digital disability

it is very clear that technology i becoming more common in peoples lives. it is advertised as a way to make our lives easier. but what about users who have a disability that prevents them from using technology as it is intended? some may say that such users can find alternatives. however the alternatives are few and also why should someone be limited by what sort of device they can use because of a disability? they have a need to stay connected like everyone else. but how can this happen? should the government ensure that companies design products with the disabled in mind? according to Goggins and Newell governments can be slow to act on such demands, and when they do enforce some sort of standard it does not go far enough to effect real change (2007). when such laws were enacted in the united states they have been challenged in the courts as they were perceived as being unconstitutional. makers of technology will not integrate features that would help disabled users if they don’t need to as they believe that the market is too small.  however some features have proven popular with the disabled that were not intended for that use. SMS or short messaging service was originally an extra feature and was not expected to be very popular. it took off with able bodied users and also deaf users to whom voice calls are impractical. the best way to integrate disabled technology users and create products that work for them would be to get them involved. it can be hard for able bodied people to design technology for a disability they have no experience with. until the disabled get involved I’m afraid their voices won’t heard.

Goggin G and Newell C (2007) ‘the business of digital disabiltiy’ the information society: an international journal, volume 23, issue 3, 159-168.

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Wisdom of the crowd or idiocy of the crowd?

Acluin writing in the 8th century said “those who have a habit of saying “the voice of the people is the voice of god” should not be listened to, since the disorderly nature of the common people is invariably the closest thing to madness.” hundreds of years later we are faced with the question of how to regulate public spaces online. content producers want to get readers involved but it can come at a price. rude comments and forums populated by trolls and bullies can put media corporations off allowing comments. often the solution has been to moderate comments and put restrictions on what people can post. the problem with the internet is that it is impersonal and isolating. people commenting in a forum do not know other commenters. commenting online can also be dis-inhibiting especially when users are given the option to comment anonymously. people will say things online that they would never dare say in person. however attempts to moderate the conversation online can be frustrating for users. according to Martin (2012) when users on the ABCs unleashed forums were unhappy with the speed at which comments were moderated they would talk about withdrawing to the pigs arms, a fantasy pub where they could discuss issues unhindered. social media sites such as Facebook and twitter offer users a space to comment without moderation. while there are rules about what sort of content can be posted offensive material must be reported and removed. on a moderated site such content would not be posted in the first place. the internet can connect strangers from opposite sides of the world but the wrong comment can put them at odds. content producers are constantly thinking of ways to keep the conversation civil. perhaps the solution is to remind users that their comment can be seen by everyone and to consider what they want to say before they post it for the world to see.

Fiona martin (2012) ‘vox populi, vox dei: ABC online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, in histories of public service broadcasters on the web, editors, N, Brugger and M, Burns. New York: peter Lang, pp 177-192

White bread media

the Australian media is a very homogenised product. it does not always reflect the diversity of the community. recently actors Firass Dirani and Jay Laga’ aia complained of local television networks reluctance to diversely. Laga’ aia tweeted “as someone who lost his job on H&A because they couldn’t write two ethnics that weren’t together, i’d like to ply my trade freely”. this was after he was dropped from Home and away because as he saw it the producers were reluctant to have diverse characters in their shows. so why is this important? first of all people will form views about diversity and difference from the media.  especially about experiences and people they don’t encounter in everyday life. media doesn’t also reflect life back at us but it plays a role in the debates it starts. quite often they also control the debate as it takes place in media. also with the issue of homogenous casting of TV shows i think the issue often comes down to fear of failure. executives know what is popular and what sells so in turn they are reluctant to do anything original because they don’t know how it will be received. the makers of the video game Remember me had trouble finding a publisher because their protagonist was a woman. they were told that a game with a female lead wouldn’t sell. this is also why we see so many sequels, remakes and reboots of old franchises in film, tv and video games. however it is time for media producers to take a gamble and create some diverse characters of different races and genders. media producers often mistakenly assume that their main audience is white males aged 18-24. however i know and you know that the world is not made up almost entirely of white men. when are the media producers going to realise this?

Feudalisation of the internet

Feudalisation refers to the medieval social system in which peasants would work a lords land, they were tied to the land and only the lord could decide what would happen to it. this term in regards to the internet refers to the attempts by various corporations to control who sees the content they provide and what is done with it. this trend is not only tied to the internet.the increasing preference for tethered devices that can only run approved content. think of the i-pad, kindle, Nintendo 3ds etc. the list goes on. one of the main reasons for this is copyright concerns. companies don’t trust their customers if they can download content for free then they will do it. so they will restrict what their customers can do with their devices. such as how i tunes will only allow its songs to be authorised to 5 devices. all sorts of restrictions and failsafes are put into devices. the Amazon kindle will only sync with e-books that users have paid for, the nintendo 3ds can tell if the firmware has been altered and will wipe the entire device.Corey Doctorow pointed out that corporations can try and prevent users from misusing files by adding encryption and prevent users from sharing the knowledge about how to decrypt it but in the end there are always ways around that. lawmakers often do not fully understand the technology they are legislating about. they have try to balance the interests of their constituents and various lobby groups who represent various industries. the industry often has a louder voice on such issues. the main reason that the various copyright legislation around that world doesn’t work well is because copyright is not a priority for most governments. they have more pressing matters such as health and education to take care of.

Cory Doctorow (2011) ‘the coming war on general-purpose computing’ http://boingboing.net/2012/01/10/lockdown.html

Will the internet make universities obsolete?

in the days before the internet universities were protectors of knowledge. if you wanted to learn you had to pay your fees and go to classes. the internet is breaking down barriers in many different ways. information that traditionally was controlled by corporations can be accessed for free. films, tv shows and books can be accessed on the internet bypassing the publisher or distributor. academic works are zealously protected by publishers such as Elsevier. they charge exorbitant amounts to view work that academics produce for nothing. academics recently took the step of boycotting Elsevier and only publishing their work for open access. the internet itself is an open network. that’s how it’s designed. the blocking off of imformation behind paywalls and logins is not in the spirit of the internet as a free network. an open access model would still allow publishers to make money from academic literature but it would also make it available for free to those who can’t afford it. Education in my opinion will never go out of fashion. knowledge is an intangible asset that has no value (however much universities try to put a price on it) it is exciting that you can educate yourself on any topic via the internet for nothing. however telling the difference between academic or accurate information and the ravings of anyone with access to a a computer who figured out how to open the web browser can be difficult. the over abundance of information is both a good thing and a bad thing. while it is possible to read about any conceivable subject the wealth of information can be overwhelming. for most people if the result they want doesn’t come up on the first page of google then they’ll never find it.

want to read more? check out

Miller, R 2010 ‘the coming apocalypse’, pedagogy vol.10, no.1, pp143-151.

Neylon, T 2013 ‘life after elsevier: making open access to scientific knowledge a reality’ the guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2012/apr/24/life-elsevier-open-access-scientific-knowledge

 

The future of journalism

the internet has changed the way people access, recieve and send information forever. i go online regularly to look up news about my interests. mostly gaming. i also buy game informer every month. when i get my hands on the magazine it is full of information that i read on the internet already. the same goes for the offical playstation magazine. it comes with a disc full of trailers for upcoming games, which have been on the internet already for quite a while. print media just can’t keep up with the internet. but why do i still buy these magazines. they have some original content such as opinion pieces that make me continue to shell out money for the privilege of reading them. i personally like the instant nature of the internet, also how it allow anyone to post content without having to go through an organisation such as a newspaper. one of the downsides of traditional media is that it does not allow two way communication, or if it does it is in a limited way. the traditional way for people to have their say would be the letters section of  newspaper or magazine. even then an editor would make the decision of which letters would make their way into the publication. on the internet people can comment on online news articles. or someone could publish their thoughts on a topic on a blog (much like i am doing now) or social media. the internet has created a freedom that traditional media cannot compete with. while it does also allow extreme viewpoints that are not accepted in mainstream society that is the price that comes with being able to publish whatever the hell you want.

Media Reform

There has been a lot of talk lately about how the  media operates and whether there needs to be changes. the media themselves have been strongly opposed to reform. they insist that they should be the ones to regulate how they do business. that if government were to get involved that would be the worst possible outcome reminiscent of one of the worst totalitarian regimes. the daily telegraph went so far as to compare communications minister Stephen Conroy to the worst dictators of the 20th century. the head line read ” these despots believe in controlling the press” and “Conroy joins them”. i find this headline not only overly dramatic but also hypocritical. the people who really want to control the media are the people who own it. the Murdochs, Packers and Rineharts to name a few. in Australia media ownership is the most concentrated of any democracy. a small number of people own a large number of media organisations. so what does this mean? what it means that with a small number of media organisations the diversity of opinions presented will suffer. while it can be argued that the internet would surely make this point null and void, lots of people still get their news from traditional sources. tv, radio and newspapers. these sources are published by the large media corporations. there is also the fact that employees of these organisations will feel obligated to write stories that don’t put their bosses in a bad light. it was said that Gina Rinehart was buying into fairfax media in order to gain some influence over what was published. in the end the concentration of media ownership hurts the readers and they don’t realise it. the information they read can quite often be biased. what they need to do is read multiple sources in print and online. they need to seek out information and not take everything they read as gospel truth.