Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Digital Divide by R.L. Mack summary

The Digital Divide: Standing at the Intersection of Race and Technology by Raneta Lawson Mack is not written as a straightforward analysis of the digital divide, or as a discussion of its possible solutions. Rather, it is an exploration of a vareity of possible causes, effects, and dynamically changing consequences of the social detriments shared by black Americans in the 21st century.

Ultimately, Mack sees the digital divide in the context of more than two hundred years of American culture in which blacks have been systematically disadvantaged compared to whites. She spends a good deal of time in the early parts of her book detailing these scenarios in order to lay the groundwork for her argument later on that while economic access to computer technology is an important part of the digital divide, the more pressing long-term concern in overcoming the digital divide is relevance. If people generally do not trust technology, she argues, and they do not see this particular technology to be relevant to them, they will prefer to invest their limited resources somewhere else. Mack sees the problem of relevance to be largely one of education, although she also argues that providers of online content would do well to address the concerns of minority communities, such as addressing privacy concerns and providing more in the way of multicultural content.

The book suffers a little from its 2001 publication date; large sections focused on online economies and federal government policies are no longer relevant. However, the overall shape of the analysis is still interesting, and provides some useful insights into one aspect of the digital divide problem.

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