Thursday, February 10, 2005

Breaking assumptions about gaps and divides

Warschauer's 'Conclusion' was a good contrast this week to the other 2 readings. Norris' chapters was an extra-US look at ICT usage gaps and Van Dijk et al attempted to get past assumptions, both using statistics and multiple sources. Yet in Warschauer's discussion of embedded social values in ICTs, I found myself wondering about the author's assumptions, and kept tripping over odd parenthetical comments, such as "think, for example, how the microwave oven has facilitated the entry of women into the workplace" (208) and "a kitchen, a tool shed, a farm" (203). A common point among all 3 readings is that, as researchers, we must constantly examine our assumptions because, unlike the social change we want to understand, our assumptions are at risk to get rooted. A scarcity of longitudinal statistics and fluid social effects make it easy to fall back into our assumptions. At the end of these readings, I have realized that a few of my assumptions had become stuck and amerocentric, e.g. assuming that a possession gap would close the usage gap more than what statistics indicate. Norris' data on differences among EU nations was the most challenging. I also find I need to re-think ICTs as acting from underneath social structures to really riding on and amplifying existing structures. My question this week is this: what assumptions changed for you after these readings, and what data seemed to prove its point more strongly?


  1. Talking about data there's nothing that changed my ideas, but a couple of them in Norris' article made me think. I'm referring to the percentage of people on line in Europe. Norris presents data from 1996 to 1999. In three years Sweden increased its online population from less than 20 percent to more than 60 percent. Three years equal more than 40 percent increase. Six years (twice as the period in consideration) passed since 1999. I'd be very curious to see how much the online population incresed in this period.

  2. I guess I was the most surprised by my assumptions about how computer interfaces are/should be organized. I completely took for granted that people might not work in an office (and maybe never seen one) and therefore might not understand a "file" as an important unit of organization. (This is where the author was talking about kitchens and farms being maybe more useful models). Anyway, I had never thought critically about this aspect of computers. It made me see how I assummed people would "naturally" understand files and folders. Interesting.