From Pixels to Pencils, by Dennis Baron
“From Pixels to Pencils” is an online, nonfiction essay 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 nonfiction essay, purposely published on a personal website. Baron’s choice to write an nonfiction essay and then publish it online reflects his message about writing and literacy technologies. Specifically, he is making a point regarding the relevance and permanence of the computer as a literacy technology. With such a genre, Baron makes his writing accessible to those on the Internet, which has increased over time. Those on the Internet would not have the privilege to read this article and the ideas encapsulated in it, but it seems as if Baron is confident that the people who do have access, are members of his audience that needs to understand his conclusions.
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. This writing relates to my broader topic, which is, “How does writing and technology converge in activism?” as it provides foundational claims as to why such a question is important. By concluding that computers are a writing technology, Barron’s argument supports the idea that technology can change our world. This is related to activism because writing is a tool for fighters of social cause, in which computers therefore become an extension.
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. 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. The journal publication is supported by the sources cited throughout the work, substantiating claims and conclusions. On the other hand, such a genre of study is unprecedented. This is particularly because the Internet at that time was a new innovation, 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 in academia, extending the literature on such topics.
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 converge in activism?” 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. Nonetheless, this source shows the importance of activism not only against a system, but also for self-healing and actualization.
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 a nonfiction book, since it is a published 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 “How does writing and technology converge in activism?” 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.
Disruption is a documentary created by PF Pictures, a filmmaking company in collaboration with national to local environmental and social justice organizations and activists in the United States. Their purpose for this project was to disseminate information on climate change, but to also document the organizing efforts to mobilize 400,000+ concerned individuals into a rally in New York City in 2014. Interestingly enough, it is reminiscent of the recent People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. this past March. The march was the largest of its kind in 2014, and focused on the necessity to mitigate climate change as our world is being burned into a cataclysmic, premature end. This march happened in the midst of the UN World Climate Summit. The documentary discusses the science, the political friction, corporate interests, as well as the efforts of thousands of people to combat climate change. With the help of interviews with Van Jones, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, politicians, doctors, experts, and others, the documentary urges all of us to rise against the greatest threat to our humanity.
The genre of this project is a documentary film. By captivating this cause in such a light, the filmmakers are able to distribute a piece of material that is compelling and thorough as to why climate change must be weakened, in a more engaging and visually appealing manner. Also, the filmmakers made the documentary free online and free through other distribution channels, making the project accessible to groups outside of the confines of academia and media. This genre definitely helped in creating persuasive and impelling arguments as the audience is not only able to read or hear about the politics of climate change, but also see it. The genre offered a unique medium to discuss such matters.
This source fits into the larger “conversation” about, “How does writing and technology converge in activism?” because the documentary realizes the importance of online engagement through organizing efforts in mobilization before, during, and after the march in New York City. The title, “Disruption” makes the topic stimulating and provocative, and connotes to the spirit of activism. Also, one of the major organizations that contributed to this project is 350.org, whose Director Bill McKibben spoke during the documentary. His insight into the movement is particularly important because he ran an online platform centered on climate change, as has had successes because of the functionality of the Internet. Thus providing an interesting way in which writing, technology, and activism converge.
After completing the Curated Source Collection, I feel confident in the quality of the three sources that I chose. This is primarily because the sources I chose specifically pertain to my research question, “How does writing and technology converge in activism?” For example, in Lesbians in (cyberspace) the author of the journal publication Elisabeth Jay Friedman explicitly claims, “This article argues that cyberspace – the dense web of information and communication created by email, chat, distribution lists and websites […] addresses the central problems of lesbian organizing” (Friedman, p. 791). First, the discussion about the marginalization of LGBT communities is infrequent, and is even more rare when there is focus on people of color within the LGBT communities. Another reason why this source is valuable is because it transcends borders. While our first inclination when hearing the term “online activism” might be to think about domestic movements such as #BlackLivesMatter (emphasis on #BlackLivesMatter), it is important to unfold the impacts of the Internet on social and discourse elsewhere, as these movements are situated in different cultural norms and political circumstances that alter the nature of writing, technology, and activism.
Similar reflections can be made regarding the Indignados Movement. The source directly pertains to my initial question: “In this chapter I discuss the role of social media in the moblisation of the Spanish indignados” (77). The Indignados Movement different from Lesbians in cyberspace, because the activism focuses on different issues such as neoliberalism and austerity practices that weaken a country like Spain. Spain may be connected culturally to Latin America, but certainly different problems affect those respective regions. They also united irrespective to their political and ideological affiliations, which is difficult to overcome with an issue like LGBT rights. Nonetheless, this provides an alternative perspective and analysis of writing, technology, and activism. It was a movement that I never heard of, so while I am using this source for my research, it is also personally enriching to understand how the movement evolved and what it stood for. The last source, Disruption is perhaps the source I would be most worried about. While writing and technology are elements of the climate change march in New York City in 2014, it is not the basis of which the documentary is recorded. Therefore, I am unsure if it is a substantial in answering the initial research question.
Technology enhanced my project because it has been imperative to my research. By using a computer, I have been able to type this project in a reasonable amount of time without complications. By having access to the Internet, I have been able to search for these sources and decide which ones I would utilize for my assignment. For example, I used Google to find Disruption. While I would have to go to a library or a movie store in order to find Disruption, I instead found the source with ease while surfing the web. Having online databases have also contributed significantly to my project. By using Syracuse University’s library.syr.edu, I have been able to narrow my search and locate specific items that are conducive to my curated source collection. Without this optimization, I would have dug through tons of materials that would have been overbearingly time consuming. Lastly, my computer is a laptop, so I have been able to finish this assignment in multiple locations, providing ease and portability in order to accomplish my work accommodations.
In terms of the “holes” in my research project, I suppose there are some. I have not explored different forms of technology. I have not delved into other technological mediums besides the Internet that have been decisive in communicating effectively and advancing social causes. Perhaps I can go deeper into history and explore writing as a technology. Or I can observe the ways in which other forms of media that were considered to be technological advances—such as television, photography—have influenced activism. There are also plenty of locations that I am excluding by nature of the assignment. I am also strict in my definition of technology, which is something else I can explore.
I definitely see myself using at least two of these sources for the following assignments. These sources are extremely valuable in providing a wealth of knowledge into the question, and provide a platform in which more concepts can be explored. They are lengthy and give unique perspectives to the discussion at hand. While I look forward to searching for alternative sources as the conceptualization of this project evolves, I believe I have been able to solidify a firm beginning to this research project.
Something that I haven’t previously thought about is the evolution of my research in relation to the different places I’ve been this summer. The reason why my blog is named “nysummertimechi” is 1) in reference to a Kanye West lyric but 2) has been my actual life this summer. I went from Syracuse, NY to Chicago, IL for the summer to embark on a fellowship in law and social science research. Such a transition and its purpose allowed me to research something that I’m genuinely interested in and delve deeper into it.