‘Every great technology is embedded with an epistemological, political or social prejudice. Sometimes that bias is greatly to our advantage. Sometimes it is not. ‘——Neil Postman
The Internet, as the foundation of the information society, has become an indispensable tool in people’s life through the development year by year. As an information infrastructure, the Internet has greatly facilitated the development of free speech and efficient markets (Hoffman, 1997). Not limited to websites, the apps we use are subtly changing our lives. As users, we seem to take it for granted that the Internet has increased our knowledge and diversity of the world in an extremely convenient way. Our world seems to be infinitely large because of the existence of the Internet, but where we don’t realise it, we are bound by the Internet’s invisibility. The seemingly rich network world actually makes the Internet more restricted.
Fight against technology
Algorithms play an extremely important role in the Internet, and by combining a huge information base, algorithms limit our actions on the Internet（Bucher, 2012）. For example, on social platforms, in order to cater to users’ preferences, algorithms analyse and match users’ personal information and data, so that users will repeatedly see the content they are interested in, and at the same time, they will also meet like-minded people on the Internet. But this means that our circles on social platforms are completely limited to those who agree with us, and we cannot hear those different voices, because the different opinions have long been filtered by the algorithm. The purpose of Internet media is to allow audiences to see or perceive things that we cannot touch. However, the existence of algorithms makes the information that should be diverse become monotonous (Gillespie, 2014) . This is also why on online social platforms nowadays, users are always arguing wildly because of different opinions, speaking in the network does not need to take responsibility. Because in the monotonous network environment, users are gradually unable to accept different opinions. The behaviour of Internet algorithms to label and dataize users has greatly reduced the diversity of users. The Internet does help us break through the constraints of time and space, connecting us together, but at the same time creating a closed information cocoon for us. The diversity of the world we see is enclosed in prejudiced and divisive groups.
When the singularity generated by the algorithm gradually penetrates into people’s lives through the content produced on the network platform, the problems about gender, race and culture are frequently occurring.
An unbridgeable gap
The concept of the digital divide is one of the important reasons for reducing the diversity of the Internet. The digital divide refers to the differences in the use or exposure of digital products among people of different races, ages, genders, and economic levels in society. Studies have shown that this difference is particularly evident in age (Loges, 2001). It is true that we cannot deny that this phenomenon has been greatly alleviated in today’s convenient technology, and more elderly people have begun to learn how to use digital products, which has brought great convenience to their lives. But we still need to pay attention that most of the elderly learn the use of digital products only for the necessary digital occasions in life, such as QR code scanning. It also means that they rarely participate in the Internet. Therefore, the Internet, especially social platforms, is often judged to be exclusive to young people, because most young people will gather on various platforms in order to understand trends, while old people will not.
The prejudice on the issue of gender has never stopped on the Internet, and this issue has even diverged infinitely because of the Internet. Studies have shown that in some countries, the number of men online may be 50% higher. In these countries, due to various reasons, women have relatively few opportunities to access the Internet. Not only do they fail to enjoy the Internet rights they deserve, but the government also bears certain economic losses. Therefore, today with the gradual rise of feminism, we still feel that the Internet has prejudice against women. The influence of gender stereotypes in our lives is gradually affecting this gender issue on the Internet, and it is also the fuse of online gender-based violence. The Internet has deepened gender stereotypes to some extent, which has also delayed the realisation of gender equality. For this reason, special laws have been enacted to protect the safety and rights of women on the Internet. But it is worth mentioning that this law was proposed by the European Council, and the women mentioned above who have no or little access to the Internet are more from developing countries, such as Egypt or Nigeria. It can be seen that the disparity in the national economy has also led to a reduction in the diversity of the Internet.
Racial issues are also an important factor contributing to the lack of diversity on the Internet. Previous studies have shown that African Americans use the Internet mostly for entertainment, while whites use the Internet more for information technology (Hoffman, 1997). It also turns out that in entertainment, such as music, African Americans make up the vast majority of content. It has been suggested earlier that at some social media creator gatherings, white faces make up the majority, while people of color are too few to be easily remembered. The diversity of the social media environment seems to have long been racially characterized, and racial prejudice still exists, both in real life and online, and even if someone tries to change it, the effect is still minimal.
Not just among Internet users, this can be discussed in depth in the membership diversity of Internet companies. In the news, a Google engineer was fired for accusing the team of a lack of diversity. It’s not hard to see that even a massive internet company like Google is escaping the issue of diversity. This will become a blind spot in the design of Internet models. Teams lacking diversity may not realize that the designed models are not diverse or even discriminatory. So to a certain extent, we can also say that the people who designed the Internet have more or less influenced the diversity of the Internet today.
In general, the lack of diversity on the Internet can be attributed to two reasons. One is a force majeure factor that is passively accepted by people and generated by an algorithm. The other is the lack of diversity, whether intentional or not, due to prejudice of gender, race, etc. under the digital divide. A lack of diversity is dangerous for the Internet itself, as it may well cause its development to stagnate or move in some kind of drastic direction. For people and society, the lack of diversity on the Internet reinforces stereotypes and prejudices, driving users unknowingly to extremes. There’s no way of knowing what to do to change this, but maybe the team behind the internet could be a good starting point. When the team members are more diverse, including more employees of different genders and races, perhaps the diversity problem of the Internet will be solved soon.
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