The Digital Divide

From an article on MSNBC’s The Red Tape Chronicles: “”The Digital Divide” has vexed and worried researchers for at least a decade, raising concerns that entire groups of Americans might be left behind, unable to afford the gadgets of the 21st Century.

Perhaps it’s the social network divide they should worry about instead.”

What is the social network divide? Bob Sullivan, the author of Red Tape, says those who abstain from social media by circumstance or by choice have a different experience of the world than those who are embedded in their Twitter or Facebook identities. Think of invites to events, vacation photos, tweets about all the things that are happening in your life.  He says that the biggest motivating factor in people engaging in or abstaining from social media living is the issue of privacy – and that it’s getting polarized fast.

What do you guys think? Is there much to this argument? Is there a social media divide? And is divide premised on privacy concerns?

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One thought on “The Digital Divide

  1. I am frustrated by the ongoing use of the “divide” frame. I think this focuses attention on the users, as if all the problems of digital communication are found at that level — who’s on, who’s off, what to do about it all?

    To me, the fundamental issues around the evolving digital media ecosystem are about who will be in control of the infrastructure and what criteria will be used to evaluate the sometimes obscure and always complicated questions of governance and management.

    One “solution” is to assume that digital communications is simply a market good and that the only valid consideration is the profit/loss impact on private (mostly corporate) operators.

    This frame has the virtue of elegant simplicity (if the market always knows best, there’s nothing really for anyone to worry about) . . but it ignores the reality of more than 100 years in the history of communications. Study that history and you will find a complex dance played around tunes from economic, technological, and political orchestras.

    Some of these musical-chair dances have resulted in strikingly different communications systems, even between neighbors like the U.S. and Canada. (I do not think it’s an accident that Canada has CBC and universal Medicare, while the US has a largely privatized broadcast system and an abysmal, largely privatized healthcare system.)

    IMHO, faith groups and people of faith are missing a huge opportunity to shape the future by ignoring the evolving foundations of the digital media ecosystem.

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