Why Digital Inequality Scholarship Needs Ethnography

VanessaVaile:

Not about MOOCs per se but digital inequalities favoring learners from privileged and social backgrounds are built into the xMOOC model ~ no less, just somewhat differently than into the bricks and mortar model

Originally posted on Social Media Collective:

Digital inequality scholarship is well-intentioned. It debunks myths about digital media’s inherent egalitarianism and draws attention to the digital dimensions of social inequalities. Digital inequality scholars have shown, for example, that people with access to networked media use those technologies in different ways, some of which are thought to be more beneficial than others. They have highlighted how differences in skills and quality of access shape use. And they have rightly attacked the stereotype of the digital generation. These are important contributions for which we should be grateful.

Yet digital inequality scholarship is also limited in some fundamental, and I believe hazardous, ways. To defend these claims, I will draw on an in-depth ethnographic study of an ambitious attempt to combat digital inequality: a new, well-resourced, and highly touted public middle school in Manhattan that fashions itself as, “a school for digital kids.” It is hard to imagine a more…

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