16.440 Computing and Philosophy: ethics of the digital divide (ANU, 11/03)

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Fri Jan 24 2003 - 03:03:07 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 440.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003 07:47:44 +0000
             From: Soraj Hongladarom <hsoraj@chula.ac.th>
             Subject: Cfp: Panel on ethics of the digital divide

    Dear Colleagues,

    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 hsoraj@chula.ac.th 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


    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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