So my reading for my globalization and media class for today was interesting. It basically suggested that there wasn't just one "digital divide," but rather, several of them. Old v. Young, Upper v. Working Class, Urban v. Rural. It was rather dismissive of the internet as a medium for social change, as it saw these divides as creating a sort of veneer of young, upper class, internet connected urbanites. There was little evidence, the reading suggested, of mass mobilization of anyone via internet.
These are all empirical claims I really need to do more checking up on (has anyone seen a decent map of IP space onto real space? Does such a thing exist? One suspects google or someone has one squirreled away somewhere, but they ain't sharing it.) But anecdotally, they seem to hold. The internet darlings have had a hard time gaining traction in American electoral politics thus far (though, maybe, possibly, Lamont is a sign of a beginning of a shift there), and even internet boosters like Benkler seem to rely on only a few examples of fairly small scale mobilization (eg. the Diebold e-mail case).
Here's the thing though... I'm thinking about all this while sitting in a public place, having a cup of coffee, with a 5 pound machine on the table in front of me happily humming along on wireless internet. I'm flipping through a book I'm interested in and I'm trying to find where I can get ahold of some of the stuff referenced in the footnotes. The library index at my University isn't cutting it, we don't have the documents I'm looking for. So I try a google search for the title. Lo and behold, the document I wanted was a policy brief for the house science committee... and the house has handily transferred those (at least for the last decade or so, though I was also able to get Vannevar Bush's brief from 1945 in HTML from the national science foundation) to .pdf and released them onto the internet. My little 5 pound notebook gives me (and anyone else with one) the ability to access, from any number of places, decades worth of government documentation that might have been otherwise inaccessible even to someone in my University library.
With all the potential that gives us to put many eyes on the (legal) code... surely we can do something.
At least I hope so.