Case Studies in Power Concentration and Being President Snow

// Posted by on 03/02/2014 (3:01 PM)

A lot of this week’s reading, and a lot of the ideas we’ve touched on, have to do with concentrations of power, and how digitization, the Internet, and processes like high-frequency trading allow greater concentrations of power in the hands of those who, probably, already had a decent amount of power to begin with.

The Internet and network technologies seem to reinforce existing power dynamics as they relate to our understandings of education (formal over informal knowledge), or allow for further concentrations of wealth in the hands of the wealthy, while a growing portion of the population can’t afford the devices and data/broadband necessary to access the Internet or learn basic computer literacy skills.

This all got me thinking about a video I’d seen a few months back.  The video, “I am President Snow,” talks about how in a world that has massive inequality, while many people instinctively point to inequality as the result of greed or bad people, the fact is that our world does have massive amounts of inequality, but that it is less the result of greedy people doing bad things than the simple fact that the system supports, through no fault of anyone’s, a world in which those with access to resources can use those to get further and further ahead.  The idea is not that inequality happens because of bad people doing bad things, but that it happens because it’s the path of least resistance for most people.

The video is available here: I Am President Snow

I’d love to hear what you all think.

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Cora said...

Inequality in individuals’ access to technology and the internet has definitely become a common theme throughout our class discussions and course readings. I thought Sassen’s TTW Plenary address was particularly interesting because of her distinction between informal and formal knowledge. As you mentioned in your post, we seem to be more preoccupied with reinforcing existing power dynamics and pouring money into new technology and web space when it could be more beneficial to explore the potential of informal knowledge. There is a much larger emphasis put on the importance of developing formal knowledge when, in actuality, informal knowledge could be equally, if not more, powerful. This also relates to Goodman’s, The Digital Divide, article. The ability to know how to use a computer and its programs has, without a doubt, become a form of modern literacy. If high school students, such as the ones at Newark Leadership Academy, do not have basic access to computers or the internet, how are they supposed to be able to survive and compete in the economy? The sad truth is, they cannot. The world we live in is a digital one as well as one where a lot of inequality exists. It is interesting to think how something, most of use take for granted (access to the internet), can have such a strong effect on those without the means to obtain it. Should governments begin subsidizing technology? It is a tricky issue, as it is hard to determine where to draw the line. It is evident, however, that in our current society these type of questions are the ones we need to start asking… and answering. Access to modern technology and the internet, in many aspects, rules our world in even the most basic ways. With our world becoming increasingly digitized, kids who cannot afford the internet, phones, or computers are blocked from basic opportunities before they even know they exist. More and more companies, like Footlocker, only accept job applications online and that trend of digital correspondance is only going to continue to grow. By ignoring the problems of inequality in access to technology and the internet from one’s early stages in life, we are inhibiting them from having having basic opportunities and knowledge so readily available to others. When we start to think about the ability to use a computer as a type of literacy, it transforms this idea of technology from a thing of privilege into one of humans rights. Is it a human right for one to have access to the thing that is the primarily influence in today’s society? There is no simple answer, and the line is only going to become increasingly blurred.

// 03/03/2014 at 9:17 pm