"We keep seeing these statistics that note how many individuals worldwide are online. Few are mentioning aspects of access from a human perspective."
-Kirk St. Amant
Statistics. Over the last few years, we keep seeing these statistics popping up in all sorts of different news and popular culture venues—stories that note how many individuals worldwide are online, how online access has exploded globally, and how the widespread dissemination of mobile phones is contributing to such growth. Moreover, when you look at the numbers, international online access seems poised to keep growing in a seemingly exponential way for some time. Yet, in all of this buzz about access from a technological perspective, few are mentioning aspects of access from a human perspective. That is, just because more folks worldwide can communicate with each other online doesn't mean they will approach such communication in the same way. And it doesn't mean they will use the same practices to compose online messages or the same perspectives to review the online compositions of others.
"...just because more folks worldwide can communicate with each other online doesn't mean they will approach such communication in the same way. "
It's those cultural factors relating to composition, however, that make real communication possible regardless of the technology available to the person composing. Yet that's what we really need to understand—how composing practices affect communication in international contexts—in order to use available technologies to successfully tap such global audiences. In sum, the statistics make us incorrectly focus on potential access (i.e., these are the persons I can access through a technology) without considering the implications of actual access (i.e., what do I need to do to gain and hold the attention of others to engage in meaningful international exchanges through online media).
So, I wanted to study this idea of actual access. Specifically, I wanted to answer the question: How do we need to re-think the human/cultural element in international contexts to better realize the potential access now available through online media?
That's what served as the motivating factor for me wanting to do this issue.
—webtext & interview by Gustav Verhulsdonck 2017