As one would expect of any library, Olin Library on the Cornell University campus is a treasure chest of stored information, in the form of books, periodicals, and online resources. With the expansion of the Internet as an additional resource and touch screen technology, we see more and more libraries trying to incorporate these devices in their services.
Mann Library has done the best in intertwining technology, information, and place of all the libraries on campus. Aside from offering both Apple computers and PC’s to cover all its users, Mann Library has display screens spread throughout the building that serve as digital bulletin boards. Users can find out about any announcements, special events, or even the weather from the displays. Right in the lobby of Mann Library is also a digital smart map kiosk that has all the information any new visitor to Mann Library could possibly need to find a book or other resource.
While Olin Library does not have even half as many computers available to students as Mann Library, Olin has seen changes in the past few years. The new digital display catches visitors’ attention as soon as they step foot in the door when it was first placed there. To some who frequent these libraries, the screens are a source of useful information. To those who are too used to them now, the screens have already blended successfully into their lives so that they don’t even notice them anymore.
These screens have made information available to us so that we don’t even need to ask it. Information is constantly streaming towards us – it’s only a matter of whether we need it or not. If we do, we will turn our awareness of these technologies on. If we don’t, we will continue to tune them out as if they weren’t even there.
In our new media & society class, we spent a considerable amount of time examining the potential and limitations of the internet as a host for public discourse. We looked at many major social media platforms, and discussed whether networks like Facebook or Twitter have any democratizing potential. Along the same lines, I thought it would be interesting to see what other people think Wikipedia is, or is not. Hence I decided to look at the Wiki entry for: What Wikipedia Is Not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not
This article originated in February of 2002.
This article is pretty lengthy, and can be edited by users itself. It seems that from the subtopics in this entry, most people agree that Wikipedia is not the following items:
-publisher of original thought
-a means of promotion
-a mirror or a repository of links, images, etc
-a blog or social networking site
-a crystal ball
There doesn’t appear to be much discussion on this page, except for some disagreement over exact wording in the section regarding Wikipedia’s censorship policies. I thought it was a good idea for Wikipedia to have such a page that details exactly what its users should not use Wikipedia as. Although Wikis may not be technically organized, as it would seem hard to organize people who do not know each other and did not plan out beforehand who is going to write what section, I have to argue that they are certain a good source of collaborative-produced knowledge. This particular Wiki has over 800 followers. It is very likely that these are a random sample of the population, and that many of these people are knowledgeable enough to contribute at least something to this Wiki.
Natalie Fenton discusses three significant aspects of news in a digital age in “News in a Digital Age” – increased globalization in news, increased concentration of ownership, and transformation of technology. These aspects have all definitely brought about systemic changes with broad public implications. For one, I believe that people these days are better informed about things that matter the most to them because of the use of the internet as a source of news journalism.
I think that for the most part, people in the college age range are more well-informed than people in our position ten years ago because of the ways journalism has adapted to the new online environment. I think that in a way, the internet makes it easier, more exciting, and more interesting for people to read news. Before internet became an important part of my life, I hardly read a newspaper or watched the news on T.V. There was just always more fun things to do. I also know for sure that I definitely know more now than I did even 5 or 10 years ago, because it is just so easy to get news on the internet since all the major homepages (Yahoo! MSN, GMail, etc) on peoples’ browsers have news items. The increased social networking and interaction among individuals/friends online make it easy, interesting, and fun to share news stories or interesting things they learn about, leading to an overall more informed population.
It is probably safe to say that even ten years ago, many people were just slowly starting to hear about or find internet an integral part of their lives. They probably still relied on the newspaper delivered every morning, or the nightly news broadcasts on their favorite channels, for the bulk of their news and/or entertainment. However, because newspapers have limited print space and similarly, news shows have limited air time, stories are severely limited and cropped to meet constraints. The most important or newsworthy stories may not always be the ones that are covered simply because the competitive T.V. industry is geared towards achieving high ratings and a large amount of viewers. Stories that are broadcast on the news are bound to be the ones that pique more human interest, and these stories may not necessarily be the most important ones.
The vast structure of the internet has made it possible for people to read about news from practically every corner of the world. However, the fact that not many people in the world have internet access limits the potential of the internet as the primary news outlet. But since I am concerned with only people in my age group for this particular blog post, it is safe for me to say that we are definitely more well-informed. The variety of news sites available, as well as their potential to facilitate mini discussions, makes reading the news a more interactive process. Newsworthy items may get discussed more, leading to overall more information flow and even better-informed people in the long-term.
While some may argue that the internet has made it possible for us to only be informed about things we care about, I want to pose this question: Why should people strive to be well-informed about things they don’t care about? People probably don’t care about those things because it doesn’t concern them. It is probably enough to be just sufficiently informed about most topics – being well-informed about select topics doesn’t seem to me to be a fault of the system. Rather, it’s just that the internet allows people to explore subjects they’re interested in in more depth, instead of spending that time learning about other topics. Perhaps with the internet, it is about quality of the knowledge, and not quantity.
Facebook has been at the center of a plethora of issues related to user-generated content in regards to free speech. One perhaps less known case involves a user-generated poll back in 2009 titled, “Should Obama be Killed?” The poll had already been taken by over 700 people before it was pulled down by Facebook at the request of the Secret Service for harboring hatred and/or threats to the President. Soon after the poll came down, another poll was created asking “Should the creator of ‘Should Obama be killed?’ be arrested”?
More information can be found in this news article.
According to this BlackVoices article on the issue, “The pollster is actually a juvenile. Both the kid and his parents were questioned, and it was determined that no charges would be brought against the kid or his family. Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan has declared this “case closed.”"
It is interesting to note that Obama and his supporters may have successfully used social networking sites to reach out to many people on the Internet during his presidential campaign, but his haters and opponents can do quite the same thing since technology itself has no political allegiance. Technology is merely a tool, and is neither good nor bad, nor even neutral. Facebook appears to become an increasingly popular forum for hate speech, especially since the company has not found it easy to police the actions of more than 300 million members.
I’m sure this incident serves as a warning to many especially younger people that although we have the right to free speech, this freedom is definitely limited in many ways. The creator of the poll did not actually declare an opinion by the action of creating this poll, yet he still gets in trouble for having created the space and opportunity for others to declare their opinion. The poll creator is simply posing the question to others, yet he is automatically taken by the Secret Service as harboring threats to Obama. I think there is a bit of jumping to conclusions here… although it seems reasonable that the Secret Service takes any sort of suspicious free speech concerning the President very seriously.
It seems that Jack Balkin, author of the article “the Future of Free Expression in a Digital Age,” is right when he claims that the First Amendment is becoming harder to define and apply in the context of the Internet as more people embrace the Information Age. However, is creating a poll really considered “speech”? In addition, is the person who created the poll really any worse than the person who answered “yes” to the Obama poll? It appears that the Secret Service should also be investigating the people who answered “yes” to the poll… but the vastness and anonymity of the Internet makes it impossible to do so. According to Balkin, “It is very difficult to locate and sue people for their speech on the Internet.”
I recently stumbled across http://www.politico.com, the online home of Politico launched in January 2007, a nonpartisan political journalism organization based in Virginia. Politico’s content mostly covers national politics: Congress and daily life on Capitol Hill, lobbying and advocacy, and the presidency. Politico provided extensive coverage of the 2008 presidential election and covered other local races as well. Here is more information on how Politico was started.
According to their mission statement, Politico’s journalists “won’t usually be chasing the story of the day.” Instead, their emphasis is on “backstories — those that illuminate the personalities, relationships, clashes, ideas and political strategies playing out in the shadows of official Washington.”
What is unique about Politico is that its circulation and distribution is flexible. This free newspaper can print up to five issues a week while Congress is in session, or only one issue a week when Congress is in recess. Its revenue comes mostly from full-page ads from trade associations and classified ads for political jobs in Washington, D.C. Some of Politico’s partners include major news outlets such as CBS News and Yahoo! News. According to Katharine Seelye in her New York Times article about Politico, “If The Politico succeeds, it could signal that the Web has become a more plausible alternative for mainstream journalists.”
The Politico has been described as a narrowly defined news outlet, with a very Washington-centric political focus.
Politico’s homepage attempts to strike a balance between providing political information and hosting political discussion but fails in doing so since it is primarily a news site. While it mainly provides information and updates on the daily issues of Washington, D.C., it also has two specific areas where it tries to facilitate dicussion, in addition to the ability to comment after a story: the Arena, and the Community.
The Arena appears to be a moderated discussion on a specific topic chosen by the moderator – today, the topic is about Obama’s expansion of offshore drilling. People respond with their opinions, although it seems like most of the active participants in this discussion are people with some sort of academic or professional background in politics and law.
The Community, on the other hand, is a messageboard/forum of conversations sparked by Politico’s articles. The participants appear to be the everyday visitor. Many of the more popular conversations have hundreds of posts and thousands of views.
It seems that Politico does a better job of managing the messages it tries to convey to readers, rather than facilitating genuinely open and public discourse. The number of users of the forums in the Community are simply too small a percentage, and the Arena fails even more at hosting open discussion since many of its responses are moderated and its participants are academically/professionally involved in the field of politics.
Search engines in particular give the impression that users have the freedom to access any link on any topic they wish, but in reality, undercut the openness and inclusiveness of both the old and new public spheres. A good metaphor for a user of a search engine is a customer at a bookstore (Hesmondalgh 219). Although the selection of material seems vast and endless to the customer, the titles were carefully chosen among billions to be the lucky few to fit on the finite shelf space. It is the owners of the bookstore that determine what titles the customer can have access to. Search engines operate in the same way in that pages that have a higher page rank or are lucky enough to be visited by search engine spiders will appear higher on search results. Content available to the public is directly affected by commercial interests, and this is evident when David Hesmondalgh says that search engines are increasingly allowing web owners to pay for high rankings. This system guarantees that the most likely information to reach the public is that which is privileged by having a lot of money, time, or attention spent on it. These privileges are a direct violation of the disregard for status and rank that is ideal in the public sphere.
Users may feel that the internet’s open architecture provides them with limitless content, but like the customer wandering in the bookstore, all his possible choices of reading material have been preselected and predefined by some higher authority. Additionally, marketers and advertising firms are constantly tracking user activity online in the hopes of formulating audience constructions and extrapolating the data to some means of making money. These audience definitions lead to the visibility of some search results and not others, as well as the “production of certain kinds of culture – and not others” (Turow 104). So not only is the customer limited in what he has access to, but he is also being watched and recorded as a statistic that will ultimately shape culture production. Unlike the ideal democratic public sphere, power does not lie with the people, but with some higher authority.
When the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society convened in Geneva in 2003, representatives from international public and private organizations adopted the “Declaration of Principles” in response to the growing development and use of information technology in the world.
The declaration summarizes the purpose of the summit, which was to address the goals and the challenges of building and maintaining an information society for all based on shared knowledge. The participants committed to strengthening cooperation to realize the vision of an inclusive information society that upholds the key principles detailed in the document. A few of these key principles include maintaining cultural diversity and identity, and addressing ethical and legal dimensions.
Of the many aspirations enumerated at the summit, and keeping in mind the history and purpose of the summit, I feel that it is most important to bridge the digital divide. The summit emphasizes the inclusiveness of the global information society, yet we are not being inclusive unless we bridge the digital divide and accept participants and ideas from all around the world. Ironically, I think bridging this gap is also the biggest obstacle to achieving the global information society the declaration describes.
Bridging the digital divide requires a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the economic, social, political, health, cultural, educational, and scientific differences in each country or location. As detailed by ‘B3) Access to information and knowledge’ in the document, the barriers to equal access of this information must first be removed, but there are so many barriers that are all different and need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. We need to formulate numerous multidisciplinary models to even begin dreaming of bridging the divide.
One fundamental step to bridging the digital divide is to bring up literacy rate around the world. This article by Edwyn James in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Observer details why it is not enough to just give the world a phone and a computer. Digital literacy is important as well. This will improve individuals and allow them to participate in the information society. After all, what is the point of having the Internet or having a cell phone if you cannot use it because you cannot read, write, or speak? According to the figure below, low literacy rate is localized in many poorer locations around the world. These may be the places to start bridging the literacy gap first.
In addition to improving individuals so they can become active participants, it is also imperative to educate people about and change their attitudes toward the information society. In places where even mere survival is an issue, people will care less about communication and socializing, let alone participating in an information society. In addition, we need to do this in such a way that it can still mesh in with their culture.
Although I’ve said that solutions to bridging the digital divide will differ on a case-by-case basis, I also recognize that that in itself creates a problem. The problem lies in standardization (item B6.44), which the “Declaration of Principles” states is one of the essential building blocks of the information society. It also states that, “There should be particular emphasis on the development and adoption of international standards. The development and use of open, interoperable, non-discriminatory and demand-driven standards that take into account needs of users and consumers is a basic element for the development and greater diffusion of ICTs and more affordable access to them, particularly in developing countries.” It will be hard to standardize since the process of bridging the divide in each case is different.
Additionally, bridging the digital divide allows more people to access the global information society. As we allow more people in, more security will be needed. We will need new ways of protecting users and recognize that different kinds of users need different levels/kinds of protection.
We see that though bridging the divide is the most important aspiration to achieve, it is also the most difficult obstacle to overcome since it is so multifaceted and leads to a whole host of other problems in standardization and security. The next step is to group and prioritize all these issues in order to take reasonable measures that are socially optimal.
From Joseph Turow’s article, Audience Construction and Culture Production: Marketing Surveillance in the Digital Age, I found it very interesting how closely the strategies in marketing and advertising followed trends in manufacturing practices of the time. Starting from the early 1900′s, companies targeted the mass population, selling ads to people by “tonnage” in such a way that men, women, and children were as far as the audience constructions went. Similarly in manufacturing, tools such as the assembly line allowed businesses to mass produce their products. However, by the 1920′s, new manufacturing initiatives led companies to try product differentiation. Different versions of the same goods were designed to appeal to and serve different segments of the population. At the same time, this logic led to increased use of magazines and radios, which may have targeted more segmented groups than the television did.
As different products became more targeted towards different parts of the population, people continued to become more individualized, deviating from the generic “everybody” that the audience used to be. Marketers adjust their strategies to embrace the segmentation and individuality, while the diversity of the goods and the mechanisms behind which different information gets to different people allow people to further break away from already established audience constructions. This process seems similar to entropy in that the chaos of the system will tend to increase and never decrease – that is – people will only continue to become harder to classify, and targeting them will become more difficult. Clever selection and seduction of customers, as well as successful retrieval of their information, may be the winning strategy to ensure advertisers the power they once enjoyed.
Shouldn’t you be spending time monitoring your content rather than banning innocent folks like me?
Twitter is a free social networking and communication technology that allows users to post a message of up to 140 characters long to their specified social circle. According to the Twitter team, their goal is to deliver to people the best, freshest, and most relevant information possible. With Twitter becoming more mainstream, we see trends where newspapers and television reporters are no longer the first means through which we hear breaking news. Personally, I can’t quantify the benefit from finding about a news story now versus 2 hours later. Hence I was never really attracted by Twitter’s service. In fact, I can see the potential danger when a large group of people conspire to post something false, and then all of a sudden (thanks to Twitter) everyone is talking about something that is false.
I have only posted one tweet on Twitter about half a year ago when I was bored while on vacation in China. I was also curious what social networking sites the Chinese government did ban, and which ones it didn’t, so I checked out Twitter and made an account out of whim. I didn’t log in again until a month ago. I was surprised to see an alert that said my account has been suspended due to suspicious activity. It mades me wonder what kind of suspicious activity they’re referring to when I haven’t even been active for the past 6 months. Nevertheless, this seems to illustrate that Twitter monitors accounts pretty closely, probably as a way of protecting users from being spammed or scammed. This at least is respectable.
After browsing around Twitter for a bit I noticed the @verified/olympians. At first I was still a little suspicious of these accounts, but after I read some of the tweets and saw the U.S. Olympians cheering each other on, I realized that it really could be the real athletes behind these tweets. I saw one of Apolo Ohno’s tweets and thought that it could be encouraging and inspiring to his fans:
‘Gdmorning! Try this: replace every negative thought w/ a positive 1, approach today w/ a determined attitude & b happy about the challenge.about 13 hours ago from TweetDeck ‘
I guess if used correctly, good things can come out of services like Twitter. In addition to being psychologically beneficial for some – an outlet for people to vent their spur-of-the-moment feelings or share their ideas, Twitter could be a place where kids who are growing up learn positive attitudes and actions from others. However, Twitter has been abused as well. Today’s popular topics on Twitter include Click, Jaebum, Health Care Summit, Andrew Garcia, and Dubai Mall. At first I thought “Click” was referring to the Adam Sandler movie, but after checking out the tweets, I realized they were all pornography-related. I guess there isn’t a best of both worlds yet. As long as there are people who find positive uses for Twitter, there will always be someone who abuses its service.