Tuesday, April 6, 2010

why should a computer solve equity?

This week in P574 we are studying the Digital Divide in Information and Communicative Technologies (ICT)!

So for everyone who asks me, "Jeff what do you do in grad school?" This is what I do. We looked at 3 articles and one report on the difference in participation in technologies, covering race, class, gender, and geography. Yes, geography.

Mark Waschauer writes on the issue of access to the internet. The claim is geography based. The questions raised are, "First, is lack of ICT access a cause or effect of
poverty or other measures of social exclusion? Second, what does it
really mean to have access to ICTs? And third, what is the best approach
to dealing with unequal access?"

The chapter says that lack of access to ICT (computers, internet, etc...) is a causal to impoverishment. Whoa! So Mark is really saying, without the web, your aren't only worse off because you cant torrent "New Moon" but you also are going to be in poverty. I know what you're thinking, my great-great-great-grandparents didn't have a computer or an internet and they did all-right. But this is being written in comparison of countries like Malawi and the USA. But to put it into a local perspective, today I needed an optometrist. I went with the one who had the best website. You could argue that my new and friendly optometrist has more access to ICT and better support for ICT. This optometrist will not be living in squalor. ICT can predict this. I found it interesting that Mark talked about Egypt's aggressive campaign on getting the country wired. Here, the government grabbed the Ministry of Education together they build technology development centers. Now, Egypt has more capital than a country like Malawi and can invest in government programming. So what is Malawi to do? They need a change in the social environment to facilitate “the learning of new behaviors that propagate continuous improvements in conditions of living” (Corea 2000, 9). Well said Corea.

Carsataphen (1999) found that male members dominated online discussions. This is in looking at how male and female members differ in online discourse. What is bothering me is why people assume that computers will solve equity issues between genders? The authors mention that women are socially conditioned to avoid confrontation whereas men enjoy it as a game.

Are people expecting computers to solve issues of gender roles/equity in this digital divide?

I think that is a foolish claim. Those pushing this agenda, excluded from our course readings but I know you're out there, I would liken to OLPC (one laptop per child) folks. Those believing that putting computers in disadvantaged or marginalized populations will solve issues like education. It falls into an ideological category. It's ultimately up to teachers, and deisgners to institute this kind of ecology or value system.

Does this mean our society and our social ecology needs to learn new behaviors that propagate continuous improvements in the conditions of living? I think Corea would agree.

That's where John Ive comes in.

Wait you don't know who John Ive is? Look at this buff stud! Now I bet you wanna know him. He is the most important product designer in the world.

He is the lead designer from Apple Inc. Remember the unibody macs, this guy. The iPhone, his idea...err design. And iPad, once again this dude. He also is responsible (in part) for how you use this neat gizmo, the iPad.

I am of the Macheads/apple fanboys who believe the iPad will right every wrong technology has pervaded. I think the design is genius in that there is nothing saying, this is a boy toy or girl toy. None of that choose your happy meal with a barbie or hot wheels BS.

The intuitive user interface is so easy a 36 month old can use it. -Watch out Geico Cavemen, you're next. Just watch this clip. You don't need to watch the whole thing but enough to see her spell lion.

My educational model this week is a rip-off of a cliche. Deal with it. The iPad, this wonder tool, is the first of it's kind to interact with people implicitly on their individualized level. This is the development of a social ecology to contribute to benefiting the continuous improvement of conditions of living. I can't say it will solve every equity issue, but it is a leap in the right direction.


  1. That is a hilarious model, but why no handi-capped people? Also all this bs about technology being bad for the environment, we just need some beavers and giraffes and the ozone layer in there holding hands with everyone else. geezus those people look like they've never worked a day in their lives. Alright Jeff, the above comments were the first three thoughts (somewhat non-sensical and sardonic) that came to my mind when I saw your model. I thought I would type them out to evidence a bold sexist claim - its not that men love confrontation and women avoid it, rather its that men have fewer problems than women posting the first thoughts that come to their minds. Of course that is not true either, but its fun to post non-true thoughts onto the internet...if you're a dude.

  2. I'm interested in how the iPad has captivated us and has off and on brought social networks like twitter almost to a standstill. I wonder if it's in our nature to treat the technology as newsworthy instead of the practices the technology supports (or disallows), or instead of the culture that allows (or disallows) certain technologies to happen.

    I'm thinking back lately to Bonnie Nardi's argument about the dangerous rhetorical themes that dominate conversations about technologies: tech as neutral, tech as panacea, tech as ecosystem. I wonder if it isn't time for education researcher to go back to thinking about which approach to technology they embrace, on purpose or by accident.

  3. David, sorry. I couldn't find a picture like this of the BK Kids featuring wheelz.

    Jenna, I'm glad you bring up the Nardi argument of technology's bias/role. I am in the neutral group. I think app designers are in the panacea group. And hardware deisgners (Apple, Ive, Gates) are in the ecosystem group. Today I tweeted that Vygotsky would be all over the iPad due to it's inherent lean to Zone-of-Proximal-Development. That's what I was hinting at in this post. I think that researchers need to look at technology as a tool and what approaches can compliment education.

    Your first point brings up an excellent question about society's obsession with the newer, faster, shinier, thing. I don't kno if that will ever go away. All we can do is educate people to see through the BS. For example, we should teach how to decipher media messages and look at across comparable products to decide which is really the better.

  4. Jeff, good post. But it leaves a glaring issue (that happens to come with all Mac/Apple products. That issue is one of class, status, and income. While you can't walk around campus without seeing everyone with an iphone or ipod or a bunch of macbooks (I'm like one of 5 PCs in our program). However, in the real world, most average folks can't afford a $1300 macbook let alone a $500 ipad. Now, if you're talking about institutional use (e.g. schools provide the technology) it still presents a divide since most kids are still more fluent in pc than mac because the price point for pc makes them far more widespread in homes. No, I am not mac-bashing like you may jump onto. I grew up using a mac from age 2-12, my high school had maclabs and mobile mac carts rather than laptop carts. I have been a user of both mac and pc and I understand that advantages of both parties. But much like your 3-year old video, you have to start from scratch. And those that have macs/mac experience become that haves and those that only have a *wretch* (sympathetically thrown in for my mac friends) pc or pc use experience will be the have-nots. This again comes back to a divide between high and low SES students and individuals. So, while I agree that mac usage might be very advantageous, especially once the ipad becomes more developed (e.g. 2nd or 3rd gen). The only thing mac needs to overcome to gain a much greater foothold on the computer market and achieve one ipad per child (OIPC), they have to become more accessible in price to the masses. Until that happens, all things mac may not be an interest in the products because they are easy to use or other things, but because it is a status symbol.