I recently co-wrote a song about my research (and my team’s research) with the talented ‘science troubadour’, Jonny Berliner. The song, is essentially about why thinking about the geography of the Internet matters. It argues that an internet geography approach allows us to see a variety of digital inequalities, and it ends with some suggestions on what we can do to make the internet more equal and representative.
Jonny was a pleasure to work with, and it was incredible to go through the process of translating research into rhymes. Jonny of course played, recorded, and sung everything you’ll hear on the track (I only take credit for some of the lyrics). Have a listen at the link below. It’s a bluegrass song, by the way.
Graham, M., & Berliner, J. (2017). Use the Digital to Make the World you Want to See [MP3]. Oxford: University of Oxford (2016).
If you’re looking at a map, whether paper or an app,
It’ll tell you where to go from where you be,
The world is physical but it’s also digital,
So, we’ll think about web cartography,
All maps will tell a lie, and here’s the reason why,
They select the things they think that you should see,
So, the folks who make the map, control the way you interact,
With each other and your own locality.
What to think and what to do, where you should be going to,
We often ask the internet’s advice,
The advice that often sticks, is the first thing that we clicked,
When the search results are in you don’t think twice,
But internet geography, is allowing us to see,
Advice we get is always kinda skewed,
Breeding inequality, less opportunity,
And less voice for the folks who aren’t as viewed.
If you want to see more equality,
Recognise the internet’s physicality,
Question all the data, be a content generator,
Use the digital to make the world, the world that you want to see.
A web geographer will get themselves a code that scrapes the net,
And gives them data ‘bout the digital terrain,
For instance, Wikipedia has less on all of Africa,
Combined than can be found on the Ukraine,
Only 1 in 5 of edits on the Middle East are credited,
To the locals who are really in the know,
Do you want Google to determine, from the language that you searched in,
The things it thinks you most want it to show?
So, remember you should question, every digital suggestion,
And the algorithm that gave it to you,
If you’re too reliant, on the internet giants,
Your data gives them power to abuse,
Don’t be under-represented, and never be contented,
With a story someone else has made for you,
Making your own contributions makes the data distribution,
More inclusive of your truth and point of view.