Technology: Bringing People Together or Pushing Them Apart?

As college students we may not think about what others do or do not have, but that does not mean it is not a problem.  We like to assume that most everyone has some type of access to or knowledge of the internet, but this isn’t true.  Many families or communities do not have internet access, and some do not even own computers, nor have the knowledge of how to work one.  This vast separation between those who have access to high speed internet connections and those who barely know how to use a computer is known of as the digital divide.  This is a problem that seems to be pushed to the back due to the lack of possible solutions.  The separation of technology causes a domino effect.  Without the ability to be online, a person’s job offerings can be much smaller, and their overall connection with what is going on in the modern world may be limited, which in turn mkes them less likely to gain internet access.

The New York Times states that, “we increasingly have two separate access marketplaces: high-speed wired and second-class wireless. High-speed access is a superhighway for those who can afford it, while racial minorities and poorer and rural Americans must make do with a bike path.”  This divide is, more often than not, caused by the opportunities and means that people of certain classes have available to them.  I do believe that if the government were to step in and make certain programs and technologies available, whether it be through community centers or libraries, then those people without would take advantage of those facilities and help to close the divide.

The Classic Argument

Illegal music and file-sharing is a primary issue in our society. Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons was interviewed on the impact of Napster being shut down saying that:

“I think this is a very profound moment historically. This isn’t just about a bunch of kids stealing music. It’s about an assault on everything that constitutes the cultural expression of our society. If we fail to protect and preserve our intellectual property system, the culture will atrophy. And corporations won’t be the only ones hurt. Artists will have no incentive to create. Worst case scenario: The country will end up in a sort of cultural Dark Ages.”

This seems to be the classic argument on why intellectual property (IP) copyright needs to be protected. Not only do creators need to be able to profit from their work, but also help promote the continued production of new creative works. However the loudest cries for increased policing of internet content seems to be coming from corporate America’s executives (like Mr. Parsons).

It may be cinical, but how much rhetoric is being thrown at the public? Is it really about protecting the meek and struggling artist? Because the last time I checked, the ones worth listening to are still loaded. OR is it really about  $$ and is the 1% just trying to preserve their ludicrous salaries. According to Forbes Magazine, Richard Parsons has an estimated net worth of just under 100 million dollars.

Interestingly, more and more artists are gaining mass exposure through internet platforms like YouTube. Independent musicians are steering clear of big name labels and are releasing their content for free. It seems like the incentive to create is bigger than ever because artists still have aspirations and the internet is giving them opportunity to showcase their product.


Technology Abroad

My fall semester roommate returned from abroad this past weekend, surprising my friends and I with an early homecoming. His experience in Barcelona  invariably reminded me of our class.

Piracy is rampant in Spain and is known as a “haven for digital pirates”. According to a February article in The Economist: “Nearly half of all internet users in Spain use services that distribute music illegally—double the European Union average.” Street vendors line the streets with pirated materials and the governments has been slow to react to the blatant violations of copyright and intellectual property. Only about a month ago, was a government committee on intellectual property created. The directive has faced intense backlash from the public because it reserves the power to shutdown any website with suspected ties to piracy. The truth is that the majority of “Spaniards believe that music and movies should be free.” And because of these illegal content providers Karthik Raman believes that my generation has internalized “the assumption that anything on the web is free to take.” But if the rights of individual artists and content creators is not protected what incentive will there be for them to generate original material?