Digital Inequality

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After working through this week’s readings, I do think that critically thinking about digital inequalities is important and necessary, although I do not know how much can be done about it. Hargittai argues, “socioeconomic status is an important predictor of how people are incorporating the Web into their everyday lives” (p. 1). She writes that those who are more privileged are generally more tech-savvy and use the online world for a larger amount of activities than those who maybe do not have a laptop, or easy access to a computer. Therefore, in some ways the differential access to online activity can reinforce classist inequalities. While the web appears to be an objective tool that can be used for school, it is important to recognize how it can be a very subjective experience. For example, Brock University uses Sakaii as a platform for all courses. It is where we get our syllabus, assignments, announcements, emails and even our grades. For me, I find it extremely useful. I think most laptop-owning ‘tech-savvy’ students like myself would agree, however, the usage and dependency on Sakaii for all things school could be extremely inconvenient and frustrating for others.

Last year, my laptop was having a sleepover at Future Shop for almost two weeks to get a face-lift, and I experienced my current lifestyle without a laptop. Not only did I miss important class-cancellation notices, but also I missed out on a workshop that would have really helped me with studying for exams. Of course there are other places where I could go to check everything online, but when you have to take two buses to get to the school just to check Sakaii, it becomes very frustrating. Also, then you have to actually find an available computer, which can be half of the struggle. My own personal experience of being a privileged student became very clear to me when I also experienced what it would be like to be disadvantaged by the school system when it came to accessibility. I cannot imagine what it would be like to take an online course as a student without unlimited access to the Web. I would find it very frustrating.

Boyd states that social segregation offline is often recreated online (p. 156). She also argues that many online tools are created with the bias of the designers and work to reinstate the existing social hierarchy or dominant society (Boyd, p. 156). I agree with her on this. For example, the creators and designers of Facebook only provided the two options of ‘male’ or ‘female’ when choosing your gender for your profile. This reinstates the ciscentrism that is evident in almost every corner of Western ideology and mainstream culture and works to further oppress gender-variant identified individuals, and maintain the status quo.

While I think that online courses, and online dependency can be fantastic tools for privileged folk, I believe that they can also be detrimental in the way that they continue to reinforce inequality, stigma and the reigning social hierarchy.

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