From Pixels to Pencils, by Dennis Baron
“From Pixels to Pencils” is an online publication written by Dennis Baron, a professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This source first describes the stages of literacy technology development. Baron argues that new literacy technologies first have a “restricted communications function” and is strictly available to a small number of individuals. Gradually, the technology expands and assimilates into older forms of communication, spreading across a population. As the technology spreads, it evokes opposition; therefore, new literacy technologies must undergo procedures for authentication and reliability to become fully accepted. Baron uses this framework to argue the ways in which writing and the pencil are writing technologies, and that the computer is by extension a writing technology as well.
The genre of the source is an online publication, more specifically a website. Baron’s choice to write an online publication reflects his message about writing and literacy technologies, and how the computer is one of them. With such a genre, Baron makes his writing accessible to those on the Internet, which has increased over time. Accessibility is how the online publication affects Baron’s source. Those on the Internet would not have the privilege to read this article and the ideas encapsulated in it.
I believe Baron succeeded in his making his argument. It fits in the larger conversation about writing and technology, because it does not make a distinction between the two. This argument is rarely put forth but necessary in understanding how literacy is developed and altered through technological advances, as well as how we are socialized into forms of communication.
Lesbians in (cyberspace)
Elisabeth Jay Friedman is the Chair of Politics and Professor at the University of San Francisco in the United States. In this journal publication titled, “Lesbians in (cyberspace): the politics of on- and off-line communities,” Friedman argues that cyberspace—defined as the dense web of information and communication created by email, chat, distribution lists, and websites—are a “virtually public sphere especially useful for Latin American lesbian communities” (Friedman, p. 791). Through her research, Friedman assesses the value of the Internet’s capabilities to address the isolation, repression, and resource restriction, and deficiency in community-building in Latin American lesbian communities, which allows for intraregional and international networking unprecedented by former technologies and methods of organizing. Friedman demonstrates how cyber communities provide refuge from political and social repression found in the physical world for lesbians, as well as strengthen Latin American lesbian identity. The Internet provides lesbians with the opportunity to meet each other and dismantle isolation, but also provides an affordable and sustainable space for organizing, which is difficult in physical geographies in Latin America.
With the generation of these possibilities for Latin American lesbian communities, Friedman presents new challenges for lesbians associated with the harness of the Internet’s capacity. Friedman highlights language and societal norms still remain barriers against facilitating communication. For example, the Internet remains largely inaccessible by those who do not have the privilege of being able to have access or the skills to navigate the Internet. In addition, websites can be muddled with political opinions that create division amongst lesbians. Latin American lesbians also speak different languages, ranging from Portuguese to English. Yet Friedman contends that the benefits of cyber communication and organizing largely outweigh the obstacles Latin American lesbian communities encounter.
The genre of the source is a journal publication—meaning nonfiction. By offering evidence into the conclusions Friedman arrives at and utilizing a thorough analysis of the cyber mechanisms (such as websites) that create Latin American lesbian cyber communities, Friedman offers substantial insight into the development of Latin American lesbian cyber communities and the vitality they possess. On the other hand, such a genre of study is unprecedented. This is particularly because the Internet is a recent invention, is observed in Latin America, and provides unique visibility to the LGBT community, more specifically Latin American lesbians. This genre offers new perspectives on the value and capabilities of cyberspace.
The author successfully argued her initial thesis, which is how, “Cyberspace […] offers a vital place for lesbians to build their community and carry out political action” (Friedman, p. 808). This relates to the broader topic of, “How does writing and technology provide a platform for underrepresented identities abroad?” because it focuses on the experiences of lesbians in Latin America and their use of the Internet to engage in a way that has rarely transpired before. Latin American lesbians have had the ability to create websites, email threads, and discussion posts that talk about what it means to lesbian, how to find other self-identifying lesbians locally and internationally, and organize efforts to accomplish the fulfillment of their humanity. What is interesting is that this project was presumably completed before the advent of social media, as there is no mention of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. This means that while social media has certainly aided the emergence of bringing underrepresented identities to the fore, these tools are not as vital as we have come to accept.
Tweets and the Streets
In documenting the relationship between social media and activism, Paolo Gerbaudo’s chapter entitled “‘We are not on Facebook, we are on the streets!’: The Harvesting of Indignation” of his book Tweets and the Streets, Gerbaudo explores the utility of social media in the Spanish indignados movement against neoliberalism and the consequences of a global economic crisis. Spain was one of the countries in the European Union who was impacted severely in the 2008 global recession, where youth unemployment reached nearly 50% by 2011. The Spanish indignados movement (“indignados” means “outraged” in Spanish) originated with a response to the Spanish government’s restrictions on internet freedom, where file-sharing facing political opposition and law. Wikileaks revealed that this policy was being pushed by American corporations, which ignited an online movement that had hashtags such as #leysinde, #redresiste, and #nolesvotes. The latter hashtag became the name of the campaign and a website that sought to educate people to not vote for politicians who passed the controversial bill.
The #NoLesVotes campaign triggered other campaigns, centered on challenging the state for its failure to repair the economy that left youth unemployed. “Democracia Real Ya” (DRY)emerged online and sought an end to austerity and corruption in Spain. This particular movement released a manifesto, claiming that, “We are like you: people who get up every morning to study, work or find a job, people who have family and friends” and that with no distinct ideology and an embrace of all ideologies, they together, wanted to build a better future society. Gerbaudo goes on to describe how their sustained online engagement with Spanish people created massive organizing and that eventually, their practices online such as cooperation, decentralization, flexibility, and instantaneity transferred to their physical occupation of Puerta de Sol, an infamous public square in Madrid.
The genre of the source is nonfiction, since it is a historical assessment of online activism and contemporary movements. This documentation is crucial to our understanding of how the Internet can be harnessed as a tool for change and an enabler of agency. With my larger topic being the intersection between writing, technology, and activism abroad, this source demonstrates the power of activism in the cyber space with effective, emotional, and engaging communication. For example, Gerbaudo discusses how DRY used messages such as, “On the 15m we can be 10,000, 100,000, or 1,000,000 but we will always be one less without you,” “Vamos a los 10.000!!!” and responding to online comments to create an online community of people who wanted to protest against the Spanish government. Technology has transformed the way we write, thus mobilizing people in unique ways never seen before.