A Great Divide
Posted by lisamrohloff
The Haves and the Have Nots
As I study emerging media and how it has changed the communication landscape, a question emerges: Does emerging media help humanity to be more connected or does its existence create a greater divide? In her article published in Technical Communicators Quarterly entitled, Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making: Technical Communication Between the Global North and South, Bernadette Longo writes,
“Even when we do include input from users in our design decisions and revisions, we should keep in mind that the majority of people in the world still do not have access to devices that would allow them to participate in this design community equitably. Yet, our actions still affect the lives of people without access, for example, the miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo who dig with their hands to give us rare minerals for making smart phones and other mobile devices.”
So, with all the wonderful new ways to communicate, feel connected, do research, and increase our awareness of what’s happening in the world, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that most of the people in our world do not have the ability to access publicly available online services (PAOSs).
In contrast to those miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, knowledge workers across the globe are using PAOSs for many tasks, both personally and professionally. These tasks include developing associations with others, researching, and sharing personal information. They regularly access Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Skype, Google Maps, etc., to learn and communicate on a global level. In their article, Technical Communication Unbound: Knowledge Work, Social Media, and Emergent Communicative Practices, Tony Ferro and Mark Zachry report on the results of a survey of professional technical communicators and their use of emerging media. They wrote,
“On average, participants reported using PAOSs for work between 20% and 27% of their workweek.”
While, in some societies, emerging media is a significant part of work and personal life, in others, it is virtually non-existent. Does the fact that less than half the population of the world doesn’t have access to PAOSs cause a divide between them and those who do have access? How does this affect our world, how people vote, what they know about the world, how they communicate and how they feel? More study needs to be done on this. As the various webs of social media grow and become more complex, those who have access continue to grow, learn and communicate while the majority of people cannot. They can’t Skype with a relative who lives far away, have instant access to global headline news or do research online. They are living in a world that is decades behind those who have this wonderful access.
Although a divide exists, there are some promising trends happening globally. Statista.com is just one resource for information that can shed light on how many people across the globe are active with emerging media. One study shows that in 2010, about .97 billion people had a social media profile. But, by the year 2019, it is estimated that this number will grow to about 2.77 billion.
Number of social media users in billions
When we consider the fact that more than 7.4 billion people live on the Earth, it’s enlightening that less than half the population is active on social media. While activity on social media is just one indicator of a person’s overall use of PAOSs, this still help to put our connectedness (or disconnectedness) into perspective.
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