Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Conservative and Liberals Bloggers Get Organized

Court Nominee In the Eye of the Blogger Swarm

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 21, 2005; C01

At 1:27 a.m. yesterday, the Guerilla Women of Tennessee weighed in on President Bush's Supreme Court nominee.

"John Roberts: Married to Anti-Choice Org VP," the group's Web site blared. Another site, A Liberal Dose, asked: "Why does John G. Roberts Hate Our Soldiers?"

And made no attempt at subtlety: "Why John Roberts Sucks."

The lightning-quick attacks came after 50 top liberal bloggers held a 45-minute conference call Tuesday night. "On the left, we've always talked about the need to have an echo chamber," says John Aravosis, a Washington lawyer and gay rights activist who writes at "We believe the right has a whole media network, from talk radio to Fox News to Matt Drudge. The left doesn't have that because the left doesn't play well with others."

This is the first Supreme Court nomination of the Internet age, meaning that liberal and conservative opinion-mongers are already blanketing cyberspace with arguments, facts, taunts, polemics, gossip and electronic links to raw data, hoping to rally the faithful and influence the mainstream media coverage.

The conference call was arranged by BlogPAC, a political action committee that got some of its members on the phone with Sen. Ted Kennedy on the day that Sandra Day O'Connor announced she was leaving the court. The group has also held calls with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and the liberal organizations involved in the nomination battle, including MoveOn, Alliance for Justice, NARAL and People for the American Way.

Kennedy "reached out to them directly to convey the impact that this decision will have on hundreds of millions of Americans, whose last line of defense for their freedoms and liberties is the Supreme Court," says Laura Capps, the senator's spokeswoman.

Such coordination seems to defy the image of bloggers as iconoclastic lone rangers, pounding the keyboards in their bedrooms and basements without regard to interest-group politics. Bloggers, after all, come from all walks of life, building a following on the strength of their words and ability to draw attention from other Web diarists. They have also proven to be a formidable fundraising force, raising $80,000 on Tuesday for a Democratic candidate in a special House election in Ohio.

The purpose of Tuesday night's call was "to agree on where we want to work as a swarm and divide that from where we want to work individually," says Bob Brigham, a San Francisco political activist who runs BlogPAC. (Its founders include Aravosis and Markos Moulitsas, who runs the popular site Daily Kos.) A swarm, in online lingo, is when legions of bloggers jump on the same issue, as when conservative Web sites attacked Dan Rather's CBS report on President Bush's National Guard record.

"We dumped a ton of opposition research on Roberts" after the call, Brigham says. The bloggers also agreed during that discussion to keep hammering on Karl Rove and the CIA leak story.

On the Roberts nomination, though, not all left-wing bloggers are marching in lockstep. Moulitsas wrote that while Roberts has only two years of judicial experience, "I'm willing to hear the guy out. We're not going to get a Ginsburg, but I'd be happy with an O'Connor-style moderate conservative. For all we know (and for all the religious-right knows), Roberts might be that sort of guy."

Jeralyn Merritt, a Denver defense lawyer who writes the TalkLeft blog, told readers that "it's too soon to start opposing Judge John G. Roberts. Most of us knew nothing about him. . . . I don't think it helps that liberal groups are coming out swinging so soon."

Joshua Micah Marshall, who holds a doctorate in history from Brown University and recently moved from Washington to New York, launched a Supreme Court section yesterday on a spinoff of his Talking Points Memo site.

The first entry was from Yale law professor Robert Gordon, who said of Roberts: "He enjoys the kind of respect Kenneth Starr had before embarking on his anti-Clinton crusade, as a safe, sound man, not an ideological zealot like Edith Jones or wacko like Janice Rogers Brown. These qualities are going to make Roberts's confirmation easier. They are also what make him dangerous."

Marshall says liberal bloggers would probably play a bigger role in galvanizing the opposition had Bush picked a more incendiary nominee. "There will be less fireworks than there might have been if it was a more controversial person," he says. "We're trying to get people who have expertise and are interested in writing in this new medium. I have no particular expertise on jurisprudence."

Conservative bloggers, of course, have been out in force as well. Forty-five minutes after Bush's announcement, National Review Editor Rich Lowry posted this reaction: "Roberts is brilliant and solid. He has a good temperament and he's very likable. There's no downside. . . . And Bush has kept his promise to nominate someone in the mold of [Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas."

Says Glenn Reynolds, the conservative University of Tennessee law professor better known as Instapundit: "Bloggers are going to be very big on cutting through the slogans to the facts and holding people up against the statements they've made in the past. They're going to make it hard for Democrats and Republicans who took a different position on Clinton nominees than they have on Bush nominees."

But there has been a lack of enthusiasm among some bloggers on the right. "As someone whose professional life has almost entirely taken place 'inside the Beltway,' Roberts has been far removed from the day-to-day concerns of 'fly-over' America," wrote ". . . The nomination of Roberts serves to increase the disillusionment of these traditionalists with Bush's performance in his second term."

One strength of the blogosphere -- its real-time ability to vacuum up thousands of facts -- has been on display with the Roberts nomination. posted excerpts of a 1997 court ruling in which Roberts, representing a pork producer in a clean water case, was accused of making a misleading argument, according to the Web site. The Liberal Dose site (which featured a doctored photo of Roberts making an obscene gesture) pointed to a 2004 ruling joined by Judge Roberts that threw out an award of nearly $1 billion to 17 Americans who said they were abused while imprisoned in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.

Aravosis, who helped expose the X-rated past of conservative White House reporter Jeff Gannon, wasted little time. He wrote Tuesday night that Roberts "sounds like a partisan hack" and posted statements from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the Human Rights Campaign and People for the American Way.

But Aravosis sees no prospect of his blogging colleagues sticking to a set of talking points. "It's like herding cats," he says. "You can get 40 cats in a room, but you can't herd them."

Monday, May 16, 2005

Thanks for a great semester!

LIS 640 is now closed. I'm going to leave all of the commentary up here on Blogger, though, for someday I'll get the chance to teach this class again and I want my next group of students to see the good work you've all done. I'm also going to let you all remain members of the weblog, so if you're inclined to offer some wisdom to a future iteration of this seminar, be my guest.

You folks were a great class and I hope you all got something useful out of our collective labors, both in discussion and online.

(Anyone desperately in need of a blog fix can check out my own humble venture, Uncovering Information Labor.)



Friday, May 06, 2005

Intel pays $10,000 for old magazine

Intel pays $10,000 for old magazine
Written by Ravdeep Hora
Sunday, 24 April 2005

--- Intel Corp., world’s largest chipmaker, posted a reward for a 40-year old April 1965 issue of Electronics magazine earlier this month; the chipmaker rewarded an Engineer who still had the near-mint condition copy with $10,000.
Intel wanted the magazine because it contained an accurate forecast of the company’s co-founder, Gordon Moore, who predicted the exponential growth of chip performance 40 years prior to the changes. His forecast has been nicknamed as Moore’s Law, which has a reputation in the $200 billion chip industry.

Intel posted the information on eBay, world’s largest auction site, which led to about two-dozen leads, according to Intel. Intel said majority of the leads were reprinted copies, photocopies or originals that were attached to other publications.

While Intel was confirming leads, an Engineer was searching around his house and managed to find his original copy of the magazine under his floorboards. David Clark, who resides in Surrey, England said, "It is the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me," in an interview with BBC.

Intel’s $10,000 announcement had librarians around the United States worried about their archived issues. Many libraries had their issues put away securely and out of public displays before bounty hunters stormed facilities in search of the magazine. Numerous librarians are infuriated about Intel’s decision. Although many libraries were able to put their copies away safely, the library of University of Illinois was one of the unfortunate ones who had one of its copies stolen in hopes of the bounty. It did manage to secure its second copy, though.

Intel said it received two other leads with authentic copies, but neither of them was comparative to Clark’s copy, quality wise.

The chipmaker said it will display the magazine in its company headquarters Museum for public display in Santa Clara, California next week. The company also said that it might purchase more copies: one for archival purposes for the museum and another one for Gordon Moore himself who lost his copy after lending it to someone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

HDTV divide

This MSNBC article caught my eye -- it's about the HDTV switchover, and how millions of homes with TVs that use antennae (mostly lower-income African-Americans and Latinos) could be left with no ability to receive TV signals:

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Final question

Do you really think it is necessary to provide access to every household to bridge the digital divide gap?
I mean, I think that it is really important that every public place have an access, granting this way people to get there free access. I'm referring to schools, and neighborhood centers, and libraries, and stuff. I also strongly believe that it is really, really important that schools provide basic training and electronic alphabetization because, in my opinion, that could be the major force to close the digital gap. Education will be, at least that is what I believe, the force that could make everybody in touch with some kind of knowledge of ICT.
But I also think that the medium (the Internet) is too young to arrive at the conclusion that there is a digital divide. I mean, personally I think that it is right to be worried about the consequences that a digital divide could have once the medium would be fully developed and that it is right to think about policies that are developed to avoid bad possible consequences of a fully developed Internet that leaves someone behind - let's say preventive policies.
But I also think that some of the articles we saw during the semester gave to me the impression that sometimes digital divide is just a catchy scaring frase to pump the market.
Hey, here I'm playng the devil advocate, take it as a sort of provocation.
Sometimes I feel like digital divide is a way to enhance poloicies that will make companies do more money because, hey, if we could convince policimakers that everybody needs a computer it would be a lot of money. Some like that, do you know what I mean? I know it's very simplistic, but it's a provocation after all. And it's just a feeling I have and it's hard to explain too.
If you got it tell me what do you think.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Cause and effect

In the Bishop et al article, it states 'the perceived danger of the digital divide is that lower socioeconomic status (SES) is both a cause and effect of limited access to information and technology' (p.363).
Assuming that limted access to information (or resources) is a cause of lower SES then this problem existed long before technology (and the digital divide). It would seem then that one of the coping strategies in the SES is to rely on informal networks as a source of information (as noted in the results of the article). If this group has traditionally relied on informal networks as a source of information, it seems that providing access still does not address the information needs of the group. The first step seems to be more education on what is available on-line -- ie motivate the user to be on-line and then provide address the access and use issues.
Which do you think is more important or necessary -- access or a reason to be on-line? There seems to be an assumption that if you put it on-line, people will browse it...


I feel that this article has finally explained the digital divide in a useful way. Like Rachel said last time, what is the point of talking about people who don't want to use a computer when there are people who do and don't have access? The first article presented the digital divide (albeit a small subset of it) so clearly. Here we finally find a group of people who clearly want to be engaged in computer and internet use and just don't have the access. They frequent the library and they want the computer use for their own research and for their children but can't find it. What I found most striking though was how many respondents claimed feelings of inclusion and not being left behind or out as a reason they would like to become involved and educated in digital technology. If providing computers and networks is one way to make the disenfranchised feel less so, I am behind it. I wish we had read this at the beginning!

Blue Rhino

Has anyone else seen ads for this? It's a company called "Blue Hippo" and they apparently provide loans for the purchase of personal computers and internet access. They don't give the terms of the loan, but say that "bad credit? no credit? not a problem" -- so my guess the interest rates are overwhelming. They show people of many ethnicities... mostly African American or Latino using computers or talking about how they "never thought" they'd be able to own one. At one point, a child says "Mom, can I get on the computer," and she replies "no, I'm still using it..."

The target of the ad is pretty clear -- low income families -- and its interesting -- and disturbing -- how advertising terms usually heard in check cashing store ads being applied to the Internet.

Their website is at
and some of their offers are listed there...

Interesting to apply this to this week's reading...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Trisha's comment

I have to agree with Trisha on her comment that other money might be used for community tech centers.

EPIC should step up and sponsor one in South Madison, WPS in the Broadway area, Oscar Meyer/Kraft on the Northside, and TDS for the Westside folks. American Family for the far east residents.

Public/private partnerships seem like the best hope here. -mc

Re: "I hang out here, where I know it's safe"

In the Bishop article, I think it becomes somewhat clear what obstacles exist that make divide issues, digital and otherwise, really hard to overcome.

Where I worked in inner city Houston, the Quitman Branch of the Houston Public Library was one of the SAFER places to hang out, especially for some of my students who lived in the housing project a third of mile away. Really there were no safe havens, but school and the library were better than most.

We were a little behind in 1998, the last year I worked there, with integrating the Web into the curriculm. We actually had no library at the high school, so we used the public library as a poor substitute. The best thing about the place, naturally, was the staff. They were very helpful. I don't recall using the computers a lot there at the time, but I do recall some limited searching with students.

These days, I would guess that among many families in the neighborhood who do not even own a car, there is probably very little PC ownership. What there is is probably more like the unreliable, outdated examples that Bishop raised.

Learning the web

In the Bishop article, as well as some of the others this week, there was a lot of focus on not just getting computer access to people, but teaching individuals HOW to use computers and the internet. Last week in discussion, a lot of people stated that knowledge was an important part of the digital divide. In discussing the Bill Gates scenario, with all the funding that we would propose to use, how could the technology information get spread to individuals without experience? Should it target only those people who want to learn, or should it be of some requirement? (ok like that could happen, but in a perfect world what would you say?) In the same regards, should it be a part of some sort of government regulation?

the bottom line about access

The common thread this week, I think, is that access to information technology will never stick without buy-in from those receiving access. Bishop et al. says: "professionals [should] work with residents to create online resources that are usable, useful, and meaningful" (386). Servon-Nelson says "a critical mass of engaged citizens" are required to keep projects alive and expanding (425). Wilhelm says that a policy emphasis needs to be on "interfaces for semi-literate users and persons with disabilities" made possible by "ascertaining community needs". And the Labaton article on yanking out e-rate money brings home the fact that policy from the top can also wreck chances for access, even if temporarily. My question would be this: if the socioeconomic groups that do not have access also do not have a strong voice during elections and in the legislatures, how is the digital divide going to get recitifed in a way that IS responsive to the under-served's needs?

On another note, a recent artcile exapnds on the Bishop study and shows Champaign-Urbana pushing forward with access initiatives. Does this town have the "critical mass" of concerned citizens that's making their project a success?

community technology centers

In Community Technology Centers... on page 425, Servon and Nelson claim that their case studies illustrate the importance of local government support in starting and running community technology centers/intiatives. Did those studies really show that? I don't know that their studies showed that, but I also am not sure how you could run one without it... Is that true, do community technology centers need local government support or could they be created using other sources?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The role of libraries

In reading "Public Libraries and Networked Information Services in Low-Income Communities", I started to wonder about the common assumption that it is the role of libraries to provide public Internet access. The article mentions that traditionally the purpose of libraries has been to give people access to books, not introduce them to new technology. And libraries didn't really play a significant role in helping people to gain access to radio, telephones, and televisions.

Libraries have provided free Internet access for years and I wouldn't suggest changing now, but should this really be the responsibility of libraries? Why not have, say, post offices with public Internet terminals? Or maybe the local tourism board should be concerned with setting up public Internet access at tourist information centers. Or perhaps libraries really are the best institutions to address this issue after all...but I thought it would be interesting to question the assumption and think about whether any other public institutions should be called upon to help out too.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Britain's Prince Harry fails basic computer test

Britain's Prince Harry fails basic computer test at army college
Fri Apr 15, 1:36 PM ET

Offbeat - AFP
LONDON (AFP) - Prince Harry, the 20-year-old younger son of heir to the British throne Prince Charles, has failed a basic computer test at Sandhurst army college.

"Although the computer test was a lot more complex than just sending e-mail, instructors were amazed that Harry failed it," an unnamed military insider was quoted as saying in the Daily Mirror newspaper Friday.

"He seemed to lack the same skills as other recruits," the source said. Harry was due to start at the college on May 8.

Re: Greg's Proposal


Although I think the assignment NOT to use technology would be a valuable experience, you are likely to face either stiff resistance and resentment or flagrant cheating.

Most of us use the computer for coursework almost constantly. To put that much of a burden on students to suspend their work for a week would be unreasonable for just one course.

I've been on the computer for about two hours, both for this class and for 551 & 561 this morning. I would never catch up again if I had to stay off for a week.

Great idea, but it would be a VERY difficult sell. -mc

pondering job use

In the article "Eluding the Web's Snare", there was a doctor mentioned that was a chiropractor that didn't use the internet for her company. We've sort of discussed this topic in class before, but I find it really interesting that there are businesses that don't use the internet. Do you think that businesses that don't use the internet can survive in the business world today? From my experience recently with contacting doctors, email actually was the easiest. I was able to get in direct contact with the doctors right away rather than trying to go through their secretaries and have a game of phone tag for awhile until we were actually able to talk. Email was so much more convenient.

The unwired LOVE the internet

For starters I don't know what the "unwired side" refers to exactly when discussing pre-internet but Compaine states, "Current rates of adoption for those groups variously included on the unwired side of the early digital divide are greater than for the population as a whole." I find this statistic highly intriguing. Why would people who resisted or at least failed to embrace communication technology previously take so readily to computer/internet access? I could understand if the previously unwired referred to those without a television but if they are talking about telephone-less and radio-less as well, I find this very striking. How would you rate computer/internet use among other "wired" technologies that exist? Do you use if far more than the others, about equal, less? Is one more outwardly appealing than another? What this previously unwired group so by choice or financial constraints?

A new assignment that I'll subject my next digital divides & differences class to ...

Reading the posts this week inspired me to design a new assignment -- but in the interests of fairness I won't subject you guys to it. The challenge of the assignment would be to go "offline" for a week. Part of this would involve banning personal digital devices like iPods, cell phones, PDAs, and whatever else you folks carry around (personal satellite radio, anyone?). The big deprivation would of course be computer-mediated communication. But instead of simply banning use of email, chat, and Web-surfing, for example, the assignment would mandate no computer use of any kind (word processing, gaming, running a spreadsheet) at any computer either owned by you, present in your household, open to you by virtue of where you work, or open to you by virtue of where you go to school (eg. no use of UW computer labs). The only exception open to you for using a computer? The public library.

What do you think, should I put this in next year's syllabus?

Digital Opportunity Crew

I agree with Rachel. If I think of digital divide, I think of someone who would like to access ICT, but can't. I think that policies that are trying to bridge these kind of gaps should be pursued, especially if ICT access is perceived by have nots as needed.

But, going back to Trisha's question, I don't see any good reason why everybody MUST have a computer and Internet. People should be free not to use computers, if they don't find any use for them.
I see, though, several reasons why people SHOULD use them.

If I understood Eric right, the underwater cable gave new communication opportunities that soon became indispensable. I think ICT is doing the same because it is becoming more and more used and useful.
ICT is part of the world as it is now. It is a widespread tool that we can use for several purposes and uses. And more and more people, organizations, and companies find that this set of tools is useful to do tasks (communication is one of them, maybe the biggest one). There are different uses and different tasks. There are different users and different non-users. As for that I think that ICT as a tool should be seen as a RELATIVE need, not as an ABSOLUTE need. You need it relatively to your life, to your needs (which could be multiples).

Thinking of ICT in this way (associated to this week readings) is convincing me more and more that there's no need to panic about a cataclysmic digital divide. Furthermore I think that ICT, Internet and computers are relatively new tools that are still growing. Let' skeep them tracked in many ways. Let's study them as a phenomenon. But let's also wait them to grow up naturally before feraking out. Let's see where their natural development will bring them as tools, then let's try to solve eventual problems.

Yes, I'm totally in the "digital opportunity" crew.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Diffusion and Social Organization

Readings this week brought to mind a 1977 article on diffusion theory by James Blaut. It really can speak to all the articles, especially Selwyn. Blaut is arguing that theories that place "information need" at the heart of whether an innovation spreads or not are essentially overlooking the WHOLE rest of human social organization. Duh. He asks, "Why is diffusion only the narrow transition from IS NOT to IS, and isn't it very ethnocentric and elitist to assume that bits of information are more important than other processes?" He has a good point, and wonders, like others in our class did, why those who resist an innovation are so studied. He says- because of the position of the researchers. Then Blaut makes another good point that explosively rapid diffusion (like the internet) is always driven by economic factors, not need for information. The socioeconomic has to be satisfied before Maslow's hierarchy hits the top. So my question this week is in the positional vein of Selwyn's "technological determinist" comments...Does the divide only exist if you are socioeconomically 'tall' enough to see the gap?

Is the internet for everyone?

So the problem as I seeit is that these "rural or rustic people" need the option of technology and internet, but once they get it who is to say they will use it? There are people out there who really don't need the information most of the internet supplies for there job or well being, but these people must realize that since the economy has been known to fluxuate and jobs aren't always easy to get, and that knowledge of technology, computers and the internet could be crucial to finding a new career. I know that this is a topic we've covered at least once in class already, but that's the main feeling I got as I finished the reading for this week. As for Net Evaders, I see no hope of the internet ever reaching everyone. The television, cars, phones and radio still aren't used by 100% of the population. But as we said, they know it's out there, they know it isn't a fad, it's becoming ingrained in culture and the workplace, so if they don't see a use for it in their lives than who are we to push it on them? Oh wait, I guess we do try to push information on people a little don't we?
I'm sorry, this became a much more angry and sarcastic blog than I intended it to be. I have no ill feelings toward the librarians and info. gatherers. Some info. dispensers I have a problem with but this blog site isn't a forum for discussing things we hate. I don't think we really push information on people, but try and get people to want to be informed. I'm just tired and cranky, don't pay attention to me.

Two responses

...really, they go together in my head.

In response to Rachel, I see the digital divide defined in one of two ways.
1) Every divide is a divide. People who can't get on because they live in a rural town and are seperated from the wonders of the net? Sure. People who can't afford to get on and thus lose opportunity? Why not. People who have computers and access to the net, but lack content applicable to their culture? Absolutely. Lack of special needs access? A divide. Computer screen leaves you with a headache? A divide. And so on. A divide is a divide.

2) A divide keeps you from the most important purpose of Information Technology. That usage is...

And since I can't complete sentence 2, I'll have to stick with 1, even though I am troubled by the idea that income disparity can be grouped in with "bored with typing." But "stratification" covers a wide swath of issues, so why not the digidivide?

And that takes me to Trisha's comment. I don't think there is a set of aspects to info tech that *everyone* must have. Until there is Inter-clothes, or the World Wide Food Pantry or something, it doesn't rise to the level of that to me. That's not to say there are aspects everyone should have, or would like to have, or I'd like to see everyone have -- but usage preferences and purposes are unique enough, and I'm wimpy enough, that I just don't see an indesputable answer.

I don't mean to be contradictory, or appear to dismiss good questions. But there was a fascinating doc on PBS the other night at some ungodly the-baby-has-croup-and-now-I'm-awake-so-let's-see-what's-on hour about the effort to run the first transatlantic underwater telegraph cable. It was a joke for a while, then a fascinating attempt, humilating failure, postponed by civil war, and ultimately, rousing success. Technology was created, reappropriated, refined and re-understood to get this thing off the ground (or, more accurately, under the water).

Once it was achieved, instant communication between Europe and US never ceased. No one really needed it before, but, woah nelly, try to convince people that the price of wheat shouldn't be the same world-wide afterwards.

I mean, there was just one cable at first -- and now, who can't call Bangladesh if so moved? There was quite a divide once, but the forces of commerce, industry and soybean futures turned lack of access into a shocking rarity. What was left was need, and economics, but those are the constants.

Maybe it's a red herring of a metaphore, but at some ungodly the-baby-woke-up-again-why-if-we-can-have-the-internet-can't-they-give-me-some-bubble-gum-flavored-mush-to-feed-the-kid-to-deal-with-this-croup-thing-dammit hour it all connected in my head.

Different Digital Divides?

We have discussed throughout this class about the different internet users and why people aren’t going online. I wonder why so many articles have been dedicated to why people chose not to go online, or why people have stopped going online. To me the true digital divide is when a group of people can’t get online. Does anyone else feel this as well? I only think of the digital divide when someone wants to be online, but has no means of doing so. They are at a disadvantage because the option isn’t there. And as for going online as a choice or a necessity, it all depends. I think any form of “infotainment” isn’t necessarily part of the digital divide. I’d probably be happy reading my physical copy of Entertainment Weekly every week, but I love to read Entertainment Weekly online every day. I don’t have to, but I have that option. However, when it becomes mandatory to file your taxes online, suddenly certain parts of society are put at a disadvantage, either by paying a high premium to file paper copies, or risk the consequences of not filing at all (maybe this is a bit extreme, but still a feasible situation in the future). I just wonder if the focus of solving the digital divide is concentrated on the wrong people.

what actually matters?

I'm leading the discussion on Friday with Eric...and so my question is broad(ish) but I think it will help me plan a bit for the discussion.
What aspects of the internet or computers do you personally value enough to make you believe that everyone (or almost everyone) should have it/them?
(e.g. I think it is important that everyone understand about the internet and how things available on it may not be "truth")
Note: This question was hard for me, I tend to find it easier to come up with things that I don't think people need than those I think they do need.

More on Net Evaders

What sort of 'frightens me' about Net Evaders is that they're afraid of becoming hopeless addicts, strung out on chat rooms, "Only coming up to eat," as one person put it in the NY Times Hafner article.

I don't know what people are expecting that is SOOOOOO compelling. Sounds a little like the fear of drug addiction. Hate to tell those people, but downloading a PDF File, shopping on Niemann Marcus online, or playing a game with some stranger in Little Rock isn't exactly tugging on the 'rockpipe'. Guess I don't get all tingly when I save four bucks by looking at the Sunday NY Times online, it's just nice to save the four bucks.

What IS clear from the Compaine "Declare the War Won" article is that, just like recreational drug use, we have to pay plenty for our Web habits. I pay $25 a month for my slow-end DSL line - and that price is because I subscribe for two years and because our phone service is also TDS. Ain't cheap. I was paying the same for a 128K line, until I noticed they weren't even offering that service to new subscribers, and I called to ask if I could be bumped up a level. I'm sure there are plenty of people who still pay what I did for service more than twice as slow.

For those reasons I can understand why people drop out. Unless you have a particular use for getting online regularly, like checking email or for school or work, it's a lot to pay for very modest satisfaction. Americans want more for their 'Infotainment' buck.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Too much of a good thing?

A couple of the articles this week addressed Internet non-users that don't want to use the Internet, and challenged the assumption that Internet use is necessarily a good thing.

I wouldn't want to become one of those "Net dropouts", but recently I have been feeling that the Net takes up too much of my time. I have a subscription to a premium site that's going to expire in a couple of weeks, and I'm not going to renew. I use the site all the time, but that's the problem. I feel like after work and school, all my free time is spent online.

I never thought I'd ask this question but...can we have too much Internet? Is it better to have some limits on our access?

On the other hand, I am on a dial-up. If I had high-speed Internet at home, I could do everything I do now in a smaller amount of time. Or maybe that's just what I tell myself!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Better late blogging than never?

I didn't really 'enjoy' the prediction of the member of the 'creative class' that Kotkin wrote about which envisioned "Twenty-five years of prosperity, freedom and a better environment." Kotkin was published in 2000, before the recession, the Patriot Act and the dismantling of the Clean Air Act in favor of the 'Clear skies inititative'. Why were they so wrong?

Perhaps some of the explanation can be found in Gertner & Goss (sounds like a law firm). Voters have been manipulated in frightening ways since September 11th: Terror Alerts, 'God, gays & guns', 'Security moms', plus now we have Terry Shiavo, who, according to the Onion, died of embarrassment. Who among us, as Americans, is immune to that possibility?

Yet, there is hope. Just yesterday the NY Times reported that Taco Bell has finally submitted to the demands of labor groups to at least consider the migrant population who harvests its produce.

Marketing is sucking my soul and identity

When I saw that this weeks reading was basically on marketing and demographics I immediately became depressed. The fact that these companies and political candidates take so much time and money to try and find out the details of peoples' personal lives and what they buy makes me wonder about modern society. I know that I've been brainwashed, in a way, to believe that I'm unique, unpredictable, and not want to be categorized, but still it worries me. People aren't that easy to categorize. Think about what impulse buys must do to these data gatherers. It makes me sad to think that we are in essence forced to adhere to a certain lifestyle or identity because these companies look at the geodemographics of an area and make sure people buy only things that comply to the consumers lifestyle needs. What about people who don't fit into their geodemographic, like Kelly? That's why I like living in a big city, where you don't have to go to far to find any kind of store you want (except a bait shop maybe).

My shirts aren't private???

In the Gertner article, I found it sickly fascinating how much information there actually is out in the world about each individual. I assumed that there was some info out there about certain aspects of our lives, but the fact that information can be tracked down to what stores we buy shirts from and have that tagged into a political campaign for one candidate or another! I thought this was insane. Obviously there are stereotypes that go along with which political party you side with, but I never realized that politicians would go down to the nitty gritty details of our lives to try and decipher what party we should be affiliated with so that they can target us. This invasion of privacy I find to be ridiculous to a degree. What if I just simply like shopping at J Crew? What's the difference in my mind about the clothing they sell rather than the fact that I'm getting clothes there to "be true" to a political preference? Is there a line that the government has to decipher what the different demographics can lead to? Is that extra invasion of privacy necessary for their win in an election? (How much do you feel it actually helps?)

Big Brother, Inc.

I found the Jon Goss article especially interesting. While I had heard of similar things before I was unaware of the extent companies go to profile their customer and potential customer base. I don't feel that it is a problem either. Industry has always reacted to and reflected the market. The difference now is that they are more efficient with it. Is this any different than what libraries try to do through survey's and keeping circulation records in efforts to better serve their patrons? I tend to think not. It sounded like much of the personal data came from people already making purchases with a particular company. If I buy something from someone I should assume they are going to use the information I give them.

What I did find particularly disturbing though is how the government (as Luca pointed out) may or may not sell personal information to companies and also gain information from such companies. The idea of the IRS checking in on someones credit card bills is a frightening prospect.

One last note, I can imagine that someone from a communist country, where supply is not generally worried about reflecting demand, they might find this system wonderful. Finally their purchasing interests are being met more effectively!

I 'm 30 something and drive a Pinto ... Do you know who I am..

Okay so my title is a joke... But seems to get at the heart of one of the issues in the Gertner article. While I understand that the purpose of marketing is to get the target audeince to identify with something in the ad and thus purchase the product, I am disturbed by the link between marketing and politics.
First, I am disturbed that so much of what I had thought to be 'private' personal information is available.. ( and for sell). Secondly, I am disturbed that the sum of my life choices are being analyzed and then evaluated so that I fit a certain profile that is then targeted or not... In the past, assumptions about political allegiances were drawn based on the 'good ole' socioeconomic indicators (typically race and class). So I wonder what choices have I made that would indicate my political preferences -- my toothpaste or my deodorant... Okay seriously, do you think that there is a bona fide link/correlation between the information in the megadatabases and your political choices? Among other things, the article identifies newspaper and automobile... Do you agree... What else would you add to the list... As an afterthought one thing seems to be missing -- Internet use... Can it be used as an indicator of one's political preference?

Is the Government selling or not?

From Goss article, page 178.
"Government agencies have realized the commercial value of the data they gather for the purpose of public administration and sell data to offset the cost of production. Both the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the U.S. Postal Servicehave provided privileged access to their data to information conglomerates, allowing private interests to profit from a socially produced resource." And later on: "Local governments have initiated [to sell] their information to private users and [negotiate] contracts with companies that creates and maintain data bases in return for rights to sell this information to other clients."

How is that possible? Is there any law to avoid that?

Then, in the same article: "Legislation restricting the unauthorized release of personal data by public and private institutions includes the Privacy Act, which regulates disclosure of individual records by the federal government."

Does this mean that, with the Privacy Act, government institutions and local institutions could not sell any longer information?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

libraries and place

I have a few questions about Kotkin's article "Digital geography".
First, I wonder if most of you agree with Kotkin about a possible "new geography" or if you lean more towards believing increased computer/internet use will lead to an "antigeography" or "placelessness" as explained in the introduction of his chapter?
I am additionally curious about the effects of the new geography (including the creation of nerdistans and midopolis) will have on library use. Does this mean that libraries will become more useful in certain older suburbs/cities because they are less digital and need information? Or maybe libraries will be used more in places where the patrons are already interested in information and technology? For example, if Kotkin is correct about people moving to new places for civic involvement and aesthetics in the future more than in the past, does this apply to more than just moving to new towns/cities? Might this idea of space also apply to things as small as individual buildings...will the fact that people want to be engaged in community and culture actually make library use rise, especially if things like wireless were adopted throughout libraries?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Personal is political

At first while reading this article I didn't see much of a problem with the political strategy of targeting individual voters. If they're going to send you a bunch of flyers and stuff anyway, it might as well be about issues you're interested in.

However, the scenario presented at the end of the article is disturbing. Politicians might be able to stop publicizing a platform based on their own beliefs and intent, and just tell everyone what they want to hear. My question for this week is, do you think they could get away with this? Would it be possible to tell Voter A "I'll increase welfare programs and cut military spending" and Voter B "I'll increase military spendin and cut welfare programs" and not have people catch on? If the politican were elected and then did as she or he liked without regard to campaign promises, would they be held accountable?

New and Diverse Neighborhoods?

In the “Digital Geography” article, Kotkin discusses how new and favorable cities are arising. While San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Boston are thriving in this new techno world, other large metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago only seem to have pockets of success, leaving other parts of the city in hopeless devastation. He also discussed how neighborhoods, when faced with the fact they can’t compete in the digital age, revert back to a pre-industrial way of life, “…such as cross-cultural trades, the arts and specialized craft-based production…” Has this really been happening? What more can be done to create a diverse and non-technology economy?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Virtual Identity in Real Places

Goss' article about geodemographics emphasizes a good point--that there may be no escape from geodemography. His 3 points about alternative strategies for marketers is right on target, and likely already happening as he wrote. Make loss of privacy a condition of consumption, make it attractive for better service, or to improve modeling and analysis with the little data they have. Option 3 is perhaps the worst. More wrong assumptions may be made faster about the few that allow privacy co-opting. Sort of like political polling...But, my question this week is: How many of us, when forced to give gender, zipcode, or year of birth at point of sale have FUDGED and not given the right information--actually made up a VIRTUAL IDENTITY? I know that I do all the time. When I buy online services or products, I take on my dad's persona. It leads to some hilarious junk mail. Or I misspell my name, or put Apt #1 when I don't live in an apartment. I guess that's my resistance to privacy selling. Do marketers take this error rate into account or do they assume we all click the right demographics? But, as Goss notes, some key information sources cannot pinpoint people. The Census will not go beyond tract or block for most research due to privacy. That makes it hard for legitimate providers to target people who may need social services due to address blocking.

BTW, I'm in a hotel ladies room in Denver posting to our blog. They have a great wireless signal in here, and comfy couches!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Look up the geodemographic profile for your neighborhood

Here's a link to the Claritas PRIZM NE page, one of the systems mentioned in our reading. You can enter your ZIP code and see the profiles associated with the area.

You Are Where You Live

I don't think any of the ones for my ZIP sound like me, though!

Around the globe, students 'do worse with computers' but better with books

An interesting article in the UK Guardian that's relevant to our recent class discussions:

An international study of about 100,000 15-year-olds in 32 different developed and developing countries suggests that the drive to equip an increasing number of schoolchildren in the UK with computers may be misplaced.

In a report to be given at the conference of the Royal Economic Society in Nottingham this week, Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of Munich University say the research shows diminished performance in students with computers.

'Holding other family characteristics constant, students perform significantly worse if they have computers at home,' it says.

'This may reflect the fact that computers at home may actually distract students from learning, both because learning with computers may not be the most efficient way of learning and because computers can be used for other aims than learning.'

But if computers don't help then plenty of books at home do. The authors of the report found that 'students with more than 500 books in their homes performed better in maths and science than those with none'.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The "digital gap" in Israel

From an article in the Israeli business press (Globes [online] - Get digital) which illustrates how what we call the "digital divide" is conceptualized by corporate advocates in other countries:

The added value of information industries is based primarily on high-quality workers, not raw materials or energy. In order to highlight how this revolution can be utilized for our benefit, I will cite two figures. The average output of an Israeli worker in conventional industry is $25,000 per year, while the average output of a information industry worker can reach $200,000 a year, or even $1 million a year (in the microelectronic industry).

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough of these workers, and we aren’t doing enough to create them more quickly. Countries like China and India produce a million software personnel and electronics engineers per year; we produce just a few thousand. This fact alone is opening a huge gap between us. If that is not enough, consider the following fact Israel currently has 600,000 children living below the poverty level. The vast majority of these children have no access to a computer or the Internet. In the top income decile, 75% of homes have a computer, and Internet access reaches 90%, compared with only 3% in the bottom decile. That is what the digital gap means.

There is an enormous difference between children who have learned to use a computer and surf the Internet in third grade, and those who reach this stage only in seventh grade. In contrast to a social and economic gap, which can closed, this digital gap cannot be closed. If we do not teach our children how to use modern technology, they will be lost to the information industry. They will have difficulty finding suitable employment with a proper salary, and will be doomed to remain in the poverty cycle. If, on the other hand, we make 400,000 poor children into future workers in the high-tech industry, instead of simple industrial workers, our GDP will leap 50%. Instead of per capital GDP of $16,000-17,000, we will reach $25,000, like the advanced countries.

Pretty fallacious logic there at the end, I'd argue ... but representative of the globally-circulating utopian arguments about the potential to magically create super-productive workers (and firms, and economies) through single-minded investment in IT infrastructure, training, and investment. listings now used as an economic indicator

From a press release found online suggesting that the amount of help wanted ads posted on was some sort of useful index to the health of the economy (which, as our discussion last time indicated, should be a dubious argument at best):

U.S. job-seekers found more online employment ads in March, Monster Worldwide Inc. said on Thursday, the latest sign of recovery in the labor market. The online job-posting firm said its employment index jumped to 130 in March -- the highest in its 1-1/2-year history -- from 122 in February. The increase should provide some encouragement to those hoping that March payrolls data on Friday will show sustained employment growth. 'Fifteen of the 20 industries tracked by the Monster Employment Index rose in March, suggesting increased hiring activity across a diverse range of companies,' the report said.

Friday, April 01, 2005

NPR April Fools

Okay, this year wasn't even hard to find, Mr. Downey.

Exploding maple trees?

It was about as subtle as the Bat Boy stories in the Weekly World News.

Hope NPR does better next year. -mc

who benefits?

I guess what I have been mulling over is-- Why are these have computers in classrooms, or what will computers do to the job difficult for us? Is it because this country has so many different contingencies of people? Does this make us not be able to discern which choices benefit us all (because there isn't an 'us all') ? Are we even usually trying to figure out what benefits us all?

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Computers in class

I'm sorry I'm always talking about my Country, but I guess it'll be funny for you to hear about the relationship between education and computer in one of the richest Italian region in the period from the 80s to nowadays. It's very long, I know, but I promise it'll be fun.

Let's start our journey in 1986.
I started elementary school that year, when I was six. I might be wrong because I was only a child, but nobody seemed to worry that much about my education and the use of a computer. Though, I started to use my father's computer, an old DOS 5" floppy personal computer.
When I was in last year of middle school, 1994, I was fourteen, I typed one paper with my dad's PC and printed it with his nails printer. My dad had the idea, he said it would have looked better... I was considered a geek and a poser from a good part of my classmates. Over 20 kids, just two or three of us typed that paper with a computer. Whatever...
Still, nobody in school was worring about teaching us the use of computers. Or better, someone did once, but I don't really think that one computer lesson in three years is worth to say they worried about our technological skills.
In high school was pretty much the same. We had a computer in the school library but it was used only by the librarian. I don't know if that computer had an Internet connection. I think we also had computer lab, but I can't remember where it was situated in the school, and that's significative of how many times I've been there. Please note that I took a scientific oriented high school.
Hey, it's getting kind of comical!
When I was taking my last year in high school (1999), the school got 6 old computers. I don't know where they found those crappy PCs without any Internet connection, but they decided to place them only in last year classes (we have always the same class, we are always with the same persons, it's the professors that move around the school to give lectures) because, in their opinion, we would have found beneficial to use them for the coming final exams to graduate. Pretty much all of us had better computers at home. Whatever...
The only useful use we could find out from those computer was to play with a crappy old video game in which you were a monkey on the top of a skyscraper and you were supposed to hit another monkey on the top of another skyscraper by throwing at it a banana. We used to play it during class, which always drove professors nuts. That was not exactly the kind of purpose for which they were given to us, I know, but it was fun especially because we used to play instead of following lectures. So, those PCs didn't help my education (we could say instead they tried to mine it) as they were supposed to do. But still we all graduated successfully.
Luckly for me, in my class there were people that were much more geeks than me. They always had the latest computers and stuff so they provided to give me the technological skills that the modern market place requires so badly. One of them became an electrical engineer some days ago (I will come back to engineering department in my university later on).
Then I went to the university. I took Sciencies of Communication (in what is the corrispettive of your College of Letters and Science), one of the most considered department for mass communication studies in Italy. We had a couple of labs plenty of computers which, before coming to Madison, I considered pretty cool especially because (as long as I know) the entire School of Engineering has just around TEN computers opened to students (which are thousands) for free Internet use.
During my studies, they make us took a class about the use of computers. That was the first time that the Italian educational system was worried about giving me the skills for entering in the market place.
Isn't it funny compared to the readings?
So, they taught us how to use Word, Excell and that kind of stuff. It was, let me think, 2001. I was 21.
As long as I know (but still I could be wrong, that's just what I recall), the Italian Government started to worry massively about giving those skills a few years ago. The program was advertised using a slogan as it was a personal promise by the Prime Minister: "Every class school should teach Internet use and English." Yeah, finally!
My little cousin is now in elementary school and she's taking English (as I did, but I did it outside regular classes) but I'm not sure if they are effectively teaching how to use computers in elementary schools yet.

Even though the Italian school system didn't worry to give technological skills to young Italians, I would not say that, technologically speaking, we are awkward. And that's not national pride.
We're just a little bit awkward.
This is to say that if school doesn't teach that stuff, people (yes, if wealthy - we don't have a race divide, just a geographycal one) find a way to learn what will be requested at work.

I'm sorry I wrote so much. There's pretty much my entire life here. But, if it is too long and boring, you could always skip it!
: )

Hanson and Grounded Processes

Having previously read Granovetter and studied the strength of weak ties, I though Hanson's chapter on accessibility was excellent. It was exciting because it really reinforced everything I'm attempting to get some colleagues to realize: that ICT is a political force, even a geopolitical force, and as the years go on with our experience in technology is even more grounded in "real-life" practices and processes. I get really tired of reading older articles all about cybercommunities and virtual this and that. I've quit believing in the whole concept of "virtual" anything, since it can only be experienced by a living breathing human. ANyway, back to PROCESSES. Hanson's article neatly ties to some previous ones in that access alone is not a solution, neither is content alone, nor training. I think what she's getting at is that accessibility is meaningless without the measures of physical place and social functions that enable it, what she referenced (268) as the "old" measures of access. Did anyone else find this article as good as I did? What did you think about her points on why web job banks and resume databases don't work?

More stimulating jobs, or more boring jobs?

The first two articles we read this week presented conflicting views about the effect of computers on the job market. "New Technology, Solution or Problem?" suggested that computers would allow formerly complex, skilled, stimulating jobs to be broken down into simple component tasks. "How Computers Change Work and Pay" indicates that computers may eliminate many routine jobs but increase demand for jobs that require complex (not rule-based) communication, thought, or physical tasks.

"How Computers Change Work and Pay" had a lot of data to support its position, but I know that my experience in the working world has been more in line with "New Technology, Solution or Problem?" As an office temp I often thought that my assigned duties could have been carried out equally well by a trained chimp, if not for the fact that a trained chimp would cost more than my labor. On the other hand, my only serious full-time job was as an English-language teacher in Japan, a job that required a lot in the way of interpersonal interaction and complex thought and communication, but no computer skills at all. I sometimes typed stuff up for my classes, but this wasn't required. I could have gotten by doing everything by hand. We had two computers at my school, but they were mostly used for tracking our hours, accounting stuff, and receiving electronic files from the head office.

What do you all think? Are computers forcing us into mundane, repetitive jobs, or are they freeing us for higher-level social and cognitive work?

Good or Bad, Technology is Here

I'm going to try to answer Rachel H.'s question as much as I can. In 1985 I started going to a suburban elementary school that had a pretty large computer center for that time. We would only used computers for fun learning games like Number Muncher, Oregon Trail, or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? In middle school we had a computer center which almost no one used them except the "special" and "troubled" kids. It wasn't until high school that they started teaching us any real computer skills. Teachers would go show us how to use Microsoft Word and Quark, floppy discs, internet, etc. Now it might be that the school systems had been teaching high schoolers real computer skills for years before I entered, but I wouldn't know about that. Do any of you more finely aged students remember when they started teaching you how to use computers for anything other than gaming purposes?
So I guess children of the eighties were kind of ready for the computer age. I have seen computers in the classroom since I was in 1st grade, but they weren't a major part of my education until I had to write papers in high school.
As for the "New Technology" article, I thought it had some good points, but, as he says in the conclusion, it's really too late to do anything about it. I think technology in the classroom and everywhere else in society is here to stay, right or wrong. And I don't think it's a problem in schools, as long as the students aren't focused on just learning about the new technology. That's what technical colleges are for. As long as they still learn their core subjects (including the humanities, a culture without art and literature is a dead culture) I don't see a problem with technology in schools.
-Bryce, ex-artist

Computers are bad

In the first article this week, “The New Technology” the author believes there’s an increase relationship between school curriculum and corporate needs. It was pretty clear, before I checked the date of this article, that it was written quite a while ago. I’m curious to know what really came first. Did computer and technology companies change the way school classes were taught (like Apple donating computers to schools)? Or did children of the 1980’s grow up in a technology-driven world and were prepared to face this new age of information? He just seemed stressed out that computers were working their way into all aspects of life. Computers were a major change and the way a school functions has changed, but has it changed for the worse?

Comments on the Virtual Class

I found discussing exclusively on the blog refreshing. While I don't believe it is a very good way to conduct every class I thought it was an interesting experiment. While I don't feel it gave me any more freedom to speak I really enjoyed the fact that these topics could be mulled over for a day. One could check in every now and again and add something or see what else had been said. It gave much more breathing room between ideas. I enjoyed it.

The changes of computers

In Apple's article, he discussed the introduction of computers and how they would have an effect on the future careers for people. Apple states that parents and teachers believe that the addition of computers to the classroom will help the student's receive a better life. This article struck me because it was written in 1986 and since it's currently 2005, the application of the concepts that he thought can be investigated/thought more upon now. I was born in 1985, so other than reading information about computer use in schools prior to that, I don't have any personal experience other than going to school through the 1990's. Anyways, I remember having a computer in my classroom all through elementary school and high school. The article discussed the changes that technology advances would bring to computers and the lives of the people using them. I thought about my own use of computers and people that I grew up with when I read that. How has it improved the lives of people? Has it? What would be different today without the advances of computers??? Apple said "by focusing on what is changing and being changed, we may neglect to ask what relationships are remaining the same" (151). I think that's a valuable issue to look into as well.

Comment on Virtual Class Discussion

I often think that all of what I was thinking during class doesn't necessarily get said. This isn't just because of topic changes or my semi-shyness at times, there's just often not enough time for everyone to say everything that they think of. The class could be much, much longer and there would still be things left at the end that may not have been covered for various reasons. I like the aspect of having the blog for that purpose. Trisha made good use of talking on the blog after class with raising race as a posed question to the class since we didn't cover it that thoroughly in class. I don't think that a blog should ever completely be the only source for a class, but I enjoyed the experiment with it in the previous week. Sometimes more information gets covered that way, sometimes it doesn't. Even though people have the opportunity to say whatever they want on a blog, thoughts can get provoked/thought of during verbal discussion.

Less is more?

I honestly don't know what Apple is saying heading into his conclusion with: "Unless these are fully integrated in a school program at all levels, I would hesitate to advocate the use of hte new tecnology in the curriculum. To do less makes it much more difficult for students to think critically and independently about hte place the new technolgy does and should have in the lives of the majority of people in our society." Is he saying that we should allow them in until students have philosophized on their place in society? I was just unclear on that point.

HP chief gets $26m welcome

The Hewlett-Packard plot thickens, as reported in: HP chief gets $26m welcome - Business -

Mark Hurd, who takes over today as chief executive of troubled computer and printer maker Hewlett-Packard, will receive cash, stock and perks worth at least $US20 million ($25.8 million) for simply walking in the door at HP's Palo Alto, California headquarters.

Mr Hurd is widely viewed as the antithesis of the celebrity chief executive, a nuts-and-bolts manager with little interest in grabbing headlines for himself.

But judging by his new employment agreement, HP's board appears to view Mr Hurd as a superstar at least on par with the firm's formerly high-flying chief executive, Carly Fiorina. The board forced Ms Fiorina out in February for not fixing the company as quickly as it wanted.

Paul Hodgson, senior analyst at the Corporate Library, a research organisation, called Mr Hurd's deal a prime example of the kind of 'golden hello' package now commonly handed out by large public companies.

'This is exactly the same kind of contract they made for Carly when she started, and we saw what the result of that was,' Mr Hodgson said. 'Hurd is getting so much upfront that is absolutely unrelated to his performance.'

Part of Solution/Problem

In the Technology as solution/problem article, I was struck with the low percentage of career wages available in high tech occupations.

Looks like the data is a little old ("...created between now and 1995..."), but if our film we watched before spring break is any indicator, not much has changed. The young man who worked at HP is a perfect example. He made next to nothing working for a subcontractor (Manpower), while the former hippie dude in the office made big time 'bling' (sorry about that).

Fifty years ago, in the era of the living wage factory worker, someone on the assembly line, thanks to a political climate more favorable to organized workers, the New Deal and significant investment in capital, research and development, someone like the young Manpower/HP worker could earn enough to buy home (or perhaps a condo in the Bay area) and save enough for his kids to go on to higher education.

Wouldn't HP have more customers for their products if they paid a living wage and if they sent lobbyists to Washington to enforce better labor standards so that the competition couldn't cut costs by paying less for longer hours in less safe conditions?

I know the rapid change of the computer industry doesn't favor long range planning, but anyone can see that this low wage, no benefits work force is not sustainable for long-term competitiveness. What's more, it's immoral.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

In the news: "HP accused of labor violations cover-up"

HP accused of labor violations cover-up | Tech News on ZDNet

From the news today, with interesting connections to the "Secrets of Silicon Valley" video we watched before Spring Break: "HP is facing a class action suit from 34 workers who claim they were "incorrectly classified by the company as 'contractors' or 'contingent workers' or other similar names" when they were actually "common law" employees according to criteria including a questionnaire used by the Internal Revenue Service. The suit alleges the workers were deprived of benefits such as vacation, holidays and leaves of absence. The suit, which seeks more than $300 million in damages, claims to be on behalf of more than 3,000 employees throughout the country who have been mislabeled by HP as contractors."

Friday, March 18, 2005

Comments on Secrets of Silicon Valley?

If folks have more things they want to discuss about our pre-Spring Break film, Secrets of Silicon Valley, go ahead and write your comments here. Oh, and the official web site for the film is here if you're interested.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Are You Anonymous?

Some folks have a blog set up under their profile that is not very anonymous, and if it's intended to be the personal one for class, you may want to either disable your profile or move the blog. Ask Greg how...

The Safety of Weblog

To answer one or two of Greg's questions, I would say that our postings are more open and productive than some of our class discussions, at least for me. I'm a bit shy talking around people I barely know, so having the weblog helps me there. And I think we do discuss the "harder" questions more on the weblog than in the class room, like the other week with race on the internet. Although I don't think it was necessary to keep it out of the classroom since we all seem to be sensitive progressive people. And I do think that those who talk more in class participate a little more than the quiet ones on the weblog, and us laconics do participate on the weblog more than in class, occassionally.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A side note on the virtual discussion over the last week...

Folks, I wanted to mention that I think the weblog discussion has been unfolding wonderfully, and I'm pleased that during my unfortunate absence you were able to wrestle with the readings so well. (I'm also a bit worried that I might be setting the stage for my own technological replacement.) So I have a few questions that relate nicely to the themes of the class:

(1) What differences do you see between your online dicussions and our offline (in class) discussions? For example, I'm noticing that certain people are doing a lot of posting and replying; does it seem like these are the same people speaking up verbally in class? I'm also noticing a lot of willingness to talk after the fact online about things we didn't talk about face-to-face, such as race -- a difficult topic to talk about in America today, for lots of different reasons and for lots of different social groups. In which ways is online conversation working better than offline, and in what ways is it less effective?

(2) Do you feel that you've gotten a better, deeper, more accurate, more positive, or more twisted view of your classmates through watching their postings and comments unfold on the weblog? Can you put names to faces? Are we becoming more of a "community" through our weblog discussions, or are people reading each post as an individual statement and not really getting a picture of the posting person over time?

Comment away.

Notes on gender divides

As you might have figured out from the readings, I think one of the key debates when talking about (1) understanding about, (2) access to, and (3) use of digital technologies of information/communication, consumption/production, is the question of when a "difference" becomes a "divide". Can we empirically show that men and women use computers or Internets or other digital systems differently? Perhaps, sometimes. Does this represent inequality, inequity, injustice? Perhaps, sometimes. What follows then are a whole series of questions dealing with essentialism or environment: Are women and men fundamentally, biologically, psychologically, or philosophically different? Are there some aspects of being female or being male that are unchanging, universal, and reliably present in all persons? All of these would point to "essentialist" theories or worldviews. Might women and men come to different understandings of themselves and each other when reared in different circumstances, environments, cultures, or eras? Might women and men achieve some awareness of, and exert some control over, the way they understand their own "gender" or are "gendered" by others? All of these would point to more "constructivist" theories or worldviews. And finally: can we understand men, masculinity, and meanings of maleness apart from understanding women, femininity, and meanings of femaleness? Can we understand identity constructions of gender apart from identity constructions of age, race, ethnicity, and so on? If not, this points to a "relational" understanding of the world (people, concepts, and identities are dependent on each other) rather than a "reductionist" understanding of the world (people, concepts, and identities exist in individual isolation). It's a lot of stuff to consider at once; don't worry, we'll continue to work through it after the break.

See you Friday for the film if you're going to be around.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Yesterday I was writing a post about the gender divide. It was long. But when I've read it back I found myself contraddicting at least three times. So I didn't send it. I was saying that my experience doesn't suggest that there's all that gender divide. But, is that true? Readings suggest something different. I was puzzled. I talked then about it with my roommate who's a TA in women studies. And after that I was more puzzled than before. I'm still puzzled. A lot. I never realized there's a gender divide, at least in the use of computers. PC is just a tool... Internet is a male world, I didn't feel soo.
I felt like McIntosh (remember last week readings?). That is maybe because I never thought about real differences between women and men, especially about the use of computers. Yeah, guys plays more with videogames, but... maybe I'm just naive.
I'm sorry that's all I can share about gender digital divide. I don't don't know what to say. I wish we had discussed it in class... really. The only thing, I repeat, is that I don't feel such a divide in computer use.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Kids' Revenge!

I liked a lot Sandvig article for a lot of reasons.

First I had fun in reading it. It sounded to me like the Kid's Revenge over those adults who often forget children have their own thinking heads. Kids have their world and they are able to think. I mean, I strongly agree that there's the need to protect kids by legislating. But with an approach that keeps in mind they are in thinking persons instead of .
Sandvig study bring back to kids some power. It is like: "yeah, you know, you're doing laws to protect them, but your doing that thinking as adults, not as kids. Kids are using internet in a different way, just to let you know, dear lawmakers." It was just great. Kids don't care about the things that are scaring you so much. Nice. Go Kids!

Secondly, the approach of the study is great. I like it as an elegant warning: do the laws, we need them, but pease, before that, be sure to know what people really need. Because sometimes the needs and real behaviour are different from what you expect. Nice again. Lawmakers get a little peek-a-boo (as also Matt pointed out in his comment "In Response to Rachel H & Kids").

Re: Powell

I am glad that the General's son is optimistic about the prospects for greater inclusion of the less affluent in the digital future. Powell made it abundantly clear that he has faith in the marketplace to solve many information problems, like the 'Problem' of not allowing media companies to own multiple TV and radio stations in the same market. I guess I don't share your trust in Powell's motivations, for he has proven that he shills for the big information players at the expense of diverse points of view and, ultimately, democracy.

It won't make much difference that everyone has wireless access to the same, slanted information sources. Mobility plus ignorance still equals ignorance.

Friday, March 11, 2005

FCC Chair Michael Powell interview ---

I just watched the most fascinating interview with Michael Powell, the FCC chair who is stepping down after 8 years, on PBS' Charlie Rose show. Read PC World article >>

Powell said (I paraphrase): Over 17% of the nations' GDP is in telecom or computing technologies. Policymakers are dangerously slow to recognize the power of intercommunications technology, they still think of it all as 'gadgets' and not as essential tools for society. Wireless will be the glue that hangs all these new technologies together, and the internet will strongly continue to be the backbone of widespread economic change in all sectors. The disadvantaged and low income populations will begin to benefit from mainstreaming of technology and lower entrance costs. We will have troubles skipping the "untangling" of legacy telephone and cable systems, but our thirst for new ways of human communication will overcome these problems.

Etc...this interview was right up our alley, and worth finding a transcript. Powell really gave you a hopeful sense that digital technologies are for the common good, and we must work to both regulate and promote innovations.


I was completely shocked to read in Disconnected kids: Children without a phone at home, that 4.3 million children in the United States don't have telephones at home. The thought of going without a phone wouldn't even cross my mind. Growing up I wasn't allowed to use the phone without permission from my parents and when I was allowed it was only for a short amount of time. So, phones aren't necessarily needed for children to just talk to their friends (I know that I could have gone without calling my best friend when I would see her the next day in class). But what about when a child has a question to ask a fellow classmate, or needs to work on a group project out of class. There's no simple way to contact them without a phone other than going over to their house. I was also shocked to see that of the 4.3 million 85% of them did not own a computer at home. Now although this is a large number of them, I was more surprised to think that of the 4.3 million, 15% of them DID own a computer at home. In my head, I would think that it would be more important to have a phone in the house than a computer. Obviously for school work to type up essays, a computer would be useful, but a child could have this facility at a local library or school. A phone seems to be important for more aspects of a person's life (including the rest of the family). Maybe there are other justifications to having a computer over having a phone that I'm not seeing. But as my roommate said when I told her about this article "Isn't it like a rule to have a phone at home???!!!???"

Participants in Sandvig article

The title of the article is "Public Internet Access for Young Children in the Inner City:...". However, the subjects were children from the "surrounding (poorer) neighborhhods and children from the suburbs ... " (p.174-5). There appears to be an inconsistency in the subjects and the title of the article. Maybe the number of kids from the suburbs is small or statiscally insignificant, but the title and the subjects in the article are not congruent...

Workforce correlations stronger?

I think Losh on "Gender, educational and occupational gaps" really was on the right track when she concluded that what we are seeing in any gender divide among computer users is directly related to the "historical stratification" if a gender-biased workforce. Think about the groups of gendered professions (unfortunately still persisting): nursing, public teaching, child care, skilled manufacturing, service industries, etc. and what the likelihood of those folks having a strongly computer-mediated worklife? More often, they are on their feet, actively doing, rather than behind a desk. What do you think the data would look like if computer access was broken down by workforce group that would disregard gender?

Pretty Computers

The Light article mentioned how computer ads targeted at women stressed that they were "easy enough for women" to use, or that they could be helpful in organizing your recipe collection or cataloguing your fine china. This reminded me of a more recent trend in computer ads trying to appeal to a female audience: the computer as fashion accessory.

A few years back several computer manufacturers came out with computers that were available in different colors. I remember in one of the Radio Shack computer ads with Teri Hatcher she was getting all excited about having a computer that coordinated with her room, and maybe buying some more computers so she could have a selection of colors...

Around that same time my mother decided she wanted to upgrade to a computer with more memory. I went to Best Buy with her and we were looking around at the different computers when a salesguy sidled up. He said, "Oh, this one's really cool!" Why was it so cool? Because the CPU had a front panel you could remove and replace with ones in different colors! That was all this guy had to say to two women looking at computers, that you could get one that changed color. My mother did not buy a new computer that day, or ever in fact. (She has since inherited my old one.)

Now, there's nothing wrong with putting more thought into designing computers to be aesthetically pleasing, but it's going to take more than a prettier computer to appeal to female buyers.

I think the article is right in that women can't wait around for the industry to tell us what we can do with computers and make them seem appealing to us. The industry apparently has no clue what women want. Left to their own devices, a pink computer seems to be the best they can do. It's up to women to figure out what we want to do with computers, and help shape the market that way.

To a great extent we've already done so. As more and more women go online, I think the Internet is changing. The Light article was written ten years ago, and the online world was often hostile to women then. Just having a feminine-sounding username left you open to all kinds of obscene messages from other users. Now there are a lot more women online, a lot more websites by and for women, and a lot more acceptance of the simple fact that women do go online -- and not just women in technical fields or with advanced degrees, but all kinds of women.

Re: Rachel & Laundry

I have been meaning to get a clothesline for the backyard. Perhaps I will feel less isolated.

I think, probably, we shouldn't take so personally what J.S. Light has to say about women and technophobia. Statistically, it's probably more true than false. Not everyone, of course, NOT library students who ELECT TO TAKE PHYSICS, for example (that's Rachel).

It also struck me as somewhat ridiculous that MEN don't see the computer as a way to communicate with people, but that we see it as a tool for "POWER AND WISDOM". Excuse me while I buy 4000 shares of WalMart. Maybe I'm what AHNOLD would call a GURLY MAHN, but I use the computer for A LOT of person to person communication. Much more so than my wife does. Her's is primarly a work computer.

Guess I'll get back to the laundry now. -mc

Now women can chat about their laundry. . ONLINE!

I do hope that I greatly misread this article because I was given the impression that women are frightened of computers, math and science and the only use computers have for them is to connect them in a chat format. I for one am fresh out of college and have rarely used chat programs, I don't spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone yet I would spend hours on the internet. I have never once felt that computers are gendered in any direction and I happily used them--even if they were in "dimly-lit areas" that are apparently unacceptable to women. And as for online harassment. . . ? I don't even know what that could be. I do hope that I missed her point because if I got it I'm rather disgusted. Does anyone else feel that the internet has to be made useful for women and that it isn't now? Has anyone ever gotten the feeling that it is unapproachable to women? I can't exactly agree or disagree that the computer sciences aren't exactly welcoming to women as I have never pursued something like that and I attended a women's school as an undergrad and we could feel free to do whatever we wanted. Perhaps I just lucked out and the world is not at all how I see it now.

In Response to Rachel H & Kids

I think politicians make this their business because it's a cheap way to get some 'positive', 'family-friendly' press. "Congressperson Jones, what have you done to protect families from the horrible content on the Innernet?" Not gonna lose too many votes in the name of protecting children, even if, as you say, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

For those older children, the 'tweens' and above, they'll find a way to see whatever content they want anyway. It just won't be at a federally funded Internet community center.

In terms of parents monitoring their kids, yes, we can expect that for kids under 11ish, but let's face it, parents have to give their kids some latitude as they grow older. And chances are, if parents have done well by them up to that point, kids will make more right than wrong choices when the time comes. In this case, I think we have to cut parents some slack. Despite the best efforts of technology, parents shouldn't be expected to monitor their kids every move until they're adults.

Hello to Rachel at the Law Library! Are you and Heidi and I having lunch next week?


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Public access for all. . . .almost.

I found the “Public internet access” article especially interesting because of its origins as trying to justify public access computers. Written to quantify what young people use public access computers for, it was a attempting to find out if they were used for ‘educational purposes’ as had been hoped for by the computer providers. What I find so interesting is that people should feel it necessary to provide public computers only if they are used for educational purposes. If people are deserving of equal computer access what should it matter what they use it for? If the idea is to get people comfortable and proficient in computer use, then they should be provided access regardless of their use. I also found it important that the author mention that public access computers are especially useful in this computer literacy pursuit because people can learn from one-another. Do you feel that computer use should be regulated if it is publicly provided? Or should freedom of computer access be a right for everyone, whether they obtain access at home, at work, or in a public institution?

Protection from indecent material

In the Sandvig article, I thought it was interesting that one of the three main areas the study looked at was indecent material and children. This article makes the point that this is a serious problem that has had a lot of focus --and in theory, it can be a problem. The results of the study raised some questions for me though. Obviously there have been efforts to pass policies to protect children but the children had no interest in such sites and quickly went on to something more interesting--like games. The article states, "...efforts have focused on restricting institutional modes of access to the Internet (i.e., schools and libraries), where parents may not be able to supervise children." Why are these policies getting such high attention by politicians in the first place? If parents are contacting their legislators, what is the motivation behind it? If parents are worried about what their children are doing away from home, are they worried about what their children are viewing at home? Wouldn't it be the same? Are parents just not monitoring their children while at home? I don't think this study is the first to show what children are most interested in doing on a computer, so I'm just curious why "attentive" parents can sit and at watch the latest news story at 10 about children and porn, and not already know about their own children.

Tapping on Race

Just to touch base on my aspect of some race issues that weren't discussed in class. Here on campus there is only 13% minorities that attend. In comparison to some other big ten universities, this is a ridiculously low number. Now most people don't typically think that I would belong in the 13%, however I am Latina and am involved with a group here on campus that tries to reach out and show other students that just because there isn't a large representation of minorites on campus, that getting to know people of different ethinicity is a good thing. I do feel a certain amount of sadness when talking to people that strongly believe that students that attend universities of a minority group should get money because of their race. Now I don't believe that just because of your skin color that someone should get a scholarship, I believe that they should receive it based on merit or need. I happen to receive a scholarship here for minorities, however I received it based on my highschool merit. In order for me to keep this scholarship, I need to obtain a certain GPA. Students who don't get this GPA get put on a hold list and can lose their scholarship. This seems extremely justified for anyone, regardless of skin tone. But when I talk to people and they find out that I have a minority scholarship, they automatically say "oh that's just because you're hispanic, must be nice." Yet if people would get the facts, they would know that no one who receives this scholarship are getting it soley based on the fact of their skin color.
I don't believe that people without minority background who NEED the money should be denied scholarships, but I don't believe that people should judge either the people with minority background who NEED the money as well. There's a fine line that seems to get drawn between what's fair and what's not.

Women and IT

I found the Light article on gender and IT to be interesting when you consider the older statistics that we read in previous articles. Those statistics cited a greater percentage of women not being online. I always found that hard to beleive somehow. Having been in a technical field, I know that the atmosphere in workplaces that grow advanced tech is one of long hours, high-stress projects, and often unpredictable schedules. It was very difficult to have a family waiting for me and know that my other guy colleagues could just call up and say, I'm not coming home tonight until we finish this test, etc. Light wrote: "Women who engage with CMCs as the technology and reg framework develop have the opportunity to influence the deployment of this new medium..." That's the development side. Here's an article that addresses some of that further.

But we are looking at the USAGE side. Today, when I do a mental inventory of who is online IMing, emailing, googling, writing, researching, etc. I find that my male friends and colleagues spend less time on the computer. My daughter never left her IM unless she was asleep or in the shower. My son could care less if he ever IMs anyone, although girls ask him to get online all the time. Historically, didn't women co-opt the telephone technology for intercommunication? Yet how many women are involved, as Light argues, in the actual production of the technology? Yes, we're good little consumers...what could explain this?

Re: What adults do online

Yeah, I'm with Trisha. It's not suprising that kids play online. Thank God they can play somewhere. It might be the least structured place kids have to be kids in this highly programmed childhood of their's.

Plenty of adults play online, too. Have you heard about 2nd Life? I heard an NPR story on it a few weeks ago and wanted to bring it up in class. Google 'Second Life' and take a look. It's a virtual world where the game designers actually SELL virtual property to people for development. Your 'Avitar' may interact with others (in most ways imaginable) and players themselves have developed 'niches', whereby they design homes for people and the like. Sounds like a HUGE chunk of time to devote to cyberplay.

No wonder I never hear from friends anymore. They're out living in cyberspace.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

In the article "Public Internet Access for Young Adults", Sandvig talks in one part of the article about time spent on computers by children. The fact that overall children spent most of their internet time playing games and contacting individuals wasn't too surprizing to me, nor to the author, as others studies showed that children's internet use at home and at school showed the same things were accessed.
First, I am curious if anyone knows what adults spend time doing on the internet and how that compares to children. I suspect it changes depending on whether someone was in college, a computer programmer, or a househusband (another article said housewife so many times--I needed to acknowledge this group--smile) for example but I'm just wondering how it compares...
Second, Sandvig mentions that there was a surprise benefit to playing games around others at the center: that children learn to share in a technological environment, share knowledge. I agree. It seems to me though, that the argument could be made that even if children were only playing games and using chat rooms or email that they are in fact gaining computer skills that are important for their future (if computer skills are part of the goal). It seems strange to assume (as I read the author or at least the policy makers to have done) that only educational use of computers would be useful.


I agree with Kelly that we didn't address race enough last week.

When I worked for the Houston Independent School District in Texas, I had the chance to teach in a very poor part of town, the "Fifth Ward" of Houston's Northside, plus I worked for two years across the street from River Oaks, the city's wealthiest neighborhood.

I enjoyed both experiences, yet, I have to admit that working with the classes of mostly middle class students of Lamar High's advanced classes was more rewarding. These students had significant support at home, plus many years of positive school experiences to reinforce the idea that what they did at school mattered. On the Northside, however, many students came from families that had very little schooling. The school's population was primarily Latino and African American, but more importantly, family income was very low. The vast majority of students qualified for free and reduced lunch programs. Lamar's students were diverse, too, but the advanced classes I taught were heavily skewed toward students of families who were middle and upper middle class. To me (and I could be wrong...what teacher isn't about social matters in school!), it SEEMED as though, regardless of race, students of middle class means hung out with other middle class students. What mattered more to them, it seemed, was whether the student was 'ghetto' in manner and appearance, rather than what color skin she possessed.

So even though race is still somewhat of a predictor of which side of the digital divide an individual might find himself, I would agree with Wilson that focusing on class issues might reach further.