Friday, October 12, 2007

What Filters You? (A Perspective from the NC State Fair)

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be looking into some issues related to Web Filtering and Censorship.)

I was thinking about the concept of web filtering on a really large scale today, and it occurred to me that the Internet is really just a virtual reflection of the world. I understand that most do not have Internet access globally, but in terms of information - you can get your hands on virtually any subject out there, if you are truly "unfiltered". In the real world, perhaps this is what those who seek "enlightenment" are truly looking for, an unfiltered existence.

Let me explain: I was at the N.C. State Fair today and I was closely observing the people I saw there. it is by no means a stretch to say that more than 50% of the people I saw there were overweight or obese. With the N.C. obesity rate at 24%, I am probably not too far off. Now, it may be true that obese/overweight people are attracted to the fair because of the food there, but I think people come to the fair for other reasons than the food (I don't like it that much myself, more on that later) - I would say the attendees of the fair are a good sampling of the N.C. population, especially since many are drawn out from rural areas for the agricultural events & exhibits. What I think is, that most people have been 'filtered' via the food choices put before them to choose and enjoy things that are truly unhealthy for them (in N.C., and America at large). As a near-vegetarian, I found it extremely difficult to find anything to eat at the fair that came remotely close to my normal diet (which I enjoy, and crave, just in the same way other folks crave and enjoy unhealthy fare.)

Don't get me wrong, I can put away some Al's Fries or Funnel Cake like the best of them, but quite frankly the portion sizes are ridiculous to me. Only a few bites or so of either and I'm pretty much satisfied. I believe part of this may be genetic disposition, sure, but for the most part it's obvious that we are "bred" to like the foods around us and what are parents fed us as children. I have more recently "trained" myself to crave healthier foods as as I get older and I am sitting behind a desk more often than ever before, which means, I adjusted my filter for food.

Another thing that occurred to me while there: people in several other countries eat dogs. Why do we find this practice so disturbing? How is it any different from us eating pigs or (sacred) cows? As I watched the Painting Pig pick up a paint brush and swab the canvas I thought "My dog can't do that. Maybe we should be serving up corn dogs made of actual dog and taking the pigs home for pets." (Pigs are also utilized as drug-sniffers in some jurisdictions, for the record.) You see, our "American filter" tells us it's OK to eat pork and keep dogs as pets, while this may be disturbing to someone across the globe who has a different filter in place.

In many ways, people are stuck in the same circumstances: eating the same food, wearing the same makeup, whatever it may be. Take a look at the filters in your life, I bet it could do you good to try and circumvent some of them, look beyond them, and even apply some new ones. Our children certainly need some new filters, can you help?

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