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.