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Communication and «The Good Life»


Edited By Hua Wang

What is a «good life» and how can it be achieved? In this volume, communication scholars and media experts explore these fundamental questions about human existence and aspiration in terms of what a «good life» might look like in a contemporary, mediatized society. While in many ways a mediatized society brings us closer to some version of the «good life», it also leads us away from it. The affordances of new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation. Rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we feel we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.
This volume illuminates the complexity of our modern era, exploring how society can leverage exciting new opportunities whilst recognizing the complex challenges we face in a time of constant change. It helps us understand how we have come to this point and where we may be going so that we may study the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of «the good life».
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Chapter Thirteen: The 20th Anniversary of the Digital Divide: Challenges and Opportunities for Communication and the Good Life


← 212 | 213 → CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The 20th Anniversary of the Digital Divide

Challenges and Opportunities for Communication and the Good Life


Though born in 1969 at UCLA and Stanford, the Internet did not become commonplace until the 1990s when the 1991 U.S. High Performance Computing Act funded a high-speed fiber optic network that ultimately became the Internet and allowed digital connectivity for computers. This and various technological and business innovations made the Internet easily accessible, navigable, and user-friendly. From 1989 to 1997, the number of households with computers in the U.S. alone jumped from 13.4 to 37.4 million (Kominski & Newburger, 1999), and exploring cyberspace and communicating via email became increasingly useful applications.

At the same time, with the advent of this new technology, officials in the Clinton Administration wondered if there should be concern about equity of access to computers and the “Information Superhighway.” As a result, based on Census data about telephone penetration (dial-up telephone lines were then the on-ramp for access to the Internet), computer/modem ownership and usage collected in 1994, the newly created National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) prepared and released in 1995 the landmark report Falling Through the Net: A Survey of the “Have Nots” in Rural and Urban America. Consequently, the inequalities of online access began to be discussed as a new...

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