Varnelis and my thoughts on the accessibility of new media and new technologies

As I read the introduction of this book it discusses various tools and techniques that are being put into practice today in media and technology. Of course it talks about the internet, that is an obvious subject, however the author states “mobile phone technology became more ubiquitous and is now one of the most widely used portals to information technology” (p. 1, Varnelis) Immediately a red flag goes up concerning one aspect of barriers in education due to poverty. Although I agree the mobile phone as an information tool has moved beyond the phone call, it is also necessary to point out,for those affected by poverty it has not. I myself have a flip phone that has pre-paid minutes. Cell phone plans often start at a minimum of 60 dollars a month. That is a days wage for many and is not feasible. Even the cost of the internet is a minimum of 15 dollars a month for dial up and broadband is out of reach for many due to cost or infrastructure especially in rural areas.

The author does acknowledge the fact that adoption of tools vary based on region, and social class however the need to skim over this part and address the normalcy of technology as a necessity for business, social and educational use only brings the point sharper to my heart that those who do not have the means of access are being further excluded from employment opportunities, educational opportunities and even cultural interaction. This puts them at a disadvantage on many levels. First, by not being able to  develop digital literacy in their youth, thus limiting their productive ability as adults, and second through the inability to interact with the current and changing digital cultures around them. One example of this is their inability to access necessary information to make informed cultural and political decisions. The author’s focus is on the United States and I am pleased with this as the text does point out that many nations are in fact advanced beyond the United states in making these tools and technology accessible to the mass populations. By focusing on the United States the text is more relevant to me personally in my learning and goals.

Accessibility is highlighted by the author as one of the key issues. It is not merely the accessibility to the internet and to mobile phones that have internet capability, but also access to digital cameras and digital video cameras, all tools being used by the majority of the population as social tools, educational tools and even political tools. In further discussing access the author continues to discuss other technology modes,  IPhone’s are a great example how new devices are integrating all video, audio, text and image technologies. Gaming systems, Smart t.vs, Cars, all these are becoming connected.

With the constant lowering of costs for companies, as the author points out, “Lowered costs of processing power and digital storage, accessibility of various digital production tools, as well as more pervasive network infrastructures—particularly through mobile and wireless technologies—are all important factors.” (p. 5 Varnelis) and the seeming ability of other countries at being more adept in constructing the infrastructure and providing access, the lack of technological resources in our education system, in our rural areas, and in our homes due to the barriers of cost, have, in my opinion no other excuse but corporate and capitalistic greed. As the author acknowledges, there are “political and economic obstacles that stand in the way of cheap, accessible broadband in the United States” (p. 7 Varnelis).

Do not misunderstand me, I have bought into the capitalist creed since a child; growing up with President Reagan and Red, White, and Blue pride, when the world was about to end at any moment and freedom was to die for. All a person had to do was work hard to achieve the American dream. Mine was to have a house with a set of stairs inside. I achieved that dream. I worked hard for it; 80 hour work weeks at three different jobs. Even then I was unable to escape poverty so  I turned to education. Technology for me has allowed this as a college degree was inaccessible to me until distance education became common practice. Even employment became inaccessible until technology allowed for distance employment. This does not mean that technology is accessible to me at the cultural level and normalcy discussed by Varnelis, however I can appreciate that, even though I am still disadvantaged, I have a much greater advantage than my neighbors who struggle around me.

In an emerging culture that is “always-on” connected and relational, the absorption of  information and social interaction has taken on a new structure. Weekly papers and the 6 o’clock news is a nostalgic thought. For those individuals who still see technology as a luxury they are left even without these now antiquated modes of media. They are unable to stay in-tuned to the world around them. Instead they are finding themselves having to pick up what they can, when they can, here and there, like the food scraps that spill over onto the floor at an all you can eat buffet; reserved only of course for those with the technology to enjoy it.

There are many other points in this text, when not considering the barriers of accessibility, such as security concerns, privacy, distraction, cultural implications, All of which I may address at a later date. It was the point of accessibility that struck that initial chord and that chord is so personal it will continue to resonate as i continue to explore these concepts and others.

Varnelis, K.(Ed.).(2008). Networked Publics. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

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6 thoughts on “Varnelis and my thoughts on the accessibility of new media and new technologies

  1. Hi, Salie.

    I see that accessibility is near and dear to your heart. While technologies are rapidly changing, the newest devices may not be accessible. However, I believe that the accessibility of internet streaming is readily available. I understand that students still need a device to collaborate on online, but I think it is becoming harder and harder to find evidence for that excuse because public libraries are becoming public cybraries. Librarians have been chided with the new title of Library Media Specialist. For this, I am certain some librarians are resentful. This can not go without saying that distance education was also my only option for my masters.

    Chelsea HIll

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    1. Hi Salie,
      You brought up and elaborated on the subject of mobile phones which I find very important topic to discuss. Corporate America an example is Verizon Wireless which was established as a non union corporation versus union labor for the “old landline” customers one or two telephones per household. Families today maybe in a group of 3, 4 or even five cell phones per household. I do not wish to discuss politics here but the point I’m trying to get across is that with new technology comes benefits and consequences: in this case communications between individuals is greater for work, emergencies, or instant information which society serves society a great purpose. At the same time, as more and more customers disconnect their land lines so goes the union jobs. What I have seen in my lifetime is the evolution of telecommunications even as far back as men in space communicating with engineers on earth as far back as the 1960s.

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  2. Hi Salie,
    You brought up and elaborated on the subject of mobile phones which I find very important topic to discuss. Corporate America an example is Verizon Wireless which was established as a non union corporation versus union labor for the “old landline” customers one or two telephones per household. Families today maybe in a group of 3, 4 or even five cell phones per household. I do not wish to discuss politics here but the point I’m trying to get across is that with new technology comes benefits and consequences: in this case communications between individuals is greater for work, emergencies, or instant information which society serves society a great purpose. At the same time, as more and more customers disconnect their land lines so goes the union jobs. What I have seen in my lifetime is the evolution of telecommunications even as far back as men in space communicating with engineers on earth as far back as the 1960s.

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    1. Old technology and the elimination of old technology also becomes a barrier to poverty. With the elimination of landlines the cost of landlines have also increased. Where a telephone once cost 5 to 10 dollars a month, and you had the option of only 911 service, many companies are eliminating these options through politics, stating they are no longer needed. Now many households in my area no longer have 911 service or because the cost of the phone line is now 40 dollars a month for a landline, they have no service at all. With emerging technologies the span difference between different classes and different levels in each class is becoming broader and broader.

      The same can be said for analog TV. Instead of improving the quality of the service by eliminating analog many individuals no longer have access to any local news, weather, or entertainments, relying instead on what is left of old technology in the VHS tapes or DVDs. Many people in our area made a living off the repair of these older electronics as New purchases are simply not a local option. As of one year ago, Arnolds T.V. And Video, a local business and source of employment for my son closed its doors after 30 years.

      In a video by Jim Carrol, he discuses how emerging technology is creating new kinds of jobs all the time. At Sykes we have many telecommunications companies as clients and the virtual work-at-home call center is a burgeoning opportunity for those displaced by changing environments due to technological advancements. Preparing these individuals with the digital literacy that they need, now that is where our studies come in in their application.

      http://www.jimcarroll.com/category/trends/human-capital-issues/

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  3. Salie,

    Your response was very well said. I especially could connect to the points you made about the accessibility of technology. This hits close to home for me and my job. I work in a program that promises to be a one-to-one technology to student ratio. Unfortunately, this far into the school year, our students do not have their technology (Microsoft Surface) due to Microsoft being back ordered. That in its self could bring up an entirely different issue. But, these students not having this mode of technology, they are unable to do their work outside of the walls of the school. We are a technology based school, so this makes things very difficult for us. Some students don’t have access to internet at home, so they can’t log into the online platform for their classes, some students don’t have a laptop or computer at home to access the internet, and some don’t have either of those things. And, like you had mentioned, the cost to own a phone is outrageous; some students don’t have cell phones, which is something that seems like a necessity today.

    Further, because these students have never had access to these tools, due to location or to costs associated, they have fallen behind in the knowledge they need to be fluent with these technologies. They are still learning the basics when their classmates who have had access to all of these things are leaps and bounds ahead of them. It’s difficult, especially for the other students, to understand why some students may not have the same technology experience as they do.

    So, thank you for bringing up those issues. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Kelsey

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