there are multiple digital divides, still

(cross-posted from an email list I am on)

> I’d be very interested in helping to support (or start) a research project
> that more critically investigates the state of the digital divide in
> communities and see how that compares with the more recent digital divide
> stats we’ve been sharing.

I’ve maintained in the past that the gap is shifting but not really that much. The big deal seems to be that we want/need things that are quantifiable and we’re getting further into the mess of qualitative concerns with people and their internet access/usage. From a library perspective it’s looked like this….

People don’t have expensive computers – we helped this with access to tech from the Gates Foundation and some maintenance/upkeep assistance from WebJunction/others
People don’t have broadband – E-rate and consortium level pricing has closed this gap, nearly every public library in the US offers some form of broadband
People don’t have real broadband – this is still an open issue but it’s being worked on. In rural VT where I live I’ve seen my maximum-possible internet speed increase gradually while the amount necessary to use the internet takes leaps. More libraries offer gigabit connections.

The qualitative gaps I am seeing are more troubling​ in a sort of internet mythmaking way​

People say mobile broadband = broadband – this is a culture thing (because people who sell you mobile want you to believe this) and more than anything this is not true for homework and should be aggressively pushed back against​ while we still try to increase people’s mobile access​
People say a phone is a computer – again, mobile is GREAT but having a phone gives you a much smaller range of creative options than a computer​,​
and people need to be clear about that (and not say we’re solving digital divide issues giving kids phones/tablets​, we’re eklping but just shifting the goalposts​)
People​ are afraid/stubborn/traditional – they ​have a level of timididy with technology (this is often ​o​lder people where I live​ but not always​) which keeps them from using technology to solve their own problems.

This, to me, is the real digital divide in 2016. They have to pay someone for help, they don’t have the money, the​y​ don’t have options because their communities do not have this level of free tech knowledge available. They are vulnerable to people trying to sell them things. ​They are vulnerable to relying on “closed” communities like​​ facebook to do everything online. ​ Media only heightens this anxiety​ and makes them feel at risk,​ and phishing and other scams increasingly targeted towards them amplify this issue.

So if you’re going to address the knowledge/empowerment/inclusion gap you often get into less-quantifiable areas. Which means less money for studies and/or fewer vendors willing to foot the bill since the answers are rarely going to be “Just make a new website to help these people!” and more often “ISPs need to create better tools to help people resist threats and make their systems more secure, but not at the expense if alienating people” I look at gmail and some of the basic things they built in (phishing alerts, hiding all the huge cc lines in email, very user-friendly login screens and help files) and then the things they didn’t (large text and or high contrast versions, “low fi” versions for older users with accessibility issues) and I feel like some pushes in the right direction can get better UX layered on top of decently functioning technology and it helps a lot with the empowerment divide we’re seeing.

tl;dr I’d be happy to help with a project like this.

What about those 15%?

I’ve been refining my library talks lately. The one I’ve given a few times over the past year has to do with the 15% of Americans who still don’t use the internet (no phone, no home internet, no work internet, nothing). How do we work on this issue? Part of the good news is that the new Lifeline Program guidelines from the FCC do include “digital inclusion” (that is, making sure people can use the tools not just have access to them) as part of what the program is supposed to accomplish. This is good. And people have access via their libraries. This is also good. But some of what needs doing is creating a safe place where people can learn technology without being harassed by messages of hazards and pitfalls and social gaffes, often perpetuated by people trying to sell you something. And this messaging starts with us, librarians and educators and people who see these 15% as part of our daily lives. Positive messaging is more important than we give it credit for. This talk goes into detail about ways to do that and important things to think about in our own speech.

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coming late to the webinar game

me at a webinar looking like The Swedish Chef

So in the past month I’ve done something I swear I would never do. And I did it twice. I’m taking about webinars. I swore them off in 2008-ish when I did one that was an end-to-end hassle of software, hardware and personal communication. I felt underutilized and underpaid and definitely didn’t feel like I got my message across effectively. A lot has changed since then. Software has gotten better and I’ve gotten a bit better at working with whatever I’m given. Here’s a little rundown on the two events.

First talk was for NJLA, a little virtual keynote talk about Open Library. We used Adobe Connect software which was pretty straightforward to use even though it meant transferring my Keynote slides into PowerPoint. I got to give a talk, keep up with a chat window and answered questions afterwards. I thought it went well and I got to talk about Open Library to a lot of people without leaving my house. The talk is archived for NJLA members but otherwise not available online. Since I’ve been talking about Open Library a lot lately I’ve made a landing page for the various talks I gave.

The second talk was more complex as it was part of a multi-hour event called Library 2.016 with a subtopic called Privacy in the Digital Age. This one used Blackboard’s collaborate software which was a bit more of a hassle (could not use my presenter notes at all, had to read my talk from my laptop at home) but did allow for recording of the entire event so it could be played back, chatroom at all. My talk was short, twenty minutes, and then we had a brief Q&A session. The sponsor of the event, San Jose State University’s library school, made the odd choice of not making links to the recordings or the schedule of the event available to people who didn’t register. However, the link to the recording is a public link, so if you want to hear my talk, you can do that here. I’ve also put my notes and slides online in the usual place.

In both cases, the webinar format worked decently even if the software was a little clunky to get to know. Unsurprisingly, the trickiest issues were the human decisions that went into how to run the webinars, not the actual software or hardware. IU had a decent enough time and am going to consider maybe doing another webinar before another eight years pass. Big thanks to Allen McGinley and Steve Hargadon who made both events happen.

Talks and talking in 2015 to date

Librarians need to know... how porn drives technology

This has been an odd year. Not only am I teaching college as my major job now (HTML and CSS, but I’m an adjunct so I swear I won’t be making a thing about it) but I’ve been doing a lot less of the usual talk circuit talk stuff. I just got back from CLA (California Library Association) which was a totally great time. I gave two talks (a major talk and an Ignite session which is pictured here) and won at Battledecks which was a dream come true. I enjoy the Ignite format and I’ve give three Ignite or Pecha Kucha Style talks this year.

One about Open Library that I gave at VLA
One at NELA about the Vermont Passport Program (and I swear I will write an article about it real soon now)
– The last one about porn driving technology adoption which is not only true it’s an amusing talk topic. That was for the CLA After Dark part of the program at a specific Ignite session called the Haters Ball including suck topics as I Hate Library Tours And You Should Too.extremal-board

I also spoke to my local Rotary club about the Digital Divide and got a good conversation started in my community about what we can be doing to help the people who need help. This is all coming on the tail of some aggravated shoulder stuff that’s been keeping me away from the keyboard for the past few months except when necessary (read: for work) which is finally getting resolved. So hey how are things?

I need to find a public domain image of _______. How do I do that?

commemorative cricket plate

Reference question of the day was about finding public domain images. Everyone’s got their go-tos. If I am looking for illustrations or old photos specifically I’ll often use other people’s searches on top of the Internet Archive’s content. Here’s a little how to.

1. Check the Internet Archive Book Images feed on Flickr. What I often do is search (which finds the words that surround the images) and then click straight through to the book (which is always linked in the metadata) and then fish around. For example…