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Ethnographic Interviews on the Digital Divide
Unformatted Document Text:  Ethnographic Interviews 9 Neither Donald nor his wife Kathy agreed with the idea that certain organizations should provide access to those whose access was limited, in the schools or in their homes. In the statement above, Donald implied that people could somehow overcome even the limits of lacking service providers if they desired it enough, offering a mystical “if they build it, service will come” philosophy for the real technological problem of limited access. We see in his statement a strong belief in self-reliance and initiative, a position that provides justification for letting governments, schools, and other public programs off the hook for any perceived failure to provide access to technology or development of competency. Surprisingly, this view of self-help as the primary reason for credit or blame in the realm of computer competency was not limited to those families from upper income brackets. Many of the families of much lesser means similarly rejected the idea that anything other than individual motivation and initiative might play a role in closing the current gaps in ownership and online access. These families—which included those who might be targeted by programs seeking to provide courses in competency or access- related programs -- similarly rejected any possibility that persons or programs beyond the individual should play a role in closing the gap. This was not because they believed that there no longer was a gap in ownership and competency, however – a position touted in contemporary policy reports justifying cuts to federal funding of such programs (e.g., “A Nation Online” published by the United States Department of Commerce, 2002). Instead, people voiced the belief that computer competency programs were unnecessary because computers and access to the online environment were a luxury related to entertainment and consumer choice rather than necessary for participation in contemporary society and its education, economy, or politics. In this way, the discourse of individualism framed

Authors: Clark, Lynn., Demont-Heinrich, Christof. and Webber, Scott.
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Ethnographic Interviews 9
Neither Donald nor his wife Kathy agreed with the idea that certain organizations should
provide access to those whose access was limited, in the schools or in their homes. In the
statement above, Donald implied that people could somehow overcome even the limits of
lacking service providers if they desired it enough, offering a mystical “if they build it,
service will come” philosophy for the real technological problem of limited access. We
see in his statement a strong belief in self-reliance and initiative, a position that provides
justification for letting governments, schools, and other public programs off the hook for
any perceived failure to provide access to technology or development of competency.
Surprisingly, this view of self-help as the primary reason for credit or blame in the
realm of computer competency was not limited to those families from upper income
brackets. Many of the families of much lesser means similarly rejected the idea that
anything other than individual motivation and initiative might play a role in closing the
current gaps in ownership and online access. These families—which included those who
might be targeted by programs seeking to provide courses in competency or access-
related programs -- similarly rejected any possibility that persons or programs beyond the
individual should play a role in closing the gap. This was not because they believed that
there no longer was a gap in ownership and competency, however – a position touted in
contemporary policy reports justifying cuts to federal funding of such programs (e.g., “A
Nation Online” published by the United States Department of Commerce, 2002). Instead,
people voiced the belief that computer competency programs were unnecessary because
computers and access to the online environment were a luxury related to entertainment
and consumer choice rather than necessary for participation in contemporary society and
its education, economy, or politics. In this way, the discourse of individualism framed


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