Cultural Diversity and the Digital Divide

Cultural Diversity and the Digital Divide

Eulace Scott Rhoten (Kent State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-939-7.ch215
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“Since ancient times philosophers, politicians, and social critics have debated the nature of community” (Parrish, 2002, p. 260; Bunn, 1998). “Aristotle and others have claimed that community is a broader concept, but have still kept their focus on the geographical and face-to-face nature of community” (Parrish, 2002, p. 260; Aristotle, 1991). “These views were reasonable in their time, but the advent of computer networking has caused these classic interpretations of community to lose currency” (Parrish, 2002; Cooley, 1983; Marvin, 1884). Some (Fernback & Thompson, 1997) like Edmund Burke have focused on the intergenerational and traditional aspects of life that he believes form true communities (Burke, 1790). “Even such proponents of virtual community as Rheingold (1993), Schwartz (1994), and McClellan (1994) maintain ‘face-to-face meetings’ can be valuable in the formation of a true sense of community” (Ferguson, 1994, p. 48; Mowitt, 2001). However, with our new abilities to communicate synchronously with multiple parties over the Internet—called synchronous computer-mediated communication (SCMC), we have opened up entirely new possibilities for the formation of true communities (Parrish, 2002; Robins, 2000). Daniel Filmus (2003), Minister of Education, Science, and Technology, Republic of Argentina, states, “The issue of cultural diversity is the central and most essential theme of our discussion” within cyberspace’s virtual community. In order to discuss cultural diversity within this context, the reader must first find the meanings of community—both traditional (geographically) and contemporary (virtually). Literature throughout history is reviewed for definitions, succinctness, and clarity on this particular topic of virtual community diversity. “Although the classic discussions of community cannot be applied directly to the context of the Internet, traditional community and virtual community have many [similarities]” (Parrish, 2002, p. 261). This work is an analysis of the traditional “community” (Cooke, 1990)—geographic community (Cartesian space) and the progress toward the virtual community. “Individuals, or a functional substitute such as a computer identity, come together to pursue and realize common interests, which tend to privilege [those certain] particular interests and needs” (Schuler, 1994, p. 63; Holmes, 1997, p. 28). There are imbalances in the virtual cosmos, similar to the Cartesian plane. “The Internet reaches only a very small portion of the inhabitants of this planet” (Samara, 2003). While analyzing these “inhabitants,” many “technical, political, and financial challenges” (Gowing, 2003) are addressed. This article also addresses the opportunities and challenges associated with “reconciling free flow of information and the need to preserve diversity in [the] digital world” (Vike-Freiberga, 2003). Finally, this article summarizes what many global leaders and scholars say about cultural diversity and the impact on the world and on the virtual community.

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