‘Every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.’
Neil Postman offers ‘five ideas about technological change’ in a 1998 lecture. He claims that technology development is always two-sided. The development of the Internet brings huge benefits to society and individuals but also causes a lack of diversity through the development of the Internet. As more people attend to the contribution to the global internet, the internet also required various technologies and ideas of governing by politics, economics, and technology.
The early internet is a distributed network where digital information and content could spread freely without restrictions. This also solidified the idea that the early internet has qualified properties to operate based on autonomous communities without government control and other restrictions. Structural and cultural biases were also not a feature of the early internet discussion. With the development of science and technology, the Internet has gradually been popularized. It connects people all over the world so that users can see a bigger world and contact more people. The original intention of the Internet seems dreamy and idealistic. Therefore, in the early days of the Internet, diversity, inclusiveness, freedom of expression, and speech on each Internet platform by platform users were the goals of the whole Internet development.
Although Internet users enable to see a bigger world through Internet, the world of Internet media users is still getting smaller. This is because it has become monotonous and lacks diversity. It’s not only limited to individuals, but also affects politics, economics, society, and culture. They bring order and benefits to Internet but also cause a lack of diversity that emphasize and deteriorate the bias and discrimination issue between different Internet social communities.
Lack of diversity effect cultural & multicultural individuals on Internet platforms.
From the perspective of the lack of diversity’s effect on cultural and multicultural individuals, one interesting thing deserves to be mentioned, structural and cultural biases were not a feature of early Internet discussion patterns. A structural factor contributing to racial and gender stereotypes in recent internet issue is due to the fact of the workforce in the information and communication technology industry, which are dominated by white and Asian men with limited undergraduate or graduate backgrounds in computer science, engineering, mathematics, and statistics fields (Kim, 2019). This shows a lack of diversity in database research during the production of internet content. More data means the more diverse the source of data, the more diverse the sources of data, the more valuable and meaningful the data. Therefore, many Internets platform prefers to use algorithmic to better ‘matching’ between users’ past preferences and future transactions. To cater to users’ personal preferences, Internet companies are constantly optimizing personalization algorithms on social media platforms to create tailor-made homepages for users. This results in users getting stuck in a filter bubble of repetitive information, unable to access information that challenges or expands their worldview. Results for the same search term on the same social platform can also vary dramatically between different users. The platform shows user information that only the algorithm thinks they want to see, not the information that is essential for users. Therefore, although the internet breaks the limits of place and time to connect people from various cultures together, it also brings an enclosed, lack of diversity world to Internet platforms, forming biased and divided groups.
‘Platforms don’t just mediate public discourse, they constitute it. They are designed to invite and shape participation, toward particular ends.’
When Internet companies cannot receive benefits from their products, users’ information and data become chances and products to earn commercial benefits. The idea of designing a platform’s user experience is no longer that the user will occasionally find the product enjoyable and fun to use and recommend it to others. In this process, companies are more concerned with retention, return, and conversion rates than users’ preferences. They manipulate the user’s experience for profit depending on psychology and behavior to craft features. It’s not what users want, it’s just that they’re convinced by the promotion.
Social platforms should establish appropriate mechanisms to cooperate with public supervision and encourage disseminators of different identities and cultural backgrounds — especially those from vulnerable groups — to express their opinions equally. Also, every internet platform user should ensure that they have equal rights to communication and prevent the manipulation of filter bubbles and large social groups effectively.
The control of national governments and traditional institutions to Internet platforms.
National governments and institutions have increasingly been applied since the 2010s to prevent the public from public shocks and responses to political scandals. In 2018, a false alert sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency caused emergency panic and anxiety on Twitter. Depending on Twitter’s psychological reactions data that present pressure and anxiety by the reason of false alarm from Hawaii between 6 weeks before and 18 days after the event, there was a 4.6% increase of anxiety emotions on the day of the false alert, and a 3.4% increased every minute during the alarm (Jones & Silver, 2020). People got huge chaos and the panic spread on internet social media platforms that escalated into a global safety issue. Therefore, government intervention to control public opinion becomes essential. Besides, it may also ensure the legitimacy of the internet social communities and legal copyrights of content producers to enforce laws and promote democratically with recognition.
However, the involvement of the government could make the internet ecosystem into a more political dimension perspective. For example, it may lead to censorship of content on the social media platform and restrict the diversity and speech freedom of users. It also forms different internet systems in different cultures and countries, which is called the splinternet.
There are always different Internet companies depending on each different country. Google, Facebook, and Apple in the United States; WeChat, Baidu, and Weibo in China; Yandex in Russia, etc. It seems like the centralization of Internet power instead of decentralization (Lemley, M. A. 2021). The institutions of government are easier to get a diverse source of data and dominate the internet social media platform through supervision and political pressing. Unlike social media platforms that are willing to let users see what they want to see by algorithms to reach a consensus, the effects from a government institution to Internet social media platforms are more related to enhancing national awareness and forming user limitation among the Internet giants in their own countries. Due to political conflicts happened between different countries, some countries also restrict and banned the flow of information from other countries, which also makes the Internet lack vitality and diversity. For example, due to a military border conflict between India and China, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps, including the wildly popular TikTok, WeChat, Weibo…etc., which has left millions of users surprised and disappointed.
In conclusion, media content participants and communication platforms should base on the principle of seeking commonality while putting aside differences so that be able to make the internet maximizes tolerance and diversity of different cultural values to achieve the aim of multicultural and disciplinary culture, forming a peaceful coexistence between different ethnic communities.
- Jones, N. M., & Silver, R. C. (2020). This Is Not a Drill: Anxiety on Twitter Following the 2018 Hawaii False Missile Alert. The American Psychologist, 75(5), 683–693.
- Kim, T. (2019). Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. International Journal of Communication (Online), 2062–.
- Neil (2022). ‘Five Ideas About Technological Change’ (Neil Postman 1998) in Critical Studies of Education & Technology.
- Park, M & Allen, K (2018). Hawaii False Missile Alert ‘Button Pusher’ Is Fired. In CNN.
- York, D (2022). What Is the Splinternet? And Why You Should Be Paying Attention. In Internet Society.
- Lemley, M. A. (2021). THE SPLINTERNET. Duke Law Journal, 70(6), 1397–.
- Ban on Chinese apps, including TikTok, surprises India content makers. In BBC.
- Gillespie, T (2017) ‘Governance by and through Platforms’, in J. Burgess, A. Marwick & T. Poell (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Social Media, London: SAGE, pp. 254-278.