The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide. Access to Information. Whatever you want to call it, is everywhere.

img_1201Consider this poster in Starbucks. First off, this is wonderful. Breast feeding is very important for the health of a new baby. The instinct to nurse does not always translate into an easy experience for either mother or baby. Groups like these help new moms find a venue where they can talk with other new moms about the experience of having a baby and some of the trouble they may have with nursing. This is especially important for women who might not have anyone else to talk to.

What might not be clear from the photo is how to contact this group. You can email. You can contact them on Facebook. But there is no phone number. The only way you can contact this group is do so via the Internet or show up at one of their meetings.

Not everyone has access to the Internet. Despite the fact that we constantly see people glued to their phones the reality is that there are still people without the ability to access the Internet. Yes, public libraries have Internet access for the public, but what if you do not have the ability to get to the library? If you live in Bloomington, IN you can live within the city limits but still be over a mile from a bus stop (with no sidewalk). How exactly are you supposed to get to the library?

Assumptions of access to technology create barriers for those that are disadvantaged. Groups like milk matters are extremely important. It is likely that people do just show up without having any previous contact with the group, but that is not the point. When we expect everyone to have Internet access people get left out. Those with access to the Internet understand how integral it is in order to be part of society.

Do you have any question that the water from your sink is drinkable? Probably not (provided you do not live in Flint, MI). It is difficult for most people to imagine not having access to potable water: it is just something that we all have. Therefore it becomes very difficult for us to empathize with those without such access.

While the Internet is not a biological necessity, it is very close. Paying bills, homework, finding information; these are all things that most of society does via the Internet with little thought of the means necessary for carrying out these tasks.

As the functioning of society continues to become entangled with the Internet it will become easier to forget those without access.

 

 

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About Nicholas Wyant

I am the Head of Social Sciences at Indiana University Wells Library. I am responsible for Political Science, Criminal Justice & Social Work. In addition to my subject areas I also study student's interaction with technology. Recently, I have altered my methods from a sociological perspective to an anthropological one.
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