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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 4 The first language or discourse of individualism…powerfully deflects and deforms everything that passes through it; like a system of cartographic projection it translates the content offered it into the style and specificity of its own volumes and contours, with the Wittgensteinian consequence that whatever it cannot express falls outside of social reality….This means the exclusion of alternatives, of visions of radically different kinds of social arrangements, which cannot compute in the dominant discourse or language. (p. 556) Jameson argues that individualism is a legitimated, taken-for-granted view that permeates public policy documents as well as less formalized expressions of public opinion. In this paper, we demonstrate how this “first language” or discourse of individualism constrains the public debates of the digital divide. After highlighting several examples in which individualism seemed to trump other possible approaches to the digital divide in respondents’ narratives, we discuss cases in which the narrative theme of individualism was present but was tempered by the lived experience of economic disadvantage. Finally, we consider the contradictions that emerged in our conversations in relation to the tension between the construction of computers as a luxury item and as a tool of social, economic, and possibly political empowerment. Critical Ethnography and Narrative Analysis Following a tradition associated with Antonio Gramsci, critical ethnographers aim to understand the relationship between societal structures (especially those economic and political) and ideological patterns of thought that constrain the human imagination and thus limit opportunities for confronting and changing unjust social systems (Peck, 2001; Stabile, 1995; Gibson, 2000). We use the term “discourse” to refer to the ways in which

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 4
The first language or discourse of individualism…powerfully deflects and
deforms everything that passes through it; like a system of cartographic projection
it translates the content offered it into the style and specificity of its own volumes
and contours, with the Wittgensteinian consequence that whatever it cannot
express falls outside of social reality….This means the exclusion of alternatives,
of visions of radically different kinds of social arrangements, which cannot
compute in the dominant discourse or language. (p. 556)
Jameson argues that individualism is a legitimated, taken-for-granted view that permeates
public policy documents as well as less formalized expressions of public opinion. In this
paper, we demonstrate how this “first language” or discourse of individualism constrains
the public debates of the digital divide. After highlighting several examples in which
individualism seemed to trump other possible approaches to the digital divide in
respondents’ narratives, we discuss cases in which the narrative theme of individualism
was present but was tempered by the lived experience of economic disadvantage.
Finally, we consider the contradictions that emerged in our conversations in relation to
the tension between the construction of computers as a luxury item and as a tool of social,
economic, and possibly political empowerment.
Critical Ethnography and Narrative Analysis
Following a tradition associated with Antonio Gramsci, critical ethnographers aim
to understand the relationship between societal structures (especially those economic and
political) and ideological patterns of thought that constrain the human imagination and
thus limit opportunities for confronting and changing unjust social systems (Peck, 2001;
Stabile, 1995; Gibson, 2000). We use the term “discourse” to refer to the ways in which


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