For my Digital Literacies assignment I chose to go through the ‘theory path’. Choosing this path was a good opportunity to learn more about how healthy the internet is by reading articles from the Mozilla’s internet health report url.
Article 1:Digital Inclusion more-than-half-of-the-world-is-online-but
Reading this article, it was no shock for me to learn that not everyone on this planet has access to the internet. Afterall, that’s one of the topics that have been discussed in this course this semester. What was a bit different was learning about the statistics, numbers and charts in addition to learning how far gaps between rich and poor countries in connectivity have been filled, if at all.
For instance, I would have already guessed that people in Europe have more internet access than in Africa. But I wasn’t aware of how huge the difference in percentages was. According to the article, nearly 80% of the population in Europe has internet access while only 24% of the population in Africa are connected. Seeing the numbers made me realize to what extent the inequality truly exists.
It was also mentioned that in certain regions, women were disconnected from the internet at a much higher level than men. This is definitely another from of gender inequality where women are deprived from resources that could be of great benefit to them and could make many different aspects in their lives easier. This reminded me of when different people of my classmates introduced digital platforms that positively empowered women in different areas of life and provided them with necessary every day information that they wouldn’t necessarily get from society. So to know that many women from certain regions don’t have this tool that could turn their lives around while men do is quite upsetting.
With all of that being said, i sometimes wonder if internet access is really a privilege or a masked curse. I cannot deny the major benefits and global shifts that have occured because of the internet and how easy it has made many things in life become. But I also cannot ignore all the disadvantages that comes with it as well, along with its dark side. After reading the article I just couldn’t help but question if universal internet for all is truly the key for sustainable development goals even if it’s the fair thing to do.
Article 2: openness show-me-my-data-and-ill-tell-you-who-i-am
Speaking of the dark side of the internet, this article highlights how much our data is exposed and how little control we have over it. Reading the article I came across the term ‘data brokers’ which was the first time I had learned about it. Data brokers gather information posted online and sell it for the most suitable price. This kind of information just how dangerous the internet can be.
To show how complex the situation of lack of data control is, Katarzyna szymielewicz created a metaphor called the “three layers” of data to visualize how limited our control is over what we post online. The first layer is what we post or share online. I usually don’t post anything too personal about myself and I try not to use many social media outlets to ensure my privacy safe. The second layer is what your behavior tells them like our location and who we communicate with. This is something that I need to be cautious of in terms of controlling the information of my current locations. The final layer is what the machine tells about you in terms of algorithms learning who we are from our online behavior. The best example of this was through the ‘quick draw’ game that doctor let us play in class to teach us about algorithms and how google figures out the drawings based on how people previously presented their drawings.
Szymielewicz suggests that instead of companies unethically collect data from us such as our location and our online behavior, they should just simply ask for our permission. This is something I completely agree with and this is one of the most important reasons why digital literacy is important. I feel like many people (and i can only talk about my experience in Egypt) overshare their personal information online without being aware of how this information could be used to violate their privacy. That’s why it’s very important for people to be educated about how easily the information they share could be used so that they can have the ability to stand up against companies and voice out their concerns of them.
While reading the article I found myself agreeing with almost all the points that Szymielewicz presented but I was thinking of how hard trying to apply these arguments in real life is going to be like. In her conclusion she did acknowledge these concerns and that we do have a long way to go.
Article 3: web literacy breaking-free-of-the-addiction-machine
I’ve read many articles about phone addictions and I found this one to be very interesting as it provided different point of views from case studies to experts to online creators. It talks about different ways we can control our time online and asks important questions like how much is too much.
I could sadly relate to many behaviors mentioned in the article about using the phone. My phone really has become my alarm, navigation aids and memory enhancer. I use it as my camera, my note taker and I use it to online shop and order food online. It’s safe to say that I don’t go anywhere without it. According to Natasha Schull this is called addiction by design. I really liked how she used her studies on how slot machines pull people to an addictive machine zone and compared it to smart phone apps and social media.
It also mentions that many people report feeling anxious and depressed about how social media has messed with their lives. I could relate this to someone I know who became extremely obsessed with posting on instagram and getting each post to be perfect so that she could get a lot of likes on it. If she posts something that didn’t get many likes in the first ten minutes she would immediately take the post off. Overtime she became really anxious and would spend most of her time trying to create perfect content for her life instead of actually loving and enjoying her real life.
The article also shows how many platforms and devices have worked to create ways for the user to be in control of how much screen time they have for their wellbeing. For example, in the article it is mentioned that facebook has produced new tools to support wellbeing such as the mute notifications options and the time limits options. I have personally benefited from the time limit option on instagram, I have a set time limit of 30 minutes per day so when i exceed that time instagram notifies me.
I agree with the conclusion of the article that we do need collective actions to design different models that don’t encourage addictive behavior but I also believe that we need individualistic action as well. People need to be more aware (including myself) of how easy technology can strip us away from reality and suck into wasteful hours of unimportant online engagement. As a photographer the few times I don’t use my phone at all is when i’m using my actual camera and sadly through my lens I always see people arched down looking at their phone regardless of who’s with them, regardless of where they are, regardless of how beautiful the sky might be looking just above their arched heads.