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.


Yeah, I agree with Kelly that we slighted race in our conversation. Maybe 'Facebook' is easier to talk about.

I found the Wilson pieces interesting, though not really surprising.

When I taught in inner-city Houston, I had the opportunity to work in both a very poor and a very well-to-do part of town. Nice as the students were in the very low incomed 'fifth ward' of the Northside, although not all were very nice, it was a very different experience to teach middle and upper middle class students, whether they were African American, Latino, or Anglo. What mattered more was they had significant support, both financial and by example, of their roles as students. They had also, for the most part, gone to school in a school atmosphere and with other students that reinforced the message that school was important. Plus, what SEEMED to matter more (this is from a teacher's perspective, perhaps I was really wrong) than 'race' was whether or not classmates projected a 'ghetto' mentality, meaning 'poor'. Middle class kids of all races hung out together (with exceptions, of course), but most poor kids hung out with other poor kids, then generally of the same race.

As Wilson says, Affirmative Action tended to especially help those students who were middle class, but there were also exceptions. I saw plenty of students from Jeff Davis HS on the Northside go to UT and Texas A.M., even though their grades an SAT scores were undoubtedly lower than an average college freshman. Most of those students find a way to rise to the occasion.

Of course, the numbers in Houston and elsewhere still clearly show us that race is still an important factor in predicting who will be on the unfortunate side of the Digital Divide.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Global "digital divide" debates

Is the digital divide between nations beginning to shrink? A colleague sent me these tidbits:
GENEVA (Reuters) - The "digital divide" between rich and poor nations is
narrowing fast, the World Bank said on Thursday, calling into question a
costly United Nations campaign to bring hi-tech telecommunications to
the developing world...
Poorer countries, particularly from Africa, are expected to repeat calls
in Geneva Friday for a "Digital Solidarity Fund" to help finance the
infrastructure they say is needed to close the perceived technology gap...

The World Bank report itself:

All of this evidence suggests that, at least in terms of access to basic
infrastructure, the digital divide is rapidly closing. Many fewer
people around the world have no access at all to ICTs, and people in the
developing world are getting more access at an incredible rate-far
faster than they got access to new technologies in the past, and far
faster than developing countries are adding telephone lines today.

a bit strange...

um, I feel a bit strange that we didn't discuss race and ethnicity more last week. I don't know what I would want to happen about it now...and I know I was in the class also and didn't make it happen--still, I wanted to mention it.
(I know it is difficult to tell tone online--so as clarification--this is just meant as a gentle prod)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Black People Love Us!

A lot of you have probably seen this website already, but I think it's both funny and relevant to today's discussion:

Black People Love Us!

The testimonials are hilarious. Unfortunately, a lot of people who sign the guestbook apparently don't get the joke.

Project ideas

I have a few things that I would like to know more about, but I am not sure if any of these translate into projects...
a) understanding the different definitions of digital divide -- the access vs. use issue. For this project, I would do a review project -- comparing two seminal pieces about the digital divide -- one that defines the digital divide as access to a computer and one that defines digital divide as use of the Internet.

b) Internet Access and Children. In this project, I would like to explore which kids are on-line, what are they doing on-line and Internet safety issues as it pertains to kids use. I guess this would be a research paper.

c) The truly unconnected. I would like to do a review or research project to explore those segments of the population who chose not to access the Internet and why. It may make more sense to do this as a policy piece, but I hesitate to say that I will make any recommendations on what to do...


I am a bit late with this...and I still can't decide what I want to do...picking topics is always the most difficult part for me--too many things I want to learn.
1) Review/Research Project (either way?)-- I am curious about how much is known about the accessibility (e.g. relating to Section 508) of websites that may be considered "necessary" in a "basic access" way of thinking. It may be the easiest to focus on government websites but I really want to know what important sites been studied in this area.
2) Research Project-- Studying internet usage differences between nations, looking at the nations political, socio-cultural, technological, monetary and governmental issues/status. The article Social Inequalities by Pippa Norris dealt with these idea. I would interested in studying Sweden, United States, and Portugal (as the highest and lowest growth of internet between 1996-1999) but I should get more current information first. Maybe I would need to get even more specific?
3) Review Project-- I am wondering what studies have been done on identity representation and probably chatrooms, but maybe blogs would work also. Is there scholarship being done about this and how would they go about finding out how people are representing themselves versus what the "reality" seems to be.

White privalege.

I apologize if this is unrelated but I couldn't help thinking about it when reading the Wilson interview and then again in the 'white privilege' article:
There was an article in the times yesterday about a Wall Street manager of hedge funds who brings in $350 million a year and spends it on art. Apparently he has great taste and sets the market trends on what art can fetch. So when I was reading the Wilson article and how a entire sixth grade class was removed from public school to private, guaranteed college scholarships and subsequently flourished, I couldn’t help thinking how misplaced this man’s (as illustrative of many of us) money is. If he would forgo buying just one piece of art work he could probably turn a few public schools into high quality institutions and still get everyone through college. Now, of course, it is easy to pick on him for being rich but not so easy to identify ourselves as having privilege that at least kept most of us out of inner city public schools. I don’t think that is particularly related to the topic at hand but take it as you will.

many things...

Many things got brought up for me by the articles this week...maybe that will make me talk more in class. For now, I will just ask one question that is mostly coming from the Wilson and Stanley articles. In the job market, how much does it actually matter if you have computer skills? Does it depend on the job market (e.g. inner city, high unemployment rate, general SES, farm town)? It obviously depends somewhat on the job--but is it becoming necessary for most jobs? I'm wondering because I tend to think it is not a big deal whether or not someone has a computer, but-- if knowledge of computers/internet really has a direct correlation to getting jobs then I think at least the knowledge is very important...especially in inner cities.


A review project on the topic of information access for the disabled. Specifically I will focus on the visually impaired in relation to internet use, perhaps touching upon other information sources only for comparison. I will describe how they use the internet, what it means for a website to be accessible to the visually impaired and how wide spread adherence to the protocols of accessibility are.
Some resources that I have found pertaining to this topic are:

Shepherd, Ritchenya A. 1999. Net rights for the disabled? National Law Journal. pg B8.

Loiacono, Eleanor T. 2004. Cyberspace: Web accessibility and corporate America. Communications of the ACM. Vol 47 (12).

Coonin, Bryna. 2002. Establishing accessibility for e-journals: a suggested approach. Library Hi Tech. Vol. 20 (2), pg. 207.

McCord, Sarah K., Linda Frederiksen, and Nicole Campbell. An accessibility assessment of selected Web-based health information resources. 2002. Library Hi Tech. Vol. 20 (2), p 188.

Information access for people with disabilities. 2004. Library Technology Reports. Vol. 40 (3), p 10.

Who aren’t you serving digitally? 2004. Library Technology Reports. Vol. 40 (3), pg 6.

Loiacono, Eleanor and Scott McCoy. Web site accessibility: an online sector analysis. 2004. Information Technology & People. Vol. 17 (1), p 87-101.

Schneider, Staci. An ethical minefield. 2003. Training. Vol, 40 (9), p 62.

Fry, Alex. Equality for the disabled. 2002. Intermedia. Vol. 30 (5), p. 43.

Zeldman, Jeffrey. 2002. Design accessible sites. Macworld. Vol. 19 (8), p. 86.

Marsan, Carolyn Duffy. 2002. Macromedia opens ‘Net accessibility.’ Network World. Vol. 19 (10). p. 35.

Byerley, Suzanne L. and Mary Beth Chambers. Accessibility of web-based library databases: the vendors’ perspectives. 2003. Library Hi Tech. Vol. 21 (3), p. 347.

Davis, Joel J. The accessibility divide: the visually-impaired and access to online news. 2003. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. Vol. 47 (3), p. 474.

Another paper topic is that of medical information accessibility. I will focus my review (perhaps it will turn into a policy project) on scholarly research and communication which is funded by government agencies and then are not made available to the public. This paper will describe grant funding, research, and publication procedures that go on in the medical field. I will then explore who has access to these articles, who doesn’t and why access is limited and to whom. I will hopefully also examine the information seeking behaviors of those doing medical research without full access to these scholarly works. The policy project component might evolve from the growing movement in open-access scholarly publishing through mediums such as PLoS—Medicine. Perhaps all government funded research should be made available to the public through such a publication medium? Should the policies of large universities such as this one change the policy of publication to encourage open-access publishing?

Some papers that may be of use on this paper follow:

Kleinke, J.D. 2002. the failed promise of the health care internet. Health Affairs Chevy Chase. Vol. 19 (6), p. 57-71.

Value of the computer

In Beyond Access:Psychosocial Barriers to Computer Literacy, Stanley concludes,"... computer technology simply has not yet provided some low-income people with a compelling reason to make ownership a priority." (p.410). From this article we see that other devices (ie VCRs, CD players, cell phones, big-screen tvs, etc.) were purchased in low-income homes. Some of these devices require a certain about to knowledge to operate. Frankly, I accidently changed my ringer tones on my cell phone and can't figure out how to change it back... So if a person can program a phone, operate a DVD player, etc., I think s/he also has the capacity to learn the basics of a computer. Isn't computer technology in these items as well? I guess my question is if some low-income people already use computer technology, why is the computer itself not valued?

Luca's Final Project Proposals

1) review project about the actual debate about the e-government in Europe.

2) review project about the actual debate about the privacy and treatment of data in Europe.

For both I intend to stress which is the actual policy suggested by the European Union.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

I'm proud of my mom

"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" made me think a lot. Very interesting. I've never thought for example about the racial relevance of the color of bandages... however, I'm not here to talk of racial issues...

This article combined with "Psycosocial Barriers" sticked a question in my mind. There is some kind of hidden "racism" towards computer non-users? I mean... of course there is in work field, but I'm referring to social interaction. Is someone who doesn't know how to operate a computer really mocked by expert users? or are they considered ignorant by the rest of the e-society? Is the social pressure to learn how to use a computer that people prefear to say they are going to buy one? or declaring they don't want to use it instead of appear dumb users?
These are dumb questions, I know, the article gives back the answers... but I'm just amazed... until now I never really thought about all the difficulties and social pressure that a newbie could encounter in starting to use a computer, even if I recently saw my mom learning it. And I mock her all the time because it takes her five minutes to type a single sentence when she talks to me with instant messanging programs.
This week I'll tell her that I'm proud she learned.

The Promised Land

I like the two pieces by William Julius Wilson the best, although I did send the McIntosh article to some friends.

Think of all the work that must be done to renew the urban infrastructure across the nation. That's the sort of public sector employment that might break the cycle of the underclass in this country. In and of itself, it's not a long-term solution, but the 'full employment' for which Wilson advocates must come somehow. I agree with him that the private sector will not reach out to these groups to employ them.

Go to any inner city and observe the crumbling steets and sidewalks, the inadequate school buidings, the poorly kept parks, the abandoned industrial parks and warehouses from another economic age. How do they reinforce all of the negatives of being poor in America? How can we promote the public good by enlisting the talents and aspirations of our urban communities to redesign, revitalize and renew our cities? We know true rebirth requires far more than simply a stadium or a WalMart. We must invest in the people who have the most to gain the new infrastructure.

Clinton talked about it. So far, anyway, Bush has ignored it. We must support and initiate it.

Kelly's Project Ideas

1. Research project on Internet accessibility for the physically disabled. Can they get hardware and software that meets their needs? How about finding content that is formatted to be accessible to them? Are webmasters keeping them in mind as the broadband revolution makes more elaborate webpages possible?

2. Policy project on how to educate under-served populations on the usefulness of the Internet. We have seen in our readings that it's not just lack of money or computer skills that keeps people offline, but the belief that there's no point in their bothering with the Internet. Some people may genuinely have no reason to go online, but many just have mistaken ideas as to what the Internet is like. Providing public computers with Internet access is straightforward enough, but what is the best way let people know about all the things they could do once they're online?

Fear of Computers

I was most intrigued with the findings in the Psychosocial Barriers to Computer Literacy study that said “three out of four new computer users retrospectively described how the thought of learning computers provoked severe anxiety” and “regardless of cost or ease of access, fear of irreparably damaging or “blowing up” the computer kept them from acting on any desires they might have to learn this technology”. I would like to know where 75% of the respondents are learning that computers are fragile and difficult to navigate. Not knowing how to use the computer is one thing, but to have a belief that they’ll physically hurt the computer is very interesting. The CTC’s mentioned in the article are a good starting point for access but they can’t address the anxiety people experience by simply looking at a computer. Furthermore, is this only related to lower income?

Final Project Ideas

My first idea was to do a research paper on whether senior citizens were well represented on the internet. My position would be that they are not, and that is the reason that they are not logging on. Now, to be honest, I really haven't done any research on this yet, so my position might change.

My second idea is to do a research or review paper stating that computer literacy is already a necessity for a good paying job. Once again, I really have no idea if I'll find the information that I need for this topic. And I would have to define the parameters on what exactly a "good paying job" is.

In an unrelated story

While reading this weeks articles an old memory resurfaced. Does anyone recall the old commercials they used to show on Saturday mornings that had cartoon animals telling us how to do certain things on the computer? This was around the mid to late 80's as I recall, so most of the information in the commercials was how to use word processing software. I can't remember if these were PSA's or who put them out (possibly Apple or some computer company) but they were obviously aimed at children. My question is why did they stopped these commercials and why don't they make any for an older audience? This would help those who are afraid of "blowing up" their untouched computers.

Diffusion and Class

The Stanley article, "Psychosocial Barriers", was by far the best article this week. It brought several threads together of what we've been discussing. In breaking down patterns of ownership and use, Stanley writes that complex reasons of fear, identity, and relevance actually underlie the obvious non-ownership reasons for infogaps. And she also mentions diffusion. Some have argued that diffusion of innovations are driven by the desire for new information alone, all other things equal, but others have argued that microcultures of one's economy, class, education, and relative power are the largest drivers of innovation use. If I think about the almost "instant diffusion" of computers among certain groups of people, what can best account for this: desire for new information or the cultural complex? I have to conclude that it comes down to cultural relevance: if any innovation, no matter how seductive, is not relevant to me, I do not feel the desire to adopt it.

For example, iPods have been around for a few years, and even my own dad has one. It's quite a diffusion. Although I never drive without my radio blasting, or work late at night without CDs playing, I find no relevance in the MOBILITY of an iPod. Without that relevance, I don't adopt the technology. I can extend this to Stanley's conclusion that awareness and relevance motivations could do more to bridge the CTC gap (414) than just ownership of hardware. In other words, it's often a one-to-one personal exchange that brings relevance to computer use. If William Julius Wilson (6) stressed that diffusion of human understanding through everyday partnerships could close class-race gaps, could it be that one-to-one human outreach to potential users would be more effective in exploring relevance than one-size-fits-all computer classes?

How old is too old?

"Two out of five respondents also perceived computers as something for children or those well adcanced in their professional careers. Thus, they perceived themselves as being "too old" to learn computers." (pg. 213) This was written in the article Beyond Access: Psychosocial Barriers to Computer Literacy. The article continued to state that "surprisingly, even respondents as young as 32 year of age also said they feared being too old to learn computers." I found this fact to be extremely interesting. My great grandfather's brother at the age of 65 decided to go back to college to take some classes to simply just learn more information. He continued to do this until he was 73. Obviously when he was growing up there wasn't the same use of computers as there is today, but since he was taking classes, he also learned about computers and is very well adapt to them today in his 80's. Not everyone takes the same approach to learning that he did; however, should a 65 year old be considered too old to learn how to use computers? Should a 32 year old???? I don't think that there should be an age segregation of how old a person can be to learn about computers, people should be feel free to use the sources given to them without feeling weird doing so.

Need to swap discussion date for Apr 8

Class: I need to swap my discussion date of Apr 8 "Divides of wealth, location, and consumption" with another week's discussion. I will be in Denver at a conference. Any takers?


My first thought was to look at the disparities present in academic libraries. I've done some searching, however, and so far I don't find much. There was some material about HBC's (Historically Black Colleges) and underfunded libraries. I would also like to see differences between state schools, tech schools, private schools, and smaller liberal arts colleges, but so far I haven't seen much.

My other idea would be to look at differences among teenagers by demographic groups and by education. This might include personal digital devices other than computers, such as Ipods, PDA's, cell phones, and satellite radio. I haven't looked into the available literature on this topic, but I imagine it might be hard to find statistical comparisions amongst the sea of consumer reviews and technical update articles.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Proposal Projects

#1: Review project; inspired by the article sent out about doctors use of emails for client appointments rather than the patient coming in for certain reasons. I have thought about this sort of concept before (as well as the use of pharmacies online) and finding information about this topic would be extremely interesting. In this day and age, I'll be able to find information supporting doctors emailing and opposing. I'm not sure which will prevail in my paper yet if this topic is chosen.

#2: Policy project; I think that the work with programs for the computer or other technologies for handicapped individuals. My cousin is handicapped, and I believe there there are more programs that can be created for less cost to the purchaser. (This could fit into the other project categories, it's just a thought).

Stereotyping easier online?

The "Reading Race Online" made an interesting point about racial stereotyping online. Although it would seem that there should be little racial stereotyping when we can't see the people we're interacting with, Burkhalter suggests that there may actually be more racial stereotyping for that same reason! It's easy to assume that another person online must be of the race stereotypically associated with their views or behavior. Even if they claim otherwise there's no need to take their word for it, since people can lie about such things over the Internet.

This is an interesting idea, but I'm not sure if things often happen that way online. I suspect that white Internet users tend to just assume that everyone else online is white too, unless they explicitly say otherwise. I don't think I've ever seen anyone's claims about their own race challenged in an online community.

Maybe I'm wrong, though. I do know that in online communities people sometimes make incorrect assumptions about what sex other users are, and this does tend to be associated with gender stereotypes. Someone who seems coolly logical must be a man, someone who seems overly emotional must be a woman, etc.

Digital Rx: Take Two Aspirins and E-Mail Me in the Morning (NYT)

A NYT article today talks about a telemedecine phenomenon that might be heralding a digital set of interactions which replace older in-person interactions -- much like ATMs and bank tellers:

Doctors may no longer make house calls, but they are answering patient e-mail messages - and being paid for it.

In a move to improve efficiency and control costs, health plans and medical groups around the country are now beginning to pay doctors to reply by e-mail, just as they pay for office visits. While some computer-literate doctors have been using e-mail to communicate informally with patients for years, most have never been paid for that service.

Brian Settlemoir, 39, an accountant in Folsom, Calif., recently sent an e-mail message to his doctor at the Creekside Medical Group to ask if it was time to reduce the dosage of a medicine after his cholesterol level dropped. The prompt answer was "not yet."

"I'm sitting at work," Mr. Settlemoir said. "I've got e-mail open anyway. It's much easier than calling and getting voice-mail prompts and sitting on hold. It's very valuable to me."

Blue Shield of California pays his doctor $25 for each online exchange, the same as it pays for an office visit. Some insurers pay a bit less for e-mailing, and patients in some health plans are charged a $5 or $10 co-payment that is billed to their credit card and relayed to the doctor.

Full article: The New York Times > Technology > Digital Rx: Take Two Aspirins and E-Mail Me in the Morning

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

project proposals

1. Research project on the E-Rate. The E-rate has been mentioned in several of the class readings and is a government program that provides discounted access to the Internet and computers for schools and libraries across the nation. Originally set up after the passing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the E-rate program has been running for almost ten years. I plan on researching it’s initial goals and why this program had not fully bridged the digital divide.

2. Research project on wireless Internet access. It seems clear to me that wireless access is the next step in Internet technology and something that has the potential to help remedy the digital divide. Several cities around the country are looking into offering citywide wireless access, including Madison, but Philadelphia is garnering the most press and I will focus on that city’s efforts to offer Internet access, the positive impact it will have on the digital divide in Philadelphia and this technology-driven nation.