Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Information production vs. consumption and digital access

Slowpoke comic, Jan Sorenson.

My home office computer has some software flaw at the moment, so I can't reply to comments in the comments on entries. In the previous entry, Spookiness writes:

This is good PR I suppose, but most trends I have seen seem to point to the decline of home PC's connected to fixed wireline broadband connections. More and more, it's simply not the way that most people are connecting to the internet nowadays. Even poor people have cell phones with smart phone capability and internet access that way. This seems about 10 or 15 years too late, and frankly like the "food desert" issue, I think the digital divide is overstated.

I am not absolutely opposed to your argument about the digital divide. Research from many years ago by Milton Mueller (now at Syracuse) found that lower income households spent plenty of money on telecommunications services such as cable and cell phones, just not computer-related services. (Mueller M. and Schement, J. R. "Universal Service from the Bottom Up: A Profile of Telecommunications Access in Camden, New Jersey." The Information Society 12:3 (August 1996).

However, I don't necessarily agree with your argument in terms of what we might call digital access devices and Internet connection.

There are three separate issues. One is having a computer, or based on what spookiness says, a digital access device, which could also be a phone or a gamebox. The second is access to the Internet.. The third is whether or not the device is capable of supporting the ability to work substantively.

Maybe you can write a paper or produce a digital media production on a phone, but I think it would be almost impossible.

E.g., someone like myself, who writes, finds micro-devices like smartphones extremely frustrating, because they aren't designed for serious writing or research. Maybe an Ipad can get you there as opposed to a phone, I haven't used one in depth. I won't write a blog entry on a phone. It takes too damn long.

So the issue becomes one of production versus consumption of digital content.

This data is from an article in Municipal World (the Canadian public administration monthly magazine) from a few years ago, the basic point is that more than half the people "on the Internet" consume content but don't produce it. The numbers total more than 100%.

info seekers 51%
spectators 33%
joiners 19%
info sharers 15%
critics 19%
creators 13%

Creators are screwed by limitations on the ability to create. That's why people like me need computers, be they hardwired or not, because we write or otherwise develop and produce "content." I can't write on an smartphone, even if I can use it to consume content.

I think students in particular probably need more traditional "digital access devices," in other words, "computers" (laptops/Ipads qualify) first, and internet connections second. A computer matters. Whether or not the connection is landline or wireless matters less.

But it's not just about using google for limited search. It's about reading and using documents. It's about creating documents. Creating videos. Manipulating images, etc.

Ultimately, you need a better computer. And if you do a lot of your work at home. You need access to the Internet at home.

So the Comcast program does matter I think, although it would be interesting to do some systematic study of the program to see what the results end up being.

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