Vancouver has proven to be a community-driven and environmentally-conscious city because of a few innovative minds who are leading the way. One such organization is FreeGeek Vancouver. This is a community-based project that helps to recycle used computers and help people who don’t have access to electronics become acquainted with them. One of the more interesting aspects of FreeGeek is the time and effort they have put into finding out how and where old computers are recycled and the drastic effects E-waste has on poor-nations who end up recycling toxic waste from electronics to make a living. According to one of the founders of the organization, because Canada has legislation to protect us from dealing with toxic waste, the remnants of our old computers are shipped to nations like China, where the junk is a wanted commodity because of the materials that can be extracted from it. Freegeekvancouver.org provides information on the devastating effects the toxic waste has on the people who end up dealing with it. According to Ifny Lachance, one of the founders of FreeGeek, eighty percent of computer hardware from North American “heads directly offshore to poorer countries, usually China. There, “recycling” generally consists of haphazard dumping, burning, and picking through by unprotected workers”. Many of the workers exposed to the toxic materials, such as cadmium, mercury, lead, and barium, can die within years of being exposed to them on a daily basis. Personally, I had no idea about this phenomenon and naively believed that computers were basically pieces of plastic strewn together whose fate was to be melted and made into other pieces of plastic. It takes resourceful and creative people to take on a problem this large, that everyone else is seemingly ignoring, and attempt to make a difference. Thus, Vancouver is home to moral people who desire to better the community and the world as has been proved in recent seminars.
Tag Archives: community
World renowned technologist and author Richard Stallman:
“Copyright vs. Community
in the Age of Computer Networks”
Friday, February 6, 7:30-10:00pm
Martime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph Street (at Victoria) near the J.J. Bean.
Admission FREE or by donation – no one turned away for inability to pay. Live music by the Creaking Planks. Tea and coffee will be provided.
Come hear about the total liberation of cyberspace! There will be plenty of time for questions after the talk. This speech is designed to be accessible to everyone; the public is encouraged to attend!
The Year 1 CultureNet students are heading down to FreeGeek Vancouver on the afternoon of Friday, February 6th for a tour of the warehouse and an introduction to the thinking and ideas that inspired the formation of this local non-profit. Interested students will be encouraged to check out the nearby Stallman talk that same night. This event is sponsored by FreeGeek Vancouver, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Hack Society, and the Vancouver Fair Copyright Coalition.
Jennifer Daryl Slack, and J. Macgregor Wise, the authors of our course reader Culture + Technology A Primer, describes a scenario in a post secondary school of a busy courtyard. This courtyard was a “cultural space” where students gathered in groups to talk about their lives and classes, and to grab a bite to eat. This gathering of individuals meeting or passing through was a community developed within the courtyard of the school itself. However with the growing popularity of the cell phone, students no longer spoke to each other but instead to their cell phones; communicating with people away from and outside the courtyard. To Slack and Wise, this change in communication, changed the atmosphere from a community to more of a “gathering of individuals”.
Does this mean that the cell phone will bring an end to community as we know it? As time passes and the availability and popularity of cell phones and other instant messaging increases, people interact with other people in their immediate surroundings less and less. Instead they tend exist in a virtual form of themselves via text messages, msn and Facebook. Some could say that this trend is causing people to become more isolated from each other. Instead of spending time with people face to face, people shut themselves off in rooms with their computers and spend time communicating to people via their computers or cell phones.
However, some people argue that this anonymousness and impersonal communication is a good thing. Sometimes individuals don’t necessarily want to communicate with other people face to face; with virtual communication one does not have to worry about what they look like or how they are dressed. Instead they can be comfortably dressed in their pajamas, warm in bed, e-mailing their bosses on why they can’t come to work that day. This kind of communication also allows people to choose who they wish to communicate with and when. As opposed to being forced to speak to whomever approaches them, programs like instant messaging allows people to easily block those whom they do not wish to speak to, yet have their contact information handy in case they need their help in the future.
On the other hand, it could also be argued that things like instant messaging and cell phones builds up an even larger community of people than is possible just communicating with people face to face. One could easily meet new people with similar interests though the web, or get in contact with friends you haven’t seen since high school, which without these communication medias, would otherwise be unreachable. These types of media also transcends space allowing individuals to get in contact and communicate with people thousands of miles away as if they were right there in the room.
So do these new media of cell phones and instant messaging threaten to destroy our community life? My answer is no. I don’t believe the use of these technologies decrease community life in any way, but instead change the definition and our understanding of communities. Instead of communities consisting of communication face to face, these medias allow for the communication across space and to a larger and more diverse population of people. So instant message and phone to your hearts content, knowing that by doing so, you are only building up your own community life.
Has technological inventions such as the television been an influence on our lives?
It has even come to a point where when redecorating a room, the TV should be a focal point and all the other pieces of furniture are placed around to compliment it. As stated in Slack and Wise’s book, the television was said to be the reason why families come together to share a common activity. I guess that could be true, but from where I stand, the television has done the complete opposite. Instead of sitting around the dinner table and discussing our day and problems, we are sitting at different areas of the living room in almost an isolation bubble zoning in and out during the show and commercials. Instead of dinner being made at a set time where everybody can enjoy a hot meal, it is now made in consideration of the time a certain television show is on. Family life is not the only aspect that has been changed by the television. It seems as if children’s education may be geared more towards television shows rather than school. Steve Thomsen pointed out in his article, “Television’s Influence on the Family”, that more teenaged kids could name the hometown of Bart Simpson, but not be able to recall Abraham Lincoln’s hometown. And who is the Vice President of America? (Silence..) Yet they all know that Jack Dawson in the movie Titanic is played by Leonardo DiCaprio. I totally agree with Thomsen there because in highschool during my Biology 12 class, I could not remember the notes that were given, yet I easily recalled an episode of the show The Magic Schoolbus that was covering the same material. What ever happend to that show anyway?
Everything from the way families function to education, the television has inevitably shaped our culture. Classes are using more visual presentations to grasp the dwindling attention of students, and there has been more influence on beliefs when it comes to stereotypical opinions on certain genres of people. But what if we took it all away? Where would we be now without the pervasive influence of the television? Would something as simple as taking the focus point away from the television in the family room be the answer to deisolation?
The past several weeks have been spent learning about some pretty big ideas: progress, convenience, control, Luddism and Appropriate Technology to name several. The Slack and Wise primer has been our main source of information, along with a visit to Freegeek and a viewing of some short movies made by film students. We have also touched upon similar topics in several classes such as English, Computer Sciences and Communications. The gist of the course readings and activities so far, from my perspective, is that our use of technology changes the way we think and act, and the effects of these changes can positive and negative, planned and unexpected, beneficial and destructive.
The Changing Structure of Communities
Community has been defined in the past as a social group of people that are cohesive in a larger connection of participation that share common goals and usually a geographical location. However, in this new technological era the definition of community is drastically changing as “there is talk about the loss of ‘real’ community (Willson 3).” Block parties nowadays are on the verge of extinction and it is becoming more and more rare if people even know the names of the people that live next door, not to mention the people on their street. With almost everything in our lives the structure of communities are changing and increasingly going digital. Which comes to the question of what makes a virtual community?
Does the perpetual seeking of convenience-based technologies ultimately benefit society? Yes, it does; its benefits can be seen in all aspects of our life. Imagine a world with no remote controls to change the channel, no cell phones to catch up with friends, no computers to do your home work on, and no liquid-tab Advil to ease your hangovers. We as consumers drive industries to produce more and more convenient technologies so we can waste less time using old-fashioned physical and mental effort.
Of course there is a cost for all this convenience. At my old job I sometime worked with people very closely on projects but never actually met them in person or even talked to them on the phone, which is kind of sad and isolating. And I don’t walk or take the bus anywhere anymore. I take my vehicle. The planet absorbs this act and pays the price for my need for convenience. (I also guiltily admit a weakness for the “mini-sublime”, and drive an SUV because I find it cool; my eco-Karma is definitely showing a debt on my side.) Driving is just easier and more pleasant, as it doesn’t involve uncomfortable interactions with the more talkative members of the bus-riding community. The has led to a dramatically more sedentary lifestyle. There are times when I can feel the calories not burning; they are kicking of their shoes, settling in and making themselves at home.