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Team 1407 Concept Mashup

Global Divide x E-Publishing x Cyberspace

Introduction:

The introduction of the Internet has benefited us in numerous ways. It has allowed the World Wide Web to exist, creating unlimited opportunities and possibilities for us. The Internet, also referred to as Cyberspace, has created a new medium for us to express ourselves and access many different information. E-Publishing is one of these new opportunities. E-Publishing has allowed people to access a massive range of information on the Internet; information including news, journals, blogs, novels, etc. With E-Publishing, people no longer need to buy newspapers or books to read, they can do it all online. The Global Divide is a situation where there is a gap between countries with and without access to the Internet. Developing countries such as the United States, Canada and Europe have advantages over developing countries like Africa and Southeast Asia. The Global Divide creates the situation where the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. Developing countries with access to the Internet have the advantages of being able to reach out to more opportunities and benefit from them, thus becoming even more developed and richer. While the poor, lack the tools to reach other to the developed countries and do business with them, making them even poorer. Some say the Internet (or Cyberspace) is going to be the solution or connection between countries, thus narrowing the Global Divide. However, it is also evident that the Cyberspace has contributed to the Global Divide, thus making the gap even wider as to narrowing it that some people believe or believed that it will do. Cyberspace has definitely benefited us with information through E-publishing, but has it also harmed us? Do users of Cyberspace really have such great advantage over those who don’t? Is the Global Divide gap changing with the growth of E-publishing? The following will address the positive and negative effects of Cyberspace and E-Publishign on the Global Divide.

Cyberspace and E-Publishing Closing the Global Divide?

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Image courtesy of: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/bd/Global_Digital_Divide1.png

The Global Divide is a gap between countries with access to the Internet. This divide creates great disparities between countries. As of today, developing countries (such as Canada, United States, Japan, Europe and Australia) are more technology advanced than Third World countries (such as Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America). This advantage of the developing countries give them a great deal of economic advantages, allowing them to prosper and become even more rich and developed (the rich get richer) while the developing countries continue to suffer even more (the poor get poorer). Hence experts predict that this divide will only continue to grow and great a even greater divide between these different countries. However, there are some that believe that this gap will narrowing and eventually bring all countries to the same technological level. Their reason being is that because of useful the Internet is, it will become a 'must' thing to have and sooner or later, countries will find their way into the Cyberspace and connect to others. Cyberspace is the conceptual space where computer networking hardware, network software and users connect together (Heylighen 1994). It was a term coined by William Gibson when he wrote his novel Neuromancer (Heylighen 1994). It was used to describe a ‘world’ of computers, where one navigates in the virtual space of people, machines and information sources. Through cyberspace, users are able to connect with each other, disregarding their distances apart, and communicate or interact with each other through emails, blogs, instant messaging, forums or even games. Time and distance is not a factor in cyberspace. With the development of Web 2.0, even greater interactivity is brought onto the Web, allowing users to further express themselves and share with many users across the world. One of the most popular tools of social community building with the power of Web 2.0 is personal blogs. It is considered a form of E-Publishing, where users share their desired information or interests on their webpage. The emergence of E-Publishing has allowed almost anyone to be an author or writer. It has also allowed a greater freedom of speech, as there are no specific laws to prohibit online content. It is one of the reasons why more and more people are accessing to the Internet and, thus closing the Global Divide. Everyone has their own point of view and being able to communicate it to the mass public is a great motivation for them to access the Internet.

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.hsls.pitt.edu/about/news/hslsupdate/2005/june/ebooks.gif

E-books, as a part of E-publishing is becoming a trend and gaining popularity. E-books are hardcopy books converted into digital format, allowing Internet users to view them online. The greater functions of E-books make it more attractive than hardcopy books. Its portability, search functions, changing of font type and size are some of its advantages over hardcopy books. E-books are also environmental friendly, decreasing the use of paper. Nick Bogaty, executive director of the International Digital Publishers Forum (IDPF), says that the e-book industry is growing 30-40% a year (Bradbury 2006). Such growth proves the potential in the industry and that e-books would get more and more appreciation and support as it continues to grow. While it is still continuing to grow, already it is attracting technology strongholds to become a part of this new industry. Sony has scheduled to release a new “Sony Reader” to go on sale this spring. This reader is extremely light and small in size. With a 3.5-by-4.8 inch display and a screen developed by E Ink technology, reader do not have to worry about having a hard time reading from the small screen. E Ink's technology makes the screen look far more like original paper as to a glossy liquid crystal display, and thats makes reading more comfortable. As the trend of reading e-book continues to grow, more people would join into the cyberspace to get access to all kinds of e-books and thus push the popularity of e-book into a even higher level.

An example of e-book would be Irshad Manji’s The Trouble of Islam Today, where she offers a digital copy of her book in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian online for users to download (Manji 2006). She wanted Muslims to have a chance to read her views. Her views in the book were definitely controversial, as many readers have wrote offensive insults and even death threats to her. This is an example of how powerful e-publishing is, where the spread of a book online can reach so many readers and get back so many responses. Without cyberspace, this wouldn’t have been possible. The book would have a harder time getting to the audience and the author would also not get back as much response. The convenience of e-publishing has made it easy for readers to comment back to the author. The Global Divide gap may be further decreased with such power of e-publishing.

Cyberspace and E-Publishing Harmful?

As much as cyberspace benefits its users, it also harms them. Its harmful effects are part of the reason to why the Global Divide exists. Parents around the world are very concerned with the freedom that cyberspace allows. Children are easy to come in contact with offensive, racist, sexual, or violent content online. As mentioned from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “When children go online, they’re not really in your house anymore, they’re out there.”

E-Publishing has its harmful effects as well. As anything goes digital, it is easily copied and thus creating a risk of illegal copying and sharing of copyrighted material. This is just like the case of Napster and Mp3, where users share music illegally without authorization. Libraries that offer e-books are concerned with the illegal copying issue, but are struggling to find a solution. A solution suggested by Allen Alder, vice president for legal and government affairs of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), is to a simultaneous transmission and deletion system, where the library deletes its copy when the borrower has it, and borrower deletes his or her copay when returning it (Bonamici 2001). The solution does work, but it would require the honor system. Alder adds that by the way the public adapted to Napster, the solution would not work until a better technology is designed (Bonamici 2001).

Secondly, E-Publishing can cause health problems as well. Since computer text is 60% harder to read comparing with regular text printed on books, this means readers have to concentrate more on looking at the computer screen and causes eyesight problem (Although readers can use new electronic readers such as the "Sony Reader" to enhance digital reading experience, not all people will be able to support the cost of these high tech equipments though). Moreover, if readers concentrate too long reading on the computer screen at one fixed posture, this can lead to other health problems such as tension headaches, stiff neck, tense muscle and low back pain etc. as well. Another problem about E-Publishing is it can only reach a minority of potential users, while those in developing countries or people without a computer or internet connection will not be able to access the electronic publications. And with that in said, it further widens the Global Divide.

Concerns are obviously there in terms of children gaining access to harmful information and also illegal issues. However, as the cyberspace and e-publishing continues to grow, more and more new technology will be developed. Such technology will not only improve the quality of the cyberspace or e-books but also enhance its security measures. Taking that into consideration, more and more user will begin to step into the cyberspace world and eventually help eliminate the Global Divide.

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