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 https://www.asseenontvnetwork.com/vcc/bluehippofunding/bluehippofunding2/127151/
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.

Monster.com listings now used as an economic indicator

From a press release found online suggesting that the amount of help wanted ads posted on Monster.com 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 decisions...to have computers in classrooms, or what will computers do to the job force...so 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?