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??So What Is Digital Diversity??

Digital diversity can mean a few things; it can be used as a all encompassing word to describe the vast number of ways people use digital technology, such as social networking, online gaming, the online marketplace, music movies, etc. Digital diversity can also represent the ways different groups use the internet differently. The digital divide is another important part of digital diversity to analyze how different people have different access to digital technology and the internet within the United States and the rest of the world.

Digital diversity is the unique collaboration of people’s ideas, culture, and access to the digital world; the digital world being mainly characterized by the internet. For those with access, the internet is a digital melting pot of its users ideas and culture. The internet is used for all kinds of purposes such as sharing ideas, but is also immensely useful as an educational tool, a means of communication, and a digital marketplace.  Ideas and culture are shared through its infinite applications such as My Space, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The Internet is also a great educational resource for those with access, due to the vast amounts of information on specialty topics through encyclopedias, specialty sites, and forums. As described in Digital Media Ethics it seems that “technologies- most certainly those designed for the sake of communication – embed and favor a specific set of communicative preferences( usually those of their designers). (DME 118) This is why the internet is sometimes considered dominated by western culture, because western countries have the most stake in it.

To go back to the beginning; digital diversity is the unique collaboration of people’s ideas, culture, and access to the digital world. But there is one other aspect of digital diversity and that is characterized by the digital divide. The digital divide is the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. During President Clinton’s presidency, in 1997 he announced that it was the nations goal to wire every classroom and library in the country by the year 2000, followed by every home by the year 2007, is expected to do no less than virtually transform society. But our country isnt the only suffering with the digital divide it is the whole world. Then there is one other thing about digital technology, the e-waste, its out of site out of mind for those of us living in the west but its a harsh reality for those living in the countries we ship it to. So what can we do with this old waste, well like mentioned in the book Technicolor ” By “re-functioning” old/obsolete technologies or inventing new uses for common ones, communities in many places have fashioned technologies to fit their needs and priorities (TECH 8).” It’s just a thought, enjoy the video!

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Assignment 11: Group work reflection

Group presentations, when you are assigned your group, are always interesting. You always start off the first few meetings figuring out everyone’s schedules, getting to know the people in your group, and figuring out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Then you can start analyzing your topic!

Analyzing the stereotypes of race and gender in video games, was an interesting topic for our group because only a few people in our group really play video games. I really knew nothing about the vast range of  video games, having never owned a game console, and only playing select games at other friends houses. So needless to say this project was an educational process for most of our group. Since the bulk of our group wasn’t familiar with video games, we spent the first few meeting just surfing the internet, watching videos of game play of various video games, trying to wrap our minds around the vast spectrum of all of the games out there and their content. Then we were able to kind of figure out what we wanted to research for our individual parts, and brainstorm what we wanted to do for our presentation. Our original idea was to make a documentary, by going around and interviewing people about their experiences, but after some development of that idea it was decided that that really wasn’t going to work with our schedules. So then we decided we were just going to make a presentation to show the class some of the extreme gender and racial stereo types we found in today’s video games verse what used to be in games in the past.

Through our groups research we were able to find all kinds of examples of videogames that clearly illustrated the points we wanted to get across in our presentation. We all knew about the basic content of Grand Theft Auto and Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball, but what we didn’t know was the extent of the graphic content and what you could do with a few cheat codes.  We thought that was bad until we found the games Ethnic Cleansing and RapeLay.

With the content we found we figured we should focus on a few topics: The history of  race and gender in video games, the racial stereotypes of modern videogames, the gender stereotypes, and how you know what you’re buying in a videogame. We compiled it all into a PowerPoint to put our ideas together and then we had to decide how to present it. We thought about just doing a PowerPoint with a lot of movies but then we decided that since it is a digital diversity class we should try and do a movie.  Michael knew how to edit movies so his part of the project was to shoot and edit the presentation into a movie. The rest of the group had their respective topics, which they researched and presented in the movie, which can be seen again here:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/11324977/Final%20video_1.mp4

If I was to do this assignment again I would do a few things differently. I would have liked to explore the topic a little bit more and actually pull game play footage from us playing so we could talk more about specific parts of the game that we weren’t able to show because we were limited to the clips we found online. Other than that I wish we could have spent more time putting the video together so that it was a little higher quality.

Assignment 10: Implication of the “Always On” digital life

Growing up in the age of digital media we are the only generation that really can discuss the effects of Digital media since we have lived in both the end of the Analog era and the beginning of the Digital era. Our generation, also known as generation Y, is made up of individuals born between 1982 and 1995 making us the generation that has grown up with access to technology in our every day of their lives.

It is a constant discussion and fear of those part of the older  generations that kids are growing up dependent on digital media and are missing out on life outside of  the digital world. So how much time do we spend actually spend with technology?

Well , the numbers vary from individual to individual, but the Pie charts below represent the average usage of digital media in my weekly schedule.   The first chart shows that about a third, 38%, of my week is spent using digital media. I consider my usage of  digital media to be below average so it is probably safe to assume that most people, in my generation, spend 50+ percent  of their time using digital media on a weekly basis.

The second chart below, shows how much of time I spend using digital media broken down into the different digital applications.

From looking at the pie chart it can be easily noticed that most of my digital media use is spent doing homework through the use of internet and word processing applications, but what are my digital habits when I’m not doing school work. As Watkins mentions in The Young and the Digital, “Today, we can view video clips, listen to our favorite music downloads, squeeze in a game, access user generated content, or just about anything else in smaller quicker doses, thus making these digital delights all-pervading and irresistible (157).” That precisely covers what I’m doing on the computer or on my smart phone. As I’m writing this blog, I have the document going  in one screen and I have a mix of internet radio, websites and Facebook going in another window so I can easily switch back and forth, multi-tasking in a sense. According to Watkins ” The great irony of multi tasking – that its overall goal, getting more done in less time, turns out to be chimerical (165).”  But in reality, I don’t feel like I’m doing all of these things to get more done in less time but to be fully connected and use all of my resources to satisfy the demands of digital culture. I don’t think multitasking is correct i think Digital A.D.D. is more appropriate. In today’s digital world you don’t have an excuse to be un informed, because everything is at your fingertips.

Assignment 9: The Social Network and “Generation Facebook”

Facebook is a great tool for keeping in touch and connecting with friends and family in a instant fashion that is revolutionary for the history of man.  But as Zadie Smith argues about the quality of relationships made and kept on Facebook, in her critique of Mark Zuckerberg, The movie “The Social Network” and the “Facebook generation:” “The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important. That a lot of social networking software explicitly encourages people to make weak, superficial connections with each other (as Malcolm Gladwell has recently argued), and that this might not be an entirely positive thing…”

As a member of the “Facebook generation,” I can 100% agree with Zadie in that most relationships on Facebook are purely superficial, and are created plainly for status, popularity, and out of courtesy.  I mean  there are a lot of relationships on Facebook that are between legitimate  friends that just want to share their relationship online vs. in-person, others use it to keep in touch with friends that are separated for some reason and use the platform as a easy way to keep in touch, but there are more that are created for the sole purpose of having a lot of friends and to be popular. A prime example of most relationships on Facebook  can be understood from a conversation from the movie “The Social Network:”

“Mark Zuckerberg: ‘Relationship status’. ‘Interested in’. This is what drives life at college. Are you having sex or aren’t you. It’s why people take certain classes and sit where they sit and do what they do, and it’s um…center, you know, that’s what TheFacebook is gonna be about. People are gonna log on because after all the cake and watermelon there’s a chance they’re actually gonna…
Eduardo Saverin: …gonna get laid.
Mark Zuckerberg: …meet a girl. Yes.
Eduardo Saverin: That is really good.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (The Social Network)”

The video below characterizes the parodies of Facebook really well:

So I guess the question that needs to be answered is “if Facebook is such a parody then why do people continue to use it?” This can be answered simply by a quote from the Young and the Digital: ” seems like everyone uses it [Facebook] to do things now,”… “What would I be missing if I weren’t on it? (The Young & The Digital pg xv)” and with ” Three-quarters of the people in our survey visit a social-networking site at least once a day (The Young and The Digital pg.xv)”, the answer is some people think that they will miss a lot, since as 24 year old Kendra exclaims in her interview “I am on MySpace all Day! (The Young & The Digital pg. xv ).”

Zadie Smith argues that Facebook and the relationships that are maintained via its platform may not be an entirely positive thing, while Mark Zuckerberg claims “The thing that we are trying to do at Facebook, is just help people connect and communicate more efficiently.” Many people think that social networking sites will cripple the ability of the current generations to make meaningful personal relationships, and will create a population that can only survive with the internet, but as with many things only time will tell.

 

Final Group Project: Topic Paragraph

Race, Gender and Video Games:

Video games are marketed to people of different age demographics which have been split up by the The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The ratings are designed to provide concise and impartial information about the content in computer and video games so consumers, especially parents, can make an informed purchase decision. ESRB ratings have two equal parts: rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game and content descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern. The ESRB breaks down age demographics into six differnet age categories:

EARLY CHILDHOOD
Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate

EVERYONE
Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

EVERYONE 10+
Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

TEEN
Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

MATURE
Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

ADULTS ONLY
Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

The content descriptors for each of these six age demographics can be defined as :

  • Alcohol Reference – Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
  • Animated Blood – Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood
  • Blood – Depictions of blood
  • Blood and Gore – Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
  • Cartoon Violence – Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted
  • Comic Mischief – Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
  • Crude Humor – Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor
  • Drug Reference – Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs
  • Fantasy Violence – Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
  • Intense Violence – Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death
  • Language – Mild to moderate use of profanity
  • Lyrics – Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
  • Mature Humor – Depictions or dialogue involving “adult” humor, including sexual references
  • Nudity – Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity
  • Partial Nudity – Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
  • Real Gambling – Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • Sexual Content – Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity
  • Sexual Themes – References to sex or sexuality
  • Sexual Violence – Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
  • Simulated Gambling – Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • Strong Language – Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
  • Strong Lyrics – Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
  • Strong Sexual Content – Explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity
  • Suggestive Themes – Mild provocative references or materials
  • Tobacco Reference – Reference to and/or images of tobacco products
  • Use of Drugs – The consumption or use of illegal drugs
  • Use of Alcohol – The consumption of alcoholic beverages
  • Use of Tobacco – The consumption of tobacco products
  • Violence – Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
  • Violent References – References to violent acts

With these ratings and content descriptors you can understand what people of different age demographics are exposed to in the digital gaming world. Kids and adults are able to do things that would normally be considered illegal or morally wrong ; like swearing, raping, violent body mutilation and murder, or just doing illegal drugs. But because they are acting out these actions in a fictional digital world, does it make these things OK, or is it still wrong?

To learn about how video games are desensitizing see: http://oldschooda.wordpress.com/ .

Sources:

http://www.esrb.org/index-js.jsp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entertainment_Software_Rating_Board

http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2010/10/28/ptc-esrb.aspx

Assignment 7: E-Waste and the Digital Divide

The idea of closing the digital divide, the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all, is a great idea for a perfect world. But will all the technological waste created with such a small portion of the world active in the modern technology it, is it really realistic?

 

The expansive digital divide can be visualized in the image “The Global Digital Divide.” Sure the idea of everyone in the world being equal, and intern have the same educational opportunities and access to modern technology is a wonderful idea but is it really sustainable. As seen in the movie: “Ghana: the Digital Dumping Ground”, e-waste from western Europe and the United States,  is currently being shipped to poor, underdeveloped countries that do not even have access to the technology that is being dumped there. E-waste, or Electronic waste can be described as loosely discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken electrical or electronic devices. Informal processing of electronic waste in developing countries, such as Ghana, causes serious health and pollution problems. So with all of the e-waste currently created by such a small portion of the world’s population, how much e-waste would be created if the digital divide was eradicated?

A better solution to closing the digital divide, might be to reuse old technology, thrown away by the western world in developing countries to allow for basic, slightly dated, access to technology. “By “re-functioning” old/obsolete technologies or inventing  new uses for common ones, communities in many places have fashioned technologies to fit their needs and priorities (TRT 8).” This is currently done in small scale in some countries as can be seen in the image below; where African children are re-using an old discarded computer.

By closing the digital divide through re-utilizing technology too dated to be effective in the west, in developing countries, there be a possible reduction in  the environmental impact of e-waste and an increase of access to technology in developing countries helping close the digital divide.

It is time for consumers to be made aware of what happens to all of the electronics they throw away so they can be more responsible about how their waste is disposed of. Right now the west is making many “errors committed out of ignorance (DME 113),” but that needs to stop.   People need to take the time to make sure that their e-waste is properly discarded for either re-use or recycling, and not just being passed on to the less fortunate parts of the world.

 

Assignment 6: Getting past “either/or”

Did Lego improperly appropriate Maori culture in their creation of Bionacle?

To give a little bit of background, In 2001, several Māori tribal groups from New Zealand threatened legal action against Lego for allegedly trade marking Māori words used in naming the Bionicle product range. In response, a Lego spokesperson stated that only the term “Bionicle” had been trademarked. Lego agreed to stop commercial use of the Māori language after sending an executive to meet with Māori representatives in New Zealand.  Some Māori terms used by Lego were changed, such as “Huki”, which was changed to “Hewkii”, and “Tohunga”, which was changed to “Matoran”. Within the fictional Bionicle universe, these changes were explained by the introduction of a “Naming Day” holiday, in which characters who have done heroic deeds for their village are honored by having the spelling of their name changed (though the pronunciation remains the same). However, a number of Māori terms such as “Toa”, which means “warrior”, “Kanohi”, which means “face”, and “Kopaka”, which means “cold”, were not changed. Since this controversy, Lego has not made any more names that are common terms in other living languages. From a legal perspective did Lego improperly appropriate Maori culture in their creation of Bionacle? Well, that is really up to how you interpret copyright and trademark law.

Copyright protects the expression of ideas or information − not the ideas or information itself. For example, if you write a novel, the text will be protected, but not the ideas or plot. Someone could write their own novel using your ideas, without necessarily infringing copyright. Similarly, if two authors independently create a similar work based on the same idea, without copying from each other or from someone else, there is no copyright infringement. Some works do not attract copyright protection. For instance, names, titles, single words and headlines are usually too small or unoriginal to be protected by copyright.   For more information on New Zealand copyright law visit: http://www.med.govt.nz/

The New Zealand Trade Marks Act has a section preventing the registration of trademarks that would be offensive to Maori. The term “trade mark” is defined in section 5 of the Act as meaning “any sign capable of being represented graphically and distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of another person”. A “sign” is defined in section 5 of the Act as including “a brand, colour, device, heading, label, letter, name, numeral, shape, signature, smell, sound, taste, ticket, or word; and any combination of signs”. A trade mark is often referred to as a “logo”, “brand” or “brand name”. That does not mean that such trademarks could not be used in the marketplace, it just means that they cannot enjoy the same level of protection afforded to registered trademarks. For more information on New Zealand trade mark law visit http://www.med.govt.nz/

So again did Lego improperly appropriate Maori culture in their creation of Bionacle? Strictly speaking it was lawful to use aspects of Maori culture, or any other culture for that matter, so long as it was done in a way which does not offend existing legal rights or breach normal advertising standards. For example it would not have been lawful to copy Maori artwork which, like any other artwork, is subject of copyright. There may also be certain Maori words or phrases that function as trademarks and to use those might be unlawful, not because they derive from Maori culture, but because they operate as brand names just like any other brand name.

Lego did however did recognize that: while it may be lawful to use aspects of Maori culture for branding it is prudent to have regard for the sensitivities of Maori before doing so. This may mean only using aspects of Maori culture in a respectful way and so as to avoid unnecessary offense and bad press. A brand which offends the sensibilities of a significant section of the New Zealand public is unlikely to be as successful and enduring as it would otherwise be. In the video “Guarding the family silver,” Lego mentions that they meant to be respectful, but they did not know who to contact with regards to using the Maori names properly. This goes along with a section mentioned in Digital Media Ethics, “anyone knows who has tried to be a respectful guest in an “Other” culture, it is not always easy to know what to do, even if you believe yourself well informed about important rules, values, practices, etc[page 108].”

 

Assignment 5: Egypt’s Revolution and Online Social Media

Technology ranging from the printing press to the internet, have been used as a tools for spreading ideas and information for centuries in many major protests and revolts throughout modern history. The protestors in the most recent revolution in Egypt have largely attributed their success to their ability to communicate their thoughts to large audiences quickly using modern social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Through the use of these platforms, supporters were able to use the platforms to upload videos, share ideas and opinions, and organize protests with the large online community. Organizers were able to use Facebook to create a page opposing the corrupt Egyptian government, which allowed supporters to create a forum to openly discuss their feelings with others who felt the same way.  Twitter was used in a similar way to instantaneously share information on things happening during the protest.

The social platforms allowed Egyptians and others involved , to understand each other’s opinions about the situation eliminating the “either or ” framework discussed in “Digital Media Ethics.” The willingness of those involved to use these platforms shows that the culture of Egypt’s youth are well versed in their ability to communicate in the online world. I would also argue that access to the internet has allowed those involved to branch out from the brainwashing garbage that their governments produce and make them cosmopolitans, as is mentioned in the video  “Cairo’s Facebook Flat.”

Since the revolution largely attributes it success to the ability of protestors to communicate over the internet, it should be noted that that  day after the “Day of Anger” the Egyptian government shut down all internet traffic in and out of Egypt, as well as cell phone calls and messaging services in order to quench the protests. Now that is a bunch of crap for any government to be able to control means of communications, and should stand out as an issue whenever  the issue of governments having control over certain aspects of the interned are discussed. To learn more about this watch the video below:

 

The online world has opened new doors for the free exchange of ideas and opinions throughout the world. If only the White Rose group in Munich, who relied on distributing printed leaflets to protest the Third Reich, during World War Two could have had access to such means of distributing information, countless lives might have been spared.

 

Assignment 4: Copyright Laws Suck! Fix Them!

After watching, “RIP: A Remix Manifesto,” I now have a whole new understanding of copyright laws, especially in the sense of music and movies. I used to think that copyrights were great and that they helped create what is great about our country, but now I think that they are one of the things that are tearing our country apart.  I still believe in copyright laws, after all as an engineer they are what protect my ideas, but I think they are getting a little extreme. With the things large corporations are able to copyright these days they are in essence buying away America’s freedom of creativity and imagination. The music artist “Girl Talk,” that was featured on “Remix Manifesto” was a great example. “Girl Talk,” essentially creates his music using beats and small clips from existing music albums and according to current copyright law this is copyright infringement and he could be sued by the artists, and record labels that own the songs that he is remixing. I personally think that this is going way too far, he isn’t taking anything from the songs but musical notes, but because he admits he heard them in existing songs he is doing something illegal? That is ridiculous, its like saying that because some artist used a B flat from a piano in one of his songs  that he owns the note and nobody else can use it without his permission. I mean what’s next are people going to start copyrighting colors, so Crayola LLC is going to own the whole visible light spectrum, and anyone who wants to visualize something has to pay Crayola to use that color.

The movie; “Guarding the Family Silver,” is another good example of how screwed up our copyright laws are. This movie discusses the  Maori tribe in New Zealand,  and how their culture is being copyrighted by people other than tribe members, and how legally they can’t even use things that were created by their ancestors. Now how messed up is that, why should you be able to take the rights of something that you didn’t even create? Now to be clear I’m Not taking a utilitarian standpoint as discussed in the book Digital Media Ethics where “the rights of the author should at least in theory extend no further than necessary to benefit the public and conceivably could be eliminated entirely if a convincing case against public benefit could be shown (Digital Media Ethics, pg. 74) .” Because again as an engineer I do believe that we should be rewarded for our hard work, but there is an extent. Disney’s “mouse”  and the “Happy Birthday” song are examples of copyrights that have gone on long enough, especially since their creators have long since deceased.

I guess to wrap up my rant, I just want to encourage everyone that reads this blog to think about how ridiculous our current copyright laws are and share your thoughts on it. I do believe that they are in serious need of reform, if only they be brought back to their original form, which can be seen here, and amended to meet the needs of modern technology. Companies should have to resubmit their copyrights and explain why they should own the rights to them. For more information, and to help you form your own opinion please see the following YouTube video:

and check out RIP: A Remix Manifesto in its entirety on Hulu:

Is WikiLeaks Bad?

Is WikiLeaks bad? To be fair, no actual case of anyone being negatively affected by  WikiLeaks has been brought to the world’s attention, just a lot of a “what if” and “this could happen cases.” So what is actually so bad about WikiLeaks? According to the State Department, “These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world.” Crowley said the release of confidential communications about foreign governments probably will erode trust in the United States as a diplomatic partner and could cause embarrassment if the files should include derogatory or critical comments about friendly foreign leaders. “When this confidence is betrayed and ends up on the front pages of newspapers or lead stories on television or radio, it has an impact,” Crowley said. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/24/national/main7086416.shtml

There is no question that creating nervous governments isn’t bad, but is it illegal. Since WikiLeaks has caused no reported harm to date, is the website illegal? WikiLeaks protects itself in the United States with the first amendment, under freedom of speech and freedom of press, and several Supreme Court cases have previously established that the American constitution protects the re-publication of illegally gained information provided the publishers did not themselves break any laws in acquiring it. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=144 This argument stands, but the United States government has a different standpoint with the release of Afghan War documents.  It is looking to charge the WikiLeaks founder with noncompliance of the Espionage Act of 1917 which prohibits any attempt to interfere with military operations, to support America’s enemies during wartime, to promote insubordination in the military, or to interfere with military recruitment. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sup_01_18_10_I_20_37.html All things that the release of the War documents seem to have accomplished.

For more information on the United States Government’s perspective on WikiLeaks please click here; http://belkow.wordpress.com/ .