From the Digital Divide to Multiple Divides: Technology, Society, and New Media Skills

From the Digital Divide to Multiple Divides: Technology, Society, and New Media Skills

Francesca Comunello (Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1852-7.ch085
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Abstract

It is widely acknowledged that the label “digital divide” can be partially misleading, because it emphasizes a binary dichotomy (“haves vs. have nots”) and a mere technological dimension (in terms of physical availability of devices or conduits). Behind the dichotomous model, however, lie different use and adoption strategies. People cannot be described as being either in or out. Evaluating the complex relationships between technological, social, and human factors raises a number of questions, mainly related to the role of technology in social development. Moreover, we should also reconsider what is commonly meant by information and communication technology. In this chapter, I will try to introduce a multilevel model for analyzing the digital divide, focusing on effective access and new media literacy. The focus will be shifted from technology to humans. In every ICT for development project, local context and local needs should be regarded as the key factors.
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Rethinking The Digital Divide: Communication Technology And Society

Rethinking the relationship between technological, social and human factors has deep consequences on the definitions and on the theoretical framework we apply to the digital divide.

It is widely acknowledged that the label “digital divide” can be partially misleading, because it mostly emphasizes (1) a binary dichotomy (“haves vs have nots”) and (2) a limiting approach to the technological dimension (mainly focusing on physical availability of devices or conduits), and to the relationships between technology and society.

The conceptual framework offered by the digital divide can also be limiting, because it appears to focus on the “gaps” that divide specific populations, i.e. on the needs affecting the so-called “have nots”, mostly located in the globalSouth, perpetuating a western-centric perspective on development.

Consequently, a rising number of scholars are questioning the label “digital divide”, adding in their books’ titles expressions like “rethinking”, “redefining”, or “beyond” (Warschauer, 2003; Mossberger, Tolbert & Stansbury, 2003, etc.).

Others suggest new definitions, in order to better describe the multidimensional phenomena related to the increasing diffusion of ICTs, such as “digital inequality” (DiMaggio & Hargittai, 2001); or propose a new framework, a “more nuanced” lens, aiming to assume the unconnected’s point of view, under the definition of “zones of silence” (Potter, 2006).

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