Model View Culture confronts “The App You’ve Never Heard Of”: Exploring Western Bias in Tech Media.
It is flabbergasting that LINE–an app that beats out Messenger and WhatsApp in Thailand and Indonesia–or WeChat or even Alibaba would ever be so baldly described as “little-known.” Little known to Americans or Europeans? Perhaps, since they were not part of the original target market. But “little known” to millions of people in Asia? Certainly not.
This pattern reflects the arrogance and shortsightedness of tech publications which, although often having primarily Western staff, are consumed globally: English speakers around the world — both within and outside of the tech industry — consume Western tech news; after all, Silicon Valley is home to international giants like Facebook, Apple, and Google. Such headlines erase huge populations of users, not only internationally but even in the West itself. Take, for example, the large population of immigrants to the West: just as WeChat remains significant to Chinese Australian immigrants and their families, many immigrants from non-Western cultural backgrounds remain connected to the technology of their (or their extended family’s) homeland. For example, South Korea’s most popular chat app, KakaoTalk, is installed on 93% of smartphones in the country; in America, the majority of KakaoTalk’s downloads are by Korean immigrants and Korean Americans. Not acknowledging just how significant KakaoTalk is to the Korean tech industry and to Korean Americans is exclusionary and, frankly, ignorant.
Just because some tech comes from Silicon Valley doesn’t mean that tech popular in non-Western markets is inherently “unknown.”
Yet a biased, narrow focus in tech journalism contradicts and subverts these outcomes. It’s time tech writers and bloggers educate themselves about what’s dominating the markets in parts of the non-Western globe, and move towards journalism that truly reflects a commitment to technology that is changing the world… not just Silicon Valley.