Postcards from the Other Edge

of the Digital Divide

Technological/Political Choices and the Information Poor

Jessamyn West


A Thing You Should Know Up Front

People don't use computers for many reasons, we have the information poor and the information don't care in Vermont.
informational table

source: Vermont Telecommunications plan

A Second Data Point

Yes, that line near the bottom says "never heard of."
[informational table]

source: Vermont Telecommunications plan

And Some Corroborating Statistics

source: Vermont Telecommunications plan

Quick Tech Anecdotes

How's life at the 3rd largest library in the state? Who do we have for leaders? DoL, Microsoft, local wifi initiatives, education folks?

What Does This Have to Do With Politics?

I work with and for the public. I can use public resources to address various sociopolitical concerns, if I decide to. Such as... What about less obvious, or more nuanced examples? it's all about choices, and choosing FOR one thing often means choosing AGAINST something else.... like the internet being the world's biggest library.... overt rules and decisions often create unforseen and unintended consequences. I'll talk about a few of them

New or Incoming Technologies

choices & unintended consequences?


choices & unintended consequences?
relationship map

Watch what the vendor says & know what to ask them. professional ethics, you have divergent goals

antidote: careful planning, current awareness of new technologies & NETWORKING to see what your colleagues are dealing with. Learn the vocab so you can speak effectively to vendors: XML, blogs, RSS, APIs, &c.

Public Access Computing

choices & unintended consequences? antidote: technology planning will ease the pain, all time spent at home reading Slashdot is now "research", know that there will always be some bugs.

User Interface Design

choices & unintended consequences? antidotes: customize it, open source systems [Koha] and in-house techs,

Filtering, for Productivity or Otherwise

choices & unintended consequences? antidotes: Peacefire, further reading, links about the US/CIPA situation, open source filtering

Laws: USA PATRIOT Act [and similar laws]

choices & unintended consequences?

Laws: Copyright

choices & unintended consequences? antidote: how comfortable are you being a test case?

CreativeCommons, stay informed [ALIA example] and inform others, a pro-active response beats waiting for the knock on the door


YOU need to advocate for people without access or knowledge as their representative not the vendors' representative, and not as a visitor from the brave new techno-shiny world.

This means not just education, not just experience, but also patience and a lot of empathy.

« credits »

Jessamyn West is the editor of the weblog and the co-editor of Revolting Librarians Redux.

Her latest writing about technology appears in the Vermont Library Association newsletter. IM her at iamthebestartist [home] or rutlandfree [work].

This presentation was created in HTML using CSS. There was no PowerPoint involved in this presentation except as a nagging bad example. The layout and stylesheet are available to borrow via a share and share alike creative commons license. See source code for details.