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March 12, 2009

Fighting the Digital Divide

In Wednesday’s class we discussed ways to fight the digital divide. While I think some of the ideas presented to us were unrealistic and rather far-fetched, I think several actually had merit to them. The idea I most enthusiastically support is the proposal to put laptop labs in low-income public schools. This was one of the few options that does not require someone to either own a computer or purchase access to the Internet. If students in public schools have access to laptops, it doesn’t even matter if they have a computer at home – they will still know how to use it. This will be extremely helpful as they go on, especially if they look for jobs that require Internet savvy. Though this may only help fight the digital divide in certain countries, it could still go a long way.

Free classes in public places could also play into this option. The schools with laptop labs could also offer after-school or nighttime classes for nonstudents – much like some schools offer language classes to immigrants and non-English speakers. The cooperation between the two ideas would be easy to maneuver, particularly in areas with a high concentration of immigrants. The students will learn to navigate the Internet during school, and their families can do the same through the schools’ free classes.

One solution that I feel has a lot of problems is citywide wireless. This has already been implemented in Minneapolis, but not without issues. It appears that the Internet can only be accessed through the city in certain parts – possibly where most residents would already have access. It would also seem that to be able to access the citywide wireless network, you’ll have to have a computer. The whole issue with the digital divide is that some people simply can’t afford to spend several hundred dollars on a computer, regardless if that means they can access the Internet for free.

March 9, 2009

Second Life Scares Me

These past few weeks, we've discussed Internet use a great deal. I am definitely on the side of researching Internet addiction - I think there are clear signals that some people use the Internet in an unhealthy way. One of the major red flags that was raised for me was the article about Second Life - particularly the man who spends nearly all day on the computer in Second Life. Not only was the man's personal life affected by his dedication to the game, his eating habits seemed to suffer. His breakfast sat beside him for hours one day without him noticing, even though his wife came in to bring it to him. The stories of people starving to death from playing World of Warcraft could be embellished or not, but I think this instance is a clear example of some people losing touch with the outside world.

But I do think determining Internet addiction is a careful line to tread. In "Growing Up Online," it seemed some parents thought their children were far too reliant on the Internet, and wouldn't know how to function without it. These days, part of that reliance is necessary for work. It seems nearly impossible to be a Journalism student here without Internet access to online articles, e-mail and other sites. Last week, I was without home Internet access for several days and had to use campus computers in order to finish my homework. I went without Facebook and YouTube for a week and survived without any signs of withdrawal.

But I am wary of Internet habits more extensive than my own, and I found myself agreeing with some parents in the program. I, for one, would be extremely concerned if I were unable to get someone's attention because they're too engrossed in their computers. I would never resort to monitoring my kids' online activity (since they'd probably be able to work around it), but I would absolutely set boundaries to use and access to put a cap on what I see as healthy use and addiction. Hopefully by the time I'll have to deal with this as a parent, Internet addiction will have been more researched and credited.