Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The leisure divide: can the ‘Third World’ come out to play?

an article by Payal Arora (Erasmus University Rotterdam) published in Information Development Volume 28 Number 2 (May 2012)


As billions of dollars are invested in mitigating the digital divide, stakes are raised to gain validity for these cost-intensive endeavours, focusing more on online activities that have clear socio-economic outcomes.

Hence, farmers in rural India are watched closely to see how they access crop prices online, while their Orkuting gets sidelined as anecdotal.

This paper argues that this is a fundamental problem as it treats users in emerging markets as somehow inherently different from those in the West. After all, it is now commonly accepted that much of what users do online in developed nations is leisure-oriented. This perspective does not cross over as easily into the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) world, where the utilitarian angle reigns.

This paper argues that much insight can be gained in bridging worlds of ICT4D and New Media studies. By negating online leisure in ‘Third World’ settings, our understandings on this new user market can be critically flawed.

Hazel’s comment:
This article brought back strong memories of arguments that took place in the 1980s about the content of Training Access Point databases. A number of people of which I was one argued strongly that so-called “leisure learning” should be included in any database of learning opportunities. Learning, for its own sake, is important. Also, we felt that getting people started on learning how to knit or write creatively or whatever would help them to realise that learning could be fun and maybe they would then move on to more vocational subjects.

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