About 9:30 a.m., the sounds of dogs whining woke me up from a restful slumber. After sleepily getting up and taking them outside to handle their business, I hopped back in bed, grabbed my phone and commenced my normal
morning routine—checking out the news of the morning.
My first stops included @Facebook, @Twitter and @Instagram. Before stopping my online surfing to write this blog post, I learned @FloydMayweather (#TMT) won the boxing match against
@caneloOficial; it is Mexican Independence Weekend; and a North Carolina policeman shot and killed a former FAMU football player. Additionally, I followed a couple of new people on Twitter including @blackpolitics; @AEJMCjobs; and even one of my former bosses at the @Vicadvocate , @BeckyJCooper.
For some, my activities this morning equated to calculating the propellant mass flow rate of the descent propulsion system of the lunar module.Meanwhile, others can relate exactly, as they likely follow the same behaviors themselves. This difference of familiarity with social media, however, partly exemplifies the digital divide.
What the Literature Says
A simple definition of the #DigitalDivide is the variance between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet and those who do not. In my opinion, it goes hand in hand with the knowledge gap theory; whereas the attempt to improve people’s life with information via the mass media results in an increased gap between people of lower and higher socioeconomic status (University of Twente, n.d.).
This digital divide is both a topic of scholarly research and practical troubleshooting. This week, @windels assigned #MC 7019 to read “Internet skills and the digital divide” by Alexander van Deursen and Jan van Dijk, “The Digital Divide” by Everett M. Rogers and “The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet” by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff.
Although these writings were written in 2010, 2011 and 2010, respectively, their arguments remain relevant.When discussing the digital divide, I think it is important to remember this division does not stop solely at the haves and have-nots of computer ownership. Effective navigation of web sites and search engines and even social media and new applications also creates division among the masses.Additionally, inequality in the ownership of tablets and smart phones also creates division.
By mid-2001, an estimated 400 million people used the Internet, according to Rogers.Today, this number has increased to more than 2 billion, according to an article by www.thecultureist.com . Rogers cites the
following as reasons for the digital divide (circa 2001):
1. Lack of telephone and computer access to the Internet
2. Demographic characteristics
3. The educational divide
4. The socio-economic-divide
5. The learning divide
Understandably, those who lack the education and equipment will likely drag behind those who do. These effect differ throughout various demographics including race, age, gender and even physical disabilities. If “people with low levels of internet skills fail to find information online while an increasing amount relevant to daily life become easiest to access on the Internet, they become increasingly disadvantaged” (van Deursen & van Dijk,2010).
While less educated populations have always been “socially disadvantaged,” their lives become more endangered as they face exclusion from all the “benefits the Internet now has to offer, ranging from economic opportunities such as privileged access to jobs, health opportunities such as better diets” (van Deursen & van Dijk,2010).
Rogers offers these strategies for closing the
1. Provide public access points
2. Fitting Internet/Web Content to audience
3. New means of providing Internet access—ex. Cell phones,
Many people have implemented these changes and more. Public libraries allow most anyone access to the Internet; some schools have issued laptops to their students, with which they can access the Internet through Wi-Fi; more people have purchased smart phones with web capabilities; and most companies, news outlets and government agencies have formatted their content to online forcing adoption by the masses. Newspapers in Education
(NIE) has also worked to address this knowledge gap. These days, there is a concerted effort to go digital and learn
These 2013 statistics from Pew Research Center show some of the effects of these changes:
Computer Ownership: Some 72 percent of Latinos say they own a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 83 percent of whites. Among blacks, 70 percent are computer owners.
Cellphone ownership: Fully 86 percent of Latinos say they own a cellphone, a share similar to that of whites (84 percent) and blacks (90 percent).
Smartphone Ownership: Among adults, Latinos are just as likely as whites or blacks to own a smartphone—49 percent versus 46 percent and 50 percent respectively.
Going Online from a Mobile Device: Latino internet users are more likely than white Internet users to say they go online using a mobile device—76 percent versus 60 percent. Meanwhile, Latino and black internet users are equally likely to access the internet from a mobile device—76 percent and 73 percent respectively.
Social Networking Site Use: Among internet users, similar shares of Latinos (68 percent), whites (66 percent) and blacks (69 percent) say they use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook at least occasionally.
Even if everyone had access to the Internet, the enormous amount of information available also creates a divide. Because there is so much information out there, some people may feel intimidated and choose to avoid the
Internet if possible, holding on to information gathering techniques of yesteryear. Others who choose to brave the Internet frontier, may get confused and frustrated in determining fact from fiction or real website from spam or virus-ridden programs
I’m reminded of John Milton, a poet and pamphleteer, who developed the foundations of the marketplace of ideas theory. The "marketplace of ideas" explains the need for freedom of expression based on a comparison to
the economic concept of a free market. This marketplace provides a figurative space of public discourse where the truth can emerge from a diversity of ideas competing in a free, unhampered environment.
The term “self-righting principle” is often used when referencing Milton’s early ideas (Altshcull, 1990). The term is defined as the “idea that truth needs no champion in the arena of that marketplace that truth wins even without the authority of someone in power” (Altshcull, 1990).
Applications—Literally and Figuratively
As I mentioned earlier, I venture daily into social media. This journey, though, is not always taken on through the vessel of the World Wide Web. I, like many others, use smart phone apps rather than always going the more traditional routes of www.Facebook.com or www.Twitter.com.
One of the most important shifts in the digital world has been” the move from the wide-open Web to semi-closed platforms that use the Internet for transport but not the browser for display” (Anderson & Wolff, 2010). It is “driven primarily by the rise of the iPhone model of mobile computing, and it’s a world Google can’t crawl, one where HTML doesn’t rule” (Anderson & Wolff, 2010).These apps make accessing some of our favorite web locations
easier and fasters.
Other than social media apps, people can bank using PayPal or other banking applications. They can also lock their car; play interactive games such as Words with Friends and Ruzzle; or even face time with Skype and Tango.These apps eliminate the need to do everything via the traditional desktop or laptop computer. However, they are only available through smart phones or tablets.
This potentially widens the digital divide, making it impossible for those without these devices to access them. Companies can produce content easier on these platforms and make more money than traditional routes.
Sure, you can still access more of the important apps through traditional computers, but the world is heading to the new frontier of apps. For many, the need for a traditional computer is no longer. Although, I, a corrective lenses wearer, enjoy my 17.5 inch laptop screen.
I remember a few years ago, the term mobile journalist was still a fairly new concept.
Yet, before I left the newsroom in 2012 to return to the full-time world of academia, my newsroom was transitioning to all reporters using iPads complete with apps for reading news; writing news stories; shooting and editing photos and videos; and more importantly, sharing that catered to our online news consumers.
The paper copy of the newspaper was still available, but the push was for digital. This is the wave of the future.I wonder what the scholars of this week’s readings would say about this.
Going forward, I’m left with these questions:
What will be the next big thing in the digital divide?
Will the divide widen in the future?
With cell phone providers creating monopolies and raising prices on plans, will the digital divide increase as consumers can no longer afford the price of being digitally included?
In some cases, the government provides cell phones plans to low income households. Should the government provide these people with smart phones and regulate the industry for all consumers?
Be sure to check out this infographic below by Sean Valant. It's an excellent pictorial of Internet usage today.
Lastly, feel free to share your thoughts with me!
Altschull, J. H. (1990).p. 58. From Milton to McLuhan: The ideas
behind American journalism. New York: Longman.
Anderson, C., & Wolff, M. (2010, August 17). The Web Is Dead.
Long Live the Internet | Wired Magazine | Wired.com. Retrieved from
Culture-ist (2013, May 9). How Many People Use The Internet? More
Than 2 Billion... Retrieved from
Lopez, M., Gonzalez-Barrera, A., & Patten, E. (2013, March
7). Closing the Digital Divide: Latinos and Technology Adoption | Pew Hispanic
Center. Retrieved from
Rogers, E. (2011, March). The Digital Divide. Retrieved September
15, 2013, from
Twitter. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2013, from
University of Twente (n.d.). Knowledge Gap. Retrieved from
Valant, S. (2013, September 2). Infographic: A Day In The Life Of
The Internet | HostGator Web Hosting Blog | Gator Crossing. Retrieved 15, from
Van Deursen, A., & Van Dijk, J. (2010, December). Internet
skills and the digital divide. Retrieved from