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March 27, 2012
Oxford Report: Not All Internets Are Equal
There is a recent article on The Atlantic web site by Alexis Madrigal called Confirmed: The Internet Does Not Solve Global Inequality. It concerns a new e-book by the Oxford Internet Institute, Geographies of the World’s Knowledge. It essentially states, according to Madrigal, that academic and user generated publishing comes from the Western world and the United States dominating that. There are charts which graphically demonstrate the overwhelming presence of the United States both in generating content and consuming it.
I’m not particularly surprised. I’m fond of telling students what became the public Internet was shepherded by the Department of Commerce, not the Department of Education. That should have told us something way back when. From Madrigal’s article:
"Many commentators speculated that [the Internet] would allow people outside of industrialised nations to gain access to all networked and codified knowledge, thus mitigating the traditionally concentrated nature of information production and consumption," she writes. "These early expectations remain largely unrealised."
We're not only talking about publishing in academic journals or Wikipedia. The book's authors, Mark Graham, Monica Stephens, Scott A. Hale, and Kunika Kono, sampled user-generated content on Google and found that rich countries, especially the United States, dominate the production of user content.
The fact of the matter is that people without money can't afford to get the education necessary to publish in academic journals, Internet-enabled or not. The other fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people in very poor countries don't spend their time producing content for free. Hope as we might, the Internet isn't a magic wand that makes the world more equal.
I’m quoting from the article rather than from the free e-book. That’s because in order to read the book, one must have an iPad, or at the very least install iTunes to get a copy of the book. It seems ironic to me that a piece that decries the lack of multicultural voice on the Internet is only available through Apple’s walled garden, albeit in a free patch. I grant that Apple’s products are widely distributed world-wide. They are, however, only one distribution channel.
The authors' cite Apple's cutting edge technology for incorporating interactive multimedia in a presentation. I think it's great that they and Apple can do that. I also think the form of the presentation and its viewing requirments limit the audience, especially those from outside the Western world. Does the dazzle do anything to change what the book is about? [MG]