All entries for Saturday 12 May 2007

May 12, 2007

Digital divide

Writing about web page,,2075529,00.html

We might think of research only when we read about a new scientific discovery or when people talk about the “fat gene”. However, we use research everyday. Even informally, for example, when we discuss amongst our friends where somebody bought a bag or a book.

James epitomises how kids use computers. A year ago, he mostly used his for homework. This year, though, he is heavily into iTunes, Bebo and YouTube. And he used the web to research getting a dog. “Fed up that my parents wouldn’t get their act together, I searched the internet for the right breed at the right price.” For him, “the computer has become the best place to find information of any sort”.

The point I am trying to make is that at a basic level, for “everyday research”, the internet is changing the way we do things. In addition, the current behaviour that we see in teenagers is not exclusive to them. We have all changed how we go about shopping in one way or another -or for some of us, at least how we think about it. However, some more than others have changed somehow. Some obviously see more benefits in changing, for example, saving a few pounds, saving a drive to the bookshop.

Both seemed to mirror James’s attitude to technology: it’s a tool to help them do what they want to do.

Teenagers have noticed intuitively that technology help them to do what they want to do. And they don’t even call it technology! I reckon there is a bit more of familiarity, and therefore of usability. For teenagers, maybe, technology is there and if it helps so why not. They use technology to play, to entertain themselves, to kill time, to do their homework, why not to research- as a basic survival activity “I want a dog, my parents don’t get me one, let’s find it by myself”. For a child having a dog might be a survival thing to do.

However, there is something else, if I am growing with a pc, then I am not going to be scared of using it or I am not going to think, this machine is there to replace me. However, if I have not grown with technology, I might go “what is this?” or I might reactively say or think “I am not into pc’s”, “I don’t do blogs, I am a person”, “maybe they brought this new machine to replace me as it has happened in the past with others”. Technology in the form of computers here provokes different feelings.

why his generation’s use of technology such as iPods, games players and mobile phones with built-in cameras and video – is fundamentally different from those over 30 or 40.

I feel where there is a digital divide, radically, this divide comprehend these new technologies iPods, games and mobile phones. However, for some who are over 30 or 40, it is favourable to have technology on our side as it gives us choice, for example instead of buying a movie in HTMV for £10 I will buy it in Amazon for £5. We do have options. The sad part is when we don’t even give ourselves an option.

Josh, Anna and James insist that their incessant use of technology does not make them geeks. Josh explains that “to most grownups, a geek is someone who can use a computer. To us, a geek is someone who can build a computer and its applications himself.” Neither Josh nor Anna know any real geeks, whom they consider to be rather sad.

This digital divide is changing also the definition of a geek, for older generations, a geek is somebody sad who uses computers intensively. While for younger generations it is somebody sad who builds computers and software. What worries me is what kind of specs (yes like those in specsavers but that in academia are called “paradigms”) we all have that we cannot see (or maybe don’t want to see) that internet is there to make things easier, bearing in mind that there must be a need for it or some familiarity.

To them, computers and the internet are just tools to help them communicate with their mates. They are also helping them to solve problems, collaborate with each other and create their own knowledge. Did old-time education do all of this? Adults should stop worrying and join in. That could plug the child/adult divide – at least until the next generation.

My e–book dream

Writing about web page,,2077278,00.html

One of the problems with the word “technology” is that sometimes we related it to things like gizmo, gadget or “a thingy that might not work”. We forget, I forget, that technology is a book, the kettle, the alphabet. When we forget that these are artefacts of technology, they all become taken-for-granted. They stopped being considered technology and become part of our day-to-day life. Like it happens now with younger generations now, they are growing with ipods and msn (for example), so for them these will be like for us phones, books are.

Let’s now think about “books” and our relationships with them, yes because I feel there are many kinds of relationship we can have with books. These can be at the level of pets, children, partners, god knows what else! I reckon it will be difficult for some to think about the possibility of replacing them with “ebooks”.

However, let’s come back to the younger generations, those “digital natives” might not develop the same relationships we now develop with books. It seems that they might not even have a relationship with them at all. It is argued that these digital natives not be very much used to reading and writing, some claim that for them reflecting will be very hard (when it is obvious that reflecting is a very difficult task in nature for us now).

For those who are not digital natives, we still have a choice, it is matter of taking ir or not. Why amazon gives the choice of reading “an ebook” you might be interested in buying? It might be to replicate how we buy our books in a bookshop. I have found the readers’ comments very useful as well, this will replicat when a friend or anybody recommends a book to you.

Some have actually found one good use for an ebook. For example, instead of physically going to waterstones or wherever and look for a book that the store might not have in stock, I save a ride or a walk to the shop by browsing online. I reckon it might be matter of time the e-book for changing from dream to reality. We are in changing times. For the time being however until I am given more choices, I will enjoy reading a book and browsing an ebook before buying.

It’s partly that traditional books are such good technology, even compared with CDs or newspapers. They are a little larger than the hand, extremely portable, nice to hold and look at and remarkably cheap. Yes, there is an environmental issue but most are made of cheap, sustainable woodpulp. Simple technology that works is unlikely to go out of fashion. Those futurologists of the 1960s who predicted a world of silver jumpsuits and food-pills forgot that socks, buttons and saucepans were simple technology that worked, and the same is true of books.


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