It seems like only yesterday that The Great Digital Divide was a political buzzword used to describe the "haves" from the "have-nots." It used to be that the biggest barrier to technology adoption (and subsequent digital literacy) was income, but since the explosion of cheap computer hardware, the newest and most severe threats to digital literacy are not economic. At a recent institute I attended, one professor mentioned that broadband access was still problematic to a few, and I think most Americans who've had exposure to networks abroad will agree that the US is generally lagging behind other developed nations in this capacity. In my experience, however, the digital divide is much more of a social phenomenon--and specifically, generational. It occurred to me to write this post after spending some time thinking about how my friends and family use (or don't use) the internet, and other digital technologies. On one end of the spectrum are people whom I would consider to be much older than me--roughly twice my age or older. Among them, about half of them are digitally literate--that is to say they're able to get online, surf the web to collect information, upload photographs, and check email. One might expect this group to have reduced digital literacy because of reduced exposure to the technology, and one might guess that the literate half has made a conscious effort to compensate because they know they were digitally illiterate and wanted to change that. On the other end of the spectrum are people who are about my age (30) or younger, most of whom are not only comfortable using social media networks and other Web 2.0 goodness, but are able to do so in productive ways (even if only to keep communication lines flowing). No surprises for any of my readers yet, I hope (if that's not true, please feel free to comment!)
The group that interests me--that puzzles me--is the group between these two. They're middle-aged folk who have had significant exposure to the web and yet choose to ignore all but the most basic of technologies (e-mail and Google, for example), despite beliefs that if they were able to understand tecchnologies and put them to work, they might see significant improvements in efficiency or productivity. My question to you today: What is the new Digital Divide, and how do we align ourselves according to it?