Archive for the ‘Digital Politics’ Category
The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a one man show by Mike Daisey scheduled to play at the Seattle Repertory Theatre April 22nd to May 22nd, is nothing short of extraordinary. Having seen the show in D.C., I have become an ardent Daisey fan: he is a locomotive of energy, vacillating from humor to seriousness and back again in a heartbeat. The combination eases the audiencesâ€™ digestion of the profound facts he shares about the hidden toll our electronics take on people we never see in Chinaâ€™s factories.Â By way of example, his highly conspicuous debut at the gates of Chinaâ€™s Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, in a Hawaiian print shirt, is hilarious. (Daisey is not a small man.) While the audience is laughing out loud, Daisey quickly juxtaposes this image against those of frowning gun toting guards at the plant and nets attached to the building to catch those jumping off the top. Â Foxconn is the world’s largest producer of electronic components. Some of its most well known products include the iPod, iPad and iPhone â€“ hence the focus of the play and its title. Note, Â Appleâ€™s are by no means the only electronic products produced at Foxconn.
Iâ€™ll give away only one more Daisey sound byte and leave the rest for your viewing pleasure in Seattle. In his detailed depiction of his own obsession with computers he jokes that although we donâ€™t look like the cyborgs of our imaginations – no robotic attachments to our bodies – our cell phones and laptops have nontheless become extensions of ourselves. In essence we have become cyborgs but in a less obvious manner than sci-fi movies would have led us to expect. Iâ€™m here to tell you this ainâ€™t no joke.
Nicholas Carr in his book, The Shallows, What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, reviews a broad swath of research related to neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to develop new neuronal connections. One compelling piece of research Carr refers to, published in 2008 is titled â€œWhen Pliers Become Fingers in the Monkey Motor Systemâ€. Though the title of the research is self-explanatory, note Carrâ€™s summary:
â€œ â€¦the rakes and pliers [that monkeys used in the experiment] actually came to be incorporated into the brain maps of the animalsâ€™ hands. The tools, so far as the animalâ€™s brains were concerned had become part of their bodies. As the researchers who conducted the experiment with the pliers reported, the monkeyâ€™s brains began to act â€˜as if the pliers were now the hand fingersâ€™.â€
While Daiseyâ€™s humor may raise the fleeting thought that our electronics are extensions of ourselves in a crazy sci-fi sort of way, Carr provides ample evidence in the form of research that allows us to extrapolate the same conclusion.Â Though they may not be attached to our bodies, our brains donâ€™t know the difference and consider our electronic â€œtoolsâ€ , keyboards, laptops, cell phones, etc., Â to be part of us – for better or for worse.
- We Are The Cyborg. Resistance Is Futile. (storiesinmypocket.wordpress.com)
- New Interview with Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case (izabael.com)
- Eight Theses on Cyborgism (wired.com)
Today was the first time I’d read the term “hactivism” to describe Wikileaks shenanigans. It surprised me to see the combination of the word “hacking” – an illegal and presumably anti-social act – with the word “activism”. Â I understand that activism can come in all forms and one man’s (or woman’s) activism could be another’s terrorism but as a boomer the term activism always had positive associations to me. So what’s your take? Can hacking be considered activism?
I am heart-broken. It hit the news yesterday that Tyler Clementi, a gay Rutgers student, committed suicide last week in reaction to his roommate and another Rutgers student surreptitiously capturing a sexual encounter on a webcam and posting it on the Internet. I could cry.
The tragic loss of human life and the torment for his family (as well as the perpetratorsâ€™) can only be devastating. As a society, there are two challenges weâ€™re left with, both of them enormous and urgent:
- How to change attitudes about gays. This is a topic which, though I am passionate about, I will rely on others to articulate.
- How to socialize the generations that have grown up digital to discern right from wrong in utilizing the tools at their fingertips. This one Iâ€™ll tackle here.
One can only wonder what the perpetrators, Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei, were thinking. Their high school photos in the press look clean cut and charming. If they got into Rutgers, they canâ€™t be dumb. So were they completely lacking in conscience? NPR interviewed Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center for insight into the thought process behind cyberbullying. To summarize his comments: adolescents donâ€™t see it as wrong and donâ€™t recognize the harm that will come from posting certain information on line. How could kids be so crass?
Letâ€™s look at the adolescent brain for an answer. According to The American Medical Association, Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court in 2005, which abolished the death penalty for crimes committed by adolescents under the age of eighteen, the brain research presented demonstrated that adolescentsâ€™ â€œbrains are physiologically underdeveloped in the areas that control impulses, foresee consequences and temper emotions…â€ and the brain does not mature until the early 20â€™s. Â That would certainly account for cyberbullying.
Looking at kidsâ€™ brain development isnâ€™t an attempt to downplay how heinous this crime was. Ravi and Wei cannot be forgiven. It is however, my attempt to pull our collective attention above the agonizing storm of this incident to navigate the waters ahead.
Young peopleâ€™s physiological limitations coupled with the uncontrolled digital playground they have at hand requires far more aggressive teaching from parents and educational institutions â€“ from grammar school through college â€“ as well as more built in constraints on the part of social networking sites. Laws need to be established that deal aggressively with online bullying.
The speed of technological change has leapt ahead of parental and educational systemsâ€™ ability to train appropriate social behavior. The digital age combined with adolescent brain development limitations has carved a moral canyon that requires bridging with a great deal more than the duct tape that is currently in place. Â We donâ€™t give 14 year olds a driverâ€™s license because we know theyâ€™re too immature to drive. We try to limit adolescent drinking by establishing the legal drinking age at 21. Yet, a five year old can access the Internet and use an iPhone. Am I proposing an Internet license for kids to get online? Actually, that would be nice, but Iâ€™m afraid itâ€™s way too late for that. Nor can we rely on new laws to whip adolescent behavior into shape.
So what can we, as individuals, do to shift our culture? What weâ€™ve always doneâ€¦educate at home and at school.
Student Education: Many educational institutions from grammar school through college should have digital citizenship as a fundamental part of their required curricula. Does yours? Find out what has been conveyed to your kids at school. If not, call the principal and/or bring up the topic at the next PTA meeting. If that doesnâ€™t work, bring it to the school board. Â If your school already addresses digital citizenship with students thatâ€™s great. Â However, it does not mean that parents can wash their hands of the topic. Â The conversation needs to start at home and be reinforced at home.
Parent Education: Parents need to take the initiative to educate themselves. First, they need to get up to speed on what their children are doing in the digital age. Then they need to provide early and ongoing direction and intervention to teach right from wrong.
Let us use the pain we feel at the tragedy of Tyler Clementi and others who have recently committed suicide as a result of cyberbullying, to prompt dialogues with our kids and take appropriate action. Please, letâ€™s work in concert with other parents and in each of our homes to prevent this from happening again.
- Tyler Clementi’s parents want roommate prosecuted, not severely punished (nj.com)
- David Schwimmer’s Trust and two anti-bullying videos that might do more harm than good. (VIDEO) (slate.com)
- Parents want prosecution in teen suicide case (msnbc.msn.com)