pokemon characters than a topic that could be more meaningful and worth learning about, such as the Solidarity movement in Poland). I can see why some consider it a problem. There is just so much information on the Internet that probably, to the majority of people, would seem useless and when an information source like Wikipedia is overloaded with generally pointless information that means nothing to them (unless maybe if they’re a fan of something), the value of it as something that could help people is lowered. Though on the other hand, perhaps all of this information helps to build an information source of the kind of culture that humans have (even if it might seem useless). Then again, maybe it’s similar to how news stations might focus more on celebrity news than what is going on in the world.
Another point that Postman mentions is how people who enjoy virtual reality, communicating with others electronically, and watching television “refuse to acknowledge what their real problem is—respectively, boringness, friendlessness, thoughtlessness” (391). This is true in some ways; he even says that it is because these activities, with the help of technology, do nothing to help “touch life’s deepest problems” (391). Though I think technology has helped create new ways of communication that were not possible in the past. In Gary Gumpert and Susan J. Drucker’s essay, “From Locomotion to Telecommunication, or Paths of Safety, Streets of Gore,” they say that the Internet is considered “more secure” and “nonthreatening” (35), which is true, considering also the amount of anonymity it can provide, which allows people to perhaps interact in ways they would not in real life. It lets us interact with people across the world that we would probably never meet without the Internet (though I guess one could travel and interact with people), and allows spontaneous interaction and possibly gain knowledge about another culture but interacting with them. In John M. Phelan’s chapter, “CyberWalden: The Online Psychology of Politics and Culture,” he says, “Distance apart, cyberspace is a humanizing device for creating a kind of ersatz office/pub/common room/ public square area for those deprived, rather cruelly, of one or more versions of the real thing” (52) It seems that many of the things the authors in these chapters say is putting cyberspace and the Internet in a negative light. Perhaps they are emphasizing that even though these technologies can provide so much interaction and information, interactions we have with people face-to-face and performing activities with other people are just as important in shaping the way that humans live.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Paull Young of Converseon discussing Social Media and small businesses on the show Happy Hour. The big social media secret is to listen to your customers and give them something that they want. Who knew?
And here's the interview:
Friday, March 14, 2008
So, I was quoted last week in the National Post, a Canadian newspaper. As is always the case, only a few sentences were used out of some twenty minutes of talk, and the tendency is typically to favor the more banal as opposed to the more brilliant insights. But the article is not bad, and most certainly blogworthy.
It was written by Craig Offman, who also interviewed me, and Craig seemed like an altogether decent, and well informed individual. The title of the article is Many Canadians feel anxious without the Net, I've put in the link so you can click on the title and read it on the National Post website, and of course I'll also provide you with the text right here in Blog Time Passing. Oh, and the date of publication is Sunday, March 9, 2008.
It begins with the facts:
‘Internet addiction" and "CrackBerry" are the narcotic-laced phrases we invariably use to explain our growing dependence on laptops and PDAs. Now a Canadian media research company has examined what happens to users in the absence of their virtual communication of choice and coined a term for the modern-day affliction: "disconnect anxiety."
The syndrome is described, in a study that will be released today, as the various feelings of disorientation and nervousness experienced when a person is deprived of Internet or wireless access.
"If you have your BlackBerry or cellphone just outside of your shower, you're probably suffering from it," says Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group, the Toronto technology-trend tracking company that conducted the study.
Some recent events have tested people's ability to disconnect from their electronic lifelines. Citing concerns about work-life balance, Citizenship and Immigration Canada recently forbade its civil servant from e-mailing on weeknights, weekends and holidays. And a three-hour service disruption last month left around 10 million BlackBerry users in the virtual darkness.
"Everyone's in crisis because they're all picking away at their Blackberrys and nothing's happening," said Liberal MP Garth Turner about a fidgety caucus meeting.
That kind of dependent relationship with our screens is more common than one might think. There are around 19 million cellphone users in Canada, and, according to the group's research, 70% of them carry the devices with them everywhere. More than half of Canada's two million Blackberry owners have taken their devices or a laptop into the bathroom, and 40% bring them along on vacation.
Almost 60% of Canadians with laptops have cozied up to them in their bedrooms at some point - and 26% do so frequently. Around 14% watch TV while logged on to their monitors.
For their study - called Disconnect Anxiety: And Four Reasons Why It's So Difficult to Stay Off the Grid - Solutions Research interviewed more than 3,000 Canadians last year. They found that 26% of them exhibit elevated levels of disconnect anxiety, 33% exhibit above-average levels and 41% are below average. The last group was heavily in the 50-plus age group, Mr. Yigit said, suggesting an obvious generational difference.
So, this is all about Canadians, and maybe they are different, being farther north, and therefore in a colder climate, than those of us in the US. But I suspect we're more or less the same in our usage.
Anyway, that's the data, which basically can be summed up with the basic idea that more and more people are feeling more and more anxious when they are not connected to the net in some way. Now for the explanation:
Some tech-culture theorists explain being online in terms of pleasure: the validation and adrenaline spike one feels when a hundred e-mails are awaiting a response, or when making a new friend on a social networking site.
In the absence of such technology, however, many people experience a sense of desperation or futility. That reaction leads experts to wonder if this reliance signals a sort of "neo-tribalism," a subtle return to our roots in a collective society. Or it might suggest that we struggle - and perhaps fail - to enjoy being on our own.
Now, maybe I wasn't the only one who said this, but this is definitely something that I talked about, as you'll be able to tell from the direct quotes at the end of the article. One of the things I talked about that he didn't include in the article is the need for phatic communication, the simple confirmation of our existence that we get when we acknowledge one another. That's why we have the ritual exchange of greetings, like hello, how are you?, fine thank you, etc. It's not to actually get information from one another, but rather a euphemism for saying, I recognize your existence, and thank you, I recognize yours as well. Every e-mail, message, blog post, comment, tweet, etc., that we receive carries out this same function--it says, hey, you exist! You are a human being! You are a member of our society! And we need that. Especially since so many of us live in environments where we experience a constant stream of disconfirmation, people who ignore us, treat us like we're not there, like we don't exist. That's why people go a little mad in cities. And that's why all of this electronic stimulation, social stimulation specifically, is so very satisfying, gratifying.Now, back to the article, where the point shifts to safety needs (as Abraham Maslow used to refer to them):
The Solutions Research study concludes that several factors contribute to disconnect anxiety: the growing worry about personal safety and inability to respond to an emergency; the fear of missing important information at work; the worry, particularly among teens, that they'll miss vital gossip; and a fear of disorientation.
Participants in the study used words and expressions such as "half a voice," "panic," "loss of freedom," "inadequate," and, inevitably, "empty," to express their feeling of estrangement.
"Losing technological access means being left out of the loop," explains social-networking authority Danah Boyd, who is a PhD candidate at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Fellow at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "Parents fear that they may not be able to get in touch with their kids. Kids fear their friends will forget them."
Ms. Boyd added that if being connected represents the baseline for social status, then it is not surprising that people are anxious about being disconnected. "No one wants to be left behind."
Nor does anyone want to feel stranded or vulnerable. "In our research, people have expressed the belief that fellow citizens on the streets are less likely to stop and help nowadays," says the study. Not having access or service creates anxiety about personal safety and the safety of family members."
One interviewee from the survey recalls being in Death Valley without a signal, worrying that his rental car would get a flat. "I was just praying," the person said. "What would I have done? Rub two stones together? Cry for help?"
Another complained that an inactive cellphone leaves a person prisoner of one's own silence. "It's almost like you lose your sense of freedom because you just can't call someone," said one person. "You might as well be in the 1800s."
I think this is very much to the point, and I said in the interview, as I've said many times before, that the day is rapidly approaching where we will all expect our vital signs to be monitored 24/7/365.25. Anything can go wrong for anyone at anytime, and at minimum many of us now expect to be able to summon help by way of the cellphone under any circumstances, and feel naked without one. Senior citizens wear those medical alert necklaces, dogs and some people have chips implanted in them so they can be located, so just extrapolate out a bit and in the not too distant future people will be linked permanently and internally (through implants) to the net.
Now the article turns to the youngsters, who have been elsewhere described as digital natives, as opposed to us old folks who are digital immigrants:
I certainly see my 14-year-old son on his cell phone with friends even when he's home for the night, we caught him text messaging once at 1 AM, and he plays with friends online, and talks to them through a headset while playing Halo on his Xbox. The isolation that I remember feeling as a teenager, aside from the limited use of the telephone available to us, is now a thing of the past. I can't really say that's a bad thing.
For younger people who use social-networking sites such Facebook and MySpace, and who are avid text-messagers, the communication compulsion is no less intense. A typical Canadian aged 12 to 24 sends and receives 90 text messages a week and visits her Facebook account three times a day in order to maintain correspondence with an average of 154 "friends."
One teen explained her virtually sociable mornings this way: "You are in your PJs with your toothbrush hanging out and you are already talking to your friends. That's pretty different than 2005, I guess."
While some of these anecdotes might hint at addiction, Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would rather question our relationship to this technology.
"If your child is addicted to heroin, you have one job and one job only: get him off," said Prof. Turkle. "Spending 10 hours a day on Facebook is different. It's really a diagnostic tool. It makes us question what is missing in the rest of someone's life."
Also a psychologist and the author of Evocative Objects, Prof. Turkle said that one young subject told her that "a screen represented hope, hope that life will be more exciting, that it will provide more romance."
The opposite then applies when the user is off the grid. "If something that's seen as sustaining is taken away, people grow anxious," she said. "They feel that nothing is going to happen."
Prof. Turkle also wonders if this kind of manic communication says something deeper about us: our ability to be alone without feeling loneliness. "One of the gold standards of thinking about a fully developed individual is an ability to enjoy one's solitude. So that every time you're alone, you're not lonely," she said. "I wonder if we are part of a generation that is not able to be alone."
I do have great respect for Sherry Turkle as a scholar, and the point about addiction is well taken. But she is also defending the sense of self associated with literacy and print culture, a sense of self that emphasizes the private individual, and I am sympathetic to this position, having one foot in the old culture myself. And my mentor, Neil Postman, would certainly approve, but he would also acknowledge that this is exactly what we are, and what we have been losing due to the electronic media. This point was made by Marshall McLuhan as well, back in the sixties, which now opens the door for me to have the last word in this article, echoing McLuhan (and quoting him, but that wasn't included in the article):
Some sociologists see this rampant communication as a return to tribal instincts, with a modern twist. "Rather than people surrounding you in a village, you're in a virtual tribe," said Lance Strate, Chair of the Communication and Media Studies Department at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York.
"When there were real tribes, people had no concept of individualism. If someone was ex-communicated from the tribe, he'd allow himself to wander away and die. He couldn't imagine life outside of the group."
I guess that makes for an interesting way to end the article, dramatic for sure, although I would have preferred a bit more elaboration. But I do think it's a good analogy, between tribal excommunication and today's disconnect anxiety. (By the way, there're some places on the Fordham website where I'm still identified as department chair, and that's why I get incorrectly listed as such from time to time.)Of course, one of the great differences between virtual tribes and traditional ones is that you can belong to many different virtual tribes, so membership is less central to your identity, or put another way, instead of your identity being subsumed by the tribe, intimately and irrevocably bound up with group identity, identity is now fragmented, decentered, and distributed across many different tribes, not as an individual, but greater than any one tribe. And for other reasons, the tribe itself becomes internalized, but that's another story.
What's also missing is any strong initiation rites, so the boundaries between insiders and outsiders are much looser, more permeable and more easily negotiated. And that means that identification with the group, and loyalty to the group, is greatly reduced from traditional tribal culture. I have elsewhere referred to this as liquid tribalism (in my "Cybertime" chapter in Communication and Cyberspace).
So, wanna be a member of my tribe?
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Beniger's piece made me think about the recent actions of Comcast. It was recently discovered by the Associated Press that Comcast has been selectively blocking its users access to certain sites, the largest blocked site being BitTorrent and its associated Web sites. Here's the full story. The general consensus from other news sources, and user comments, is that Comcast shouldn't have the power to selectively limit where someone can go on the Web. While in this instance the focus falls on a site primarily used for illegal file sharing, it has much broader ramifications. Namely, what if Comcast doesn't like the Web site you're looking at that's perfectly legal? If the site disparages Comcast, or perhaps the powers that be at Comcast have a moral belief against a certain site? As far as anyone knows, there's nothing stopping this from happening. It raises serious questions about what an ISP is and isn't allowed to do.
There really are no easy answers on how to regulate the internet. And there really are no clear answers on who controls the internet.
John Barlow would probably say that since the providers are only giving you the hardware accessibility to the internet, and that the Web sites aren't located anywhere physical, no one has the right to govern where you go on the Web. Not even your local, regional or state government. For a more in depth look at it, check out Barlow's A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.
And for a look at how Canadians are dealing with similar issues, take a look here.
Title taken from lyrics from the Zager & Evans song "In the Year 2525."
Beniger's analysis of cyberspace's capability to amplify the reach and persuasion of mass communication brings up important points about the versatility of the Internet, and is another demonstration of how it has become the all encompassing medium. Indeed as Beniger puts it, the thought of a personalized and intimate form of mass communication, wherein 2 way communication is possible and a record of who believes what is feasible makes for a pretty scary tool for your deceptively persuasive dictator. Beniger brings up the particularly interesting point about cyberspace's threat to the centralized order as being the main attraction it has to the very people it poses a threat to .
While discussing the future of cyberspace, Beniger brings about the likely rationalization of its structure in some form or another. Just as cited in the Postal system's use of it to categorize the masses into whatever subset they please, e-commerce has used cyberspace to make the Internet one big focus group. With so much of this world unclear as it continues to develop, the business and government elites are using this uncertainty to their advantage. Recalling AOL's divulging of several thousand personal accounts to the government a couple of years back I can't help but think that some of Beniger's predictions are already happening. Not to mention what another peer has stated about Google's power. The decentralized world of the cyberspace runs along a digital divide, so its more likely as Beniger puts it that those who control society at large will be controlling cyberspace and indeed, might be already.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The reason The Pirate Bay continues to dumb found American authorties is because their central servers are located in Sweden (never mind the debate as to whether BitTorrent trackers are actually infringing on copyright). Thus, all the laws the US passes literally cannot touch the Pirate Bay because they are in this country's jurisdiction. And while the US could pressure Sweden, there's no reason the organization can't relocate their server to another country (or buy their own which they attempted with Sealand).
However, there is one company that most people would agree "controls" the web. And that company, of course, is the famous Google. This might not be truly apparent because Google has not chosen to greatly abuse their powers. But just think about it for a moment. Google is the homepage of the web. If they choose to blacklist your site (and they have their reasons) then how would one ever find your site. Sure you could pass out the URL or depend on links from other sites, but for most of the web, your page is non-existent.
The other obvious controlling agent is the government in countries like Turkey and China. However, there are many technological tools which allow internet connections to break through their firewalls and open the end user up to the entire web. Whistle blowers and bloggers within China use this method to post articles and blogs without the fear of suppression. Such tools are usually trivially easy.
This probably isn't exactly what Beniger is talking about when he speaks of control. But these powers are probably the greatest control one entity can wield over the web. The internet's architects, maintainers, and a good potion of its users enjoy the comforts a lack of control can provide. And many will want and fight to keep it that way.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
We sit in front of televisions, listen to the radio, and now more than ever we can ignore advertisements - shrug them off and change the channel. The choices for entertainment and information gathering as so vast the attention span of the modern media consumer is brief. Powerfully "coercive" advertising, almost an annoying bombardment, is a necessary tactic these days. Rushkoff preaches of a television patron must be skilled; must know what to look for in advertisements. Ad campaigns and marketing reach new and more abstract heights as we see car insurance peddled by cartoons and visages of our extinct brethren. Ad campaigns, with there every growing arsenal of mediums to tap the consumer on the shoulder, appeal (in some cases) to an indirect set of feelings and interests that the consumer has. What justifies an old man dancing around coercing viewers of going to an amusement park, as Six Flags did recently? In using humor and upbeat music Six Flags wants YOU, the consumer, to find this appealling or at least share in his joy. More confusingly why have people singing in a Mary Poppins-esque way to promote anti-smoking? Imagery and sly deviations in commercial messages are a reality today. Whether it be the internet, television, radio, or print we are subject to more advertising than ever. It is an onslaught of sorts.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
According to frank E.X. Dance, what drives the closure of the digital divide is people's access to other people on the Internet. The Internet allows us to reach people on both an intimate level, and also a mass level. The original communication purpose of the Internet that connected people to other like never before was e-mail. Today it seems to many that e-mail may have been a mere stepping stone on the path to the social networking we all take part in today, and what the future may bring in terms of people communicating with others without boundaries.
Eventually, when more and more cities of the world become wireless, other nations will demand access to this technology. The developed nations should in turn provide them with the resources necessary for equal access to the Internet. Eric A. Zimmer and Christopher D. Hunter present the possible risk associated with Internet access in these nations. They say that people fear risks that are both, 'unknown and dreadful". This would be the reason why people fear the risk of toxic waste more so than bicycles. In reality however, more people die a year from bicycle accidents than exposure to toxic waste. Although we can admit some Internet risks are still unknown, it seems to be the view in developed and Democratic nations that a free flow of opinion is not dreadful. However, in developing and non-democratic nations, the notion of an unfetter exchange of ideas that may possibly lead to revolution or civil war is a dreadful one. This is wha continues to divide the world on the web for the time being.
How can we protect the little guy, the computer illiterate, he who is without access and cannot afford courses to increase computer literacy? As the reading noted it is the younger and older age groups which struggle to be online, and with that computer "literate". In my brief research there appears to be a substantial number of programs geared towards children and schools however there are very few non-profit resources for adults, specifically without a price. The problem is further proliferated because, as Frank E.X. Dance suggests, the digital divide often mimics the economic divide, "the poor become poorer and the rich, richer." One of the largest issues to me is the displacement of jobs by the substitution of technology. As we've all seen this is an impossible solution without some consequence/backfire; we learned this first from Homer Simpson of the Simpsons who used technology (a mechanical bird) to perform a simple task (tap a button consistently) which only backfires in a nuclear explosion. The government is not supplying options for those who are behind the divide to acquire the knowledge (and not just the informtion) to succeed in using one of the most necessary tools today. After a decade of talk I believe that Dance recognizes correctly how we will need a ""trickle up" solution. In having this grassroots approach we may be able to conserve the democratic freedom of information that is so cherished. But it will take global computer literacy in order to maintain the information governmental law or edict.
*I am still looking for the Simpson's clip.... if anyone has it let me know!
I found this week's reading to be rather interesting; in particular, I wanted to discuss Net Neutrality in relation to Ron Jacobson's discussion about the rise in telecommunications. He examines an emerging National Information Structure which raises debate as to who will benefit from the proposed super-structure, and how it will be regulated? Should the Internet operate like a utility, with equal service for every level of subscriber, or whether the Internet service providers should be able to provided tiered access and pricing?
Furthermore, he discusses the need for government intervention as well as eliminating the digital divide. The digital divide is similar to Net Neutrality, in which, everyone should be able to access the Internet equally. On a corporate level, Net neutrality is a current and on-going debate about how we should regulate the Internet. One side of the fight is that the government should step in and protect the content providers like Amazon.com, Google.com, and Yahoo.com. In opposition, to the Internet service providers creating an extra market by forcing customers to pay for more efficient and faster service. If this occurs, the companies can control bandwidth on their services and hinder or block certain aspects of the Internet including: competing companies, certain political views, gaudy or immoral content.
I think Jacobson would agree that we need to regulate yet maintain “Internet freedom”. It is essential that Internet traffic be treated equally by carriers. Net Neutrality promotes economic innovation and free speech helps people contend on an equal ball field. A big fear is that Congress will cave to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by telephone and cable companies that want to decide what you do, where you go, and what you watch online.
Net Neutrality Walk-Through Video
Dance remarks that the problem of the social divide is not only directed by the ability to possess technology but also from the desire to possess and use it. Citing the delay of literacy's acceptance historically into societies, Dance claims that there are those who are often unwilling to integrate themselves into new forms of media and technology. For people to accept technology they see its importance to human interaction and growth. Primarily as Dance adds, through the functions of linking humans to one another, the development of higher mental processes, and the regulation of human behavior. Dance reinforces these points with the benefits that voting online provides as well as the camaraderie that e-mail develops and fosters. These are very strong points that Dance makes and he admits the execution of the social divide will not be a smooth transition but I believe several factors will inhibit the proper use of the Internet as a tool to help human growth.
The first is the tendency for humans to relegate their media to forms of consumption, primarily for entertainment. Television, which ideologically should create the viewer an array of benefits, often remains a tube of mindless recreation and leisure, leading to more than anything the impediment of higher mental processes. Not denying the Internet's usefulness, it can be said that the medium is not reaching its full potential for efficiency, or specifically enough even Dance's desires for it. The second reason, which is closely tied to this is the tendency for big business to alter the more social but possibly less profitable elements of the Internet. Undoubtedly, social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace have expanded the notion of human interaction that Dance discusses it can foster to close the social divide. But these sites have been manipulated by large corporations into increasingly larger marketing mediums. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, simply something that affects the potential of these sites. Human interaction is limited or determined by the companies who own them and how we speak to one another is judged on the merit of how profitable it can be. I believe Dance's intentions are good and offer a step in the right direction of how technology can influence the betterment of society. However, we must look at our tendency to pursue the almighty dollar and address it. To close the social divide the Internet must not necessarily look at it as the business of human communication but rather as human communication.
Revolving around the tools of Copy, Paste, and Cut, Strate outlines how these are exemplary forms of the human activity of tool use. The three tools cover an array of basic functions including arithmetic operations (adding, subtracting, division, etc.) and more impressively the modification and manipulation of symbolic and visual environments. The importance of the latter two functions are particularly interesting because they reveal the ability of these tools to edit linguistic reality and in turn, be able to edit reality. However as in other instances of the packet an essential part of this ability relies on the element of written language. Visually, the digital tool kit has allowed creative control and expression to the laymen by allowing documents to be created that resemble the appearance of professional work.
A key point brought up by Strate is the interaction that takes place between the digital tool kit and the G.U.I (graphic user interface). This relationship seems to be equally reinforcing to both elements, as the GUI places a strong importance on the digital tool kit by locating them first and giving them greatest precedence (aside from 'File' commands). However, the tool kit also reinforces the GUI by granting it simplicity and speed. Strate remarks how without the tool kit the windows on the desktop of the GUI would be isolated. Furthermore, this relation becomes unnoticeable to the user after a time, which makes the impact of the tool kit even greater. "Our tools which are often so inconspicuous and ubiquitous, form the deep structure of human cultures". It is interesting that the impact of the digital tool kit is only partially apparent, while we understand the effects it has had on things such as plagiarism and intellectual property rights, there is so much more we are not privy to. This is particularly powerful when considering we are the ones who purposefully give these tools the leeway of being little more than instruments we use to create meaning, all the while not considering whether they alter or influence the meaning we create and perpetuate.
In the chapter, “The Digital Divide,” Frank Dance mentions how the Internet should “heighten the profile of education, of participatory government, and of human fellowship” (178). I recently found a site for the OLPC, or “One Laptop Per Child” project that is working to get computers into the hands of children in developing countries. Their goal is “to provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves,” and it is interesting that children have to have a computer in order to achieve those goals. This I think, would be very beneficial for the children because these laptops, which were designed specifically for children will help them connect with other students in other schools or even access the Internet. I’m sure that the number of people online has increased since Dance’s writing of this chapter, and this shows how far some people have gotten in working to close that digital divide. It is good that these children are able to learn differently with these computers, but more importantly, it's that they can have access to the Internet. Though in this case, they would not have complete access to the Internet; what they can access will be determined by the government, which reduces the amount of information the Internet can provide. So maybe it’s not such a great thing; if their goal is to provide them with all of these opportunities and experiments, then limiting what they can access could hinder that process, as censoring the Internet anywhere else will do the same.
Monday, March 3, 2008
The digital divide is an international problem and must be considered as such in order to promote a global village(where everyone speaks the "digital language"). As is expected, third world and developing countries are behind the curve of technological advances and will be until international organizations like the UN discuss and act in a way that aids these countries. It is the global responsibility of wealthy nations to help developing countries when assimilating to new technology and communication opportunities.
Another debatable subject of pushing for internet internationally are certain governments that wish to censor and police the internet in their country in order to stifle the free flow of information certain nations' citizens receive. Countries like China, who have a tight hold on the media and information that comes in and out of the country do not share other countries' natural acceptance of the democratic nature of the internet. I argue that it is time for international policy-makers to protect the internet's integrity by allowing it to grow uncensored and unfiltered. The great thing about this new technology is that it levels the playing field so that any individual can be heard and promote their ideas. As the internet becomes accessible across the globe, peoples' right to information on the web must be protected. This and only this will ensure that the bridge we build across the digital divide will stand for generations to come.