Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Check Your Privilege - a Non Feminist Technological Paper by Lauren Harrington

           As a child of the technological age, I’ve seen our world grow closer to many of the Sci-Fi apocalypse novels I’ve read in my classes. We’ve grown so attached to the internet that most of our society is wholly dependent on it. Many psychologists argue that it has desensitized us and dulled our sense of empathy. I’ve seen this in many around me, and it frightens me. The last article I wrote for Ace of Geeks was about the book Feed, a society where our equivalent, Google Glass, is implanted into your brain, causing everyone with the microchip to be constantly connected to the feed of information and advertisements that the corporations send them.
            The major element in the book is the class discrepancy—anyone without money doesn’t have the feed, and is therefore unable to obtain jobs that would earn them the money to afford the microchip. This is something that has become a clear issue in modern society. I’ll dive into some examples from my personal life that show this.

            I am from southern California, in an area where the middle class is almost exclusively represented in the form of lower-middle class. The rest of the people are from the upper class. The friends I made were largely stuck in the former, or in the lower class, where the newer technology was only available to them after it became older tech, when they could afford it. Some of my friends took on jobs to help support their families. Some of my friends took on jobs to pay for gas, and eventually save enough money for new tech. I didn’t earn enough money for an Xbox until a week before the 360 came out, and I wasn’t aware of the 360 being released. The friends of mine who did have an Xbox were those who could afford to upgrade immediately, and so my Xbox had become useless for the social gaming I had intended to use it for. It now collects dust in a basket at my mom’s house.
            I now live in San Francisco, and have made many friends who grew up in Silicon Valley. All, save for a few, grew up getting the new technology almost immediately, handed to them on a silver platter. Getting a job for them was also easy, as they were able to get entry-level positions before they graduated high school, allowing them to continue to get jobs and earn more experience for their résumés. They now have very little resistance in getting a new job at their leisure, to earn enough money to preorder the new consoles they want. All but three of them had the Xbox One delivered to their doorstep on release date, and one of the three was out of country on a study abroad program, while yet another preordered it at a store for pick-up. These friends of mine also had smartphones long before I met them, while I did not get one until 2012. They all also have computers of good quality at minimum, with a few having high-end computers they built with brand new parts.

            In my area of study, broadcast media, computers that have editing capabilities are a must-have, second only to recording gear. Luckily, my department has all of this; equipment for loan, computers on campus for use (with a time limit). My significant other’s department, cinema, does not have these luxuries. One of the mandatory courses requires that you buy 35mm film, and pay for it to be processed, coming out to a total of roughly $250 per roll of film used and processed. (This is why I shoot digital exclusively - Ed) The groups in this course have 4 students each, but that’s still quite a price per student—roughly $62 per project, per person. So far there have been 3 projects in that class, with a final one coming up. Had I chosen to be a cinema major, I would not have been able to afford it, and would have had to drop out. I’ve noticed that almost all of the students in that major who make it to graduation either come from money, or qualify for a great deal of grants and scholarships. This is a public college—a state school, not a private college.
            What I want you all to take away from this is that you should be aware of where you stand in technological privilege. If you’re amongst those who do not worry about whether your tech can stand up to the tasks required of you, you should be grateful. If you’re not one of the privileged, if you’re one of those who have to use the public tech available to you, then keep working hard, because it is still possible in this society to find a job that can get you better tech. I’m lucky enough to be in the middle—my family can afford to get me new tech if I ask for it as a combined gift from all of them on the holidays. Often, I’ve had to ask for combination birthday/Christmas gifts, with the entirety of one side of my family pitching in. But, I digress.
            Be aware of what’s happening on both sides of the financial gap of society, as well as what’s going on in the middle. Take action to help close the gap, or at least bring it all to the same level. Technology is required in almost every field of work in our society, and those with the most recent tech are those who move forward and stay afloat.
            Check your privilege.

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