Digital Diversity Final Project

Contextual Statement

There is no denying the great benefits and uses of technology that we see throughout the world today.  It has allowed for global communication, instant access to information, ability to get the ideas and opinions of others, and much much more.  Unfortunately the benefits of technology and all that it has to offer has not been offered to a majority of the world.  This is helping to create a new type of diversity than we have seen before and is unfortunately the gap of those with and without technology is growing.

Throughout the school year we have read many books, watched videos, and discussed the many different ways technology is creating a divide between the haves and the have nots.  We discussed how much of the population, even in the US, does not or has limited access to the internet.  This makes for a huge gap not only in what is found and available on the internet, but also allows the rich to further separate themselves from the poor in society through all the advantages technology proves.  We also discussed e-waste and how our poor recycling methods are creating horrible jobs for those in 3rd world countries and doing nothing to promote their welfare.  We also looked at how big corporations are exploiting those with little education to work in manufacturing plants making minimum wage with little safety precautions and no job security.  We are trying to do many things to decrease the divide between those with and without access to technology through tech centers, one laptop per child, stricter regulations on recycling, and much more, but the majority of the world are still at a disadvantage.  While the potential for technology to benefit everyone in the world is there, we have not gotten their yet, nor are we close.  It will take a lot of time and money before we can all truly say that the world is connected and equally represented in the technology realm.

Works Cited for Video and Blog Post

 Digital Media Ethics, Charles Ess, Polity, 2009

 The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future, S. Craig Watkins, Beacon Press, 2009

 Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life, edited by Alondra Nelson and Thuy Linh N. Tu, New York University Press, 2001

And other videos  and discussions from class




When beginning to discuss our project on One Laptop Per Child, we didn’t have a very good idea on what to do.  We began researching a lot to find out how the program exactly worked and what it was trying to accomplish.  After much debate and meetings we decided that we should talk about whether the program was actually doing good or or if it was pointless.  This led us to look at the many aspects of what was working and what was good about the project and comparing it what others were saying about how the project was actually working.  To help guide us in doing so we broke it up into many sub categories including the background of the company, how they deployed the laptops, the training provided, the software that was used, and some of the drawbacks of the program.  We decided to do our presentation in the form of a prezi because we thought it would be more appealing to the audience compared to just a plain powerpoint.

If I were to change one thing about our presentation i would have liked to include a showing of the software that they use.  The operating system and applications are available online for download and we could have installed it on a computer and shown the audience exactly what the computer was like and how it worked.  We looked into doing this but we were having troubles getting it to work.  With more time I feel it could have made our presentation much better.  Some of our topics that were discussed were a little lengthy and could have been shortened down.  It would have been better to focus on our key points more closely and make the other portions a little cut back.

OLPC: Cost and Distribution

When looking at the company One Laptop Per Child, it interesting to think about the effects that this program is having on the digital divide and education.  One thing that is important to look at is how the cost of making these laptops is so cheap that they may not even be quality and how they are distributed to the children and if they are being given to the right kids.  The reason for these computers being so cheap comes down to a few main points.  The graphics on the computer have been greatly dropped and there is only a black and white screen.  There is also much less software, the computer has been stripped down to the bare bones to keep it running fast with minimal components.  Also, due to the ability to make these is such large numbers also helps to reduce the price.  The question still arises if they are worth making if they have been stripped down so much.  When it comes to distribution, the company is giving these computers to governments who then go about distributing them amongst the children in schools throughout the country.  One issue that may arise is who are the kids getting these computers.  Is it the upper class, the lower, or a mix of both.  Is it helping to encourage a digital divide in their own country or is it helping it as a whole.

Please Read Further on this issue here:

The Ethical Divide

When the idea if the internet came about, one of the main up-sides was that it would help to “flatten” the world and help globalization.  While we have seen this begin to happen, there are still many countries have been left behind in the digital world including many people in our own country.  This has led researchers to talk about the idea of the digital divide.  For a long time the digital divide has been described as a gap between people with good access to digital information and those with limited or no access at all.  This also includes people who do not have the skills needed to use the technology even with sufficient access to it.  Lately the term digital divide has been discussed to include an ethical side, and whether or not we are making it possible for everyone to have access and reducing the digital divide.  The reasoning for this will be discussed with reference to e-waste and the lack of minority presence online.

The average computer lasts for roughly 4-5 years before they need to be updated to keep up with the times.  This leads to tons of monitors and computers being disposed of.  These are items are what are considered to be e-waste.  We have not found any productive means for disposing of these electronics which leads us to sending it overseas for them to deal with.  People in these developing countries are making a living off of going through these old electronics and taking the precious metals.  We are helping to keep these people in the stone age and not promoting them as a society.  Many of the computers are also donated but as the movie stated, only about half of them are even working.  The ones that are working are so old and behind in the times that most of them aren’t using anyway.  Many would say we are helping them by passing them down but there is almost no benefit to them.

Here in our own country suffer from more of a race digital diversity.  In the book Race, Technicolor, and Everyday Life states that African American and Hispanic households are less than half as likely to own a computer as a white household.  This is putting them at a huge disadvantage in society.  Not only with some of the learning tools computers provide, but also being unable to access the mass amount of information located on the web.  Another issue stems from this and that is the content for which is on the internet.  Because less African Americans and Hispanics are not using the internet, there is also a limited amount of content directed at them.  The book Digital Media Ethics briefly touches on this when it states, “…We assume that everyone on the internet is just like us when in fact they are not…”.  This talking about how there are others on the internet, not just white Americans who may have different views, backgrounds, history, religion than we normally do.  This is why I believe that when talking about the digital divide, we must now also consider what is ethical for including the whole world, not just about ease of access.

Finding the Middle Ground

As we took time to discuss Lego’s use of Maori language in its Bionicle toy release, we were very much caught up in the fact of who was right and who was wrong.  The Maori people thought that the use of their language was being improperly portrayed through the use of these toys, and their culture was being very misrepresented.  While the Maori tribe would like to put on the blame on on Lego, that would be unfair.  Lego did take the time to to look for a group of Maori people to discuss the usage of the words and to make sure they would not be offended, they were just unable to find such a group.  That also does not mean Lego could not have given more effort into looking further into it.  Clearly the Maori tribe felt offended and did not appreciate what Lego did.  The Maori tribe also has a track record of accusing many corporations for improperly using their culture over things that are perfectly legal and allowed to be performed.  When Lego was accused it was very hard for them to meet the requests to pull the product line using their names.  The Maori must also look at it from Lego’s point of view that there was no way from a business side for them to pull the product line and still be able to turn a profit.  Lego did promise to pull the names from further characters, video games, and comics using the Maori words.  So it was clear that Lego had no intentions of misusing the Maori language and offending them.  Lego later took the Maori request to not further use their language improperly by helping them to set up a committee whose sole purpose is to make sure that other companies do not or also offend the Maori tribe.  It is to be a committee that consults with companies before they use aspects of the Maori tribe so that it can be approved before potential misuse.

In the book Digital Media Ethics by Charles Ess he writes, however tempting and common  it is for us to think in terms of exclusive either/ors, there is a second kind of either/or which is the inclusive either/or which means that both can be simultaneously right at the same time.  In the case of Lego and the Maori, at first glance it is easy to look at Lego and think that they were wrong in using the Maori culture and were exploiting the culture for monetary gain.  From the standpoint of Lego, they did nothing wrong.  They tried to take the time to ensure the proper usage and did not use the language in a way to reflect or represent the culture, just as names of characters that they felt would fit into their idea well.  By looking at his from a right or wrong standpoint it is important to look at the issues from both sides and see the right in both of them.  While the Maori were offended, it was unintentional.  Lego was not at fault but should be more cautious when using other cultures ideals before using them.  When we meet both of these at the middle we can see how things can be better for both through this situation.  The Maori gained respect and comfort knowing they would not be misused anymore and now have a committee working to help from this happening again.  Lego now knows to be more careful and they are better for it.

Cairo’s Facebook Flat

Currently in Cairo protesters have been gathering to challenge the government on many political issues in the way the people are being treated.  This has started by many college age students who believe that there needs to be  change.  One of the most fascinating thing about this is their use of technology to spread the word throughout the country.  They started out using Facebook and Twitter to get others to realize some of the issues taking place in the country.  Due to the fact that almost all of Egypt’s youth has a Facebook, it has been very successful.  It is on Facebook that they upload their political views and ideas for change.  They have uploaded videos of protesters stating there opinions and is being used to keep others in the loop.  This is showing the world just how much of an impact technology can have on a society and how it can be used to spread the word so very quickly.  These protesters are being framed that they are rebels to the country and its leaders and through this technology they have put their very lives in danger.  Because much of this has taken place online, it has mainly been led and followed through by a younger generation.  Many in the country believe that what they are doing is wrong and that technology is to blame.  Many would believe that these protests are not helping and that technology is to blame.  The thought is that technology is not helping the issues at hand and could in fact make it worse.

Due to these recent events many cultural assumptions have been made about the use of technology in societies.  Here we can see just how powerful it has become and what an impact it can have.  While it is being used here as a tool to spread the word, it has become much more than that.  People are using it to create a place for people to gather, converse, and share new ideas.  Everyone related to this through facebook are being grouped into being apart of all the beliefs shared by those posting on it.  I think it is very important to consider how technology is a very powerful tool in this day and age and how how one person can use it to being so many people together to achieve a common goal.

Original Idea?

When looking at the issue of cultural appropriation and remix in the digital age, there are many differing ideas between what’s right or wrong, and who owns what.  Many cultures believe that their history, art, and way of life is something that belongs to them and no one should be allowed to use it as their own to make a profit.  Others feel quite differently and think it is more than acceptable to borrow these “ideas” and use them in any way that suits them best.  On the idea of a “remix”, we most often come to the music industry and whether it is ok to use an artist’s lyrics, beats, or music and create something different of our own with it.  Most artists/music corporations would say no, while most consumers would say yes.  Artists would say that people are stealing their ideas and have no right to use them as their own.  Others would say that it was now their idea because of the way it was rearranged to be different.  The question we must ask is, whose idea was it?

Many people believe if they thought it first, then it was their idea, so to say, and therefore no one else is allowed to use it.  I believe that you cannot own an idea, and that in fact the idea that you had was not even your idea to begin with.  Every idea that you have is somehow spurred by something or many things that you heard, saw, or made a connection with, which in turn generated an idea.  Ideas were meant to be shared so that we as a society we can progress.  As stated in the book Digital Media Ethics, “information is best understood as a common good, something whose essential nature is to be shared – rather than treated as a property.”  While people should be recognized and given credit for their work, in these two specific cases, these ideas do not belong to them.  I recently read an article by Clayton Christensen called The Rules of innovation where he talks about how an innovation is never really an original innovation but rather spurred by an idea of someone else, and therefore was not really an original idea.  I think that he is right on the money and helps me to make the point that it is not unethical to use other’s ideas to create your own in the issue or cultural appropriation and remix in the digital age.

Twitter: The New Source for News

Cyclone Nargis, a very strong tropical storm, was the worst natural disaster in the history of Burma, also known as Myanmar.  It hit the country on May 2, 2008 and resulted in mass destruction and around 138,000 casualties.  Although there was never a government release on how many were dead, the toll stopped at 138,000 most likely in order to stop political fallout.

On May 6, 2008, the United Nations was asked for help from New York representation.  The government of Burma did not officially agree to accept help but said that they would accept international assistance.  Many of the neighboring countries were very willing to assist right away sending food and other supplies but most were delayed at the airport because the government was not willing to issue visas to people flying the goods into the country.

While aid workers were having many difficulties gaining access to Myanmar, many journalists were also being turned away when attempting to cover the crisis.  Dan Rivers of CNN told the Columbia Journalism Review that he spent most of his time in Myanmar hiding from the government while trying to document the events.  Journalists have been having a real issue getting around and trying to get the news out, a new media source for information has risen, Twitter.

Twitter, a smaller form of blogging internet service, has become a way for the citizens within the country to tell of what is going on, where, and in real time through the use of cell phones.  Twitter had sources of news hours before any major news source even had any information on it.  While no one else could get into the country and no news was able to get out, many citizens made it possible for the world to know what was going on through Twitter posts.  This has come to show not only Twitter but blogging in general as a real news source.  Not only are people getting the news very fast, it is also bringing a great attention to the crisis, and typically is not involved with a biased opinion.

Because the citizen of Burma and China have been “tweeting” the entire event, it has been hard for the governments to censor what media is going out and the truth is being told.  Many people have joined in effort to help out and the disaster is getting much more attention across the world through the internet.  Twitter account Myanmar Blogs has put together recent news articles and blog posts and eyewitness stories about the relief effort and has a link to make donations.  There is also a campaign that was launched called Project Nargis which was used for people to check the current weather in their location.

Twitter is showing that the internet is once again taking us to new places, and in this particular situation, showing is that receiving news as we know it is changing.

If you would like to read further about Twitter, click here.

Welcome to Brendon’s Blogs

Hello and welcome to Brendon’s Blogs.  Here I will be publishing my works for my Digital Diversity class at Washington State University.  I am a junior and am majoring in Management Information Systems in the business school.  I am also apart of the Fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  I like to play basketball, snowboard, wakeboard and most other sports.