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Crossing the Digital Divide

In Crossing the Digital Divide, Barbara Jean Monroe discusses how the digital divide might be narrowed. I read the section, Storytime on the Reservation” that discussed how children all created narratives differently, and told different stories. I found myself questioning a few different aspects of this narrative study. Even though the town in question was described as largely inhabited by minorities, Monroe seems to imply that each family is on equal playing fields financially and in terms of social and political power. As a result, Monroe attributes any defining characteristics in the narrative to the ethnic background of the student. Granted, she discusses how the narratives can provide insight into the social epistemology of each student and their family. And I could see how this is logically gained, but without more compelling statistics to support her claims, Monroe just seems to be making generalizations about an ethnic group. On a larger scale, Monroe seems to generalize that the minorities in this community represent the minorities across the nation. The community, in its diversity and geographic location make it unique in itself. It is probably not the best place to create a sampling of epistemologies that represent all.

From our class discussion, I got to thinking more about the metaphor for the digital divide. I still like my idea of a pizza as a metaphor. Allow me to reexplain it for this blog. The pizza, divided into slices, is a supreme pizza, Now on most supreme pizzas, the toppings are not evenly distributed, and land differently on each slice. If each slice of pizza represents a group of people and the toppings represent various technologies, then the pizza can represent technology distribution throughout the world. Now even though one topping (technology) is not necessarily superior to another, people still have strong opinions of the best toppings. These toppings make certain slices seem more valuable, and make the slices wih few or none of these topping seem inferior. The response might be to look down on these “inferior topping” slices (probably mostly olives and onions) or to try to force the dominant toppings on a slice even if the persons who represent the slice do not want the extra toppings or don’t know what to do with them.

So that’s my metaphor. It’s no rainbow, but I think it works well. I have been thinking more about the idea of a “digital divide” as a metaphor. Isn’t that metaphor already flawed since it champions digital technologies? Even though scholars try to use this metaphor to point out the inequality in technology access, the metaphor itself undersells all technologies that are not digital. Even though it isn’t as catchy, I wonder if something like “Technology access disparity” would be a better term. It seems less colonizing than the digital divide metaphor. Furthermore, we can move away from the notion of needing to bridge or close the digital divide. To do so I think would mean to many that everyone uses the digital technologies. It doesn’t account for those who do not see a use for these technologies and want to adhere to their own cultural practices. Unless digital technologies can be made localized into useful spaces for the communities receiving them, they will only Westernize other cultures. But addressing technology access disparity is almost like making sure a river flows everywhere. Just because the river is there does not mean that the people living near it have to swim, fish, or canoe in the river. But if they want to, they can. It is available for when they decide that it can be beneficial within their own culture IF it ever is beneficial.

December 5, 2009 Posted by | Eng 467 | Leave a comment