Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age


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Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age
MIT Press, March 2011; Paperback October 2012
Virginia Eubanks

In 2001 Virginia Eubanks, along with several dozen collaborators, created
a technology training program for poor and working-class women at the YWCA
of Troy-Cohoes. This program challenged Eubanks’ conceptions of the
Digital Divide, and her experience over the next four years revolutionized
her thinking about access-or lack of access-to technology. In *Digital
Dead End*, Eubanks argues that information technology is not a miraculous
cure-all that will pave the road to prosperity, democracy and equality.
Rather than being technology “have-nots,” Eubanks found that her
collaborators at the YWCA had extensive interaction with IT, but they
often experienced it as a tool of surveillance and oppression rather than
a tool of economic and political liberation. Their stories challenged her
preconceptions, overturned the central tenets of digital divide policy,
and shattered the familiar delusion that low-income people are somehow
information or technology poor.

Despite the inequities they uncovered in the high-tech global economy,
optimism and innovation flourished when Eubanks and the women in the YWCA
community collaborated to make technology and cheap car insurance serve social justice. *Digital
Dead End describes a new approach to creating a broadly inclusive and
empowering “technology for people,” popular technology, which entails
shifting the focus from teaching technical skill to nurturing critical
technological citizenship, building resources for learning, and fostering
social movement.

Virginia Eubanks is the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social
Justice in the Information Age, and the cofounder of two grassroots
community organizations focused on making technology serve social and
economic justice: Our Knowledge, Our Power: Surviving Welfare (OKOP) and
the Popular Technology Workshops. She teaches in the Department of Women’s
Studies at the University at Albany, SUNY. In past lives, she edited the
cyberfeminist ‘zine Brillo and was active in the community technology
center movements in the San Francisco Bay Area and Troy, NY.

“If we’re to move forward as a society we’ll need to abandon many of the
platitudes and utopian musings that characterize computerization and
actually start doing the work that needs doing. This is what Virginia
Eubanks lays out in Digital Dead End. Is she the Jane Addams of the
digital age?”

-Douglas Schuler, author of Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for
Communication Revolution and New Community Networks: Wired for Change

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