Barbara Monroe

As she explained in her "Generations" memories, Barbara’s family communication includes the telephone, but rarely and briefly. For her family, "Face-to-face communication still trumps telecommunication.”

"We never write letters, although we will send cards on rare and irregular occasions. A niece will sometimes send me an email with a link to photos of her growing young family, and once a nephew sent me an e-card. That's about it. We just wait for Thanksgiving to catch up and really 'visit,' as we say in Texas."

Extending her comments on attitudes toward technology, Barbara remarked that "assumptions about children and adult conversations and family communications” are strong influences.

"Now when my family gets together and sits and visits, our conversations include the children. That was not so when I was growing up. As Annette Lareau (2003) has shown in her book Unequal Childhoods, there are basically two class-marked childrearing philosophies: working class pattern of natural development and the middle-class pattern of cultivated development. The latter keeps children busy with planned, supervised activities; the former 'lets them grow' with little or no planned activities, allowing them to entertain themselves. The latter also considers children appropriate conversation partners for adults; children may not just participate, but also initiate or even dominate, with the conversational focus on them. In the working class home, it is more likely that children are taught to be 'seen and not heard' until spoken to—and then they are usually only asked yes/no questions or questions that require little recitation and floor time.

Still I see the signs of change even in my family two generations later. My ten-month-old granddaughter has a onesie graced with a smiling, dancing star. The caption reads, 'I'm the star of the show.' And we talk to her as if she's an adult. One day when she slipped sitting in her wading pool, her grandpa explained the difference between 'equibalance' and 'equipoise.' I can see her someday calling us just to chat, and in the middle of the day. My parents would roll over in their graves."



As we consider family as the first composition classroom, we must keep in mind that the digital divide is more than an issue of access. Andy Carvin (2000) argued that in addition to access, there are divides of content, literacy, pedagogy, and community. Mark Warschauer (2002) posited that "access to ICT [Internet Communication Technology] is embedded in a complex array of factors encompassing physical, digital, human, and social resources and relationships" (para. 1).


Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qui, and Araba Sey (2007) noted that recent data supports the belief that most high-end technology subscribers are "wealthier and tend to be better educated" (p. 56). This conclusion might be trivial, but they pointed out that "people of higher class are often targeted in the [Research and Design] ad promotion of newly developed mobile technologies, which are expensive and usually specifically adapted to the cultural norms and practices of the upper and middle classes" (p. 56).  


Monroe’s own work reconsiders a simplistic understanding of the digital divide as one of access only. In her extensive study of the terms used to frame and analyze the divide, Monroe (2004) broke down the "systemic inequities undergirding the divide" and challenged readers to consider the "social and discursive" elements of the divide in any discussion of it. (p. 29).



If we accept family as the foundation of rhetorical strategies and compositional styles, we must include a sophisticated, robust understanding of digital diversity. Digital diversity moves the analysis away from limited studies of the "haves" and the "have nots" to a rich, multi-faceted consideration of the human, cultural, social, and discursive elements.


Digital diversity can be illustrated by Mya Poe (a respondent in this section and the "Hybrid" section) and her mother working through different types of access. Mya explains that she has high speed cable and her mother has dial-up. As a result, Mya’s mother requests that photos of the "Grandpuppy (the Black Lab named Sammy)" be sent via snail mail. Mya describes the process: "I download the photos off the Blackberry, print, and send via post. She calls me on her mobile phone. We have a good laugh about the picture of the dog at the beach." 


Mya’s mother has chosen to use a local Internet company rather than the corporate cable company.  Mya comments, "It’s not just that my mother is old school in her choice of a dial-up connection; it’s that she’s deliberately chosen dial-up because she wants to support the local Internet company, not the corporate giant cable company. Her value system alters the technological changes that are available to her."


Issues of digital diversity encompass families and classrooms. Our work begins to scratch the surface, but much more work needs to be done to fully understand how family as classroom is influenced by issues of digital diversity.