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Digital Fusion

A Society Beyond Blind Inclusion


Joy Pierce

The first national recognition of disparities in access to information technologies – a digital divide – surfaced in a 1995 report by The National Telecommunication and Information Administration. Despite efforts to close the gap and promote digital inclusion, statistical data over the course of nearly 20 years indicate a significant disparity remains in poor and minority communities. In this accessible yet scholarly work, Joy Pierce illustrates the need to examine the societal status of information technologies at the micro level. Digital Fusion is a sustained and integrated project that combines more than a decade of community participatory research in two regions of the United States. Using qualitative research methods and drawing from critical cultural studies and social theory, Digital Fusion is an interdisciplinary project that engages digital literacy and social justice issues related to race, ethnicity, language, class, and education. Thought-provoking, multi-vocal, and multi-lingual narratives from racial and ethnic minorities as well as institutional administrators lay the groundwork for potential policy implications and digital infrastructure and design. Digital Fusion illuminates the complexities of digital access and use at the micro-level and offers a participatory project that seeks to co-create a digital space; one that speaks to the specific cultural, linguistic, and social needs of underrepresented communities.
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Chapter 2. Site-Seeing: U.S. Racial Minorities Coming to New Technologies


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U.S. Racial Minorities Coming to New Technologies

The Politics of Empowerment

Digital Divide discussions at a very basic level interrogate the dichotomy of technological haves and have nots. There is a diffusion of divides, ranging from hardware—such as computer memory storage and processing (Benton, 2004; Stefik, 1999)—to software, systems, and programs that allow a device to perform tasks (OLPC, 2007; Pierce, 2010; Warren et al., 2007) to telecommunications, and analog-digital/broadband connections that enable access to the Internet (Hargittai, 2002; Horrigan & Rainie, 2002; Mosco, 2000).1 Even content on the web is subject to a discussion of social, cultural and political inequalities. Timothy Jenkins, co-author of Black Futurists in the Information Age argued in a 1999 article:

People who are not trained in this technology will have to find alternative means for economic survival … it may mean people won’t have a chance to participate in the political process because they don’t feel included in the social contract (Dubbs, p. 90).

With the threat of digital apartheid (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2010) looming in the United States, what are graduates of new technology distribution and ← 15 | 16 → training programs learning? How are they applying the knowledge to contexts that have meaning for their everyday lives?

Often, government agencies, politicians, activists and scholars refer to the personal computer (PC), Internet and the web as new technology, new media technology, or new information...

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