It’s ironic that as computers and other communications technology have become more accessible to the general public over the last thirty years, they have actually become less accessible to a segment of the population, one to whom access is everything: people with disabilities. More ironic still is that the history of communications technology is intimately tied to the drive to integrate people with disabilities more fully into society.
Larry Gonick is a pioneer of non-fiction cartooning; starting with Blood From A Stone: A Cartoon Guide to Tax Reform in 1971, he has made a career out of explaining complicated topics in comic format. In 1978 he published the first issue of The Cartoon History of the Universe as a comic book, starting with the Big Bang and ending with the evolution of humanity. Issues of that series were collected first in 1982 and again in 1990; later two sequels appeared, The Cartoon History of the Universe II and III, and in 2007 the series continued as The Cartoon History of the Modern World. With the second volume of that series, published this fall, Gonick brings his history up to late 2008. Throughout the series Gonick has consistently made history entertaining and approachable as well as accurate (each volume ends with an annotated bibliography) and has shed light on the history of often-neglected parts of the world such as China, India and pre-Columbian America. Among his other works are The Cartoon History of the United States and the Cartoon Guide series, which provide grounding in topics ranging from physics to communication theory to sex; his works have been among the most influential in bringing comics into the classroom.
The history of the Internet – and the history of technology in general – could be described as one big demonstration of the doctrine of unintended consequences: a system designed to help researchers collaborate, and developed to protect military communications in the event of a nuclear war, wound up being used primarily for shopping, socializing and entertainment. The same is true of many of the products and services on the Internet as well. In its early years it was mostly seen as a one-to-many broadcast medium, like TV or radio, but over time it’s the more interactive elements that have proven to be most popular, with users producing at least as much online content as professionals.
A contest asks young people to make videos showing their vision of what sex education should be.
In the first part of this blog we looked at some of the challenges and barriers facing people with disabilities when it comes to the Internet and other new media. In this final part we turn to possible strategies for making the virtual world fully accessible to all.
Third entry in a series looks at sites that help users create content. In the last instalment of this series we looked at some of examples of user-created media such as mashups, fan movies and machinima.
In Japan, cell phones and texting are much more widespread among young people than they are here. Much of what we do on computers is done through phones there, with the result that those students that own cell phones spend an average of two hours a day on them. Japanese TV dramas even feature scenes where the dialogue is entirely done through texting, with characters thumb-typing furiously while the messages appear as subtitles. Now another part of life has been squeezed onto the one-inch screen, resulting in the creation of the cell phone novel.
If anyone still doubts that youth need to learn how to evaluate online information, those doubts should have been dispelled by a recent hoax perpetrated by the group called the Yes Men. This group, which has a history of staging fake press conferences, decided to draw attention to Canada’s position at the Copenhagen conference on climate change by creating a number of fake Web sites purporting to be, among others, the Copenhagen summit site, the Wall Street Journal, and Environment Canada’s site. While it didn’t take long for Environment Canada to make a statement exposing the hoax, by that time many journalists had reported the story as fact and the story had been widely distributed by wire services.
This is the second in a series of columns looking at the history and future of Web 2.0. In the last instalment of this series we examined the origins of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ethic and some of the issues around the definition of “user-created content.” Turning from the theoretical to the practical, we’ll now take a look at just what is actually out there, and begin to examine some of the ethical and legal implications.
Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker article “Small Change” has set the blogosphere buzzing with its strongly stated argument that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will not usher in a new age of social activism, as some digital evangelists have proposed, but that they and the relationships they foster are actually detrimental to real social change. As Gladwell puts it, “The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo.”