Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Final Blog Post--Class Review

One main aspect of this class was the service learning project. Funny enough, I apparently missed the memo and did not know that it was a service-learning class. I had two service projects that fit in with my schedule, one being working with the elderly at Montefiore, and the other tutoring middle-schoolers at Open Doors Academy at Miles Park. I ended up opting for Open Doors, because I have a deep fear of nursing homes/retirement homes, and I have a lot of prior tutoring experiences. While I was hesitant about the idea of service, just because I worried that I would not have the time, I was happy to return to tutoring. I had over one hundred volunteer hours in high school from tutoring alone, so I expected to excel.
When my service group began our time at service, what struck me was how under-resourced the location was. For about twenty-five children, there were three staff members present consistently. Also, all of these kids were located in one gymnasium, and basically had free reign over what they did during the time they were there. To add, the kids did not have their own textbooks. Helping them with homework was a huge challenge due to this because several children had to share one book, which is not a productive study skill. They did not have large access to technology for research, only the staff members’ tablets. This was really eye-opening. I’m not used to being in an environment where things such as books are computers and a rarity.
Another issue was making a connection with the kids there. John Carroll Students are in a completely different environment than the kids at Open Doors. We are hugely sheltered and privileged, and those kids really aren’t. This was a major challenge. Because the kids were allowed to interact with their friends and get nothing accomplished, more often than not I felt like I just sat around doing nothing. I did make connections with a couple of the kids there, and I was more than happy to assist them with their homework. This was the upside to going to service every week.
Another aspect of this class was “kick-off” lectures and guest speakers. I have to give a big thumbs down to this. Three words: the water guy. To this day I don’t even know what the point of that presentation was. That was possibly the worst lecture I have ever had to attend. Also, some of the professor’s lectures weren’t that great (Sorry, Dr. Palmer, but the best professor-done speech goes to Dr. Shutkin solely on visual aids). Dr. Seither’s lecture on the digital divide lacked student interest, and having students come up to do examples did not help. Finally, I really like Dr. Peden as a person but that presentation with the sticky notes bombed horribly. As for guest speakers, kudos to the transgender speaker, Joyce Murton. Hands down, best day ever in FYS. That really held my attention and I found it aspiring that she comes to talk to JCU students every year.
Finally, the videos get a mixed review. Sometimes it has been a bit of an issue for me to do the assignments over the weekend when I’m home and a video gets assigned because we have a bandwidth limit at my house and thus, cannot stream videos (a slight part of the digital divide—oh, the irony). A little more notice would have been nice on these occasions. Overall though, the content of the videos was good. I really enjoyed the stream of videos we watched in class about the digital divide in rural areas; it was very eye-opening. I also enjoyed the first segment on what happens to cellphones and computers when we dispose of them. It wasn’t something I had taken a lot of time to think about, mainly because I did not have a cellphone until my graduation. It was something that I had never needed to think about.
Overall I enjoyed this class, but to a degree I found it semi-dull. I thought it repetitive and mindless at times unfortunately but at others I found it fascinating. All in all, though, I feel that’s not a horrible view to have on a college course.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Digital Divide Assignment

FYS Social Justice and Digital Media – The Digital Divide              November 16, 2012

Assignment over for Monday, November 19, 2012:
This is a 40 minute video of a presentation on the Worldwide Digital Divide by Michael Graham

We will be discussing this video on Monday.  In preparation, please answer the following questions:

1.)    Compare the topic of discussion in this video to the issues that we addressed during our discussion of the KONY 2012 video.
a.       This video mainly discusses the limit of knowledge in countries that don’t largely have internet access. Here in the United States, most people have constant access to the internet. That is not the case in many other countries. The lack of access to the internet creates a barrier against knowledge and they are unable to have the same access to knowledge that we do here. With KONY 2012, the people of Uganda have a limit of knowledge, but a different type of limit. The children are not largely educated, and often the boys are abducted to be in a child army. Regardless, they are not able to access any sort of outside knowledge and only know what they have grown up with.
2.)    Does the example Graham makes using the oldest map in existence about the limits of knowledge apply to the modern maps in the video?
a.       I found this example really interesting. He used the map to describe the limit of travel accessibility as well as knowledge. Later in the video, as he describes the amount of print journals, newspapers, and whatnot, he uses modern maps to describe a similar limit of knowledge. The United States has a huge availability to knowledge, as do Switzerland, France, and Germany, yet, most countries do not. So yes, the example of the oldest map does indeed apply here.
3.)    He makes the point that one obstacle to digital literacy is basic literacy.  Is it possible to use the internet without being literate?  What is your reaction to the gender disparity of literacy?
a.       I don’t think that it is realistically possible to use the internet without being literate. One has to be able to read. Without said literacy, one cannot use search engines, type in web addresses, nothing. Really, the internet cannot be efficiently utilized without basic literacy. As for the gender disparity, it goes to show that in those countries, women are far less educated and are thus, more illiterate. That’s horribly unfair… I feel like that should be the case.
4.)    There are three anecdotes at the end of the video that address the claim that technology alone can have a positive impact on the digital divide.  Write a blog entry based on one of them according to your last name.  The blog entry should take the 2-4 minute segment of the video as a starting point about the general topic being addressed.  Your blog entry should start with referencing the clip, but you should bring in additional material that you find on the subject to support or reject the point being made in the larger context.
a.       A-G Makmende Amerudi!
b.      H-M Feodor Vassilyev
c.       N-Z Kenyan Conference in Nairobi

Makemende Amerudi
            In this video, Graham references Makmende, who is a fictional character who became a viral internet sensation in Kenya. As people attempted to make Wikipedia pages for him, the page would get deleted supposedly because it was irrelevant and focused on someone that isn’t even a real person. In reality, the page editors were not from Kenya and could not understand the importance Makemende had in that region. It wasn’t until national news bases reported on the issue that Makmende’s page would stay online without it being immediately deleted. On the Wikipedia page for Makmende Amerudi, it explains that the name Makmende is a mispronunciation of Clint Eastwood’s line in “Sudden Impact”, “make my day”, which resonates with people all over the world. This symbol grew to stand for people everywhere doing the impossible task, and it had a huge resurgence in recent years, originally brought on by the musical group Just A Band in their music video for their song Ha-He in 2009. “Makemende Amerudi” is Swahili for “Makemende is back”, and the Makmende website was the most visited website by Kenyans in 2010.
            In watching the Ha-He music video, despite the fact that the music is rather catchy, I can’t lie; I don’t really see the relevance that Makmende has. I don’t really grasp why he has such a strong following in Kenya. However, I understand that this is because I obviously don’t live in Kenya and I’m unable to comprehend why Makmende resonates with Kenyans. My lack of appreciation for Makmende does not make it irrelevant. I don’t understand why popular figures in America such as Justin Beiber, PSY, Carly Rae Jepsen (Ironically, none of these artists are even FROM America, but the point is still made) have such a huge following but that doesn’t mean that they are irrelevant. Just because I don’t understand, or a group of people does not understand, does not mean that a webpage promoting the person should cease to exist. It’s rather inspiring that a group of internet-literate Kenyans were able to make a webpage for Makmende and every time it got deleted, they kept remaking it and remaking it until it got media attention and was able to stay online.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Serving under-resourced places"

At Open Doors Academy, there are about 25 kids housed in a very small gym-type setup with about 3 adults, plus the JCU volunteers. If that isn't considered "under-resourced", I don't know what is. It really brings to light how hard it is to have a solid structure there. The kids are all walking around visiting with friends, and with only three adults and six volunteers with no authority, it is really challenging to give everyone the help that they need. I feel more time is spent trying to get the kids to settle and get to work than actually tutoring them. I wish they were able to get more resources in the way of adults in charge. That would seriously help the kids' ability to be successful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"What does it mean to grow up with privilege?"

With service, I have learned that to grow up with privilege ultimately means that I have had access to an education. Many of these kids can't read well, if they can read at all. I was reading small chapter books when I entered kindergarten. Also, most of these kids can't do simple addition or subtraction without a calculator, something that I gave up doing in elementary school as well. I never realized that it wasn't the norm for everyone to be as educated as I was. Being around 14 year-olds who have lacked a solid education really enlightening. It makes me feel like more should be done to help with that though. I tend to wonder why these kids haven't had access to education, which is something I can't find an answer to, unfortunately.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ai Weiwei assignment

Direct Link--Glogster


Monday, October 29, 2012

Personal Response to Certain Tweets....

A few years ago, I sat in my living room watching some rerun of Two and a Half Men. Charlie was telling Alan about "phone cajones", or how people have more courage dealing with people over the phone than in face-to-face situations. Over time, I have seen this concept grow through Facebook and Twitter. People resort to tweeting or posting statuses about people rather than confronting anybody. This causes tension and drama to unfold in social situations because, let's face it, we all know who was talking about who.

Today in class, while we were presented with tweets from our peers about Joyce Murton, I was utterly disgusted. Seriously, how ignorant does someone have to be to trash someone because they are a transgender individual? And when I saw the tweets referring to her as "it", I got so internally frustrated. That is insanely low. She is a person. Not an it. "It" refers to a table, or a book, or photograph, or some inanimate object. SHE. Is a person. SHE. Has feelings. SHE. Has a heartbeat and can react to words, statements, and emotions. She did what she felt necessary to fit in with the world. Can any of us say we're different in that regard? The pure fact that people my age in 2012 are insulting her JUST because she is transgender blows my mind. I can't even understand.

So, Dr. Palmer, you asked if I believed that Joyce should come back to speak at JCU. I say definitely. Her speech was enlightening and gave perspective on something probably 90-95% of the audience had no experience with. I really hate what my peers had to say about her and it embarrasses me to have to call them "my peers", but I believe it was an hour well-spent.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Service Reflection #6

Prompt: "What have you learned about the people you are interacting with, and what have they learned about you?"

I have learned that, even several weeks into service, many of the kids are not willing to open up to me. While it is understandable, it was more understandable during the first couple weeks of service when I was the most unfamiliar. I try to connect with these kids despite the fact that I am so outrageously different from them. I know I come from an entirely different world and I accept that. I have not seen or known what they have. In return, what they have learned about me is that I will keep trying to connect, but I do not pry. I find it useless to pry. They have also learned that I am patient and will help with anything, regardless of difficulty (or lack thereof), without making them feel non-intelligent. I hope my experience gets better as service continues.

Monday, October 22, 2012

4 Types of Politics

1) Informational
  • According to the article about the four empirical cases that we discussed last week, informational politics moves to make information more available to the public and lets the public know the reality of certain situations. This is found in the article about the viral video. When an unpaid worker in China stars in a parody about conditions in China, she names a Chinese official. In this way, key information was let out, and it became more well-known as the video became viral and was scattered all over the internet. Through this, it is clear that informational politics is prominent.

2) Symbolic
  • Symbolic politics is found when someone or something is used as a symbol for a cause. In the article about the four empirical cases, the face of the girl that was murdered at Beijing University was used to raise awareness of the situation. In this article about the viral video, symbolic politics is highly apparent; the person in the viral video is used as a symbol. Because of the popularity this video gained, the migrant worker who starred in it became the symbol for the conditions she and other workers had to work in.

3) Leverage
  • The article on the four empirical cases defines leverage politics as using well-known people, mainly celebrities, to stand up for the public in order to change a situation or bring awareness. For instance, when Christian Bale went to China to find out why an artist's family was being held under house arrest, this was leverage politics. This is not present in the viral video. While the other types of politics are, no well-known figure was attached to this and helped the cause; It was solely the migrant worker and someone playing a reporter. 

4) Accountability
  • Accountability politics is used to hold a specific person or group responsible for their wrongdoings by proving their affiliations and making it known to the public. The migrant worker did this by naming a specific Chinese official in the video, which was later spread all over the internet. Everyone came to know that this official was responsible for the conditions of migrant workers and China and he was forced to take responsibility.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday, October 12, 2012

Service Reflection #4

Wednesday at Open Doors was more or less a day where I was unable to tutor anyone. Most of the kids had a project to do and had to go to the library to do it; afterward there were maybe five or six kids left, most of which had completed their homework. My project group met with one of the adults who works there, Felicia, to talk to her about our digital media project. She suggested that we set up an instagram to tie it into the facebook page they already have.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy doing service. I enjoy tutoring. I have over 100 hours from high school in tutoring alone. However, I'm really not enjoying this project. For the most part, I either A) sit around doing nothing or B) sit awkwardly around the kids as they do homework that they don't need help with. I wish I were being utilized more. I try to interact with everyone and find a way to help but it never changes anything. I will continue to try to find a way to be utilized.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Service Reflection #3

Yesterday at service I was introduced to two new kids at Open Doors Academy: Kiana and Eric. Kiana needed help on two math assignments involving adding and subtracting negative numbers. I attempted to teach her ways to do this, but I found immediately that I couldn't do so because she could not do simple math without the use of a calculator. Even with problems such as 15-10, she had to pull up the calculator on her phone to discover the answer. Eric also needed help on his math homework, so I helped him set up an equation. He realized he knew it before we were halfway through and his eyes completely lid up with understanding. I love that look more than anything when it comes to tutoring. He then proceeded to work on a project concerning the Cherokee tribe.

I guess I have been taking education for granted lately. The idea that Kiana could not do simple math without the use of a calculator astounds and terrifies me. I can't even wrap my head around that notion.
On the other hand, Eric had a completely different personality from the other kids I've met at Open Doors. For instance, I try to respect these kids' space, because they don't know me and I am unfamiliar with them. I was sitting a seat away from Eric when he worked on his project and he said to me, "You can come over here, I don't bite." He is the first kid to be open to the idea of me helping with schoolwork. The others have tolerated it, but haven't been thrilled to have me here. Also, when he asked my name and gave me his, he shook my hand. I rarely see this behavior in people my age let alone a 14 year old boy. He was legitimately disappointed when I had to leave but I assured him I'd be back next week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Service Reflection #2

Today, I went to Open Doors Academy with my service group. I worked with DiAndre (Turns out I was spelling it wrong. Oops.) and Jaelyn again, and they were working on individual projects about Native American tribes. They seemed to have a handle on it so I wasn't much help. The boys don't know how to take notes; They simply copy everything from the website word for word in their notes, so I was trying to point out key words and phrases that they'd want to make notes of. They had a friend with them that was also working that obviously did not like my presence-- not that I can really blame him. I must seem pretty unfamiliar.

I'm feeling slightly underutilized. Everyone gets their homework done prior to the time we get there. I sit awkwardly and don't really know how to act or what to do. I feel like I'm one of the only people in my group actually trying though. I turned around, and three of the five of us were just sitting around talking to each other. One girl was helping with a kid's homework, our driver was doing the same, and then I was trying to help with the boys' projects. I wish I could be of more use. When taking part in an activity like this, I need to keep occupied. I hate doing nothing. I feel like I need to find a way to be more involved.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Service #1 Reflection

     On Wednesday, September 19th, I went to Open Doors Academy at Miles Park. There, I met two eighth grade boys, Jaelyn and De'Andre. Jaelyn really enjoys art but seemed a bit withdrawn, whereas De'Andre loves reading and talked for the entire time I was there. Both boys had finished their homework, so I tried to give the two a little bit of enrichment. Jaelyn was hesitant so I kept my distance. De'Andre wanted to learn about volcanoes, so we looked up mud bowls and watched videos showing them. De'Andre had to leave about fifteen minutes before I left, but Jaelyn took his place and we continued to watch videos.
     Both boys told me they want to join the military; De'Andre wants to go into the Army, and Jaelyn wants to go into the Navy. De'Andre said he wants to fight for this country, and I felt that he was truly the embodiment of American pride. Most of Jaelyn's family has been in the military, so he wants to follow in the footsteps of his relatives.

     I was really taken aback by these boys. They are both so intelligent and inspiring. Jaelyn's hesitancy worries me; he seemed troubled. I don't know what kind of life he has lived, and what he has seen. I know both boys have a completely different background than me, and that I am very privileged in comparison to them. I got to know more about De'Andre, and he is so open and honest. He loves traveling and being with his family. I am interested to know more about Jaelyn. I hope he comes to open up more. He asked if I would be there every Wednesday, and when I told him I would be for the next couple months, he seemed a little happy by that, which is a relief for me. Truthfully, I don't know how to mentor these boys. They lead such a different life than I have, but for the first day, I think it was a success.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

eDump Calculator


When I took the quiz based upon my lifestyle, it calculated that I would use 3.8 earths. I don't eat a lot of meat, I recycle the vast majority of recyclable items, and since I'm allergic to certain preservatives, I can't eat a lot of processed foods. However, I do travel a fair bit and not a lot of the food I eat is grown locally, so that hurt my calculation.

I legitimately cannot get the calculation to equal one earth. I set everything to the most ecologically-friendly value possible and it calculated that to do so would use 2.9 earths. A lifestyle that excludes eating meat, traveling by car or bus, and even electricity still uses 2.9 earths.
I find this really disturbing. It says a lot about what is really wrong with our planet. There's a lot of e-waste that is unaccounted for, and it is harming our planet. Even by living the "greenest" lifestyle possible, we can't change that.

 We were then asked to compare the documentary "eDump" to "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" in the following ways:

Technology Users in the United States = Citizens of Omelas
Guiyu, China   = The child in the closet
Watching the 20 minute documentary, e Dump = Seeing the child in the closet in Omelas

I believe all of these are fair comparisons. Every person in our class was instructed to watch the eDump documentary, thus we are the people seeing the child in the closet. Despite the fact that it was not a "first-hand" sight because we were seeing it through a video, I don't believe it is any different than the citizens of Omelas seeing the child in the closet. The images provided for us were clear. The testimonies of the people in Guiyu, China, were clear. Thick golden fumes rising up from burning circuit boards is a clear enough image of how toxic the eWaste is. As technology users in the United States, I would definitely agree that we are a mirrored image of the citizens of Omelas. We buy technology and dispose of it within a few years. Apple comes out with a new iPhone within a year of the last one that was produced. We totally ignore the consequences of this: our eWaste gets shipped over to Guiyu to be de-manufactured in a hazardous manner. Guiyu is the child in the closet, obviously, because it is the city that suffers due to our eWaste. The citizens have to breathe in toxic air and have years cut off of their life.

I don't believe I "walk away" from digital technology entirely, but I do have my faults. I did not own a cell phone until the Summer of 2012, thus I cannot say that I have tossed out a phone just to get an upgrade. When it comes to computers, I acquired my first personal computer when I was 13 years old, and it died a slow death where it emitted carbon monoxide and burst into flames. Thus, there was really nothing I could do about it. I had to dispose of it, and I bought a new laptop for college, which is the one I use now. My faults lie in that I've remained ignorant to the consequences of the irresponsible disposal of eWaste. I suppose my action today in the story would be to spread awareness of "the child" that is the harm done to developing countries due to the exportation of American eWaste. Promoting green recycling plants and green technology companies on social media sites would definitely be my method. I would also spread the eDump documentary on Facebook and Tumblr as well to spread awareness. I would not want to be one of the two options given in the Omelas story. I would neither want to move on with my life as per normal, or remove myself from the situation. I would want to be a third option: someone who takes action.