Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Anna writing with questions from this week's readings...

Both the Slater and Mele articles emphasize how on-line interaction can benefit people in low-income communities by giving them access to information and, in turn, legitimacy to other groups. Their stories affirm the importance of equalizing information resources between the wealthy and the poor. My concern is this: in both articles, the low-income users were in mediated environments (the library or community center had to be open and staffed) while they were using computers and they were encouraged to use the computers for strictly practical purposes. True, the outcome was positive. Yet, compared to the average wealthy computer user who has the luxury of using a computer in privacy for whatever means he/she desire, there is still some injustice there. How much does the environment in which the technology is used contribute to equality?

The dichotomy of inclusive/exclusive online relationships brought about in the discussion of the Big Sky Telegraph lead me to consider how bold people are for contributing to open online discussions, such as blogs. Users add their thoughts to the list for any other user, in what is probably a large pool, to read and respond to. This seems a little intimidating and was for the Montana participants. This is probably why it is possible to control who contributes to and reads blogs. It is hard to keep in mind that cyberspace is both public and private and that it is the user who controls it. This really complicates making conclusions about on-line interaction. Is is positive to limit users so that the current users are satisfied? or is it some form of exclusion? I mean we can't all be friends all the time, but are we somehow obligated to try? Is that an ideal we all hold? I argue that labeling the web as a place we can all interact equally is evidence that we do hold this as an ideal.

In the Gurak article, she mentions a danger of online advocacy found in the speed of the medium. If people receive a sort of political chain letter to flood legislator's in-boxes with, it can be done quickly and without much thought. I'm sure political officials in all capacities receive plenty of these types of messages. How are quality and legitimacy kept in check? Gurak's example of the Lotus complaint contained errors. I've forwarded messages on that I haven't read in depth, assuming they're fine, just because it is easy. Is this ability contributing to a less-informed; less-aware public, quick to draw conclusions and unwilling to investigate matters for themselves?

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