The engine starts to hum. The screen turns on and emits an ominous glow. Various lights blink here and there. You take your place in the swivel chair and press a couple button. Once everything is online you prepare yourself. You place the cursor over the Chrome symbol, poised to click. Cue dramatic orchestral music with swelling strings. “Mr. Sulu, put us in hyperdrive”, and with a click of the mouse you’re transported from Earth to a place far away.
The internet is a fascinating place, along with the technology that allows us to access the web. Like many of my peers, I consider myself a digital native, a captain kirk of the digital world. I click here and there, navigating to my desired destination with ease. Whatever I wanted to see, whatever I wanted to learn, all at my fingertips. Learning to traverse the digital world isn’t easy, but for my generations and those capable of having access; it’s just like riding a bike. But not everyone is fortunate enough to be their own captain kirk in this world. Just as with any frontier exploration, it is always the young people at the helm, while the old are left behind. With technology booming at an exponential rate (thanks to Mr. Moore’s Law) it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up. Most of our elders are stuck on “Earth” as they are reluctant to leave their old-world technology and ways. Additionally, those with lack of access and resources are also left behind, destined to never be their own Captain Kirk.
I was fortunate enough to be technologically literate given my family history. With the aftermath of the war in Vietnam, my parents came over to America with nothing in hand beside their survival instinct and work ethics. They didn’t care about the latest technology or the latest movie that had just came out, their only concern was to put food on the table. So growing up, I never had the newest game console; I never had the chance to learn how to use the computer early on. Hell, I didn’t even get a cell phone until I was in the junior year of my high school. When playing Halo or Madden with your peers, owning a Razor cell phone, or having a computer to AIM chat was pivotal to connecting with your classmates, it was one heck of a gap to leap to make those connections. Fortunately enough when I was 8 or 9, my father found his way into the digital world through his job as a software engineer. He was then able to teach me a thing or two about technology and provide me with access to the web. With the work ethics my parents instilled in me, I pushed myself and played around with the computer and was able to become tech literate. It took some years, but I was able to catch up to my peers in becoming tech-savvy.
I’m lucky to be where I am now, although many aren’t.
I believe that there are many factors that keep people far away from the digital world. A lack of access is a great example. Through years of direct and indirect racism, the technological infrastructures that are in place today are the results. The wealthier were provided with better access, better infrastructures, while the poor and the minorities, segregated through years of racism, were provided with poorer quality of access. Additionally the cost of technology and access were quite substantial. The government believed the trickledown effect and competitive market forces were capable to bridge the digital gap. They were wrong. Years of racism and resulting poverty couldn’t simply be overcome like that. With a lack of access and technology education, older people and poorer minorities couldn’t learn how to build their resume, search and apply for jobs online, or find nearby financial services. Additionally students without access wouldn’t be able to have the same resources and advantages as their more technologically advanced peers. It is a vicious cycle that few can get out of, and it’s one that is all too familiar.
While we are all cruising around the web as captain of our own Starship Enterprise, there are many out there who are stuck down on Earth, far away from the web. Like the crew members on the Enterprise, they help the ship run but they will never navigate nor pick the places they want to go. They can only hope to one day sit in the captain’s seat unless we do something about it. Because shouldn’t we all have the right to traverse the web, shouldn’t the digital space belong to all of us?