Alertness as a semaphore on the tracks of social (in)justice

Clearly, our relationship with information has changed fundamentally since/with the introduction of electronic information sources and systems. It has changed and it continues to do so as new technologies and systems become available. The current explosion of social media and Web 2.0 communication technologies is the best example of how each new wave of technologies and systems is accompanied by new epistemic, communication, and behavioral patterns and applications. Epistemic processes undergo changes, epistemes, in the Foucauldian sense, shift, especially now due to the super-sized(!) network of knowledge available to us. Natural knowledge boundaries are shifting. New rhetorical and communicative needs emerge and are given a fitting response by electronic knowledge systems. The semiotic web is a potentiality rather than pure science fiction. Tools like Ubiquity are small beginnings that uncloud the fogginess of what it could be.

Now, aside from my very obvious infatuation with many of the new participatory communication technologies and knowledge systems, I am not (completely) blind to potential pitfalls and even dangers as outlined by S&S. In fact, I am accutely aware of criticisms voiced and truly hope to always be alert enough to listen. S&S raise concerns that most users never consciously consider. We just take for granted what’s there – and that’s exactly where the danger lies. History has taught us that (see my answer to Chris, above). Alert and critical users/students/ppl/participants are essential for any society.

That said, I did find some holes in the argument as brough forth by S&S. While taking offense to the ‘white-male, middle-class, white collar professional’ iconography, S&S did not acknowledge the creation of a common cognitive dimension by the interface. This common language is needed in order to begin dialogue about any issue. I am referring to the icons, labels, and the language issues discussed by S&S. A new community is being built, a community that stretches beyond the village, beyond the region, beyond the country, beyond the continent. It is a global community that has a common reference. Were we to split interfaces by race (why race, really?) would we not promulgate separation? I did miss this in the article. What I also missed were any notions of acknowledgement of the bias of opposition to the western position. The opposition to any notion is clearly shaped by the very notion that is being opposed. We still apply our values and norms in our opposition. Race is a good example. Race is a notion that is not universal, yet we depict it as universal. By calling for iconography and language that takes race into consideration, we clearly assume race to be a separator between humans. Is the ‘white’ pointer hand really white or are S&S simply interpreting it as white because of prevalent discourse? White in and of itself is a metaphor that has been constructed and accepted and as such is viewed as a truth in western thought. I was struck repeatedly by the notion that Barack Obama is so easily labeled a black man despite the well-known fact that he is just as ‘white’ as he is ‘black’. How would the same fact be viewed in Africa? Would he be a white man.? My point is rather simple: did S&S consider this carefully enough when making their argument, or is their opposition so shaped by the existent discourse that they forgot that? I fully concur, nonetheless, with S&S that awareness and alertness have to be nourished in order to keep a balance. I also agree that this can not be achieved by slight knocks with satin gloves, but rather has to be phrased strongly, in hyperbole for anyone to listen and see the semaphore they put on the tracks.


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