Dissertation Information for Cecelia Bridget Merkel
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: Uncovering the hidden literacies of "have-nots": A study of computer and internet use in a low-income community
Abstract: The digital divide is a metaphor used by scholars and policy makers to refer to the problem of a lack of access to technology and the consequences associated with a lack of access for "have-not" groups. While typical digital divide studies are useful in identifying the groups that are likely to lack access to technology, this approach does not adequately contextualize the problems faced by marginalized groups such as the poor as they attempt to integrate technology into their lives. The goal of this study was to develop a new framework, a technology-in-use approach, that views members of marginalized groups as active technology users and that recognizes the real barriers that they experience in trying to adopt new literacy practices. This new model was applied to the study of low-income participants taking part in a computer training and distribution program. This study examined the way that the participants used the computer and Internet technology they received through the program, the technical problems that they encountered, and how technology use fit within the context of their daily lives. The value of the technology-in-use approach is that by looking at the experiences of marginalized groups as they attempt to adopt new literacy practices, we will gain a greater understanding about computer use, literacy, and access to technology. This study expands our notions about computer use and literacy for all people by looking at people, places (home computer use), and activities that are traditionally ignored in dominant discourses about literacy.
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