Digital divides and information professionals: developing a critical practice


INF2221H

As an issue of public policy, the digital divide has evolved from its first appearance in the mid-1990s in an innocuous U.S. Department of Commerce report describing the divide between Americans with “access to a computer and a modem” and those without into an industry of global proportions. It has generated a significant body of research from a wide range of disciplines and grown to encompass an increasingly complex array of problem definitions. The digital divide now breaks along any number of fronts including, for instance, language, ethnicity, geo-political boundaries, training and education, literacy, health, motivation, gender, age, and physical abilities, to name just a few. Not surprisingly, the ambiguous nature of the term has generated no shortage of debate as various stakeholders (public, private, not-for-profit) operating at all levels (local, regional, national and international) struggle over its definition and, by extension, solutions for its amelioration. But what really is this thing called “the digital divide” and why does it matter? What was the analog world’s equivalent, if any? What issues has it displaced on our public policy radar or is the “digital divide” unique to our knowledge societies? What would it mean to bridge the divide?

In this course students will engage with these questions and others from a critical policy perspective. We will explore historical and contemporary information policies with a critical lens to unpack who benefits from the digital divide and what alternatives exist for true digital inclusion. Information professionals from across all concentrations will develop a professional vision for social justice and how their unique skills sets (ISD, UXD, ARM, LIS, CIPS, CnT, and KMIM) can contribute to policies and programs in service to humanity.

 

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