“The world is neither flat nor on a plane.”
The Internet’s popularization breaks the boundary in the traditional world. People no longer tend to communicate in one area. They have more ways to understand the world. Many believe that the Internet is making the world bigger while the incongruity of human culture and language is disappearing. This blog argues that the lack of diversity means that the future of the Internet will not be global. It will only take root in one place. The lack of diversity can affect the development of the Internet in several ways, which will be discussed in detail below. Firstly, from a lack of cultural diversity, some groups are still highly discriminated against, while others have a lasting voice. In addition, the lack of diversity affects the information provided by the algorithm and leads to the reinforcement of stereotypes. Special groups only want to live in their comfort zone, which exacerbates the formation of prejudice. Finally, the lack of multi-platform development leads to the monopoly of the Internet economy.
Internet Culture Issues
The lack of diversity on the Internet is not limited to today. In the early days of Internet journalism, white men dominated the Internet. In Western countries, most news broadcasters are white males or young, attractive females (Huisman, Murphet, & Dunn, 2005). Thus, most people believe that white men speak with authority. This lack of diversity raises several questions, such as how can the Internet ensure that white male broadcasters do not carry their own biases into their statements? Lack of diversity is identified by missing information from multiple sources or by the underrepresented type of news. Looking at things from one side’s point of view alone cannot be considered diverse. Such a view only introduces a preexisting bias. Herman (2001) states that diversity can only be discussed if external standards are applied to Internet content (Humprecht & Esser, 2018). This lack of diversity leads to fewer and fewer people speaking up for controversial issues, and disadvantaged people on the Internet will be at a disadvantage.
What is more, noteworthy is that many users will pretend to be white male users when constructing virtual identities (Nakamura, 2002). It also means that the impression that white men have a dominant voice is imprinted on people’s minds. They’re trying to assert themselves through fake identities. Some people will disguise themselves as horny white male users, expressing their dissatisfaction this way. If this problem is not solved, the registration rate of fake white male users will continue to rise in the future.
In addition, Hacker Culture constitutes a restrictive feature of Internet culture. It was initially considered an innovative computer game for the online world. Over time, the word ‘hacker’ has lost its original meaning. It is now widely regarded as a Youth Culture focused on disrupting the Internet and undermining authority. However, the biggest reason for the cultural deterioration is that hackers cannot accept the problems left over from history and the hegemony of part of the mainstream culture. The lack of cultural diversity on the Internet leads them to find extreme ways, such as invading others’ computers, modifying codes, and so on. At the same time, hackers also have a good side, such as they defend the freedom of speech on the Internet. Therefore, hacker culture is diverse.
However, today’s Internet denies the existence of hacker cultural diversity (Castells, 2001). Under a Google search for the word “hacker news,” media outlets are endlessly amplifying news about hackers invading the Internet. In general, the lack of diversity and the hegemony of content will only deepen the isolation and panic of netizens toward’ hackers.’ Hackers who do not get people’s understanding will only be more rampant to do some strange events to admit their value.
Lack of Diversity in Algorithms
The operation of the Internet can not be separated from algorithm research. According to research, most developers are male (Amrute, 2020). How can they ensure that the programs they research or the content they publish are objective, equal, and diverse? These engineers’ selective exposure and racial attitudes are very evident on the Internet. They selectively recommend content to users through the design of algorithms, which are likely to carry their own subconscious biases (Melican & Dixon, 2008). For example, a comprehensive analysis found that the algorithms used to allocate health care to patients in American hospitals have been systematically discriminating against blacks. This means that the algorithm cannot meet programs that recommend more personalized care for black patients with complex medical needs compared to whites with the same illness (Ledford, 2019). This reflects the fact that developers actively engage in discrimination against people of color (Noble, 2018).
Although platforms like YouTube have developed new algorithms to automatically censor videos that reach the public eye. However, many children’s cartoons that have been released carry discriminatory connotations. 10 insanely racist moments from Disney movies, as shown in the video below. This may be because the algorithm is programmed to look like a normal cartoon. Little do they know that such cartoons have imperceptibly transmitted the meaning behind them to children and hurt some groups. People create algorithms, but only the creator of the algorithm has the privilege (Amrute, 2020). Thus, the lack of diversity within the Internet only exacerbates the endless cycle of misconceptions about gender and race in today’s society.
In addition, the algorithm will recommend content to each user based on their preferences. Web platforms are developed to make money. They don’t analyze whether users need to adopt a new culture. Such preferences encourage users to stay within their cultural comfort zone. In the absence of cultural collisions, some online users will be limited to thinking that the culture they perceive is the mainstream culture. This leads to an increasing lack of understanding of subordinate culture. For example, LGBTQ youth go online to find LGBTQ-related content, and in this way, they gain a sense of belonging and socialize (Jenzen, 2017). Such cultural self-isolation will only narrow communication on the Internet.
With the rise of information technology, such as artificial intelligence, many modern enterprises have changed their mode of operation and technology innovation. Internet platform companies such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Didi have established new business models. There is no denying that these platforms optimize the allocation of resources and bring about economic sharing. However, many critics believe that this is not true sharing (John, 2016). The monopoly of the online platform economy leads to the lack of diversity on the Internet. With the expansion of Internet platforms, Google and Baidu have become the main search engines of contemporary people. These platforms, ubiquitous on the Internet, dominate their markets. As long as the platform is popular with users, their user value will increase. When they become powerful monopolies, many new entrants to the market are left out. For example, the owner of TikTok accused Tencent of abusing its dominant position by preventing WeChat users from sharing Douyin short videos (He, 2022). In such an ecosystem, new online platforms face several obstacles.
In addition, these large platforms will also provide better economic conditions for acquiring some small and medium-sized enterprises with strong innovation abilities. They will use the ‘one or the other’ approach to crowd out other competitors in the market. This winner-takes-all dynamic prevents platform companies from innovating and competing fairly in the Internet market, making them more powerful monopolies.
In conclusion, the lack of diversity, such as white male dominance, a single gender of internal developers, and a monopoly of platforms, will prevent the Internet from growing. According to the above analysis, the lack of diversity will intensify people’s prejudice against race, gender, and other cultures, and disadvantaged groups will still be at a disadvantage. Small and medium-sized platforms with ideas are also being left out of the market. For all these reasons, the Internet will no longer be a vast third world, and it will become increasingly limited.
Amrute, S. (2020). Bored Techies Being Casually Racist: Race as Algorithm. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 45(5), 903–933. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243920912824
Castells, M. (2001). The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society, 37-63. Oxford University Press.
He, Q. (2022). Rethinking the legal regulation of Internet platform monopoly in China. Policy and Internet, 14(2), 284–303. https://doi.org/10.1002/poi3.304
Huisman, R., Murphet, J., & Dunn, A. (2005). Television news as narrative. In Narrative and Media (pp. 140–152). https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511811760.011
Humprecht, E., & Esser, F. (2018). Diversity in Online News: On the importance of ownership types and media system types. Journalism Studies (London, England), 19(12), 1825–1847. https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2017.1308229
Jenzen, O. (2017). Trans youth and social media: moving between counterpublics and the wider web. Gender, Place and Culture : a Journal of Feminist Geography, 24(11), 1626–1641. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2017.1396204
John, N. A. (2016). Chapter 4: Sharing Economics. The Age of Sharing. Polity Press. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.sydney.edu.au/lib/usyd/reader.action?docID=4770940&ppg=58
Ledford, H. (2019). Millions of black people affected by racial bias in health-care algorithms. Nature (London), 574(7780), 608–609. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-03228-6
Marcus, B. (2015). The Lack Of Diversity In Tech Is A Cultural Issue. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2015/08/12/the-lack-of-diversity-in-tech-is-a-cultural-issue/?sh=4cb3f8f279a2
Melican, D. B., & Dixon, T. L. (2008). News on the Net: Credibility, Selective Exposure, and Racial Prejudice. Communication Research, 35(2), 151–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650207313157
Nakamura, L. (2002). Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction. In Cybertypes (1st ed., pp. 1–30). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203953365-1
Noble, Safiya U. (2018) A society, searching. In Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York: New York University. pp. 56.
Subcultureslist. (n.d.). HACKER CULTURE. https://subcultureslist.com/hacker-culture/