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.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. mandy precious


    I’m 42. I have two ipods. One for podcasts and video. The other for music. I have a desk top and a lap top. I am on facebook, which I can also check on my mobile. I access the internet many times in a day. Most of my friends, ranging in age from 18 to 55/60 are on facebook too. I use video, audio editing tools most weeks. I like to experiment with whatever new technology is out there. I think lots of people do. Then I am in the arts. My sister, 43, who left school at 16 uses the computer every day to buy and sell on ebay. My father, 72, uses email and text messaging.

    However…. not everyone over 40 is a luddite. It’s important to remember that.


    09 Oct 2007, 22:24

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