Digital diversity is…

4 05 2011

My video attempts to address an overarching question that is pertinent to the entire AMST 475 course; what is digital diversity? To Charles Ess, digital diversity is really the cultural differences between the people that use new digital technologies. To him, this gives rise to digital media ethics with the end all goal of developing “shared norms and agreements [that] are understood, interpreted, and applied in different cultures and nations.[1]” To the authors of Technicolor, digital diversity has a different spin. To them it is a cause of the digital divide, and diversity means differences in access based on varying social and cultural factors, particularly race. Their view is that technologies and racism have a long and complex history as people of color, “have been casualties of technologically enabled systems of oppression, from colonial expansion, to the racial sciences of craniology and phrenology, to surveillance and information gathering.[2]” In the book, The Young and the Digital, Watkins takes yet another approach to digital diversity, citing it as being the evolution of technology and its role in our lives and  in turn the social effects therein. Watkins seeks to examine the results of digital diversity as we are now people “who will spend most of [our] lives in a world where personal, social, and mobile media are common, widespread, and fully integrated into our daily lives.[3]” So, digital diversity is a notion that is both expansive and extremely relevant to our culture today. For my definition, I tried to combine these points of view in a somewhat cohesive manner.

To me, digital diversity is the social and cultural values that shape technology. As our social values change, so does the technology around us. In addition, I think that right now we are undergoing a social transition to one that is more ecologically conscious which brings into focus the problems of the digital divide in terms of how our e-waste is dealt with. I think that essential to digital diversity and all the previous points of view, is the attempt to avoid binary logic by pursuing a complete understanding of the technology around us and the true cost, socially, economically, and ecologically, of our digital demands.


1         Ess, Charles. (2009). Digital Media Ethics. Malden: Polity Press. pg 20

2         Nelson, A, N. Tu, T.L., & Hines, H.H. (Ed.). (2001). Technicolor race, technology, and everyday life. New york: New York University Press. pg 9

3         Watkins, S.C. (2009). The young and the digital. Boston: Beacon Press. pg 9

Video Sources:

“Extra: Evolution of the Cell Phone .” Youtube. Web. 1May 2011. <;.

“GOOD Magazine: E-Waste .” Youtube. Web. 1May 2011. <;.

“iPhone Commercials .” Youtube. Web. 1 May 2011. <;.

“Electronic Waste in Ghana .” Youtube. Web. 1 May 2011. <;.

Looking Back…

28 04 2011

Now that our group presentation is done, it is time to look back. Seeing as how our group presentation was possibly the best ever presented at WSU it is important to look back at how our epic production began. We started with the relatively broad topic of slactivism. From there we decided that a good place to start would be to have everyone research slactivism on their own and come up with a research question of their own. Once everyone did their research we began meeting every Sunday to collaborate, it was at our first meeting at Rico’s where we developed the thesis that slactivism could lead to activism, and that activism could lead to slactivism. It was at the next meeting of the minds that Nick recounted a presentation that he did for another class in which they acted out a skit using a powerpoint presentation. From there we decided that a good presentation could be individually written video clips from each of us that would be presented together in a sort of skit format. After taking a week to work on ideas for our video clips we then decided that a late-night talk show would be a perfect medium to present our clips from and for Nick to present his song. The rest is history as we filmed the video, gathered audio for the animation, and blew DTC 475’s mind with the Tallie Mattson Show. Looking back on what could have been done differently, I think the only thing I would have changed would perhaps be the video clip that we filmed. Videos are only as good as the effort you put into them, and as our goal with them was to entertain the class and keep their attention, I think that putting more effort into making the clip funny would have paid off. Besides that, I think everything else was a success and went smoothly. Overall, I had a ton of fun working on our presentation and thank Dr. Christen for the artistic freedom to try and have some fun while still being informative.

Here is the video from my section of the presentation:

An “Always On” Kinda Life

18 04 2011

In today’s world, the younger generation tends to be media rich. That is, on a daily basis we use different kinds of media an average of eight hours a day. An interesting phenomenon that arises from this constant media use is a tendency to multitask. The term “Constant Partial attention” (CPA) has been coined to describe how people approach different stimuli. All this multitasking has changed the way that we process information and has sparked research into how multitasking ultimately effects our memory. Watkins addresses CPA in his book, The Young and the Digital, and describes how researchers are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) “to identify what doctors believe is the mechanism that prohibits humans from processing two or more things at the same time.[1]” The results show that as we multitask with the end goal of accomplishing more, we actually don’t, in fact we reduce task efficiency and proficiency. This constant change in how we approach information which may be contrary to how our brains are hard wired then may be causing neurological changes. Watkins describes growing speculation that, “young multitaskers may be conditioning their brains to quickly access, manage, and process information while under developing the neural ability to recall and understand the information that they find[2].” Additionally, researchers at UCLA found that multi-tasking adversely affects how you learn, using different parts of the brain and thus different neural pathways which are less flexible than traditional memory pathways.

To examine how multitasking media invades my life, I created a pie chart based on my average media usage for one week. It is apparent that multitasking is something that I do often without realizing or thinking about it. As a student primarily, school may be a large cause and thus most effected by my “always on” media multitasking but besides that I think that media usage in my life has a significant impact on social interactions. It is true that often, my media usage is for social (albeit digital) interaction but what tends to happen is an attempt by me to accomplish two things at once, leading to a reduction in the quality of interaction. As an example, when someone calls on the telephone and I am around all of my media outlets (TV, computer, xbox, ipod, etc.) it seems almost by habit that I tend to pick one up as my conversation begins. I mean who just sits and talks on the telephone these days? Interestingly, my reduction in ability to hold a meaningful conversation at the proper pace has come under scrutiny in these situations. This often leads to friction between the other party and sometimes alienation. When this is the case, always-on is impacting my social relations negatively. As I think about this problem in a more general sense, I think that always-on is negatively effecting everyone’s social interactions. How often do you see people sitting across from someone at a table holding a conversation face to face, but all the while on their cell phone? Perhaps singular involved social interaction is to boring for some, lacking the ability to hold our constantly dwindling attention. So, perhaps in my life, and in the lives of those others that are part of my generation, always-on media is causing a loss of true meaningful human interaction, something that in my mind is part of the human condition, and essential to the human experience. I’m sorry, what was a saying again…


1         Watkins, S.C. (2009). The young and the digital. Boston: Beacon Press. pg 165, 167

As Zadie Smith puts it, “Generation Facebook”

1 04 2011

The world of Facebook and all therein seems to grow every day and every day it become a larger part of many of our lives. Facebook is certainly large in stature and widely encompassing these days; with thousands of applications related, the hundreds of millions of users, heck they even made a movie about the invention of it. That movie, “The Social Network” focuses largely on the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and his motivations for making Facebook and of course the treacherous (pun intended)road to billionaire status. As captured in the movie, “If you were the inventors of Facebook, then you would be the inventors of Facebook.” In an article that critiques both the movie and Mark Zuckerburg, and ultimately those who use it, the author Zadie Smith coins the term, “Generation Facebook”. She uses this to describe those of us who have grown up in the new digital age, immersed in a virtual world exemplified by our Facebook alter egos if you will. Generation Facebook, in the eyes of Smith, is one that is less concerned with privacy who are losing our own self-identity by “reducing [ourselves] in order to make a computer’s description of [us] appear more accurate.” So, as a member of generation Facebook, I would love to disagree, to ridicule Smith as being ignorant, old, or obtuse in her interpretation of my generation, but in reality I can’t. In truth, I’m a little embarrassed of my generation, the shows we watch, the books we read, our dependence on virtual reality (Facebook) and the death of individuality, of art and culture that my generation allows every day. So, perhaps Facebook is only a reflection of my generation and what it is becoming. But maybe Facebook is not that bad, according to Mark Zuckerberg , “Everyone has an identity that they want to express and friends and family that they wanna stay connected with.” But is that really what Facebook is to most of us, a way to express ourselves the way we want? Or is it perhaps just easy, easier than maintaining real human relationships with real people, easy to measure our own popularity, easy to intrude upon someone’s privacy without them knowing. Generation Facebook is certainly less concerned about just about all the important issues but especially privacy. In today’s digital age privacy is even more important; to Charles Ess, “we are our information…our rights to control our information are even more extensive and important… [as] a violation of our informational privacy harms us more completely and profoundly than does relatively simple property theft.[1]” I think this is very true and a point that often goes amiss among those of the generation Facebook.  For us, there is a loss of the “front-page self, the person we present to the public, and the back-stage self, the person who is much more private. In the digital age the back-stage self is more likely than ever before to be in view, thus blurring the lines between our private and public selves. [2]” So, we are a generation less concerned with our own personal privacy and content with reducing our complexities and individuality to fit in with the norm, whether that be popular culture, or the boxes that Facebook has outlined for us to fill. We are a generation of instant gratification and short attention spans, so Facebook seems like a natural progression, more so than say, making true human connections or concerning ourselves with privacy; it is in fact the digitalization of our lives along with everything else. I would say we need to fight for the analog, to remember that perhaps what makes us human, is the ability to express ourselves in an analog sense.


1         Ess, Charles. (2009). Digital Media Ethics. Malden: Polity Press. pg 58

2         Watkins, S.C. (2009). The young and the digital. Boston: Beacon Press. pg 46

Social Media and Political Activism

10 03 2011

The use of social media has grown exponentially over the last decade. With its growth has come many different uses, from letting your friends know what you just ate or to reach out to others for aide for disaster relief. When it comes to political issues social media has also given rise to a tremendous potential for organizing people efficiently and effectively. Social media has most recognizably been used extensively in the sweeping wave of protest and revolution sweeping the middle east. The revolution in Egypt, led by the large youth population, is the most striking example of social media’s potential as a tool of political activism. This new role of social media and its use in the middle east in the wave of political activism recently is the focus of my research. Links so far: social media, political change in the Arab world, and social media in the middle east.

The Digital Divide, more than only access…

1 03 2011

Often people, especially those in the technological fields refer to a “digital divide.” What is this said “digital divide” you ask, well the book Technicolor defines it as, “popular shorthand for the myriad social and cultural factors that shape access to technological resources. [1]” So, in most peoples definitions, the digital divide pertains mostly to access to technologies and the inequalities therein. While this is certainly true, and by most estimates this divide continues to widen even as we see prices of technology fall, there is more to the definition of digital divide than simply access to the technology. What most people do not consider (including myself admittedly until recently) is how “e-waste” is also an important part of the digital divide, and is becoming a larger and more dangerous problem daily. “E-waste” refers to all the discarded old, broken and obsolete electronic devices. When it comes to the digital divide, it is really how this waste is processed where, especially in developing countries, informal processing is causing both adverse health effects and widespread environmental pollution. This problem is widely not emphasized here in the U.S, but elsewhere the processing of “e-waste” is a dangerous and widespread problem.

So, why is it then important to include e-waste in the definition of digital divide? Recently, there has been a movement by those focused on understanding and reducing the digital divide to broaden its definition. As Logan Hill notes, “hardware accessibility does not solve the problem of how to more evenly distribute technological resources and knowledge. [1]” By adding the notion of e-waste to our definition we gain a more complete and universal understanding of how just as access to technology is a problem the disposal of the waste as a result is just as unequal socially and economically. In this way, we can better understand the consequences of increased technological access. Also, the problem of the digital divide becomes more complicated, as now one must take into account that to solve it, it is more than say just giving every child of the world a free laptop, but also making those who produce the technologies, responsible for disposing of their waste once it become broken or obsolete. This consideration of e-waste is crucial to a more ethical understanding of the digital divide, as here in the U.S. we don’t see e-waste everyday so it seems like less of a problem to us. This is really a practice of ethnocentrism in a sense, and as Charles Ess states moving beyond ethnocentrism is crucial to a proper ethical understanding of the digital landscape all around us, as we must understand that the “way others believe, practice, and live are radically different and thereby that our own norms, beliefs, and ways of life are not universal. [2]” So considering in America that we ship our e-waste to poor and developing countries around the world where children burn old computers all day inhaling toxic fumes to collect precious metals, or mothers cook motherboards over the stove inhaling lead gas all the while, it is time we start becoming responsible and begin to pay back into the system we have created. To do this, maybe we need to build a recycling facility in every major city to process this e-waste, or perhaps include in the price of a new computer a recycling fee that is reimbursed when you take your old computer to be recycled. While it is important to provide access to everyone to new technologies, it is equally important to deal with changing technology responsibly. While I do want schoolchildren in Uganda to have access to laptops, I don’t want those laptops someday ending up in another third world country polluting people and the environment around them.


1    Nelson, A, N. Tu, T.L., & Hines, H.H. (Ed.). (2001). Technicolor race, technology, and everyday life. New york: New York University Press. pg 1, 29

2    Ess, Charles, Digital Media Ethics, Polity Press: 2009, pg 86

Instead of Copyright or Copyleft, how about Copymiddle?

22 02 2011

In America today, there is an ongoing debate centered around the issue intellectual property right laws that usually pits one generation against the other. One side is based on “Copyleft”  ideals; those pushing for progression in our current laws towards a larger public domain and less stringent or long-term copyright laws. The other, those in favor of Copyright seek to protect those intellectual property laws in place and to push those as a worldwide directive in order to protect intellectual property worldwide. The reason that this is an ongoing debate is that both sides have arguments that are right making both sides’ right and both sides wrong. This may be referred to as an “inclusive either/or” point of view that strays from ethical monism or as Charles Ess describes “ it conjoins  both  shared norms and their diverse interpretations… and accept differences- rather than reject them from the outset because different views must thereby be wrong.” So, how could both Copyright and Copyleft be right at the same time?

Crucial to both sides, is the desire to protect the good of people and culture, this could be a shared norm. How each side proposes to go about this is where they differ. Copyleft places emphasis on public domain where Copyright seeks to keep property out of the public domain for as long as possible, perhaps both are right in the sense that property should be protected initially to ensure proper compensation, but for a much shorter amount of time before it enters the public domain. Another ethical issue is that of drug patents, while one argues that they are needed to cover development costs, the other argues that there are more important ethical issues like healing all those who are deathly ill but in poverty.  The answer may lie somewhere in the middle, where development for cures for diseases like AIDS may be subsidized by a worldwide organization or collection of governments to cover the cost and encourage development by private companies and then offered free to all once developed. While an answer to all the issues may not be clear or easy, it is clear that essential to progression is consideration of both sides and perhaps meeting somewhere in the middle if possible. Thus, Copymiddle is born!

Revolution in Egypt, Technological Success…

14 02 2011

As everyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, there was just recently a revolution in Egypt, with the ousting of President Mubarak and the end of a 30 year authoritarian rule. The main force behind the revolution was the educated youth, and crucial to their success was technology used to organize, the most notable of these, the social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Before he left, Mubarak tried to stop this with complete internet blackouts of Egypt. So now this brings us to the question of whether or not the technology used in the revolution was “just a tool” or rather something more, something created from the ground up to encourage such ideological revolutions.

What this boils down to is a simple question, how is technology framed? Usually when we think of technology, whether it is a platform or device, there is an assumption that it is neutral. That the technology does not lend itself to one thing or another, but rather it is the user who defines how it is used. This seems correct, but when examined more closely, all technology comes with some inherent bias. This may be very small, but it can sprout from what culture the designers or code-writers are from, or how the company selling the device wants it to be used. Because Facebook and Twitter were designed in a Western culture, they favor more of a high content/low context (LC) form of communication. That is, they are more of an egalitarian form of communication, where everyone has access and anyone can use them in the same way. This type of communication is more appealing to us here in the U.S and may be why the protests and eventual revolution had such a strong impact here in the U.S. Furthermore, users of social media, because they are connected to the web are by default considered to be cosmopolitans (citizens of the world) because with their access to the internet they have the ability to connect with and better understand whats going on with the rest of the world. This bias is built into social media platforms along with the freedom of speech, which is another Western ideal.  In the case of Egypt, social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter were used by the protesters as tools, and inherent to social media outlets is the ability to reach a younger audience. This worked for the protesters in Egypt, as a third of the population is younger than thirty, so they easily coordinated and shared information with each other, but as many point out, the revolution was going to happen regardless, and if it had happened ten years ago, we would be championing mobile phones right now. Either way, protesters were fighting for democracy, something near and dear to many Americans hearts, and by using social media in conjunction with massive protests, the full power and frustration of the citizens of Egypt echoed across the web and across the globe, stirring a great amount of sympathy here in the U.S.

Is It Reuse, or Abuse?

1 02 2011

Many people today refer a “digital generation”, which is fitting for many of us, as we were born at the onset of a technological and cultural revolution. That revolution I’m referring to was the shift in the media and information paradigm, from analog to digital. Overnight, the landscape on which information was spread and accessed changed dramatically and today we face ethical challenges thereof unlike any of the generations before us. Much of these ethical dilemmas stem from practices of cultural and intellectual appropriation. As we all know, especially those of us born and raised in the USA, advertisement and copyrights are ubiquitous among our culture. More importantly, our ability to circumvent these copyright laws in the new digital age expands daily. So we have come to a seemingly important crossroads in our history, and that is whether or not there is going to be an upheaval of our current system of copyright and ownership of intellectual property, or if we are going to try and confine our new digital world to an old analog system.

As with any issue, there are two sides and it is important to understand each. Using the film, “Protecting the family Silver” as an example, the Maori people feel that the appropriation of their culture worldwide for profit is unfair. It is easy to identify with this point of view, but at the same time, hard to define where intellectual property in terms of cultural traditions could start or end for that matter. What is important to point out is that many elders of the Maori people are less concerned with monetary gain from the use of their cultural traditions by companies, but want input and control over how their traditions are used or portrayed. This seems to be more for fear of losing their own culture than anything else. I think that this desire can be more easily adapted to the Copyleft/FLOSS ideals whose ethics emphasis, “one’s contribution to a shared work for the sake of a larger community and a sense that information wants to be free and freely copied [1].” I think that an adoption of this ethos is critical to allow for an upheaval of our current property control system for the sake of continual cultural growth. A documentary film called, “RIP: A Remix Manifesto” examines Copyleft culture and proposes a model for justification that includes four key points: Culture always builds on the past, the past always tries to control the future, our future is becoming less free, and to build free societies you must limit the control of the past. In essence, our current system is outdated, and run by corporations, whose sole motivation is profit, not an expansion of human knowledge or cultural growth. To combat this we need to rid of our current copyright system, which may weed out those artists or innovators simply motivated by monetary gain, but in my opinion those are the far less important and contributing anyway. This unlocking of information would allow for quicker adaption to a constantly changing world, and much quicker innovation in fields like medicine or engineering.  So, it seems that there is far more to gain than there is to lose by opening up the public domain.


1    Ess, Charles, Digital Media Ethics, Polity Press: 2009, pg 86

How Foursquare, while intrusive, does not violate our privacy…

25 01 2011

There are many that say that Foursquare, by definition, violates individual’s privacy, but when examined closely that assumption, while seemingly hard to swallow, is not technically true.  While Foursquare allows users to publish their locations quickly and to as little or many people they want if one chooses to link Foursquare to their Twitter accounts. Two common arguments when it comes to privacy violations are that people that you don’t want to see your location can, or that someone publishes your location without your consent. At first glance these both seem like invasions of one’s privacy, but when it comes to how your rights exist in the ubiquitous World Wide Web, many don’t understand they are very limited. To assume that you have a right to privacy in your own publishes on Foursquare is a bit naïve, by choosing to use the program, and agreeing to its terms of use, you already forfeit that right, as Foursquare business depends on mining your information and selling that information to advertisement companies to make a profit. To be fair, all social networking programs partake in the same thing, and even companies like Google, as they scan all your Gmail messages to gather personal information. As for the second argument, there are many privacy settings present in Foursquare that the user is responsible for understanding and utilizing to protect their own privacy at whatever level they would like. For example, many users don’t, but there is an option that allows control over publishes so that only friends can see “check-ins” and so that they are not visible to others that check in at the same location. What many fail to understand, is that while our privacy can be defined as  protection from unwanted intrusion and the control information about us that we consider to be personal, by choosing to use the service, you surrender those rights. In the E.U. data privacy protection is more stringent and Foursquare may be considered more of a threat to privacy, but the U.S stance on data privacy protection is different referring to, “a preference for minimal governmental involvement and maximum freedom for businesses.”[1] So, from the U.S government’s standpoint, by participating in Foursquare, your data is free to be collected by those out of your control. This does seem unjust, but the solution is fairly simple, if you are worried about your privacy than do not use Foursquare. In this day and age, privacy is becoming a rare commodity and it is now becoming the case where one must become proactive to protect their own privacy. Maybe George Orwell was off by about thirty years or so…

To continue this thread of Foursquare and privacy, please follow this link,

Thusitha Galhenage


1    Ess, Charles, Digital Media Ethics, Polity Press: 2009, pg 56