[Course Week 9] Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz, a student, a computer programmer, a hacker and an Internet prodigy, took his life on January 6th, 2013 (Bazelon). The reason for Swartz’s suicide was no mystery to the public. Depression, accompanied by “blatant prosecutorial intimidation (Bazelon)” from public authorities, ignited Swartz’s fatal decision. However, why did public authorities blatantly intimidate Swartz? Swartz, a strong adherent of a democratized information institution, strategically attempted to “liberate” information from the grasps of the government.

Despite Swartz’s diligent attempts to liberate “private” information, on January 2011, authorities arrested Swartz and charged him with 4.8 million illegally downloaded articles from the academic database JSTOR (Bazelon). Subsequent to Swartz’s arrest, authorities charged Swartz with “13 counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which meant he faced millions of dollars in fines and up to 35 years in prison (Bazelon).” In response to the charges imposed to him, Swartz committed suicide.

Despite Swartz’s violations, prosecutors wielded an excess amount of power over Swartz. In response, “hackers” have developed methods, similar to those of Swartz, to combat the government’s daunting grasp and to achieve the liberation of “private” information. 

[Course Week 8] - The Digital Divide

According to Demistifying the Digital Divide by Mark Warschaeuer, the following is a demographical chart pertaining to the use of the internet…

55% = Caucasian, 31% = African American, 32% = Hispanics.

According to this description above, there is a huge gap between caucasians and african americans/hispanics (minorities). Why is this? In his article, Warschaeuer attempted to dissect the problem.

The “digital divide” issue, according to Warschaeuer, does not lie in the amount of technology dispersed throughout the world, but what matters is the type of technology is dispersed. Most technology that reaches rural, urban areas, is strange to most. Without proper instruction or directions, technology is useless to these areas. For example, a project in New Delhi involved the dispersement of kiosks with computers so that children can access them. However, these kiosks had no proper instructions for the children so they became useless. 

Instead of dispersing strange, unfamiliar technology to these areas, one should “consider the context into which that hardware would be.” By considering the context of the location, proper amendments may be made to the technology in order to best suit the context.

(New Delhi Kiosks) 

[Course Week 7] - Convergence

Convergence - the act of converging and especially moving toward union

What is a way in which both musicians and youth can be literate to support creation of a non homogenous world? 

Paul Miller, an American journalist and musician, vouches for convergence of different cultures in his article Music and Technology: A Roundtable Discussion. As a musician himself, Paul described the ability to bring two completely different worlds and cultures together. 

The invention of digital technology allows for a complete orchestra to be incorporated in an mp3 file. Let’s take a step back. The orchestra, an 18th century invention, has a culture attached, a culture completely different than that which is attached to digital technology. What does all of this mean? 

The ability for two different cultures to fuse together to create a hybrid sound displays the ability for there to be a heterogenous, hybrid culture. There is not need for a homogenous culture.

So to answer the question imposed above, music. Music is one form in where musicians and the youth can contribute to the creation of a heterogenous culture. 

image

(this picture represents the ability of a heterogenous culture to form -  many faces and cultures come together to form one)

[Course Week 6] -Mediation, Remixing, Identity, and New Economies

30 Days is an Americanized movie entailed to portray the “real” story behind Indian call centers. Although intriguingly interesting, this short documentary in itself fails to portray the “real” perspective of the call centers.

But first, what are call centers and why are they important? Call centers, most famous in India, are outsourced jobs once created in America but have since then been relocated to India due to a large companies’ ability to exploit its employees. Companies like TeleTech, StarTrek Inc., and StorageMart. 

However throughout the short film, the documentary and call center personnel referenced America and the American culture as one, homogenous, “culture.” Indian accent training, for example, attempted to teach call center ages the “American” accent through a series of linguistic exercises. Do call center employers not realize that the same America that they talk about is a huge melting pot comprised of hundreds of different cultures, ethnicities and languages? Are call centers, themselves, marginalizing and discriminating against those cultures and ethnicities that not fit the ideal “American” life? 

So is 30 Days, a film comprised to uncover the exploitation of Indian call centers, an injustice of its own since the film fails to recognize the multiple  ethnic and linguistic cultures that comprise America?

[Course Week 5] - Networks, Globalization, and Revolutions

The article titled, Indigenous, Ethnic, and Cultural Articulations of New Media, written by Ramesh Srinivasan, discusses Tribal PEACE, a web-based information system created with 19 Native American reservations of San Diego. The program’s main purpose is to provide Native American tribes ways to preserve their culture; essentially, this program virtualizes Native American culture. 

However, does the Tribal PEACE program preserve Native American culture or in fact, hinders the progression of the culture? 

Who is truly creating technology and for who is it being created for? According to Jaron Lanier, the world is comprised of a single”giant brain.” Similar to Lanier, Mark Poster discussed that “there is a world with on culture, one type of voice, one vision of reality.” Essentially, this giant brain is everything and anything that has been digitized. Perhaps, is the Tribal PEACE project digitizing Native American culture and inducting it to the “giant brain.” 

Taking a step back, are all information institutions and principles marginalizing; is there an imbalance of power within the technologic sphere? From observation, institutions, like libraries and call centers, revolve around an unspoken hierarchal system; in the end, the rich control the “giant brain.”  

[Course Week 4] - Literacy

Literacy, first defined as “the condition of being literate -ability to read and write,” has rapidly altered its definition over time. As a broad term unable to capture the significance of everything, different forms of literacy have been categorized in hope to deliver a more impactful, detailed significance of each form: library literacy, computer literacy, information literacy, technology literacy, etc.

However, the problem does not lie in how the terms are categorized but rather what each term covers and defines. In simple terms, the “literate” terms, including library literacy and computer literacy, are too broad and hierarchical. By using broad terms, the author ostracizes a specific group. For example, the definition of computer literacy reads, “competent in the use of computers.” To what extent is a person considered competent? Does the term “competent” have any social or cultural ties to it? As depicted by McGarry, “to be literate in the Honduras is not the same as to be literate in Hampstead, London.” Is the definition of computer literacy then ostracizing a specific geographical region? Perhaps, the Rubin article entitled, “From the Past to Present: The Library’s mission and Its Values,”depicts the same message: there are certain values, principles, and institutions, including libraries, established that create a hierarchal world in where the rich rule the poor.