Sunday, February 29, 2004

Hello, It's Anna writing in response to the Johns. John T first: He asks 'Do people who are not online miss out on any benefits of online social connections, or can they reap the same benefits from a local social group?' I like that John brings back the digital divide issue to the discussion. Injustice, in terms of missing out on interaction if you're off-line, occurs with marginalized people. Whether they are marginalized because of where they live or who they are or what they look like, linking with people that have experienced similar treatment or feelings is feasible on-line, probably more so than off-line. For instance, this might occur with people who are gay or disabled in a world where they don't find many other gay or disabled people. On the other hand, the digital divide usually occurs between the wealthy and the poor. People living in poverty often do have strong social connections with the people around them. They have to reciprocate with their neigbhbors for food, child care, protection, etc. in order to get by. Maybe they don't need the types of relationships they could have on-line. I'm not making the point that they don't need web access so it's okay that they don't have it. I am making the point that they may already have the social and emotional support they need from the people they related to face-to-face. Maybe because wealthier people don't relate with their neighbors out of necessity, they feel they need to relate to people somehow and satisfy this on-line.

And John Baken's description of the woman sitting next to him at the computer lab cracked me up. We all use labs and sit at our stations, focused and solitary. Yet there are usually people sitting about two feet away from us on either side with whom we rarely interact. The same thing can happen with a roomful of people reading books so this isn't strictly a modern occurence. It does change the perception of the library as a communal and shared place, which is part of its original conception. Libraries are becoming more techy and less book-oriented. You can request your books on-line and then just pop in to pick them up at the circulation desk (does this remind anyone of a fast-food drive through?) without actually spending any time at the library with the people who live near you. As convenient as it is, this is moving away from viewing the library as a vital place in the community...

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