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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 20 increasing awareness of economic disparities, in this paper we argue that a “third language” emerges in conversations with persons who speak from the lived situations of economic disadvantage, as was the case in the narratives of the single parents reviewed above. While unnamed as such, we propose that this “third language” offers some vestiges of Marxist critique in relation to the issue of public policy formation around the so-called digital divide. However, we caution that the potential political power of this “third language” is muted as it echoes, rather than challenges, the contradictions inherent to the promise of the digital era that are found at the heart of both corporate advertising and current social policies. What we found in this study was not evidence of a “third language” of Marxist critique, therefore, although this concept of the “third language” helps us to understand how people might articulate delegitimated narrative approaches to the digital divide. Instead, we found evidence of where and how conflicts with the dominant discourse emerged. These conflicts echo contradictions that have been embedded in the promises of the digital era from its beginnings. On the one hand, respondents articulated views long a part of public policy debates that have funded technological initiatives in schools and other public sites: that computers could be used to facilitate social, economic, and political empowerment. On the other hand, respondents articulated the views that have been a part of marketing strategies for computers that emphasize the promise of enhanced consumption for leisure activities. This is not a new marketing strategy, but dates to the earliest days of mass society, as Marchand’s (1985) work on advertising demonstrated (M. Andrejevic, personal communication, September 24, 2002).

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 20
increasing awareness of economic disparities, in this paper we argue that a “third
language” emerges in conversations with persons who speak from the lived situations of
economic disadvantage, as was the case in the narratives of the single parents reviewed
above. While unnamed as such, we propose that this “third language” offers some
vestiges of Marxist critique in relation to the issue of public policy formation around the
so-called digital divide.
However, we caution that the potential political power of this “third language” is
muted as it echoes, rather than challenges, the contradictions inherent to the promise of
the digital era that are found at the heart of both corporate advertising and current social
policies. What we found in this study was not evidence of a “third language” of Marxist
critique, therefore, although this concept of the “third language” helps us to understand
how people might articulate delegitimated narrative approaches to the digital divide.
Instead, we found evidence of where and how conflicts with the dominant discourse
emerged.
These conflicts echo contradictions that have been embedded in the promises of
the digital era from its beginnings. On the one hand, respondents articulated views long a
part of public policy debates that have funded technological initiatives in schools and
other public sites: that computers could be used to facilitate social, economic, and
political empowerment. On the other hand, respondents articulated the views that have
been a part of marketing strategies for computers that emphasize the promise of enhanced
consumption for leisure activities. This is not a new marketing strategy, but dates to the
earliest days of mass society, as Marchand’s (1985) work on advertising demonstrated
(M. Andrejevic, personal communication, September 24, 2002).


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