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Crossing the Digital Divide

In Crossing the Digital Divide, Barbara Jean Monroe discusses how the digital divide might be narrowed. I read the section, Storytime on the Reservation” that discussed how children all created narratives differently, and told different stories. I found myself questioning a few different aspects of this narrative study. Even though the town in question was described as largely inhabited by minorities, Monroe seems to imply that each family is on equal playing fields financially and in terms of social and political power. As a result, Monroe attributes any defining characteristics in the narrative to the ethnic background of the student. Granted, she discusses how the narratives can provide insight into the social epistemology of each student and their family. And I could see how this is logically gained, but without more compelling statistics to support her claims, Monroe just seems to be making generalizations about an ethnic group. On a larger scale, Monroe seems to generalize that the minorities in this community represent the minorities across the nation. The community, in its diversity and geographic location make it unique in itself. It is probably not the best place to create a sampling of epistemologies that represent all.

From our class discussion, I got to thinking more about the metaphor for the digital divide. I still like my idea of a pizza as a metaphor. Allow me to reexplain it for this blog. The pizza, divided into slices, is a supreme pizza, Now on most supreme pizzas, the toppings are not evenly distributed, and land differently on each slice. If each slice of pizza represents a group of people and the toppings represent various technologies, then the pizza can represent technology distribution throughout the world. Now even though one topping (technology) is not necessarily superior to another, people still have strong opinions of the best toppings. These toppings make certain slices seem more valuable, and make the slices wih few or none of these topping seem inferior. The response might be to look down on these “inferior topping” slices (probably mostly olives and onions) or to try to force the dominant toppings on a slice even if the persons who represent the slice do not want the extra toppings or don’t know what to do with them.

So that’s my metaphor. It’s no rainbow, but I think it works well. I have been thinking more about the idea of a “digital divide” as a metaphor. Isn’t that metaphor already flawed since it champions digital technologies? Even though scholars try to use this metaphor to point out the inequality in technology access, the metaphor itself undersells all technologies that are not digital. Even though it isn’t as catchy, I wonder if something like “Technology access disparity” would be a better term. It seems less colonizing than the digital divide metaphor. Furthermore, we can move away from the notion of needing to bridge or close the digital divide. To do so I think would mean to many that everyone uses the digital technologies. It doesn’t account for those who do not see a use for these technologies and want to adhere to their own cultural practices. Unless digital technologies can be made localized into useful spaces for the communities receiving them, they will only Westernize other cultures. But addressing technology access disparity is almost like making sure a river flows everywhere. Just because the river is there does not mean that the people living near it have to swim, fish, or canoe in the river. But if they want to, they can. It is available for when they decide that it can be beneficial within their own culture IF it ever is beneficial.

December 5, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

Convergence Culture

In Convergence Cultures, Henry Jenkins discusses how old and new medias are interacting and finding new use within our culture. As new and old medias mix and groups find new uses for these medias, it is only natural that culture will be affected as well. Jenkins discusses examples of this in his book.

 

I thought that Jenkins had some good ideas about the future of transmedia story-telling using the Matrix. No I won’t babble on in this blog about the Matrix, mainly because I believe that this film and its corresponding media are not the first in new media to present a transmedia narrative. Jenkins pointed out of course that transmedia narration or storytelling is not a new concept as stories such as the Odyssey have been told and retold through print, but also stained-glass windows, tapestries, and paintings. But if we are going to give a new media credit for being the main trunk off of which the branches of transmedia have grown, I think that videogames are another example worth considering. Video games represent Jenkins’ idea of growing a world for a narrative to take place. Consider Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy VII shares roots in previous Final Fantasy games not because it uses the same protagonists and antagonists or has the same geographic world, but because it builds on previous traditions and knowledge established by games in the franchise. For example, people who play the Final Fantasy games know that the crystal or crystals (when there are multiple there are four) are sources of life, the behemoth is a strong monster, and if you have less than 1,000 hit point, you should avoid Cactaurs. But with even less subtlety, Final Fantasy VII has grown its world again and again. Final Fantasy VII has spawned three additional video games, not necessarily sequels or prequels, an anime, books, a full length CGI movie, and other forms which have built the world. I think that video games are different in comparison to films such as the Matrix or Star Wars in that the core of the franchise or world built, Final Fantasy VII, requires characters to traverse the world completely before completing the game. Before finishing the game every nook and cranny designed into the game will likely be explored, every NPC of the world will be spoken to multiple times, and every antagonist will have been given a thorough thrashing. So while a film may start with a small in-depth look at a geographic are of a world and then build to a look at the larger world, a video game may begin with a look at the larger world and then use the idea of a transmedia to grow the world into a deeper more layered place by looking at specific locations and cultures.

I really enjoy the idea of transmedia, but do offer some criticism for critics like Roger Ebert who said that persons such as “Johnny Popcorn” will not care to engage in such a fragmented experience. I say that Ebert should consider that most of the main trunks of these medias can be enjoyed without understanding all of the branches that hang off of it. A transmedia experience does give audiences who want a more in-depth experience an opportunity to explore and understand that world on their own terms. It is a choice, not a necessity.

 

Postmodernism seems to be at the hear of use for converging medias, at least in the ways in which consumers assign meaning to the finished product. When Jenkins was talking about spinning, I couldn’t help but think of framing. In the Bush/Kerry debate where Bush has the infamous outburst, one media was used to frame another media. Even if it was a television media framing the television produced clip, extra meaning was added with the framing. To some, Bush showed his passion for an issue and that as president he would do what he believed rather than be bullied and hindered by rules. Others believed he showed impatience and a temper by ignoring these rules. Either way, the framing added altered the depiction of what was shown. Would Jenkins consider medias to be converging or spinning taking place when he discussed Jon Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire? In reflecting on that passage, I remembered seeing that exact incident. I read carefully in anticipation in seeing how Jenkins used his agency as a published author with his own book to frame the event. He described it truthfully as I remember it, but this left me with something else. Had Jenkins framed the incident in any sort of biased way, he would have lost that agency with me, and the rest of his book (granted that would only leave the conclusion) would have been viewed under an eye of extreme scrutiny. It kind of brings to light that the use of these technologies to form communities and make a difference can be done across new medias without a great deal of agency, but if not done correctly, agency will be lost, and the audience along with it.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

Digitizing Race and the Matrix

In Digitizing Race, Lisa Nakamura begins by discussing the ways in which visual culture studies have evolved to include a variety of disciplines, yet fail to include important emerging fields such as social networking online, the rhetoric of these online social spaces, and race and gender within digital culture. Nakamura uses examples of instant messaging, surveys, Web sites, and modern film as examples for critique of visual culture.

As I was with the other reading, I was pleased with Nakamura’s discussion of race using the Matrix trilogy and Minority Report as artifacts on which to base the discussion. Her use of the films showed that representation of race in the films can serve as a mirror reflection or allegory to the problems faced in our own society. Nakamura did a good job of showing how whiteness is interpreted within the futuristic society that the Matrix is set in. I had a few thoughts of my own when thinking about Nakamura’s critique. Nakamura points out that whiteness is embedded in the construct of power in the matrix, referring to the matrix itself, as well as the machine city, while Zion, the last free city of humans is largely represented by minority groups.

In thinking about this, it seems that the movie trilogy shows whiteness as being a construct of technology. With a few key exceptions, all white persons in the movie have a strong dependence on technology. Most of the white persons seen in the movie are still connected to the matrix and thus highly dependent on the system to maintain their current reality, as well as the health of their dormant bodies. But as Nakamura shows, all of those who oppress in the movie are white, including the agents and the architect. Whiteness can therefore be characterized by a strong dependency on technology to separate itself from other groups, as well as a strong need or desire to control. All who are white within the matrix have amassed a vast amount of power, whether intentional and maliciously, or through happenstance and for good reason. Programs not controlled by the matrix such as the Merovingian, ghosts, and werewolves have large amounts of political, social, and political power within the realm of the matrix. Despite the diversity of their classification, they are all white and exhibit the characteristics of whiteness. Each of the programs, being programs, is dependent of the technology to maintain themselves, but also seek to control others around them by coercion or force. Even Neo, while he can be classified as multiracial, draws all of his prestige and power from his ability to control the machines and programs around him. He relies on the “white method” of securing power. He is able to do this well, but does not have ultimate control over the matrix. If there is a link between technology and whiteness? Is Neo denied full control because of his multiracialism?

I will correct Nakamura on one point she made. She draws a sharp contrast to Link, an operator on the Neo’s ship and the woman in white at the computer console in Zion. “While it has been a familiar trope for cyberpunk narratives to deploy pastiches of historical and sartorial styles to depict an unevenly developed and dystopic technological future, this scene superimposes the two contrastingly racialized visual styles of the interface to invoke the crucial difference in this film: that between white culture and black culture” (Nakamura 99).  I don’t think that this serves as a critique of race in the movie since a few things are being overlooked. For example, there is a black person in the exact screen shot shown, thus that privileged place of technology is not exclusively reserved for those who are white. However, this space also exists within the construct, a small human controlled area within the matrix. The person in white is unlikely actually clothed in such fine garments, but rather is showing a residual image of her self. But Nakamura’s comment does call into question the rhetoric of the space. The construct, much like the room where Neo meets the Architect, is completely white. The construct, as a part of the Matrix, is a piece of the subjugating technology that is under the control of the white people in power. However, the residents of Zion are able to control this technology as well. But why do we not see a change to the physical appearance of the construct? Is the construct, representing so-called higher technology unable to be assimilated by the people of Zion?  Or, is it fair to say that much like when Agent Smith tries to forcefully clone himself onto minority figures such as Neo and Morpheus, the people in the construct are able to exist alongside of the technology without changing it to match their own culture?

Nakamura quotes Herman Gray as noting that “Marginalized and subordinated communities have creatively transformed and used popular cultural artifacts such as music, costumes, parades, traditions, and festivals to transgress their particular locations, to express their visions, and invent themselves” (185). If the construct is representative of the Internet, then perhaps it has already been designated as a place devoid of any identity, like the construct. In this way, even though minorities are able to engage the Internet, they are still unable to make the technology their own. It is still too closely associated with whiteness.

The rejection of forceful assimilation by the non-white characters is a good demonstration of Nakamura’s suggestion that the non-white characters in the film, specifically black characters, contain a “mojo” that is intended to be appealing to audiences as a trait that makes the humans human, and thus cannot be overwritten. It is this mojo that sets human characters apart from the computer characters. The construct and the space where the Architect resides are devoid of any such mojo, perhaps a critique on white culture. In a sense, it is only the non-white characters who are truly human, while all others devoid of culture and content with their assimilation under white culture, which is actually depicted as being devoid of any culture at all.

November 12, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

Readings on disability

CYBORGS AND STIGMA: TECHNOLOGY, DISABILITY, SUBJECTIVITY

In Artists with Disabilities: A Cultural Explosion, Pamela Walker explores the idea of an existing disability culture in the context of art. Walker points out that the existence of disability culture is in dispute because many aspects with which we define culture are different in defining disability culture. For example, many critics don’t see the culture because there isn’t a geographic collection of disabled persons. Also, since disabled persons usually grow up in families of non-disabled persons, causing the culture to not occur natural physically. Yet it is this difference that gives rise to some of the shared experience that creates the culture as the disabled persons all experience being different from their family members.

Walker characterizes art as important in a disability culture as “a movement requires political change AND a cultural revolution—these two things go hand in hand” (4). The problems that Walker associates with disability culture and art are issues that can be characterized by prejudices that have already been experienced. To think about it, even though the emotion we mostly exhibit towards disabled persons is pathos, (or an opinion of uselessness) the attitude towards disabled persons can still be defined in terms of prejudice. When Walker talked about the need for a disabled artist to gain prominence in mainstream art, and to be recognized for their artistic insights rather than the fact that they are disabled, I thought of the need for people of other cultures and sexual preferences to be recognized in the mainstream. So while the problem is one that should be overcome, there are similar struggles going on elsewhere, but that combat different attitudes of prejudice for their recognition.

 

In Jason Palmeri’s essay, Disability Studies, Cultural Analysis, and the Critical Practice in Technical Communication Pedagogy, the way the images of pity and uselessness in disabled persons have occurred through Eastman’s safety communications are illustrated. The way these images were used reminded me of colonization and the ways in which images of underfed or diseased persons from developing countries were shown to spur the audience into action. The same thing happens in Eastman’s work, but at the price of showing that disability equates to shame or is life ending for all intents and purposes. I suppose it is worth noting that in 1910, when much of the labor was physically based, a disability may have been life ending. However, such is not the case today, and yet the images of what it means to be disabled are carried to our current time. And I think that that is the “revolution” that Walker is essentially talking about. The need to recognize persons on the merit of what they provide as persons and as a culture and provide opportunities to allow these persons to show their capabilities.

 

Palmeri also provides a discussion of linguistic ableism and showed that words associated with disabled persons are used out of a medical context and to establish social and political identity. In other words, the English language itself reinforces ideas of normalcy. I was surprised to see words such as blindspot, crazy, and idiot used as examples. It reinforced the idea that even though I consider myself careful in my use of language to avoid discrimination, some of the derogatory terms are so ingrained in the language that it is difficult to even realize that we are using them. Looking at www.websters.com the following are given as definitions for idiot:

1.            an utterly foolish or senseless person.

2.            Psychology. a person of the lowest order in a former classification of mental retardation, having a mental age of less than three years old and an intelligence quotient under 25.

 

I certainly did not mean definition two, but the word carries the connotation and history none-the-less. It is proof that Palmeri is right that the English language does reinforce ideologies of Normalcy.

 

In Cyborgs and stigma: technology, disability, subjectivity, John Cromby and Penny Standen talk about the advantages of computer mediated communication (CMC) and how it can create a subjective possibility space where abled and disabled persons are placed on a level of equality in interacting due to the mode of communication—text-based and video streaming computer communication. I will add to this list programs such as Vent and Skype which can allow persons to communicate via only sound. Cromby and Standen raise issues of access in acquiring technologies to use CMC, such as the high price of computers and having the computer networked, that some disabled persons may not be able to physically access the computer, and negative perceptions of the technology. What bothered me about Cromby and Standen is that they acknowledge the problems with access, which are many, and then move on to the experience that can be provided with CMC. I don’t like that they wave away such problems without offering possible solutions or contrasting them to way similar problems of accessibility have been dealt with. What is more unsettling, is that their idea of how computers can bring allow an anonymity to disabled persons by allowing all users the same level of representation. This seems the same as saying that the major advantage of CMC is don’t ask, don’t tell. I am not saying that all disabled persons need to wear a metaphorical scarlet letter and let people know that they are disabled persons. But why not characterize CMC in that a variety of content can be offered and experience by both abled and disabled persons through a similar lens. Furthermore, though the cost is something that can be difficult to overcome, screen readers and other such devices can help to allow accessibility to a shared experience.

 

Let me close with this concerning on the way we conceive abled versus disabled: In iRobot a movie starring Will Smith, a frequent discussion Is on what it means to be human. During one scene Will Smith explains to a robot that it cannot be human because it can’t write a great novel, paint a masterpiece, or write a symphony. The robot merely responds, “Can you?”

 

 

November 4, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

Louise Eldrich

Louise Eldrich spoke on a book that she had written describing a loves story, but also the generational relationships between people in her family. One thing that she brought up concerning technology (albeit not intentionally) is the power of it to bring people together. We have been discussing in class how a lack of technology or a failure to understand differences in what we conceive as technology can separate us. However, Louise showed how it brought her mother and a man named Herman together. Louise describes her mother working the electronic checker line at a large food warehouse store. The way she described it was that her mother, who was Chippewa if my memory serves me correctly, worked the line skillfully and purposefully. Her description made me think of one operating a loom, precisely, tirelessly, and monotonously. It was while working this machine that her mother met this man.

When her mother finally went on a date with this man, it was entertainment technology, a carnival ride, that brought them together. Their shared experience with this technology was not altogether pleasant, as the machine malfunctioned, but afterward, the technology did entertaining her mother in a different way than any had intended. We once again find that different people can can experience technology in different ways that the creator of the technology might not have intended. Perhaps if the ride had functioned normally then her mother would not have had the chance to bond by sharing this common experience.

I also want to comment on how the mother used a very simple repurposing of technology to fight (further) colonialization of her culture. On her worker name tag, she wrote her name as it would appear in her tribe’s language. Her rationale is that if she had to learn English, then customers could learn some of her language. It’s a pretty simple repurposing, but if you think about it, its kind of neat the way it comes together. One name tag: two names: two languages: all representing one person. It kind of says a lot.

October 23, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

Presentation links and chaser

Thanks for working with me through tonight’s presentation, just to clarify since I realize that I was thrown off a little bit, I hope we can see through the videos that the goals of indigenous peoples are much different from what the countries that voted against the declaration claim them to be. Line by line contradictions and inconsistencies can be found in the response made by the U.S. The same is true for Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The argument is essentially the same as well, it is the fault of the DECLARATION, rather than the indigenous peoples that these countries are not acknowledging the indigenous peoples’ basic rights to exist as a people. Even though the declaration does not hold any legally binding power, it is a pledge of sorts that indigenous people would be free to call on. In the case of the United States, perhaps politicians are happy with the current arrangements and balance of power between themselves and indigenous peoples. This document would not level the playing field by any means, but would allow even the smallest amount of ground to be gained in negotiating certain basic rights.

Since the United States and the other three dissenters stressed that a major problem was a lack of definition of who qualified as indigenous peoples, I hoped to muse on the effects of creating such a definition in this situation. I would guess that the result would be that another “flaw” in the document would be focused on if dissenters did not simply place blame on the definition being assembled poorly. Unfortunately, the result of this is that rather than the indigenous peoples gaining this small acknowledgment, they instead were met with insult at this purposeful lack of recognition. Essentially, these countries that voted against the is declaration implied that the nations were seeking soverignty, veto power rivaling that of the president, and reparations foot hills they had suffered. Claims were even made that the declaration would allow land disputes hat had been settled to be reopened. Specifically in a response by the Maori affairs leader to the vote against the bill, there was outrage and an expressed deepened sense of hurt and insult towards New Zealand’s government.

So why focus at all on indigenous media? Indigenous media affords an additional way to express themselves on their own terms to the main stream media. However, there are problems with indigenous media. Will people take it as seriously? In the conclusion of the first article in section 1, Salazar and Cordova distinguishes indigenous film making in terms of a “lack of infrastructure and equipment, limited training (usually compressed in short workshops), and the community obligations of Indigenous producers” (55). This othering of indigenous media causes audience to focus on what these forms are not, rather than what they are. What they are are ways that the public can learn about a people and more importantly, how the people can communicate with and learn from one another.

Thank you for your time. If anyone has any comments, feel free to post them. I’ll look forward to seeing any responses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-Z-FzCJ6-Y&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl8Tz_n-w8w

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

Global Indigenous Media edited by Pamela Wilson and Michelle Stewart

In reading Global Indigenous Media, I was confounded by not only the very differing conceptions of who is found to be “indigenous,” but also at the reluctance of the global community to attempt to define the term. Webster.com, the official Meriam-Webster dictionary Web site list the definition of indigenous as “having originated in and being produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment.” The key word in this definition is “naturally” but even this raises questions of how we define naturally. Given that most cultures migrated (through one means or another, be it peaceful or hostile) or have migrated at one time or another, the classification could be one that is obscure, only warranting awarding to very few cultures.

However, if for the sake of argument we are to use this definition, then how do we as the “empires” spoken of in the text contextualize indigenous peoples? The author referred to indigenous peoples as “fourth world” which surprised me showing a seemingly colonial point of view on these peoples. If the context of third world is a negative one, than certainly the concept of fourth world peoples must be treated with more disdain. It would seem that if the author’s goal through examples of indigenous media in film, animation, and emerging technology use is to demonstrate that these indigenous peoples are long overdue to the access and recognition that the world has largely failed to provide then terming indigenous peoples as fourth world would be counterproductive.

I should note at this point that I specifically make reference to indigenous peoples rather than indigenous people. This might not seem like such an important point to make, but after reading the statement defining international indigenism, “like indigeneity, is used in various ways to fit diverse agendas—may at times appear to be strategically essentialist in its international appeals, identifying Indigenism as a philosophical and cultural attitude toward the world that is shared by all indigenous peoples, a model for global conduct in its resistance to colonialism, imperialism, environmental destruction, and now globalization” (Wilson and Stewart 8).  The definition seems to imply that indigenous can be likened to the term non-white in that all people who fall under the non-white umbrella can be expected to have a singular set of struggles, issues, and goals, or in this case, resistance.

I think my favorite example of how indigenous media was promoted was through Maori filmmaker Barclay. Barclay was not able to combat films that were intended to depict the indigenous culture of the Maori, such as Whale Rider, which not only was not created by a Maori filmmaker who would be likely to understand the culture, but failed to accurately depict Maori culture in several aspects. What was most impressive and an important point in the context of indigenous media is to recognize that the culture of viewing the media will not be the same as it is in empire culture. Barclay explained that culturally the Maori customs of giving would be confounded by producing a film and asking everyone to see it and pay for it. Rather Barclay suggested that fourth cinema should travel to the villages and offer a free showing of films, possibly with a meal. This cultural difference in the act of viewing calls into questions of whether merely offering access to media for indigenous cultures will be enough.

In offering access, we not only essentially ask that these peoples conform to empire media capture techniques, but to offer viewing access to some indigenous peoples, they will be required to change their viewing culture.

If in Barclay’s commentary on how the New Zealand Maori have responded to indigenous media is an indication of issues raised in how we conceptualize indigenous peoples, then the section on Latin American indigenous media also offered a similar window for viewing this conception. The chapter though containing many examples of how indigenous people have been utilizing filmmaking to portray their culture in film festivals, small showings, etc. still conceptualize indigenous filmmaking as a contrast or “other” to commercial media. “A general lack of infrastructure and equipment, limited training (usually compressed into short workshops), and the community obligations of Indigenous producers generally distinguish Indigenous media production from commercial production” (Salazar and Cordova 55). The authors speak of these “deficiencies” as strengths. However, they also cause Indigenous media to become other media.

We will be examining the United State’s response to the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and issues concerning why Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States did not vote in support of the document. I will print this document and have copies for the class as well as some questions that will serve as talking points for our discussion.

Discussion questions

How do we see the idea of “indigenous” portrayed in empire culture and within indigenous media? What implications of colonialism can we see in each of these ways in which “indigenous” is conceptualized?

Do we need a way of defining indigenous peoples?

In what ways has indigenous media problematized the ways in which empire culture has defined indigenous peoples and media? Provide examples from your own experiences or the reading.

What ways have we seen empire culture further the long-standing concept on how “indigenous” is seen?

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | 1 Comment

Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground

Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground, Adam J. Banks discusses how the digital divide has impaired the progress of African-Americans through lack of access to technology, ineffective or almost nor localization, and media controlled by the white population. Banks argues that though African-Americans have contributed greatly to the technology base on which major generational economic bases have been built (referring to the advances with cotton in the 19th century and the automotive industry in the 20th century) the African-American population is seen as not having a strong technology influence. The result of this is that technological expertise and even technological literacy are assigned to the white populations, continuing to widen the digital divide that has separated white from black.

Banks mentions an online application or Web site called eBlack that serves to promote technological literacy in the black community through a listserv, education modules, and even assistance in creating Web sites for local churches to name a few of its services. Immediately when I read this I recalled in Technicolor, Logan Hill noted that a problem with the digital divide was that there was not enough content created by “minority” groups on the Internet. eBlack seems like a good example of how this technology could take form, it offers relevant services for a variety of community constituents that range from simple conversation to gaining the ability to create Web content for themselves. But what was even more interesting to me was the rhetoric in naming the service. eBlack has a very direct implication to its audience–it is an electronic medium targeting blacks. While necessary, does this further the “othering” that can often take place in terms of providing access to a race. Because a certain Web site has to be formally designated as “black” will it imply to its visitors that only sites with the word “black” or “African-American” have resources that will be relevant to them. Granted, the naming in such a way may be necessary to show that there is a resource available to the black community, but designating the site can further the assumption that technology, and in this case the Internet, is a white technology. How do we combat the “othering” that often comes when access is offered in a place where access has not existed? What would the implications be if a community technology center made each home page for each computer in the center eBlack? How do we specifically target a population without alienating it as the same time?

Of course, having a space that caters specifically to a particular group can be advantageous. As Banks describes BlackPlanet.com, the site seems like it would be inviting and serve as evidence that the Internet is not a white based technology. When I visited the site, I drew similarities in the interface between Facebook and MySpace when compared to BlackPlanet (though I would argue that the main navigation on BlackPlanet is more effective because of its clear use of labeling). All feature general social networking aspects, but BlackPlanet has a stronger presence of mutlimedia interaction, job searches, dating services, and even an avenue for community service. The site would offer a targeted space that might appeal to black users, while not creating a space that will result in an experience that cannot be ported to other sites on the Internet.

I wonder though, if since Banks published his book in 2006 if the Web site has retained the authenticity of a black experience he described. Banks went into great detail on the user names that black users select that seem to proclaim and celebrate being black. However, after examining several pages of user names, I found this: Though a few black users seemed to celebrate or connect to black tradition, many names lacked any sort of unique identity. This occurred more so in white and non-black members, but it brings up another interesting question: If we are to assume that BlackPlanet has changed from its original function, why has this change occurred? Is it a result of non-Black users permeating the site, or could black members be assimilating into the predominately white Internet? At what point will BlackPlanet cease to be a part of the underground?

The idea of literacy or of people creating “meaningful” experiences with their time on the Web has always galled me. Banks talks about how in places where working class and minorities might have access to Internet technology, there is often a disappointment that users will gravitate towards music, social networking, dating, etc. Web sites. This is not seen as contributing to computer literacy, but I disagree. The expectation for these groups when given access higher and much different from what would be expected of someone not categorized in such a way. What should working class and minorities be doing when given access? Isn’t it a bit much to turn on a computer for the first time and then turn on Dreamweaver and expect a person to design something that they have never been a part of? Computer literacy exists on a multitude of levels and must be grown individually. By using the tools that are available, classes and cultures can imagine how they can make the Web experience their own and begin to close the gap of the digital divide.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | 4 Comments

Technicolor

In Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life, the authors discuss the ways the digital divide is spread across cultures, and the ways in which cultures who are thought to have a low aptitude for techonlogy, integrate technology into their cultures.  Some solutions have included placing community technology centers in areas to allow  people who do not normally have access to certain technologies basic Internet and computer use. Even these centers have their own problems when facing the digital divide. Centers are often placed in high density urban areas to maximize the impact it has. This neglects rural c0mmunities and areas where accessing these centers is not possible on a regular basis. But according the authors, it is important to remember that the placing of centers is not about helping the people who do not have access to computer technology to get ahead, but rather to keep up.

The eassy on Karaoke by Casey Man Kong Lum gave an interesting perspective on how the interactions with technology can shed light on the way people tend to interact with (or avoid interactions with) other classes using the same technology. The study showed that three different character shops in three different areas catered to clients of different classes. While it is not uncommon for an establishment to cater to one class on the large scale, each shop also carried certain characteristics. The karaoke shop that was affiliated with middle to upper class patrons saw a greater assimilation of their patrons into American culture. The music choices mirrored American music more closely, and even the etiquette was varied. For example, in Eastern countries, patrons are generally expected to not sing two songs in a row, not sing a song that has been sung, and clap between verses and songs. The authors account showed that patrons easily showed disinterest in sings being sung, neglected to clap in the fashion dictated by etiquette, and would sing two songs in a row on occassion. All of this happened without great incident.

On the other hand, the karaoke shops that catered to working class and middle to lower class patrons adhered more to specific etiquette and customs. This idea of sort of a “staying true” to one’s culture and resisting assimilation made me think of a passage near the beginning of the book when a blue collar worker was mentioning his children’s use of technology. He mentioned that children growing up an in a household or with parents who did not incorporate computer technology into their occupations may not hold a high interest in using the technology and that it would not seem important to them. If this is the case, then could it be possible that another part of the problem is a binary that has occurred.

Going back to the karaoke essay, recall the middle-upper class person’s response to going to a karaoke bar in another part of town. He indicated that he would be uncomfortable affiliating with the patrons of the lower class establishments, and then mentioned some aesthetic differences. He forms a class binary. The people he sees interacting with the technologies in these locales is unacceptable to him.

So what about urban neighborhoods? Is there a chance that a working class youth may form their own binaries about what it means to use computer technology? If these youths are trying to remain tied to their roots, could using computer technology be seen as assimilating themselves into White culture (who are shown to have the widest access to computers versus Latino and Black populations)?

I remember that when speaking on Obama, one author noted that to many Africans, Obama was losing his “blackness.” If we acknowledge the existence of blackness and whiteness, and associate computer technology with whiteness, then could there be an opposition to utilizing CTC resources on the basis of not wanting to appear to have lost touch with their own heritage? This could certainly be a problem to contend with, especially considering that by establishing a special “center” for computer use, the experience of using the technology becomes a special event, rather than a part of each individuals everyday life.

Of course, that is not to say that there has been a wide resistance to learning these new technologies on the whole. After all, the chapter on Techno music showed yet again how a culture can utilize a technology for a very unique experience. But even this situation, tensions existed. Techno in Detroit portrayed some of the issues that inner city living raised, while techno embraced by the masses reflected a totally different culture. Even the same genre of music could show a binary.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment

de Certeau and Globalization

Michael de Certeau’s idea of the strategies and tactics as related to the plight of the individual who constantly consumes mass culture seems familiar in ways. I wonder if de Certeau was a Marxist. Louis Althusser introduced the idea of ideological and repressive state apparatuses, which control our behavior and essentially our society’s culture. These state apparatuses seem to be similar to de Certeau’s strategies. However, de Certeau has, in a much more optimistic manner compared to Althusser, introduced tactics (that do seem similar to the working class that Marx wished to see rise up), which can gather spontaneously free of a permanent structure to shield the masses from the strategy’s influence, at least in part. The tactic has no goal of taking over nor will it necessarily endure. That is not to say that the tactic will have no impact, for it can cause the strategy to change, as will happen when the tactic successfully influences the public. However, in reading this, I am concerned that de Certeau suggests that one who is part of strategy or tactic is no longer part of the public. If that is so, is there really a public, or is not any within this system always a part of strategy or tactic? Can a person be both simultaneously?

I liked Slack and Wise’s take on Globalization, or moreover, their reason for exploring globalization. If globalization is so widely accepted, it should be thoroughly be examined. In reading about the “West ti the Rest” idea, and about the five dimensions of cultural flows (ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, finanscapes, ideoscapes) I tried to think about how the West does influence other nations. But even here, are we not all too eager to look at globalization through a process of the West homogenizing the rest of the world? I think it is important to remember that globalization is a global phenomena. Would the United States push for national health care be a form of globalization? I often here the argument for national health care take the form of “Well (insert nation’s name here) has a national health care plan, so why shouldn’t we?” This kind of makes me wonder if globalization can have positive effects as well, when it is not swallowing culture. But then isn’t whether or not a specific aspect of a culture is positive or negative rhetorical in itself? When we send aid to other countries, is this too not a form of globalization? We generally do not send goods specific to the region. In photos I usually see Western items such as bottled water, t-shirts, Western bedding. Globalization kind of reminds me of the negative lights we can put culture in without intending to. It almost seems cruel to introduce new technologies, (agricultural technologies were used as the example in the reading) and boast about the superiority of the product, only to let the culture find that they can never fully own the technology (it has been patented by someone else) and thus, they must be globalized further to continue obtaining the technology or if they wish to make it their own on some level.

Even when Slack and Wise discussed how globalization is being combated using cell phone technologies to organize (one might call these people tactics) people, is this not possible through another of the global cultural flows, ie technoscape, that allows a cultural way of life such as cell phone use to be able to be a tool to fight another form of globalization? A good display of combating globalization on some level came up in Thatcher’s essay about technology integration in border maquilas. New technology was implemented on the factory line in the Chihuahuan maquila. Technical experts left necessary with Mexican engineers, but the transition to the new system was met with little success. However, by examining the technology with their own engineers and through their own cultural lens, the Mexican engineers were able to devise training materials that could allow the successful implementation of the technology.

The problem stemmed from a lack of understanding of the Mexican culture by the engineers from Ohio. While they may (never really said for sure what they expected) have expected the Mexican engineers to take initiative to learn the technology on their own, what they actually did is left instructional materials to be followed. Failing to understand the culture of the Mexican workers, the American engineers did not foresee their instructions as being worthless. However, the Mexican engineers learned the technology on their own and were then able to disseminate instructions through a lens that their culture would understand. The implementation of this technology occurred via the technoscape, but could only be utilized through the antiglobalization of American learning methods.

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment