The Internet: A Place for Minority Voices
In Writing Space, Bolter (2011) noted that past remediations of text resulted in the leaving behind of culturally irrelevant texts. These lost voices, Bolter claimed, will belong to smaller, poorer groups of people. This may be true as we make a shift from paper-based text media to the internet because it would not be possible to make electronic copies of all books.
Fortunately, even if the traditional texts are being lost, the internet is also making it easier for anyone to publish materials. So even though some voices will be lost, many minority groups are finding a new voice among community members and the rest of the world.
By looking at four minority groups — the First Nations; the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community; the researchers in developing countries; and hate groups — This commentary will discuss the internet as a place where the remediation of text is also providing minorities with a stronger voice.
Places for Minority Voices
Many minority groups have created a place on the internet to connect with others in their group and share their voice with others. The following are two examples of these types of sites.
The Cradleboard Teaching Project
The Cradleboard Teaching Project is one of these sites. Its focus is on improving education of Native Americans and about Native Americans (Nihewan Foundation, 2002). To improve Native American education, the Cradleboard site has a members’ section where students and teachers can access multimedia, discussion forums, and chatrooms in order to connect with each other and develop a positive image of themselves (Nihewan Foundation).
As well as connecting Native Americans, the Cradleboard also reaches out to non-Native Americans. Non-Native Americans can access the resources, lesson plans, and communication platforms in order to further their own education about Native Americans and to clear up any misconceptions and stereotypes that exist (Nihewan Foundation, 2002).
Similar to to the Native Americans involved with the Cradleboard Teaching Project, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) communities have many websites dedicated to building their community, supporting one another, and providing a voice for LGBT people. Empty Closets is one such site.
Empty Closets’ most active area is their discussion forum. The discussion forum allows members to share experiences, ask questions, and provide support for each other (Empty Closets, 2012). As well as the more serious discussions, the forums also has places for fun, casual discussion (Empty Closets) in order to build a sense of community. For more immediate discussions there is a chat room.
Other areas of the site are dedicated to providing resources about coming out and about health issues such as STDs. There is also a news section about LGBT issues in the media, and a section to provide links to other related web pages (Empty Closets, 2012).
So, in order to build community and to communicate with outsiders, minority groups are turning to the internet.
The Public Knowledge Project
Open knowledge projects are also giving minorities a voice in academic research. The Public Knowledge Project (PKP) at Simon Fraser University is making scholarly research open to the world (Willinsky, 2012). In 2001, the PKP released Open Journal Systems (OJS). OJS is an open-source, online tool to manage the submission, review, and editing of journal publishing, all of which are not only time consuming, but also expensive (Owen & Stranack, 2008). OJS is also flexible enough to allow for different publishing models even though it is set up mainly for open access journal publishing (Owen & Stranack).
The openness of OJS has been particularly beneficial to those in developing countries because it has given them a forum to publish their research. As of 2012, 23.5% of scholarly research was published using OJS. Of that research, 90% was freely available. Of the freely available journals, half, or 6000 to 8000 journals, were from developing countries (Willinsky, 2012). Because of the cost-savings and ease of publishing, scholars from developing countries now have a platform for their research, and, therefore, have a more prominent voice in academics.
As Postman (1992) says, though, we must always be aware of technology’ benefits and detriments. The benefits are that minority voices have a platform. The detriment is that not all of those voices are pleasant.
By the year 2000, which is relatively early in popular internet use, there were already up to 400 hate group internet sites (McNamee, Peterson, & Pena, 2010), such as Storm Front.
McNamee et al. (2010) have identified four purposes of hate sites. The first is educating their own members and the outside public about their beliefs (McNamee et al., 2010). The second isto plan and promote participation in their activities (McNamee et al., 2010). The third is invocation. Hate groups often feel divinely chosen to be superior to other groups of people, and their web sites will often try to send out messages of their superiority (McNamee et al., 2010). The fourth is indictment. As part of their education campaign, hate groups want a way to publicly indict government, corporate media, educational institutions, and anyone else for failing to act in ways that the groups deems appropriate (McNamee et al., 2010).
As with other minority groups, the number of hate group sites is evidence that hate groups are finding a voice on the internet. And, as with other minority groups, hate groups are using their voice to promote their research (as flawed as it may be), to build community, and to educate others.
Bolter (2011) may have been right about remediation causing texts to be lost, but in the late ages of print, the loss of texts does not mean that all minority groups will be losing their voices. The internet is making it easier for minority groups to share their beliefs and build their communities. So, while we may be losing what remains of voices that are no longer active, many minority voices are adapting well to the new media.
Bolter, J. D. (2011). The electronic book. In Writing space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (2nd ed., pp. 77-98). New York: Routledge.
Empty Closets (2012). Empty closets: Coming out resources and a safe place to chat. Retrieved from http://emptyclosets.com/
McNamee, L. G., Peterson, B. L., & Pena, J. (2010). A Call to Educate, Participate, Invoke and Indict: Understanding the Communication of Online Hate Groups. Communication Monographs, 77(2), 257-280. doi:10.1080/03637751003758227
Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education. (2002). Cradleboard Teaching Project. Retrieved from http://www.cradleboard.org/
Owen, G., & Stranack, K. (2008). The Public Knowledge Project and the Simon Fraser University Library: A Partnership in Open Source and Open Access. Serials Librarian, 55(1/2), 140-167.
Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books. Reinhart, J. M., Thomas, E., & Toriskie, J. M. (2011). K-12 Teachers: Technology Use and the Second Level Digital Divide. Journal Of Instructional Psychology, 38(3), 181-193.
Storm Front (2012). Retrieved from http://www.stormfront.org
Willinsky, J. (2012). Open for what? Open to what? Beyond Content. (video) Retrieved from http://openedconference.org/2012/program/archive-of-sessions/day-2/day2-900am-c300/