- Liberating Voices
- Civic Intelligence
- Digital Resources
What Color is my Internet?
Pattern number within this pattern set:123
How do people socially construct technology so that it is meaningful to them?
A digital divide exists that cuts across not only education, income and geographical lines, but racial/ethnic lines as well. Even if we know the educational, income and geographical backgrounds of people, we can only explain 50% of why the digital divide exists between whites and other groups such as African Americans and Latinos. What accounts for the other 50% of the explanation?
Our ethnographic research on Internet users' perceptions of cyberspace indicate that African Americans perceived cyberspace as lacking "color" -- eg. content that was relevant to their lives. Thus, while African Americans may not feel completely excluded from cyberspace, the may not feel completely included either. Inclusion in any dominant group enhances an individual's sense of well-being, self-worth, self-esteem and the ability to participate in the social shaping of the future. If African Americans (or other similar groups lacking equitable access to computers/Internet) do not overcome the digital divide that plagues their community at present, they may become alienated from the very medium that holds so much social, economic, politcal, and cultural promise and power for them, as individuals and as a group in the 21st century.
1) Draw from existing communication theories (such as diffusion theory, knowledge gap theory and social construction of technology theory) to propose applications to reducing the cultural barriers to the digital divide.
2) Make sure research gets respondents/subjects to speak in their own words about why they use (or don't use) the Internet, so that applications to combat the digital divide can be appropriately targeted.
3) Usseful solutions to combat the digital divide must consider providing content relevant to people's lives to motivate underserved groups to go online and make them feel welcome.