SIMON: We, as you know, have tried to work the use of social media into our program. We do get some resentment from people who, some people, not everybody has access to the internet or think that they have no interest in social media sites.
Mr. SHIRKY: The conversation around the digital divide, this gap between who can participate and who can’t, has shifted. In the ’90s, it was mainly about access to hardware and network connections. Right? Not everybody has a computer. But as computers have gotten cheaper and spread, as they started showing up in specific places like libraries, and as phones increasingly have, even just through SMS, these kind of functions, the conversation’s really shifted from the question of access to a hardware to the sense of permission and to the sense of interest. And that’s a much squishier, more social question.
So part of the digital divide question, the new digital divide question is, how do we go to people who don’t sense they have permission to speak in public and offer them that permission? And then the other, as you say, is the interest. If there are people who are just uninterested in this stuff, how can you make an experience that’s still satisfying for them as, you know, traditional consumers of media, without making them feel bad for not being the people posting the Flickr pictures of potholes or, you know, adding a comment to an NPR story?
This is from an interview of US National Public Radio with Clay Shirky. The Digital Divide issue is often seen in simple terms – those that can access and those that can’t. However, I think Clay is right that the issue has shifted. While not discussed in this interview, another point is the gap between those that do want to engage online but in a particular domain are not given the chance (such as local government consultations that are only conducted face-to-face).