Online Accessibility and the Question of Gender.

This is a topic which was brought to my attention recently, before looking at the content of ‘thing 6’. I was asked to participate in a meeting in India with a group of experienced professionals who were working to pull together information around sex and disabilities; two topics which are still relatively taboo in India. This would then be presented in hard and soft copies. When discussing what the online resource would look like, someone brought up how the fonts should be a certain style and how the photos should be well and simply explained. I had never had to think about this before, but it was an extremely good point and one that should be addressed far more often!

Completing ‘Thing 6’ has only made me think more about this. I chose to see how accessible YouTube is through the WAVE tool and was surprised to see that there was a great number of hazards that would prevent some people from navigating around it easily. Whilst I thought that it looked like a relatively simple and clear website, things like the being able read the titles correctly, or move from one caption to another, appeared to insufficient.

The other aspect discussed in this ‘thing’ was about gender. This is a subject that really interests me. Having previously worked in monitoring and evaluation i understand the need for information and data, but I also know people who wouldn’t feel that the choice between male/female is adequate. Through working with young people I have seen how beneficial it can be to have this much more inclusive outlook, and in turn have questioned the need for labels. The more time I spend in developing countries or with people from diverse and different background, the more I question our need for labels or categories, which feels decidedly western. So i’m left conflicted between dreaming of a world where everyone is free and able to be whoever they want to be and not need to label it, or a world where research instigates changes which creates a world where everyone is free and able to be whoever they want to be. I don’t know!

I had very mixed feelings reading through the posts about the new racially diverse emojis and bitmojis. To be honest it is a world away from me, I think I only started using emojis about a yea ago, and I had no idea what a bitmoji was before reading the article. I am fully in support of anything that increases acceptance of racial diversity, but I also feel that the ultimate level of acceptance will be when we no longer need to notify what race someone is, but rather just accept them as a person. I also accept that i am part of a majority and therefore, no matter how I try, will always lack a certain deeper understanding of the lack of acceptance.

The bitmojis however are something which I do feel adverse too. I feel that western societies have a culture of constantly wanting something more, whilst there is nothing hugely wrong with wanting to improve yourself and your life, constantly chasing after something is detrimental. After having spent a lot of time in the east, I see how they have the ability to just be here in the present moment, whatever is happening, to not be constantly thinking about the next move, or what else they could be doing in that time, they are just right there, enjoying their life right now. I honestly feel that this is one of the most important lessons in life. Bitmojis contribute to that culture of a lack of contentment, of always wanting more than you have, which is a continuous, never ending chase, resulting in constant negative feelings of under achievement.

As a result of this, I made the decision not to create my own bitmoji, I really felt that it wouldn’t be beneficial to me personally, but I don understand that the lines between the virtual and real world are becoming more and more blurred as time moves on, maybe one day I will revisit!

I think I have known for some time that there are areas of my online life that I am maybe naively less cautious about than I should be. To complete ‘Thing 4’ I downloaded the privacy cleaner app for my phone, which really showed some of the rather precarious permissions which are requested by my apps. For example, why does my banking app need to access my photos? and does facebook messenger need to send SMS’s, take photo’s or record audio? It’s not even that I am dramatically concerned or worried about this (although I think I should be), more so I am just intrigued and curious as to why these apps need these permissions? What reason could they possibly have for sending texts or taking photos. I guess once I gain some clarification as to the motivations behind them then maybe I will become more concerned!

So then I wonder, if I just delete the actual apps from my phone, say for my online banking, and I just use the internet and log in online (still through my phone) then will that eliminate the amount of (what seems to be unnecessary) information that the organisation is gaining from me? I have been living in India for the last couple of months and a few weeks ago I went on a weekend away by myself. Whilst on my way, I broke my phone and I didn’t have my laptop or any other device with me. I was completely uncontactable to the outside world, possibly for the first time ever in my life. That weekend of no virtual communication made me realise the extent to which I distracted myself with the online world and as a result I deleted all my social media apps from my phone, which was completely liberating. It is only now that I have seen a whole new angle of benefit to it! Altogether it has been a eye opening and worth while task!

A stumble down memory lane

After reading through the information for ‘thing 3’ I had began thinking about my digital footprint. As I don’t overly use social media and I’m not any more news worthy than any other person I wasn’t expecting to find a great amount whilst googling myself! There were however a few surprises in store. Firstly, there are more people with my slightly unusual name. Secondly was a video which I had to record for a job over 18 months ago and subsequently had completely forgotten about. Next was an online news article covering some volunteering I had done and including a quote from me, which again had completely left my memory. Finally and maybe most surprisingly, was a webpage which displayed information from the electoral register, listing a persons addresses, including who they lived at the property with. I was shocked that this was found so easily through google for anyone to see!

Most of the other content from facebook or twitter was relatively normal, but the whole process has definitely given me a nudge and caused me to give more thought to my online presence. Generally speaking, I think I have been relatively cautious about my participation in online platforms, usually posting content related to activism or sources of information which I want to be noticed by as many people as possible! I guess one of  thought which I had confirmed is that I really don’t put too much effort in to my online presence, something which I feel is beginning to change, in a positive way.

Getting Started with 23 Things

I really have very little knowledge about the ’23 things’ activities, but I am looking forward to finding out! I study International Development at the University of Edinburgh and alongside my studies have decided to participate in the Edinburgh Award which is offered from the Uni. I’m really quite excited about the award, which aims to help students develop skills for the workplace alongside their academic studies. As I understand, this is the first year that the Edinburgh award has had some online content, which has worked out perfectly for me as I am currently in India, so would find it very difficult to complete all the required hours within the one semester! (I completed one year of a three year online distance learning masters last year, and converted to complete one semester and dissertation on campus this year, meaning that I had a few months free to work).

Although I use social media, I by no means utilise it. In fact recently after having my phone break whilst being on a weekend away alone, I decided I was dedicating too much of my energy to it and deleted all social media apps from my (newly fixed) phone. Alongside this, I wrote my first ever blog only about a month ago! I have since written another one, and also been asked by another party to write something for them. Considering I did used to write some poetry and I really quite enjoy writing essays, I’ve found that writing the blogs has provided me with the perfect circumstances for self reflection, in fact it is actually once I have reflected and developed something in my mind that I am really able to write it down. I think I have found a new creative, meaningful and useful tool, which I am happy to have the opportunity to continue on with through 23 things. I’m looking forward to see what the other ‘things’ have in store!

I hadn’t previously seen the universities social media guidelines and although I hadn’t previously given it much thought, I did expect there to be some. After browsing through them I feel that they are quite logical, practical and realistic.