Open Systems and Glass Ceilings


the face of the Internet

The Disappearing Woman and Life on the Internet

This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.

The Web is regularly hailed for its “openness” and that’s where the confusion begins, since “open” in no way means “equal.” While the Internet may create space for many voices, it also reflects and often amplifies real-world inequities in striking ways.

An elaborate system organized around hubs and links, the Web has a surprising degree of inequality built into its very architecture. Its traffic, for instance, tends to be distributed according to “power laws,” which follow what’s known as the 80/20 rule -- 80% of a desirable resource goes to 20% of the population.

In fact, as anyone knows who has followed the histories of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, now among the biggest companies in the world, the Web is increasingly a winner-take-all, rich-get-richer sort of place, which means the disparate percentages in those power laws are only likely to look uglier over time.

Powerful and exceedingly familiar hierarchies have come to define the digital realm, whether you’re considering its economics or the social world it reflects and represents.  Not surprisingly, then, well-off white men are wildly overrepresented both in the tech industry and online.

5/10/2014 7:21:44 AM

Internet was invented to explore the ideas of any data all over the world. But each and everything has a good and bad side. People have started misusing of the Its totally not good. We have to change it. Internet have even spoiled kids, they spend maximum time over internet, which affects their mind.

4/25/2014 10:55:51 AM

Thank you for this well-researched article on a topic with which I have been struggling lately. My own reticence in participating in listserves and blogs is getting in the way of some of the organizing work I want to be doing. You provide a re-socializing explanation for the very Real structural oppressions that make participation so challenging for some of us, rather than reinforcing an individualist explanation. I'm a big admirer of all your work, so please keep it up!

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