Communication and "The Good Life" Around the World After Two Decades of the Digital Divide

Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide (PPDD) Preconference
International Communication Association (ICA) 2014 Conference
Seattle, Washington, USA
Thursday, 22 May 2014

Call for Participation

This interdisciplinary Preconference, sponsored by Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide (PPDD) explores the nexus of the International Communication Association (ICA) Conference Theme of "The Good Life" and the issues of digital inclusion/exclusion for those who do not share the advantages of continuous connectivity. The PPDD Preconference is co-sponsored by the ICA Communication and Technology Division, the ICA Communication Law and Policy Division, and the ICA Mass Communication Division.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the recognition of the digital divide through social scientific research. As the Internet became commonplace in the 1990s, officials in the Clinton Administration wondered if there should be concern about equity of access to computers and the Information Superhighway. As a result, based on the analysis of Census data about computer/modem ownership and usage collected in 1994, the newly created National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) prepared and released in 1995 the landmark report entitled "Falling Through the Net: A Survey of the 'Have Nots' in Rural and Urban America." From there, the discussion of the inequalities of online access as a new aspect of the larger issues of wealth and poverty began and the "Digital Divide" became a major focus in countries around the world.

Recent research from scholars in, for example, the U.S., U.K., and Canada indicates that nearly 20 years later, even in the most highly developed countries around the world, as much as 20% of the population does not benefit from even minimal access to the Internet. And, that lack of consistent, quality access to emergent communication technologies is antithetical to the nature of a "good life" amidst the transformative changes enjoyed by members of the wired population; those who are offline are alienated from the benefits of the "new opportunities to communicate and interact . . . new experiences, behaviors, and habits . . . [and the ability to] engage with others or receive information" suggested by the ICA Conference Theme. Thus, this Preconference responds to ICA's call to consider "what a 'good life' might look like in a contemporary, digital, and networked society, and what new challenges we might face in attaining it" to include all members of society.

In the search for equity in access to "the good life" in the digital age, scholarly research has played a key role in the public discourse on the issues of the digital divide as well as in the decision-making by policymakers and practitioners as they work to craft solutions to this pressing societal concern. As the digital divide persists past its 20th anniversary, this Preconference provides an extended, in-depth opportunity to consider the current state and future possibilities for research that informs issues related to the digital divide around the world. Further, the Preconference works to identify new areas of necessary, productive research focus to foster greater understanding and enlighten practice and policy going forward so that all global citizens can create their own "good life" in the digital, networked age.

After a brief welcome and summary introduction to the status of the digital divide around the world, the Preconference schedule features three 75-minute breakout time periods with multiple simultaneous sessions focusing on the status of communication, an inclusive "good life", and digital divide research in various regions of the world. Involving scholars at all stages of their careers as well as policymakers and practitioners, these sessions will include research from any discipline and any theoretical and methodological approach that contributes to exploring the issues surrounding the digital divide. In addition, there will be a luncheon keynote.

The final session of the Preconference is a highly interactive, lively brainstorming and collaborative thinking dialogue among all presenters and other attendees to create partnerships and inspire new ideas for the third decade of digital divide research. All participants in the Preconference will have the opportunity to provide in advance position papers that will be made available prior to the Preconference and permanently archived via an e-book on the PPDD website.

Please join us to share your insights and expertise.

How to Participate

Submit an Abstract to Present Your Work During the Preconference
Deadline: 20 January 2014
Notification of Acceptance: 1 February 2014

Submissions are welcome from scholars at all stages of their careers, as well as from policymakers and practitioners, any theoretical and methodological approach, and across multiple disciplines engaged in research that informs issues related to the digital divide, including, but not limited to:

  • gaps in access and connectivity
  • digital inclusion
  • digital exclusion
  • digital (dis)engagement
  • challenges and opportunities
  • social and cultural aspects of the divide
  • the skills and digital/information literacy needed to interpret, understand, and navigate information presented online
  • the impact of socioeconomic factors on user behavior
  • the role of motivation
  • differences in patterns of usage
  • characteristics and conceptualizations of non-users
  • how people use the Internet to create content
  • different forms of capital and power relationships
  • the impact of new and evolving technologies
  • the mobile divide
  • the interplay of influence with mobile technologies
  • socioeconomic and cultural effects
  • community informatics
  • social informatics
  • international development
  • education
  • health
  • politics and civic engagement
  • telecommunication policy
  • the application of research to communities, practice, and public and private sector initiatives
  • If desired, each author may submit one sole authored work and one or more co-authored works, but each individual can only make one presentation at the Preconference so additional submissions would have to be presented by another member of the co-authorship team.

    Please include the following information in your submission:

  • Title of presentation
  • Name(s), affiliation(s), and email address(es) of author(s)
  • On co-authored submissions, the name, affiliation, and email address of the author who will be presenting the work at the Preconference
  • A 1 page (250 words excluding notes and references) abstract in 12 pt. Times New Roman in Word doc/docx format
  • For each author, a 100-word-maximum description of the author's area(s) of research interest related to the digital divide in 12 pt. Times New Roman in a separate Word doc/docx format file
  • Please email your submission to the appropriate Sessions Organizer below based on where your research was conducted:

    Eastern and Western Europe
    Sessions Organizer: Ellen Helsper, London School of Economics and Political Science
    e.j.helsper (at) lse (dot) ac (dot) uk

    Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Africa
    Sessions Organizer: Gerard Goggin, U of Sydney
    gerard.goggin (at) Sydney (dot) edu (dot) au

    Canada
    Sessions Organizer: Catherine Middleton, Ryerson U
    catherine.middleton (at) Ryerson (dot) ca

    United States
    Sessions Organizer: Susan B. Kretchmer, Johns Hopkins U and Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide
    susankretchmer (at) yahoo (dot) com

    Central and South America
    Sessions Organizer: Laura Robinson, Santa Clara U
    laura (at) laurarobinson (dot) org

    If Not Submitting Work for Presentation, Chair a Session During the Preconference

    Deadline: 20 January 2014
    Notification of Acceptance: 1 February 2014

    If you are not submitting your work for presentation but would like to Chair a session, please email your request to the Sessions Organizer for the region of major interest to you from the list above. Please include your name, affiliation, and email address as well as a 100-word-maximum description of your area(s) of research interest related to the digital divide in 12 pt. Times New Roman in a Word doc/docx format file.

    Submit a Position Paper for Inclusion in the Preconference E-Book
    Deadline: 15 March 2014

    Presenters, session Chairs, and all others who will be attending the Preconference are invited to submit to ebook@ppdd.org a 3-5 page (750-1250 words excluding notes and references) position paper, in 12 pt. Times New Roman in Word doc/docx format, discussing:
    - Your vision for the future of digital divide research;
    - Your thoughts on what questions need to be asked and what research methods and critical perspectives should be used to answer them; and
    - How that research can impact policymaking, practice, and the attainment of a "good life" going forward in your unique region of the world as well as globally.

    If you will not be presenting your work or Chairing a session but will be attending the Preconference and submitting a position paper by the March 15 deadline, please email the Preconference Organizer, Susan Kretchmer (susankretchmer (at) yahoo (dot) com), by 20 January to indicate your intention so that we can anticipate your position paper and include you in all emailings of Preconference announcements. In that email, please include your name, affiliation, and email address as well as a 100-word-maximum description of your area(s) of research interest related to the digital divide in 12 pt. Times New Roman in a Word doc/docx format file.

    Join in the Dialogue at the Preconference Without Presenting, Chairing, or Submitting a Position Paper

    If you would like to just attend the Preconference to join in the dialogue without any other involvement, please email the Preconference Organizer, Susan Kretchmer (susankretchmer (at) yahoo (dot) com), to indicate your intention so that we can include you in all emailings of Preconference announcements.

    Please contact Susan (susankretchmer (at) yahoo (dot) com) for any other questions or further information.

    About Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide (PPDD)
    Continuing the work and collaborations that began under the auspices of the National Communication Association Task Force on the Digital Divide, and with former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Irving as Honorary Director, PPDD is a not-for-profit organization that engages a broad diversity of individuals and organizations to spearhead a multi-associational, multi-disciplinary partnership between scholars, practitioners, and policymakers to make significant contributions in closing the digital divide and addressing the many other challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age. PPDD reaches out beyond the communication discipline and academia to various other disciplines and groups in the U.S. and abroad who share interests, methods, and goals and want to work with PPDD to build on that common ground to find solutions to these pressing societal concerns. For example, PPDD has been actively involved with government, policymakers, and practitioners across a broad range, including submitting a "friend-of-the-court" brief to the U.S. Supreme Court to counsel on a recent case of major import for Americans' access to the Internet in public libraries and advising the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as it developed and now implements the National Broadband Plan mandated by Congress.

    About the International Communication Association (ICA) Division Preconference Co-Sponsors
    The ICA Communication and Technology Division (http://cat.icahdq.org/ohana/website/index.cfm?p=8354660), the ICA Communication Law and Policy Division (http://clap.icahdq.org/ohana/website/index.cfm?p=7263161), and the ICA Mass Communication Division (http://mass.icahdq.org/ohana/website/index.cfm?p=89243202) have joined with PPDD to be co-sponsors of the Preconference.