CCI’s Dr Richard Howells was a live guest on BBC Radio 4’s “You and Yours” programme on August 1st. He was part of a discussion on the “digital divide” and social exclusion from the internet.
He took the view that while of course campaigns for digital inclusivity were to be welcomed, we should at the same time be cautious in the seemingly headlong rush to digitise every aspect of everyone’s lives. It was important that information technology did not completely replace more established and sometimes more effective channels of communication. While some contributors welcomed the “electronic village hall”, Dr Howells argued that we should not at the same time demolish the real thing. We still had to include the “Basildon Bond” generation and not simply substitute one “hard to reach” group for another.
1 thought on “The Digital Divide”
I agree that we have to be cautious about hailing ‘the digital revolution’ as inevitable, or a resounding success. There have been, and continue to be, technical problems with digital connections and perfomance, cable television being one example (who hasn’t tried in vain to ‘press the red button’ for extra information only to be stuck interminably in digital handset freeze-lock!) In addition to problems of malfunction, there are many people who feel excluded from new digital technologies for reasons of age, social group, income or technophobia.
Elton John’s reported recent rant that the internet is destroying music, as people stay at home making and downloading music online rather than communicating and creating together in groups, included his suggestion that the internet be shut down for five years to see what art would be produced as a consequence. Although his proposed information superhighway shutdown is unlikely to happen in today’s email, Amazon, YouTube and MySpace-centred world, ideally we should never become so reliant on new technology that we fail to utilise, as Richard Howells says: ‘…established and sometimes more effective channels of communication.’
The internet can be a wonderful means of access to academic resources, and for contacting (via email) research contacts both home and abroad, which, for my own PhD research, has been invaluable. But we mustn’t forget the art of real conversation where it is possible, nor fail to have some letter-writing paper at home (I’ve even got Basildon Bond – yikes!) If not, then you risk resorting to sending a free online greeting card or email when there is no substitute for the real thing.