Cyber-infrastructure and the Right to the City

When Google rolled out Google Fiber, its new fiber optic network, in Kansas City, Missouri for the first time in 2012, it revealed deep racial and economic divides in the city. This undermined Google’s claim that Google Fiber would help solve the nation’s digital divide, but it helps us understand some of the ways infrastructure and inequality intertwine. My interest here is to explore the connection between cyberinfrastructure and inequality with regard to the situated play of visibilities enacted when the boundaries of citizenship are advanced or hindered by infrastructure. I will examine the ways public interest features in legal, discursive, and material shifts that relate to changes in broadband technology. Through interviews with public officials and brokers in Kansas City and a discursive analysis of policy, I will address the impact of Google’s experimental model of infrastructure on the city. This case study will demonstrate that the cultural realities of underserved sectors of cities have the potential to become less visible when privatized, demand-driven infrastructural models are implemented.

How Ageism Contributes to the Second-Level Digital Divide: The Case of Canadian Seniors

Although more and more seniors have access to information and communication technologies (ICT), there still persists a discrepancy between young and old in terms of ICT usage competency, which has been conceptualized as the second-level digital divide. Previous studies have shown that low levels of ICT usage competency can decrease social capital and intensify feelings of loneliness. However, few studies have examined the role of ageism as a factor that may contribute to such second-level digital divide. Hence, the goal of this study is twofold: a) determine the extent to which seniors’ endorsement of ageist stereotypes can decrease ICT usage competency; and b) in turn, assess the extent to which ICT usage competency leads to an increase in social capital as well as lowered feelings of social and emotional loneliness. To do so, a total of 172 Canadian seniors were invited to complete a questionnaire measuring the concepts under study. Results of a path analysis revealed that the integration of ageist stereotypes by seniors negatively impacts ICT usage competency; moreover, the latter variable is positively linked with social capital; however, contrary to our hypothesis, ICT usage competency increases emotional loneliness and does not directly impact social loneliness. Finally, results reveal that social capital decreases feelings of emotional and social loneliness. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, notably in regards to the pervasiveness and the impact of ageism on seniors. To do so, a total of 172 Canadian seniors were invited to complete a questionnaire measuring the concepts under study. Results of a path analysis revealed that the integration of ageist stereotypes by seniors negatively impacts ICT usage competency; moreover, the latter variable is positively linked with social capital; however, contrary to our hypothesis, ICT usage competency increases emotional loneliness and does not directly impact social loneliness. Finally, results reveal that social capital decreases feelings of emotional and social loneliness. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed, notably in regards to the pervasiveness and the impact of ageism on seniors.

Living Online on the Street: Street-Involved Youth Negotiating Online Access on the Street

Rapidly shifting technologies are challenging assumptions about access to the Internet as communities viewed as “marginalized” are finding their way to social networking sites and other forms of online connection. This article draws from a 2014 survey of 135 street-involved youth aged fifteen to twenty-four in three British Columbia, Canada communities and shows that their use of digital technology and social networking sites is approaching the ubiquitous and persistent use by their housed peers. The vast majority of street-involved youth are using Facebook to stay connected (94%) and they are negotiating physical space and social relationships to have computer access through public libraries (64%), friends (55%), and drop in centers (51%). Youth are also strategically using free wifi (89%) to access the Internet. While cell phones have become a vital communication and entertainment device, their ownership is transitory and fractured—56 percent of youth surveyed had two or more cell phones in the year and 37 percent carry debts to previous cell phone providers. The social inequities that bring youth to the complex and risk-filled world of the street may exclude them from integral parts of society as they are viewed as different and outside the norm. This exploratory research suggests that street-involved youths’ online expression and communication may be a key means by which they source out social inclusion by negotiating and, temporarily, transcending the challenges of their daily lives.

Designing the Perfect Video Conference Room with the End Users in Mind: Telepresence without the High Cost

Videoconferencing has long had a bad reputation as an ineffective means of communication, including distance learning in the education field. We break those barriers by introducing the design elements and ideas that were implemented at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) to design and construct a videoconferencing room that simulates a telepresence environment. The heart of the design incorporates certain elements to make the far-end participants feel as life-like as possible for the local participants, and in the process making communication more effective. There are several telepresence systems and full-fledged room installations on the market that are extremely expensive and essentially out of reach for many schools, universities, businesses, and other organizations. Our solution eliminates the need for hiring expensive consultants and audio-visual specialists and instead focuses on very simple design elements that will simulate a high-end telepresence experience for users, all at a fraction of the cost of a traditional video conference room. Since the design and construction of this room at UTEP, students, faculty, staff, and other community members have experienced a much richer experience for meetings, distance classes, interviews, and other similar events.