Monday, January 23, 2012

Digital Divide?

Dear Ms. Wyatt,
I agree with your attempt in “Non-Users Also Matter” to explore the reasons why some choose not to use the Internet. I think labeling non-internet users, and overlooking their lack of participation by assuming they are victims of a socio-economic digital divide is dangerous. It limits our scope of the things some may find unappealing about the Internet. This essay was written in 2003 and although it may not seem relevant, I think one important theme is still worth examining. To assume non-internet users cannot access the Internet due to lack of availability is to ignore the fact that there are many aspects of the current Internet that are unappealing to users. When you are discussing the studies that track Internet use, I found this quote particularly interesting, “…access translates into usage.” As you point out there are some “developed” places where non-use of the Internet is a choice.  This points to the idea that certain aspects of the Internet are a turn off to Internet users. To assume all Internet users don’t care if sites like Google, and Facebook are using user’s information is to turn a blind eye to the things every Internet user should be aware of. You mention that policy makers also need to be aware of the non-users and I think this is vital to fostering a safe Internet environment in the future. If policy makers examine some of the justifications non-users have for not participating in the Internet I am sure they would find that many are displeased with the invasion of privacy that surrounds so much of the Internet. Illana Gershon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” offers better incite however to how the Internet plays a role in peoples life. Although non-users are important to examine, it is even more vital to examine the ways in which the Internet has penetrated our everyday lives and this can be seen in Gershon’s stories of how romantic relationships play out online. Gershon even goes so far as to explain the “ideologies” that have become a part of Internet user’s everyday lives. Instead of examining the different ways demographics use and don’t use the internet Gershon examines how these different demographics use the internet in their everyday lives which is more telling of the societal function of the internet. I think your piece was also trying to examine the Internet in everyday life, however it lacked examples of how Internet users and non-users view the Internet. Stephanie Rosenblum also does a practical job of examining how the Internet is used in everyday life with applications of Twitter, Freedom and Google Plus. Where Gershon fails to examine the reason for non-use, Rosenblum mentions it briefly explaining some feelings of “social-media” overload. The examination of non-use though should be more widely discussed as you suggest.

Thank you for your time.

Sofia Pitt
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