The Fairness of Fairphone

“Fairphone is a social enterprise working to create a fairer economy and change how things are made. We open up supply chains, solve problems and use transparency to start debate about what’s truly fair”. (Fairphone, 2015)

The Fairphone started in 2010 as a project to raise awareness about conflict minerals in electronics and the wars they fuel and fund in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Fairphone, 2015). It was only in 2013, in The Netherlands, when Fairphone released their first smartphone. The phone was only the start of how Fairphone was to communicate the issues of smartphones. The aim of the phone was to produce a fair phone that was fair towards people working in the mines in the DRC and fair to the workers in production companies like Foxconn (van der Velden, 2014). After learning about the conditions that these workers faced, I thought it would be a good idea to shed some light on the great initiatives against blood minerals and the poor workers.

Fairphone is funded and run by non-profit organisations including the Waag Society, Action Aid and Schrijf-Schrijf. Although Fairphone claims that they are still far from a ‘fair’ phone at this point, Fairphone is just a starting point for their step-by-step journey (Fairphone, 2015). The phone focuses on 5 main concepts in its effort to make a social impact. It looks at:

Mining– they source materials that support local economies, not armed militia.

Design– the phone has longevity to extend to phones usable life

Manufacturing– provides safe conditions for workers and fair wages

Lifecycle– looking at the whole life span of the phone from creation to e-waste

Social entrepreneurship– creating a new economy with focus on social values

(Fairphone, 2015)

http://www.swedroid.se/fairphone-en-mer-rattvis-mobil/
http://www.swedroid.se/fairphone-en-mer-rattvis-mobil/

Whilst the Fairphone does look similar to other smartphones, there are still many differences:

  • The body of the phone is made out of post-consumer recycled polycarbonate, retrieved from old devices
  • Contains non-conflict minerals
  • The phone comes without a headset or charger
  • It has dualSIM, so people don’t need two phones in order to separate their work communication from private communication
  • It has a removable and easy to replacebattery
  • It can be opened up and is repairable
  • It is shipped in minimal and sustainable packaging.

(van der Velden, 2014)

Fairphones success is in its numbers. It has sold over 60,000 phones and at the moment is completely sold out, but is in the middle of creating a new updated Fairphone 2. I find that the number sold is quite outstanding for something that I find is reasonably unheard of. Possibly, with the release of the new Fairphone later this year, it will be publicised heavily around the globe with the DRC and Foxconn becoming more and more of a human rights issue. Some argue (Oliver, 2015) that even though this is a great initiative, the technology of the phone is quite far behind and outdated as it uses old Android operating systems and its camera capability is quite low. Although this is a fair point, I believe the main aim of the Fairphone is to raise awareness of the DRC and human rights more than anything.

References:

van der Velden, M 2014, ‘Re-politicising Participatory Design: What can we learn from Fairphone’, in Ninth International Conference on Culture and Technology and Communication (CaTaC). Oslo, Norway, 19-20 June 2014, viewed on the 17th April 2015, http://dis.ifi.uio.no/sites/default/files/googlescholar/maja-van-der-velden-fairphone.pdf

Fairphone 2015, Fairphone, Fairphone, viewed 17th of April 2015, http://www.fairphone.com

Oliver, D 2015, Fairphone review, wired.co.uk, viewed on the 17th of April 2015, http://www.wired.co.uk/reviews/mobile-phones/2015-01/fairphone

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The History and Parallels of the Telegraph and the Internet

http://www.history.com/videos/first-telegraph-message

The telegraph and the Internet are completely different in technology are extremely similar in impact, societal impact to be specific. Both pieces of technology were created over 100 years apart but the effect they had on society on a global scale are almost parallel.

First, a bit of background information on the Telegraph. In 1837, Samuel Morse created the first electronic telegraph and its first public use was in 1844. The development of the electronic telegraph meant that communication could cross borders and different parts of the world in minutes. At the time it was revolutionary. Prior to this invention it would take days and months to send a message. The ability to send information quicker brought the world closer together. We became a global village (McLuhan, 1964). By this McLuhan meant that due to technology, the world was shrinking as we became more connected with each other and our cultures. Like the Telegraph, there was a long production to finally create the Internet. Development of the Internet started back in the early 60’s where it was worked on until 1991 when the World Wide Web was created. The impact this had on the world was similar to the invention of the telegraph. Although we had already become a global village, it only increased our connection with other nations. Both technologies had particularly large influences in business. In both cases the stock market grew with the invention of the Telegraph and with the Internet it worked more efficiently than previously.

Telegraph- “This was a major achievement in communications, culminating in the appearance of the first financial newsletters”.

Internet- “…an improvement of an existing process is the elimination of the broker in sending orders to financial markets. Before the Internet, this was possible by using the telephone. But the Internet allows it to be done much more efficiently through a direct connection to an electronic system”. (Economides, 2001)

Another parallel between the two was fear. It was completely unknown what would come from each technology and whether it would be good or bad, particularly in relation to what it would do with war.

In an 1838 letter to Francis O.J. Smith in 1838, Morse wrote about the telegraph:

“This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed.”

Mondo 2000 editor R.U. Sirius as quoted in a 1992 article in the Bergen (N.J.) Record said this about the Internet:

“Who’s going to control all this technology? The corporations, of course. And will that mean your brain implant is going to come complete with a corporate logo, and 20 percent of the time you’re going to be hearing commercials?”

(both quotes found on Elon University School of Communications)

Whilst there are many more similarities, it would simply take too long. The main point is that each medium had very similar social, political and economic impacts on their times.

References:

Economides, N 2001, ‘The impact of the Internet on financial markets’, Journal of Financial Transformation, pp. 8-13

Imagining the Internet, Elon University School of Communications, viewed 7th April 2015, http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/150/1830.xhtml

Maddox, B 2006, ‘When First We Clicked’, Discover, vol. 27, no.4, pp.30-31

McLuhan, M 1964, Understanding Media, McGraw Hill, New York

Phillips, J 2000, ‘Digital technology and institutional change from the gilded age to modern times: The impact of the telegraph and the Internet’, Journal of Economic Issues, vol. 34, no. 2

Oriental Stereotypes in Aladdin

When I was a child watching Disney’s Aladdin (1992), it never crossed my mind that there was such harsh use of Oriental stereotypes. It was really only until this subject that it ever crossed my mind. Not only are these Oriental stereotypes displayed in one Disney movie but quite a few including Mulan (1998) and The Jungle Book (1967). So why is it that Disney keeps displaying these themes?

Literary theorist, Edward Said (1978), describes Orientalism as “the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate theories, epics, novels, social descriptions, and political accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, ‘mind,’ destiny and so on”. The idea of Orientalism dates back to the colonization of the Arab world. The term provided a justification for European colonialism and their construction of “the East” which was different and inferior, therefore needing rescuing by “the West” (Arab American National Museum, 2011).

The beginning of Aladdin starts off with and opening song called “Arabian Nights”.

‘Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where it’s flat and immense
And the heat is intense
It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home’.
Original first verse (1992-1993):
‘Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam
Where they cut off your ear
If they don’t like your face
It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home’.

Cruel and poor judgments were made in writing the original lyrics and were therefore changed. The verse still conveys ideas of Western Orient stereotypes. It still conveys the fact that they are “barbaric”, there are camels everywhere and that the Middle East is some sort of faraway and unknown place, which are all complete stereotypes. Many of the stereotypes that the West had made up about the East include that it is a place of tradition, it’s undeveloped, rural, spiritual and completely opposite from anything Western (Evans, 2015). Because these stereotypes have transcended through time, it has been quite hard for the Orient to shake these thoughts by Westerners and it is particularly harder to do so when movies keep portraying these ideas.

Throughout the film we are shown other stereotypes. Aladdin is portrayed as a thief, he is poor, his best friend is a monkey and he lives in poverty. Being a thief is a common stereotype of Arabs but for Disney to portray Aladdin as a hero they show him as a sort of ‘Robin Hood’ stealing from the rich and giving to the poor (Nelson, Nunez, 2009). The women in the film are also overly sexualised. This is a common misconception of the Orient. Westerners see Orient women as submissive, sexy and exotic. Lastly, the use of animals in the film as transportation creates a sense of the Middle East being primitive. It conveys that they are too far behind in technology therefore they are poor and live in poverty (Nelson, Nunez, 2009).

All of these stereotypes create and image for young children at a young age. They keep negative stereotypes alive, stereotypes that are untrue.

References:

2011, What is orientalism?/Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes, Arab American National Museum, viewed 4th April 2015, http://www.arabstereotypes.org/why-stereotypes/what-orientalism

Aladdin 1992, movie, Walt Disney, USA, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

Evans, N 2015, East vs. West: Orientalism, BCM232, University of Wollongong, accessed 4th April 2015

Nelson, Nunez, A & V 2009, Aladdin/Disney Movies and Racism, PB Works, viewed 4th April 2015, http://disneyandmovies.pbworks.com/w/page/17905678/4%20Aladdin

Said, E 1978, Orientalism, 5th edn, Penguin Books, England

Censorship and the Great Firewall of China

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Social media has become such an important part in our daily lives. We use it to keep in contact with one another and it allows us to have a voice to speak what we believe. While we may use it to keep in contact with our friends, family etc. we also unknowingly use it to keep in contact with the rest of the world. I know personally that my Instagram feed is contained of primarily international posts. One thing I have noticed though since researching this topic is that the amount of Chinese content I receive as very minimal, and this is why…

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) set up the Golden Shield project in Mainland China, also known as the Great Firewall of China. This basically meant that Mainland China had very limited access to Internet sites. All social media networks were censored and thus why the Chinese can’t use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The government wanted to make sure they had a hold on all information travelling in and out of China. As Facebook, Twitter etc. are American owned; the Chinese government couldn’t keep an eye on all conversations. There are many forbidden keywords and websites that are filtered by tens of thousands of employee’s everyday and then filtered again by sophisticated software (D’Jaen, 2008). Many subjects that have been censored are primarily related to the government and those specifically talking negatively about the government. Many search words have been blocked including ‘Tibet’, ‘Taiwan China’, ‘equality’, ‘democracy China’ and ‘freedom China’ (Zittrain and Edelman, 2003).

google-kw2
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/china/google-kw-chart.html

Because of all of this, China decided to create their own social media networks. QZone is the most popular social network site in China. It is a mix of blogging, watching videos, listening to music and sending photos. It has over 712 million users in total (Heggestuen, 2013). The second favourite platform is Weibo, which is like a mix of Facebook and Twitter. Whilst there is freedom in having their own social platforms they are still heavily regulated by the Chinese government (Riley, 2014). Those who wish to use Western social platforms are able to illegally access them by using proxy servers or virtual private networks (VPNs). Charlie Osborn (2015) of ZDNet says, “critics argue that online filtering is not only hampering the general public but is stifling the innovation needed to revive the Chinese economy”. The censorship of the Internet on the Chinese public is damaging their freedom of speech and human rights.

References:

D‘Jaen, M. D. 2008, ‘Breaching the Great Firewall of China: Congress Overreaches in Attacking Chinese Internet Censorship’, Seattle University Law Review, 31(2), 327, viewed on 21st March 2015,

Heggestuen, J 2013, Confused By China’s Social Networks? Here’s A Simple Infographic Showing Their US-Based Equivalents, Business Insider Australia, viewed on 21st March 2015, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/a-quick-guide-to-chinas-social-networks-2013-10>

Osborne, C 2015, China revamps Great Firewall, cracks down on social media, ZDNet, viewed on 21st March 2015, <http://www.zdnet.com/article/china-revamps-great-firewall-cracks-down-on-social-media/>

Zittrain, J, Edelman, B 2003, Empirical Analysis of Internet Filtering in China, Harvard University, viewed on the 21st March 2015, <http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/china/>Role