Internet Inequalities #COMM2F00

The idea that the Internet creates equality and offers everyone regardless of his or her race, class, or gender the same information was more prominent in the early age of the Internet. Boyd notes a cartoon about a big dog talking to a small dog saying, “ On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog.” I can understand why in the early days of the Internet this seemed like a reasonable observation. Before the social media eruption when using an Internet chat room you had the option to be completely anonymous. Everyone used a nickname such as 007agent and you did not have to release information about your gender, race, etc. However because of the evolution of social media this is no longer the case.

Now we all have multiple accounts that make our information accessible to other Internet users at anytime. For example Facebook we disclose our gender, age, career, etc. and this information is always available on our profile, depending on our security settings. The majority of us also post pictures, which eliminates any privacy of our physical appearances (such as race). This has dissolved the foundation that the Internet has created equality because we disclose our personal information online it enforces the inequalities we face in the real world.

Before this week I had not considered this fact, but after this weeks discussion I think that it is something we should be concerned with. Possibly more so than we are with addressing the inequalities in the real world. Even though the Internet has not eliminated inequalities it has empowered many people. What I mean by this is that people have added confidence when they are not communicating in person. Unfortunately this is not usually a good thing. A prime example of this is all of the Internet “Trolls” that have nasty comments to make about everything. In most cases many of these people would not have the nerve to say these things to a person’s face, yet they can make rude comments online repetitively.

When considering how inequalities online affect online classes I reflected on Hargittai’s study. The study’s findings indicated that people with more access points or ways of using the Internet have more advanced skills. This indicates that someone who only has access to a laptop will have less experience and therefore fewer skills than someone who has access to an iPhone and iPad in addition to a laptop. This creates an inequality for those who cannot afford additional luxury items. As well I think that experience is gained based on the variety of cites you use as well as the frequency. For example in this course people with previous experience and accounts with the social media sites we used for our projects I feel they had an advantage when completing the assignments. I personally had a view from both sides of this, I am an avid Pinterester so I enjoyed that assignment and had no problems. On the other hand I was not familiar with Storify and because of this I found it more difficult.

Although online classes still have aspects with inequalities I think that it also creates equalities that in class lectures do not. By taking the course online it allows a student to learn at his or her own pace. They can reread course material and any updates from the professor. However, when taking a course in class often you do not catch everything the professor says during lecture and you cannot rewind and play the lecture over again. As well, I know that personally my attention span wears out long before lecture is over. However, when taking an online class I can allot time to work on the course when I know it will have my full attention. These benefits of online classes level the playing field for all students as it allows us to each learn at our own pace.

The bottom line is that while the Internet does have many benefits, creating an environment that allows everyone to be equal is not one of them.


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