The New Socialism: Who really benefits?

// Posted by on 01/26/2014 (11:02 PM)


In an article The New Socialism in the magazine The Wired, the author describes internet sharing as a form of new socialism. That the way we behave online is reminiscent of this political ideology based on equality. Websites such as Wikipedia, Kiva, Craigslist, and Facebook have cultivated a culture of sharing. Sharing information between friends, families, neighbors, and all citizens. People post, tweet, write, and review online for no personal gain or profit. While this type of behavior sounds very similar to the positive attributes that define the basis of socialism, it holds the potential to obtain the negative qualities as well.

We view the interest as a free and equal medium in which all people can access the information that is a necessity within our current society. But this is not always the case. For those without the means, which currently are quite costly, to access this information suffer from what is known as the digital divide. The digital divide is an economic inequality between groups and people in terms of their ability to access information. In the twentieth century we expect people to be able to answer emails at anytime, look up with answers to any questions, and essentially be plugged in 24 hours a day. While popular and business culture has adapted to technology that is available, not all demographics of the world’s population have. This creates a divide between those who can assess all the information and sharing that we feel should be free. Instead the internet and the culture that has developed around isolates and prevents people who can not afford the means necessary to access it from the financial benefits and opportunities as others.

Imagine what your life would be like without a personal laptop and smart phone. Think about the expectations that our teachers and bosses have for the quality, nature, and time frame that our work is to be completed in. Would you be able to meet those expectations without the use of expensive technology that has become integral in our lives? While the ability to share information freely and equally resembles the foundations of socialism, the means necessary to access the information continues to create economic divisions within the populations of every nation.

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Cassaundra said...

I think this post makes an excellent point about not only the aspects of inclusion created by sharing information on the internet/social media, but also about the nature of exclusion that is also present. In a world full of smart phones, particularly iPhones, one is looked at very strangely if they do not have this technology. My freshman year at Richmond, I did not have a smartphone, and it was definitely an inconvenience in terms of staying in the loop. Professors e-mail their students concerning changes to homework assignments or class cancellations sometimes at the last minute, and without having a smartphone I was at a disadvantage and was forced to either cart my laptop everywhere or get information much after my peers. Once I joined a sorority, the need for a smartphone became even greater as we are all in constant communication through our e-mail list serve, which relays important information/ sudden changes of which we all need to be aware. Additionally, this summer I lived with one of my best friends from high school in New York City as we each had internships at different places. She did not have a smart phone, and it often made her internship difficult as she could not do some basic things they wanted her to because they required smartphone technology. Her employers would playfully make fun of her phone while also emphasizing that once she graduates college she needs to get a smartphone. The sharing of information has become just that: not a want or a luxury, but a need if you want to partake in certain aspects of life. Having a high-paying job is one of those things. I have never seen a successful businessman or woman without all the latest technologies at their sides. The mentality that information (and the technology that is necessary to procure it) is necessary to succeed is often an unspoken understanding in this rapidly developing world that excludes people of lower socioeconomic classes from achieving the same success. The sharing of information online extends beyond factual and educational information. The internet has provided a forum in which all information can be free, including personal information and photos. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are not just places to get information about others or news, but also a place to build your own personal profile. The way your profile appears is like your own personal brand that you are selling which everyone, friends and employers alike, can see and judge. Therefore, this equality of sharing information can also produce a toxic environment wherein people do not have, nor choose to have, any privacy.

// 01/27/2014 at 3:36 pm

Molly said...

I agree that the larger role technology plays in our lives further perpetuates this ‘digital divide’ we are experiencing today. I find that for the majority of people, a smart phone is necessary on a daily basis. With this being said, the more technologically dependent we become, the more disadvantaged those without access or proper knowledge on how to use these phones will be at a disadvantage. I also think that the use of smart phones and the expectation on being able to be reached 24/7, has skewed our idea of school and work and created a culture in which work /school time is not at all separate from your life beyond the library, classroom or the office. This I think adds to additional stress and pressure in the education and business arena, and could be a potential harm to children in the future as technology becomes more and more relevant. I also think that technology such as smart phones is slowly replacing some of the resources that were once very important. Instead of looking for books in the library, I can easily access and digital version online and newspaper are endangered of extinction as technology replaces the paper. Further, most of my classes have some type of web component. I think it safe to say technology has changed the way teachers teach and a student learn, and is a topic that really needs to be further explored in terms of its psychological implications as expectations have dramatically increased.

// 01/28/2014 at 9:25 am

Sarah said...

This is a really good point. The goal of the New Communalists and the whole counterculture involvement in technology was to eliminate social barriers, create a wholly equal world where everyone had a say. It was a revolution in their eyes and was going to uproot the whole system. Maybe this is so once the Internet is accessed–people can access any information, chat with any other users and do many things that were not even close to possible before.

However, this may create even a further divide between those who have access and those who don’t. First, we can look within America. There are definitely social classes in which access to the Internet is rare and that begins from a young age. Are these children even further disadvantaged because of this lack of endless knowledge that most other kids have access to? And as Cassaundra said, we can even see it within our own social groups with the divides between smartphone and non-smartphone owners. And on the other end of the spectrum, the divide between countries. We are advancing technologically every year, if not day, and other countries are being left in the dust.

// 01/28/2014 at 1:38 pm