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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 2 This paper explores how people from various positions relative to computer access and competency experience these issues of the digital divide. We wondered how people negotiated the tensions that emerge as computers are touted as both tools for individual and social empowerment, and as tools for leisure and consumption. To explore this contradiction, we asked people who had varied levels of access to and competency with computers about their personal experiences and beliefs regarding the digital divide, and closely analyzed the narratives that resulted in these discussions. In a similar approach that focused on an analysis of policy documents in the European Union (E.U.), Goodwin and Spittle (2002) demonstrate that there is a pattern to the ways in which computers are discussed by policymakers. They note four discursive themes that emerge in the documents they examined: (1) information technology as both a threat and an opportunity for the nation-state, (2) technological determinism, or the belief that computers will inevitably alter the future, (3) market determinism, or the belief that current market structures will continue unfettered, and (4) the citizen primarily defined as consumer. They discuss the process by which these four themes limit the ability to envision alternatives to existing policies. In ethnographic interviews with computer users and non-users about computer use, we observed similar discursive patterns as people sought to negotiate their own positions relative to the so-called digital divide. Goodwin and Spittle’s (2002) category of technological determinism, or the inevitability of computers in the future of everyday life and its economics, was one way in which people talked about computers in our study. Similar to Goodwin and Spittle’s category of the citizen as consumer, another common theme among our research participants was the importance of consumer choice. A third

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 2
This paper explores how people from various positions relative to computer
access and competency experience these issues of the digital divide. We wondered how
people negotiated the tensions that emerge as computers are touted as both tools for
individual and social empowerment, and as tools for leisure and consumption. To explore
this contradiction, we asked people who had varied levels of access to and competency
with computers about their personal experiences and beliefs regarding the digital divide,
and closely analyzed the narratives that resulted in these discussions.
In a similar approach that focused on an analysis of policy documents in the
European Union (E.U.), Goodwin and Spittle (2002) demonstrate that there is a pattern to
the ways in which computers are discussed by policymakers. They note four discursive
themes that emerge in the documents they examined: (1) information technology as both
a threat and an opportunity for the nation-state, (2) technological determinism, or the
belief that computers will inevitably alter the future, (3) market determinism, or the belief
that current market structures will continue unfettered, and (4) the citizen primarily
defined as consumer. They discuss the process by which these four themes limit the
ability to envision alternatives to existing policies.
In ethnographic interviews with computer users and non-users about computer
use, we observed similar discursive patterns as people sought to negotiate their own
positions relative to the so-called digital divide. Goodwin and Spittle’s (2002) category of
technological determinism, or the inevitability of computers in the future of everyday life
and its economics, was one way in which people talked about computers in our study.
Similar to Goodwin and Spittle’s category of the citizen as consumer, another common
theme among our research participants was the importance of consumer choice. A third


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