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robertogreco : smarthphone   3

Technology did more good than harm this decade
"It's true that, as the scale and pace of technology increased, mistakes were made, lessons went unlearned, and now we have tech companies constantly making privacy violations, enforcing dubiously defended policies, and struggling to take responsibility for the change they have inflicted. But the idea that tech is only a tool is worth poking at, and so is the presumption that it only had negative consequences this decade. Quite to the contrary, it's worth remembering that technology helps many people, and it has especially helped the marginalized.

Just to start small: There was a time not very long ago when you had to yell through a landline to talk to someone overseas. Now, immigrants, refugees, and diasporas of all kinds can communicate simply and almost for free with people across the globe from their smartphones. This is about more than convenience — it's a way of fostering community and connection in what can often be the alienating experience of migration.

For refugees in particular, smartphones provided a lifeline. For the millions fleeing Syria, for example, smartphones were a way to connect with home, aid, and burgeoning communities in their new countries.

Tech thus enables people at the margins of society to find help and find each other in ways that would have been more difficult in prior eras.

But even in comparatively wealthy societies, that capacity of tech to gather people can still produce massive change. In North America, Black Lives Matter and the indigenous movement Idle No More arose in part because of how they were broadcast online, allowing the groups to recruit, get a message out against a hostile media, and coalesce around an idea.

Something similar could be said for the #metoo movement, which naturally found its home online. Beyond that, the general focus on social justice, whether trans rights, race relations, or a growing resurgence of socialism, all found a base and communities online. Would trans people have been able to highlight the enormous prejudice they face as quickly without the web? It seems unlikely.

I'm not trying to be contrarian while others are pointing out the many, very real downsides of the new digital era. Rather, it's important to remember that historical change is ambivalent. Technology's role in that change isn't to be a tool, but something that reforms and reconfigures reality.

The classic example of this comes from German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who suggested that something like a hydroelectric dam doesn't just generate electricity out of the movement of water, but actually makes us reconceive the Rhine river as a thing to be harvested, redirected. Tech isn't an addition to an already existing reality; it creates a new one.

That's an important distinction, because it reframes the conversation around whether tech is good or bad. It forces us to ask what we wish to do with a new reality.

Because for all the ways in which tech can genuinely help marginalized people, it is also the thing that will disproportionately harm them. If and when facial recognition technology is deployed by the police, it will be the poor and racialized who will be unfairly targeted. If social credit systems are used to judge people, as is starting to happen in China, it is hard to believe it won't be the underclass who will suffer. And there is more broadly the pre-existing digital divide, in which upper- and middle-income people have access to tech, which in turn can give them a leg up in school or the workplace.

For all that risk, it's worth pointing out that the groups in society usually trodden underfoot have also used tech to collect themselves, push back, and ameliorate their lives. That is worth remembering too: We are not simply pawns subject to power, but people who can also resist it. And as the decade draws to a close and a new one dawns, we need to consider more than whether or not technology is harming us. We need to ask what we can do with tech to empower the marginalized."
navneetalang  2019  technology  resistance  empowerment  socialmedia  communication  race  digital  reality  heidegger  rhineriver  #metoo  blacklivesmatter  organizing  socialjustice  idlenomore  smartphones  refugees  distance  syria  smarthphone  mobile  phones  migration 
14 days ago by robertogreco
The Hack Scribbler
"I wrote this collection of poetry on my smartphone. It fed my judgmental, five second attention span for almost a year. Now as I look back, the body of work is very much a product of its environment. The poems were inspired by run of the mill, everyday situations in which I sampled my over stimulated life, the lives of my friends and the conversations we all shared. Everyone and everything had eventually become my muse. I took notes down on my phone throughout each day and from there I pieced them all together—re-interpreting them as I went a long... like a collage. I write to you now in formal English but please be aware that the following poetry will deviate from standard spelling and punctuation as the body of work is experimental in nature. You will notice a lack of formatting in each of the poems as the medium—my phone—sometimes had a mind of its own (auto-complete and spell-check). The text would wrap to the next line by default, so I didn’t force any line breaks or interruptions. I simply integrated that workflow into the poems and just went with it. Going into this project I was interested in how we use language in a contemporary setting— how we reconfigure language for our needs and convenience—so be prepared for my personal style to collide with Internet vernacular and the instant messaging inspired broken trains of thought. The style of the poems will evolve—ebb and flow—in length, frequency and intensity as the book unravels so I hope you enjoy the ride."
poetry  poems  books  writing  danieltoumine  2014  howwewrite  smarthphone  mobile  phones 
march 2015 by robertogreco

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