Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More on the Digital Divide

This is a good topic, isn't it? Lots of room for discussion and opinions....there is a discussion underway attached as comments to my previous post, and Rochelle and Jessamyn commented too. I thought I'd add another entry on the digital divide because I came across a quote in a paper [pdf] that captured an element of my unease--what might be called the "colonialism" factor.

The author, Brian Shoesmith, wrote specifically about the "digital divide" as it was perceived between developed and developing economies. The paper is called "Mapping the Digital Divide" and was presented at the Euricom Colloquium: Electronic Networks & Democracy, 9-12 October 2002 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
The term digital divide is open to a number of interpretations. At its worst it is a continuation of the asymmetrical modelling of communication that characterised much of the writing on development from the 1950s through to the 1970s. In a more benign form it refers objectively to the lack of access to technology. The word divide also implies that the gap may be bridged, in this case through the provision of computers. In both instances we are talking about top down models of communication where the active donor gives to a passive and grateful recipient. (my italics)
Interesting too when research intersects: I was using Google Scholar to look for articles on Harold Innis and his idea of the "monopolies of knowledge" but was enticed down this bunny hole again. Here's some more thought-provoking material on the "digitally disposessed" (a term from this next paper).

#1. Unfortunately, most efforts to address the `digital divide' have taken a decidedly technical approach to what is essentially a social and political problem, focusing on hardware and engineering concerns rather than the politics of information. [pdf]

#2. But this traditional understanding of the digital divide fails to capture the full picture of inequity and alienation recycled by these gaps and the resulting educational, social, cultural, and economic ramifications, primarily for groups of people already educationally, socially, culturally, and economically oppressed. Meanwhile, such a limited view of the digital divide serves the interests of privileged groups and individuals, who can continue critiquing and working to dissolve gaps in physical access and use rates while failing to think critically and reflectively about their personal and collective roles in recycling old inequities in a new cyber-form. [pdf]

If you want to investigate this yourself, I used the phrase "digital divide" and added terms like "colonialism", and "inequality" or any of the gaps identified such as racial, social, educational and so on. If you do this search on Google "plain" I find good results in limiting to pdf.

And this quote has not much to do with the subject of this post, but my goodness, it grabbed my attention! It's from the Harold Innis site linked above.

When fascism comes to America, it will come in the form of democracy.--Huey Long

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that Huey Long quote is a misquote