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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 14 not self-sufficient enough to figure out how to purchase and refurbish what they considered to be affordable computers, Tina, like Chris Chandler, offered reasons for why computer ownership wasn’t as important as people had been led to believe. She articulated the narrative theme that relates computers to educational attainment when speaking of possible scholastic benefits to her family’s computer attainment, while also constructing computers as a luxury item oriented to consumption and leisure: in this case, serving as a way for her to communicate with her friends and family. By using the language of individual choice and lack of motivation to explain why she does not have a computer, however, she was able to preserve her own sense of self-reliance while constructing computers as a luxury item. Both the educational benefits for her daughter, and the social benefits of connection with her loved ones, were downplayed as a luxury that she chose not to consume. We thus see in Tina’s words evidence of how individualism as a discourse structures secondary narrative themes of the educational and social and entertainment benefits of computer ownership and use. In discussions of the educational benefits of computers and of the possibilities for increased social contact and other consumer-oriented activities, we heard narrative themes that echoed those of Tina from several other economically disadvantaged single parents. Individualism Filtered by Experience As could be expected by our earlier discussions of individualism as a dominant, legitimated discourse, we were not participants in any conversations that were completely free of appeals to the importance of self-reliance and initiative. When it came to discussions of the digital divide, parents from varying socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and geographic positions argued from the perspective that parents could, and should, take

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 14
not self-sufficient enough to figure out how to purchase and refurbish what they
considered to be affordable computers, Tina, like Chris Chandler, offered reasons for
why computer ownership wasn’t as important as people had been led to believe. She
articulated the narrative theme that relates computers to educational attainment when
speaking of possible scholastic benefits to her family’s computer attainment, while also
constructing computers as a luxury item oriented to consumption and leisure: in this case,
serving as a way for her to communicate with her friends and family. By using the
language of individual choice and lack of motivation to explain why she does not have a
computer, however, she was able to preserve her own sense of self-reliance while
constructing computers as a luxury item. Both the educational benefits for her daughter,
and the social benefits of connection with her loved ones, were downplayed as a luxury
that she chose not to consume. We thus see in Tina’s words evidence of how
individualism as a discourse structures secondary narrative themes of the educational and
social and entertainment benefits of computer ownership and use. In discussions of the
educational benefits of computers and of the possibilities for increased social contact and
other consumer-oriented activities, we heard narrative themes that echoed those of Tina
from several other economically disadvantaged single parents.
Individualism Filtered by Experience
As could be expected by our earlier discussions of individualism as a dominant,
legitimated discourse, we were not participants in any conversations that were completely
free of appeals to the importance of self-reliance and initiative. When it came to
discussions of the digital divide, parents from varying socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and
geographic positions argued from the perspective that parents could, and should, take


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