The Final Reflection

I don’t even know where to begin. This course was what you could say my light of the semester. Through the darkness of exams, assignments, papers and quizzes, this course always brought a smile to my face. It was a good way to start my Mondays and Thursdays. It wasn’t just because of the learning but because of the open space we created as a group. Not once was I scared to voice my opinion in fear of judgement. As a group, we really did create something special.

Let’s get to the critical part of the assignment. So what did I learn in this course? Let’s begin. Firstly, I learned to listen to others, you can consider that a skill. Something about me is that I know I’m too quick to judge someone or to make my own assumptions so learning this skill allowed me to become somewhat of a better person. I think I obtained this skill through interactions and activities in class. The idea that each person would share their own perspectives and everyone would accept the different opinions was highlighted through our interactions in class. There were so many people who made some serious comments that boiled my blood. Holding back and accepting differences was definitely hard but I managed. I think this skill goes beyond classroom walls. So in terms of my academic life, it will help me learn from others but also be exposed to the different point of views of people just like it did in this course. But any skill is not only subject to classrooms, so I do think it will most definitely help me in my social life and career because one shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

Other aspects of the classroom that will help me in my academic life would definitely be how to know whether something is copyrighted in that you cannot use it. One this that was so valuable to me was the search.creativecommons.org because I was able to find pictures I wanted when I know for sure they are of use. For my social life, the listening skill will definitely do but we live in a community where gossip is essential similar to fake news. Actually, you can call it reality’s fake news. So I think the skills we learned when figuring out whether it is fake or real such as checking the source or if anyone else is talking about it, can be really helpful in my social life.

            If I were to show someone my learning in this course, I would use these 3 assignments: the Soliya reflection, my ALTCV and the curation project. I chose these specifically because they really opened my eyes to things I was so oblivious to. The Soliya reflection is a depiction of my experience in Soliya, which is one that I will truly remember forever. I met people from all around the world. My meeting room included students from Cameroon, Italy, Korea, US and Algeria. It was very exciting being exposed to different cultures and to have the chance to debate on topics that are not necessarily discussed in our daily life. Soliya was the first time I ever participated in such a platform. It was truly different than any online communication platform that I might partake in daily. Instagram and Facebook are probably the only two platforms in which I communicate with others online. Yet, the communication differs greatly in the sense that it is not face-to-face. It is so virtual that I feel that the connection between people communicating is somewhat distorted. Soliya offered an alternative that was still virtual.

The reason I chose my ALTCV was because I stayed for like 2 days trying to finish the assignment and I had no idea what to do or write. I am the type of person who cannot see their achievements other than the typical ones you would find in a normal CV. I sat my sisters down for this assignment and told them to say one good thing about me. I realized that I can acknowledge the unprofessional aspects of my CV as a positive thing. Finally, the curation project. I would say I learned more from the curation after being exposed to other classmates’ projects. The curation project raised awareness on how you can become digitally literate and be effective at it. We all are available on the social web but what we do on it is what differentiates us. The path we take to share information with others can be greatly significant. So whether you are a creator or sharer of content, you will affect someone in a way. Setting your mind to affecting people in a positive way and making sure each post you do or share depicts the positivity of life and our surroundings is so beautiful to watch. I probably think the curation was my favorite assignment of all because I had so much fun doing it.

If I could change a couple of things about the course in order to improve it, I would change the amount of assignments. I think it puts on so much pressure on students when you know that each class you have something due, no matter how big or small it is. In my opinion, I would rather receive like 4 big projects and 5 small one rather than a lot of small assignments but like 1 or 2 big ones. This course is not part of anyone’s major so the reason for enrollment is to have a fun, light but eye-opening course for an elective. When the workload seems (not truly is but it feels like it) like it heavier than an entire major course, it sets the student into a stressful episode. Another thing I would add (not change) is more activities in class. The discussions were great but they were not as effective like when you put concepts into play. The privilege walk was a day where I was absent but when my classmates told me about it, it seemed very fun. I waited for something else like that for the rest of the semester but nothing came along. The activities that could be added could include my contribution project.

I would say that the person who should take this course should be a humorous, down to earth human that is open to new experiences, beliefs and can stand to argue with people but at the same time back out of arguments that they know will not get them anywhere.

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Contribution to the Course

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWIdF13SZ8g

When I first read the description for this assignment I had no idea what I wanted to contribute to the class. I reflected back on the various concepts that we took in class. There was one very specific concept that resonated with me the most during this semester: bias. We talked a lot about bias and stereotypes and how some people are so quick to judge others. I have been following this YouTube Channel for quite some time. It is called Cut and it tackles issues such as stereotypes with an activity called the Lineup. They bring people to judge and people to be judged. There is a topic for each episode and you get to understand how you may judge someone so incorrectly just based on either appearance or a 30 second conversation. You could find other videos on their channels but in terms of language appropriate for classes, this is the best one. This episode is about guessing people’s religion. There is some stereotype and bias that are extremely evident in this video. I think this would help coming students understand that we create bias and stereotypes in a blink of an eye when we meet someone. It raises awareness on how we should listen to people and that appearance has nothing to do with who we are.

#FindGalla Curation Project

https://picgra.com/user/omarelgalla/6874723144

Some of you may have seen the viral #FindGalla that went around during the last two months. If not, here is a recap. Omar El Galla is an Egyptian adventurer known for cycling 6500 kms around Egypt in 65 days. That makes it 100 kms per day, it hurts just thinking about it. But, this was a while ago. So Galla decided to take on a new and harder challenge: to run the length of Egypt from Abu Simbel to Alexandria, approximately 1500 km. The reason I chose Galla is that, first of all, I think he is extremely inspirational. He used social media, especially, Instagram to depict his experience, struggles and soul-searching journey. Galla is not your everyday athlete, in fact, he is not even an athlete. I think this is what drew me to his story in the beginning: how someone so simple could take on such a massive challenge and do it with grace and make it look so easy. Galla documented his entire journey on his Instagram stories, spreading a message that is so powerful. That message as Galla put it in an interview with Safareya is, “anybody is capable of accomplishing just about anything, if you want to roam Egypt on a bike, get out there tomorrow with your bike and do it. Whatever potential or resources you’ve got, if you put your mind to accomplishing a trip like this, you will.” (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bu8uI6-h5vC/)

Photo by Ismail Seddik

You could say that with such a mission, he became an influencer to many people especially one of my best friends who ran with him a total of 30 km.s He left a tracker in his bio on Instagram where people could go and see where he is now so if they are close by, they could run with him for a few kms. Galla received recognition for his record breaking embark on this challenge. News websites such as Cairo 360, Safareya and Scoop Empire praised him for his courage and will. He was even featured on TV. You will find the articles attached below if you are interested. We can all agree he is indeed very inspirational but what makes him important or unique? I think his importance or uniqueness lies in the message he portrays and how he does it. It has been a recent trend where people try to show the beauty of Egypt and its people to encourage tourism. His uptake on the notion is what makes him unique. Who would have thought that to show the beauty of Egypt and its people, I would run through it? Just a quick note, Galla only spent 50 LE per day. Therefore, he relied on the kindness and generosity of the Egyptian people to survive.

The reason I chose Galla for this project is his brilliant contribution to digital literacy. He’s targeting the young adult who is into adventure but also those who are looking for inspiration and what better way to do that than through videos. He chose a platform that is known for documenting your daily life and this is what he did exactly. For one, I learned so much just watching his videos. The basic information I got was the names of cities in Egypt that I would not even know they existed. Yet, through his videos, you were able to see their beauty. To think of digital literacy, I immediately go back to the article we read at the beginning of the semester by Dr. Maha Bali where I was introduced to another article, “Perspectives of Digital Literacies” by W. Ian O’Byrne. https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2016/02/03/perspectives-of-digital-literacies In this article, the author lists a number of elements of digital literacy. For me, Galla embodies what it means to be digitally literate. Let’s begin with the first element, Civic, Galla shows such literacy with what he shared which is everything related to Egypt. Second is Cognitive, where he uses digital tools to deliver his message. Third is Communicative, where he raises awareness on an important topic digitally. Fourth is Creative, where his process of delivering his message is itself nothing but creative. These are the elements that are most applicable to him, in my opinion.

Here’s a sample of his work. This is one of my favorite videos as it truly depicts the generosity and kindness of the Egyptian people. In a sense, it is so beautiful to watch someone who people have no idea who he is but support him 100% out of the goodness of their heart.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bvh4U-oB1vE/

I created a video collecting a day of his journey since his journey was only depicted on Instagram stories. Therefore, they disappear in 24 hours. I was able to record some in order to illustrate this challenge. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4npSB31rbRE. (All videos and images used were recorded from Galla’s Instagram account.) The reason behind this selection of his work is because they depict the true essence of his journey. His survival since you are able to see what he ate and where he slept. But it also shows his perseverance in putting something in his mind and achieving it. This sample of work illustrates the last couple of days of his journey. A normal human would be exhausted and so demotivated by this time but he shows the positivity and beauty of the entire experience. He put his body through a toll. He only showered twice in those 36 days, wearing the exact same clothes and only carrying footage equipment. He took what it meant to survive on your own to extreme lengths but at the same time showed that a lot of people when they think of travelling, they immediately think of abroad. He was able to show the safety of Egypt with regards to everything going on in the country lately. Galla proves that there is so much more to Egypt than what its citizens credit it.

Cairo 360: https://www.cairo360.com/article/health-fitness/omar-el-galla-might-just-be-the-first-egyptian-to-accomplish-this-amazing-feat/

Safareya: http://www.safareya.com/En/Adventure/Omar-El-Galla-Running-Egypt-Nile

Scoop Empire: https://scoopempire.com/meet-the-fascinating-athlete-who-will-run-from-abu-simbel-to-alexandria-in-45-days/

TV Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDA2b5Mn9ys&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3qcMVWT8qCzpIA4L7VbycUHqqC8h-YDTY7XWqgCyMDUrIqAwmAu0TgYR8

Do Not Track: Episode 3: “Like Mining”

For this assignment, I watched Episode 3: Like Mining. The episode revolves around how what we do in our daily lives on the internet depicts who we are in real life. Social networking sites such as Facebook. include personal data on each individual based on their social media accounts. Everything an individual does online, is recorded in a sense. The information contains ideas and information about who you are and what you enjoy. It can predict race, age, gender, sexual orientation and even IQ. The sites that are visited indicate who you are as a person. For instance, fans of Star Trek are considered to be introverted. Therefore, anyone who likes Star Trek on Facebook is considered an introvert by analysts. By looking at someone and their Facebook page which includes their friends and people they know, analysts are able to determine if you are obese, your likeliness to smoke and how likely you are to vote. This information is used in order to predict how likely someone is to pay a loan by insurance companies. My favorite part of the episode was the story of a depressed woman, in Quebec who reported that she lost her health benefits because she posted a few pictures laughing which indicated that she was no longer depressed according to her insurance company. At first I thought that this concept was so shocking, how people would be able to decide how our lives are and how they should go based on a click of a button. Yet, when they raised the concept that such data does not necessarily have all negative consequences, it opened my eyes. Some individuals may not have previous records or credit such as immigrants, it may help them receive the loans since it does not use stereotypes to judge people beforehand. In a way, it judges and classifies people but it does not stereotype people like humans do in their daily life. It looks at what they do, not what they look like. They gave an example of a software that Do Not Track created called Illuminus which tracks everything about a person. This software is able to identify your interests, personality traits which determine your financial, social and health, recreation and safety risk. I think it was pretty cool to witness such an experience and be exposed to the drastic measures taken by companies to classify people. Yet, it is extremely alarming and has made me self-conscious about what I do or post on social networking sites.

Soliya Final Reflection

Soliya was a very new yet exciting experience for me. I only attended two sessions due to my busy schedule as well as the fact that one session landed on a day in which we were in Spring Break. I met people from all around the world. My meeting room included students from Cameroon, Italy, Korea, US and Algeria. It was very exciting being exposed to different cultures and to have the chance to debate on topics that are not necessarily discussed in our daily life. Soliya was the first time I ever participated in such a platform. It was truly different than any online communication platform that I might partake in daily. Instagram and Facebook are probably the only two platforms in which I communicate with others online. Yet, the communication differs greatly in the sense that it is not face-to-face. It is so virtual that I feel that the connection between people communicating is somewhat distorted.

            With Soliya, I was able to communicate virtually but connect on a personal level because of the fact that we could see each other’s facial expressions and were able to respond to each other quickly with just a click of a button. I also feel like on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, there is a certain criteria or belief on how you should act and what is expected from you. Yet, with Soliya, I had the chance to be whatever I wanted and to say whatever came to mind. Our moderator really helped in this aspect because she always started a topic but she left us to freely discuss and never gave us a time limit on when our conversation should end. I think the way the moderator acted allowed us to feel the safe environment we are in. I will always remember my sessions because I actually made friends out of it, in which we keep in touch on social media platforms.

            Topics in which we discussed in the two sessions I attended were cultural norms, traditions, beliefs, food and other things that came along the way when tackling each topic. This was my favorite part of the process: where we would sometimes overlap topics and speak freely. I really learned a lot. For one, Egypt and Korea seem to have a lot in common when it comes to their traditions and norms.  Reflecting on the type of communicator I am in the digital world, I would say that I found out that as a content producer, I would never produce such valuable discussions on any platform like what I did in Soliya. You never truly have the chance or will to discuss such topics unless you are put in a room with people who have the same will to do so. Everyone is always afraid by how people will react to the content they share or produce because society is so judgmental. I am probably more of a sharer of content that a producer because I always felt like I have nothing to produce that would be of such value to media consumers. Nevertheless, Soliya gave me a chance to be a consumer, producer and sharer of content. It opened the doors to the students to explore freely and ignore societal norms and expectations.

            There are concepts that we can apply to foster constructive communication both online and in face-to-face interactions. In regards to face-to-face interactions, I always think that the open-door policy works best. The open-door does not have to be literal but making sure it is “open” gives people a clear and transparent message which is the foundation for building trust between people. Yet, it does not only do that. It also helps you communicate more and better. In terms of online interaction as well as face-to-face interactions, I think making sure everyone knows what is expected of them in terms of their role and responsibility will allow for better communication. It is simple, if I do not know what my responsibility is when delivering an assignment, I will have no idea what to do. Yet, when instructions and roles are clearly spelled out, everyone knows what they should say/do and what they need to achieve.

Digital Narrative Game: Final Draft

https://forms.gle/eJA8bAw68AcfnY5LA

Since the first draft, Farida Swellem and I added new scenarios that depict others aspects of the child’s life as well as the parents. In addition, we added pictures to help people visualize what we are talking about in the game. As previously mentioned, the scenarios depicted in this game are from personal experiences. Firstly, I grew up as a volunteer in Special Olympics so I was around many parents and children and have been involved in many of the scenarios mentioned in the game. The game is a compilation of experiences that have occurred to me while volunteering or occurred to Farida with a family member. These scenarios are based on conversations with mothers during the tough and hectic times of the games, from my experience. Many of the feedback that we received said that we did not depict the full life of the child. We added 2 scenarios in which the question is in the perception of the parent since children are not the only ones affected. Other scenarios depicted the child being bullied, having a problem with their social life and finding hobbies other than sports. In addition, another feedback that we received was that people did not know what the different educational institutions were so we provided an explanation for each. Finally, a couple of people said that the game was too dull because there were not any colors which is why we added pictures. If we had more time, I would try to sit down with a parent of someone who has down syndrome to really depict the journey in depth. Moreover, I would add more scenarios because I felt limited to what people would want to see and what we must say. Creating this game, I learned that some people really have it difficult in life and that we must think of others before acting. Nevertheless, it made me realize how blessed I am for being able to carry on with my life without having such a worry. I do not think I learned as much as I would hope people who know nothing about Special Olympics would.

A Look Into “Information Equity” and “Digital Redlining, Access and Privacy”

I read two articles for this assignment, one titled Information Equity and the other titled Digital Redlining, Access and Privacy.

St. Paul residents planning for renovation of the Victoria Theater.
Thai Phan-Quang, photographer.

https://open.lib.umn.edu/designequity/chapter/chapter-6-information-equity/

To be honest, I never really heard the term “information equity” before reading this article so going, I did not know what to expect. From just the wording, I was able to get a brief understanding but what to know more about what it really entails. The Information Equity article made sure you became aware of your rights as a citizen which many people lack. For example, I have no idea what my rights as an Egyptian is and that is because it is so suppressed in our education systems and our culture that you grow up having absolutely no knowledge of such a matter. We all know information is important because it is embedded in everything we do. Yet, we never stop and think is this information or not. I truly think it is because we have been so accustomed to it being embedded in our daily life especially with the increase in technology that you basically disregard it. It makes you wonder, what else am I ignoring because I’m just taking it for granted? which brings us to another important concept. Do all people have the same access to information, especially in Egypt? That is a definite no. We’re a developing country but even if we’re developed, I do not think a single country can say that their society has equitable information access and use. (Lievrouw and Farb, 2003, pp. 504–505) What I truly found eye-opening was the part where they stated: “If people in a society do not have access to information they need to advocate for their interests, that society is not really a democracy” and I could have never probably linked them together. With that quote, Egypt is definitely not a democracy. You always need to advocate your interest in order to get access to information in which most cases, you will never get it. The entities involved in whether or not you receive such access to information are government agencies and officials but also private corporations. They put too much focus on keeping information away from people and not what they can give to people. Moreover, two new topics that I was introduced to were: personal agency and social capital. Personal agency is “if you will be able to live the life you envision for yourself” and I think because all the information that I need to assess how my life looks like in the next, say, 10 years is already reliable and accessible to me, I can paint a faint image. For starters, I do know that I want to start a career immediately, have a family, own my own house and travel around the world. I know what each matter entails but will I be able to achieve the resources needed to carry out such plans is one that even information cannot provide me with. The second concept is social capital which is basically “the benefit people derive from having relationships with others” also known as a “wasta” in Egypt. Your connections make or break you in our Egyptian society and having people back you up in times of need is essential to your succession.

Digital Redlining, Access and Privacy, an article by Chris Gilliard focuses on how the information available to us may be limited. The previous article gave a brief insight on fair access and use but this one focuses on how certain topics on the web are not found. The author gave an example of Nina who could not find any information on revenge porn today, not because it’s not there but because it has been filtered so she cannot see it. Most of the resources in Egypt are filtered with a number of websites being banned completely but we would never have buzzers that would alert someone that you were using an illegal website like abroad. For example, my cousin lives in Canterbury, Kent and she needed to watch a film for university, she couldn’t search for it online because her access to the internet has been filtered to remove copyrighted content since it is illegal. However, I could find that exact same movie in Egypt and it would appear as my first choice in Google. When I sent her the link, it would work so it is not that the entire site is banned, it is that they limit your information to access such a website in the first place. Gilliard explained how redlining came to be with the National Housing Act in 1934. I immediately thought, how can a concept that is already rooted in racism, still operate blatantly in our world. Indeed, if you have to advocate for your information, it is not a democracy. This divide allows the racism many face today. If I can judge which skin color gets which kind of information or privileges or based on location, I can do much more when technology advances. Digital redlining helps in reinforcing existing beliefs about classes, races and religions that it greatly divides the world into categories and decides who gets what.