Although argued that technological access should be free and available to all, a newer round of hype concerning the economic distancing of upper and lower classes in society involves computer literacy. Ellen Seiter’s “Practicing at Home: Computers, Pianos, and Cultural Capital” contains such arguments.
Creative in her juxtaposition of pianos to computers, Seiter brings inventive comparisons between the piano and the computer to readers. Most importantly in her article is the idea of the separation that occurs amid society regarding knowledge and utilization of computer skills. Points in her article address the increased distancing of social classes due to availability of computer technology and vested time.
Always existent is the basic issue of ownership, or consumership. At home, most middle class families own computers, but keeping up with the expense of upgrading systems and making the time to increase technological skills may be limited due to lack of time and money while working just to keep food on the table. An increase of this problem has become evident with the recent recession/depression.
For those who do not own computers in the home, there is always the public library or school. But here is another issue. In the classroom setting, success at computer technology depends on the attention span of the student. Also, whether in the home or at school, time to practice may not always be available.
Even though many “make time” for social networking, which engages practice, economics again enhances the digital divide by restricting socially who they have actual contact with online. To improve, users need to associate with the “masters” of computer technology, whether users are educated or not. This contact is not always available to all. This elitist attitude follows as universal chat rooms have gone to password protected private groups. Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow only their chosen group or class to have access.
It is interesting that in a society that banks so much on multiculturalism that there still exist these “social, ethnical, and language” barriers online. Just a thought.