Building an inclusive online society

One of the greatest injustices of our time is the many parents who lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, who may feel they are not able to give their children the start in life they deserve. Theses basic skills are key to people becoming independent and self-confident individuals who can make a worthwhile contribution to society. In my home village of Efail Isaf and my current place of residence Treforest only 16.8 and 17 per cent of people respectively have no qualifications, but in Rhondda Cynon Taff as a whole as many as 4 in 10 of people do not have any qualifications.

As computers become as ubiquitous as the television then new opportunities will open up for more people to learn new skills and gain qualifications through e-learning. Where adults fear going to a college to do a GCSE in English or Mathematics because they do not want to be in a classroom full of school-leavers who may know the basics, the Internet can and should provide them with the chance to learn at their own pace and through the method that suits them at the time that suits them.

Through e-learning, these adults can develop confidence in themselves by helping them to realise that they have the ability to learn and by changing the negative beliefs that they hold. Through changing such beliefs parents will experience less doubt in themselves when their children ask them to help them with their homework and they will be more likely to go into situations where literacy and numeracy are required.

For e-learning to become a means of achieving social justice the digital divide needs to be narrowed and e-learning materials need to become more interactive and relevant.

Online communities are places where people can solve problems, share ideas, share stories and share experiences. Like in real-world communities, online communities are at their best when they are inclusive of all members of the community. There are some people who are not fully part of the online communities they use, including lurkers, trolls and people suffering from communication disorders.

Lurkers are people who do not have a persistent identity in the community, they have never posted a message, or never updated a page – usually because they hold a belief that is holding them back from posting. I believe it is the responsibility of the leaders in online communities to challenge the beliefs of lurkers that hold them back from posting and include them more in the community.

Trolls are considered to be the anti-social members of online communities. These people will post messages to incite reactions. For example, someone might post a message on a Windows message board saying how great the Macintosh operating system is, even though it goes against the grain of the beliefs of most members of that community. Trolls like this one are playing devils advocate. What they are saying may not be inaccurate, but is done to incite a reaction. Trolls should be accepted into the community, even if the opinions they put across are not what others believe.

There are a number of people in online communities who are not getting the full experience of being a member of an online community. Some people in online community experience autistic-like qualities that they do not experience in the real-world. For example, some people have difficulty seeing other online community members as people and will just see them as text. Some will not see themselves as being part of the community and in someway detached from it. I believe it is the role of leaders and other online community members to include these people in the community, to help them realise that the people they are talking to are real, and to make them feel part of the community.

There are a number of people in online communities who are not getting the full
experience of being a member of an online community. Some people in online
community experience autistic‐like qualities that they do not experience in the realworld.
For example, some people have difficulty seeing other online community
members as people and will just see them as text. Some will not see themselves as
being part of the community and in someway detached from it. I believe it is the
role of leaders and other online community members to include these people in
the community, to help them realise that the people they are talking to are real,
and to make them feel part of the community.
I am currently writing up some research on online communities. Are you a lurker, a
troll, or someone with an online communication disorder? Do you rarely post
messages in forums or message boards? Do you sometimes post messages to
incite a reaction? Or do you have difficulty seeing others online as real people? If
so I would like to hear from you. Please leave a comment to this post, or get in
touch with me via the contact sections of this site.
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