Friday, May 21, 2010

Repercussions of the Digital Divide

Currently, I’m seeing a relationship between the open spaces of the nation in The Grapes of Wrath and the great expanses, or voids, of information between intermittent communities (ideologically as well as physically) – possibly in the Internet. I’m wondering, is space necessary? If so, how much?
Further, I’m thinking the Joad’s journey is reminiscent of the development of new communication medias in modern culture. For starters, the family had to leave their farm without having a lot of outside information to go off of – significant of the early days of one way web communication. Accordingly, that one source had incredible influence on the decision the family made of where to seek employment.

It seems Midwestern Tenant farmers’ only options was to accept the new media of that time - AKA the call to California – thus suggesting an essential need to adapt or become extinct if one wishes to survive the shift in society. Both of the grandparents died because, as much of the prospect of moving on to a new level of life excited them, they didn’t want to abandon familiar territory. For that matter, no one was too thrilled at the prospect, but there wasn’t anyone specific to shoot over it, just the ephemeral threat of the Bank. They didn’t have the means of resistance and so had to leave.

As they became better able to navigate the path toward bridging the gap between a figurative digital division with the rest of society, they began to establish networks with other families and found their greatest success in one small, government-run camp where everybody looked out for everybody else. The small group of a common interest contributed to their greatest contentment despite their being fenced in from the rest of the country.

Upon leaving this camp and finding jobs in California, supply and demand for workers (or contributors to the developing media) was so disproportionate that people were not being valued enough for their contributions; their efforts became obsolete as they were easily replaceable, so lots of people died – this is significant of potential consequences to new media being developed without a proper balance of sorts.

Still, everyone suffering from the same exploitation was able to unify into a universal family without barriers. Essentially, I want to promote new media as being good but with the cautionary note that an unregulated torrent of universal consciousness can drown out the interests of minorities. How’s that sound? What could I do to strengthen the stakes I’m arguing? Any suggestions for simplifications or need for clarification? Thanks in advance for any suggestions!


  1. Well we know that social networking offers a place for people to share news and current updates. Some of this information is true and helpful while some of it can end up being very harmful. You could research how social media without credibility can be harmful to viewers.

  2. Your take on this is really interesting when looked at in the context of what Allison is studying in our class. I don't think she's necessarily looking at minorities so much as she's looking at the internet and social media as a way for people to "rebel" against totalitarian governments, especially China. So... I guess what I'm thinking is that, like the people in China, I've usually looked at the internet as a means for minorites and oppressed people to finally have a way to make their voice heard. I think you might have to address that perception if you are arguing that new media can be a torrent that tends to drown out minority voices, or individual voices. I think you could still find ways to support your argument though. Hope this makes sense!

  3. Dr. Burton shared this link with me and I think it relates to the disproportionate supply and demand for workers and how that correlates with people not being valued enough because of new media (your 2nd to last paragraph). This guy says that new media puts artists out of business because now everyone can produce art on their own. You can check it out at

  4. When you talk about open spaces and voids, it makes me think that you should look into the theorist Frederick Jackson Turner. Although he was not writing about the digital age, he wrote a lot about crossing boundaries into the unknown, into the unlimited and wide-open wildness of America.

    He wrote about the importance of the Frontier shaping the American Psyche...might we now describe the internet and unboundedness of new media as a new frontier, also shaping the way we think of what we are capable of and where we are going?

    His essays collected in the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection "The Frontier in American History" can be found here:

  5. You're hitting on several interesting issues here: the role of space, communication, and social groups/classes. All have interesting analogs in the digital world. Neal's comment about Frederick Jackson Turner is a great one if you wanted to pursue the idea of borders. The online "frontier" -- is it as formative of character in the way Turner contends? That may be to one side of your main thrust, but you do have several possibilities here.