Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Digital Divide: Pros and Cons

For my senior seminar, I read a few excerpts from the book Digital Culture and watched some short videos about the "Digital Divide". In a nutshell, the digital divide is defined as the gap between those people that have access to the Internet versus those who do not. However, some experts say there is more of a multidimensional view and that it cannot be defined by simply one sentence.

The divide is typically broken into North and South divisions. The North is known as the wealthier, developed, first-world countries (Blue countries in diagram below). The South is typically the poorer regions of the world, or least developed countries (Red countries in diagram below). These are broken apart by the northern and southern hemisphere, with a few exceptions. Many factors play into the building of the digital divide. A few of those include: class, race, age, skill, and the  willingness to learn.

CLASS: A person's socioeconomic class has a great impact on whether they have access to the Internet/digital culture. The more wealthy a person is, the more likely they are to have such luxuries like phones, computer, and Internet. A poorer person has access to these items through public spaces like libraries or college campuses, but there is an inconvenience for that person because they will need to have a car or a ride to get to a public computer. These expenses can become overwhelming for the average person; especially to the unemployed person.

AGE: Age definitely plays a big factor in the digital divide. Although most kids are growing up with modern digital culture, most adults over 40 were never presented with the opportunity until adulthood. The issue most elderly people face is the lack of motivation to learn how to utilize the Internet. I personally know a few people in their late 70s, early 80s that figure what's the point? They feel there's no need in learning how to use a computer because they are in the retirement stage of life and won't need to use it. There are also stubborn older people that feel they did not need computers when they were young, and people now need to get back out and learn real hard work.

RACE: After thinking about it, I'm sure race places a small role in the digital divide. However, from my understanding, Asian cultures are far more advanced in technology than American people. I would say Asian people are ahead of the learning curve when it comes to modern technology.

WILLINGNESS TO LEARN: Believe it or not, there are some people that just don't see the need in using a computer or the Internet. This does not necessarily have anything to do with age. Some people feel that if they are not going into a field where it's needed, why bother wasting time to learn. I know a 45 year-old woman who has never turned a computer on. She figures if her husband knows how to work it, then why should she? However, I personally believe that everyone should at least make an attempt to learn because you never know when you will need to use it.

Some critics think with the gap in the digital divide closing in, cultures and native rituals will be lost. I can understand this in a sense. If everyone had access to these tools, then what differentiates us? Everyone becomes the same; but, I do think tribes can use the Internet to their advantage. They can use Youtube videos or Skype to keep rituals alive between same tribes located in different areas. They can also continue to pass down old folklore by keeping a blog or vlog. There are many online websites specifically geared towards certain cultures. Without the use of computers, television, or Internet, people might not know about weather conditions that could potentially harm their people and land. Overall, the technology is a good tool and should be used for the better good of the people, the country, and the world.

I was given the chance to visit a small section of Tennessee where the people live a very basic lifestyle. They are happy to provide food and shelter for their families. Even though they had very little, those were some of the happiest people I've met in my life. It's not always about the material and technical things in life that provide happiness. Here's a video that I found interesting. A monk is discussing the difference between technology and tribal society. He also discusses the potential suffrage that comes with technology.

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