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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 1 Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide Introduction: For many years, U.S. and other governments around the world have advocated the development of computer skills based on the belief that these skills are a necessity for the emerging marketplace and for participation in self-governance. Public rhetoric about computers trumpets grand, sweeping claims about the miracles of information technology, often equating technological progress with the promise of social benefits that are equally offered to all (CEO Forum, 2001; Gates, 1996; “Governor Would Give,” 2000; Negroponte, 1995; “State of the Union,” 1997). Of course, the perceived need to close the divide is a much-discussed issue. Many ethnographers have noted that the digital divide reflects other deep divides in society, and as such cannot be addressed with technological solutions alone (Bird & Jorgenson, 2001; Livingstone, 2001; Clark, in press; Webber, 2003). Critical theorists such as Robins and Webster (1999) and Colby (2001) have similarly argued that public policies supportive of computers in schools and other public places can actually reinforce, rather than alleviate, structural inequalities. Moreover, critical race theorists Nakamura (2002) and Sterne (2000) have noted the ways that computer practices extend injustices related to racial/ethnic inequalities while also reinforcing stereotypes about differing groups. These and other scholars point out the ways in which “techno- boosterism” functions to promote corporate interests as universal interests, thus enabling social policies on computers to benefit corporate profits rather than to address deeply structured inequalities.

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 1
Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Introduction:
For many years, U.S. and other governments around the world have advocated the
development of computer skills based on the belief that these skills are a necessity for the
emerging marketplace and for participation in self-governance. Public rhetoric about
computers trumpets grand, sweeping claims about the miracles of information
technology, often equating technological progress with the promise of social benefits that
are equally offered to all (CEO Forum, 2001; Gates, 1996; “Governor Would Give,”
2000; Negroponte, 1995; “State of the Union,” 1997).
Of course, the perceived need to close the divide is a much-discussed issue.
Many ethnographers have noted that the digital divide reflects other deep divides in
society, and as such cannot be addressed with technological solutions alone (Bird &
Jorgenson, 2001; Livingstone, 2001; Clark, in press; Webber, 2003). Critical theorists
such as Robins and Webster (1999) and Colby (2001) have similarly argued that public
policies supportive of computers in schools and other public places can actually
reinforce, rather than alleviate, structural inequalities. Moreover, critical race theorists
Nakamura (2002) and Sterne (2000) have noted the ways that computer practices extend
injustices related to racial/ethnic inequalities while also reinforcing stereotypes about
differing groups. These and other scholars point out the ways in which “techno-
boosterism” functions to promote corporate interests as universal interests, thus enabling
social policies on computers to benefit corporate profits rather than to address deeply
structured inequalities.


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