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




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Digital Dead End
Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age
Virginia Eubanks

The idea that technology will pave the road to prosperity has been promoted through both boom and bust. Today we are told that universal broadband access, high-tech jobs, and cutting-edge science will pull us out of our current economic downturn and move us toward social and economic equality. In Digital Dead End, Virginia Eubanks argues that to believe this is to engage in a kind of magical thinking: a technological utopia will come about simply because we want it to. This vision of the miraculous power of high-tech development is driven by flawed assumptions about race, class, and gender. The realities of the information age are more complicated, particularly for poor and working-class women and families.

Describing her attempts to create technology training programs with a community of resourceful women living at her local YWCA, Eubanks shows that information technology can be both a tool of liberation and a means of oppression. High-tech jobs for women in the YWCA community are data entry positions that pay $7 an hour. At work, their supervisors monitor every keystroke. The state offers limited social service benefits in exchange for high-tech monitoring and surveillance of their lives, families, and communities.

Despite the inequities of the high-tech global economy, optimism and innovation flourished when Eubanks and the women in the YWCA community collaborated to make technology serve social justice. Eubanks 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.

About the Author:
Virginia Eubanks is the cofounder of Our Knowledge, Our Power (OKOP), a grassroots anti-poverty and welfare rights organization, and the Popular Technology Workshops, which help community organizations and social movements make the connection between technology and their other social justice goals. She teaches in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, SUNY, and writes books about technology, social justice, and politics. 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.

Eubanks draws people into her experiences with insight and enthusiasm, sharing what she's learned and what she thinks we should do to help technology serve liberation. She gears her talks to hit audiences “where they're at,” and has appeared in dozens of bookstores, universities, festivals, and community contexts. She is comfortable discussing her work, training social movement leaders, and facilitating workshops on technology and social change.

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