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The author of this dissertation is:
Lynette Kvasny 002N Thomas Building School of Information Sciences and Technology The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802
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Dr. Richard Baskerville Dr. Duane Truex Department of Computer Information Systems Robinson College of Business Georgia State University Atlanta, GA 30303-3083 Users of this dissertation not regularly enrolled as students at Georgia State University are required to attest acceptance of the preceding stipulations by signing below. Libraries borrowing this dissertation for the use of their patrons are required to see that each user records here the information requested.
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PROBLEMATIZING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: CULTURAL AND SOCIAL
REPRODUCTION IN A COMMUNITY TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVEBY
LYNETTE KVASNYA Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business in the Department of Computer Information Systems of Georgia State University
GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITYCopyright by Lynette Kvasny
ACCEPTANCEThis dissertation was prepared under thedirection of the candidate's Dissertation Committee. It has been approved and accepted by all members of that committee, and it has been accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration with a specialization in Computer Information Systems in the Robinson College of Business of Georgia State University.
Acknowledgements usually include long lists of people who have helped make the work possible. Having struggled through this Ph.D. process, I am tempted to appeal to my sense of vanity, and list the life experiences that have influenced my work. I would also like to go on about how friends and colleagues revived me from bouts of intellectual confusion and despair. But the people who have helped me know how grateful I am.
They really don’t need publicity for their parts in my little drama, but I thank the colleagues that I met while on my journey – Leila Borders, Hans Klein, Katherine Kozaitis, Steve Sawyer, Jabari Simama, and Eileen Trauth. I especially want to thank my dissertation co-chairs, Richard Baskerville and Duane Truex, and the faculty of the Computer Information Systems department for cultivating and nurturing my research habitus.
Finally, acknowledgements usually thank the people that participated in the study for their friendship and free information. Obviously their cooperation made this dissertation possible. After eight months, some are probably sick of my coming around, and some may think this research stabs them in the back. I can only hope that they will read this as a loving critique of what they accept as natural, and that some will continue to accept me as a kind of honorary “around the way girl”.
1.1 SITUATING ONESELF IN THE STUDY
1.2 BRIDGING THE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK TO PUBLIC DISCOURSES
1.3 FRAMING THE STUDY
II. THE STUDY
III. STATEMENT OF INTENT
IV. THE GUIDING RESEARCH QUESTIONS
V. A FRAMEWORK FOR EXAMINING DIGITAL INEQUALITY
5.1 INTRODUCING BOURDIEU
5.2 APPLYING BOURDIEU TO DIGITAL INEQUALITY
VI. REVIEW OF RELEVANT DISCOURSES
6.1 DISCOURSES ON THE DIGITAL INEQUALITY
VII. GUIDELINES FOR APPRAISING ETHNOGRAPHY
7.1 WRITING THE CULTURE
VIII. RESEARCH PROCEDURES
8.1 UNVEILING THE PHILOSOPHICAL ORIENTATION
8.2 JUSTIFYING THE RESEARCH GENRE
8.3 DESCRIBING THE SETTING
8.4 GAINING ENTRY
8.5 STAGING THE RESEARCH
8.6 DETAILING THE DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS PROCEDURES
IX. PORTRAYAL OF RESULTS
9.1 ROADMAP FOR THE ETHNOGRAPHIC PORTRAYAL
9.2 CONTEXT OF ANALYSIS
9.3 INSTITUTIONAL FACTORS
9.4 SOCIAL FORCES
9.5 CULTURAL FORCES
9.6 ECONOMIC CAPITAL
9.7 INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FORCES
9.8 DIGITAL INEQUALITY
9.11 CONCLUDING THOUGHTS FOR BREAKING THE REPRODUCTIVE CYCLE................ 202 X. THEORY DEVELOPMENT
10.1 SUMMARIZING THE THEORY
10.2 CLARIFYING THEORY AND THEORY DEVELOPMENT
10.3 THEORIZING DIGITAL INEQUALITY
XI. CONTRIBUTIONS TO KNOWLEDGE
11.1 CONTRIBUTIONS TO ORGANIZATIONAL STUDIES OF POWER AND POLITICS.......... 241
11.2 CONTRIBUTIONS TO TECHNOLOGY ACCEPTANCE AND DIFFUSION
11.3 CONTRIBUTIONS TO COMMUNITY INFORMATICS
12.1 PERSONAL IMPLICATIONS
12.2 IMPLICATIONS FOR MANAGEMENT
12.3 IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
12.4 IMPLICATIONS FOR DESIGN
VIX. DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
14.1 PLANNING FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
APPENDIX A: PERSONAL RESEARCH PROFILE
APPENDIX B: GLOSSARY OF TERMS
APPENDIX C: LETTER OF INTRODUCTION
APPENDIX D: LETTER OF RESEARCH SPONSORSHIP
APPENDIX E: CONSENT FORM
APPENDIX F: INTERVIEW GUIDES
APPENDIX G: PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION SHEETS
APPENDIX H: SAMPLE OF COMMUNITY PORTAL PROJECTS
Table 1: Organization of Dissertation Chapters
Table 2: Online Behavior Statistics
Table 3: Mapping from Literature to Study
Table 4: Barriers to Internet Usage
Table 5: Education Statistics
Table 6: Atlanta Population Statistics
Table 7: Selected African American Websites
Table 8:Atlanta Household Statistics
Table 9: Atlanta Poverty Statistics
Table 10: Barriers to Community Based Technologies
Table 11: Defining Access
Table 12: IT Labor Market Statistics for States in the South and Southeast
Table 13: Guidelines for Evaluating the Study
Table 14: Methods for Collecting and Analyzing Data
Table 15: Ethnographic Data Trail
Table 16: Sample Concept Card
Table 17: Dimensions of Ethnographic Portrayals
Table 18: Atlanta Empowerment Zone
Table 19: Grounding Grand Theory in Empirical Observations
Table 20: Mapping Concepts to Propositions
Table 21: Themes in IS Power and Control Literature
Table 22: Publication Strategy
ix List of Figures Figure 1: Reproduction in Information Technology
Figure 2: Factors for Effective Information Technology Use
Figure 3: Literacy Rates
Figure 4: Summary of Research Findings
Figure 5: The Reproductive Functions of Information Technology
Committee Chairs: Dr. Richard Baskerville and Dr. Duane Truex Major Department: Computer Information Systems To promote greater access to information technology, community technology centers have emerged across the US. However, the relationships between increased citizen participation in technology-rich environments and improved life chances are not well understood. Given the situated nature of the problem, ethnographic methods are employed to develop conceptual structures around these relationships. I do so by examining a community technology initiative in a historically underserved neighborhood in an urban municipality.
As access diffuses to communities that were initially excluded, we tend to assume that information technology will naturally improve the life chances of citizens. However it is prudent to challenge this assumption, and examine unintentional effects. Emerging patterns of inequality that incited the community technology movement reflect not only
which such differences matter (i.e. digital inequality). Informed by Bourdieu’s theory of reproduction, I examine the critical dimensions of digital inequality, which include information technology, as well as cultural, social, economic, and institutional forces.
The findings suggest that community technology centers are endowed with the institutional authority to deliver basic access and training. However, because information technology engenders a monolithic culture that reproduces and privileges American middle-class competencies and ideologies, it is relatively more foreign to the native culture of the target communities. Consequently, those with the greatest training needs receive the least exposure to the technology.
Light training is a strategy of assimilation that delivers digital skills, but the social quality of this training leaves upon its subjects the stigmata of catching up. It is conspicuous consumption of training in which life chances tend to be structured by the cultural distance between the information technology and the user. Thus, culture is just as powerful as economic, social, institutional, historical and political forces in shaping life chances. Any effort to redress the digital divide must delve into the absence of hope, the relative economic and educational deprivation, the depression and the social despair that inhabit our inner cities.
The emergence of a digital divide between information haves and have-nots in the United States has become one of the critical policy issues being raised by academic researchers (Katz & Aspden, 1997), the federal government (NTIA, 1998, 1999,
2000)and the popular press (Browning, 1997). Most of our knowledge about the divide is based on survey research on home computer ownership and Internet access. These studies have found that the divide is most related to ethnic and minority group affiliation, geographic location, household composition, age, education, and income level (Katz & Aspden, 1997);(Hoffman & Novak, 1998);(Hoffman, Novak, & Venkatesh, 1997).
Citing these survey results, most of the initiatives to bridge the divide focus on providing computing resources, Internet access, and training to low-income communities.
However, focusing on physical access to technology and training is a rather narrow way to define the problem. Descriptive studies illustrate information technology diffusion patterns, but these studies do not demonstrate how and why these patterns are manifested and sustained. Factors such as sparse economic resources, restricted social networks, and limited literacy skills come to the fore when one examines the ways in which technologies can be used to enhance social practices and life chances for historically disadvantaged communities. Analysis of these factors requires a shift in focus from access to the benefits and quality of use.
Prevailing trends between technology, economic strategies, social interests, cultural values and power struggles are clouding what could be an exhilarating moment for humankind (Castells, 1989; Ellul, 1964; Postman, 1992; Schiller, 1996). While new technologies provide possibilities for material prosperity and social inclusion, deepening patterns of socio-spatial segregation in cities are ushering in new urban forms and processes that Castells (1989) identifies as the “informational city”. The informational city is one that is polarized between highly valued groups on the one hand, and devalued groups threatened with social irrelevance on the other. The information economy has little use for unskilled, uninformed populations, and institutions in low-income communities. Those without access to computers and telecommunications infrastructures, and the skills to effectively use these technologies are essentially locked out of the information society. Scarce opportunities exist to overcome the vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy, sporadic work, racial and ethnic discrimination, and criminal activity. In the informational city, technology becomes a mechanism for reproducing and deepening social structures and power relations (Moolenkropf & Castells, 1991).