The digital divide! This week we question how issues of power, privilege, and access intersect and collide with categories like race and class. While “the digital divide” is commonly discussed in terms of global access, we would like to limit our examination of the phenomenon to America for this session.
There are, of course, ongoing debates whether or not the digital divide exists, such as these two brief articles:
The Digital Divide: Where we stand gives supporting arguments for the existence of the digital divide, and asks the important question: what does disconnection mean, anyway?
What Digital Divide? instead posits an argument about failing educational institutions to explain the way the numbers exist.
Some even argue that a “digital divide” is something that makes everyone under 30 untrustworthy, but in my mind there are serious concerns that digital instructors need to consider in terms of the assumptions about tech literacy that we may commonly make.
If you look at the statistics in this article, The Digital Divide in the U.S. in the 21st Century–Barney Warf, it’s clear that there are decided issues of access around race and class that persist in America in the 21st century. (D-Pedders, you don’t need to read the whole article, but do take a look at the statistics, particularly those on 118 and 123.)
Keeping those numbers in mind, what questions do we need to ask ourselves as educators? What other responses are there regarding the future of text besides “go digital” or “print forever!” Seanan McGuire’s livejournal page offers some answers.
Other questions for consideration this week:
- What strategies can we use in order not to be exclusionary?
- How do we accommodate students who do not have a lot of experience with computers and/or the Internet in the classroom?
- How do we prepare for dealing with the digital divide/lack of technology when we go to another institution?
- At Georgia Tech, we assume/know that all students have laptops; we know that students have access to resources at the library: multimedia center, tutoring, etc.
- How do we teach multimodal communication if not everybody has laptops, Internet, etc?
- How do we teach effective research strategies (especially in terms of recognizing credible sources) for students who are not Internet-savvy? (Or even for students who are!)
- How does a reliance on Internet technology in college and financial aid applications exclude populations of students (especially racial minorities and the working/lower classes)? Why are the African American and Latino populations so underrepresented at Georgia Tech (in urban Atlanta!)? What aspects of the digital divide does our own university demographic illustrate?
- Does a prioritizing of technology effectively undermine racial and class diversity on colleges and universities?
I’ll finish with some concluding thoughts from the Wharf article:
“Contrary to common utopian interpretations, cyberspace is shot through with relations of class, gender, ethnicity, and other social categories. When viewed in social terms, the interpenetration of the virtual and real worlds is mutually constitutive: discrepancies in access to the Internet simultaneously mirror and augment inequalities in the world outside of cyberspace” (124).
Thanks, everyone! See you Wednesday
-Rachel, Sarah, and Aaron