Thursday, April 14, 2005

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.

1 comment:

  1. It would be interesting to compare the transatlantic cable divide with the online divide, specifically did anyone talk about cable have's and have not's? When did the "need" for transcontinental phone calls emerge? Was it economic or "need" for ?? as Eric says...