Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Are You Stuck In A Digital Divide? How Technology Is Separating Society

With the Rapid Evolution and Popularity of Technology, How Can We All Keep Up?

Between the two readings, Mobile Phone Problems and Kevin Guidry’s article about a “digital divide” or “participation gap,” some key issues were highlighted with how technology is affecting us, but also whom specifically it affects.  According to an article on Edutopia, the digital divide is “the gap between those individuals and communities that have, and do not have, access to the information technologies that are transforming our lives.” Although the article on Mobile Phone Problems indicates the 88% of Americans own mobile phones, Guidry’s article enforces the fact that this still leaves a large population of people who do not own their own computers or have Internet access at home. The negative aspects of this digital divide are seen in the workplace, with those that have no computers being underemployed, less educated, and Black or Hispanic.

The divide translates onto our college campuses, too. Guidry notes that according to a 2007 EDUCAUSE Core Data Service survey of 994 institutions, 65.1% of students used their own computers. This leaves about a third of students with no personal computer access. There was also a difference found between the number of computer owners between public and private universities, with the more affluent schools having a higher rate of computer owners. Based on the Pew Internet article about Mobile Phone Problems, non-white cell phone users encounter every problem more frequently than their white counterparts because cell phones are their primary phones or Internet access.

The Digital Divide Causes a Participation Gap, and Some Users Are Already Getting Left Behind. What Does This Mean For the Future?

Not only are there disparities with who has access to what technology, but also what kinds of experiences each user has with each technology. Guidry defines a “participation gap” as something that happens when different experiences yield different skills, predilections, and comfort levels with different technologies. It is not longer a matter of who has what, but how much time and access each user has. In a study with American teens, those who had unlimited access to the Internet used Facebook and MySpace differently than those that had limited access from public locations like schools or libraries.

As technology continues to grow, new things will become available for consumer use. Considering the rapid growth and popularity of smart phones, the traditional phone may soon only be a phone found with those that cannot afford the pricier alternative. In addition to the growing popularity of these phones is the growing amount of uses of them. It seems as though everything can be done on our phones now, from reading magazines to keeping our plane tickets. For those that never own a smartphone, will the traditional media die out and leave these people behind? Is it possible that one day in the future all newspapers and magazines will be online, and therefore limit the possibilities to access these materials without technology? It seems as though the push towards a total technology takeover is happening, and we must be wary of who we exclude from this change in society. 

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