Announcement

Collapse

Welcome to Moorcock's Miscellany

Dear reader,

Many people have given their valuable time to create a website for the pleasure of posing questions to Michael Moorcock, meeting people from around the world, and mining the site for information. Please follow one of the links above to learn more about the site.

Thank you,
Reinart der Fuchs
See more
See less

The Digital Divide: Real Problem or Class Warfare Tool?

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • The Digital Divide: Real Problem or Class Warfare Tool?

    Through my job I have a subscription to WinXPNews, an e-mail publication that has article related to the latest news from Microsoft and sometimes articles on other technology related subject. Today's was interesting; and given its mention of "Class Warfare" I thought it may be worth posting here. I have including a couple questions at the end to spark the discussion.

    Originally posted by WinXPNews Vol. 6, #26 - Jun 27, 2006 - Issue #233
    The Digital Divide: Real Problem or Class Warfare Tool?

    Last week, a friend sent me a copy of an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 24th, which visits (or more accurately, revisits) an issue we've also grappled with here in the U.S.: the so-called "digital divide." The term became popular in the 90s and refers to differences in the adoption of technology in different communities based on economic and/or cultural differences, and a resulting inequality in educational, social and income opportunities because of it.

    According to the SMH article, in Australia the Internet access gap between the wealthy and the poor is increasing even as prices for Internet service decrease and more and more public access systems - at libraries, schools and Internet caf├ęs - become available. Read the article here:
    http://www.wxpnews.com/EVG9UU/060627-Australian_Article

    There's no question that the nature of education is evolving, that computers and online connectivity are becoming more important tools for learning. A child who doesn't become familiar with computers is at a definite disadvantage - certainly the ability to do research on the Web greatly expands a student's access to resources for doing homework, completing projects, even choosing a college. Many of today's jobs, even those not directly IT-related, require basic computer skills.

    But are textbooks really on the verge of becoming obsolete? Some teachers are wary of an educational system that relies too heavily on Internet-based information, since the accuracy and reliability of much of the information found on the Web. While electronic data has the advantage of being potentially more up-to-date, textbook material usually has been more extensively reviewed and edited for accuracy and quality.

    It's also interesting to take a brief tour through history and recall that books themselves were exclusively reserved for the wealthy in their first incarnations; until the invention of the printing press, books were painstakingly hand-lettered a single copy at a time and thus were extremely expensive. Certainly the availability of computers and 'net access has spread throughout society much more quickly than the printed word did. Nonetheless, there are still many homes, even in the most technologically developed countries, that don't have the equipment or services to get online.

    According to the SMH article, 86% of Australians in the highest income bracket ($100,000 and up) have Internet connections at home, whereas only 26% of those in the lowest ($25,000 and under) do. On the other hand, these figures for 2004- 2005 reflect a significant increase at both ends: only 44% of high income persons and 5% of low income persons had access in 1998. Here at home, U.S. census figures for 2005 showed that about 62% of households nationwide had computers and about 55% had Internet connections at home. This is according to the PCPro article here:
    http://www.wxpnews.com/EVG9UU/060627-Survey

    In both countries, statistics show that households with children are more likely to have Internet access than those without.

    Something neither article really takes into account is the number of people without computers/access at home who are able to use the Internet at work or school. I have several friends in that situation; although they aren't particularly motivated to buy a home computer, they regularly email me when they're on the job. Many employers allow workers to use the company machines for a reasonable amount of personal business (just as they allow a certain amount of personal use of company telephones), and these people often spend their lunch hours or coffee breaks surfing the web or sending personal mail.

    For kids, the situation is even more encouraging. In addition to the greater likelihood that their homes will have computers than homes without children, almost all public schools in the U.S. today have computer systems of some type available to students. There are many non-profit organizations such as the Computers For Schools Association (http://www.pcsforschools.org) that refurbish donated PCs and give them to educational institutions. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (http://www.gatesfoundation.org) gives away over a billion dollars every year; much of that has gone to computers for libraries and schools.

    Some schools are going even further than putting computers in the classroom. Some schools have experimented with issuing laptops to each student so they can take the computers home with them. Results have been mixed; even older students can't always be trusted to properly care for a relatively fragile and relatively expensive piece of electronic equipment, and problems with security, software updates and failing hardware components. Taxpayers question the added expense.

    And merely having computers doesn't ensure that the students will be able to get online after school hours - unless they live in an area that's established "free" (taxpayer funded) wireless networks. Much of the new, high tech educational model is dependent not just on computers but on Internet access, as well. Students can access assignments and study resources online, join in group discussions, email teachers with questions, and even submit their work and get their grades via the 'net. The value of such a system in case of some sort of major catastrophe that closes down the bricks and mortar schools (hurricanes, flu epidemics, terrorist attacks) is obvious. Schools could continue to hold classes remotely - but only for those students (and teachers!) who are able to connect to the 'net.

    Of course, it's not just about education. As we discussed in last week's editorial, the Internet has changed the job hunting landscape, and those without access are at a disadvantage. Fewer and fewer companies bother to advertise in print media now, since posting job listings online is usually less expensive and tends to bring in a higher overall quality of applicant. Even activities such as shopping are affected by the divide. It's often the case that you can find goods and services online at a lower price than you might be able to find locally. Are people without Internet access also paying a premium for the things they buy?

    Some have gone so far as to say that in today's world, Internet access is a basic human right. Does that mean the government should buy every citizen a computer and provide us all with "free" Internet service? Or should they just do so for those below a certain income level who are deemed not to be able to afford it themselves? How many more billions of tax dollars would it cost to do that? Or is it enough to provide public access sites, like those in libraries, schools and community centers, where the poor can use shared systems? (After all, cities and states build public transportation systems; they don't generally buy cars for individuals). Is this in fact really a problem at all, or is all the talk about a digital divide just another tool of those who want to incite class warfare?
    What are your thoughts on the digital divide? Where do you stand (sit?) on the specrum of connectivity? Do you think the digital divide is a legitimate concern facing our modern societies; or is it just a way for some "incite class warfare," as this artice states?
    E
    "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
    --Thomas a Kempis

  • #2
    In my opinion, the digital gap is not so big and will close ....

    Is it a good thing ?

    roughly yes, with a big reserve /

    I am a middle level manager of a team working on legal subjects.

    Junior officiers come to me and say: " I did not find the answer on the net or on the digital files ! " Each time i reply : " Look at the paper files and you willl find " .. .and if for me it is easier as i know where to find, the loss of research on paper files is a true problem.

    Teaching friends say me they have the same problem with student, : What they don' t find on the net does not exist.

    And time passed on the net, on M.S.N. , on forums is not time given to reading !

    On the other side, time on the net is better used, most of the time, that time in front of the T.V. .......

    Comment


    • #3
      Consider the Source

      The digital divide will indeed close, as Morgan Kane postulates. It will have to. There will come a time when a computer will be as necessary as the electricity that powers it.

      The one point that stuck out in that article for me was the following:

      Some teachers are wary of an educational system that relies too heavily on Internet-based information, since the accuracy and reliability of much of the information found on the Web.
      I see it as the exact opposite. I was taught from textbooks and have come to learn as I have gotten older that much of what was in those textbooks was total bullshit. I was not taught the facts, but rather the American
      version of everything.

      With the internet, there is no such censorship. Sure, entities such as Wikipedia have taken a lot of criticism for supposedly presenting false information, but anyone willing to do any amount of actual research can readily verify (or refute) his findings.

      As far as this notion that the digital divide is something used to "incite class warfare" I would say to be careful of articles funded from the coffers of massive corporations like Microsoft. It lies in Microsoft's best interest to make sure you feel that anyone who cannot afford their ridiculous prices for software is simply whining about a digital divide.

      I said earlier the digital divide will have to close. How easily it will close will depend on many factors, a large one being the desire by companies like Microsoft to close it. As it is now, it seems almost as if Mircosoft is trying to perpetuate the very divide they claim doesn't (or shouldn't) exist. Otherwise, why charge what they do for a copy of Windows XP?
      "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
      --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

      Comment


      • #4
        Incidentally, I've read that local authorities in some countries are conducting pilot schemes offering free WIFI networks in certain metropolitan areas.
        Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

        Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

        Comment


        • #5
          In reply to PWV's post, while I am by no means a proponent of the current examination system (in Britain, that is, of course I do not know the American version but I assume it to be somewhat similar, at least in the points that will matter here), I think that the reason we are not taught the facts in school is for the simple reason that if we were allowed to delve into the internet for our learning, the differences in "facts" that could be found would make marking examinations all but impossible. To be frank, my opinion of the idea of such narrow-sighted examinations is that they are pointless and not a good judge of qualification. Therefore, until we can find a more indicative test of our skills, learning mostly from the internet would not be best suited to the course. This is why we learn "incorrect" facts from textbooks, often largely obsolete, in our curriculum.

          As I say, I am from Britain so the American situation may be different.

          Comment


          • #6
            In my GCSE chemistry class - we were told quite specifically that for 'our purposes' we were to assume that certain scientific theories were absolute.

            When I took the same class at A-Level (college) I found that wasn't the case at all, and that there were exceptions to almost every rule.
            Batman: It's a low neighborhood, full of rumpots. They're used to curious sights, which they attribute to alcoholic delusions.

            Robin: Gosh, drink is sure a filthy thing, isn't it? I'd rather be dead than unable to trust my own eyes!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by PWV
              The one point that stuck out in that article for me was the following:

              Some teachers are wary of an educational system that relies too heavily on Internet-based information, since the accuracy and reliability of much of the information found on the Web.
              I see it as the exact opposite. I was taught from textbooks and have come to learn as I have gotten older that much of what was in those textbooks was total bullshit. I was not taught the facts, but rather the American version of everything.
              I thought the very same when I read that. Anyone who has been involved in a discussion of this sort with before should know my strong feelings where our eduacation system is concerned. In my experience the text books (specifically History and related text books) are so entirely off on their presentation of facts and the realities that faced America--or the World--in some of her defining moments that any reference to them as accurate is laughable. (That and the fact I found it funny that sentence was).

              (...unfinished).

              Over all, I doubt the sincerity of the article. I do think there is digital gap (roughly 50% of the US do not even have the option of broadband in their homes), but I think it has less to do with any sort of division of class and more to do with personal neccesity and geographic location.
              "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
              --Thomas a Kempis

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by PsychicWarVeteran
                Sure, entities such as Wikipedia have taken a lot of criticism for supposedly presenting false information, but anyone willing to do any amount of actual research can readily verify (or refute) his findings.
                The aim of all schools, in my opinion, should be primarily to give pupils the tools to examine a subject using a wide variety of sources of information, to form their own critical opinion. The most important thing to learn is that no source is 100% reliable. As the Internet is surely one of the most important media of today, it surely has its place in schools.

                Wikipedia is an interesting example. While some bull will inevitably creep into such a place, there's also a lot of discussion about topical entries, resulting in articles balanced by people with different views. What's more, Wikipedia has also proven to collect a lot of information that one doesn't find in scholarly works. I think it's an extremely important addition to the tools of modern democracy and enlightenment, and celebrate the founder of it no end (even if I did find out he's an Ayn Rand fan... ah, well, nobody's perfect ).
                "If the environment were a bank, we would already have saved it." -Graffitti.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Some people have to LEARN to change...

                  Hawklord, it is the same here with regard to testing. There can be no doubt that every facet of public education -- from taking tests to writing research papers -- is an exercise in learning to state what the teacher wants to hear.

                  That, I think, is the primary problem. We have this flawed educational model that is only perpetuated by those who fear the change which will inevitably occur in this age of technology. Students now have options. The propaganda found in textbooks is not the final word anymore. My daughter just finished her junior year in high school. She had teachers who embraced technology and those who more or less shunned it. For what it's worth, it seemed to me that those teachers who accepted the fact that students were going to get data from the 'net were also the ones more open to ideas that perhaps differed from the established opinions.

                  Technology will continue to grow. The only ones who will be lost inside this "digital divide" will be those who refuse to grow with it.
                  "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                  --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by EverKing
                    I do think there is digital gap... but I think it has less to do with any sort of division of class and more to do with personal neccesity and geographic location.
                    And insanely high software/hardware prices. Let's not lose sight of that. Just like so many "luxuries" in this world, technology is priced in such a way that only a portion of the populace can acquire it. Is the $1200 price tag on Adobe Creative Suite 2 really necessary? Does Apple really need $2500 for a MacBook Pro? Or are these prices indicative of a long-standing hubris against the lower class?

                    Mind you, I'm not saying these prices are set simply to screw the poor; I'm saying they are set with the knowledge that enough people will be willing to pay them such that the poor aren't even considered.

                    Originally posted by Jagged
                    Wikipedia is an interesting example. While some bull will inevitably creep into such a place, there's also a lot of discussion about topical entries, resulting in articles balanced by people with different views. What's more, Wikipedia has also proven to collect a lot of information that one doesn't find in scholarly works. I think it's an extremely important addition to the tools of modern democracy and enlightenment, and celebrate the founder of it no end (even if I did find out he's an Ayn Rand fan... ah, well, nobody's perfect ).
                    Yeah. What he said!
                    "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                    --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by PWV
                      And insanely high software/hardware prices. Let's not lose sight of that. Just like so many "luxuries" in this world, technology is priced in such a way that only a portion of the populace can acquire it. Is the $1200 price tag on Adobe Creative Suite 2 really necessary? Does Apple really need $2500 for a MacBook Pro? Or are these prices indicative of a long-standing hubris against the lower class?
                      I had forgetten about the these costs, honestly. I was thinking of the costs for internet service, etc. In all honesty, the cost issues are less relevant now days. Although still, to an extant, cost prohibitive for lowest income bracket computers are much more affordable that many think. The average home user is perfectly content running to Wal-*&^$!#%-Mart and buy the (not-so) latest eMachine for a few hundred USD. Although not the highest quality machines or the most flexible in terms of the software that comes on them, the majority of home users need a basic word processor and internet access and that's about it. With your standard off-the-shelf eMachine you'll have WinXP Home which includes Wordpad (sometimes even MS Works will be thrown on there) and of course Windows has IE built in.

                      Now, to your point about the cost of higher end computers and more exclusive professional applications: no, they do not have to charge that much. Unfortunately (especially where Macintosh is concerned), they understand their target user well and they know that people who want that kind of quality are willing to pay for it. Does that mean that the those of the lower income brackets are unable to afford these quality soft/hardwares? Yes, it does. But that is not unique to the comptuer industries. It is found in everything...which person will buy a nice solid black walnut desk custom built for their home office and which will buy a modular desk constucted of laminated particle board held together with a few screws and some "cams"? There is no denying that most quality built products are exslusive to those with the income that allows it; but, is this "indicative of a long-standing hubris against the lower class," or is it simply a company maximizing profit by placing its price points at the place that allows for the greatest margin of profit?
                      "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                      --Thomas a Kempis

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Okay, fair enough.

                        It would seem, then, that this "divide" is nothing new. It isn't just in technology but in nearly every facet of society.

                        So it's a new version of an old song, right? And how dare that Microsoft writer think we would be so stupid as to believe it's just fiction created to inspire class warfare!
                        "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
                        --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by PsychicWarVeteran
                          With the internet, there is no such censorship. Sure, entities such as Wikipedia have taken a lot of criticism for supposedly presenting false information, but anyone willing to do any amount of actual research can readily verify (or refute) his findings.
                          The trouble with the Net is that with a bit research of anyone can readily verify and refute anything at all. There is a certain amount of skill involved in being able to detect information from noise on the Net and this is not really something that gets taught in schools (not in the UK at any rate). Consequently, one sees students unthinkingly regurgitating the most arrant nonsense that they've dredged up from the nether regions and taken as gospel truth. I really don't see how that is an improvement on the bs textbooks that you were taught from.

                          Incidentally, I'd be interested in what those textbooks were. Are you talking about History or other subjects as well?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            ne of the problem is that official history taught ins chool is very selective, but that ointernet is not a remedy. For instance In 1871, Paris has known the first communist/anarchist revolt after the defeat in the franco-priussian war. It ended in a big killing by governement troops. This modelled the social and political history of France for at least 70 years at least and this event called " la commune de Paris " is not taught !

                            If students don' t know it exists, how can they look on internet for it ?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by johneffay
                              The trouble with the Net is that with a bit research of anyone can readily verify and refute anything at all. There is a certain amount of skill involved in being able to detect information from noise on the Net and this is not really something that gets taught in schools (not in the UK at any rate). Consequently, one sees students unthinkingly regurgitating the most arrant nonsense that they've dredged up from the nether regions and taken as gospel truth. I really don't see how that is an improvement on the bs textbooks that you were taught from.
                              One of the worst days of my professional life was when a student insisted that I had presented some inaccurate information in class. He was certain of this because he had seen something different on a website. And I wasted all of that time with a doctoral degree...

                              Seriously, though, it is a bit disheartening that people fail to distinguish between reputable sources and crap. Perhaps we're simply experiencing technological growing pains.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X