Friday, 30 March 2012

U.S. and China

The U.S. - China Policy Foundation was founded in 1995 and 'is a non-partisan, non-profit, non-advocacy organization that promotes a greater understanding between American and Chinese policymakers, researchers, and government officials.' Based in Washington D.C. the organisation aims to provide accurate information on the relationship between the U.S. and China, therefore the website is likely to be reliable, although a donation page is present.
The website contains a news section and the most recent 2012 story states that both the U.S. and China were among the fifty countries who attended the 'Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.' The presence of both countries demonstrates how nuclear war is not encouraged by either side and both countries realise the devastation that nuclear weapons could potentially cause. This viewpoint is likely to have occurred due to the impact that the Cold War had on both nations, as paranoia became extreme and the end of the world was a possibility.
However, the relationship between the U.S. and China is by no means perfect. 'Obama has repeatedly called for China to take a firmer stance on North Korea, accusing China’s government of “rewarding bad behavior [and] turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations."' If China were to take a 'firmer stance,' it worries that as a consequence, it would 'cause a flood of refugees to cross the border into China.' This concern represents a strict, communist China, seeing as their population growth is controlled by the one child policy. This prevents freedom of immigration which America exercises to a certain extent. The United States claims to obey human rights and civil rights more so than countries such as China, which will happily trade with countries that abuse human rights. Therefore, America is much more concerned with democracy and freedom compared to China, who is more concerned with profits and their own well-being. If America is unable to persuade China to take stronger action against North Korea, this will show the lack of influence that America now has in foreign affairs.
The USCPF also holds events that strengthens the relationship between the U.S and China. For example, in February 2012 Washington D.C welcomed the Chinese Vice President XI Jinping. Xi states that the relationship between the two countries is beneficial for both sides, as it enables 'increased bilateral investment in each other’s economies and more people-to-people exchanges.' Both America and China are superpowers and in order to attain these positions, both nations must trade with each other. However, America would prefer China to buy products more than they produce them, as this would help America during its economic crisis. The United States is more frequently relying on others for financial aid, as most of its debt is owed to China, therefore their relationship must stay strong for America's sake.
The USCPF offers more than simply providing information. It has a 'China Forum' which is an 'educational television program devoted exclusively to China.' This demonstrates the demand for online resources and suggests that the organisation is highly devoted to gathering accurate information and spreading this worldwide. They also offer programs which allow American teachers to go to China in order to 'study the Chinese education system and learn about Chinese history and culture.' One is not able to accurately inform others about a country in which they have not visited. This program shows that Americans are keen to gain a deeper understanding of China, by analysing its 'soft power' as well as its 'hard power.' These teachers will also be able to take advice from China which could help them to improve the educational system in America, as public schools are declining. However, as this site is from an American perspective, it would be interesting to see whether or not China is as keen to gain more knowledge of America.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Online Identity in America

The internet has shaped the lives of everybody who has been alive since it was introduced to the public, and especially to people who have been born into this 'digital' era. It has allowed people to contact others all around the world, for both social and business purposes, meaning the world is now a place where everybody is each others neighbour and borders between places are now less prominent.

Online, people can be whoever they want to be, meaning people can become more socially mobile, for instance, somebody who is shy and struggles to make friends at school could create an account on a social networking site and write what they really want to say, or even create a new personality for themselves on the internet. This has both its positives and its negatives; firstly, on a positive note, it means people feel less lonely and can make new friends, thus meaning they feel happier about themselves and may become more confident as a result of this. However, this confidence of the identity they create on the internet is unlikely to translate into the real world, and this problem of social seclusion they felt before is actually increased because their life is almost solely online, so their people skills in terms of face to face interaction actually begin to lessen.

In terms of websites such as YouTube, people who become video bloggers, or 'vloggers' as they are often referred to now, can use the website as a perfect platform to talk to other online members about what they feel in everyday life. Sites such as youtube and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are good to keep in contact with others, but when you begin to put your real life onto the internet, the boundaries between online and real life are destroyed, meaning that people will often become very obsessive with their online life and become less socially mobile with their real-life friends.

Dating sites are also another internet sensation that have been created, especially within the last decade or so. These are good in the sense that it allows single people who are looking for a partner to meet others online, despite the fact that the motives of the website are positive, the end result is often not as successful as the two people who have met over this dating site may have perceived it to be before they met face to face; this is because people create false personas and pretend to be someone they're not, as on dating sites you can hide the characteristics of your personality that you don't like and replace them with incorrect information. People may also put photos up from a few years back to make themselves look more attractive, as they don't want potential partners to be put off by what they look like now.

To conclude, I believe that the internet means people can easily become more socially mobile and that in the current state of the world, everything, including shopping and banking are moving onto the internet. Obviously there are both positives and negatives of this, but this easiness of communications and creation of identities will eventually lead to laziness; meaning the numbers of people with obesity and a lack of social skills will increase.

America Online.

As America is at the forefront of digital technology in the modern age, it is highly important to focus on what that means for the country itself. The birth of social networking, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as Youtube (which allows its users to upload and broadcast themselves across the world), the issue of online identity becomes an extremely important part of an American's everyday life.

The internet is argued to be the place for one to express themselves freely, and thus it could be seen as a cause for concern in consideration to content and who has access to what. America can govern its own laws, but they cannot govern the internet as a whole. It is possible, therefore, for people to project whatever they like for as long as they are able to be one step ahead of the authorities. For example, in cases of illegal downloading and piracy, it is near impossible for the American government to monitor and control. This therefore suggests that the online world has a certain extent of elitism as to who can use it and for what.

Arguably, the increase of teen suicides in the country has been aided by the use of the internet to continue bullying that would have stopped after the school day was over. Now it is possible for someone to attack your online identity as well as what you project in real life. The increase of cyber-bullying, as well as fraud and other criminal offences, has therefore made Americans wary of what they publish online. It could be argued, then, that an online identity is only what someone chooses to present and not their full identity.

This becomes interesting in the case of online dating websites and how they boast about matches they can make to someone with similar interests to you. However, is this actually possible if the two people are only projecting what they think are their best qualities, likes and interests? For example, it's not possible to change how you look in life, but it is possible to use your best photo and photoshop in order to project an improved version of how you look online.

Most Americans see the internet as a way to get on in life, with entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg making their millions, but also as a way of progressing forward socially. For example, it is possible for someone to become "Youtube Famous" as well as "Twitter Famous" due to their number of followers or subscribers online. But if the person who has become "Internet Famous" is only a section of their full identity, then it could be argued that it is only their digital self that is famous.

This may seem false to people from other countries, but for Americans it appears that they are willing to accept this level of invasion into their personal lives. Much of a digital native's life in America revolves around social networks and having a constant news feed of the things they are interested in. This sense of adaptability, the way that the internet can be moulded around a person's needs and interests, suggests a positive way of looking at the internet, and therefore it is difficult to see Americans willingly removing themselves from the digital world.

Online America: problems and successes

The best form of communication has always been to be face to face, this allowed each applicant to not only take in the information being discussed, but also decipher the way in which this information or conversation was presented. This would then increase the chance of understanding what the other person was trying to describe, and therefore rule out a large percentage of misunderstanding. This is different to; let’s say texting, because the facial expressions and tone of voice will help further recognize what aim was trying to be achieved, texting leads to mis-interpreting, for example; “Ok, that’s fine”, now this can be received in many manners, negative or positive. The problem with face to face communication is confidence, sometimes it is harder for people to say the things they feel as with facial contact there is only one chance, however online communication contains different results, many people find the confidence to express themselves further online than in person as they will not see the first hand reaction of others. This is way online identities has become so big within the last 10 years, everyone can create a ‘better’ version of themselves if it involves a computer. An online account of someone can be controlled and regularly changed, this means that the person controlling their own profile will have complete control of how they present themselves, this leads to people showing their best attributes, for example; FaceBook profile pictures will be played and tampered with until there is one that make the owner happy with how they look. This digital identity will therefore cancel out any flaws an individual may have, and replace them with ‘perfect’ representation.

There are many different online or digital identities people can access; FaceBook, twitter, YouTube to name a few, what these identities do is reveal the person to the world. FaceBook has become very popular over the last 5 years, many people spend hours on it every day, checking out what their friends are up to and also ‘stalking’ others. When creating your own profile you can carefully select what is presented and to whom, there is privacy settings which dictates who can see their profile, FaceBook also gives a chance for the applicant to search the millions of other FaceBookers, which can lead to obessesions. The problem with FaceBook is that, there is now another way for people to tell you and your friends how they feel about you, this can be a good thing, but sometimes it can turn into bullying, because of the extra access people can post messages or images that can offend the victim. There has been many examples of FaceBook bullying where the victim has been left demoralised and psychologically hurt, and also recently employers have been able to see what sort of person they will be employing is like, leading to discrimination.

Another form of digital identity is Twitter, the online social networking system where you can follow your favourite people or celebrities and see what they are up to. Twitter may have a character limit, but this does not harm the effect of people expressing their deepest feelings, sometimes this can also become an obsession, where by the public will follow their ‘hero’ 24/7. A notion that has occurred recently is twitter ‘rants’ where the profiler will complain about a recent issue, for example; footballers complaining about their managers team selection, this can lead to punishments and fines. Twitter is just (put lightly) another form of global exposure, similar to that of YouTube, where everyone can show their silly, funny, bad, impressive and emotional side. A notion that has occurred recently is twitter ‘rants’ where the profiler will complain about a recent issue, for example; footballers complaining about their managers team selection, this can lead to punishments and fines. Twitter is just (put lightly) another form of global exposure, similar to that of YouTube, where everyone can show their silly, funny, bad, impressive and emotional side. YouTube is the most popular website on the internet, with many people from all over the world tuning in everyday, it has become the playground for online sensations and is the hunting ground for individuals to advertise their talents. For example; Justin Beiber has become famous with the help of YouTube, his music videos were found by music moguls and the rest is history.

The way in Digital and online America is becoming, seems to be creating a lot of success and money, however I feel that one day people will not have the need to go out and see their friends face to face, because doing it online is easier. America will then lose a physical identity which has in past put them in front of others nations as the leading and forward thinking country.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Digital Identites in America

America’s association with the digital age has undoubtedly been paramount to not only the development of technology, but also its enhancement. With the introduction of Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and various other popular websites, there has been a growing concern over the meaning of identity, and its place within the future of America. One of the main issues that surround the digital age of today, is whether everybody is the same online.

The most popular social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook originated from the United States, which thus reinforces the idea that America is leading the way in digital identity. On the internet, and particularly with Facebook, people have complete control over what information they want others to view, including their profile pictures and the way in which they want others to perceive them in terms of appearance. However, it terms of authenticity, there has been a growing concern. Although in some cases their profile picture reflects their appearance, their personality may not reflect their true identity. In addition to this, there have also been cases where such social networking has been a frontier for false identity in general. In other words, people only see/know the things we want them to and, in some cases, our digital identity can be the total opposite of our true identity.

However, growing concerns over identity are not just restricted to the vearious social network sites, for example with the development of the numerous RPG's (Role Play Games). Such examples can be seen in the popular game World of Warcraft (released in 2004, and since then it has 10.2million subscribers as of 2011), as well as the virtual world of Second Life - Both products of American culture. The 2008 BBC documentry Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love portrays the extent to which identity can be obscured, using the specific example of Second Life. This particular episode focuses on an American woman, Carolyn, and her obsession with
living in the virtual world. Her obsession became so extreme that Carolyn was willing to abandon her family to start a new life with the man who is her husband in the virtual world. The question is, therefore, what makes this website, which has three million members, so compelling enough that people are allowing themselves to become totally manipulated by the virtual world? The fact of the matter is that the idea of a digital identity is appealing because we have full control over it and it offers people a chance to escape their daily lives.

In general, social network sites and role play games enable people to escape from their daily lives and be the people that they want to be. Not only this, but the fact that people are literally living their lives online only further reinforces the idea that digital identities are becoming more and more prominent. To some extent it could be argued that everyone is the same online, particularly through the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, however, through the example of the BBC documentary ‘Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love', digital identity can affect some individuals more than others. In general I believe that the digital identity of America will continue to exist and further enhance this digital age. America’s dominance is not only affecting its own identity, but the identities of the whole world.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Digital Identity in the USA

The website 'Business Insider' explores the different identities available to Americans online. Preetam Kaushik states that Facebook was established 'to help young college students find dates and networks.' However, Facebook has expanded its utility, as one is able to create a persona of themselves online. On the other hand, communicating online can cause one to become isolated as oppose to liberated, because Facebook users will replace physical communication to online communication. Further, liberation is restricted by the lack of privacy online, for example employers are able to search an employees profile for any mitigating factors that will effect their job stability.Yet it could be argued that there is variation between Facebook users. For instance, an older individual is likely to use the site less regularly and mainly to communicate with friends or family and to gain knowledge. Whilst youths are more likely to use the site more frequently and become concerned with photos and status updates. Either way, Facebook is used as a means of escapism from the average working day, which is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. But an excess of any pleasure is unhealthy, as using Facebook obsessively results in a decrease of time spent outside of an enclosed room with either a laptop or a mobile phone.
Kaushik then states 'Youtube was a platform for dorky youngsters to upload and share their videos online (as it turned out there’s a dorky youngster in all of us!)' This implies that Youtube is a means of transferring knowledge to others. This is accurate, but the significance of the statement is 'platform.' Youtube has also developed, especially in the music and film industries, as individuals can listen to music or watch films free of charge. This is beneficial to the consumer - who is not forced to walk to the shop in order to be entertained. On the other hand, Youtube has had a negative effect on companies such as HMV which is struggling to compete against the online market, which also includes Amazon for instance. Youtube also allows users to share their videos on social networking sites such as Facebook, as a result others can be introduced to new entertainment, knowledge and cultures. An example of a highly influential Youtube video was the Kony campaign which was released in March 2012. At first, the video was seen to raise awareness of the cruelties taking place in Africa. Yet sceptics argued that the movie was, in reality, propaganda which exaggerated the events occurring. Either way, Youtube has provoked discussion on major world issues, therefore credit it deserved.
Furthermore Kaushik argues, 'blogging was all about self-expression.' Allowing a person to express their personal opinions online provokes discussion on an array of subjects. Blogs are being used in schools in order to allow children to increase their online abilities as well as their general knowledge. On all the above forms of networking, individuals can be anonymous to a certain extent, as simply providing your name does not reveal your identity and the name used may not be truthful. Consequently, online users do not have to fear prejudice from other users, thus equality is exercised online. However, it could be argued that in a moral society, there should be no fear of discrimination and therefore one should be able to reveal their identity. Unfortunately, a minority of online users will use the Internet to abuse and bully others. But this will always occur, even without the Internet.
The liberation of the Internet is not just limited to individuals, as businesses also use online websites in order to increase knowledge of their market. Kaushik states the Internet 'is also a way to engage with the customer like never before.' Sites such as Facebook allow businesses to read criticisms customers have expressed. Further, surveys can be produced by businesses which ask questions about their customers. For example, McDonalds could ask the individuals using Facebook: what is your favourite food? The restaurant can consequently gain a larger understanding of its customers wants and needs. These processes take consumerism to a higher level, which is beneficial to America and companies worldwide.
Kaushik also mentions the popular 'Q&A webpages like Wiki Answers or YahooAnswers.' These websites can increase ones' knowledge, but not all the information provided on such sites are reliable. Additionally, such websites may prevent the increase in the world's intellectual capacities, because information circulates the Internet, but new information is arguably not often produced. Instead, users are merely consumers of such knowledge. If the use of such sources continue to increase, will there be a purpose for the public library or the university library? Would there even be a purpose for the university? Individuals can easily access information online, therefore lectures could become unnecessary. Instead, the purpose of university could be to gain independence rather than knowledge. If this is the case, universities will survive, seeing as the Internet can not fully offer both knowledge and social opportunities.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Why is America's Class Divide Deepening?

In this news article from the Korea Times, the authors look at how and why America's class divide is deepening, with an emphasis and focus on one specific writer; Charles Murray.

They look at the positives and negatives of Murray's views in a critical way; as an overall summary, they finish their article with a conclusion which is food for thought; Changing a culture is difficult and takes time. With the crisis facing our republic today, "hope for change" may not be good enough. This is a very effective point because it is almost realising that America's culture may never change and that this class divide will always exist, and will continue to widen as time progresses. 

Murray looks at the time periods of 50 years ago from today and the present time, he clearly states the differences that exist and how society has changed; he puts this down to peoples views on things such as religion changing and this is the root of the issue. In the article, they emphasise the statistics of divorce amongst the different classes within the United States. Within the middle class white population, 80% of them are married and the divorce rates are far lower than what they are in the lower class families; could this be down to people losing faith in America, after all, it is being rapidly caught up by China in terms of its economic power; and from the latest economic recession and people losing jobs, people may be becoming disheartened with America and are unhappy- which has then been projected onto their family lives and marriages. 

In the article they do briefly look at the notorious '1%' of Americans who have so much of the wealth, but they say it has more to do with the ruling elite such as leading politicians- Murray urges these elite members to preach more about virtue to the lower classes. 

This article is effective in the sense that it weighs up Murray's book and critically analyses it; and how well it represents the issue of America's deepening class system.