#3 Embracing the Digital Divide

// Posted by on 10/14/2014 (3:39 PM)

Our third experience as a class was the first time i participated in the organizing of the experience. My team consisted of Aisling, Emily and myself and we were responsible for creating an experience that encompassed the business and globalization section of digital America. From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to create an experience that recreated the digital divide that we learned about in the Goodman article and in the discussions proposed by Sassen and Cerf. We were particularly inspired by the environment described in the Goodman article, where students in a Newark high school relied primarily on smart phones for their access to the internet. We created an experience that divided the class into two different groups that both had different restrictions on their access to technology, and provided each with the same assignment: write a response using scholarly sources giving a stance on whether digital copyright perpetuates inequality.

I was sorted into Group B, or the “Archaic Access” group. My group could not use any device with an internet connection, had to handwrite our assignment before typing it out on a public computer and were encouraged to use non-digital resources to complete our assignment. We each turned in our own phones before starting so as not to be distracted during the experience. Having only 40 minutes to complete the assignment, my group initially seemed overwhelmed with the task at hand. Once the experience began, we met quickly and set out a game plan. We would talk to the librarians and use their recommendations to find books on digital copyright that we could use in writing our response. We immediately met with a librarian in her office in Boatwright. We explained our assignment and the restrictions we had in place and she was more than willing to accommodate us. She found 2 books on digital copyright and wrote down all the information we needed to find them on a slip of paper. The books were located in the Law Library on campus so we needed to travel 6 minutes to the separate library. Having never been to the law library before, I found myself lost in navigating its different setup. We decided to look for the books on our own before consulting a librarian which proved to be a disaster. We could not find the section where the books we were looking for were located  and I even became separated from the rest of my group during the process.

Our group consults a Librarian for assistance

Eventually, my group asked a librarian for assistance and were directed to the appropriate section of the law library, which was apparently only accessible by elevator. I meanwhile, continued to search through the sections of the law library that I had access to, but could not find the appropriate section or any of my fellow group members. Checking the time and realizing we had only 10 minutes left in the assignment, I rushed back to Boatwright, convinced that my group members had returned there to write our response.  Despite my intuition, my group had yet to return and were still searching for the appropriate books. Running out of time, I decided to take one the only open computer of which we were allowed to use and waited for my group to return.

The Group finds the appropriate books for the assignment

When my group returned, the time limit for the project had already passed. We frantically typed up the response that the group had scribbled on a piece of paper and printed it. We turned in the assignment more than 10 minutes late, but it was complete. Afterwards we met in the Group study room to discuss the experience and the difficulties we encountered with Dr. Rosatelli and the other group.

My experience in group 2 made it blatantly clear just how vital digital technology is to not only the academic sector but also for my ability to communicate. Not having access to any form of internet made me realize just how lost I would be without it. The experience forced me to do things I had never done before like ask a librarian for help finding a book on a certain subject, using the law library and trying to navigate a library’s organizational system. I felt completely out of my depth and almost panicked under the circumstances. The biggest difference to me was in the matter of time. Not having internet access meant that it took significantly longer to complete  our assignment. With an internet connection, I could easily have found the appropriate book through an online database within 5 minutes and been able to write a response within the given time frame easily. Without internet, my group was forced to spend the entire allotted time searching for the appropriate books and materials to even begin our assignment. Digital access benefits its users by providing information in a significantly quicker manner that allows them to complete tasks in a much more energy conserving and efficient manner.

The phones we were not able to use

Surprisingly, what hampered my experience the most was my lack of access to a cellphone. Having been separated from my group, I had no means of communication with my fellow group members and could not get in touch with them in any way. I searched throughout the entire law library that I was aware of and still could not found them, so I was not able to help with the assignment. The lack of a cell phone removed me from even participating in my own experience. Our group project was further impeded by the inability to communicate with cell phones.

I thought the experience succeeded in creating an environment that reflected the lack of digital access seen by many students throughout the world suffering from a digital divide. Both groups struggled with the task, and my group especially lagged behind the other due to our complete inability to use the internet at all. For me, this elucidated the struggles that many kids like those featured in Goodman’s article face in school as they do not have the means to complete assignments on time or efficiently.


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