Tag Archives: DIGC335

CyberSolutions – an update of the tech that is changing our world

If you’ve read my previous post (which, to be honest, I’d totally understand if you hadn’t), you’d know that for my digital artefact I’m looking into the way that advancements in technology are being used around the world to solve important problems. This post is my place to summarise and your place (beloved reader) to understand the scope of the project, where it’s currently at and why it’s important. Basically, read on to discover a summary of CyberSolutions: tech used for good not evil.

Reasoning behind project:
On a slight aside, my favourite thing about my university degree is the flexibility I have throughout my assignments: I am given the space to research a topic of my choosing within most subjects. As such, I like to centre my assignments around my (hopeful) career. As someone with deep passions in social justice and a deep hope to contribute towards social justice within my career, I am fascinated with the way technology and marketing can be used to overcome some of the issues our world faces. And so, this project is a way to collect informative examples of tech being used for social good. Originally, as outlined in my previous post, I was specifically hoping to focus on CyberPoverty, however, as I’ve now found out, sadly there isn’t an overwhelming amount of tech that’s sole purpose is to alleviate poverty. So, to broaden the project and provide more examples, I am now focusing on tech for all sorts of social purposes. I am hopeful that this project will create a space where examples can be easily seen, compared, and maybe even inspire more change.

The project itself:
The project takes shape in the form of a website. Within the (work-in-progress) website is a world map with pins dropped on countries with tech examples. Clicking on that pin will then bring up a page of information about the example. Initial plans were for either a Prezi or a blog. I decided against a Prezi as I want the reader to have full control of which countries they are looking at, and Prezi’s don’t allow for huge amounts of text, which aspects of this project requires. A blog also didn’t seem right as I feel as though a blog really incorporates the writer a lot into the content, whereas this project is really about the information, not about the writer.

Other features of project:
An interesting almost spin-off from the main information in my project, is the paradox that comes with technology. My previous post touched on this aspect, however, the final website will have an entire section on this so I’ll collect the thoughts here.
The paradox exists between technology, the rich and the poor. As my project investigates, there are technologies out there being used to help those that struggle the most, notably, those living in extreme poverty. However, as the richer countries create mind-blowing, seemingly impossible technologies everyday, this means the poorer countries fall further and further behind in advancements. As such, technology widens the divide between the richer and poorer countries but one day it may also close, or at least lessen, the same divide. This is the paradox.

An estimated 79% of the people in the ‘Third World’ – the 50 poorest nations of our world – have no access to electricity. The total number of individuals without power is listed at about 1.5 billion – a quarter of the world’s population. Mostly in Africa and southern Asia (Gronewold). So, if fundamentally a huge, huge, chunk of people in our world don’t even have access to electricity, how are they meant to keep up with technological innovation? And this is the digital divide that Manuel Castells discusses in his book, The Internet Galaxy. He talks about the rapid diffusion of the internet and how it is spread unevenly throughout the globe: the Internet presence for some individual countries, especially in those classified as developing, is much lower. This lack of internet in the ‘developing world’ is being driven by the huge gap in telecommunications infrastructure, internet service providers, and internet content providers as well as by the strategies being used to deal with this gap. We, in richer countries, are basically saying to the poor that “you can’t sit with us”, technological social exclusion of millions of people, sounds like the worst high school playground of all f**king time. Poorer countries are kept reliant on first-world innovation, adding to the viscous cycle of ‘white-saviors‘ and poverty.  Castells discusses how the Internet is not just a technology, its an organizational and connective community. Most of us use it every single day for multiple purposes, we can’t imagine our lives without it. But what we need to imagine is the wide divide that exists because of these differences in technologies around the world.

What this project has made me decide about the cyber paradox is that these technological advancements are going to happen regardless. And so, even though this might add to the digital divide, it might also help to close the gap between developed and developing if the tech is powerful enough to solve some serious social stuff.

Challenges:
The biggest challenge I have faced within this project is actually finding the relevant examples. I’m not sure if the examples are hard to find because a) there isn’t much tech being used to solve problems (hopefully unlikely) b) the examples aren’t being broadcast to the rest of the world or c) I’m real crap at researching (probable). Regardless, I’ve found it to be a bit of a struggle to locate, and verify, purposeful technologies.

It’s also been a challenge to present the project exactly how I originally wanted. In my mind, the project ideally would be an interactive world map where users could hover over and a small box would appear with the country and the title of the tech, then they could click in and bring up a pop-up box with more info about the technology. However, since I’m not very experienced in the website-producing area, I’ve struggled with hover-over abilities. So, to adapt, users can now just click on a pin to see the example.

Examples so far:

Australia –

  • Nima: The World’s 1st Portable Gluten Tester
untitled
image source

This neat lil piece of tech is used to test food or drink for the presence of gluten. Coeliac and gluten intolerances are heavily present within Society, so to save people the risk of eating something that contains gluten, people can test their food in 3 minutes with this technology to be sure. A handy little tool for solving a prominent social issue.

Africa

  • Worldreader
Caselli_Worldreader_02_X.jpg
image source

775 million people in the world are illiterate, and as the population grows, the problem is worsening. Worldreader uses inexpensive e-readers with extended battery life to provide books to children and young people. The program support the e-readers with extensive training and capacity building for teachers, facilitators, and librarians, and features fun activity plans that are designed to nurture a love for reading. The project has reached more than 200,000 people in 27 countries, providing them with more than 5,000 book titles in 23 languages. – Gharib 2014

Europe

  • Invisible Donations

Philippe Douste-Blazy, a French cardiologist and a special adviser to the secretary general of the UN tested the theory that people wouldn’t notice a small amount of money coming off as a tax on expensive things they purchase. He tested this using a service charge of  €1 on tickets for flights out of France. Between 2006 and 2014, they made US $2 billion and received no complaints about the levy. This money has been spent on initiatives to fight HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in third-world countries – Grimminck, 2015

America

Slavery affects 20.9 million people in the world. Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman were appalled when they encountered an article on the terrible state of a brothel near their campus during their senior year at Brown. When police raided the building they came across six Asian women who were “being held in a situation of debt bondage.”
Katherine and Derek created a victim outreach program to locate trafficking places and networks, and help victims obtain services. They soon worked with other partners to bring bills to Congress and introduce legislation that protects victims while penalizing offenders. Polaris made the National Human Trafficking Resource Center into a national anti-slavery hotline in 2007, which is available in over 200 languages, and a place where callers can report a tip or receive anti-trafficking services; in March 2013 they established a texting option where victims can text HELP or INFO to “BeFree.” – Goodnet 2015

  • Gun control technologies

Whilst not a widespread technology in use yet, a proposed solution to gun violence in America is the introduction of smart gun technology. These smart guns would ensure that only an individual, or a few people, could fire the gun. “One technology utilizes fingerprints. Another company uses a wristwatch that sends off a frequency to the gun and activates it. Yet another uses hand biometrics, and those are just a few. These guns could significantly cut down the 11,000 deaths caused by stolen guns. That number doesn’t even include police officers who are killed in the line of duty with their own gun.” Grimminck 2015


Asia

  • Operation ASHA

5609007487_0ef91a459e_z.jpg

Tuberculosis is a global health problem focused on the poorest people of the world. TB is difficult to treat effectively in this population, given limited access to healthcare and the long course of antibiotics necessary to cure the infection. Operation ASHA created the eCompliance project to combine biometric technology, deployed by community health workers to ensure continuous and effective delivery of antibiotics to TB patients in India. Fingerprint log-ins allow nurses and health workers to accurately identify every patient, and record their ongoing compliance with treatment. Operation Asha has facilitated treatment of more than 30,000 TB patients to date, with over 5,000 patients currently under care through 159 clinics in India. – Gharib 2014

These are just a few examples I have found so far. Check back in a few weeks for the final project 🙂

Niche Start Up Vlogs

For this second blog, I will be writing about examples of successful niche businesses and outlining my digital artefact.

Amazon is arguably the the most popular long tail business. They have used the internet, to create a platform, that sells rare products, without the need of actually holding the product on a physical shelf. 57% of Amazons sales come from long tail searches.

But the beauty of the long tail is in the variety of available niches.

One of my favourites long tail businesses is Rent A Mourner. They are a United Kingdom based company who provide professional funeral and wake guests. The interesting thing about this business is that it is not new. Similar services were available through the Middle East thousands of years ago. This shows that the long tail is not necessarily about new products, but about using new technology to fill a current market void.

Cuddle party, is a company that works in the United States, Canada and Australia. It is a website, not for profit, that organises parties where adults go and cuddle. Its website states that the organisation hopes to explore communication boundaries and affection. It should be noted that is has had a huge, mostly, scandal free success rate. This example goes to show that even if the idea sounds somewhat crazy, if there is a market, and an appropriate supplier, it will work.

Throx is a US based website who sell socks in threes, not in twos. This way, when you loose a sock, you can use the additional third sock and still have a pair. It is a very simple idea, that any sock making company could have previously done. Throx portrays that a simple twist on an existing idea can lead to a significant success.

YourNovel provides international readers with customised romance novels. The customer builds a character, completes a questionnaire and receives a personal romance novel. Romance novels account for the largest book market, and generates 1.44 billion dollars a year. YourNovel reveals that there is a lot to learn from the mass market, and that niches benefit when working from exisiting trends.

And finally, we have 3beds, a website that reviews air mattresses. It has made a whole science of air mattresses. No niche is too strange. And a niche has a niche. In the long tail of camping equipment, there is a smaller air mattress market. And an even smaller air mattress assessor market.

Between every start up owner I have met, there has been one point of agreement. It will take longer, much longer, than initially expected to create a small business. It is for this reason that I have decided to begin a series of vlogs that will share what I have learned in this process. There will be four (three to four minute) vlogs in my final digital artefact.

The first video is going to explain the Long Tail effect and how this needs to be a part ones niche brand. Long tail market brands are more flexible in their personal concept, but not necessarily in the way they promote. No matter how passionate you are about your product, or how small a market, it is not about you, it is still about your customer. It just happens to be that your customer has unique needs. Meet them. And communicate them in a way that makes you different to other market options.

The second video looks at a Business Plan. Every tangible and intangible part of your business is created and maintained by you. A business plan is a way to ensure your business concept, presence in the market place and finances remain in check over time.

The third video looks at paperworks and legalities. This is a practical guide as to where to find relevant sate documents to obtain ABNs and appropriate licensing. The process sounds simple, but in reality is tedious and requires the patience of a saint. It can take up to one year to complete all the necessary paperwork.

The final video is about overcoming obstacles. From troubles with paperwork, disappearing suppliers and simply losing motivation, there will be so very many obstacles along the way. The video will aim to discuss some ways to work through such occurrences.

After my in class presentation, it was suggested I look further into Long Tail and focus on niche markets. This is what I plan to do before beginning my digital artefact.

header image for article found here.

The Weird Side of Youtube: Week 8 Update

When it comes to strange and surreal content on Youtube, you may have some questions. Like: what did I just watch? What’s the purpose of these videos? These types of questions are the cornerstone of these channels… Curiosity is the cornerstone of these channels.

If created for the sole purpose of entertainment like a lot of other online content, these videos would often miss their mark. So what do these videos do differently to attract an audience? They present their content in an ambiguous, sometimes shocking way. They prey upon the fact that we, as human beings, crave to make the unknown, known. We get a sense of gratification when we find out something new for ourselves, for the first time. But that feeling is quite hard to come by now that we’ve entered the digital age where information is instantaneously presented to you after a quick google search – there’s no gratification from that. It makes the very idea of discovering something about the unknown even more fascinating. The human brain doesn’t like leaving things unfinished. It doesn’t like having questions unanswered.

hqdefault

Step one for any content creator is to draw an audience – take the aesthetics of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared into account. The striking colour palette, the use of puppets and a unique title can all be derived from the above image, and this can be enough to provoke a person to watch the clip.  Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling, the creators of the series, wished to parody the look of educational children shows like Sesame Street, or the Muppets in an effort to, in their words, show how “not to teach something”. Their inspiration is something that they conveyed purely through the aesthetic of their series, and this design choice prompts more clicks from people when they realize the title seems somewhat out of place for a kid’s show.

So for these channels, attracting an audience is all about the presentation of the videos. Every one of the channels has a strange title, coupled with content that all maintains a similar visual theme – either extremely bright or extremely cartoonish. These themes are unique enough to generate interest, yet plain enough to not be flagged as surreal right off of the bat and often play off of nostalgia to seem as non-threatening as possible. Siivagunner is an exception to this rule, as he instead creates content based around videogame music and generally only provides the title of the game he is satirizing as a background for his videos. This still provokes people to click his videos, however, as people believe his upload is the original song from a videogame they’ve played in the past – which can be just as effective as mimicking the aesthetics from a children’s show that one watched in the past.

Step 2 is to generate discomfort, or actively antagonize the audience. This is where a lot of the fan theories begin to spring up from and the artist’s main messages shine through. All through step one I was really pushing that the visuals for this type of content is often bright or cartoony – that’s important because a lot of the traction these channels gain is due to how effectively they play upon cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time. We generally think of children shows or cartoons being bright and lighthearted, so when one of the characters from the bright video we’ve been watching begins to roll a heart in glitter or pierces their own finger with a rusty nail, the disturbing images make us even more uncomfortable than they already would because of how much our preconceived ideas of the theme and the content conflict with each other.

The creators utilize a number of techniques to compound this effect, with sound design being one the most important. The music and sound effects used in a video can amplify discomfort tremendously when used effectively. For instance, the music that accompanies a lot of the Salad Fingers animations is creepy enough on its own. The entire composition gives off an unnatural vibe. Combine this with unsettling sound effects and voice acting and you’ve created a mighty uncomfortable soundscape. You could play an entire episode of Salad Fingers without once looking at the screen and you would still have a feeling of unease, which shows the impact that the sound has. Especially if the audio itself is intentionally unsynced with the visuals or a sound is played while the visual is showing something that doesn’t make that sound in reality – something the That Poppy does frequently. Intentionally disjointing the audio from the visuals can, again, compound this dissonance that the videos illicit.

So there’s a whole plethora of techniques used to make these videos strange, all of which is always used so effectively to create a surreal experience. These techniques are the main reasons why the content is popular among certain circles. If you can make a work in which a viewer assumes they know the direction the video will take then circumvent that expectation and present them with the exact opposite instead, your creation becomes more memorable and will inspire more questions than they started with. This is what gets the video shared around. This is what creates viewership.

Having a viewership leads to Step 3 – interacting with your viewers.

So that Poppy video was awfully blunt with it, but that was a call to action. It gave the audience a simple instruction that they could choose to follow or not follow. That was an example of a channel establishing a link between the content and viewer. It humanizes the character a little more and connects their world, a world that was intentionally disjointed and separate to ours, to the same conceptual space as the real world. This link works to help the viewer understand the contents of the videos a little better, as it sometimes provides opportunities for them to uncover new information to satiate their curiosity, while also providing even more questions.

This is most evident in the case of Siivagunner, who you may have thought seemed a bit out of place in comparison to the other videos I showed earlier. Although only starting out with meme-filled remixes of videogame soundtracks that bait-and-switched his viewers, his community has now become the driving force behind his popularity, with fan theories and interactions constantly being integrated into the channel’s internal lore. His call to action comes in the form of ARGs – Augmented Reality Games – in which he leaves a trail of clues referencing his content and the in-jokes that his fanbase has created all throughout the internet for them to track down and decipher.

ARG1

He allows them to pursue their own answers to his questions, only to present them with more once they complete the ARG and are presented with the ambiguous ‘congratulations’ image. This is the most extreme case of these abstract channels being fuelled by their fanbase in the pursuit of answers; although Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared got financial backing from fans in 2013 who wanted more episodes to discover what was happening with the main characters. The viewer’s inquisitive attitude towards these channels is only heightened when they become a part of the process through interaction.

So overall, the content of these channels work on a system of giving and taking information. They attract people through a specific visual style, and through their content, generate questions. With each subsequent release they answer some of these questions, but not all, and simultaneously create new ones. This trend continues, and it creates communities and sparks discussions, with multiple people proposing their own theories and striving towards a collective goal. The eerie and surreal concepts help the videos mirror the unknown to provoke the fan’s curiosity and they appeal to our psychological need to discover. Wanting answers is human nature and these videos are excellent at playing off of that.

The Issues of Future Sex Technology

Cybersex creates a lot of very serious issues and problems as well as creating good environments. The idea that we are all in some sense cyborgs is a very real in its approach to our connection with technology. The technology and cyber life that we are connected to defines us and is a part of our real world. Thus, in the world of sex we have the same issues. A small documentary on the future of sex and specifically sex dolls/robots opened my eyes into some interesting points in the advancement of technology in the topic of sex. Some would say that there is more negativity and dystopian issues that come out sex and its connection and involvement with technology. However, I would argue that cyber sexuality is equally dystopian and utopian with its issues and its benefits.

Rise of the Sex Robots (2017) is a video that opened more issues and questions for me than anything I have seen before. Dr Kathleen Richardson who is interviewed in the video presents some very important and serious issues and view that are important to this development of technology and the potential of where this technology can go. Dr Richardson is a robot ethicist and the founder of the campaign against sex robots (Rise of the sex robots, 2017). Her main focus on sex robots is the ethical issues that they will arise. These ethical issues mostly centre on feminist ideals and values in relation to sex robots. She sees sex robots as the same as slavery and sex slavery (2017). Sex is a topic that is severally misunderstood and very gender centred in its ‘nature’.  I agree with Dr Richardson in the idea that sex robots are offensive to women and can be seen to be an issue that enhances the problems of rape culture and misogyny. Social media already sees both the rise of rape culture but also the fight against it. The nature of social media gives voice to everyone and access for everyone to everything. Woman are still seen as sexual objects today, if more than ever before, this can be seen everywhere: advertising, films, media etc. Adverting is particularly bad in presenting sexualized and objectifying images of women in order to sell products. An example can be seen below. This ad can be seen to glorify sexual assault, via depicting a very gang rape scene.

ad_163261088.jpg

(image: Dolce & Gabbana)

Rape culture is very prevalent in today’s society and is a serious part of online sexual communications and interactions. The Pleasure Mechanics podcast ‘Speaking of Sex’ (Rose & Rose, 2017) episode on taboo sexual fantasies look to unlock the social issues surrounding these serious issues. They talk about the three biggest taboo fantasies, rape, incest and youth (Rose & Rose, 2017). The first thing that the pleasure mechanics do is break down the idea of fantasies, in that fantasies are not real sexual desires that people have. There is an element of taboo that is arousing to us as humans, this can be seen in pornography and even in this futuristic idea of sex slaves/robots. A very disturbing part of the Guardian video, Rise of the Sex Slaves (2017) is when one of the robot creates states that the dolls are a way to diverge the anger and abuse men take out on their wives. This is a serious issue, because although it is a robot, the robot represents something more than that. It reinforces the views of women being sexually objectified and man’s property. There are really serious issues that I think come up with the future of sex with sex robots.

Through this research, I have realized that I want to maybe consider the ways that the future of sex is very problematic. The notion of sex robots/slaves will create more issues and is unethical. The western world is obsessed with the idea of growth and updating technology. Growth and updating technology can be great, although how far is too far? For my digital project, I want to take this research and create a podcast that will open serious questions that our digital world of sex.

 

Reference List

The politics and ideologies of data visualisation: A sociological perspective

Cybercultural Research Project: Second Progress Report

Since my first progress account I have renamed my topic, The politics and ideologies of data visualisation: A sociological perspective. The following is an updated outline that will guide the production of a research report or digital artefact.

Introductory Remarks

I will employ data visualisation to mean ‘the visual representation of statistical and other types of numeric and non‑numeric data through the use of static or interactive pictures and graphics.’  For now, I will define cyberculture simply and according to Mirriam Webster. I will also distinguish data from information in order to lay groundwork for the introduction of emergent critical perspectives associated with the politics and ideologies of data visualisation (abbrev. dataviz). For example, the ideological work that data visualisations do introduces dataviz conventions as functioning to produce a sense of ‘objectivity, transparency and facticity.’  In reality, graphics may be value-laden, ambiguous and fictitious (See also: Seeing Data 2016).  The introductory paragraphs will also note broad relevance of the topic, defining the concepts of information saturation (or overload), ‘data explosion’ and data science.

A sociologist in training, I will overview abstracts and biographies of a recent sociological conference to underscore the progress of Sociology in recent years, as these have been significant guides in my research. I will cite Healy and Moody’s view of Sociology as lagging in the use of visual tools.  This research will note the historical association of social work with the development and implementation of national policy circa the welfare state in 1946 to present. The Australian Commonwealth has exercised control over the direction of national social policy since the founding of the Commonwealth Research Bureau in 1944 (Morning Bulletin 1947). The privatization of social services will be raised as a related issue of concern in neoliberal contexts like Australia.

The four arguments introduced in my first progress report will be summarized for my audience and continue to guide topic development.

Research Body

Accordingly, I will exemplify how both past inventions and futuristic thinking have shaped the development of data visualisation technologies and practices. Examples of what science fiction has technologically foreseen will be provided in reference to a presentation by Jeffrey Heer titled A Brief History of Data Visualization.  This source will be coupled with a Milestones Tour to provide an overview of current DV trends and research areas. Augmented reality (AR) will be exemplified, envisioned in 1968 and famously employed in AR animation by Hans Rosling in recent years.

Of what was been culturally foreseen and is of relevance to the topic, I will cite Huff in his ‘prophetic’ reference to GH Wells in How to Lie with Statistics‘Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write.’ I will also quote Aldous Huxley’s utopiandystopian Brave New Word (1932), in which ‘liberties and individuality’ have been lost ‘in the name of universal stability’ (Shmoop 2016).  This will be an allusion to the implication of social work with national population and fiscal policy targeting ‘illegitimate‘ children during 20th century Australia.

In the second section of the report’s body I will exemplify how governments and bureaucracies have significant authority in the relationship between the user and the computer, aiming questions of cyberculture at the legitimacy of related structures of command.  The following related research into dataviz forms an amended outline of sources extending on my first progress report and is a work in progress:

A glossary of terms will accompany an introduction to an Australian case study detailed in my first progress report. Entries will underscore the prodigious influence of digitally enabled communication, networked computation and media technologies in proliferating issues of related concern, including population trends and curvessocial entropy (see also: Galtung in 1967), exponential growth and singularity.

This case study will critique a dominant discourse and related DV by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, positing national social policy in contemporary cyberspace arenas.  An alternative DV will provide a statistical estimate of an historically marginalised group. Statistical relativity will be discussed and feature David McCandless’ take on the topic.  This work will be emancipatory and state author biases.

Conclusion

The conclusion will summarise identified limits and affordances of our technology infused realities, including: data inadequacies, the need for increased scepticism of data and new hypotheses.

CyberPoverty: technology and the divide paradox

“With technology, we’ve never been closer together”

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that sentence in my life. I’m sure you, whoever is reading this, will agree. And to an extent, sure, it’s truthful.  Besides the obvious opposition to it of, ‘oh but our phones also make us disconnected and push us apart’, I challenge you to think critically of this statement. Importantly, who do you visualise when you read ‘we’? We as in you and your friends? Family? People on the other side of the world? How about people in countries where electricity is non-existent, let alone Snapchat dog filters?

Sure, technology may allow us to learn about all corners of the world, to see things and places that would remain invisible if not for technology. It may allow us to hear about the inequalities happening around the world and the people who are struggling. It has incredible strengths and achievements that I am very grateful for, and technology is obviously paramount to my day-to-day existence (communications and media student, guilty). But I cannot pretend to believe that that first sentence encompasses every human being within the two-letter ‘we’. I have not bridged the meaningful, close connections technology supports with people from all around the world, because there is a HUGE chunk of those people who simply do not have access to the technologies that I take advantage of everyday. If anything, I would argue that rather than bringing everyone closer together, technology creates a deep, widening abyss that swallows up the people who fall behind as most of the world leaps, hurdles and front flips towards technological innovation.

An estimated 79% of the people in the ‘Third World’ (I hate these labelling, excluding, clouded terms of first, third, developed, developing etc. but for clarity’s sake… ) – the 50 poorest nations of our world – have no access to electricity. The total number of individuals without power is listed at about 1.5 billion – A QUARTER OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION. Mostly in Africa and southern Asia (Gronewold).

“The amount of electricity consumed in one day in all sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, is about equal to that consumed in New York City, an indicator of the huge gap in electricity usage in the world.”

When we in the richer countries are creating mind-blowing, unimaginable technologies every day, this just pushes the poorer countries further and further down into a never-ending cycle of struggle as they can’t keep up with the innovation.

For my digital artefact, I intend to dive into the abyss between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’, swim around, and try to find examples of technology being used in poorer countries – the purpose being to a) make me feel slightly less guilty for being so privileged and b) to create a space where examples can be easily seen, compared, and maybe even inspire more change.

With so much innovation constantly surrounding our lives, it will be incredibly interesting to find out how technological advancements are being used for social justice and the potential that they may have to help those who need it more than we need another f**king iPhone model.

Elon Musk, my personal hero, first gave me the inspiration for this project in his appearance in ‘Before the Flood’. He said, “The advantage of solar and batteries is that you can avoid building electricity plants at all. So you could be a remote village and have solar panels that charge your battery pack that supplies power to the whole village without ever having to run thousands of miles of high voltage cable all over the place. It’s like what happened with land line phones versus cellular phones: in a lot of developed countries they didn’t do the landline phones, they just went straight to cellular.”

So, even though a lot of our world’s countries are years and years behind on innovation, perhaps they don’t have to catch up. Perhaps they can skip years of innovation and instead be supported by technologies that are purposely developed to bring them forward and upwards.
And so my project idea began: CyberPoverty – to collect and showcase examples of technology being used around the world for social justice purposes.
Being in early stages, I am still playing around with ideas of how to display the information. Ideally, I would like to create a webpage that features an interactive world map where viewers could hover over countries to see a preview of the tech used, before clicking in and reading more in-depth information. Creating the project in this form would also allow me to create a page which outlines the project and its purpose and give an overview of the technology gap our world is being split by. Other options I am considering are a Storify or Prezi project, you (and I :/) will just have to wait and see.

To get the pinwheel spinning but, here is an example I have found of technology being used for good rather than evil:

MAPPING THE SLUMS

mathare-zonal-plan-context-map_low_custom-42bab758bdf10300e263cbbabcbdb8d372fd1796-s800-c85.jpeg.jpg
aerial map of Mathare Valley (image source)

The Mathare Valley is one of the largest and oldest slums in Nairobi, Kenya: home to nearly 200,000 people. However, according to Google maps, it is nothing more than grey spaces between unmarked roads. Whilst, maps may not seem that important, think deeper about the agenda that each map holds: in terms of Google, the algorithm for your own search is based on economic means, allowing businesses to buy prominence on your map. Now, delete your own suburb from Google maps and imagine the lack of representation, sense of invisibility and the struggle to know how to navigate a place full of 200,000 people. Maps are critical to our society, and so replacing the grey space with a map of the slum is an important, albeit small, step towards alleviating some of the struggles the residents face.
And that is what has been done; a group of activists, the Spatial Collective, with the help of the locals, used hand-held GPS devices to walk around the slum and create a map. A map that contains things like “informal schools, storefront churches and day care centres, but also dark corners with no streetlights, illegal dumping grounds and broken manholes.” (Warner) The map is pinpointing places of issue and bringing these issues to the knowledge of authorities so they may be improved upon. “A map can be entered as evidence in court to stop evictions. It can be reprinted by international advocacy groups to raise awareness. It can be presented to city planners, as a puzzle to be solved.”

The technology is placed into the hands of the impoverished and allows them to exert autonomy over their own home, speak up and show that they are in fact visible, and powerful.

“And the more time he spends looking at his home through the lens of the GPS, the more he can’t shake the sense that the outside world is finally looking back.” … “With the GPS if you mark a point, you know that there’s someone out there who will get the information that there’s a something happening here”. (Warner)

I’m interested to collect this data throughout the project and try to make my own cognitive decision about the paradox of technology: it widens the divide between the richer and poorer countries but one day it may also close, or at least lessen, the same divide.

 

References:

Gronewold, N 2009, ‘One-Quarter of World’s Population Lacks Electricity’, Scientific American, 24 November, viewed 3 April 2017, <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/electricity-gap-developing-countries-energy-wood-charcoal/>.

Warner, G 2013, ‘In Kenya, Using Tech To Put An ‘Invisible’ Slum On The Map’, Parallels, viewed 28 March 2017, <http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2013/07/17/202656235/in-kenya-using-tech-to-put-an-invisible-slum-on-the-map>.

 

Learning to Code with the Help of Arduino

Growing up as a kid I never put much thought into how the technology I used each day functioned. I never questioned how I managed to play The Sims on my Compaq Desktop PC, or how said Compaq Desktop PC connected to the internet. I didn’t really care how my Neopets Pocket Game system was […]

via Learning to Code with the Help of Arduino — A Blog in the Life of Melissa