Technology and Culture


Order Description





Suggested Essay Topics
1. The History of the Internet is now quite well known. Arpanet began as a
military file sharing system, and big companies like Rand began to work on
computers “talking” to one another from different locations. Many people
claim credit for computer advancements from the 1960s-2010s. Throughout
this period, many creative inventors worked on computer languages,
“telephony” technology to communicate, hardware inventions, and preinternet
computer languages that helped create the Internet. Many of these
people were women. A. Do some research on these women, from any
period. B. Select 2 or 3 of them to focus on, and outline in detail their work in
computer research and development. C. Explain what they invented and how
it works (you do not need deep Computer Science knowledge), and note what
their invention does. You will still have to form a Thesis about why their
invention matters, and perhaps why the contribution has been overlooked.



2. “Techno-optimistic” thinker Yochai Benkler has argued that New Media
creates new networks and communities. He claims that while new
technologies can offer new and unforeseen possibilities for collaboration,
creativity and even success in business and the arts. This is a “technooptimistic”
opinion, based on years of research. Drawing on this argument,
assess how new media is forming new social networks and communities. Is it
also limiting social networks to those with similar interests or backgrounds?
A. Conduct some research, searching for 3 examples of technologies that
have been good for society (from the world of computing, New Media and IT
generally—it could be anything like Twitter, or Privacy Settings, or Automated
Security Computers in Airports, or Self-Driving Cars). B. Generate a “technooptimistic”
thesis in which you use these 3 examples to suggest that New
Media and computing technologies are overall good for society. You can still
mention any negative sides to them as well.





3. The Network Society has appeared in the post-war years, with the rise of
increased international trade, international communication, and international
travel. The Network Society we live in is connected through the Internet and
computers, but it is also a “social” formation which connects people through
tourism, business and even university exchange programs like the ones some
of you are registered in. All of this connects us. There are many good things
about this new society—what do you think they are? There are also many
bad things about the Network Society, like the “unfair trade” and business
practices we looked about concerning Diamonds, Coffee, and Coltan for
Technology like our phones. The film “Dukale’s Dream” was focused on,
about a coffee farmer making little money in the Network Society. A. Define
the Network Society, perhaps using Castells or a major definition. B. Outline
some good and bad things about the Network Society. C. Develop a Thesis
arguing that overall the Network Society is good for us, or bad for us, based
on the examples you choose (ie, the coffee business is globally networked,
but leaves farmers poor, and Starbucks rich. Or, smart phones connect us
globally, but leave us disconnected from other people sitting beside us).





4. Identity Online can seem to be anonymous, and hide our true selves. But no
matter how “digital” we become, the continuing problem of social inequality
along racial lines, national lines and economic (rich and poor) lines continues.
Lisa Nakamura shows how identity online matters, using examples of a black
online gamer who is identified and insulted by other players, and noting how
Gold Farming is seen to be done by Chinese players, even though many
people collect coins in WoW. A popular TV show, “Catfish” (online at MTV)
now shows how people lie about their identity online. The hosts “catch” the
people lying about themselves. Old men pretend to be young women, and
entire online relationships happen. A. Do some research and develop a
Thesis about whether the notion of identity has really changed with the
popularization of the Internet. B. Select 2 or 3 examples (not Nakamura’s)
from the news, or online platforms like games or YouTube or social media or
Anonymous / Wikileaks, that show how identity matters in the age of New





5. Remix and Mashup Culture encompasses the people who re-edit, re-draw
and re-use existing, commercial culture. People make The Avengers into
children, or re-write Harry Potter so Harry and Hermione end up together.
The DJs who mix music also combine songs from Elvis Presley and Queen
and anyone else to make “new” songs. Robin Thicke and Sam Smith were
sued, and lost, for stealing their songs. Remix culture is seen as “subcultural”
uses of existing culture, a way in which an often marginalized group of people
challenge mainstream culture and relationships of power. A. Do some
research into Remix and Mashup culture, and develop a thesis about its
purpose and function. B. Select 2 or 3 examples of Remixes or Mashups that
change the original song, movie, book, TV show, game etc. and outline why
remixing culture matters in the age of New Media.




6. Protest Culture is now often organized through New Media. A Facebook
group is used to create most protests among young people in Canada, and
Twitter is used to “live tweet” protests and to generate hashtags about social
issues, from #blacklivesmatter to #oscarssowhite. YouTube even hosts video
of crime and inequality that people post to create awareness. We addressed
the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 and the ongoing Police Violence issues in
the United States. A. Do some research into social protests that have used
social and new media platforms, and generate a Thesis about whether it was
effective. B. Select 2 or 3 examples of protests, in any country on any issue,
that used social media to organize—how did they do it? Where they
censored, as in Russia and China? What was the “real life” element that drew
people into the streets? What was the outcome of the protest?





7. Big Data is the term for huge amounts of data, and the practice of studying
huge amounts of data, usually about people, our habits and our preferences.
Facebook has data on 2 Billion people now. Facebook knows our favourite
books, movies and photos. That is big data. Other platforms like Facebook
do similar things, storing our data even if we delete our account. Sometimes
these media sites claim to “own” our pictures and videos. The University of
Toronto even does “big data” research on all of us, trying to learn from us
about our preferences. This research may change everything on campus,
from food options to transit options and campus events. A. Do some
research on big data, and define it. B. Select 2 or 3 examples of big data
research, done by social media sites, or big corporations like Google, or by
institutions and governments. Outline in your paragraphs how this way of
studying us might be good or bad for society over all, or serve corporations
better than people. It is up to you whether you focus on the positive or
negative elements.






8. Selfie was the “word of the year” entered into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Selfies are self-taken photos. They are usually posted online. And they are
usually at odd angles, not entirely accurate, typically making people look
thinner, cuter, using filters etc. Selfies are posted many times per day by
celebrities on Social Media – i.e., Angelina Jolie, Bono, Jackie Chan, Katy
Perry, Psy, whoever. These people listed have become spokespeople for
meaningful social change, each with a social cause. Sometimes a selfie is
posted with a note, as Michelle Rodriguez has done concerning The Fast and
the Furious movies needing more women. She used her selfie to make a
feminist argument, since women are paid less in Hollywood. A. Conduct a
history of the selfie – you will find the first one from the 1800s—and generate
a thesis about what the selfie means. B. Can these pictures be used by public
people to promote causes like Environmentalism, Democracy, Feminism,
Equality, Peace, AIDS and Health Research and Issues, or any other social
issue? Can the selfie be trusted, or is it seen as partly fake? How is the
selfie used differently by us, among friends and family? Is the selfie used to
brag about where we are on vacation, or how we look? What kinds of
comments accompany the selfie?