We will begin the class by becoming acquainted with the arguments of the digital divide. We'll investigate questions such as: Who argues that this is a major problem? Who argues that the digital divide is overblown? Why are these arguments made? Who are the particular audiences for these arguments and do the major voices in this conversation take note of opposing arguments? We will not only "listen" to the conversation about the digital divide, we will also participate in the discussion. The first paper assignment will allow you to play the role of a local non-profit organization applying for grant money.
The second section of the course will focus on the "conversation" mentioned above. We'll look at arguments that consider factors such as race, socio-economic status, and gender. We'll find that the digital divide is a slippery topic and one that Benjamin Compaine calls a "moving target." We'll continue to read through the arguments of Compaine's The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth and see how it takes a much different stance than our other text, Technology and Social Inclusion. What assumptions do these texts make about the importance of digital technology? What solutions do they propose, if any? Do they view the digital divide as a unique problem, or do they see this as on more gap in a long history of "haves" and "have-nots"? Who do these scholars believe is responsible for closing the gap? The second paper will require you to compile your own anthology of readings about the digital divide. By presenting your own version of the conversation, you'll be able to break down the debate as you see it.
The final portion of this course will allow you to deal with the digital divide outside of the classroom. We'll work with Austin Free-Net, a local organization that helps launch free community internet access sites. In groups, you'll travel to Austin Free-Net locations to visit with volunteers. During your visit, you'll learn the stories behind these community technology centers. Your final project will be a presentation of the successes, failures, challenges, and needs of these centers. This presentation may come in the form of a film project, a web page, a photo essay, or any other format that allows you to tell the stories of these AFN sites.