Information and Communication Technology Geographies: Strategies for Bridging the Digital Divide
Melissa R. Gilbert & Michele Masucci
ICT Geographies draws upon 14 years of social action research with poor women in Philadelphia to argue that it is premature to declare the demise of the digital divide. What makes this book unique is that the digital divide is examined from the vantage point of some of the most marginalized people in the U.S. Most of the discussions of the potential for ICTs to catalyze societal benefits is situated within groups of technologically privileged and literate people and focused on the potential for ICTs as a pathway for achieving greater social and economic participation among the poor.
These discussions assume that the framework for ICT and empowerment is the same for mainstream and marginalized groups and therefore the problem of and solution to the digital divide is one of merely increasing access to ICTs and related information.
Drawing on case studies of women organizing for economic justice, seeking to attain employment, and trying to improve their health, the book argues that an understanding of poor women’s frameworks for the use of information and communication technologies necessitates rethinking the policies that seek to address the digital divide. Specifically, we contend that in order to better bridge this divide, policy concerns need to transcend a limited conceptualization based on access to computers and the Internet towards an examination of how ICTs may exacerbate and/or mitigate social, economic, and political disparities in the United States. We further believe that this shift in policy concerns necessitates new institutional arrangements that empower poor people within relevant institutions and decision-making bodies.
Melissa R. Gilbert and Michele Masucci are Associate Professors in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University, USA, where they have engaged in an integrated program of social action research, critical pedagogy, and university-community partnerships to effect social change both inside and outside the academy.