There are so many divisions within the technological world that it’s hard to keep up with. The crazy part about it is that these agents of division are aspects of our life we had no control over😲: age, gender, economic level born into, and race. The digital world was supposed to be a place of equality, different from the real world which is plagued by discrimination, but increasingly so, this world of technology is becoming a place that caters to a certain profile of people 👦🏼.
Before going into my experiences with the digital divide, caused by characteristics I could not control, I am going to discuss a divide that was created out of choice: my major. I am a computer science major 💻so many of the problems discussed about the technological world directly involve the field I am entering. From gender discrimination, to algorithms that predict what users want to see, I am going to encounter all of it in the future. I was constantly asking myself questions: Should job applications only be available online? Or does that discriminate against those who can’t easily access the internet? Should companies keep a tab on people for the purpose of advertising? Or is that an invasion of privacy? While I was initially siding with the user perspective that what software engineers were doing was creepy and invasive, I eventually took a step back and tried to look at it from a coder’s point of view. As a software engineer, some of the main goals are to make users buy an item, keep users on an online platform, and make the life of the user easier. But when it comes down to it, it is a question of ethics: what’s right and wrong (according to me). Going into my job in the future, I will keep in mind the many different perspectives I have read about and try to never lose sight of an ethical boundary, which is easy to do in the tech world.
Another division I have encountered, that also impacts my role as a computer scientist, is my gender. Online and offline, we live in a world where males and females are not equal. The real world is run by men. This is easy to prove; you just have to look at the numbers and see the majority gender in the government of any country, the CEO’s of any fortune 500 company, or the richest people in the world. But as for the online world, a place that was supposed to be “socially, economically, and politically free”, it is rampant with gender discrimination (Penny pg. 3). There is so much misogyny online that it can be discouraging. Why should a woman post online if she is going to receive backlash based on something she can’t control – her gender. Much of the online world being dominated by men can be attributed to the fact that most tech companies are run by the same type of person: a young, white, male👦🏼. This comes back to impact me because if men are running the tech world, my chances of being hired as a software engineer and fixing the systemic problems is lower than that of a male 😞.
I am further impacted by discriminations in the tech world because I am a person of color 👧🏽, which is a demographic that’s lacking in the field. The harm of inadequate representation of races can be seen in the incident regarding Google Photos, when black people were categorized as gorillas under the new photos feature. This is an obvious problem that’s slowly being addressed. But like any systemic problem, it will take a long time of “changing” before equality is reached. So, in my case, the color of my skin, as my parents have warned me and as I’ve experienced, will be one of the many factors working against me.
Penny, Laurie. Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.