Sunday, May 3, 2009

Toward a New Agenda" in Bridging the digital divide: Technology, community and public policy

Your assignment, in preparation for our final, is to thoroughly discuss the remaining articles via our blog. Our collaboration will make the entire review a lot more productive for everyone.

Keep the following tasks in mind as you're blogging the article:

1.)Provide a summary
2.)Define key terms
3.)Analyze potentially weak points in the author’s argument
4.)Compare your article to our past readings
5.)Read the other groups’ blog posts and comparing it to your article
6.)Relate your article to the larger themes from the class

Feel free to comment on any other group's blog discussions as well. You should be reading them anyway, and providing extra commentary will help us all.

In addition, we'll be distributing a study guide later. Please use this same blog space to discuss that guide.


  1. Key terms in "Toward a New Agenda":

    -"Tech Fix": The misleading statement that technology is mostly a problem solver- technology is more of a tool to solving a problem, not the answer.

    -"Community Technology Centers (CTC's)": A place with resources to help bridge the digital divide, mostly through providing access to computers and the internet. Associated with bridging social capital.

    -"Community Technology Movement": An organization of people trying to provide technology to those without access. Libraries are key in technology movement. The movement is a response to the transformation of our culture that created the information society.

    -"Policy-Makers": A policy maker is quite literally a person who creates new laws or rules. This term used in the reading, however, was more about the fact that policy makers need to work harder to close the divide, and use flexible federal funding sources.

    -"Community Building Organizations": Similar to Community Technology Movements, but rather than providing technolgy, CBO's provide certain other services to low-income children and families. The bonds that CBO's have formed in communities are helpful to CTC's.

  2. Weaknesses in the Author’s Argument:

    Since the last article is a conclusion to a study we didn’t read, it is difficult to assess what was invalid or not. The main point being that policy and technology are both equally necessary to bridge the digital divide was the most subjective opinion in the article, but Servon supported that claim very well with examples of CTC’s (Community Technology Centers) that needed re-adjustment of policy to sustain the access points for disadvantaged people (libraries, schools, etc). “The digital divide will be [in the future] much more in terms of what people are doing online and how they are using IT tools,” he writes. You could easily argue that the digital divide will still always/very long-term future revolve around simple man-to-computer ratios based on all the types of access and literacy we’ve been talking about. It is a sweeping generalization to assume that sometime near in the future everyone will be online. Like we saw, many people abstain willingly from computer use or are happy to keep their skills narrow and restricted to certain activities. Servon says on the page before, “traditionally advantaged people and places continue to be winners in the information age,” which contradicts the belief that everyone can access suitable IT for their needs, if not desires as well. Other than that, his final conclusion that more solid and long-term policy for funding, federal intervention, and coordination between CTC’s, libraries, schools, and other public buildings (ie community colleges) is based on the evidence of his previous Seattle study, which we did not read.

  3. Compared to Past Readins:

    This article was different from past readings in some areas, while restating other areas that have been covered throughout the course. The article mentioned "Access" as an issue, but then went on to speak to the importance of the "content and training dimensions" of a technology-literate society. The article then summarizes a good number of the lessons learned in previous readings. It chooses to focus on the usefulness of CTC's (Community Tec hnology Centers) and how they have been and can be effective.
    Lastly, I felt that the article did a superb job of describing the groups involved and the groups that can help the problem of a digital-divide. These groups are:

    Policy Makers
    Community Technology Centers
    Primary and Secondary Schools
    Post-Secondary Education
    Philanthropic Organizations
    Community Building Organizations

    This article was refreshing in the simple way in which it discussed the problem, yet shared a solution that is attainable. It was a good article to end the semester on as I feel it encapsulates everythin that we have been learning all semester.

  4. Servon (2002) suggested several solutions for closing the digital divide (ex. policy makers, libraries, community-building organizations, among other solutions). Be familiar with each of them and think about which solutions would be helpful to various members of the Collins family.
    o Policy Makers:
    • Must work to close remaining divides, focusing specifically on the disabled, African-Americans, Latinos, and those living in rural and inner-city areas
    • As the problem of lack of access to computers and IT continues to diminish, must create and expand programs to address the training and content dimensions of the digital divide
    • As the telecommunications field advances, must intervene to ensure that current imbalances between advantaged and disadvantaged places are not exacerbated
    • At the state and local levels should continue to use flexible federal fuding sources, such as WIA and TANF, to support innovative programs that address the digital divide and simultaneously confront other issues such as the IT labor shortage and persistent poverty
    • Should view the digital divide as an issue that cuts across departments and programs
    • Partnerships between gov bodies and other actors will be critical to a successful strategy
    • Federal gov should expand its research agenda to examine the training and content components of the digital divide
    o Community Technology Centers
    • The most realistic way for CTCs to achieve scale and sustainability is through partnerships with existing institutions
    o Primary and Secondary Schools
    • Prepare children for work and life
    • Need greater support for equipment, training, and technical assistance
    o Post-secondary Education
    o Corporate Sector
    • Creates new markets for their products, produces an appropriately skilled workforce, and builds goodwill
    o Philanthropic organizations
    o Libraries
    o Community-building Organizations

  5. Comparison to other blogs:

    “Building the Bridge: Learning from Seattle” – This article was very similar to the one our group had to read since it is from an earlier chapter in the same book. In this chapter, the articles talked a lot about Seattle’s attempts at becoming a very technology-savvy city. Seattle has set up an “online city hall” where citizens can find information and local services. They also have public work stations where people can log on to the Internet if they don’t have any other form of access. While this article talks about all of the steps Seattle has taken to incorporate the newest technologies into their government and everyday life, our article puts more stress on the education of people unfamiliar with the Internet and sparking the interests of people not currently finding a use for this technology. In relation to Van Dijk’s definition of access, the first article focused on material and usage access, while our article talked more about mental and skills access.

    “Understanding Digital Inequality” – This article is similar to our article in that it talks more about getting people to use readily available technology (such as ICTs and CTCs) and less about the community having material access. The blog mentions that in this article, a case study took place that tested the Theory of Planned Behavior, which says that one’s attitude and social norms will have an effect on one’s technology use. Basically, both articles agree that having the IT tools is not enough to get everyone involved in the informationalism revolution.

    “Reading Race Online” – This article was very different from the other three assigned this week. From what I understood from the blog, Burkhalter did a study of race identity online. He found that instead of stereotyping by attaching one’s appearance to certain norms, a stereotype of what one probably looks like was formed by certain beliefs posted online. Basically, stereotypes can work both ways. This study was different from other studies and articles because it focuses on a different aspect of the digital divide being a racial ravine. So far, our article and the others have just stressed how to get people of different races, classes, ages, genders, etc. online through education and public Internet access in order to close the racial ravine. This article is the first to point out that even when online, a racial ravine exists in blogs and forums that create the illusion that other races are inferior according to stereotypes. It will be even harder to close this racial ravine since it has existed outside of the Internet for centuries.

  6. ps. delete the part on my post about not understanding the seattle story. just got things in the wrong order!