Thursday, April 30, 2009

Final Thoughts

Is there a digital divide and what should be done about it?

I agree with Nardi and O'Day in their argument in Information Ecologies that there is a foundation of social construction of the electronic environment. And if we can agree that there are real and perpetuating social divisions along lines of race, class, gender, education, etc., then it follows that those divisions will be perpetuated in constructed online environments. So as long as there are fundamental social divisions, there will be a digital divide.

But as to what should be done about it? That's much harder. In many ways the discussion of digital divides is a discussion of the failures of the public education system. As such I think there needs to be recognition that a level educational playing field is a myth, and address the problem appropriately.

I think there is a great deal of value in investing in universal access technologies and paradigms. Both the iphone and screen readers have similar problems in rendering websites with poor compatibility standards. Mobile devices and people on dial-up also face similar constraints in terms of bandwidth. Designing a system that allows multiple types of access benefits not one user type, but many.

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