Another Look at the Cultural Splinternet


Previously when I have written about the cultural splinternet it has been a vague idea to explore some concepts and thoughts. So this post will aim to give a bit more substance to the idea of the cultural splinternet. So firstly, the splinternet can be defined as a characterisation of the Internet as splintering and dividing due to various factors, such as technology, commerce, politics, nationalism, religion and interests. Secondly, culture can be defined as an umbrella term which encompasses the social behaviour and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups. Therefore, the cultural splinternet is the internet divided into different elements such as language, ideas, interests and beliefs. This can be on the same types of platforms or distinct platforms serving a particular language or common interest. Depending on the context the cultural splinternet is not necessarily a positive or negative thing it tends to reflect the nation-state world. Though it can quickly become harmful when it allows echo chambers of ideas which spread fear, hatred and misinformation which harms people and society in the non-virtual world. We need to better understand the physical-digital convergence as we can no longer kid ourselves that they are separate entities which do not affect each other. The idea of the cultural splinternet I think would be useful in providing a better understanding of this.

How Could We Identify the different Cultural Splinternets?

The four main types of the internet which are commonly talked are, broadly: the open, universalist version envisioned by the web's pioneers; the current, largely Californian internet dominated by a few tech giants (Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook); a more regulated, European internet; and an authoritarian, walled-garden approach, of the kind seen in China, which has its own tech giants (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent). Three of these also happen to fall reflect the different cultural areas they hail from. But that doesn't fully consider the language barriers which stills sees English as the primary language of the internet which can often some resources are only open to a user of they read and understand English (though less of an issue if they can access a decent auto-translator). 

There is also the way we access and experience the internet and how that affects what types of services and platforms the user experiences. While are live in a mobile dominated world most online services in the West are design first as a traditional desktop experience while in other regions of the world such as Africa and Asia it is a mobile-first design. This can lead to different mindsets and practise of how the user carries tasks for example in the West passwords are dominate have been drilled us (not always followed) to be as long as we can remember plus a mixture of letters, numbers and symbols while in Africa due to mobile pins of numbers of varying lengths are dominate. 

Then you have the different platforms that are used. There are the big Americans ones such as Facebook and Google, then from Russia  you have Yandex (search engine) and VK (social media platforms), from China you have WeChat (payment, social media and businesses all-in-one) and Weibo (micro-blogging). Some of these services are the local equivalent to American providers and are fairly successful though with mixed impact outside their county of origin. Then within those platforms, you have the special interests from the people obsessed over pictures of cats and food to groups with like-minded politically views from either side of the spectrum. 


Hopefully, this post has provided some new ideas and perspectives. I would recommend if you found it interesting to read further on the splinternet it is subject I think that needs to better understood and debated. 



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