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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 21 As we have noted, technological determinism factored into almost every conversation in this study, as people explained what they perceived to be the inevitability of computers in the workplace and home and their sense that the technology was changing their sociocultural environment in ways that were beyond the control of any individuals or groups. This assumption, at first glance in contradiction to the agentive assumptions inherent to individualism, was accompanied by the belief in the educational benefits of computers. Essentially, many people believed that computers were inevitably changing the environment, and the only way to retain agency was to learn about computers so as to pursue one’s own interests, be they oriented to economic self- improvement or to consumption and leisure activities. We argue that this belief in the computer’s ability to propagate agency and self-determination is itself a product of a hegemonic socio-cultural structure in which computers are sold as critical means of consumption for both knowledge and information, and consumer goods. The socio- cultural packaging of computers as both a means for the consumption of knowledge and information and entertainment and other consumer "goods," is brilliantly insidious, if also complex and definitely not the result of a dark conspiracy. That is, at the same time that those with lesser socioeconomic status are being told that computers are a key aspect of the educational attainment that might enable them to move up the American socio- economic ladder, they are also sold the notion that computers comprise a luxury item whose primary application is consumption of entertainment. Such a contradictory sales pitch would not be possible without the overarching discourse of individualism. This discourse explains away such contradiction and glosses over the fundamental ambiguity and complexity of the social production and appropriation of technology. It does so by

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 21
As we have noted, technological determinism factored into almost every
conversation in this study, as people explained what they perceived to be the inevitability
of computers in the workplace and home and their sense that the technology was
changing their sociocultural environment in ways that were beyond the control of any
individuals or groups. This assumption, at first glance in contradiction to the agentive
assumptions inherent to individualism, was accompanied by the belief in the educational
benefits of computers. Essentially, many people believed that computers were inevitably
changing the environment, and the only way to retain agency was to learn about
computers so as to pursue one’s own interests, be they oriented to economic self-
improvement or to consumption and leisure activities. We argue that this belief in the
computer’s ability to propagate agency and self-determination is itself a product of a
hegemonic socio-cultural structure in which computers are sold as critical means of
consumption for both knowledge and information, and consumer goods. The socio-
cultural packaging of computers as both a means for the consumption of knowledge and
information and entertainment and other consumer "goods," is brilliantly insidious, if also
complex and definitely not the result of a dark conspiracy. That is, at the same time that
those with lesser socioeconomic status are being told that computers are a key aspect of
the educational attainment that might enable them to move up the American socio-
economic ladder, they are also sold the notion that computers comprise a luxury item
whose primary application is consumption of entertainment. Such a contradictory sales
pitch would not be possible without the overarching discourse of individualism. This
discourse explains away such contradiction and glosses over the fundamental ambiguity
and complexity of the social production and appropriation of technology. It does so by


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