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Digital Fusion

A Society Beyond Blind Inclusion

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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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Preface

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Digital Fusion—An Overview

Vice President Al Gore brought the term digital divide to the fore in the latter part of the 20th century. His platform to bridge the gap between people who had access to computers and those who did not spanned the tenure of the Clinton/Gore Administration. Discourse among digital divide gatekeepers at the time proffered that the primary purpose behind programs designed to bridge the gap was to create a better way of life for disadvantaged households through employment, education, childcare, and community networking possibilities (Horrigan & Rainie, 2002; Kellogg, 2001; Seedco, 2002). We must move away from marginalizing terms that first divide, then inscribe, a way of inclusion to fit the dominant culture. I am contesting the notion that access equals equality in an ever-increasing digital network society. Digital Fusion is the result of years of ethnographic participatory research that involved co-creating—through instruction—a digital space, one that speaks to the specific cultural, linguistic, and social needs of two very different underrepresented communities.

This study reveals a discursive disconnect between policymakers and community leaders and the underrepresented population they represent. The ← xxiii | xxiv → chapters that follow illuminate why—despite the intentions of several presidential administrations—digital divides remain, a bridge of inclusion does not exist, and, despite federal programs for underrepresented populations to become empowered through new and emerging technologies, that empowerment has not yet been fully realized.

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