Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 440.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003 07:47:44 +0000
From: Soraj Hongladarom <email@example.com>
Subject: Cfp: Panel on ethics of the digital divide
Abstracts are invited for presentation at the Computing and Philosophy
Conference, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, from Oct.
31 to Nov. 2, 2003. Please send an abstract of no more than 200 words to
Soraj Hongladarom at firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 1, 2003. (Extension of this
deadine may be possible. Please tell me first.)
The conference website is at http://www.csu.edu.au/faculty/arts/cappe/cap.htm
THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
This panel aims at investigating the ethical and conceptual aspects
surrounding the digital divide issue. Nowadays "digital divide" has become
a hot topic in the discourses of information technology pundits and policy
makers who talk as if the divide is a problem which can be solved easily
through more diffusion of the technology. However, what is lacking in these
discourses is sustained reflection on what the term 'digital divide'
actually means, as well as on the many ethical issues involved. Albert
Borgmann, in Holding on to Reality, says that many people seem to rush
toward finding a solution to the digital divide problem, finding a
'bridge', without pausing to think whether it is really desirable to do so.
For Borgmann, rushing to close the divide would seem to mean that humans
are estranged more and more from bedrock reality. And there is the prospect
of humans becoming less diverse since they would all end up being 'wired'
to the Net. (But what is wrong with that really?) Moreover, there seems to
be a dearth in clear thinking as to what the availabililty and
accessibility of the technology would mean to those people to whom the
technology does not have a real meaning. There was an attempt by a former
government of Thailand to distribute computers to every school in the
country. What happened, however, was that many computers are now laying
there collecting dust, having become a sacred object or a symbol of the
government's power, with no meaningful connection to the lives of the
schoolchildren or to the villagers.
So some of the questions for the panel are: What exactly does 'digital
divide' mean? Is 'digital divide' an appropriate characterisation of
current trends in information technology distribution? What does it
actually mean for one to be separated by this 'divide' from another? Why
does the divide need to be closed? Or is it really a good thing to do so?
What else needs to taken into consideration? Is thinking about this issue
essentially the same or different from thinking about the familiar
indicators of social and international inequality, such as nutrition (the
food divide) or income (the money divide)? How does the digital divide
relate to globalization? What are the relations between it and local
cultures? How can we conceptualize the whole problem so that we could
understand it better?
-- Soraj Hongladarom
Department of Philosophy Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University Bangkok 10330, Thailand Tel. +66 (0) 2218-4756; Fax. +66 (0) 2218-4755 Home page: http://pioneer.chula.ac.th/~hsoraj/web/soraj.html **International Conference on Information Technology and Universities in Asia, ITUA 2002** http://pioneer.chula.ac.th/~hsoraj/IT Science in Thai Culture Project: http://www.stc.arts.chula.ac.th/
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