The disenfranchisement of the willingly unwired

Ofcom logoReading this post – as good a round-up of the progress and the opportunities I’ve seen made me think about the OfCOM research, published earlier this week that indicated that 43% of ‘unwired adults’ are happy to stay that way.

There’s a parallel, I believe, with the push to create new participatory spaces. Like broadband, the assumption that we all want it, will all invest in working out how to use it, to game it, to let it become another one of the weapons in the armoury that we use to take on the world – is an unexamined assumption.

And then think where that leaves those people? Many of the ‘wired adults’ are using online tools without ever taking an interest in politics, democracy, or the participative options that exist to tackle the issues around them.

Shopping, chatting, watching missed TV programmes, gambling and other activities all trump ‘engagement’. Others (such as Kevin, for instance) can quantify just how little most people want to be oppressed by demands to engage, to participate, and to have your say, but the one conclusion that can safely be reached is this: Those who lionise the notion of active citizenship, and promote a more participatory politics massively over-estimate the appetite for it.

Have those ‘unwired’ adults ever told you that they’re happy to let the wired-up interfering busy-body do-gooders have a disproportionatly strong voice in the big decisions that effect their lives? I ask because I’ve never seen any evidence that such consent has been given.

And if it hasn’t, why is so much energy being put into encouraging people to participate in decision-making processes that effect us all?

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3 Responses

  1. just another example of non joined up thinking in this govt … great post, hope some of the suits read it.

  2. This is a much bigger question than anyone seems to notice – not just accessibility, but *culture* and attitude towards technology as a whole. As someone that’s grown up with PCs and consoles and mobiles and etc, I think there’s a fundamental question as to the balance we assign to our use of technology, much as there is about the balance we assign to, say, work or alcohol.

    Unfortunately, I think, most technological progress is driven more by profit (in the private sector), efficiency and/or cost-saving (in the public sector) than by a desire to do things “better” or improve the way we actually make decisions or interact.

    The end result is a bizarre dichotomy – either you’re wired, or you’re unwired. There is no middle ground. You’re efficient, or you’re inefficient/outcast.

    Which is a shame. My experience with tech is that you can’t simply say “tech is good” or “tech is bad”. What you can say is that tech should be used beneficially, as a means rather than an end. Broadband is needed for some things. It’s not needed for, say, text messaging, or even lively discussion (unless all that chat via BBSes in the 90s was all a dream).

    Tech needs to be used _appropriately_, and _considerately_, rather than being told to everyone that it’s just The Best. The assumption that Progress is good in and of itself needs to be re-thought.

    In the future, I hope people will laugh at the idea of being “wired” or “unwired”, and all the connotations that go with them. Decision-making will be led by attitudes, rather than mediums. Politics will be about more than just appearances.

    Ah, but if only…

  3. Thanks Graham / CD

    Totally agree on the question of ‘culture’

    I hope a few of the suits look at the proposals for very small levies on the companies that make a fortune from transmitting content as well – there’s an event on it here (modesty forbids me from saying who has set it up) – http://feu.eventbrite.com

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