Why the internet isn’t a cultural remedy after all

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.

 

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What would Jian do?

I posted this blog entry this week in response to Chapter 2 of danah boyd’s book It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens I’m really enjoying my role as facilitator in the TVO TeachOntario book club collaboration with the Ontario School Library Association.  Our discussions are so rich.  It’s never too late to join.  Just register at www.teachontario.ca and click on the Share tab to find us.  I look forward to your response.

About the year 2012, I had the privilege to see CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi speak.  I mean the man was one of my idols…we are roughly the same age, I went to a lot of his concerts when he was fronting the band Moxy Fruvous and I got a bit giddy each time I was able to listen to his radio show “Q”.  

At the time, I had a chance to ask Ghomeshi a hard question about the nature of privacy and how as a librarian, I relished things like the national census that allowed us to collect demographics etc.  I asked him what his stance was on privacy, and he said “Privacy?  Well I think privacy is essentially dead…I mean isn’t it?  Can it really get any worse?”  Just before the news broke about being fired from the CBC, a former student of mine, now a TV journalist in Toronto, said aloud on Facebook “Where is Ghomeshi?”  And I defended him (not knowing anything, of course) saying, “Hey man, his Dad just died.  Let’s give him a break.”  I wonder how he would feel about that statement now….as his privacy (and I’m not condoning his behaviour at all) was ripped apart over not just an incident, but his entire career as a journalist, musician, even as a university student.

 

In 2016, I don’t think it’s ok for us to not take responsibility for our behaviour and then get mad about the fact that someone had a camera.  Yet I also understand the need for it.  boyd’s chapter on privacy is well-placed as I think we’ve all firmly established that adult online identities are groomed and polished.  If that’s true, then I will continue to fiercely protect the parts of me that I don’t want to share.  boyd says  “in practice, both privacy and publicity are blurred…Privacy doesn’t just depend on agency; being able to achieve privacy is an expression of agency” (p. 76). I like being public in many circumstances, but without the ability to retreat completely, I would sacrifice my publicity for privacy any day.  

#BIT16Reads: Branching out