Activism, Social Class, and the Digital Divide
October 3, 2008
So it’s not scientific, and it’s not deeply analytical, but this survey (from Mother Jones magazine and posted on the Engaged Youth blog) caught my eye today as I’m juggling my two intellectual worlds of social class issues and participatory digital media. The question was “where’s the future of activism”:
I have no idea how the questions were framed or even who the respondents were.
But I see some measure of affirmation here in what’s becoming more clear to me by the day: Having a voice in these times involves at least some measure of engagement in digital media and a presence in digital worlds.
And thus, I am disheartened when I read of the persistent digital divide that’s no longer only about access to equipment but also about the time to play, create, and engage social networks. As Cindy Long writes:
Students with round-the-clock, high-speed Internet access have more opportunity not only to be content consumers, but also content creators with a global audience—they have a chance to be “publishers, movie makers, artists, song creators, and story tellers,” says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
The more opportunity young people have to play around online, the more their experience and comfort with technology grows. They’re becoming digital innovators who will increasingly integrate technology into their everyday lives and use it to shape the future—a future that will likely look a lot different for the millions of kids without the same level of experience.
And to many of us, the sort of learning that enables students to shape the future is at least as significant as the conventional academic skills being drilled and tested in thousands of classrooms in which obsolete computers sit unused under a layer of dust in the corner.
I’m heartened by the work of teachers like Brian Crosby who are doing remarkable things with surplussed equipment and an enormous investment of his own time and energy.
But it’s time to get beyond the point of thinking that more kids will gain this sort of access to digital tools if only there were more teachers wiling to dumpster dive for for equipment.