Category Archives: Social Media

A Frightening Future: Tech and Self-Image

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A recent observation combined with current ICT4D discussion in our classroom has sparked my interest in the relationship between self-image and access to technology. It’s hard to escape the boundless pictures of babies on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. This generation now has every moment of their lives documented. From the moment they are able to figure out a camera, they know what they look like instantly. Every bad day and every life phase are instantly sealed in time. The impact marketing and media have on girls’ self-esteem is a messy and popular debate in American society. What have we done? Added even more to that loaded conversation. I started thinking to myself, what will happen to a generation that grew up with such easy access to photos of themselves?

When I was little I don’t remember ever looking at pictures of myself, most likely because it took so long to get them developed and they were only reserved for special occasions like Christmas pictures. Now, any child within reach of a smart phone (or usually what’s worse, any parent within reach of a smart phone) has access to countless snapshots of trivial day-to-day activities. They get to stare at pictures of themselves daily. Will this create a bigger issue than we realize? I am totally willing (and hopeful) to accept the fact that this will just be another thing kids don’t really “get” and they will not internalize it. But on the other hand, knowing how you look and judging yourself on how your pictures turn out from the day you’re able to comprehend what you look like is a little frightening. We see so many blogs dedicated to baby fashion or every mommy blogger taking photos of their children and uploading them daily. Are we going to have a bunch of baby narcissists? Who grow up to be worse, big people narcissists? It’s not only that we should be concerned with. It creates a micro-world that takes focus off bigger issues than a girl’s day-to-day “selfie” appearance.

We have a long running debate now about how much media confuses girls’ identity and relationship to themselves. We worry about whether Facebook makes us have FOMO or feel insecure. We worry that in seeing pictures of ourselves it sticks with us and shapes our perspective on our appearance. What if little girls (and to expand the narrative, little boys)  are constantly looking through the pictures they have of themselves wondering if they like what they see?

It all depends on which school of thought you belong to or which dataset you decide to fall back on. But, none of us can ignore the fact that there is always going to be something a little off with being too attached to appearance and technology has made this even more challenging.

I see this affecting more than just the developed world. We like to focus on the perks of technology for developing countries, but there’s a chance they could learn in advance from a few of the faults. While we use social media and technology to feel “up to speed” or “in the moment” it has actually done the opposite. The natural motion of life has been disturbed and our image along with it distorted. Before fully adapting technology into daily life, this should be considered in retrospect.

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Facebook’s new “Nearby Friends” feature could be a tool for disasters

During Tuesday’s class we discussed different technology tools that can be used to respond to disasters. Today, I read an article on CNN.com about Facebook launching a new feature called “Nearby Friends” and I thought it could be an interesting tool that could be used to respond to natural disasters, though it certainly does have some drawbacks. If users choose to turn the feature on, their friends will be able to follow their location. The idea is that the feature will enable face-to-face interaction by allowing users to see which of their friends are nearby. Users are also able to choose which friends are able to access their location information. Furthermore, the location is only shared with friends who have agreed to also share their locations. The feature will automatically update the location of the user.

The initial safety and privacy concerns are mitigated since Facebook made the feature opt-in and gives users much flexibility in choosing who is allowed to view their location. Users must be cautious with who they allow to follow them and parents must be especially vigilant about their children. But, if used properly, it gives only people close to them the ability to view their location. In times of disaster, this could be extremely beneficial. Following disasters, family and friends often have a difficult time locating their loved ones. This feature has the potential to allow people to quickly locate their loved ones. It could be deployed in disaster zones for this purpose.  It is, however, limited in how much it could be used since the app would still require some type of network connection to continue sending updates.


Social Media and Disasters

After large disasters, public information is very important. People want to be fully informed on the extent of the disaster, and they want to know right away. These days the quickest way to gather the latest information, most of the time, is through social media. Social media allows everyday people to report the news as they see it to a large amount of people. They can do this through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, and much more. Average people are not the only ones using social media, and it has become a very important with emergency aid organizations.

The Congressional Research Service found that organizations use social media in emergencies and disasters in two main ways. First, to give out information and receive feedback. The second way is using social media as an emergency management tool. “Systematic usage  might include using the medium to conduct emergency communications and issue warnings; using social media to receive victim requests for assistance; monitoring user activities to establish situational awareness; and using uploaded images to create damage estimates, among others”.(Lindsay)

There is no question that social media has been very beneficial in releasing information to vast amounts of people. There is still worry of the effectiveness and reliability of social media for emergencies. There have been issues of people relying too heavily on social media, and asking for help through Facebook or Twitter, rather than calling 911. There have also been many false alarms through social media, which wastes time and money. Either way, social media usage is here to stay and it will be interesting to see how emergency and disaster management continue to utilize it.

 

Lindsay, Bruce. Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Print.


Muslim feminists online

While doing some general research on social media activism, I came across an article about social media platforms dedicated to the efforts of Muslim feminists. With images of Muslim women wearing burqas and the tragically inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai in my mind, I do not readily associate feminism with having a significant role in the Muslim religion. It turns out that there are numerous blogs written by Muslim women trying to reinterpret their religion with a feminist point of view. Sadia Ali wrote this blog post about her discovery of Muslim feminists online and how she went on to create pages on several social media platforms for these women to be able to collaboratively study the role of their gender within Islam. She reports that the conversations that ensued between women on these sites are harmonious, empathetic and genuinely curious. Some reject the idea that social roles should be based on gender while some do not. Most basically and most practically, ICTs contribute to development improving access to necessary information. However, I believe that  the ICT of social media can go beyond these basics. Allowing a marginalized population to virtually come together can redevelop cultural values and preconceived notions, with time potentially leading to a widespread lifestyle change. I know this sounds overly optimistic, bordering on naive (unless I’m already there), but a culture’s reconsideration of its treatment and perception of either gender must begin with an honest conversation, particularly revolving around the original source (whether it be a holy text, constitution, etc.). Although cyberactivism is not completely understood and is widely criticized for not making a significant impact, it does have the ability to open up such conversation, as exemplified by Ali’s Muslim Feminism Facebook page.


Pros and Cons: Conflict Early Warning Systems

On the subject of ICT4Peace, an article by two Payson graduates, Phuong N. Pham and Patrick Vinck was written in August of 2013, and explains how early warning systems can be used as they are for disasters, but for peace. I am going to synthesize the key points made in this article because “conflict” early warning systems should be in place, and it is relevant to Joseph Kony or even Ukraine, for example, to trigger early intervention when Russian troops are on the attack. The authors compare public health early warning systems and conflict early warning systems, and one of the main problems is that public heath warnings trickle down to involve local stakeholders, while conflict warnings are generally only given to policy makers at the top. How can we use ICTs to increase the effectiveness of conflict early warning systems?

Actors and response order:

  • People-centered and community-based approaches (changing roles): changes in who generates information, how it is generated, and who accesses it changes how we respond to conflict situations and breaks up hierarchies, potentially even human rights offenders
  • Emerging principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P): the duty to respond to early warning s of conflict by concerned governments and policy makers, including the UN

Key Challenges: Quality, ethics and response:

  • Responsibility to provide unbiased information: acccuracy and reliability of information in question, unequal access to ICTs
  • Ensure action is taken: requireeffort to respond to/address issues
  • Security of information: repressive regimes create new opportunities for human rights offenders when they monitor their citizens—this sensitive information must be kept secure and managed well…or else!
  • Ethical principles in research: protect human research subjects—is conflict early warning research? Can early warning systems create their own human rights violations?

Conclusion: Changes in early warning systems in response to ICTs will fundamentally change what is done and how. However, new ICTs also bring new concerns and ethical challenges. We must continue to monitor the effectiveness of programs and create practical guidelines for ICT4Peace practitioners.


Spotlight on IMVU

In an effort to try to define social media in class we examined a social media landscape graphic. There were several sections, which showed us how diverse, and expansive social media can be past the frequented Facebook and Twitter. For example one of the least highlighted forms of social media is “virtual worlds”. There was a section for virtual worlds and one next to it for social games. I know next to nothing about either of these topics but one title did stick out to me. Recently I read Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. Ries is one of the cofounders of a virtual listed on the landscape. I was extra fascinated to learn about what his business, IMVU, actually does more and it’s purpose as a social media instrument because I knew of it from the angle of a startup business.

IMVU is a social media because it is a platform allowing members to make 3D avatars in order to “meet new people, chat, create, and play games with their friends in various languages in the United States and internationally.” The way it works is you just sign up or you can chose to sign in through Facebook, Twitter, or your Google account and then you create an avatar. You get to choose a name and you must enter your email address. It is strictly social and essentially a way to pass the time. Through my investigation I find no other purpose for it in the way that social media can be used as communication tactics to the greater public. This would only be a communication tactic within members about the avatars and their actions within the site. If this is a fascinating and puzzling to you as it is to me check out this info video!

The most similar thing to these virtual worlds is a site we read about called Games for Change. Games for Change helps create similar “entertainment” games but these stimulate social impact. This forum elicits more purpose (in my humble opinion) than IMVU be because of its efforts to harness this tool for “humanitarian and education efforts.”


#hastag Activism: Does it Work?

Twitter has been widely credited with being a driving force in the Arab Spring uprisings of the early 2010s and for good reason – twitter allows individuals to rapidly disseminate information and to spread opinions and views quickly. While few dispute its previous impact on international events, does twitter activism work when it comes to less dire circumstances?

Recently, noted comedian Stephen Colbert came under fire for an incentive and out-of-context tweet regarding asians. A twitter fire-storm ensued, with #CancelColbert trending across the nation. Ultimately, Colbert’s show was not effected in the slightest – he was even given a promotion to replace David Letterman on The Late Show on CBS.

What does this say about Twitters influence on activism. The Wall Street Journal claimed that “Twitter may be the most powerful amplifier for individual voices that history has ever produced” but then acknowledged that its 140-character limit can be its biggest downfall. In the case of the Colbert situation, in which the original quote was taken out of context from a joke poking fun at the Washington Redskins, this was certainly the case. #Hastag activism will continue to be a driving force in world events, yet its lack of depth may inhibit the proper amounts of information to be spread