Digital Media and Society
December 15, 2015
This class has shed light onto many aspects of digital media that I was oblivious to before. My views on digital media and networked technology were very much one-sided. I saw the Internet as an open platform available to everyone, a place where the free flow and exchange of information served an egalitarian purpose and, for the creative types like myself, a platform on which we could discuss new ideas and be inspired by other people’s work. I came in as a “new media thinker” and believed that any restriction on the free flow of information was an assault on culture. Today, while I still hold on to some of those ideas, my opinions are a little more critical having been exposed to the real costs that having a “free” networking platform comes with
One of the major pieces of knowledge I’m taking away from this course is that the Internet is not free in so many ways I hadn’t thought of before. Just because we don’t get charged for every “like”, or post, or every time we check our e-mails, does not mean that the Internet is free. As users we are paying with our personal data, collected from us unknowingly by data brokers, in this way, the Internet ceases to be an egalitarian platform because money is being exchange while not all the participating parties are seeing the profits. These same data brokers have a hold on the content we are exposed to online, and so while we the users, believe we have the power over what we choose to read online, in reality “advertorials” have taken over online news platforms creating their content based on popular searches and keywords And so as far as the free flow of information goes, this occurrence reflects quite the opposite, a flow of information that is not as transparent as I once thought it was.
Furthermore, and I would say most importantly, one fact that made me re-think my opinions was how networked technology affects the work life and working conditions of different demographics around the globe. We are told of the benefits of working from home, “it’s like being your own boss”, yet through our lesson and discussion on “the Mechanical Turk” the inequality that this perpetuates was exposed. For many people living in third world countries that are not protected by any labor regulations, “working from home” means working indefinite hours. No minimum wage regulations set in place means settling for whatever compensation a recruiter is willing to give you, no matter how time-consuming the task is. Meanwhile, corporations are benefiting from the extended working hours, and operating on a 24 hour day, at the cost of others, on a platform that is believed to even the playing field for all the players.
This class was nothing like I expected it to be. At times it felt like an Economics class, at others a Political Science class and because so much previous knowledge was required to understand the material, it felt at times like a really big catching up game. However I feel that our efforts were validated in class, whether it was by Prof. Bullock patiently braking down the readings for us, or by the discussions started among my classmates. I feel like I leave this class having a new and valuable perspective on digital media, and grateful that I was exposed to a reality that I would’ve probably never stumble upon outside of this class.