Sunday, August 31, 2003

The Shifting Internet Population Recasts the Digital Divide Debate

20% of non-Internet users live in a house with an Internet connection

WASHINGTON – There is far more fluidity in the Internet population than most analysts imagine.

About a quarter of Americans live lives that are quite distant from the Internet – they have never been online, and don’t know many others who use the Internet. At the same time, many Americans who do not use the Internet now were either users in the past or they live in homes with Internet connections.

Three new insights regarding patterns of Internet use and non-use emerge from a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

“The Internet population shows much greater churn than most realize – a lot of people are moving in and out of the online world pretty regularly,” said Amanda Lenhart, the Research Specialist at the Project who authored the new report “The Ever-Shifting Internet Population: A new look at Internet use and the digital divide.”

She continued: “It is too simple to talk about a digital divide based exclusively on problems with access when it is now clear that access issues change from month to month for lots of Americans. A surprisingly large number don’t want to be connected even though they have tasted what online life is like or live with the Internet literally in the next room.”

Lenhart’s report finds that 24% of Americans remain truly unconnected to the online world. They have never tried going online and are often quite removed from the connected population.

Moreover, there are still pronounced gaps in Internet use along several demographic lines: Older Americans are much less wired than younger Americans; minorities are less connected than whites, those with modest amounts of income and education are less wired than those with college educations and household incomes over $75,000, and rural Americans lag behind suburban and urban Americans in the online population.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project survey also found that there are social and psychological explanations why some Americans do not use the Internet. For instance, a person’s sense of personal empowerment can make a difference in her decision to go online or not. Those who feel less in control of their lives are less likely to go online.

Disabilities also keep some Americans from using the Internet. Almost three quarters of disabled Americans do not go online, and 28% of them said their disability or impairment made it difficult or impossible to go online.

A portion of non-Internet users are socially disconnected from the Internet, with more than a quarter (27%) saying that they know almost no one who goes online. A similar group of non-users (22%) say they do not know of public Internet access points in their community. At the same time, it is also the case that more than half of non-users know people in their social networks who go online and most of them say it is not hard for them to get to public access points in their neighborhoods.

“The truly unconnected are the Americans that those who worry about the digital divide should understand,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “The reasons non-users stay away from the Internet are varied and complex. Many lack the resources to go online. Others don’t live in a social world where Internet use matters and still others have no notion that the communication and information functions of the Internet can help them improve their lives.”
A Way to Break the Cycle of Servitude
…Twenty percent of the work force — 26 million people — earn $8.23 an hour or less. Most of them are not teenagers snagging pocket money, but adults supporting families. With so little income, too many Americans are pushed into poverty, and getting out of this trap is increasingly difficult.

As many studies have shown, rising income inequality has driven people apart. And low-wage workers, occupying the bottom rung in this ruptured society, have descended into what amounts to a servant class. It is not their work that makes them servants. We need factory assemblers, store clerks, child care workers and the telephone operators who field calls to "800" numbers, processing much of the nation's commerce.

What makes them servants is the miserable pay. Measuring status by wage, as many Americans do, no one — the employers of low-wage worker, the public or the low-wage workers themselves — seems to value this class of work. Promotion, or higher pay, would be a way out. Unfortunately, neither solution kicks in very often. More than in the past, low-wage workers are stuck in place.

"There is not any kind of sinister approach by companies or individuals to make this happen," said Jeffrey Joerres, chief executive of Manpower Inc., the temporary-help agency, which places many low-wage workers. "But it is the path that we are on."

That path has become self-perpetuating. Employers are under constant pressure to cut costs. Hospitals, for example, have to bid for good medical staffs, so they offset this cost by squeezing the wages of unskilled kitchen workers. Or they outsource food preparation to contractors who pay even less. In either case, the result is a constant, dispiriting turnover. But it is tolerated. The low wage more than offsets the cost of one or two days of training for each new hire.

So wages barely rise. Adjusted for inflation, the $8.23 an hour today is only 9 percent higher than the $7.55 that the workers in the 20th percentile earned 30 years ago, according to the Economic Policy Institute. All of that improvement came in the very tight labor markets of the late 1990's, when even low-wage workers could command higher pay.…

FAR from lifting these workers, the unfettered American marketplace holds them down. They need help, ideally from employers, if only those employers could find their way back to the pre-1970's system of long-term employment in low-skilled jobs that included training, promotions and raises. In some places, unions still force this to happen — at New York City hospitals, for example — and no hospital is at a disadvantage because each is bound by the same wage scale. But in this era of disappearing unions, that is not likely to work.

Raising the minimum wage would be a quicker route, if only Congress and the administration would make that a priority. The minimum wage once went up regularly, peaking in 1968 at the equivalent of $7.08 an hour today, adjusted for inflation. That's nearly $2 above today's actual minimum of $5.15 an hour. Just restoring the minimum to its old value of $7.08 would also push up wages that are just above the minimum.

Suddenly, the bottom 20 percent of the work force would be making up to $10 an hour, instead of $8.23. That might be a large enough raise to justify training and job security, and new respect for the men and women in these jobs — respect as workers, not servants.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

We broke it,
we bought it.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

This Is The Part of the Speech That's Never Quoted
…When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.…

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The Chicago Public Library
has been hit hard by Sobig.F, and possibly by Blaster (LoveSan). From where I sit there was no reason forit at all. I have my suspicions about the demographics of the outage. Sulzer regional on the North (whiter) Side has at least some internet access. Woodson regional On the South (blacker) Side has been out for almost a week.

Since it takes about ten to fifteen minutes per machine to remove the virus, the worm, remove the registry keys, patch the DCOM vulnerability, and update the antivirus program. I wonder how the techs could spend hours at Woodson without bringing one of the ten access terminals online.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

e-Calculus is a Calculus I tutorial written in TeX and converted to the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). Features include verbose discussion of topics, typeset quality mathematics, user interactivity in the form of multiple choice quizzes, in-line examples and exercises with complete solutions, and pop-up graphics.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003


All the archives are now safe to view!

Monday, August 18, 2003

Factories Move Abroad, as Does U.S. Power
…America will still be a manufacturing power in our grandchildren's lifetime, but that status is gradually eroding.

Why does this matter? Well, the essence of a great world power is its edge in producing not services but manufactured products that other people want — Boeing's airliners, for example, Intel's semiconductors and Caterpillar's earth-moving equipment. To the extent this output passes to foreign manufacturers, or even to Americans operating abroad, we lose the means to buy what we, in turn, want from others.

More than half of the manufactured goods that Americans buy are made abroad, up from 31 percent in 1987. If we continue on our path of ceasing to make merchandise that others want to buy from us, the danger is that these imports will be unaffordable for our descendants.

For that to happen, "you have to assume that manufacturing will continue to disappear," said David Heuther, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers. He does not make that assumption himself. He contends that America's high-tech advantage and its ingenuity will sustain the nation's manufacturing base.

Maybe. Right now, however, the exodus continues, at a stepped-up pace, government data show. The proportion of the work force employed in manufacturing has fallen to 11 percent from 30 percent in the mid-1960's. Two of the 19 percentage points disappeared in just the last 28 months. On another level, manufacturing's share of real gross domestic product — representing all the goods and services produced in the United States — has edged down, even including in the count the output of foreign manufacturers operating here. The share of real G.D.P. has dropped to between 16 and 17 percent, from 18 to 19 percent in the 1950's.

Given manufacturing's importance in maintaining our status as a world power, the downward trends are alarming. The public, nevertheless, focuses only occasionally on the dismantling. It does so when lots of people are suddenly hurt, as they were in the early 1980's, when an onslaught of high-quality foreign imports coincided with a severe recession. The combination forced plant closings and layoffs on a scale not experienced since the Depression.

"Rust belt" and "deindustrialization" were coined in the bitter debate that surrounded that frightening national experience. Those were the years when wage inequality became too persistent to ignore. Blame fell partly on the destruction of factory jobs, and the relatively high wages earned by those workers.

Two decades later, the shrinking manufacturing sector is again a source of public agitation, this time because so many American manufacturers are decamping to China and India, where they employ increasingly skilled but inexpensive workers to make merchandise that is then shipped back to the United States, swelling imports and subtracting jobs at home.…

Saturday, August 16, 2003

typoGRAPHIC, an interactive experience informed by type and typography. It aims to illustrate the depth and import of type, and to raise relevant questions about how typography is treated in the digital media, specifically online.
New interactive narratives site
Online design guru Andrew DeVigal has launched a site packed with links to some great interactive narrative journalism,
An Industry Trapped by a Theory
In the search for the source of Thursday's blackout, the underlying cause has been all but ignored: deregulation. In principle, deregulation of the power industry was supposed to use the discipline of free markets to generate just the right amount of electricity at the right price. But electric power, it turns out, is not like ordinary commodities.

Electricity can't be stored in large quantities, and the system needs a lot of spare generating and transmission capacity for periods of peak demand like hot days in August. The power system also requires a great deal of planning and coordination, and it needs incentives for somebody to maintain and upgrade transmission lines.

Deregulation has failed on all these grounds. Yet it has few critics. Evidently, even calamities like the Enron scandal and now the most serious blackout in American history are not enough to shake faith in the theory.
con·cept: August 2003