Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dance-ing over the Digital Divide

While some grocery shoppers are going to be pushing Media Cartsin Shop Rite by the end of the year, and checking out with self check out kiosks, others will be out of work trying to afford groceries they might otherwise have had if they were still able to assist store customers. What happened to the personal approach and America's obsession with customer service. Might it become minimal with the efficiency of technology. And might Grocery stores even become obsolete in some areas where we can order groceries online, have them pulled from a warehouse and maneuvered to a delivery/loading dock much like the conveyor belt system effective above the heads of patrons, which drops your purchases into a bag at checkout, in B&H photo downtown?

How can we protect the little guy, the computer illiterate, he who is without access and cannot afford courses to increase computer literacy? As the reading noted it is the younger and older age groups which struggle to be online, and with that computer "literate". In my brief research there appears to be a substantial number of programs geared towards children and schools however there are very few non-profit resources for adults, specifically without a price. The problem is further proliferated because, as Frank E.X. Dance suggests, the digital divide often mimics the economic divide, "the poor become poorer and the rich, richer." One of the largest issues to me is the displacement of jobs by the substitution of technology. As we've all seen this is an impossible solution without some consequence/backfire; we learned this first from Homer Simpson of the Simpsons who used technology (a mechanical bird) to perform a simple task (tap a button consistently) which only backfires in a nuclear explosion. The government is not supplying options for those who are behind the divide to acquire the knowledge (and not just the informtion) to succeed in using one of the most necessary tools today. After a decade of talk I believe that Dance recognizes correctly how we will need a ""trickle up" solution. In having this grassroots approach we may be able to conserve the democratic freedom of information that is so cherished. But it will take global computer literacy in order to maintain the information governmental law or edict.

*I am still looking for the Simpson's clip.... if anyone has it let me know!


rwalsh42 said...

You mention the little guy, what about the small farmer who works his ass off for corporations like Shop Rite to push them aside. I recommend shopping at the local retail market in the Bronx for healthier, local food that hasn't traveled miles to make it to the shelve. On route, it used preservatives for your food as well as wasted natural resources like gasoline and oil so that we can import meat from countries like Argentina. Purchase local foods and support the small-time farmer. Peace

Lance Strate said...

I like Ryan's comment here, and am all for supporting small farmers and local stores. This is the fundamental problem we face, how to balance the promise of technology against its deficits.

Great example of the supermarket. I have been using the self checkout stations at Pathmark, A&P and the like for some time now. Of course, the obvious result has been that they have less people working checkout now, so those shoppers who cannot use the self checkout or feel uncomfortable with the technology end up having to wait much longer in line. EZ-Pass is like that too, and the granddaddy of it all are ATMs and bank lines.