Today was voting day in Brazil, municipal election. In a country with ID, work record booklet in paper and driver licenses is a paper, yes, I said paper. [see picture below for demonstration]
Although, the paper ID, Brazil started in 2019 with electronic work record by app and this year the voter ID became electronic an app also. An app where you can find your social security number, ID, residence information, and picture. Using a QR Code to vote and to present in the vote station
Just to make clear and give some context, vote in Brazil is mandatory from 18 to 70 years old, and as I am in Edinburgh, I need to inform that I am not voting and why.
Between reading the articles for this week classes, I downloaded the app and started the new digital process to have my voter ID. The app it is super simple, I included my social security number and all my information came through, I started the process of “no vote justification”, as it can be an “issue” not to justify your absence, during the process and my mother sharing with me her experience voting, using a QR code, and to have her information in an app, I thought about society 5.0 concept that was brought by Japan in 2016.
Society 5.0 is “is the intersection and high convergence between cyberspace (virtual space) and physical space (real space), in a technology human-centred society”, by Yuko Harayama. Executive Member, Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI), Cabinet Office of Japan.
The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan in 2018 launch a campaign about the Society 5.0:
Therefore, the other country that came in mind was Estonia, the digital republic, a Named ‘the most advanced digital society in the world’ by Wired, Estonia has built an efficient, secure and transparent ecosystem where 99% of governmental services are online”.
Supposing Brazil is going towards the society 5.0 directions, I realized that we have 11.3 million illiterate and 38 million functional illiterates, and to know to forget about the “Invisibles”. The 46 million individuals that do not appear on any Government ‘socio digital list’ in Brazil.
There is not a lot of academic work on that population, I brought the numbers by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics on the illiterate and about the “Invisibles” you can find some articles, but nothing too deep or from the academic world. Although, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, does not reach all Brazilian population, and it was informed by the institute before. To be honest, the slums are not a priority or even the caatinga, a type of desert vegetation that you can find in the northeastern part of the country, and there are thousands of families living there.
I started to think on how a country with almost half of the population that don’t have digital access, because they are “Invisibles” or even by the illiterate rate, will be part of Society 5.0? Who wasn’t part of that digital transformation that happened in the voting process today in Brazil?
The society was always a mix of the actions of human-human, object-object and human-objects, interactions. In this digital transformation we are going through, non-human actors are even more constantly becoming actors and important piece in the social transformation that digital technologies are creating and have impact on social structures.
There are countless non-human actors as we are suffering the shift and impact of digital transformation. I always talk about digital transformation, but never explained what it means. So, digital transformation can be described as the process of using digital technologies, such as smartphones, Ipad, tablets, computers, digital platforms such as Uber, Deliveroo, social media, also, including AI aspects, blockchain, IoT and other. All to create and modify existing cultural and social processes, not forget about business.
Maybe, COVID-19 accelerated this process, as we are changing how we interact in society, sell, buy, study and work, as everything shifted in a fast way to digital technologies.
In 2020 social media played as a non-human actor in the digital society, being the platform and vehicle for the Black Lives Matters1 movement to grow and impacting not only the US, but black people in all over the world. The hashtag #BlackLibesMatters, surpassed 1 Million of daily use and moved institutions and private organizations in the US and other black diasporas, to step up against racism and brutality in the black community.
We are dying for years and people are seeing that and acting as it is normal. In Brazil every 23 minutes a black person is killed, black women have the highest rate of domestic violence and mistreatment during medical procedures. Those numbers are not a country reality, we had George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Miguel Otávio and several others.
The non-human here, social media, played a major role in the spread of the movement, and we can think if we did not have social media?!
The Haiti Revolution, is an example, of a historical moment, movement that spread, but lost force in the black diaspora, but were for several moments a concern for countries that still in the slavery traffic. Just for a moment, think about a revolution like that with a non-human actor as social media, or other digital technology.
I still thinking about the possibilities and impact…
Although, we have the opportunity to use those non-human actors for change, so, let’s see how strong it can be.
1The Black Lives Matter movement was created in July 2013 in the United States of America by the Black community campaigning against racism and discrimination. The movement was sparked by the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 26, 2012, and the acquittal the following year of his killer, George Zimmerman, who fatally shot him. (Badaoui, Saad 2020)
Badaoui, Saad. Oct 2020, Black lives Matter: A New perspective from Twitter data mining
Latour, Bruno. 2004, Nonhumans – Pages 224-227 in Patterned Ground: Entanglements of Nature and Culture, edited by S. Harrison, S. Pile and N. Thrift. London: Reaction Books
I am a hip hop fan, and since a little girl in my house, my mother used to play her records, as she was into the 90’s rap at the time. For that reason, music powerfully shaped my whole youth, bringing critical thinking as never, and like no other rhythm could contribute to my life.
Back in the day, hip hop was a way to be proud of yourself no matter what. A culture that helped to develop curiosity, to teach responsibility, create a community way of thinking. And the most important gave base start to understand that the facts of history have an impact in life and around, also, are facts of success and failure in our lives.
As well, hip hop was a technology innovation in the ’70s, as hip hop introduced a new way to create music. This movement brought the turntable as a central music instrument, a device that DJs used and use to infusion songs for the Mc to rap.
Between my classes and readings, I am always listening to music. It’s helped me to concentrate and connect all the dots between the lectures and articles, also to expand my thought from what I just have learned, and even, create something or elaborate better the discussion.
In one of those moments, listening to hip hop and reading articles about sociological perspectives, I came across an interesting topic that was part of a class conversation, the concept of sociological imagination from C. Wright Mills.
In Mills paper, the sociological imagination is a concept base on the value of understanding the meaning of history in time and our personal lives, along with the power of enabling people to understand the larger historical scene they are part. Likewise, to grasp history and biography and the relation of those with society.
In this piece, the author, C. Wright Mills, talks about how connected we are not only with our past, present and future, along with several moments in history and scenarios. Some of those moments we didn’t participate, physically speaking. Although it impacts our lives today and thinking deeper or connecting with digital technologies, it defines and impacts our access and opportunities in life.
In a paper with a concept written in 1959, C. Wright Mills brings the lack of critical thinking for some part of society, the mass. However, in this piece, he calls “ordinary people”. I prefer to call “people with critical thinking and vision in the process of development”, as it is complex to understand all the aspects that make people not to understand the meaning of history, as Mills’ better describe, the epoch, in their lives. It’s still a modern discussion and a reality in 2020.
Just bring Mills citation from 1959 on how “yet people do not usually define the troubles they endure in terms of historical change and institutional contradiction” to the actual time. Or to knowledge “patterns of our lives and the course of the world history”. How people are not aware of how it is connected or impact their lives, and continually believe in meritocracy, post-racial world, or digital technologies as an equal platform that brings everyone together. And several other discussion and issues that still for centuries part of society.
To get back, sociological imagination it is a concept that can “enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning of the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals”. To extend the perspective of social structures, connecting sociological imagination concept with social structure concept. A piece from King, Anthony, “social theory argues that individuals contribute to the creation of this objective reality, but it also insists that this reality can never be reduced merely to human social relations”.
It is a process when your mind posses the sociological imagination, you start to question the around and see it with a critical perspective, a different eye and examining it. The importance of understanding the social structure that has been created and now exists in world history. Along, with the capacity shift from one perspective to another. To view and examine a single-family at the same time institutions in a broader scale, or even from considerations of an oil industry to studies, along with contemporary poetry, as examples in Mills articles. In the same way, the connection I am trying to bring between hip hop and the sociological imagination, how it can shift from one to another and how both things are blended.
When you practice the sociological imagination, you start to understand your role in society, how society views you as an individual, group, and where you are in the social structure and your part on this structure. It can give you direction to better navigate in the society we live, to understand the pros and cons you have in life. Of course, you still see and feel a series of traps in life, but no matter if it digital or analogical space [as I always question, if there is an analogical space in 2020]. You will develop a social and historical meaning of individuals in society, of being in the society, and what it is, the deep sense of it.
It is incredible and terrible in the same sense. However, it can help you to understand how to operate in a way you can maybe overcome some social boxes and spaces that are created to confine us there, not enable to move from it to new possibilities and spaces. Of course, it is complex to say that it is just a matter of to have or not sociological imagination, and that will solve the individual problems we have. That the concept will probably provide tools to knowledge the inequality world we live, understanding that you as a woman or a black person, or both, maybe a trap and it will be hard to move away from that. To not fragment the social structure we live, to understand the connection, and understand our own experience.
On this process of reading C. Wright Mills and elaborating his concept, I was listening to my hip hop, and I found J. Cole [a North American rapper], Kenny Lofton song. At the same time, I was elaborating my thoughts, I could make a connection to C. Wright Mills concept, in a modern and “lyrical” way. J.Cole and Mills were allowing me to shift from a sociology concept from 1959 to a hip hop lyric from early 2000′.
In Kenny Lofton, J. Cole talks about how “breaks his heart” to know that society “[they] only care about a n*** when, he dunkin’ the ball” or “[they] only care ’bout a n*** when he writing a rhyme”. How society cares about black man only when he’s successful and making money. If he weren’t rapping, no one would care about him, bringing questions of how society only cares about the black man as a stereotype, as a product. When black is playing sports, rhymes, and other stereotypes professions [I am not saying it is a shame to be good at basketball, not at all! But there are more].
He is admitting in his song that success and money are more significant than the individual experience of those black men and how we, black people, are merely players in this society. In verse “the world is a stage, I just play my part”, J. Cole brings a knowledge of the whole structure and the part he plays on society. In a different perspective, J. Cole knew what people would expect from him, as a black man and deciding from that what he will pursue.
We can relate J. Cole self-conscious to “The Sociological Imagination”, and it is the most fruitful form of self-conscious and as a fruit of the sociological imagination to understand society, history and your biography, and its interactions.
Wright Mills, C, 2000. The Sociological Imagination. 14th edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fouché, Rayvon, 2011. Analog Turns Digital: Hip-Hop, Technology, and the Maintenance of Racial Authenticity. <https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195388947.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195388947-e-021>
Porpora, Douglas V., 1989. Four Concepts of Social Structure in “Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour”.
King, Anthony, 2004. The Structure of Social Theory.
Last week class in my MSc in Digital Society, we talked about “Metrics, mobility and life chances”, and personally that class connected with me, my perspective and story. I think the story of the major of black people. Also, I found the article “This is how Big Tech is failing its Black employees”.
Class, article and personal life all together bumping into my head and making me think about social mobility and life chances. Professor Karen Gregory gave a good and macro perspective of algorithms, digital technologies and how they impact those “life chances” for some people, bringing concepts of class [Marx and Weber] in one of her lectures during Digital Society masters, and the seed to understand that race and class will determinate somehow your access and that access your chances, in somehow.
Bringing also the concept of inequalities in digital society, as an extension of it from non-digitalized world, as UN definition, ” Inequality is the state of not being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities”. (United Nations, 2015)
On the other hand, the article “This is how Big Tech is failing its Black employees”, talks about the gap of black professionals in the tech industry, giving a statement that I can relate and will comment: “People always want to find a reason that the rare few make it through a system that was not designed for them, and here it is: Systems are not precise, and sometimes people will bring the right personality to the right place at the right time. I had mentors who guided me through the industry and supporters who opened doors for me. I got lucky.”
The “exceptions” just like the author, I got lucky also, to be honest. I am the first of my whole family that has enter a university, learned another language and won a scholarship. It is so impactful, that when I got the scholarship and my mother and I were talking, the first thing I said crying was “I am changing our family’s history. This will change our lives forever” in constant crying. Why?! Because inequality is about the people’s potential outcomes is the result of circumstances that is beyond our control, such as ethnicity, family background, gender, all that are constantly related. I am aware of it, I possess “sociological imagination” to understand the impact of my journey in life is beyond my capacity or “hard work”, because the starting point is different for each person and ethnicity, family background or gender, can define your starting point in life.
It is not about meritocracy; it is lucky and to be prepared if you get lucky. And all that structure it is in the digital space, we are invisible as we are in our neighborhoods’ and without access or opportunities.
After some readings and to watch the lectures, I started to think about the last two weeks discussion. The impact and how platformisation changed, if changed the dynamics of inequalities and power?! As we still have more than 40% of the population without access to the internet in the world. With the COVID crisis, we could see how those social structures, are also structured in the digital society, network and defines digital access. A great example was to shift face to face class to online classes, and several students do not have devices and/or internet access to study. How the shift to online, that happened when we started to need to stay [also who stayed in quarantine?!] home, impacted people’s lives, as their access was limited?!
I also, connected with class mobility, in Brazil [my country], It takes on average 9 generations for those born in a low-income family to approach mean income [to have social mobility], when you are a black person. The social situation will shape your network, your access, your connections, your access to information.
There is a research/study that asks general people, the working class, “what is the internet?!” and the question was “Facebook”. Just with the answer, it already can demonstrate how inequalities can shape how we look to the internet, interact with it.
The next billion users countries are more recognized for use digital platform to leisure and as we go up to social status, you can see the difference of how to use the internet and digital platforms, focus on education and work relation.
LinkedIn can be an example, as all your social “network” will be transferred and connected to the platform, so you need to have good connections, but your parents and family occupation will determinate that, your choices, your access to those connections, to information and after to opportunities.
Race and class can define the type of information you will have access, and your connections, those two combined will define how far you will go. It is not a matter of hard work or intelligence, it is a matter of social structure in digital and “analogical” society [if still exist].
We use a term “to hack the system” in Brazil when you somehow access spaces and start to make something that will someday be social mobility, and as being the first generation in college [of the whole family, not only parents], speaking another language, studying abroad, I hacked the system as I black women [colorism gave me some access], although, it is a beginning of social mobility.
Beer, David (2009), Power through the algorithm? participatory web cultures and the technological unconscious.
Gregory, K. 2020 forthcoming. “’My life is more valuable than this’: Understanding Risk Among On-Demand Food Couriers in Edinburgh.” Work, Employment and Society
As the year of 2020 is almost in the end, and COVID-19 crisis came and changed our daily day, perspective, ways of social interaction, and impacted our world economy, showing inequalities in some ways we have not to pay attention as who posses privilege was too busy, swimming on it [although, there are some articles and studies about how is hard to see your own privilege and it is connected with the social evolvement during those thousands of years].
The whole social engagement structure was changing through digital transformation and its impact on society. The COVID-19 crisis accelerates this process, as now we need to practice social distance and be more socially responsible, as we not only can be sick, but worse, we can spread it and impact lives.
During my online searches, I found a great article written by Matt Stempeck, and he is also a curator for the Civic Tech Field, a platform [crowdsourced] with a diverse collection of tech for good tools and projects, check it out [it is excellent].
There is a perfect reflection of how digital and analogic worlds connect. It can start a great discussion about digital technologies impact in society as “Their designers have connected their software features to real-world levers of power so that when they talk about empowerment, they mean someone gets power as a result of the process.”
Also, we can’t forget that platforms “included in this assessment were designed by people with their philosophies, biases, and cultural expectations.”. And the issues we have not solved, that are “structural” will be transferred to those platforms and all the digital technology, as they are designed, created and developed by people.
The article brings some great examples of digital platforms that engage and has an impact in society, in a sense that is bigger than a “like”.
This blog purpose is to share my experience as a black Brazilian woman from the hood [proudly], but not romanticizing it. Being from the underprivileged neighborhood in Brazil has become part of the construction of my sociological perspectives and studies during my master. It is vital and meaningful to bring my background, how it shapes my sociological perspective of life and social structures, we all are part. Another essential detail and can be one of the reasons “I got lucky”, hacked some of the “social structure” I lived in1, and I am here studying in Scotland. It had a lot with the fact I am a light-skinned black woman, no matter how well aware of my privileges am I, sometimes I can be “colourism crazy”. I see it everywhere and I talk about it all the time.
Colourism is not something new, and it is around us more than we think, it is part of daily life and social structure. I will talk more about colourism in my posts and how it is related to technology. Also, to understand and give a glimpse of my journey as a master’s student! I am currently an MSc student in Digital Society at the University of Edinburgh, with a Chevening scholarship.
Chevening is soft power strategy to connect people from emerging countries and have an exchange between emerging countries and the UK. The Chevening program, consist of full fund professionals each year, from more than 160 countries to study masters in the UK, in diverse areas.
About my professional career, I used to work in tech, and I was a person who tried to get in the tech area almost my whole youth until I gave up and happened. I saw the position of executive assistant for six months contract at Microsoft, and I gave my shoot and stayed there for almost three years. I got a promotion to a position of business manager and led the Blacks at Microsoft Brazil, Microsoft’s ethnic/racial diversity pillar for two years.
The idea of constant learning and change is incredible for me, I love tech and the digital world, the interaction andsocial perspectives. How digital and tech shaped society, equally, how society shaped tech and digital. Just think about your daily day, how you interact with people, groceries shop, pay your bills, see your bank balance, get the information, connect with new people. If we think about our lives, digital technologies, media, and mobile technologies are an intrinsic part of our lives. Besides digital technologies and sociology discussions, I am a hip hop lover [I got love for the game2!]!
My goal here is to bring all of that together and make the connection between those subjects. I want to mix my journey in the MSc in Digital Society, sociological perspective, social concepts, blackness, digital world, technology and hip hop. Let’s see what will come out of that!
Just an observation, the word ratchetdemic is not my creation, is something that came while I watched Christopher Emdin’s TEDx about being rachetdemic, a concept of being ratch and academic, at the same time. That both of those personas can live together, as it is part of you, and I related as I am ratchetdemic!
He talks about to be proudly from where he is from and bringing things from those places to the academic world, becoming a rachetdemic!
Check it out.
See you soon!
Camila Ramos a.k.a Ratchetdemic
1 – In 2003, when I finish my high school, only 14% of the population between 18 and 24 were in the university or college, and in the 2000’s was when Brazil reduced the number of Brazilians below the poverty line from 44% to 34% of the population. (Brasil, 2000)
As part of my journey in the university and the digital sociological conversation, we to watch Coded Bias by Joy Buolamwini.
Joy Boulamwini is not new for me, while I worked in tech and had projects focused on bringing more black people to the tech environment, I start to research about black in tech and what were the impacts black people were making in the industry.
I found a lot of exciting information, and I discovered that Nas [an American rapper, well known by his first and most incredible hip hop creation, the Illmatic] invests in tech through the Queensbridge Enterprise.
Yes, I found the connection I wanted!
In the same research, I found the incredible Joy and her way of tech talk bring symbolism to her narrative and MIT tech kind of conversation.
Coded Bias, It is a documentary that approaches tech, but also in a symbolic way for black people. A scene that impacted me in such different forms was, see a black woman braiding her hair [Joy is in a hair salon] while she is talking about her journey at MIT, it is symbolic on another level. She brought poetry, rap, tech, race conversation, colourism, access to different worlds, and connection, all that in a documentary.
Also, the documentary brings information about the Dartmouth Summer Research Project in the ’50s, a moment that was crucial for the “foundation” of AI as a field. Talks about the “1984, George Orwell” book, China Social credit score, bringing the big tech players in AI and their role in it. Also brings the US and the UK, country approach on face recognition.