RWS Final Essay
The rise of the internet has deeply complicated our society today. One issue regarding the internet is whether or not it has created a generational gap in how digitally literate people are. The term digitally literate means to understand how to use high-level technology effectively in order to gain information and communicate with others. Many researchers of this topic support the argument that there are two groups of people, digital natives and digital immigrants. Digital natives are assumed to be people in the younger generations who grew up using technology and are more digitally literate than their counterparts. Digital immigrants are usually older and have had to adapt to the new technology as it arrives. The gap between these two groups of people is known as the digital divide and it is causing problems within our society. Writer and social media researcher Danah Boyd takes her stance on this issue by arguing that both natives and immigrants need to become digitally literate in order to become contributing members of our society. She also talks about how the amount of digital literacy is lacking in society and how that is increasing the digital divide tremendously. Throughout the course of this paper, I will be analyzing three outside sources and explaining how they extend Boyd’s claims and central argument. The first source is an academic journal written at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. This journal describes the relationship between access to technology and the digital divide. The next outside source is an article written in the Scientific American that talks about the steps we must make as a society in order to bridge the digital divide. My third source is also an article, but from OECD Observer. This article is full of facts and data that help readers understand more about the digital divide and the effects it has on the population. The last source I am using also extends one of Boyd’s claims. This article from the website Education Week is about how many digital natives don’t know how to find credible sources and lack the skills to find true information online. These sources will help us better understand Boyd’s perspective on his argument as well as the issue in general. The digital divide is a major issue in our society and by comparing these sources, we can anticipate how this problem might be solved.
One of Boyd’s main claims is that only having physical access to a computer or high-level technology is not enough to bridge the digital divide we see in society today. The access to technology must be meaningful and how that access is being used plays more of a factor than just being online. Although using technology frequently is a way to improve technological skills, using technology effectively and for a purpose is a more effective way to become digitally literate. This is explained in “Digital Divide: Impact of Access 1” when author Jan A.G.M. Van Dijk says, “Van Dijk used the term deepening divide to emphasize that the problem of digital inequality does not end after physical access has been attained but actually starts when the use of digital media is incorporated into daily life” (Van Dijk 2). This quote goes hand in hand with Boyd’s claim, but extends it and offers more of a concrete solution than Boyd. Boyd states, “As public debates raged over how to address inequality brought out by the digital divide, it soon became clear that access should not be conflated with use” (Boyd 193). While both Van Dijk and Boyd agree that just having access is not enough to solve the problem of the divide, Van Dijk explains it in more detail. He talks about forming a solution while Boyd only states the issue. Van Dijk’s solution is about giving people access to digital media in order to bridge the divide. By introducing people to new specific skills within digital media, more people will become digitally literate, causing the gap to decrease. This solution is primarily a plan to help digital immigrants become more connected and involved with the new technologies of our world. The issue of access is also talked about in “Digital Divide and Social Media: Connectivity Doesn’t End the Digital Divide, Skills Do” by Danica Radovanovic. She states, “it (digital inequality) doesn’t have to do so much with hardware and internet access as much as with the way those are used” (Radovanovic). This source further extends Boyd’s claim that use of the internet must be meaningful in order to close to digital literacy gap. They do this by taking Boyd’s claim which is generally about “digital natives” and expanding it to all people. Boyd believes that digital natives are primarily using technology ineffectively, while Radovanovic believes that almost everyone is. This puts Boyd’s argument into a broader scope. The issue seems more urgent now that it affects all people, not just the teenagers who grew up with technology. It also makes the argument more effective by placing the blame for the digital divide on the users of the technology and not the technology itself. By doing this, Radovanovic creates a strong impression on her audience and explains that humans created this social gap and now must fix it. These sources both helped expand an already strong claim from Boyd. They also show just how big of a problem the digital divide has become and offer solutions to how the issue might be solved.
Boyd makes the claim that being digitally literate is an essential skill in today’s society and must be practiced in order to bridge the digital divide. This claim is then extended in an article titled “Learning to Bridge the Digital Divide.” Author Edwyn James believes that digital literacy is immensely important and explains to what extent by saying, “Digital literacy is worthwhile not only for its own sake; it can contribute handsomely to overcoming severe structural weaknesses within society” (James). James’s statement extends on Boyd’s because he makes the problem of digital literacy seem more drastic than she does. Boyd describes the digital literacy as a matter of becoming comfortable using technology for everyday activities while James describes it as affecting the social structure of the world we live in. Structural weaknesses within society are enormous problems and James’s claim that being able to understand technology can solve these is an effect that Boyd does not address. Boyd doesn’t delve into the effects of everyone becoming digitally literate will have on our population, which is what makes James’s statement and evolution of Boyd’s idea. James explains this in order to persuade his audience that digital literacy is a necessary skill and must be mastered by everyone in order to close the digital divide.
Another one of Boyd’s claims I would like to address is that withholding certain information and websites from digital natives is not an effective way to help digital natives become digitally literate. Boyd uses this claim to support her argument by explaining that natives need to be able to ask questions about certain sources or the quality of information they are receiving. This is a key step in becoming digitally literate and a skill that is even more essential for the natives. Boyd states, “Too often, we focus on limiting youth from accessing inaccurate or problematic information. This is a laudable goal, but alone it does teens a fundamental disservice” (Boyd 181). This claim is then extended by an article titled, “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth” by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew. They claim that many digital natives don’t know how to find credible information online. Wineburg and McGrew back up this claim by describing an experiment that they conducted. The experiment had students determine the credibility of two websites that both represented pediatric organizations: The American Academy of Pediatrics and The American College of Pediatricians. According to Wineburg and McGrew, “More than half (students) concluded that the article from the American College of Pediatricians, an organization that ties homosexuality to pedophilia and which the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled a hate group, was “more reliable”” (Wineburg & McGrew). This experiment shows that digital natives are having trouble understanding if a source is credible or not. All three authors agree about this fact and all three authors also agree that the root of the problem is the school system. When talking about the special filters that schools put on their computers to block students from looking at non-credible sources, Wineburg and McGrew state that, “This approach protects young people from the real world rather than preparing them to deal with it” (Wineburg & McGrew). This extends Boyd’s claim by explaining the different effects this problem has on digital natives. Boyd believes that digital natives understanding if a source can be trusted or not is key to them becoming digitally literate. Wineburg and McGrew talk about this same claim, but take the effect in a different direction. They believe that digital natives understanding the credibility of a source will help prepare them for the real world. Both effects have huge implications on our society as a whole. In fact,
becoming digitally literate is now essential to being successful in the real world. These effects both show how important digital natives are and how important becoming digitally literate is today.
All of Boyd’s claims were further extended by the outside sources discussed in this analysis. Her claim that only having physical access to a computer or high-level technology is not enough to bridge the digital divide was extended by offering a solution to close the divide and by broadening the scope of this claim to all people of society. Boyd’s next claim is that being digitally literate is an essential skill in today’s society and must be practiced in order to bridge the digital divide. This claim was extended by explaining that digital literacy and the understanding of high-level technology is key to overcoming the structural weakness of society. Boyd’s last claim is about the problem of digital natives not being exposed to non-credible sources and how it is preventing them from becoming digitally literate. This is extended by explaining that digital natives need to be exposed to these false sources in order to prepare for the real world. Personally, I believe the digital divide is a huge problem in our society. Watching my dad try to work an iPhone is comical. I can’t even imagine him in my computer science class trying to write any piece of code. I never realized how big of a deal this divide was until working on this analysis. I now know how much it is affecting society and support any attempt to help bridge the divide.
Boyd, Danah. “It’s Complicated the social lives of networked teens.” https://rws100wiki. pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/99522203/boyd_literacy_digital_natives_OCR.pdf. Accessed 16 Nov. 2018.
James, Edwyn. “Learning to bridge the digital divide”. OECD Observer. http://oecdobserver.org/ news/archivestory.php/aid/408/Learning_to_bridge_the_digital_divide.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2018
McGrew Sarah & Wineburg, Sam. “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth”. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/11/02/why-students-cant- google-their-way-to.html. Accessed 10 Dec. 2018.
Radovanovic, Danica. Digital Divide and Social Media: “Connectivity Doesn’t End the Digital Divide, Skills Do”. Scientific American. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com /guest-blog/digital-divide-and-social-media-connectivity-doesnt-end-the-digital-divide-skills-do/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.
Van Dijk, Jan A.G.M. “Digital Divide: Impact of Access”. https://ris.utwente.nl/ws/files/ 5597980/Digital%20Divide -%20Impact%20of%20Access.pdf. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.