Engagement in the Digital Age

Digital DivideI’ve just finished reading Futurelab’s Beyond the Digital Divide paper from June last year. I must have missed it at the time of publication but came across it in a round-about way thru’ their blog: flux.

There were a couple of things that stood out for me. Firstly, the need to move away from a conventional simplistic understanding of the digital divide which is essentially one based on access to technology.

That’s not to say that this divide between those with and without access should be ignored or downplayed just that it would appear to be more complex than simply the haves and have-nots. For example the Futurelab paper refers to people who have access but don’t make the most appropriate use of it & those who just don’t engage with ICTs or get little from their engagement. In an earlier post I referred to digital dissidents, those who avoid using technology whenever possible, which in one UK survey accounted for 20% of teenagers (See Synovate survey in CIBER report in Net-savvy post!!).

The Futurelab report refers back to a 2000 paper More than Access (PDF) which identifies a number of literacies to consider around the digital divide. I particularly liked the idea of an adaptive literacy – an ability and willingness to apply previous learning to new situations. This is crucial in the world of constantly changing ICTs. The report also took me to I’ve never tried it because I don’t like it: enabling technology choices (PDF) by Mike Cushman & Ela Klecun here at the LSE. They advocate a more discursive approach to ICT teaching to enable understanding rather than just skills acquisition and suggest a need to focus on the possibilities not a prescribed set of uses in order to encourage engagement. I think this is something we are quite good at with regard to our learning technology programme but as ever ‘could do better’!

While reading this paper I kept thinking digital divide, beyond, rethinking, divide, digital… where have I come across this recently? Then of course it hit me: ALT-C 2008 ‘Rethinking the Digital Divide’. See you there?

Image: http://flickr.com/photos/oliverlavery/120394577/

Reader Comments

  1. Matt

    Thanks for the name check. More papers for anyone interested at http://penceil.lse.ac.uk

    We are trying move away from the term digital divide for intra-country differences and reserve that term for the gap between more and less developed countries. We prefer the term digital exclusion which links to the literature about social exclusion and the two are very related (some US colleagues talk about digital inequality – also a more helpful term than DD).

    Lots of data about who does or does not use in the Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) reports http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/microsites/oxis/

    We are just finishing a special issue of Information Technology and People on digital inclusion and exclusion, I’ll let you know when it’s out.


  2. Many thanks Mike. The terminology is very interesting. For me the nuance of digital exclusion would seem to be missing out those who are opting out through lack of interest in ICTs and be focused on those excluded due to reasons of social exclusion. Looking forward to reading more on this. Thanks for the OxIS link too.

    Big delay in your comment appearing as it was marked as junk by wordpress!!

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