Thursday, June 26, 2008

Boomers on wrong side of digital divide

Scientific American report a study, by the University of Minnesota, of 600 urban teens, from families in the lowest socio-economic groups – almost all use the internet, three quarters have social network sites, most have acquired valuable skills, upload media, edit media, write text, even edit HTML.

I never really bought into the Digital Divide movement. It tripped off the tongue nicely, and lots of well meaning, but misguided, Boomers made lots of money publishing piles of paper reports that only other Digital Dividers read. It was obvious that with an emerging technology the glass would fill up nicely, yet the doomsayers loved to focus on the glass being half-empty, they’re still at it, eve whe the glass is almost full. Note how few reports there are on the new technical underclass – wealthy Boomers.

Digital Divide reversed
The digital divide has actually reversed. It’s the wealthier, middle-class Boomers who have lost out. They’re the anti-tech, game haters who see kids as plagiarizing morons and see their own delusional standards as being dumbed down. Working class people have always lapped up technology, whether it was video recorders, games consoles, DVD players, wide-screen TVs and computers. They have none of these middle-class hang-ups; boasting to people that they’re still on vinyl, hate computer games, don’t watch much television, or still have their 14” TV!

When it comes to life skills, it’s the Boomers who have a defecit. Most kids leave school with an unacknowledged qualification in IT. They know how to text, download, Bluetooth, troubleshoot, edit media, build a website and network socially. Boomers have been left behind and moan away with their culture of computer complaint. It’s they who are on the wrong side of the Digital Divide with a sort of sneering, inverted snobbery.


Clive Shepherd said...

What a great post. I'm right behind you on this one.

Anonymous said...

Well, you sound so angry with these 'wealthy boomers'. Quiet possible but sometimes it's a very individual decision. Consider this: I may be very tech savvy but given a chance would prefer to study Himalayan Ecology. Are you counting in these people too? You are right about the skill set that we develop but thinking of fourteen years of cooking, I think that's a relevant skill too. Similarly, there can be other non-IT skills that attract certain type of people. This does not mean that IT is stressful or alienating. On the contrary people like me can get in touch and gain so much with out the hassle of travel. So, while I agree that IT is crucial to survival right now. The Digital Divide you mention might be due to other factors too. I love the way you write. Thanks for sharing.

Darren Sidnick said...

I agree! (not just because you are on our Board!!!).

Anyway, we've done learner segmentation research at my company (Ufi learndirect) which shows that the digital divide isn't a simple wealth issue, or a lower skilled vs. higher skilled issue. Here's some of the findings.....

Also, I think there is a new digital divide emerging (those that can and can't use web 2.0). This is not wealth related! I have just posted this blog about the issue......


Donald Clark said...

Nice one Darren
It's great to get a qualitative view confirmed by quantitive analysis.

"This shows that contrary to popular assumption there are millions of pre-level 2 learners that are web savvy and are actually more online than the population in general"

Really do appreciate this post. This is why UFI is a such a fantastic, 21st century organisation.

Mark Frank said...

Darren - how do pre-level 2 compare to other educational levels? e.g. what proportion of the above level 2 learners are in the most enthusiastic categories?

These figures are about education level which might reasonably correlate with wealth. Are there some figures on age? My subjective impression is that middle-class 50-60 year olds are very much on-line and aware of blogs and wikipedia - although not participating social networking (however, when you get to our age your social networks are usually well establised by conventional means).