Block I Illinois Library Illinois Open Publishing Network

Rainbow Unit: Networks Big and Small

3A: The Digitization of Divides

Background Knowledge Probe

Across the journey through the Orange, Blue, and now Rainbow units, we’ve worked to increasingly advance a more holistic and nuanced understanding of both the multiple social layers and the multiple technical layers of networked information systems. Small decisions can lead towards large outcomes which are both shaped by those small decisions, and which go on to shape future small aspects in an iterative, nonlinear process. As we explored in Digital Internets Past and Present, the smallest decision such as the end-to-end principle upon which the Internet Protocol is founded works to assure device-to-device connectivity is front and center. And so there can be a community networking movement or an Internet of Things philosophy allowing different devices to work as needed within their local spaces while also assuring the ability to work with other devices working as needed within their local spaces. Small or large, every other aspect of the Internet Protocol works to assure this internetworking of end-point devices. But the end-to-end principle can also shape other pathways, too, such as when individuals come together to form a nonprofit think tank such as the Progress and Freedom Foundation from which the first publication “Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age.”

And so it is within our own lives that we are both shapers of, and people being shaped by, the events and materials around us. Bring to mind a few recent events that have happened within your lived experiences. Think broadly, considering your times outdoors as well as indoors, at stores and markets as well as at community centers, with community and family as well as time alone.

  • What is one technical strength that was demonstrated by you or another person, human or more-than-human, within one or more of these events?
  • What is one economic strength that was demonstrated?
  • What social hierarchy and/or social equity was demonstrated by you or another person within one of these events?

The “Digital Divide”

Digital Divide

The economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not.

Merriam-Webster, “Digital Divide” [1]

One central theme during President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s centered around fostering an economic transition based on technology investment national competitiveness. Goals included: long-term economic growth that creates jobs and protects the environment; making government more efficient and more responsive; and world leadership in basic science, mathematics, and engineering.[2] Core within these goals was an advancement of human capital through education and training, and the advancement of an “information superhighway” through general deregulation and targeted public–private partnerships. As part of the assessment, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) published a series of four Falling through the Net reports between 1995 and 2000. The 1995 report brought forward a survey of “have-nots” in rural and urban America, while the 1998 and 1999 reports were the first to especially highlight the “digital divide.” The final report in this NTIA series moved from reporting on the digital divide to considering ways to move towards digital inclusion.

For the Clinton administration, combating poverty and connecting the “have-nots” to a privatized National Information Infrastructure (NII) was considered a national economic emergency. As Daniel Greene notes in “Discovering the Divide: Technology and Poverty in the New Economy”, it is important to frame the digital divide “as a poverty program as well as a technology program.”[3] To this end, a healthy citizenry was redefined as “a bundle of human capitals brought to market by information technology” and digital literacy training became a limited investment in “workforce oriented technology provision and training.”[4] Greene goes on to state:

Within this first part of the digital divide frame, combating poverty is a problem not of alleviating suffering in the present, but of making the correct investments in “information have-nots” so as to resolve current crises of underutilized labor, realize future capital growth, and achieve post-Cold War international economic hegemony.[5]

The NII originated in 1991 as part of the High Performance Computing Act, created and introduced by then US Senator Al Gore who had spent years working to this point. In 1991, Gore published the following in Scientific American:

The unique way in which the U.S. deals with information has been the real key to our success. Capitalism and representative democracy rely on the freedom of the individual, so these systems operate in a manner similar to the principle behind massively parallel computers. These computers process data not in one central unit but rather in tiny, less powerful units.

Capitalism works on the same principle. People who are free to buy and sell products or services according to their individual calculations of the costs and benefits of each choice process a relatively limited amount of information but do it quickly. When millions of individuals process information simultaneously, the aggregate result is incredibly accurate and efficient decisions…. Communism, by contrast, attempted to bring all the information to a large and powerful central processor, which collapsed when it was overwhelmed by ever more complex information.

Al Gore, “Infrastructure for the Global Village”[6]

Greene concludes by stating: “This conflation of different scales — infrastructure and individual, personal computing and national markets — was not just New Democrat spin, but an overarching regulatory regime emphasizing market competition as the primary political calculus and market citizenship as the primary political unit.”[7]

Take a minute to pause and reflect on how this consideration of a healthy citizenry and market citizenship compares to a key intention of Free-Net and Community Networking movements generally, and the information sciences more specifically, to foster an informed citizenry as highlighted in this textbook.

One significant shaper of the “digital revolution” explored in the last session was the Progress & Freedom Foundation, which sought to educate policymakers, opinion leaders, and the public regarding technological change based on a philosophy of limited government, free markets, and individual sovereignty. A central “futurist” thought leader who played a major role in fostering the creation of the Progress & Freedom Foundation was Newt Gingrich, a professor of history and geography at the University of Western Georgia in the 1970s before serving in the US House of Representatives from 1979 until 1999. His time as a Representative included serving as House Minority Whip from 1989 to 1995, and as Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. Further, as noted in the Frontline episode “The Long March of Newt Gingrich,” an initial principal project of the Progress and Freedom Foundation was Gingrich’s college course called “Renewing American Civilization“.[8] The course, like “Cyberspace and the American Dream,” and released at about the same time, highlighted an important need to move from a Second Wave to a Third Wave economy by adding “social and political dominance to its accelerating technological and economic strength.”[9] As a professor of history, for Gingrich the renewal of American civilization required something more than the reinvention of government which the Clinton administration was working towards — including through their digital divide framing that was emerging from Gore’s extended congressional initiatives. While Gingrich agreed with a significant part of this, from his viewing of American history, the renewal of American civilization required the replacement of the entire structure of the “welfare state” with an “American values-based model” of the government.[10]

It’s important to note that while Gingrich and Gore became highly vocal rivals in the 1990s, they both entered congress in the late 1970s and quickly became part of a bipartisan in-house futurist think tank, the “Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future,” where they came to know and respect each other for important common ground that they shared. These shared ideals are demonstrated in the similarities seen between the activities of the Clinton administration and those of the Progress & Freedom Foundation. While there was a clear demarcation between the role of government and that of the Foundation, it was more one “between government as referee and government as spectator.”[11] It was between reinventing government through advancing a healthy citizenry for market citizenship, part of which included digital literacy and inclusion to help individuals leave the welfare system, and the replacement of the entire structure of the welfare state.

In the preface to her book, Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age, Virginia Eubanks notes “magical thinking” as a driver of technology-based economic development programs.[12] It is a deeply “thing-centered” approach. The underlying assumptions within these digital divide initiatives are that some people lack access to technology and/or the skills to effectively use the technologies meaningfully as citizens. Schools, libraries, religious institutions, and other community spaces play an essential underlying role to bridge the digital divide through provision of community technology centers and by advancing digital skills development for individuals. What is not seen is a shift in poverty policies that emerged in the U.S. and some European nations at the same time that included a punitive, paternalistic, racialized bent. Programs funding the bridging of the digital divide centered on educational quick fixes in which short hour-long courses ensuring individuals could turn on a computer, type on a keyboard, connect to the Internet, and fill out a job application form were prioritized over individual and community valued beings and doings. Quarterly reports to grant agencies prioritized head counts and defined skills checkboxes over community-defined learning outcome objectives. Ultimately, these were programs that crossed party lines, and were part of a broader neoliberal agenda. As Greene notes: “By reviewing the links between the digital divide frame and other contemporary neoliberal projects, it becomes clear that a crisis of human capital deficits was articulated in multiple domains and that final result of the frame — redefining access not as available tools or skills but as the opportunity to compete — fit cleanly not just with the demands of post-Fordist capital but with the common sense of laborers who really were excluded from the transition to a knowledge economy, and those helping professionals — librarians, in Stevenson’s [2009] account — who really do work for inclusion.”[13]

In the end, even as the left edge of neoliberalism under the Clinton administration began to weaken and the right strengthened, the problematic magical thinking of the digital divide framing has persisted, as Greene notes in his conclusion:

‘Digital divide’ stuck in the United States because a frame announcing a national crisis of competitiveness, defined as a human capital deficit and resolved through public-private partnerships for access extension, created a fundamental definition of ‘access’ that resolved the contradictions between a punitive, paternalistic poverty policy and the premise of the New Economy. If the opportunity to compete was made available by information technology, then investments in those opportunities — publicly encouraged but privately executed so as to not violate the sanctity of competition — were urgently required. Unfortunately, more competition creates not just more winners, but also more losers. Therefore, individual failures of competitiveness had to be excused as lacking initiative or improperly planning, whereas mass failures could be understood as populations surplus to New Economy requirements—thus justifying the expansion of the prison and workfare systems that paralleled Clinton-era digital divide initiatives and bounded their antipoverty aspirations.[14]

At some point in our participatory action research community inquiry projects, we may discover our own complacency within oppressive structures through an over-reliance on a distributive paradigm setting up computer labs, providing digital skills training, and helping “digital immigrants” keep pace within the digital revolution. We thus miss seeing the many non-technical, socio-political, and economic realities of generational oppressions that dismiss the community cultural wealth and local valued beings and doings to instead prioritize neoliberal agendas. One of my own deep nights of the soul occurred in 2008 when, through an abductive leap, I came to see a radically different understanding of the oppressive works I was doing and helping others do through teaching and practice as part of our bridging the digital divide tasks. But following deep conversations with my community partners of color regarding unspoken truths of my own works centering on white supremacy, and also works towards new processes of reconciliation, our community of practice, oppressed and oppressor, used Freire’s popular education approach in a deeper way to continue those aspects of projects that were deemed of value, innovated-in-use further those aspects we considered reparable in some meaningful way, and cast off those things that clearly worked to continue the intersecting webs of oppression. And it has been this continued work that has guided much of the development of this textbook.

As we’ve explored throughout this textbook, the technical can never be separated from the social. The sociotechnical artifacts and systems are complex webs of interdependent social and technical components. We each need to make use of new critical thinking and expanded digital literacy skills to tease apart aspects using individual action-reflection, and even more within communities of inquiry action-reflection using collective leadership and popular education strategies.

A great visualization of this transformative movement into a more people-centered, popular technology approach in which the marginalized “other” can challenge our preconceptions regarding the Digital Divide can be found in Eubanks’ “Trapped in the Digital Divide: The Distributive Paradigm in Community Informatics.” Together with YWCA workshop participants in Troy, New York, Eubanks created a series of drawings. She notes how her initial sketch used to answer their question, “What is the digital divide?” a new-to-them term, ultimately helped step workshop participants from the initial codification in which “have-nots” are helped to reach the desired “have” side of the chasm, to popular technology discussion and a new mutual understanding of the term. The revised drawings of the divides by workshop participants were essential in guiding this work of decodification and recodification. Some considered ways in which this needed to be re-articulated as technology for the people as skills, strengths, and resources from both sides of the “divide” are brought together. Others visualized the ways the divide actually represented a conflict between “The Man”, those with power who used hoarding and shortcuts to advance personal gain, and “The Rest of Us,” the survivors. And over time, this moved to considerations of new paths forward, ones that sought for possibilities of equal exchange in which digital technologies become one tool to bring stuff together within ethics of sharing and community.

These visualizations can provide an example of a recodification of one term, the digital divide. In doing this work of decodification and recodification in action reflection, we discover not an end point, but a new starting point. Alternate images of the “digital divide” serve as question prompts such as: if this is the true divide, what works do we now start, what works do we re-invent, and what works do we put aside as unusable to begin addressing this newly understood digital divide?

Moving From the Digital Divide to Digital Inclusion

As noted earlier, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)’s final Falling through the Net report focused on digital inclusion, a theme selected to especially highlight “the progress made and the progress yet to be made.”[15] They go on to state:

The rapid uptake of new technologies is occurring among most groups of Americans, regardless of income, education, race or ethnicity, location, age, or gender, suggesting that digital inclusion is a realizable goal. Groups that have traditionally been digital “have-nots” are now making dramatic gains.

This first use of digital inclusion left open a more formal definition of the term. For many, the discussion has remained on the digital divides that leave some excluded from full participation online and all that brings. Others, like the nonprofit National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), have found the term digital divide to be problematic given the multiple intersecting divides within. They have instead forwarded a more formal definition of the key terms digital inclusion, digital equity, and digital literacy as follows:

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This includes 5 elements: 1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 2) Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration. Digital Inclusion must evolve as technology advances. Digital Inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.

Digital Equity

Digital Equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy. Digital Equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

Digital Literacy

NDIA recommends the American Library Association’s definition of Digital Literacy via their Digital Literacy Taskforce:

Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.

A Digitally Literate Person:

  • Possesses the variety of skills – technical and cognitive – required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats;
  • Is able to use diverse technologies appropriately and effectively to retrieve information, interpret results, and judge the quality of that information;
  • Understands the relationship between technology, life-long learning, personal privacy, and stewardship of information;
  • Uses these skills and the appropriate technology to communicate and collaborate with peers, colleagues, family, and on occasion, the general public; and
  • Uses these skills to actively participate in civic society and contribute to a vibrant, informed, and engaged community.

National Digital Inclusion Alliance, “Definitions”[16]

To the above digital literacy skills, as noted in the Orange Unit, I would add progressive community [inter]action and critical social + technical skills, brought forward as part of person- and community-centered deliberative dialogue processes using critical research paradigms, pedagogies, and abductive reasoning. This is embedded throughout this textbook and has been developed through a range of digital literacy-oriented courses and workshops done over the last two decades. And as noted earlier in this chapter, sometimes there have been deep nights of the soul that have been part of a critical abductive leap as a transformative moment reveals unseen or unforeseen works dehumanizing others. But at other times, I have had wonderful insights provided by those who are experiencing these works of marginalization and oppression.

As an example of the latter, consider a five-part workshop that included parents and teachers from a Kindergarten-5th grade elementary school whose constituents come primarily from households with low socio-economic status. The school’s motto, “Technology and Literacy for the Community,” inspired them to look for creative ways to further engage parents as collaborators in their children’s education, knowing that a significant number of households did not have each of the five key elements necessary for full digital inclusion. One African-American parent noted at one point the frustration they feel when questioned regarding their decision to purchase a smartphone rather than a laptop. They went on to state how, as a parent of color, they need to teach their children to call a relative or trusted other whenever a police officer seems to be looking at them closely, and to then put their smartphone in a pocket with the connection open in case a negative encounter develops. As such, the smartphone, while an inferior device to the laptop in some ways for educational purposes, has a unique lifesaving property, the value of which trumps other considerations if the purchase of only one device is possible. Stories similar to this have been shared with me individually or within a class group discussion in a range of workshops by people of color, and highlight the intersectional realities of digital technology and Internet experiences, and the essential need for digital inclusion and equity to continually strive to advance social justice considerations within all aspects of policy and practice.

This highlights the essential need for digital inclusion and equity activities to consider the five key elements within a range of contextualized, dynamic individual, cultural, and community-defined conditions.

To conclude this chapter let’s probe further the first element regarding digital inclusion, “affordable, robust broadband internet service.” As NDIA notes, digital inclusion must evolve as technology advances. In a myriad of ways, broadband access within the United States has lagged behind that of other nations. In particular, given the advancements in Internet service that today includes in many nations, to what extent is FTTH a necessary condition for there to be full Digital Equity? In what ways is full civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services for the many places within the US where home fiber not available, or not affordably so, achievable?

Fiber is a central media used in building the backbone of the Internet throughout the world. But when it comes to Internet provision by the Internet Service Providers to the home, community centers, and small- to medium-businesses, what is primarily available is the old copper wires that had previously been installed to provide phone and television service. These proved more than adequate for voice service and the downloading of television audio and video. But these significantly underperform if we look at broadband Internet within a broader conceptualization beyond simple information consumption plus some basic social media and email tasks. To do live-stream sharing in support of interactive audio/video, selected asynchronous sharing of large datasets from home to community without use of cloud servers, or an emerging array of IoT device interactions centered within the original Internet Protocol’s end-to-end principle high speed (20+ Megabits per seconds; Mbps), low latency (8 milliseconds or less) upload speeds are needed in addition to high speed downloads of online audio/video information and communication. If a musical group wants to do a live performance in which each is performing from a different LAN, but as if they were in the same room, they must have latencies at or under 8 milliseconds. To share video along with audio without lags, they must have 20+ Mbps uploads to share their audio/video with the others rather than just downloading the performance of their band. Adding to this, if there is more than one computing device on the LAN seeking to participate in live streams, asynchronous data sharing of large datasets, and IoT device activities, then each of these devices will each require high speed, low latency upload and download speeds, increasing the requirements for infrastructure service from the WAN to the LAN by the ISP. Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), Cable, WiFi, and cell-based Internet do not meet these needs, and they cannot be engineered to eventually meet such needs. Only fiber optics can, and it continues to be further developed, adding even greater possibilities for distance socializing in ways that advance civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

This highlights a way in which truly just digital inclusion and equity often requires fiber-to-the-home to fully provide the conditions for full participation in civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

Affordable, Robust Internet Service Provision

In her books Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age (2013) and FIBER: The Coming Tech Revolution – And Why America Might Miss It (2018), Susan Crawford brings together her professional experiences as a member of the board of directors of ICANN from 2005-2008, as co-leader of the FCC transition team between the Bush and Obama administrations, and her time within the Law Schools at Michigan and Harvard, among other lived experiences. From this, she richly brings together the history of the Internet with current political contexts nationally and internationally to consider the impacts of the Internet today on our lived experiences. The monopoly power has significant power over health care, education, urban administration and services, agriculture, retail sales, and offices, something that has been a constant even as the emergence of transformative Internet of Things devices is reshaping the landscape. She has traveled around the United States and internationally to see the many different municipalities, regions, and countries that have, in some cases for decades, established ways to implement home fiber Internet as a utility to advance full digital inclusion and equity as defined by individuals and their communities. While I personally have been part of various Community Networking projects, some of which have included fiber-to-the-home grants, I found her interview with Bill Moyers to be a very insightful introduction to the deeper social shapers of key barriers that have been raised keeping us from this true integration of digital equity.[17]

As part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants following the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration made available funds for 1) Infrastructure, 2) Public Computing Centers, and 3) Sustainable Adoption programs. The Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) project worked to construct 187 miles of fiber-optic broadband network to provide high-speed connectivity to area community anchor institutions and support fiber-to-the-home services in four low-income neighborhoods. Community Networks continues to provide resources, including case studies, fact sheets, videos, and podcasts highlighting ways communities are working to implement cost effective, publicly owned, cooperative models, and other nonprofit approaches for community broadband.[18]

Today, FTTH over the publicly owned UC2B is being provided to a growing number of homes and other premises in the area through its private partner, I3 Broadband. During the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, this proved essential as I and my son sometimes were each participating in separate University Zoom live video sessions while my wife was participating in a HIPAA-compliant live video session with a patient. The FTTH Internet connectivity provided 1 Gbps download and 300 Mbps upload speeds, while our wired Ethernet connectivity to each room provided 100 Mbps upload/download to each of our laptops. We consistently had latencies under 8 milliseconds to the regional I3 Broadband. But there were many times when a Zoom indicator or traceroute test would indicate failures either at the cloud level, or more often at the other end of our connection. When functional diversity requires communication over voice and video rather than text following a Traumatic Brain Injury, as became my case after a 2016 bicycle accident, full participation may be lost with a bad audio/video feed somewhere along the Internet backbone or end-points, and a significant human aspect is lost. When a pair-programming hands-on activity with electronics or a face-to-face therapy session happens online without high quality video, a significant analog, social aspect is lost. When several minutes are lost troubleshooting technical problems, a significant analog, social aspect is lost. When people already experiencing levels of stress find themselves at a loss, problematic social aspects are increased.

This provides an example of how digital inclusion and equity is too often addressed only on one side of the Internet when viewed from the underlying end-to-end principle that arose from the French Cyclades model — a vision of interconnecting a group of islands, a metaphor from the Aegean Sea island group — and later guiding the Internet Protocol development first funded in support of a flexible military during the Cold War.

As one final example, my brother has had epilepsy since early childhood and suffers from refractory seizures that are drug resistant.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the world. If you have epilepsy, surges of electrical activity in your brain can cause recurring seizures.

Seizures are sudden surges of abnormal and excessive electrical activity in your brain and can affect how you appear or act. Where and how the seizure presents itself can have profound effects.

Not all seizures are the same. Many people with epilepsy have more than one type of seizure and may have other symptoms of neurological problems as well.

The Epilepsy Foundation, “About Epilepsy: The Basics”

For my brother, treatment experience has taught him that maintaining a complete personal record of seizures and treatments is an essential complement to, and at times even more informative than, the expensive tests commonly used within the medical profession such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) and Electroencephalogram (EEGs). He demonstrates collective leadership in practice. For thirty years he has used his personal computer to document hundreds of seizures, over a dozen anti-seizure medications and their assigned usage regimens, and other valuable medical details. And today new seizure diary programs are becoming available to assist epilepsy patients in documenting the treatment path (my brother has been finding Seizure Tracker very useful to document and forward to his doctor treatment data). Combined, this rich personal dataset connects these medical-focused notes within the broader personal context in ways that help inform conversations with his care team and with the broader epilepsy community.

Recently, he was provided with an innovative NeuroPace brain-responsive neurostimulation (RNS) system. Tiny wires with electrodes, called leads, are placed in the area of seizure onset and connected to a neurostimulator placed under the scalp. This small battery-powered microcontroller is programmed by the doctor to monitor brainwaves, detect unusual activity, and respond in real time. It is personalized by the doctor for the individual, but this personalization can include additional new analog feedback of the individual to the doctor further expanding the information flow.

At least in ideal conditions. My brother still lives in the rural area in which we grew up. And as is the case for many rural areas, Internet service is still inadequate to meet all needs, especially within the context of tele-health. Provision of Internet is currently being provided by a Satellite provider, with latencies consistently over 700 milliseconds. This is far less than the <8 millisecond latency required to feel as if you are in the same room, and something not effectively supported within today’s general purpose live streaming services such as Zoom. Further, beyond diminished or lost live stream conversations required as a result of Covid-19 social distancing, essential weekly uploads of NeuroPace data can sometimes fail for extended periods. In his speedtests, he finds that while his download speeds are often >30 Mbps, his upload tests at times have given the message “Upload Test Error”. Thus, as my brother notes:

The new RNS treatment demands more than a computer and the skills to operate it–sufficient upload speeds are required to weekly transfer data to the doctor. Also, the COVID-19 outbreak has left me using the telephone to speak with a doctor and therapist more than once instead of using the telehealth option. Will RNS eventually offer the chance for doctors to alter the Neuropace device settings from home? Not without sufficient computer speeds.

Ultimately, information sharing between a distanced community of practice in support of collective leadership fails at multiple levels, even as the 20 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload (20/3) speed definition of minimum service as defined through the US FCC Lifeline program is recorded as met within corporate and governmental Internet records.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. notes: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”[19] Truly just digital inclusion and equity is more than an individual issue. It is a community and social issue that requires a high-quality infrastructure not only at the backbone of the Internet, but at each end-point as well and all nodes in between. Each missing element as listed within the definition of digital inclusion, and each element that is less than what is needed as defined from within the individual and community’s defined valued beings and doings based on a community’s cultural wealths, is another intersecting component of the many different analog and digital divides that reinforce the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.

Lesson Plan

Essential Resources:

Key Technical Terms

  • Digital Divide, Digital Inclusion, and Digital Equity
  • , , , , the PHP and SQL
  • Sociotechnical Networked Information System

Professional Journal Reflections:

The social shaping of technology includes a range of political, economic, and social influencers and frames shaping technologies and our visions for these technologies. The digital divide further represents a social framing of a range of sociotechnical artifacts as exclusively technical matters, something the digital inclusion and other movements are trying to reframe.

  1. Take some time to read through your past Professional Journal Reflections. As you reread your own reflections, what has remained consistent throughout these? What has slowly transformed within these?
  2. In what ways do the readings of this session build from the past reflections? In what ways do they counter those past reflections?
  3. What are some first thoughts regarding next steps you need to take individually and within your communities of practice in response to your journey through A Person-Centered Guide to Demystifying Technology?

  1. Merriam-Webster, “Digital Divide,” accessed July 3, 2020,
  2. William J. Clinton and Albert Gore, Jr., “Technology for America’s Economic Growth, A New Direction to Build Economic Strength,” ED 355 929, February 22, 1993.
  3. Daniel Greene, “Discovering the Divide: Technology and Poverty in the New Economy,” International Journal of Communication 10 (2016): 1216,
  4. Greene, “Discovering the Divide,” 1216.
  5. Greene, “Discovering the Divide,” 1217.
  6. Al Gore, “Infrastructure for the Global Village,” Scientific American 265 no. 3 (September 1991): 151.
  7. Greene, “Discovering the Divide,” 1218.
  8. The course was taught through Kennesaw State College, Georgia, by Representative Gingrich and was open to all online. A complaint was filed regarding use of non-profit funds in support of staff time with the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct within the House in 1994, for which a settlement was reached.
  9. Esther Dyson, George Gilder, George Keyworth, and Alvin Toffler, “Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age,” The Progress & Freedom Foundation, August 1994.
  10. Newt Gingrich, “Renewing American Civilization,” CSPAN September 10, 1993. “The Long March of Newt Gingrich,” Frontline, January 16, 1996. Accessed July 7, 2020.
  11. John Heilemann, “The Making of The President 2000,” Wired, December 1, 1995,
  12. Virginia Eubanks, Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.
  13. Greene, “Discovering the Divide,” 1216.
  14. Greene, “Discovering the Divide,” 1226.
  15. National Telecommunications and Information Administration, “Falling through the Net IV: Toward digital inclusion,” U.S. Department of Commerce., xiii.
  16. National Digital Inclusion Alliance, “Definitions,” accessed July 6, 2020.
  17. Bill Moyers, “Susan Crawford on Why Our Internet Access Is Slow, Costly and Unfair,”, February 8, 2013.
  18. Read the transcript online from a 2013 interview with two participants in the project, Carol Ammons and Brandon Bowersox-Johnson.
  19. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Birmingham, AL, April 16, 1963.


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A Person-Centered Guide to Demystifying Technology, 2nd Edition Copyright © 2023 by Martin Wolske Copyright © 2023. Copyright “Ideating and Iterating Code: Scratch Example” © 2020 Betty Bayer and Stephanie Shallcross. Copyright “Introducing the Unix Command Line” © 2020 Martin Wolske, Dinesh Rathi, Henry Grob, and Vandana Singh. Copyright “Security and Privacy” © 2020 Sara Rasmussen. Copyright “Storytelling in the Information Sciences” © 2023 Yingying Han and Martin Wolske. This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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