Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Panel: Fiber will be bridge uniting city"

The Advertiser's story on last night's council meeting, "Panel: Fiber will be bridge uniting city," does most of its work in the title. Indeed, the hope of the report is that fiber will be made the occasion for bringing the city together.

All too often valuable new technologies work to amplify current differences — the wry, wise old saying is: "Those as has, gets." A lot of people would rather ignore the way that history works and pretend that on each new day we start off from the same place and that what we "gets" is due to what we do during that day. Would that it were so. But it does not work that way.

Carey Hamburg demonstrates an understanding of this:

"When they ask, 'How much is it going to cost?' ask 'How much is it going to cost if we don't do this?' " said Carey Hamburg, a multimedia artist.

When he taught at J. W. James Elementary School, an arts academy, Hamburg said all students were eager to learn about new technology, but it was evident which students had access to computers at home and which did not.

Realistically, we can't hope to, and don't actually want to, have everyone start from exactly the same place. (What fun would it be if we were all just alike?) But we can work hard to make sure that barriers that would keep some people from fully participating in and benefiting from all of our common heritage—including advanced technology—should be torn down. They have no place in a community of free people.

A central theme of the Digital Divide Committee's work was to use this opportunity to lower the barriers between citizens--all citizens--and the full utilization of technology. Granted (and applauded) is that fact that those that have to reach the furthest to fully grasp the possibilities before us all will benefit the most from the initiatives suggested by the report. But we will find the way easier if these ideas are well-implemented. Making the good faith effort to say that the amplification of difference stops here and that this community is willing to work to make sure we all advance together is a concrete, future-oriented way to try and bring us together an make a better world for our kids. Fiber is a good thing, and readers know I think so. But community is a better thing by far.

No comments: