Digital Dead End
The idea that technology will pave the road to prosperity has been promoted through both boom and bust. Today we are told that universal broadband access, high-tech jobs, and cutting-edge science will pull us out of our current economic downturn and move us toward social and economic equality. In Digital Dead End, Virginia Eubanks argues that to believe this is to engage in a kind of magical thinking: a technological utopia will come about simply because we want it to. This vision of the miraculous power of high-tech development is driven by flawed assumptions about race, class, and gender. The realities of the information age are more complicated, particularly for poor and working-class women and families.
Describing her attempts to create technology training programs with a community of resourceful women living at her local YWCA, Eubanks shows that information technology can be both a tool of liberation and a means of oppression. High-tech jobs for women in the YWCA community are data entry positions that pay $7 an hour. At work, their supervisors monitor every keystroke. The state offers limited social service benefits in exchange for high-tech monitoring and surveillance of their lives, families, and communities.
Despite the inequities of the high-tech global economy, optimism and innovation flourished when Eubanks and the women in the YWCA community collaborated to make technology serve social justice. Eubanks describes a new approach to creating a broadly inclusive and empowering "technology for people," popular technology, which entails shifting the focus from teaching technical skill to nurturing critical technological citizenship, building resources for learning, and fostering social movement.
About the Author
Virginia Eubanks is the cofounder of Our Knowledge, Our Power (OKOP), a grassroots anti-poverty and welfare rights organization, and is Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, SUNY.
Table of Contents
- Digital Dead End
- Digital Dead End
- Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age
- Virginia Eubanks
- The MIT Press
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- London, England
- First MIT Press paperback edition,
- © 2011
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
- For information about special quantity discounts, please email special_sales@ mitpress.mit.edu.
- This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
- Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
- Eubanks, Virginia, 1972-
- Digital Dead End : Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age / Virginia Eubanks.
- p. cm.
- Includes bibliographical references and index.
- ISBN 978-0-262-01498-4 (hardcover : alk. paper)-978-0-262-51813-0 (pb.)
- 1. Technology—Sociological aspects. 2. Technology-Sex differences. 3. Technology and women. I. Title.
- HM846.E93 2011
- 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
- To the women of the YWCA of Troy-Cohoes community.
- Without your insight, generosity, and humor, this book would not exist.
- Author’s Note ix
- Acknowledgments xi
- Introduction xv
- 1 Four Beginnings 1
- 2 The Real World of Information Technology 23
- 3 Trapped in the Digital Divide 35
- 4 Drowning in the Sink-or-Swim Economy 49
- 5 Technologies of Citizenship 81
- 6 Popular Technology 99
- 7 Cognitive Justice and Critical Technological Citizenship 129
- Conclusion: A High-Tech Equity Agenda 153
- Appendix A: Research Methodology 171
- Appendix B: WYMSM Sample Agendas 181
- Appendix C: Popular Technology Sample Exercises 193
- Appendix D: Popular Technology Projects Undertaken at the YWCA of Troy-Cohoes 215
- Notes 219
- References 239
- Index 259
“A great backgrounder on technology-enhanced hardship...this will appeal to the technological and sociological minded alike.” —Library Journal
“Eubanks offers a critical and constructive agenda for the design of an information society where people matter.” , Leslie Regan Shade, Journal of Information Policy
“Highly recommended.” , Y Tao, Choice
"By presenting the experiences of a population of predominately working-class women whose perspectives are largely ignored in the debates about the impact of technology on our world, Digital Dead End argues that equity-based responses to the 'digital divide' are often misguided themselves. Any person who is working for social justice in the world of technology would benefit from reading this book."
Jane Margolis, Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and author, Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing
"Eubanks offers a path-breaking work that challenges the redistributive paradigm associated with many digital divide initiatives. She gets at the heart of how technology contributes to social stratification and how technological designs that are attentive to issues of social relations and power are necessary to enable and empower economically challenged groups. This is a book that all those caught up in digital advocacy should read, in order to better understand the socio-technical dynamics in which they operate."
Atsushi Akera, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
"If we're to move forward as a society we'll need to abandon many of the platitudes and utopian musings that characterize computerization and actually start doing the work that needs doing. This is what Virginia Eubanks lays out in Digital Dead End. Is she the Jane Addams of the digital age?"
Douglas Schuler, author of Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution