Networked Society – Culture and Internet

How has the access to information about other cultures around the world via the Internet impacted your life directly?

 

I volunteer as a leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop and understanding cultures around the world, through the Internet, has not only impacted my life, but theirs as well. One way that this has occurred is through our research and participation in the Girl Scout World Thinking Day. World Thinking Day occurs each year on February 22 (my birthday) and it’s a time for Girl Scouts to honor their sister Girl Scouts in other countries (World Thinking Day). Each year our troop participates in this event by meeting up with other Girl Scout Troops in our Service Unit and we each select a country around the world to research and represent at a World Thinking Day expo. I’ve been the leader of my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop for four years (since she was a Daisy) and we have researched Mexico, Sweden and Argentina. We do much of our research about the culture through the Internet. When we researched Mexico, we created sugar skulls in honor of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Dia de los Muertos is a holiday celebrated in Mexico on November 1 and 2 and those that participate believe that the gates of heaven open to allow them to reunite of the spirits of the deceased for 24 hours (Day of the Dead & the Sugar Skull Tradition). When we researched Sweden, we found out about Midsummer and the maypole. Through Girl Scouts, we also research other cultures that have led us to our annual community service project of making shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. We talk about how children around the world are not as fortunate. According to Samaritan’s Purse, “Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has collected and delivered more than 113 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in over 150 countries through Operation Christmas Child” (2014 Fact Sheet). Through the Internet, both the girls and I can learn about cultures around the world.

 

Our author claims: “The absence of social hierarchy in a democratic environment is the true essence of Web 2.0” (p. 20). Do you believe that the Internet is a democratic space? Do you agree that social networking is the great equalizer? Why or why not?

 

I agree with McNeil’s (2013) assessment that the Internet is a democratic space. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and wikis have made it possible for anyone to be an author. Gone are the days of only obtaining news from the newspaper or nightly news. While those channels are not extinct, they don’t sit alone. That is why I agree with McNeil (2014) that the Internet is democratic. It doesn’t exclude anyone and it doesn’t solely place the power in the hands of the people in lieu of mass media conglomerates, but instead it offers a space for all.

 

I vehemently agree with McNeil (2014) when he says, “The original few-to-many mass communication model is now antiquated and is reminiscent of of (sic) a time when only certain organizations could afford to publish and distribute information” (12). This is absolutely true. Whereas in days past we were reliant upon the mass media conglomerates to feed us with information, the power is now in the hands of the community. We have seen this with recent examples of the power in the hands of the community, such as the JPMorgan #AskJPM Twitter hashtag backlash. Originally JP Morgan wanted to use the hashtag #AskJPM to promote their company and encourage college students to communicate directly with senior executive, Brian Marchiony. However, within hours users had taken over the hashtag and JP Morgan received hundreds of tweets from people who asked questions about their questionable business practices. JP Morgan cancelled their planned Q&A and hasn’t launched a similar series since (Barak & Pavelski, 2013). This example demonstrates how the power is in the hands of the people, not the company. If JP Morgan had used a traditional media channel to conduct a Q&A with their leader, such a static newspaper article, they could have controlled the content. Companies can no longer completely control their content, which in turn, makes the experience more democratic.

 

I wouldn’t go as far to say that social media is the great equalizer though. While there is power in the community with social media, marginalized groups still don’t have an equal voice. I am interested to see how new technology will contribute towards equalizing the voice in media. Rob Rusher, Google Glass creating, speaks about how Google Glass revolutionaries media by allowing users to participate in media while continuing to be socially engaged (Banks, 2014). Potentially new media that we don’t even know of yet will contribute towards the equalization and democratic nature of media. I’m excited for what the future holds.

 

Question: What social media channel has had the greatest impact on you? Do you agree with my assessment that marginalized groups still don’t have an equal voice on social media?

 

 

References

 

2014 Fact Sheet (2014). SamartitansPurse.org. Retrieved from http://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/operation-christmas-child-fact-sheet/

Banks, T. (Interviewer) & Andy Vuong, Dr. Stephanie Smith, Rob Rusher and Dr. S. Craig Watkins (Interviewees). (2014, April 23). What’s new in high tech? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://video.pbs.org/video/2365229651/

 

Barak, N. and Pavelski, J. (2013, December 31). New York Post. The worst social media blunders of 2013. Retrieved from http://nypost.com/2013/12/31/worst-social-media-blunders-of-2013/

Day of the Dead & the Sugar Skull Tradition (n.d.). MexicanSugarSkull.com. Retrieved from http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html

 

McNeill, S.J. (2013). Concepts in New Media. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.

 

World Thinking Day (2014). GirlScouts.org. Retrieved from https://www.girlscouts.org/who_we_are/global/world_thinking_day/

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