The Internet age is profoundly changing the way society functions, and this digital transformation has brought about a reconfiguration of value networks and disruptive innovations. However, the open world built by the Internet is based on a context of creative destruction that can be summarised as a culture of toxic technology, reflecting regressive ideas and space of toxic rationalisation against pluralism and progressivism (Massanari, 2017). An obvious manifestation is that topics such as cultural homogenisation and sexism have been at the forefront of controversy, which implies a lack of diversity. Indeed, a narrow conception of diversity has developed in the internet environment, which has had a negative impact on society and individuals. The following blog will focus on what diversity is, how lack of diversity affects the development of the Internet, and how it harms society and individuals.
What is Internet diversity?
Many people understand diversity simply as race, gender, and age, but Internet diversity is a complex concept that has many facets. In terms of technology, it is defined as information technology that has been developed and built based on computer technology, which is a global network system (Miller, 2006). Meanwhile, Internet diversity is reflected in the different platforms available, for example, the social platforms available to users and the educational platforms applicable to different levels. More importantly, Internet diversity is closely linked to cultural pluralism. With the development of the Internet culture has become an essential element of the communication and media environment, and even of everyday life and society in many countries (Brugger et al., 2017). Cultural diversity is a broad concept that encompasses not only diverse languages, ethnicities, genders, and religions, but also disabilities and other identity experiences (Joo, 2002). Therefore the diversity of the Internet is not limited to the diversity of technologies or platforms, it is also about the cultural diversity of the Internet.
Impact of lack of diversity on Internet Development
Diversity plays an important role in the development of the Internet. Technology companies benefit from a diverse workforce and thus have more possibilities to innovate or improve their technology. In addition, the development of diverse companies provides a new dynamic to the technology market. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity is still a key factor currently holding back the development of the Internet.
- The homogeneity of the workforce limits technological innovation
As technology workers are a necessary factor in the growth of the Internet industry, a fair and inclusive work environment within a company is particularly important. As stated in the video, diverse teams imply multiple perspectives and backgrounds, and it is important to promote innovation and creativity in the industry. the findings of Miller (2006) show that as cultural diversity increases, diverse companies tend to create more value than monolithic companies. In order to achieve their diversity goals, companies must address their internal cultural issues. However, many technology companies still face criticism and accusations of racism and misogyny. For example, Google abruptly fired a highly regarded AI researcher (a black woman) (Schwab, 2021). And when interviewing departing women, 68% of the respondents said they had been discriminated against in relation to age, gender, and race (Melendez, 2021). In addition, in a study of women of colour by UC Hastings College of Law, 100% of the female scientists interviewed reported experiencing racial bias and gender stereotyping (Marcus, 2015). In recent years, the technology industry has faced increasing scrutiny over issues of diversity and inclusion. Although Todd Zipper, president of Wiley Education Services, claims that US companies spend about $8 billion more each year to train for cultural diversity and inclusion, this is not enough to achieve workplace equity (Melendez, 2021). It can be seen that the development of the Internet faces improvements in diversity, and it is particularly important to address the underlying causes of the overt discrimination prevalent in the technology industry.
- Monopolies lead to an uneven playing field
Another important factor affecting the development of the Internet besides the internal factors of technology companies is a corporate monopoly, as it stifles competition and destroys diversity in the industry (Hayes, 2022). Survey data up to 2020 shows that Alibaba has more than 50% of the Chinese e-commerce market and even more than 10% of the US e-commerce market share held by Amazon (Lee, 2021). This data suggests that Alibaba, by virtue of its dominant position in the Chinese market, has a large degree of control over consumer choice. In fact, the uncontrolled growth of monopolies leaves little room for competitors to penetrate core markets. Furthermore, monopolies often lack incentives to research and develop new technologies due to their dominant market share and lucrative returns (Holmes et al., 2012). For example, Facebook acquired WhatsApp and Instagram, which together have 3.6 billion social media users worldwide (Shead, 2019). This exemplifies the vicious cycle of monopolies limiting effective competition by acquiring promising small and medium-sized enterprises, which leads to a perpetual lack of competitiveness in the market. Tech giant companies have collectively created a networked ecosystem that permeates almost every other industry platform, despite 55% of Americans raising concerns about corporate monopolies (Viljoen, 2021). Thus, corporations have inhibited the progress of the Internet through their monopolistic positions, and although this has contributed to economic growth to some extent, a fair and effective playing field remains a key factor in the development of the Internet.
How does a lack of diversity affect society and individuals?
The Internet has changed the social fabric and ushered in a whole new era, in that it has accelerated the clash and convergence of traditional and online cultures, forming related groups into online communities. However, if the technology industry lacks diversity, it will face serious setbacks (Melendez, 2021). The harm and serious consequences that result from a lack of diversity can be reflected at the social and individual levels.
The lack of diversity can lead to cultural homogenisation and can be devastating to local cultures. According to Tomlinson (2005), the globalisation of culture can be seen as ‘Americanisation’. In fact, pop culture has become a strong point in America’s global image. According to Pew Research Center survey data, most people in EU countries say they like American music, movies and television, and 69% of people in Japan and Brazil say they like these American cultural exports (Heimlich, 2012). Nevertheless, what the US has done is not to influence culture, but to reinforce its pre-existing views and values through cultural exports. For example, the idea of the ‘American Dream’ is exported to the world through Hollywood films. The consequence of this phenomenon is that many people who have never been to the country still feel they know a lot about life there. The theory of cultural homogenisation is based on a Western view of the world and ignores most of the regions that are excluded from these exchanges. Furthermore, it relies heavily on the idea of media presence and influence. For example, the American film industry continues to portray Russia as the antagonist and defy Russian protests, including the Russian evildoers in A Good Day to Die Hard and a sadistic former KGB operative in The Avengers (Brook, 2014). This has the subliminal effect of making viewers think that Russians are horrible. This shows that cultural homogenisation mainly reflects a Western-centric viewpoint that resorts to ethnic stereotypes. Therefore, the lack of diversity can lead to cultural homogenisation which inevitably takes the form of a commodity, capital culture, and ultimately hinders the development of society.
The lack of diversity can affect the values of adolescents and the exclusion of older people from society. For adolescents, cognitive, emotional and social development all have an impact on their values, and findings by the Pew Research Center show that TikTok has replaced Facebook as one of the most popular online platforms among adolescents (Vogels et al., 2022). However, due to the lack of diversity in the platform’s algorithms, it may push extreme and provocative videos to adolescents, which ultimately leads to mental health problems among them. For example, a large number of videos with the paintok tag in TikTok were recommended to adolescents, and the videos were all about suicide and self-harm (Byrne, 2021). This example largely illustrates the dangers of a lack of diversity for children’s health. Older adults often suffer from unresponsiveness, which makes it more difficult for them to keep up with the Internet. According to statistics, 23% of older adults say that their physical condition makes reading difficult (Smith, 2014). Aside from health, technological literacy is also a challenge. As many as 77% of older adults say they need help using their smartphones or computer (Smith, 2014). These figures illustrate how older adults are missing out on internet technology, which often leaves older adults feeling isolated and alone. As such, the lack of diversity can be very damaging to individuals, and it severely damages their physical and mental health.
In conclusion, the Internet age has not only facilitated the daily lives of the public but has also promoted the openness of society and the process of globalisation. However, the lack of diversity is indeed an issue that requires ongoing attention, and it can have a range of serious consequences, including limiting the development of Internet innovation or even regressing it, deepening the harm caused by prejudice and discrimination, and affecting the values and physical and mental health of users. Therefore, accepting and accommodating cultural differences and increasing the diversity of the Internet should be a common endeavour for all of us.
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