sábado, 12 de marzo de 2011

Internet: a global tool?

Hi all. Welcome to my atleast3weeks proyect on Participatory Journalism subject. I'm Alba and I hope you enjoy it.
As you can see, I'm writing a blog. Yeah, that's fashionable nowadays. Actually, everything related to the Internet is in fashion today. I wonder what would be trendy in those places where Internet seems to be very far from civilization.
I guess you know now what I'm going to talk about; I'm going to study the Digital Divide.
The digital divide commonly refers to the gap or imbalance in people's access to digital information and technology, including physical access, economic resources and skills. In other words, it is the gap between those who do and those who do not have access to computers, networks, etc.
By the way, I can't see the point of many scientists of not including in the term other digital equipment such as mobile telephony and digital TV. It doesn't make sense to me. You don't need to investigate deeply to prove they should be added. You know, go to my class and see how at least 75% of my mates are using the Blackberry. I think this kind of devices will get in the near future, the same relevance as computers have today.

But let's go back to the the Digital Divide thing. (Vayamos al grano). It is still a problem considering the unachieved goal of universal access to computers and Internet connections. That's why it appears (or should appear) as a key issue in every country political agenda.

According to Jan van Dijk there are four successive and accumulative types of access that mark the steps to be taken by individual users in the total process of appropriation of digital technology:
  1. Motivation.
  2. Material access, among others physical access.
  3. Skills access, (number of “digital skills”) required to work with digital technology.
  4. Usage.

Acquiring the motivation to use a computer and to achieve an Internet connection is the first step to get access to the digital techonologies. Here is where we can find not only the “have-nots” but also the “want-nots” people. I mean, the ones who don't have access to the Internet -because of economical problems and resources, for example- and the ones who don't want to have it. In this cases technophobia -fear of technology and distrust of its beneficial effects- and computer anxiety -feeling of discomfort, stress, or fear experieced when confronting computers- usually make their appearance as major barriers of access.
The main reasons for refusing to use computers and get connected to the Internet are the following: no need or significant usage opportunities, no time or liking, rejection of the medium, lack of money and lack of skills.
For instance, my grandfather: he is completely satisfied with the TV or the radio. "Using the Internet? Bah, that's not for me..."

The following type of access is related to the extended thought that the problem of the digital divide is solved as soon as everybody has a computer and Internet connection. But that's not true at all. It's needed to make a distinction between physical access and material access. I will use a clear example to clarify this idea. A family can have a computer at home, used by the mother and the children but not by the father. Well, here we can see how he has material access to it but not physical...That has happened in my family for years, fortunately that has changed, and my father is getting more and more into the possibilities the web can bring. He started being interested on further information from Barça (http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/english/) and now he is even thinking on having a twitter account!

After having acquired the motivation to use computers and some kind of physical access to them, one has to learn to manage the hardware and the software. As stated by van Dijk, the "digital skills" are a succession of three types of skills: operational skills -capacities to work with hardware and software-, the information skills -skills to search, select and process information in computer and network sources- divided into formal information and substantial information skills, and strategic skills -capacities to use computer and network sources as the means for particular goals and for the general goal of improving one's position in society.
Nowadays institutions are offering courses to learn how to use computers, normally for old people. The problem is most of them are too expensive for elderly, as they have a low retirement pay.

Finally, the actual usage of digital media is the final stage and ultimate goal of the total process of  appropriation of technology, what we call access. Having sufficient motivation, physical access and skills to apply digital media are necessary but not sufficient conditions of actual use. Usage can be measured in at least 4 ways: usage time, usage applications, broadband or narrowband use and more or less active or creative use.

Well, now we know the heaviest part (the theory), it's time to make conclusions. 
We already know that Internet access is creating inequalities among countries, societies, and even families. Just as Manuel Castells said "Internet determines society, society determines the Internet". It's the moment to act, as government policies don't seem to be enough. How? Teaching our grandparents, for example. Small things are the ones that change the world. Small changes will lead to big ones.
Well, that's my opinion, I'm looking forward to hearing from your proposals!
Meanwhile, I let you here a video that maybe could give you inspiration... :) 

2 comentarios:

  1. Genial, Al, parece que lo dominas todo: es awesome verte por aquí, a ver si dura más de tres semanas =D

  2. I loved your post. Really, it's very useful. Specially, I liked the statement: "Internet determines society, society determines the Internet". It's clear that everything in our life is determined one thing by other, specially a realtively new tool like Internet and social networks... It's incredible. How fast is the world...