The digital divide is no new concept to me. By now, I have heard about it in quite a few of my classes and have written about it enough to know my way around a conversation. What I didn’t know is how many different levels the overall “digital divide” really has and how each one of them touches my life in some way. Naturally, after talking about it so much in my school life I became more cognizant of this idea in my everyday life and it’s really not just who has the device and who doesn’t.
In my February post about digital access and ability, I talked about the quote from Jewish philosopher Maimonides. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” My Nana and Papa are in their mid-80s but my family doesn’t seem them very much because they live in Canada. My mother recently bought them an iPad so they can facetime and skype us and the rest of the family whenever they want. But literally, the only thing they use the iPad for is that. Giving them a fish and feeding them for the day kind of stuff if you ask me, but also one of the dimensions of the five levels DiMaggio and Hargittai were talking about when they claimed that the digital divide had five different layers. The “skill” layer where it is decided if the person is able to use the device in an effective manner.
In this kind of solo-use of technology, there is also the notion of the “second level” digital divide that can be explained as the people who have access to the device are not as technologically inclined as the ones around them. In the 2010 Journal of Information Tech & Politics article, Seong-Jae Min brought up the fact that we are now changing from that tier one divide of access to now the tier two divide of ability. Now my mom, the one who bought them the iPad, is only slightly better than them on this tiered list. Making the net of the digital divide one that people can’t seem to escape.
Old, young, smart, tall, short, educated or not the digital divide… I can almost guarantee… will touch your life just like it has touched mine.