Why is Diversity in Internet Culture Important?
Internet Culture ideologies continues to be contested throughout its timeline since the Internet’s inception in the 1960s and 70s. The summation of these debates has caused implications in historical, political, and economic aspects of society, embedding a constructed culture derived from the Internet. Amongst the highly controversial topics sparked by Internet Culture is diversity, or rather, a lack thereof. Internet diversity remains to be a pinpoint for ethical and moral discussions of Internet discourse (Lotti, n.d). Lack of diversity has been identified throughout the development of the Internet, tracing to the foundations of the Internet. As the Internet becomes increasingly intertwined with individual and societal life, one must question how the lack of diversity influenced through the development of the Internet has affected societies and individuals. Moreover, what are the concerning matters of the lack of diversification today and possible implications pending in the future. The essay will first define what is diversity within Internet Culture and how it is identified throughout the discourse. Then, the lack of diversity in Internet Culture development will be examined to see how it has influenced the Internet we use today. Next, harms resulting from lack of diversity upon the context of society and individuals will be analyzed. Lastly, the essay aims to explore various ways modern scholars has created contemporary solutions to reconfigure the structure of the Internet, aiming to diversify the discourse and contribute positively to the discourse.
How has the Development of the Internet Influenced its Diversity?
The importance of diversity in Internet Culture is stated through its influences in the ways users think, dictated through ideologies imprinted upon them by the culture’s producers. Bastian (2019) references the interconnectedness of humans, operating in different networks inherently showing how the culture propagated by the Internet forms our thinking and perception of the world. However, we must question what if the ideologies given out by producers all come from similar beliefs, plagued by biases and ideologies which is not agreed upon by all? Therefore, the lack of diversity here, especially in the developmental stages of the Internet has shaped our ways of thinking and perception of the world, but perhaps towards certain ideologies shielding a hidden agenda by certain individuals. This idea is reiterated by Bastian (2019) showing how a lack of diversity can lead to “inequitable systems and echo chambers”. The proposed question shows why understanding the lack of diversity in Internet Culture will help us to understand how it has influenced the Internet during the developmental stages. Therefore, the essay will continue by exploring the roots and the individuals who assembled foundational ideologies of Internet Culture.
How the Lack of Diversity in Internet Culture Causes Harm and Issues for Society
Moving back through the Internet’s timeline, its origins propose a landscape of predominantly white, male, middle-class males who were the main users of the Internet (Voiskounsky, 1999). In which the purpose of the Internet was mostly for creating a digital network of connected computers, connecting one user to another. In this user-demographic, we note Castells’ (2002) understanding of Internet medium shaped by its users and producers, whom within this timeframe were the same, is further emphasized. Noble (2018) denotes how this specific nature of the Internet can be harmful to societies and individuals through the introduction of the technological redlining concept. Technological redlining refers to a predominant race and sex overshadowing the perspectives and influences of others. Internet Culture has been no different, leading to unequal conditions upheld in capital, racial, and gender factors. Through an exploration into the roots of Internet Culture and understanding how it was structured through the lens of predominantly white males, we understand the propagation of the lack of diversity started with how the Internet has developed (Zimmermann, 2022). Naturally, there are consequential implications to this lack of diversity, which needs exploring to understand how the Internet and its culture became what it is today.
What Implications do the Harms of Lack of Diversity in Internet Culture have on Today’s Society?
Contemporary Internet Culture represents continuous feedback loops where the users have also become producers in modern day society. Therefore, the production of knowledge, perspectives, and opinions, enlisted on the Internet has inherent biases. This viewpoint is reiterated by Ranaivoson (2016) who terms this concept the digital shift, hinting at the digitization through Internet platforms, which “modifies the way cultural sectors are functioning, with ambiguous impact on the diversity of cultural expressions”. A great example of the digital platform shift influencing cultural diversity is Wikipedia’s overshadowed lack of diversity. With the global percentage of female users less than 16 percent and the imbalance of writers skewed towards white men evident, an influential platform like Wikipedia, deemed the Internet’s “closest thing to an online public square” innately pushes ideologies and perspectives which lacks diversity and understanding. This one example is replicated through other, even more influential, and further reaching platforms. When combined, will ultimately resemble a skewed Internet in favor of one perspective, completely negating the supposed purpose of the Internet medium. Hence, we pose the question of how does one diversify Internet Culture, or at least, start to step in the right direction?
Moving Forwards: Diversifying the Future of Internet Culture
Various proposals to work towards a more diversified Internet has already been in development. A prime example of these developments on a global scale is Emmanuel Marcon’s “Paris Call” which represents his pursuit of the reconfiguring Internet governance. Focusing on removal of monopolized mass power by digital platforms and giant tech companies, Marcon’s action plan is representative of how a lack of diversity directly nullifies an Internet Culture of peace and stability (Glance, 2018). While the Paris Call does not directly tackle diversity but rather corporate governance, it is provoking other initiatives which does, such as WeNet. The project backed by the European Union looks to reshape the mainstream perspectives of what social networks should do for individuals (European Commission, 2020). WeNet is a great example of the continuous exploration of solutions for technology which aids with the limitations of digital systems catalyzed through lacking levels of diversity. The technology termed “diversity-aware artificial intelligence” wants to empower deeper and richer social connections through taking in consideration for multidimensional human characteristics and variables. WeNet is a great example of working towards a diversified Internet through the perception that the Internet is inherently skewed towards its producers and users’ perspectives, beliefs, and ethics. Therefore, the confirmation that these ideologies are being recognized is important towards laying the foundation for a more diversified Internet.
In conclusion, through an analysis into the development of the Internet, we understand how cultural dynamics has been shaped by its users and producers, implicating inherently biased perspectives ultimately molding the medium of the Internet. Directly, this has led to a less diversified Internet, leading to harms and consequences for its users and society. This then translated to contemporary day Internet, as the medium takes on a more pivotal role in society and daily life. These harms and consequences continue to amass greater implications which raises greater concerns. Therefore, a pursuit into an exploration for solutions to diversify the Internet Culture is of importance. Examples like the Paris Call or WeNet has helped to ignite a pathway into understanding how the Internet can become more diversified and what are the steps necessary to get there. Overall, diversity within Internet Culture has and will continue to be a pressing matter for individuals and all actors concerned in our modern-day society. Hence, moving forwards, it will be up to all parties, that is the publics, states, and private sector’s responsibility to seek out a more diversified Internet, or risk of it becoming a greater harm to society, than a benefit.
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