Posts tagged ‘critical thinking’

Thinking about Focus

By js, 6 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Being there when Lennie’s pre-proposal got approved has given me some renewed energy. I’m going to have to consciously ignore everything else that is vying for my attention. Here goes…

So I know that I want to concentrate on

  • People of color and technology

Of course, that is too broad. I know, I know. So I have to focus even further. This was my path…

I started researching people of color and technology and this lead me to the discussion of the digital divide. This discussion, of course, is very big and very important. This is a discussion about

  • access to the technology which means
  • access to those skills which means
  • access to future jobs
  • access to self-representation
  • which ultimately means access to a better life via economic opportunities gained by those jobs and control over how one sees oneself

Now access to technology does NOT mean that the rest will follow but only that they CANNOT follow without it. Why is this important? Because alot of the research that I have seen has centered on access to the equipment and that research has been funded by industry which means that those providing the funds for the studies want to know how to reach those people who have alot of money to spend. It is all about market share. That is what I have seen about Hispanics. Hispanics are a big part of the population. Hispanics have a lot of money to spend. Hispanics are not accessing the web as much as others. That has alot of implications for advertising on the web (who the audience on the web is) and for designing advertising geared for that particular population which is NOT online. So one recent study looked at the fact that Hispanics are using the phone alot more than the web especially older Hispanics are adopting that technology alot more readily than they are online/internet technologies.

So one result of this is that advertisers will continue to assume that the web means a “white” audience, which means that if others go online and find that they are not being wooed then they may not feel welcomed. They will turn to other places (as consumers). If they don’t see themselves represented, then….then what? what will they do?

This particular question…I’m not really interested in answering especially because that only gives those in power more information about how to exploit this population. If they don’t see themselves represented, they will go someplace else. There is plenty of market data to prove that already. i don’t think the web is any different.

The question of NOT seeing themselves REPRESENTED is what interests me. What “excuses” the majority from representing everyone POC (my interest is primarily CHicanos), what representation ARE they creating and who do those representations benefit (according to Nakamura those representations only benefit the majority, they construct reprsentations that they can use as entertainment, voyuerism).

Partly, what helps the majority to “excuse” themselves is the discourse of the digital divide. The digital divide discourse basically looks at POC as deficient. The discourse uses an assumption of cultural capital as defined by the majority. That is, cultural capital as meaning education, economics, connections.

That boils down to

  1. having the money to get the goods (technology)
  2. having the education to make use of the goods (tech skills)
  3. having the connections to get the technology and the tech skills

So we know from digital divide research that not everyone has access to the equipment, software, physical connections to the internet. There are alot of different reasons for this. Partly, though, this discourse accomplishes one thing and sets one goal for policy

  • get people the equipment, put them near a computer and it will help
    • the problem with this is that getting someone near the computer does not mean he will learn how to use it or how to use it well (what well means, of course, is being defined)
  • from the research follows the logic that not many POC are using the technology so our effort should be in getting the technology to them
    • the danger here (and we see it now) is that this focus creates a dearth of research about POC who are using this technology;
      • who are they?;
      • how are they using it?;
      • why are they using it?;
      • how did they come to use it?;
      • how are they representing themselves through the use?
      • all of these are questions which are unanswered.

Now the research about digital literacy tells us that people need to have particular skills regarding the technology. They need to know

  • how to use specific tools (they need to have the instrumental skills)
    • instrumental skills, though, do not mean that they can use the technology critically
  • specific ways of  using the tools to produce specific results (they need critical thinking and problem solving skills)
    • using the tools to produce growth in critical thinking and problem solving skills requires different access to technology; having blocks, having one computer per classroom, having teachers who only use technology as presentation tools, having assignments which require uncritical use of the tool, do not lead to this type of growth
    • this, though, seems to be leading me to policy and pedagogy and NOT towards representation
    • but I think that students need to be able to use the tools critically and for problem solving so that they can get to the level of thinking about self-representation
    • if they only learn instrumental skills (like Word to make a specific product rather than BASIC which is to produce a specific process) then they will not get to the level of self-awareness; they know how to use the tool to produce a specific product but can they retool the tool to solve a specific problem
      • the focus on the tool, then, does NOT help us to ask questions about how the tool is used with the focus on a problem rather than producing a specific product