The first time I had an internet experience that crossed cultural boundaries was when I was using a first gen music sharing site like Napster to find J-Pop. I just happened to notice that this particular pirate/curator liked a lot of the same music that I did from my first stint teaching ESL in Japan in 1994 so I reached out. I used my rudimentary Japanese to say “Hello! Nice music!” and they used their rudimentary Japanese to say “Thanks!” back. One thing led to another and we found out that neither of us was actually living in Japan and instead we were communicating from Canada to Brazil. I had a whole new cultural appreciation for the Japanese-Brazilian population and my hope for a better world swelled in my heart.
In re-reading danah boyd’s It’s Complicated in TVO’s TeachOntario book club, I’m reminded of those early hopes for the internet’s impact on cultural sharing. As boyd points out in her notes for Chapter 6, the world became more hopeful that social remedy would truly cross racism off the list in 2011, when Twitter became the chosen network for the Arab Spring movement. Why aren’t more internet interactions like this one? Why didn’t the internet become the remedy for inequality? Christian Rudder’s book Dataclysm is a fantastic read on the topic of the in herent racism that is demonstrated by online behaviour. I’m not sure what the answer is but I think it has more to do with human nature’s desire to post ridiculous pictures of cat memes. I’m disappointed that the internet has just amplified our microcosms rather than solving our macro social issues.