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Written by Matthew Seto

The Role of Technology in the past Century Edit

Recent protests were sparked in the wake of two grand jury decisions not to indict Officer Wilson, who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, and Officer Pantaleo, who fatally choked Eric Garner as he repeated that he could not breathe. These decisions have sparked national outrage and protests took place shortly after. In both of these situations, technology has played a large part in determining the grand jury’s decision and helping organize protests. Social media apps, such as Facebook and Twitter, have spread important info to help people organize peaceful protests and post the most recent updates in these cases. Smartphones with video taking applications capture moments before and after the incident and often play a large role in making the Grand Jury’s decision. Video captured by bystanders showed Eric Garner repeatedly saying that he couldn’t breathe while being held down by officers. This firsthand capture of such events was not possible a few years before, in such clarity. In the 21 century, technology has played a larger role than ever in crime fighting and documenting injustices. Surveillance cameras at stoplights, computers that document prior offenses, and facial recognition helps stop crime everyday. However, technology was also used extensively in the 20th century to not expose crimes, but rather used to oppress citizens and spread propaganda. The white elite in South Africa used American computers to help organize and enforce their system of segregation and control over the majority black population. Some technology is still being used for this purpose in several countries. These dual uses of technology have helped shape our current system of justice and will influence the next generations definition of justice.

Technology in the 21st Century: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Burma Edit

In the 21 century, technology is used in everyday applications, from the phone we use to call friends, to the camera we use to document our lives. Social media apps, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit are used to connect users from all over the globe, as well to spread global news across thousands of users in minutes. For example, just minutes after the grand jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo, who had fatally choked Eric Garner, people posted their reactions on Twitter. Twitter, even with its 140 character maximum, is used by millions to update their followers on the latest trends. Within an hour, the name Eric Garner was one of the top ten trending names worldwide. After another hour, protests had been organized all over the U.S. through Facebook and Twitter. These protesters clogged streets, blocked intersections, and shut down highways. This was all communicated through social media, where anyone can view it. Details about how safe or where the protests took place were constantly updated for anyone to join in. And thousands all over the U.S. did. Similarly to the Eric Garner Case, in August of 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen had been shot by Officer Darren Wilson. This shooting also brought international attention to the town of Ferguson, Missouri. However, there was not footage captured at the exact moment that he was shot, leading to much speculation of eyewitness accounts. Like Eric Garner, the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson after two months of meeting. This sparked international outrage at their decision. Earlier, protests had first led to large standoffs between police and protesters every night, often ending with over 50 arrests. Property damage was not unusual, as was tear gas. The media eagerly gulped it all up, posting photos of police in full riot gear and protesters holding signs and chanting against smoke. The amount of media coverage was enormous, and it directly influenced the protesters. The protesters would act more frenzied and violent, as though they wanted people to see the violence and crime through the media. In order to bring more attention to their cause, protesters do what they think will attract more viewers. A news story on Ferguson will appeal to more if it features burning buildings, rather than a peaceful protest. This is not the first time technology has been used to help organize protests or bring to light injustices committed. For example, in 2007, a series of anti-government protests started in Burma after the government made the decision to remove fuel subsidies, causing fuel prices to rise as much as 66%. Non-violent protests followed suit, only to be violently put down by the Junta, a government led by a group of military leaders. During this time, the official state media ignored the uprising, but a new type of journalists, called VJ, for Video Journalist, recorded footage of violent acts by police and military officials, and smuggled the footage out. The footage was then passed to news organizations all over the globe. The videos grew global attention to the violent putdown of protesters. The international community was shocked at the footage, and while some demanded for changes to be made, several countries showed support for the Junta, by maintaining commitment to the notion of noninterference. Activists worldwide pooled resources together and called for October 6th to be designated a Global Day of Action for Burma. Protests were held in major cities such as Sydney, San Diego, New York, and Dublin for three days. Shortly after, the U.S., Canada, and the European Union imposed sanctions the included freezing bank accounts and restrictions of imports.

Technology in the 20th Century: South Africa and Radio Tehran Edit

Even though today the use of technology seems for the good, it was and is still used for purposes that people would never stand for. In 1952, the white elitists in South Africa used American bought computers to organize a system of control and segregation. At that time, despite U.S. embargoes, South Africa still had a large number of computers. They were used in every governmental agency, the police system, and the military, which were all a part of the control system known as apartheid. Computer technology in South Africa was not a tool of oppression, but only a fact that the whole country was dependent on that technology. By 1982, there were more than 4,500 computers in South Africa. During this time, IBM continually affirmed that their computers were not being used to violate Human Rights, even as there was no applications to make sure. These computers, most of which were seized by the repressive agencies of the government, were quite possibly the most important addition to the system of apartheid. Computers were mostly used for population registration, in accordance with the system of apartheid, in an act known as the Population Registration Act of 1950. Citizens were given and instructed to carry at all times a passbook detailing their racial characteristics, economic status, home language, and home address. Not having a passbook could result in arrest or jail time. Technology used in many countries during the 20th century also had a large impact in communication. However, computers were not only used inhumanely in the past. In the present, computers and technology are still being used to harm others. Internet culture has evolved into something much darker than it used to be, a realm of black markets and anonymous users.

Conclusion Edit

Even as technology grows and evolves rapidly, the use of technology in the 21st century has remained very similar to that in the past decade. It has and is currently used for both good and bad. Nowadays, in a culture that revolves around the internet and technology, the social media and other applications, technology is used to help bring together individuals to promote an idea, but also to blackmail or to sell illicit items. The use of technology in the past century has played a large role in shaping our current culture, history, and  human rights. Instant messaging systems and cameras, now implemented into daily interactions, have allowed for capturing moments that we could have not done before. The role and evolution of technology has played a large part in defining our current state as a world, organizing protests, sharing info, and  capturing moments that define the world as we know it.