Portlandia

The story of “a homeless Portland woman [who] was charged with third-degree theft when she plugged her cellphone charger into an outlet on a sidewalk planter box“. Like the dream of the 90s, the digital divide is alive in Portland.

Advertisements

It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right

“It’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right. That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.”

Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web

Berners-Lee

Far from Lear

Human in this [modern, technological] construction is far from Lear’s “unaccommodated man,” “a poor, bare, forked animal”; rather, human in developed countries now means (for those who have access) cognitive capacities that extend into the environment, tap into virtually limitless memory storage, navigate effortlessly by GPS, and communicate in seconds with anyone anywhere in the world (who also has access).

— N. Katherine Hayles

How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (2012): 96f.

Hayles

From Pakistan to Posting

An individual person has freedom to create his own identity in this complex world. Personally, I have experienced years of my life with no technology access before I moved to Austin, Texas from an underdeveloped country named Pakistan. It was a life changing moment for me. Austin has become a technopolis city where everything is interconnected with technology. I believe that the world is moving forwards in term of technology but gap of digital divide still exists to certain extent. Author writes in the book digital divide about technology diffusion, “… technology adoption and diffusion could increase traditional structural inequalities such as income and education.” (Straubhaar et al)

The issue of digital divide exists everywhere around the globe. When I was 16 years old, I was studying in an English medium school so I can go to an American university to get top quality education. In my school there was lack of access to technology. We were taught how to use computers and their hardware components but not the virtual world of internet. I had personal access to dial-up connection at my house which was 100 times slower than today’s internet speed. Secondly, there was no internet access on cell phones. There was no means of connecting online socially. The situation is getting better as there are more broadband connections across the country.

I moved to America when I was about to turn 21. I supposed that it was like a dream come true. My friends used to tell me about the adventures of their trip to America. I was back to my school life but the first requirement was access to internet. From my admission to exams everything is dependent on technology. I realized that there are public libraries which are very helpful to those who do not have access to internet. The two countries were completely different economically, socially, politically and technologically. I analyzed that having the knowledge of information and communications technologies (ICT) can also raise the issue of digital divide.

I joined University of Texas, where I met students of different race, culture and religion. In my opinion discrimination still exists. It’s not the same as it used to be in the segregated Austin as mentioned in the book, digital divide. Technology has given a platform to connect and socialize with others around the world. The usage of internet is sharply increasing but there are some who are not aware of the internet. We discussed in class about the articles on neighborhoods in Austin, Texas. We found out that neighborhoods with majority of white residents had a full length description on Wikipedia compared to African American and Latinos neighborhoods. I was amazed how digital divide can take place. I was just wondering that if it matters to me. My belief was that everyone is equal but reading several articles changed my mind.

My stand on issue of digital divide generates more questions in my head. Why only 8% of users on Tumblr are rich? Or why is Instagram female oriented? Or why African Americans use more Twitter than Facebook? Social networking leads to identity construction in this technological society. People use Twitter, Facebook or any other social networking website to portray themselves with the help of status updates, tweets, pictures and videos. Identity constructed online would be completely different in an offline environment.

The new world of technology has completely changed our lives. Everything is done online. Most of the time we browse internet using our cellphones, tablets or computers. It used to take forever to send a letter to someone but now it happens in few seconds via electronic mail. I think the issue of digital divide still exists in the society.. In near future the access to internet would be available to everyone. I believe it will the end the issue of digital divide.

This post was written by a student, and has been left unedited by the admin.

#FirstWorldProblems

In this day and age, it may surprise many that there are a large number of people without access to computers or the Internet. I myself was initially shocked to find out that this type of social stratification exists even in the United States. In fact, “As a national social and political issue, the digital divide emerged during the Clinton administration, which initially publicized the divide in terms of connectivity through the National Information Infrastructure (NII). Early analyses by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Pew Foundation, and other organizations stressed the dangers of an increasingly stratified society divided by inequalities in access, situating the divide as an issue requiring active national policy” (Straubhaar 110). This is a great depiction of how large the issue is and how embedded it is in our culture. The most likely explanation for my astonishment is due to the fact that I myself have been privileged with the means to utilize any technological tool necessary for education. Furthermore, I was able to own personal devices, some of which were non-essential. I even took a computer science class in high school that equipped me with many skills needed for the professional world. Certainly it is unjust that individuals with equivalent if not greater potential are subject to suffering in low-income conditions simply because they have not the means to better themselves. Meanwhile, a sardonic trend titled “first world problems” garners much more attention from the public. I have seen for myself through my frequenting of twitter, Facebook, reddit, and other social websites that many feel entitled to Internet access among other things. Hopefully though, some of these social medias can give a voice to those less fortunate.

Smartphones, along with action from organizations and governments, have made a marginal influence in closing the gap. For example, “The survey found that 56% of black respondents said they had a smartphone, compared with 53% of white respondents” (Reyes 1). In her study, Reyes found that many young citizens from low-income areas who do not have access to computers do own smartphones. These phones have many of the same functions as a computer such as access to social media sites but lack the capabilities that could help them improve their current standing. As a white male from an affluent family, I have found that I have been placed on the greener side of the pasture, so to speak. Not only do I not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, but also lack even the concern that I will not be able to complete even the simplest task that involves utilizing a computer or the Internet. Furthermore, I am unburdened by the clear and prevalent gender facing the majority of modern industries and businesses. For years, I took this for granted. Such a fortunate disposition with an absence of societal perspective is indicative of my very social construct. Those with money are able to provide for their children while those without cannot, ever perpetuating this stratification. The current condition is a crisis and needs to be corrected.

This post was written by a student, and has been left unedited by the admin.

Get Computers Outside the Box  

In the first grade, my classmates and I had a daily assignment that we were required to complete on the computer. It was a simple reading comprehensions quiz. We would read a short book, then log into our profile on this certain program on the computer, and then we would take a test. This sounds extremely simple, but the fact that a group of twenty, seven year-olds could log into a computer every day and take a quiz shows the fluency in technology at an early age.

Growing up in the school that I went to kept me from appreciating the digital divide that is ever present in the world. Michael Dell’s four kids attended my school and you could find at least three Dell computers in every classroom on campus. Not only that, but every student was required to own a laptop once you reached the ninth grade. So, it comes to my surprise when I learn of students who do not have access to a computer. When I heard the story about Johnston high school, I had a hard time appreciating the severity of it. Johnston high school was shut down June 2008 to be reopened under a new name and under new supervision. During the time of the shut down, the school was investigated. In their gymnasium, there were many boxes found, all full of computers. These students were never given the chance to become technologically fluent because they couldn’t even find a computer to use. In a world of increasing technologies, it is vital for students to have access to computers. Many students from Johnston high will be put at an immediate disadvantage because of their lack of knowledge with technology.

When it comes to educating people with technology and closing the digital divide, there will have to be a lot of patience involved. This process does not happen over night, and some people may not even be willing to try. We can’t expect people to fall in love with the idea of technology over night when they have never seen anything like it. When students are not given the opportunity to learn technology they become as helpless as the people who choose to ignore the advancements. We take away prospective jobs that they don’t even know are available. When I heard about the problems of Johnston high school, I was glad something was being done to attempt change. What I could not understand was how the teachers and administrators did not understand the way they were hurting the students by removing their chances at learning. It may not always work, but we have to try.

This post was written by a student, and has been left unedited by the admin.