Still far from that digital democracy any utopian could hope for.
April 26, 2013 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Great article. Here's some data [pdf] I happened to come across recently via the US Census. Bottom of the page, last column on the right: percentage of households that accessed the internet in the last 30 days. Nearly a quarter of American adults had no internet access in the last 30 days. The effects of education and income and age are just what you think they would be. This starts to become a pretty serious issue when you think about how many vital tasks we are expected to perform online, from banking to bill payment to any number of government-related procedures.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:32 PM on April 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Jen is awesome.

Why didn't she cite me in this? Wah.

posted by k8t at 5:16 PM on April 26, 2013

It’s just the old farts that aren't using the Internet

I'm stunned at the number of young (aged <40) at work who cannot use the a computer even approaching efficiently. These people spend their day on the computer, and when you drop by to get them to go to a URL - they hesitantly type http\\:www.... into google, double click everything, have no idea what accessor keys or shortcuts are. The internet for them is facebook, billions of dollars in infrastructure and research to do nothing but host facebook.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 5:28 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I ran into this recently. My eldest just started kindergarten, at a great Title I elementary school. We can't rely on using the internet to communicate with parents, because a decent chunk of families have no internet access. Some can't even afford a home phone. So everything is on paper. Its frustrating, because I see how much easier communication could be between school and parents if everyone was online. But its also kind of shocking to be reminded that the digital divide is right here, in the middle of a well-off California city.
posted by Joh at 8:55 PM on April 26, 2013

I'm stunned at the number of young people

Less than sign screwed up the rest of the quote.

Yeah, I guess you'd have to expand this "digital divide" idea to include people who can't use a computer WELL but are on Facebook daily, instead of people who can't/don't use computers and the Internet AT ALL, which is what it originally meant. Otherwise this concept wouldn't exist anymore when you can buy an Android phone for less than a sandwich.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:00 PM on April 26, 2013

Great article. The technophilic (and dominant) response to digital inequality seems to be "how can we get this technology to everyone?!?!?!?" rather than a more sustainable "how can we reframe our interactions so as to mitigate or negate the digital divide?" Unfortunately there's a lot more money to be made off the former approach.
posted by threeants at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Working at a public library, I see this frequently. I have plenty of folks who can get on the computer and sign on to facebook/youtube/email. But, yes, they don't really understand how it works at all, so it involves them going to google in order to search for facebook/yahoo mail/youtube. They've memorized steps - they don't really understand how it works.

So they're not showing up as never on the internet or completely unfamiliar with tech. But they rely on the library for their internet connection, which is iffy for when they can get here and they're still frequently confused by technology.

When it comes to figuring out how to do anything out of their comfortable routine, they're stymied - they don't understand enough to find and explore new sites and figure out how to use them.

I see this most often when it comes to applying for jobs. Job application sites are extremely complex, prone to timeouts, require lots of fiddly data entry and *gasp* the creation of new user IDs. Given that they don't really understand how user IDs work in the first place (often thinking that their email password will work for everything), are iffy on typing and their work history, modern online job application websites are a minefield. And the sites themselved don't help - many of them are not just not user-friendly, but actively user-hostile. Memorably, the nightmare of a university HR system I fought with to help one fellow apply for a night janitor job made me want to take out a hit on the designer, programming team, nonexistant documentation team and anyone who had ever thought: "this will really streamline the application process."

And don't even get me started on resumes in Word, the formatting, uploading and attaching to emails thereof.

It's not just a matter of people who have never seen or used computers. It's a matter of not having enough computer experience to be functional enough to fill out the online application to work at Hardee's because they won't allow paper applications anymore.

It's like complete illiteracy vs functional literacy.
posted by clerestory at 11:59 AM on April 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

And can I just tack on that every single college website is an unnavigable mess?
posted by Peevish at 1:55 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

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