Virtual Revolution and Heavy Rain

I was disappointed in the BBC’s Virtual Revolution series. It completely failed to address the potential of technology to ensure equal access to the Internet. The invisibility of this issue is really quite sad. For all the parallels made with the legacy of Gutenberg there was no awareness that from Gutenberg to Google those in need of assistive technology are having access denied. Even with all the technical assistance in place, most of today’s virtual environments remain inaccessible. Current debate on the BCAB forum reaffirms this – BMI Baby and Easy Jet should know better or do they just not care?

Episode 4 started promisingly but didn’t really go anywhere. It asked if the Internet is altering us but failed to cover issues like those raised in the CIBER report about the changing behaviours and attitudes of young people online and the implications this has for ensuring appropriate future digital literacy. Maybe my horizons are too narrow. I accept programmes have to be selective but I believe passionately in equity of access – how could they not care about such blatant discrimination – and I worry about the effect of continual digital engagement on young brains. Which is my other point and it’s not the Internet. Heavy Rain is the new PS3 game by Quantic Dream. Described as a classic film noir thriller, the level of available interaction is amazing.  The graphics are so fantastic you’re not sure if you’re watching a film or playing a game. I had to watch because I couldn’t play it. I struggled with Grand Theft Auto and Heavy Rain was totally beyond me. My brain isn’t capable of the multiplicity of actions required to operate at this level and I’m not sure I really want to. I’d rather be out in the sun on the allotment.  I suspect the greatest danger of virtual environments is as Sherry Turkle said in Virtual Revolution 4 ‘We are no longer nourished but we are consumed by what we have created.’

Digital Nations and Virtual Revolutions

A blog link arrived via an rss feed, email, colleague (not quite sure of the correct order but thanks Julian) Are you digital natives paying attention draws attention to Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier; a production (in nine episodes) shown in the US as the BBC’s Virtual Revolution is being shown here.  Programme website

I was interested in author Derek Morrison’s suggestion that “Both public service broadcasters (in US and UK) should normalise providing transcripts for resources like these” because “there is a lot of valuable commentary and potential citation in each production.” I’d like to add an additional reason. Those digitally excluded from the Virtual Revolution, through lack of inclusive design and affordable assistive technology, are those with the most to gain from alternative modes of access. I’ve watched two episodes of the BBC programme and have yet to see any mention of the ‘revolutionary’ ability of digital data to be customized to suit individual preference or need. No mention of it in the blog outline of the nine Digital Native episodes either. Talk about invisibility!

BBC’s Virtual Revolution

The first of four programmes in the BBC’s The Virtual Revolution was called the Great Leveller.  It sounded promising but it wasn’t. The script was full of cliches such as empowering everyone and giving equal access to information while neatly sidestepping all the issues around barriers and inaccessible websites. It did get one thing right, when they said  ‘the potential of the technology was to offer a paradigm shift on a par with the invention of the printing press’. It was a shame it didn’t go on to acknowledge those who have always been excluded from analogue text who will continue to be excluded from digital unless access technology gets cheaper and content produced inclusively.

The programme ended by suggesting that the original bottom-up democratic vision of the Internet was being undermined. Focusing on the domination of organisations such Google and Amazon, it claimed the web’s inherent inequality is a reflection the hierarchical nature and inequalities in the world. Well, at least that was one point you can’t argue with!