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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 15 initiative in addressing themselves to the problem of discrepancies in computer access, ownership, and competency. Many parents made mention of the presumed benefits that computer competency held for the education of their children and their participation in the emerging digital economy. In seeming contradiction, parents argued on the one hand that technological progress was inevitable and would itself change reality as we know it, and on the other, that personal freedoms or agency within this emerging system were possible, and the key to such individual power rested in attaining appropriate computer- related skills. While educational benefits, technological determinism, and consumer choice were all narrative themes that emerged and were secondary to individualism, there nevertheless were some adults, notably in our sample all single mothers, who employed individualist discourse while also calling into question some of its resulting outcomes. This questioning was framed in relation to the first-hand experiences of living in less-than- desirable financial circumstances, as was the case for single parents Megan Sealy, Anna Lally, and grandparent Molly Wilcox, and others. They expressed doubts about the individualistic assumptions seemingly inherent to topics of the digital divide when encouraged to reflect on the knowledge they had gleaned from lived experience. Megan Sealy was a 40-year old Anglo-American single mother of limited economic means who lived in a small city in the Southwest. She had recently attained a new computer as a part of her return to college to complete her undergraduate degree as one of a growing number of non-traditional students now flowing into American universities and colleges. Megan, who was a horticulturalist, said that her household income had recently risen to between $25,000 and $35,000 annually. She lived in a two-

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 15
initiative in addressing themselves to the problem of discrepancies in computer access,
ownership, and competency. Many parents made mention of the presumed benefits that
computer competency held for the education of their children and their participation in
the emerging digital economy. In seeming contradiction, parents argued on the one hand
that technological progress was inevitable and would itself change reality as we know it,
and on the other, that personal freedoms or agency within this emerging system were
possible, and the key to such individual power rested in attaining appropriate computer-
related skills.
While educational benefits, technological determinism, and consumer choice were
all narrative themes that emerged and were secondary to individualism, there nevertheless
were some adults, notably in our sample all single mothers, who employed individualist
discourse while also calling into question some of its resulting outcomes. This
questioning was framed in relation to the first-hand experiences of living in less-than-
desirable financial circumstances, as was the case for single parents Megan Sealy, Anna
Lally, and grandparent Molly Wilcox, and others. They expressed doubts about the
individualistic assumptions seemingly inherent to topics of the digital divide when
encouraged to reflect on the knowledge they had gleaned from lived experience.
Megan Sealy was a 40-year old Anglo-American single mother of limited
economic means who lived in a small city in the Southwest. She had recently attained a
new computer as a part of her return to college to complete her undergraduate degree as
one of a growing number of non-traditional students now flowing into American
universities and colleges. Megan, who was a horticulturalist, said that her household
income had recently risen to between $25,000 and $35,000 annually. She lived in a two-


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