Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I'd like to second Anna's vote: the Harvey was pretty thick. But I can see the relation here between the non-physical structures of economies/internetworks and physical structures of flesh/blood/bricks/mortar. Theoretically, the non-physical appears to be created by the physical under this definition, but there are arguably also effects going in the other direction.
Here's an unorganized rant of economic, theoretical, and digital divide questions:
How does the gambling on public projects and running a town like a business affect its citizens (Isn'’t there a principle of economics that says that unemployment is a desirable phenomenon)? If cities embrace the model of the capitalist machine, how are the needs of inhabitants really served? This can all be extended to a question of the divides created by our information economy (which I think both readings were trying to make): as the products of labor become less and less engaged from the physical world, what is the use of binding a job to a place? How does this relate to assembling HP printers in Silicon Valley?
-john t

Monday, March 29, 2004

Another week and three more questions...I think the semester is getting to me.

After I trudged through the language of David Harvey's article, I found his 1989-era comments to be relevant now. For instance, he states that the nature of inter-urban competition cause more uncertainty and rapid change in the urban landscape. If cities fail to be competitive, developers will go elsewhere. He expands on this later in pointing out that competition is so high that cities may only provide the illusion of hospitality as there is no time to develop the actual environment--image over substance. I find a parallel situation in websites and the modern media, in general. I find there is more emphasis placed on who is the fastest or who has the catchiest tune, than on who is telling the truth. What I wonder about is why this sells?! It drives me nuts, actually. There was an article titled "News Reports for Ultra-Short Attentions" about the "Fox Report" in the NY Times on Sunday about rapid fire delivery, if you're interested. Are people (North Americans?) this bored or overwhelmed or unhappy that the illusion satisfies them to the point where they won't seek out what is behind the image? Where has the substance gone or was it ever here?

I'm glad we watched the Silicon Valley film before reading Harvey's article because it helped me image an actual situation he theorizes about in his article. If urban entrepreneurialism increases the gap between incomes in an area and the statements about the potentially ephemeral nature of urban entrepreneurialism, then what happens when industries move and the gap is left? The wealthy can move. The poor may not be able to go. Is the rapid pace of urban entrepreneurialism contributing to a wider disparity of income groups with longer lasting impacts? If industries form a pattern of operating and leaving, which some seem to do now, how will this affect people in lower income groups? And will they have a voice?

The Web is a very amorphous space. Most people don't imagine what Google does when "Google Search" is clicked as long as the requested information shows up on the screen. Greg mentions in his article for this week that support specialists or the ubiquitous computer guys are de-emphasized in the web-based communications network even though they fill essential roles. Perhaps because the web is such a formless space, things and people associated with it appear just as formless. This may be an extension of the weak-links we discussed earlier in on-line interactions. When people hover in reality, we can ignore their low-status space in favor of our personal, high-status space. This creates skewed versions of power structures. How is this personally affecting the marginalized worker?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Bush wants high-speed Internet access for all by 2007
This will probably be old news by class time, but I thought that it might inform discussion before then. Have a good weekend,
-john t

Thursday, March 25, 2004

John BAKEN here (finally)
Question #1--The Turow book discusses the shift in the early 90's, from Baby Boomers as a targeted group for advertisers and media to Generation X'ers (around page 76). What breakdowns can be accomplished
within that Generation X group (as far as divide and conquer mentality)? In other words, how can that
Generation X group be "generalized" so as to further divide them? Know what I mean?

Question #2--What is an example of a media blitz aimed specifically at the Generation X'ers?

Question #3--If the Baby Boomers population is the aging one, with more "disposable cash" reserves on hand, why the worry re: marketing to Generation X'ers, who don't even want to be marketed to (and can't make decisions, etc.)?
Abhiyan here (again):

Manufacturers can themselves advertise online, with pop up ads, direct marketing, etc. They can even sell their own products and complete the business transaction without having to put their products in online shops or advertising. I was wondering how does this affect the retailer online?

Since people can directly go to manufacturer’s site and complete the transaction. Advertisements would not be as effective, as people can search for products online and can fine the manufacturer’s website. Has anyone looked into this side of online commerce, business models and efficiency of search engines versus advertisements?
Abhiyan here with weekly questions/comments

While I was reading the book, I was trying to tie its subject matter in some ways to the ‘digital divide’ problems and issues we have been discussing.

The book deals with audience research and how audience research is advocated, conducted, what drives it and what are the implications of such audience research?

Audience research is driven primarily by competition and commerce. And it is a well-known fact that they want to make huge profits, hence sell as much as possible, obviously some people will not be addressed, as ‘they’ according to advertisers do not have the capital to purchase. How do we address the social and moral meanings of this practice??

It is not surprising that there is a social construction of reality by the media, be it advertisements, movies, or television. But the million-dollar question is how much of this portrayed reality coincides or matches or reflects the ‘reality’ in our social lives?

If it doesn’t, then we have to critically scrutinize the past 75 years of social science research and reevaluate the media effects paradigm.

Advertiser's (devil) Advocate Question:
On the other hand, we all like personalized services, messages and products tailored according to our interests so that we can identify with them and conform our individuality in the society. Is this wrong??

1. Granted, ad agencies home in on differences and attempt to extend them, and it is (wouldn’t we agree?) a more-or-less repugnant practice, but how much are the agencies’ practices the root problem vs. a symptom of larger issue(s)? Marketers are adapting to demands by manufacturers (who perhaps are more fundamental to the decision-making process?) and the fragmentation of audio-visual media. Marketers, like most enormous industries, don’t like it when the ground moves beneath them, and they are adapting because they’ll go out of business otherwise. Can we imagine all advertisers resisting the demands of their customers? Given unregulated markets and free speech, what would it take for fragmentation not to occur?

2. Is it fair to say this book describes a breakdown (‘breakdown’ is a synonym for ‘break up’ -- strange) of the American mainstream? That seems weird to me because, on the one hand, like many I love to criticize and complain about the mainstream media. Then I read this book telling me the mainstream’s breaking up, and now I am worrying about it.

3. How much have market forces shaped the web pages you visit? How do web sites make money, especially when it doesn’t involve credit cards? What advertising has been most effective on the web? Is real online marketing not pop-ups and banners but getting us into these large corporate web sites in which whatever we may read is a covert ad? I seem to recall that a major factor in the bursting of the dot-com bubble was that companies were having trouble making money on advertisements.
Like Anna, I was also curious how much advertising and the images/roles/ideas it enforces can create a self-fulfilling prophecy or just a general narrowing of our perceptions. How readily do we accept what we are proffered? How conscious are we of the effect of advertising in forming our tastes, opinions, etc.? Is it really that easy to filter out or how much do we passively pick up? I know when I go to check my hotmail account, I try and dismiss the flashing advertisements around my email, but I usually passively read or glance out of plain curiosity/boredom. It can be anything from a weight lose scheme to a credit card ad. Yet, magazines at a store are expected to sell within 3 seconds. It is disturbing to think “that a cover must make the most of a very short instance of opportunity by telegraphing the right prejudices to the right targets” (page 95).

In chapter 4, was the recognition of Hispanic-Americans, African Americans, and homosexuals as lucrative and targetable segments of the population in advertising indicative of a larger recognition of our society’s diversity and the importance of each of these groups within the whole? Why were they suddenly worthy of a voice in the media? Were they just another branch of the market that advertisers sought to exploit and fragment? Was this an act of inclusion or an exclusionary move? Is this just surrounding individuals with “mirrors of themselves, their values, and their activities” (page 126)? Is it just as limiting as not be included or targeted by the media?

In the 80s and 90s, there was a perceived need to signal and develop a relationship with a definable portion of the viewers. What is the affect of “trying to alienate the wrong people while attracting the right ones” (page 102)? Why do programmers use derision to cement the brand or show’s identity with viewers and advertisers? Was this controversial- should it be? How did this continue over into the Internet and with the use of new information technologies?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

  1. For the majority of the book, I was wondering about the roll of the underprivileged in Turow’s analysis. Thankfully, he addressed the issue in the very end. But still, there is the question of how this (larger?) half of society fit into the divisions created by the advertising industry. After all, they spend money too. I am left curious about the strategies aimed towards this segment (WalMart and KoolAid ads spring to mind).
  2. Turrow’s work also holds questions for the “objective” model of journalism, which has some of its basis in mass appeal. Rather than loose a group of readers/viewers, the theory goes, it is better to offer a story that is free of observable bias. Certainly some new “fair and balanced” news organizations are beginning to challenge this model, but the issue remains for discussion of what the implications of moving away from it might be.
  3. A few weeks ago, I referred to by Cass Sunstein. He makes a similar argument, but extends it to claim that fragmentation can have an ill effect of creating a number of polarized groups who do not really communicate with each other. This appears to be a central issue here--communication. Turrow’s work makes claims about the fragmentation, but then seems to jump to the conclusion that it naturally will lead to a breakdown of social cohesion. If we are making the claim that the separations created by advertising are having these effects, shouldn’t we also look at how interaction between segments is beginning to take place? What is the effect of these interactions on social divisions?
-john t

Monday, March 22, 2004

LIS 810: Week 10 questions: Breaking up America – Market / audience segmentation and targeting
By Seunghyun Lee

1. The author, Turow argues that “marketers look for splits in the social fabric and then reinforce and extend the splits for their own ends” (p.7). Also, he points out that sharing ideas and feeling is more and more difficult to find.
How will the new wave of television technologies change and influence to American life? How is the new media system’s structure different from traditional media system’s structure?

2. Peper and Rogers predict that “interactive media will inevitably lead people to belong to “image tribes”– primary media communities by people who share lifestyle” (p.10). However, Turow argues that “primary media communities—image tribes—will guide consumers’ sense of social separation” (p.199).
What kind of role can interactive TV and the Internet play about the question of what the world is like and how the world ought to be? What are social tendencies to these new technologies?

3. Turow emphasizes on “advertising’s participation in the creation of mass society, a cultural environment that debased traditional values and denigrated the kind of high culture that undergirds great civilization”(p.27).
What is the advertising’s role in current America life? How does it contribute to changing America life? Did advertising images bring about capitalist realism? How does advertising influence on audience segmentation and targeting in the 21st century? How are media images created?

4. In modern society, many people are living in the environment such as “the wide diversity of media channels, the fascination of the Internet, the excitement of interactivity through cable system, cell phone systems, and satellites”(p.195). However, critics argue that these new technologies make people being isolated and unconnected. According to Turow’s quote on page 195, Rice University sociologist Stephen Kleinberg said that “the problem with enclaving is that it leads to the deterioration of any sense of connectiveness to the larger community.”
But don’t you think that neighborhoods, family, friends, communities, or even strangers are rather connected through these new technologies?

5. Turow argues that “the media of the future will be far more fragmented, with hundreds of market-driven options targeted and tailored to calibrated types” and “it could also reinforce suspicion, lack of empathy, and alienation between people of different backgrounds, income classes, and lifestyles” (p.199). In addition, he points out that the absence of strong collective media threats democracy.
However, in the past mass-market world, did mass-market media really come true democracy? And, wasn’t there any digital divide in the mass-market world? Should hyper-segmentation of America return to the mass-market world because of a threat to democracy? What would be desirable ways for hyper-segmentation of America?

6. Turow also argues that “key political and social issues may not be thrashed out” (p.199) because of the absence of strong collective media. Don’t you think that the new media technology such as the Internet actually makes an environment that more people can participate in, discuss and debate about political and social issues than before?
This might be a duplicate post. If so, sorry! Anyway, Hi. It's Anna writing about "Breaking Up America." I was really drawn in by this book. Although I felt like Turow was a little repetitive, the media/marketing relationship he describes is fascinating and something I hadn't given much thought to previously.
And now, the questions....
1. Turow again and again states that marketers are going to target Caucasians with disposable income; therefore, these are the people portrayed in mass marketing-type advertisements. On the flip-side, minorities and people living in poverty are not found in commercial advertisements. I wonder how much this contributes to the digital divide. Do technology adopters and people on-line tend to use these types of media because they are told to through advertisements? And are people whose lives are entirely off-line living this way because they don't see themselves in any part of an on-line community? If this is partially true, it demonstrates the power and subliminality of images. How else are we divided so blatantly?

2. On page 192, Turow remarks that advertisers never want to make their target audience feel uncomfortable and that part of this is avoiding images of people/lifestyles outside of their worlds. This brings me back to the danger I find in the selectivity of on-line communities and interactions. Both media narrow our interactions to the point that we are not challenged by diversity (of people, opinions, hairstyles, you name it) and lose or never gain the skills needed to acknowledge the unfamiliar. Then what happens when situations arise where confronting diversity is unavoidable? One of my favorite quotes is "The good is in plurality" from Paul Shepard. Isn't our society losing the possibilities for plurality to exist? Will this lead to more animosity?

3. Currently, multiculturalism is viewed as a virtue. Go into many elementary schools and you will likely see some sort of celebration of global cultures. I was at the elementary school where my mother teachers art last week and there was a hallway display about Hispanic culture and the Spanish language made by students. This is in Green Bay, the same town where the local paper's editorial section encourages sending Mexicans back to Mexico and gushes over Mel Gibson's "Passion.". It is not a multicultural haven, but perhaps the community it raising children with a more multicultural perspective. Will this impact marketing as some form of backlash against homogeneity? Or is marketing getting into children's brains so early that they won't go beyond the boundaries of their safe world?

Spring Break has come and gone, and another school week has begun. Sad, I know... :-) In any case, here are my three questions for all curious minds:

Question 1: Turow states in the very first chapter of the book (p. 8) that "the media... are the quintessential vehicles for portraying the life of society to society." Although this is true and obvious, having it stated is very scary. This is because we do not see "society" from the media, but rather someone's perspective and perception of society. That someone is controlled by a large corporation that wishes the media to project their own ideals through the media. This leaves us at the mercy of a handful of money-hungry CEOs. Has our situation started to change with the rise of the Internet? With organizations such as, do our larger media sources, such as CNN, have to make more flexible decisions in what is acceptable? Do we have any examples of this?

Question 2: An interesting pattern is mentioned in the book about how we moved from being immigrants individualized by our foreign cultures, to being a homogenous society thirty years later with the development of the two World Wars tying us closer together. Then, come Vietnam and the 1960s, we begin to separate again, even moreso than originally. Can this be leading the types of technology that is made, and is technology, in turn, making our separation worse? In more detail: the radio was all encompassing to anyone close enough to hear the radio waves; the television, although carrying that original audio feature, forced the participants to a certain location to also see the images; the computer, although possessing the previous traits, allows interaction to only one individual at a time (but allows for one or two onlookers). Will technology continue to individualize us, breaking us more and more apart? (Example - a pair of sunglasses with visual projector on the lens and earpiece for sound that definitely excludes any possible participants beyond one individual.)

Question 3: Chapter Six has a discussion about direct relations and continuing use with consumers. One problem quoted by Wunderman was that this was difficult because the customer name and phone number wasn't accessible. With the boom in e-Shopping, I believe this issue has been met. Not only do companies online get shipping information for your order and billing, they get a "free" mailing address (e-mail) to continue pestering customers with sales and advertisements (e-mail needed for receipt and confirmation). If this is the case, the problem should be solved, but why is it taking companies so long to jump on the Internet bandwagon? And also, what about large "department" stores online such as - can they easily create that personalized/customized atmosphere mentioned?
Hi. It's Anna writing about "Breaking Up America." I was really drawn in by this book. Although I felt like Turow was a little repetitive, the media/marketing relationship he describes is fascinating and something I hadn't given much thought to previously.
And now, the questions....
1. Turow again and again states that marketers are going to target Caucasians with disposable income; therefore, these are the people portrayed in mass marketing-type advertisements. On the flip-side, minorities and people living in poverty are not found in commercial advertisements. I wonder how much this contributes to the digital divide. Do technology adopters and people on-line tend to use these types of media because they are told to through advertisements? And are people whose lives are entirely off-line living this way because they don't see themselves in any part of an on-line community? If this is partially true, it demonstrates the power and subliminality of images. How else are we divided so blatantly?

2. On page 192, Turow remarks that advertisers never want to make their target audience feel uncomfortable and that part of this is avoiding images of people/lifestyles outside of their worlds. This brings me back to the danger I find in the selectivity of on-line communities and interactions. Both media narrow our interactions to the point that we are not challenged by diversity (of people, opinions, hairstyles, you name it) and lose or never gain the skills needed to acknowledge the unfamiliar. Then what happens when situations arise where confronting diversity is unavoidable? One of my favorite quotes is "The good is in plurality" from Paul Shepard. Isn't our society losing the possibilities for plurality to exist? Will this lead to more animosity?

3. Currently, multiculturalism is viewed as a virtue. Go into many elementary schools and you will likely see some sort of celebration of global cultures. I was at the elementary school where my mother teachers art last week and there was a hallway display about Hispanic culture and the Spanish language made by students. This is in Green Bay, the same town where the local paper's editorial section encourages sending Mexicans back to Mexico and gushes over Mel Gibson's "Passion.". It is not a multicultural haven, but perhaps the community it raising children with a more multicultural perspective. Will this impact marketing as some form of backlash against homogeneity? Or is marketing getting into children's brains so early that they won't go beyond the boundaries of their safe world?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Week 8: Digital activism questions By Seunghyun Lee

1. In the article “Cyber subversion in the Information Economy,” Jackie Smith emphasizes on the importance of the new information technologies (ITs) to the protest activists for the social movement challenge. She argues that ITs can be the powerful toolkits for political action and organization and that “ITs have created new avenues through which global activists can pursue two strategies of disruption and transparency”(p.48). However, Jackie points out that elites seek and expand to control the commercial potential of these technologies.
1) To what extent are information technologies (ITs) effective as a tool of political subversion? Or to what extent is the use of ITs effective or powerful to mobilize large demonstration? How are ITs expected to affect on the next American President election?
2) Do ITs increase or reinforce the democratic participation and involvement for the general public? Or do ITs increase bureaucratic power? Do ITs improve transparency and democratic decision making?
3) How do you think about that the Internet produces a culture of “lasses-faire organizing” as Naomi Klein sees in this article? 4) How do you think about the electronic guerrilla warfare or the creation of fake Web sites by protest activist to disrupt?
5) How can we reduce the digital divide between the global North and South as the use of electronic communications grows?
6) Does cyber subversion lead to equalize to the world’s poorest and third world activism?
7) Can ITs play an important role as a tool to form an international civil society?
8) Internet-based activism marginalizes the poorest of the world. vs. It privileges activists with greater access.

2. In the article “Cyberspace vs. Face to face: Community Organizing in the New Millennium,” the author, Stoecker argues about rebuilding face to face communities as the civic participation perspective and rebuilding civic community as community organizing perspective. However, don’t you think digital divide still exists in face to face communities by the limitations of speed, time, location, and scale? His concern is with community power. Does civic community really contribute to the distribution of power?

3. Stoecker argues that people can have direct discussions about policy questions and participate in public policy construction through the Internet as e-democracy. However, even though the Internet provides users with more opportunities to participate in public policy construction, who mostly participates in it? What about those who are not interested in it? Can the Internet really lead to actualize e-democracy? Can the Internet reduce digital divide as a tool of e-democracy?

4. What kind of role does cyberspace play for relationship between families, friends, or strangers?
Strong ties, weak ties, or no ties?

5. In the “Bridging Urban Digital Divides?” Graham argues two dominant trends – process of urbanization and rapid, but uneven application of digital information and communications technologies (ICTs). However, the dominant trends in the reality are to support process and practices of intensifying urban polarization. In addition, Graham highlights that ICTs tend to be culturally and economically biased. He points out that US culture in particular is dominated through the growth of electronic connections.
Do you think that dominant applications of ICTs are heavily biased in a cultural sense as Graham points out? It might be because of the language—English and high rate of American Internet users, but what are other evidence for bias? Do you think that the Internet media are biased as the same as TV media are biased?
1.) I liked how Smith’s “Cyber subversion” article pointed out that “information technologies are equally effective as tools of political subversion.” In my cyberlaw class, we recently talked about how control can be hidden in the architecture and technology. The effects and origins of state or market sponsored control can be concealed behind technological solutions. This was an idea I wanted to discuss last week, but I didn’t get a chance, so I thought I would mention it here. The example I wanted to mention was the court case of Universal Studios v. Corley. Corley developed a decryption computer program that circumvented CSS encryption technology that motion picture studios place on DVDs to prevent unauthorized viewing or taping. Corley stated on his website how it was possible to circumvent this technology, and later he was taken into court. Was Corley exercising his first amendment rights? Could his speech be protected? Does code become an act? The case also shows a different conception of activism online where an act of divulging information becomes a form of electronic civil disobedience. Are there other examples of electronic civil disobedience? Is it part of a trend?
2.) What is your reaction of the quote by Philip Berano on page three of the Stoecker article: “Only the naïve or the scurrilous believe the third wave claim that ‘information is power.’ Power is power, and information is particularly useful to those who are already powerful.” Is information power? Does online activism prove this?
3.) The digitization of information changes the function of distribution. How does it change expression and functionality? What about content? Is there an impartiality or neutrality? For instance, last week, I heard on the nightly news how both Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart were turning to the Internet to tell their side of the story. I found it ironic that two celebrities were using the Internet as a “neutral media.” Is the Internet a neutral media? Was this true in the Corley case?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

  1. In exploring the physical divides in urban life and how the connect to the digital divide, Graham shows how both monetary and infrastructure problems widen the gap. In the end he suggests that the problem might be solved by innovative regulatory and tax structures, but to me this seems to defeat many of the decentralized advantages to the operation of the network. I would like to discuss some (even more innovative?) alternatives like technological and open-source kinds of solutions. What do we have already at our disposal that can combat these physical underpinnings of the digital divide (activism?)?

  2. Graham also addresses a potential power for “Asserting local control over content,” which also seems problematic to me. To what degree would this kind of local control create/maintain cultural divides? Are there free speech issues that might arise?

  3. I am wondering to what degree the criticism of online organizing (which is taken to the step of offline meetings and protests) misses the idea that many of the networks were preexisting. While MoveOn was able to increase the scale of the anti-war protests, I wonder if this is just not a linking of a variety of local networks. If the groups are reflective of something that already existed, then is it really a problem?

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

1: How convincing is Graham with his claim that ICTs extend inequalities in the world? Is it possible that, rather than extending inequalities, the uneven diffusion of these technologies reflects  pre-existing inequalities? He discusses gated communities and urban segregation, but those phenomena predate the Internet by decades, and I have a hard time imagining that what he's referring to is a big proportion of those already-established trends.

2: On page 53 Graham says, "It is also clear that the essentially egalitarian nature of the early Internet is increasingly being replaced by 'smart' corporately controlled systems which sift users precisely according to their profitability and allocate them different functionalities accordingly." My question is, Is that actually clear? I have been reading about that phenomenon since a couple years before Graham wrote this article, yet I don't see much discernible change in the character of the Internet. The only things I know of are a differential in upload vs. download speeds, and some barriers to hosting a site from your home. But that was already the case four years ago. Would Graham today still see reasons to use the word "increasingly" like that?

3: I DID read all three articles, but the Graham one grabbed me so all three Qs stem from that... Again on page 53, what are they smoking over at that UK think-tank called Demos that they find themselves claiming "in contemporary network-based societies [...] 'the poverty of connections' is now as important as traditional poverty which comes from the lack of housing, food, water, work and essential services." I am homeless and struggle to secure food and water, yet I'm supposed to be as concerned about not having email as I am about being homeless, hungry and thirsty?

4: Okay, a bonus question not about Graham... In the first paragraph of the Smith article, it seems too pat to just say "both sides kinda sorta gain from these tools." Does anyone have a hunch about whether ICTs will be more advantageous to elites or grassroots? Don't elites already have access to loads of information? If we go back twenty years, weren't 98% of people left in the dark about things that didn't make it onto network TV news, their local paper, the few dozen most successful books of the year?
Anna writing with the weekly three.
1. I appreciate Stoecker's discussion of weak ties and strong ties and how those relationships factor into how information is spread. He puts more of the burden of consequence on the user than on the web as a medium for information. When discussing web-type issues, I often get caught referring to the web as if it is its own, human-free entity which it is, of course, not. I'm glad to be reminded of this and Stoecker's article presents an account of how people are exploiting the power of the web not how the web is exploiting people.

2. Still on Stoecker...he mentions how difficult it is to know if websites or emailed information are reliable. There are some loose parameters, but they are not always accurate. This is a concern for librarians because, as so-called "information gatekeepers," we would like to know the validity of our information. Stoecker vaguely alludes to this, but how would a regulatory website entity operate? By the government (scary!)? How would regulation avoid censorship? There is plenty of printed information that is not true, but, as far as I know, it is not regulated. Why are people so hesitant to believe their screens?

3. I know the WTO is full of greedy cowards, but I was surprised to read that their website is completely devoid of Seattle 1999 information in Smith's article. This magnifies what people in power can readily accomplish. Yet, with the web, people without power can do exactly the same thing. Smith's point is that the equalization of resources will shape politics in the future. Will equalization transfer from activism politics to other types of political activity (campaigning, petitioning)? To a certain extent, it already has. When it does, will there be the same real-physical political activity to match it? Or will people need to follow the web and the more physical world just to get a complete picture?

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Bonjour mes collègues de camarade:

*First, I would like to point out how horrible the Internet can be... I misspelled the address to our class blog and was sent to a pornography website... one letter was all it took. I wish we could pass a law that would ban pornography sites having imagery and verbage available on the front page without a warning of some sort. What if I was eleven trying to get to my class blog? Completely disgusting. Anyhow, here are my three questions (and this pornography problem I think should also be a question at some point, dealing with content possibly):

*Question 1: I find articles that give the Internet credit for movements fascinating because of the overall dynamics the word "Internet" actually encompasses in that meaning. For instance, I would find it most difficult to find any website with a similar interest or topic as me unless I could search for it. I could guess several addresses (URLs), but without the search engine, finding people who have the same beliefs and interests as me resorts to old methods of oral or written communications via face to face interaction. I am not saying this is bad, but the Internet as we think of it now is very much different than when it was first conceived, and actually, it is only about a decade old with Google going on it's fifth year. Is it possible to create these online communities without such a search interface as Google, Yahoo, Alta Vista, etc? I think that is the true phenomenon of online communities, in that you are able to find them in the first place. Any thoughts on this?

*Question 2: I do not know about anyone else, but in today's world, I do not like to trust a company that does not have its own website. And on top of having a website, that website must also be exemplary in professional design and layout. I think of it almost as if a 24 hour (almost) 7 days a week business card, and the more professional that business card looks, the more I can trust the company behind it. But just because it has an online "business card" doesn't mean I'm going to use it. I think this is the similar problem with online activism, or "McActivism." Having the online presence is necessary, but that isn't all that has to be. It is only the flyer to get people interested. Groups that want results will have to use both mediums to get their message across. Does this seem to hold true? Does anyone have any comments or experiences with activism in the past year or two that seemed to point to this? (Sorry, I know I mentioned this last week, but I still think it is relevant to this week.)

*Question 3: This may seem a bit over-arching and rhetorical, but is there a way to slow down the feel for technology needs and try to refocus our funds back to necessities? As far as I am concerned, the Internet is more of a research tool (to a degree) or for economics (job-related), so our other information mediums (newspaper, television, etc) are, for practical purposes, just as useful. Graham talks about countries trying to technologically enhance their society when they still struggle with access to pay phones, sewerage, and even electricity. Although the US isn't as bad as other countries, we are moving funds from other (I think necessary) programs for technologies that we aren't even trained to use. An example is the loss of arts programs in schools. The arts are important, but technology that faculty are on average unaware how to use and incorporate get the funds. How can we slow this process, and get those funds back to where they should be?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Abhiyan with weekly questions/comments:

1. I think gatekeeping plays an important role in fostering or impeding digital divides on the Internet, not in terms of access, but in terms of information or content that goes online. People access the web primarily for information. Institutions, organizations and offices have different policies and control on what, how much, and when to put content online. This control over content could be very detrimental, especially when people are looking for information which is time sensitive, which is public, which is for larger common good, etc. Hence, gatekeeping should be conceptualized and explicated moving away from its traditional definition to cover issues of digital divides on the Internet.

2. This issue of gatekeeping further leads to the ethos, credibility, accuracy and authenticity of content provided online. According to me, available information drives or rather empowers collective action on the web. Even if people have access to Internet but the information they need is not available easily, the access makes no sense. Research should carefully look what drives the content online, how much is commercially/socially driven, how much is institutionalized, and copyrighted?

This issue is also related to cultures and societies where English is not ‘the’ language. So how could people from different cultures and societies utilize such information for generating collective action or simply to empower themselves with information to bargain? Content, form of content, and other characteristics of content would then drive or impede certain grass root mobilization. Is there anything called as democratization of content?

3. When researches/people mention decentralization, in what context do they use it? Do they mean decentralization of content, or decentralization of access, or decentralization of content creation? As each of these would have different repercussions and impact on the ecology on the Internet and interaction of humans with Internet, manifesting unprecedented outcomes. I think we should have a discussion in class that would conceptually explicate decentralization, and perhaps lists down some of its dimensions on the web. As ‘decentralization’ is one of the primary modes/ways to combat digital divides.


Week 7 : Questions By Seunghyun Lee
1. As it is mentioned in the article of Gurak, cyberspace is becoming a political and social sphere. Social and political action on the Internet is becoming a strong power to debate some social issues and to protest across time and space. In other words, the Internet-based protest plays an important role. Cyberspace provides the opportunity and space for many more people to communicate and participate regardless of the limitation of time and space. And it allows people to correspond with each other regardless of social position or rank, race, and age. It also shows “the exclusionary power of strong community ethos by rapid delivery”(p.245). However, we have to think about digital divide here.
Who mostly dominate the debate or communication in cyberspace and who are mostly excluded from the communication and social and political action on the Internet?

2. How does social and political action on the Internet differ from traditional face-to-face methods of establishing presence and delivering a message?

3. Privacy and free speech in cyberspace should be protected, but if uninhibited behaviors such as the spread of inaccurate information, a kind of insularity, slander, etc. penetrate and affect users in cyberspace, how can we cope with those situations?

4. As the use of cyberspace as a political arena is increasing, how can we define the notion of “cyberdemocracy” or “electronic democracy”? How can we reduce the digital divide between those who have access to the Internet and information and those who have not it to actualize electronic democracy?

5. Uncapher in the case of Big Sky Telegraph argues that the model of Big Sky Telegraph seeks to bring the whole community together, and it has become a repository of skills and examples about how to establish communities in cyberspace. In addition to Frank Odasz’s conclusion of a successful community network, Slater also shows the success of establishing listserv for grassroots organizing groups and communicating with low-income individuals. From the research, Slater suggests that the Internet plays a key part of its communication strategy. This new technology provides changes in rural business and cultures, and it connects people or communities in rural areas.
However, how will these changes affect on real and virtual communities, their everyday lives, and their cultures in rural areas?

6. As the case of Jervay raises in chapter 12, although online communication appears as a useful tool to challenge, how will the potential capacity and limitations of the Internet function as a tool for the collective action of small groups against institutional power?
Ben here with three weekly questions...

1: Seems like a good idea to analyze what specifically about the Internet is conducive to political action. There are scattered references in the readings to the breakdown of the traditional elite “gatekeeping” function (in the last essay resulting in the partial undermining of the Willmington Housing Authority), leading to a breakdown in the disparity of who knows what; and there is the reduction of barriers of communication between people; but is that the whole story? What else is there?

2: In the Big Sky Telegraph essay I was fascinated by the observation that, while we might assume these school networking developments are all for the good, it could actually be the case that “Big Sky Telegraph represent[s] the first step of local becoming techno-peasants hoeing the digital fields of the transnational corporations” – Until that point I would have guessed the author was eager to conclude that networked computers will remedy some status quo disparities, but then (like a good storyteller) he comes back with that. Well, what do we think? Will disparities be remedied? Will they actually get worse? Will nothing change?

3: How many stories could Slater point to that exemplify the successes of low-income grassroots organizations empowered by new technologies? Could we be led into complacency by isolated successes like Jervay, or is this phenomenon multiplying as the technologies get cheaper and spread?

Question 1) From the Communities in Cyberspace book (Part V, Ch. 10: The Promise and the Peril of Social Action in Cyberspace):
The Lotus Development Corportation seemed pretty naive just innocently marketing their MarketPlace software program (which provided sensitive consumer information, including name, address, and spending habit information of 120 million American users). Do you think that they were under the assumption that "word wouldn't get out," or that they didn't anticipate such a "hue and cry" over the whole thing, especially through electronic medium (30,000 respondents cried "NO" and stopped it)??
2) From later in the same article: The word ethos is used in two ways. What are the two variations on the word and why the distinction?
3) From the Dirk Slater article "Low-Income Grassroots Organizations Work to Close the Digital Divide" comes the notion that it's easiest to teach computer/Internet skills while participating in some "real business with real consequences" (not a direct quote from the article;quotes are for my emphasis). How did this marginalized group of low-income people utilize the internet and were their efforts effective? Explain.

That's all. See you tomorrow. Oh, come talk about the James Welch diversity book with Dr. Louise Robbins and me tomorrow between 11:30~12:30 in SLIS Library, near soft chairs/lakeview windows. WINTER IN THE BLOOD is the book. We do the same thing on Friday too, same time/place.
  1. The Slater article seems to pose a very important question about access to technology for disadvantaged people in the context of political action. What he did not address is the other side of this question: if politics and social action becomes increasingly online based, are we only going to be left with affluent, technologically capable people handing a good deal of organizing?
  2. We’ve seen examples of pretty shallow online political discourse (like the Clipper votes in Gurak) and also some meaningful online organization like in Jervay. I am curious which direction online activities have gone since this book was written, and more importantly, if any social/political/technological forces have encouraged online discourse to take that form. I am sure there is still a continuum, but maybe I’m looking for more current examples besides MoveOn and the Dean campaign.
  3. When reading about all of these poor groups who barely have access to computers, I am left wondering where all of the “outdated” computers are going. With the constantly increasing demands of both software and website bandwidth it is almost as though those machines are being forced into obsolescence. Are phenomena like the increasing hardware demands of Windows a part of the drive of the capitalist machine? It does not make much sense to me that anyone should be without a computer anymore with all of the recycling of computers. I have heard about simputers, but despite the fact that we have cheap-but-old technology the idea has not taken off. I guess I’m curious about the effect of market pressures on the digital divide (sorry for the somewhat non-justice rant).
-john t

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Here is my second comment/question:
I agree with Gurak that online communication can “encourage the spread of inaccurate information” (244). Ease and speed of forwarding information can also quickly unite a community around a cause/issue and create an “insider status” that does not readably permit dissenting voices (255). This insularity may also create fixed community groups and replicate boundaries the Internet is purposed to help alleviate. Should the reader/receiver be more informed and critical of postings, email, web pages, etc.? To what extent should the reader/receiver be informed or aware? Online things are not always what they seem whether that is someone’s identity in a chat room or a fraudulent website. I think it is naïve not to be a little wary or cynical because the line between truth and fiction is not as clear-cut. Earlier tonight, I was perusing articles in the ERIC database and I came across one that discussed how the concept of ‘information literacy’ is inaccurate and not compatible because the Internet requires new skills in the user given the vast information resources available and the various media formats encountered. The article went on to discuss how the role and conception of the library/librarian and learner/user had to change. It got more complex than is relevant to discuss here, but it did point out how print culture was in some sense a fixed voice of authority- a truth. Furthermore, online things are not as black and white because “linear and hierarchical approaches to thinking and learning are inadequate for the webbed cyberspace information.” “The plasticity, instability, and intertexuality of hypertext documents have eroded sacrosanct orthodoxy of authorship and authorial authority.” Users and librarians alike spend “time not so much searching but interpreting, filtering, and value–adding by creating relationships among ideas across a range of media.” “Knowledge is located not so much within the text… but in the construction of situated meanings.” Do you agree that it requires a new literacy or conception/awareness of the medium in which information is communicated? To what extent are people aware of this complexity?
(from “Information Literacy: A Positivist Epistemology and a Politics of Outformation” by Cushla Kapitzke in Educational Theory.)

And lastly:
Do you think that the “current internet structure flattens hierarchies, allowing people to correspond with each other regardless of corporate position and rank” (259)? To what extent is this true/false? Or do you agree with this statement in chapter 11: “a striking feature of a virtual sociology is how these new communication technologies can alter the organization of power so that it eludes or augments traditional hierarchical constraints in unexpected ways” (273). Are online communities creating a more dynamic, complex social system? To what extent does it mirror real society? Does the Internet offer the potential for expressions from the common people? How do issues of access become even more important?
Anna writing with questions from this week's readings...

Both the Slater and Mele articles emphasize how on-line interaction can benefit people in low-income communities by giving them access to information and, in turn, legitimacy to other groups. Their stories affirm the importance of equalizing information resources between the wealthy and the poor. My concern is this: in both articles, the low-income users were in mediated environments (the library or community center had to be open and staffed) while they were using computers and they were encouraged to use the computers for strictly practical purposes. True, the outcome was positive. Yet, compared to the average wealthy computer user who has the luxury of using a computer in privacy for whatever means he/she desire, there is still some injustice there. How much does the environment in which the technology is used contribute to equality?

The dichotomy of inclusive/exclusive online relationships brought about in the discussion of the Big Sky Telegraph lead me to consider how bold people are for contributing to open online discussions, such as blogs. Users add their thoughts to the list for any other user, in what is probably a large pool, to read and respond to. This seems a little intimidating and was for the Montana participants. This is probably why it is possible to control who contributes to and reads blogs. It is hard to keep in mind that cyberspace is both public and private and that it is the user who controls it. This really complicates making conclusions about on-line interaction. Is is positive to limit users so that the current users are satisfied? or is it some form of exclusion? I mean we can't all be friends all the time, but are we somehow obligated to try? Is that an ideal we all hold? I argue that labeling the web as a place we can all interact equally is evidence that we do hold this as an ideal.

In the Gurak article, she mentions a danger of online advocacy found in the speed of the medium. If people receive a sort of political chain letter to flood legislator's in-boxes with, it can be done quickly and without much thought. I'm sure political officials in all capacities receive plenty of these types of messages. How are quality and legitimacy kept in check? Gurak's example of the Lotus complaint contained errors. I've forwarded messages on that I haven't read in depth, assuming they're fine, just because it is easy. Is this ability contributing to a less-informed; less-aware public, quick to draw conclusions and unwilling to investigate matters for themselves?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I hadn't realized how my being so far behind would affect my participation in the dialogue, so I too will try to bridge some issues w/ this week's readings.

In response to Emily, I think that blogging may hold some potential for social/political action, but I am wary of calling this a true community building effort. It seems to me that your example (or even indymedia) lower some of the editorial barriers of entry to the mass news media. However, I think that efforts such as these are quite different from the other types of political blogging that I have seen. As I said in my previous post, I believe that much of the posting of this sort serves only psychological benefits and rarely filters up to the realm of action. Even when online activities do result in some form of action (like petitions sponsored by moveon), the social investment of simply filling in one's name is quite low. I was pleased to see that Gurak addressed this issue specifically (254). Perhaps I just have not yet seen evidence of how these weak online ties are moving up towards IRL action.

This all strikes quite close to the conversations about censorship/control. We have talked about the "god" type of censoring where one can control another's ability to speak. However, it might be argued that we already do this to some degree already in our daily lives. Giving someone the "cold shoulder" or ignoring someone's posts are similar in many ways. These internal forms of censorship can form both analog and digital divides, and yet they do not get addressed as a real kind of problem. I guess the remaining question is whether or not this type of control of communication has any greater implications for creating online communities with the potential for social action. I might be overstepping, but I would argue that both hinder communication/debate which can't be a good thing for building any kind of necessary social ties.

New questions soon...
-john t

Monday, March 01, 2004

I wanted to make one final comment before I post my questions for the new topic because it overlaps and provides a transition. In anticipation of this week’s class, I have been thinking about digital justice and blogs (especially since it will be my turn on Thursday- ack!). As forms of online communication, blogs can be structured in various manners where one person carries the conversation and others comment, or it can be an open discussion between individuals, like our class. It can also be an example of technology giving voice to people in remote areas or an area outside the scope of ‘traditional’ media coverage. One of the most interesting examples I can think of is Salem Pax, whose blog gives a real human voice to the invasion/resistance in Iraq ( Here the informal, conversational tone is extremely effective in bringing to life the reality of Iraqi society- more so then the standard news coverage. It is so human and Iraq no longer seems so far away. While some blogs can be thought of as weak links between communities and the sharing of information among friends, blogs can also help generate greater interest by linking to other blogs/topics on the Internet. A comment/topic can resonate and continue on to the next level into the public sphere. This definitely occurred with Salem Pax, who was covered in CNN news and has discussed issues with American soldiers in Iraq. Blogs can become a much more public medium in scope where the media and public at large become aware. Weak ties can be extremely valuable and effective online.

My first question: Do you think this example was an exception to the rule or are blogs an effective way for those who are overlooked to speak and raise their concerns, point of view, etc.? Does it provoke a response, change, or action? Are weak ties valuable? Other examples of online advocacy- are they successful and if so, to what extent? How do issues of access become more important? Is it a partnership between those with access and those without or is it more top-down vs. bottom-up? I know these are pretty general questions, but they are good to keep in mind for Thursday. Later this week, I will post my other questions related to the readings.