Thursday, April 22, 2004

Week 14: The digital divide – Questions by SeungHyun Lee

1. The author, Warschauer points out that the bias of technology reflects unequal power relationships that exist in society. For example, the author argues that “the Internet’s historical bias for English reflects the social, political, economic, and technological power of the United States vis-à-vis other countries” (p.208). It is true of the dominance of English on the Internet (referring to chapter 4).
However, how and how much does the Internet’s bias for English affect other countries? Did someone measure how the social, political, economic power of the United States through the Internet’s bias for English affects other countries? I think the language doesn’t affect much other countries, but the real physical power and the technological power of the United States more affect other countries at the moment. I think those countries which have the real technological power more affect other countries which don’t have it, as like a digital divide. How do you think about the technological power in the future? How will it affect our society and our life?

2. Does the diffusion of ICT foster stratification and marginalization in our society or does it enhance development and equality?
The author, Warschauer mentions India and China as the two most dramatic examples of inequality in Chapter 1. He points out that the benefits of the information technology revolution of those two countries have not much affected on the country’s overall population. But I think we have to consider first those countries’ political, economic, demographical and geographical conditions which differ from other countries. Both China and India have vast land and population in the world, and China is still a communist country. Also, both countries don’t have high economic environment. So existing physical unequal elements of two countries may increase or foster an unequal use of technology rather than merely by the diffusion of ICT.

3. In Chapter 6, Warschauer mentions several reasons why the Internet might not promote social capital. He argues that “face-to-face interaction provides a richer form of communication and support than does online interaction”(p.159). And he points out the negative effect on social capital that online communication could weaken social capital and lead to a narrowing of social contact. Indeed, as drawbacks of the Internet, he also points out that “the most popular and fastest growing uses of the Internet include private, antisocial forms of entertainment, such as viewing pornographic material and gambling, so the Internet will weaken rather than strengthen social capital” (p.160).
However, how many people use those entertainments online and how often? How can people who live over the world exchange information or contact each other when they cannot meet physically? Using telephone or fax? I argue that regardless of time or space, the Internet provides people with more opportunity to contact and interact each other. Of course, it is not likely face-to-face interaction, but it promotes social capital and bridge people or society. How do you think about face-to-face interaction vs. online interaction in modern society?

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