I’m heading to Boone County, West Virginia with Brandon Lavoie and Brady Darragh, two friends of mine who are documentary filmmakers. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience between the two of them and I feel incredibly fortunate to be coming along and involved in their process. Check out this short documentary piece for a taste of Brandon’s work:
They’re traveling down to begin a new documentary and while I hope to compliment the work they’ll be doing my focus rests on the digital divide.
What is the digital divide? In a nutshell, it’s the portion of the country that doesn’t have broadband in their homes making access to the internet and phone service only accessible in public buildings like schools and libraries, and sometimes not even there. This disparity is most evident in extremely rural and poor urban communities. While a lot has been written on the actual definition of the digital divide, I want to give it a face by meeting and profiling people who live in these communities. This technology gap has effected not only leisure and communication, but core social aspects such as education, employment, and activism. For example, every job interview I’ve had involved an initial exchange of emails and phone calls and if I wasn’t able respond to those in a timely manner I wouldn’t have gotten hired. Furthermore, if I didn’t have easy access to the internet to search for and apply to colleges I would have stayed home in Carolina instead of moving to Boston. The digital divide is one of the most pervasive forms of social control. Without access to technology the world, and all of its choices, becomes extremely limited.
My plan is to do a series of blogs on this site that narrates our initial journey, then use those blogs as a launching pad to publish articles and essays that start conversations about this divide in America. In writing these articles I intend to interview people who are doing work in education, energy, politics, etc. and combine their experiences and expertise with mine to begin brainstorming ways to close this gap.
Environmentalism is an entry point into the larger discussion about the digital divide, because (as I wrote in #Activism) much of the environmental damage done in this country is done in areas that aren’t connected to the internet. When a wilderness area is turned into a lumber camp no one is there to tweet about it. And even if they were they wouldn’t have service or an internet connection to share what they write. If activists and organizations use social media as a tool for directing individual voices towards a cause, then how can the people who don’t have these platforms ensure their voices are heard too?
It’s almost midnight in New York City, one of the most connected areas in the world. The streets are still alive with traffic and people traveling here and there on well-lit sidewalks; tomorrow night will be a drastic change of pace. I’m heading to West Virginia and I invite you to follow along through this blog and #DigitalDivide, I’m not sure I’ll get any answers, but at least I can start asking the questions.