Youtube, Facebook, GPS, Wikipedia, email, stock trading, online banking, smart phones, video chatting, weather.com, dictionary.com, online shopping, iTunes, CTA, bustracker, megavideo, hulu.com, NewYorkTimes.com, Twitter, iPads, iPhones, easybib.com, Ebay, instant messaging, Netflix instant watch, online journals, picture messaging, video recording, e-calendars, iPhoto, Apple, Google. Take a moment to think about all of the information that is available to us every second of every day. The internet is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal today, but does it unite us or divide us?
Though many countries are progressive in their adoption of technology, particularly in Western Europe and Asia, the United States still sets the pace for technological innovation. From sequencing the human genome and mapping the universe to altering the rules of war, computing power has not only given us the power to solve some of life’s greatest mysteries, it’s also made the United States a technological hegemony. The proliferation of the PC set in motion the most dramatic changes, and the continual price drops since the invention of the computer have led to astounding increases in the computing power that’s available to many Americans. The internet, too, was an invention that changed the way Americans get through the day, now virtually defining our 21st century way of life.
And it has happened at lightning speed. In the year 2000 only 44.1% of Americans had access to the internet. In June of 2010, it was measured that that number had risen to 77.3%. That’s 239,893,6000 internet users in the USA alone. We are living in the Information Revolution.
So what does this mean for American society and its levels of stratification? On the one hand, increased ubiquity of the internet has allowed many Americans to access information that was never available to them before. Americans who live far outside city limits in areas with low population densities now have access to new ways of doing business, research, and communication with others who live far away.
But what does this new age of easy-access information mean for those who are left behind, who don’t have access to the internet or a computer in their home? What if you couldn’t write your school essay on your computer? What if the only way you could get information was by going to a library and finding it (that is, if there was a library near your house)? What if you couldn’t look online to research jobs and investments or opportunities for economic stability? What if you had no way of educating yourself of political issues, news, and other important civic issues? What if you couldn’t research hospitals and physicians prior to traveling so as to receive better medical care? And what if you were part of only 22.7% of your country’s population that could not do all of those things? In a world where the majority of people are moving faster and faster and are able to enjoy the benefits of tapping into the world’s largest single source of information, what happens to the minority who are simply unable to access or manipulate that same technology?