Diversity on the Web #SMWmilan Diversity on the Web #SMWmilan

Diversity on the Web #SMWmilan

How to remove obstacles that arise in society

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The advent of technology, associated with using the Internet, has led to the creation of many social networks. A social network comprises a set of individuals connected by different social bonds. Very often such individuals are geographically distant but are also different in gender, communication, different physically or in terms of ability. Virtual reality allows these barriers to be overcome and brings together individuals that are very different.

Social networks beyond common platforms

Social networks are created when people exchange something; since people are different, social networks are also different.

Two worlds, two categories and two individuals that have never spoken together due to communication problems or fear of being judged by others, have isolated and detached themselves. However, with Social Media, this “obstacle” can be removed and they can participate in global communication.

Language issues

Simone Fanti Editor at RCS MediaGroup writes on the “InVisibile” blog to let a category express itself that sometimes tends to hide away, people with a disability. Simone explains that on the blog they have decided to use communication based on words in order to give voice to those with a disability by discussing ideas, suggestions and projects so that they can exchange ideas on a par with everyone else. It is also a portal that offers advice and “punishes” improper behaviour.

Simone says, “I belong to the generation that is half way between the digital and the analog world, with a mentality half way between the printed and the digital”, however, he see the Web as a useful tool for those who have to communicate with the external world, for those who want to make their voices heard. Simone adds, “We have a diverse audience of followers, who are mostly female and very sensitive to the stories we tell”. Using this tool in the right way, means talking about what people want to hear.

Another difference that the Web can help to overcome concerns language. In the world, there are 6,700 languages, therefore it is difficult to communicate using just a few.

After longstanding experience at Telecom Italia, Luigi MuziiCo-Founder and associate at sQuid decided to focus on multilingual communication and translations. “Today, Social Networks give us an opportunity to come into contact with cultures different to our own, which can be filtered, or even censured, by the platforms we use”. Social Networks are characterised by viral behaviour and they need to overcome a gap related to linguistic differences. To do this, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have suggested the direct involvement of users who are asked to translate by themselves. It involves “Social Translation”: the problem is that Social Networks concentrate on individuals rather than on the community. The real challenge is to change mentality and culture in order to bring about a social awareness.

Issues of gender and age

Recent surveys show that Social Networks are more popular with women, especially Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, whereas LinkedIn has a majority of male users. How can this be explained?

Odille RobottiManaging Director and Founder of Learning Edge explains this phenomenon as a reflection of the social reality that a women experiences: in our culture, women are not accustomed to holding top positions in company management, “Women interact differently to men on Social Networks: they use it for engagement purposes but they are not used to presenting themselves, especially not professionally”. Social Networks, however, can be a tool for changing the situation, “Women should not segregate themselves in female issues but should learn to speak up and make themselves heard”, says Odille. They must learn to network, extend their horizons and exchange their ideas on more “male-related” issues. Odille’s suggests creating a personal daily routine in order to manage personal profiles and let the rest of society know that we are present.

Another gap that can create a digital divide is age. We always hear the analog generation and digital generation being spoken about but nobody takes into consideration senior citizens (the over 60s), who need to learn to use technology, no longer for work purposes but to avoid exclusion and to continue being able to communicate.

The “lachiocciola.info” blog arises from the experience of Rosy Rosato who, after long-standing experience at Telecom Italia, decided to focus on training the over 60s segments of the population. “I found a world of people who had a wall in front of them, in the form of fear. Nevertheless, in reality, this could be overcome in a simple way,” says Rosy.

Senior citizens mainly have two problems: one is linguistic (therefore a glossary is made with terms to be learned) and the other is physical (they often have limited mobility). “Senior citizens are sceptical in their approach, they feel inadequate,” explains Rosy. Actually, we need to teach them that technology, such the e-mail system or Skype is a useful tool for communicating with their children and grandchildren, who are often far away from home.

And what about children?

Rosy explains that “it is a mistake to believe that our children, being digital natives, are doing better than us”. We actually need to “teach them the correct and conscious use of such tools”. Therefore, we need to teach youngsters, as well as parents and teachers, that using the Internet is “something normal” and we should not overly scare them.

Cyberbullying

More and more often we hear about cyberbullying, but is it right to refer only to teenagers?

With regard to people with a disability, we can mention the aggressive comments and words used against them”; people often verbally attack them with their nasty comments on blogs.

As for teenagers, the problem is that if bullying used to take place in the schoolyard, now, taking advantage of the anonymity that using nicknames offers, the cyberbully can stress a victim in many other ways.

Training youngsters to use technology also helps teach respect for others, making them understand that where their freedom ends, they may infringe on that of others.

Controlling can only lead to fear. We need to teach and support, bringing into the open what has been hidden and unknown for too long.