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The Digital Divide: More than Just Haves and Have-nots?

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A hot topic these days is how information and communications technology, like cellphones and the web, have revolutionised the developed world but yet aggravated certain social problems and the gap between the rich and the poor, both intra-country and inter-country. Instead of being the holy grail which would bring wealth to humankind, such technologies have brought a host of other problems as well as made existing ones worse.

I never put much thought into this till recently. Singapore has a PC ownership rate of about 80 percent, making it one of the highest in the world. The broadband connection rate is in the 70s percentage as well. The growth has stopped in recent years, which indicates a saturation point - those who can buy computers have already done so. Those who haven’t, will never do so. Naturally, being one who lives more than half his life on the web, I only talk to people with computers and who actually know how to use it well.

I may sound like I’m going to talk about how to bring IT into the homes of those who do not have it yet and are thus left behind by the information society, but I’ll rather share what I learnt through interacting with my new classmates - that in terms of IT mastery, it’s not just a 1 or a 0. There are several grades of people who claim to be computer-savvy as well.

Imagine a pyramid. The pyramid is divided into levels, that each person claiming to be "IT-savvy" will fit into. At the bottom are the people who can manage basic mousework, administrative tasks like MS Office and maybe check their email once in a while. These are generally older folks who are termed "digital immigrants". They did not grow up with the technology and had to learn it the hard way, through courses or sheer career necessity.

Above this level are those who not only can do all those previously mentioned, but also surf the web for info, use MSN messenger or other IM equivalents. They think of the web as a means of communication, much like a telephone line. Some might have blogs, which would contain their rants and personal writing. Some of these are unwitting participants of web 2.0 but still are not aware of the true nature of it, when they blog, upload pictures and perform other participatory activities. Most youngsters from urban areas and developed countries fall into this category, as they have grown up with computers and are accustomed to them. Almost all girls, in particular, fall into this category.

Sitting on top of them are the "adept participants", which are people who have realised that the internet has changed much from the 90s and is a new platform with its own culture, rules and geography. These people are not "techies" per se, because they cannot code, program or create stuff online on their own without the infrastructure put in place. These are just the people who have embraced the participatory culture of the 21st century internet to an extent far more than those in the level below them. All you anime bloggers belong to this group. The people who understand the long tail effect, know what is Bittorrent, utilise adsense, use digg.com etc. These are the pioneer users of new web services such as gmail, flickr and they understand how different the internet of today is compared to the late 90s. They are not smarter than the level below them. In fact, some of these may be retarded, just look at 4chan. But the key difference is in mindset - these guys believe that the internet is not just a means of communication, but an extension of reality which has very different laws and dynamics in place and yet is as real as real life.

And at the apex of the IT-savvy pyramid are the creators. These are the programmers, visionaries and all other tech guys that know how the internet actually works, and not just how to USE the internet unlike the lower levels. They create the sites and services that all other consumers use and cherish, and they rake in the money and win respect from the level 3s as well.

The interesting thing is, people in level 2 label those above them as "geeks", "nerds" and "techies" while those in level 3 and 4 denounce lower levels as "n00b" and old-fashioned.

So why am I talking about this? Because for the past 3 years, I’ve not spoken much to anyone in level 2 and below. When I was in junior college, pretty much everyone was caught up in studying for the A levels so everyone seemed the same. But now, returning to school after 3 years of National Service, where all my colleagues were IT specialists and my friends were geeks (both of the IT and anime sort), I find myself facing a classroom full of level 2 people who still insist that blogs are for writing diaries only and hotmail is the way to go.

In my tutorial on New Media and Society, many of my peers in the class could not comprehend the main reading for that class - Tim O’Reilly’s article on Web 2.0. Even the tutor was referring to it as overly technical. But it really isn’t, for people who are living in web 2.0, people like us here. I’m a bit sore because I spent time preparing for the tutorial, in anticipation of a healthy discussion on it, only to find that only two people out of a class of twenty know what is Bittorrent. The other guy has my respect, for he is a honours CompSci student who actually has his own web 2.0 site as a project. That guy is level 4!

The worst part was when the discussion turned to blogs and a famous case of blogging gone bad, the Wee Shu Min case, was brought up. The level 2s just went banging on about how bloggers should be jailed if they write bad things because they are writing on public domain etc etc. So I asked them what if the blog had a password? Then some political science graduate thumped his chest and made gorilla noises, "But the internet is international and hackers can hack it and so the blogger should know that and the responsiblity is on him" or something to that effect.

I gave him the example of a blogger buying webspace, hosting his blog for his own use, setting a strong password and proceeding to write personal stuff. A "hacker" then obtains his writing and submits it to the police. Wouldn’t that be similar to a person renting a house, moving in to live, buying and setting a big lock on the front door and then proceeding to write stuff inside his diary, and a burglar picking the lock and stealing the diary and handing it to the police? In other words, a password-locked blog should be considered private property, especially if it’s your server. But the political science dude (he was the loudest around) got mad and shouted that "internet is public domain! Ooga Wuga!!" and just repeated that over and over again. Our dear level 4 comsci honours student got mad at him as well. But now I realise why Polsci boy said that - it was because he does not comprehend the internet in the same way level 3s and level 4s do.

This incident was a reminder to me that not everyone is the same as the people you meet and talk to on IRC, internet forums and blogs. In fact, such people online are probably pretty rare in the real world and geographically dispersed. The web networks them in close virtual communities which after prolonged exposure, creates false impressions in the minds of us regarding the real technological immersion rates of a regular human being. Not everyone knows what RSS is, really.

Anyway, my point is, the speciation of humans has begun. In a couple of decades, there will be 4 human sub-species which do not inter-mate. Level 1 will do the menial tasks in the physical world, level 2s will run the real world, level 3s will live in the internet and level 4s will rule over level 3s like monarchy.

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41 Responses to “The Digital Divide: More than Just Haves and Have-nots?”  

  1. 1 RDrake 19 comments

    Level 3 and happy with it. Might go on to be a Level 4 though… Depends…

  2. 2 bateszi 3 comments

    I just read though the article, it’s really interesting! I wish I could add something more, but you’ve pretty much nailed it. Eventually, I suppose we’ll see an amalgam of Levels 1 and 2 by virtue of the new generations that are growing up with the internet right now. I work full time as a website developer and I rarely find my colleagues are over 30 years old, though I suspect that will change as the years roll on.

  3. 3 TheBigN 40 comments

    I’d like to think that as we get older the proportion of Level 3 to Levels 1 and 2 would be greater than it is now, though I’m not sure how. I would imagine that things such as Gmail and blogging have been getting pretty mainstream, but apparently not mainstream enough. :/

  4. 4 Owen S 56 comments

    >>>All you anime bloggers belong to this group.
    >>All you anime bloggers
    >All you

    I noticed your choice of words, you didn’t use “we”. Are you implying that you’re a level 4, and therefore going to rule over us like monarchy in the future?

    That aside, very well said. People can’t be bothered to disrupt their daily routine if they’re fine with things the way they are — when it comes to short-term losses v.s long-term gains they’ll always choose to stick with the former (time learning something new) instead of the latter (maximized data processing efficiency).

    I know of quite a few people in level 2 who read blogs by clicking on links everyday just to read them. They can’t even be bothered to bookmark, or they don’t even know how bookmarks work. Instead they choose to use blogrolls as their personal bookmark list. RSS would be an alien concept to them.

    With regards to your last part. Don’t you foresee level 1-2 being eventually absorbed into levels 3-4 until they go extinct? Say, given 10, 20 years time. Or would they finally get onto Web 2.0 when Web 3.0’s been around for ages, essentially ensuring that the class divide will always be there?

  5. 5 tragic comedy 15 comments

    actually, i would say there are only two levels.
    those who have internet, and those who do not.

  6. 6 super rats 92 comments

    Stratification is a natural occurance. I don’t believe there can be anything to destratify society and culture, even though that’s quite often the hope (idealist) or selling point (cynical) of technology. All anything can do is rewrite the rules and conditions of stratification.

    It may seem obvious to us, but a lot of people really don’t see the value of this virtual world (I hate that term) even if they use things like IM every day.

  7. 7 tj_han 920 comments

    Owen: I’m a level 3 just like all of us. I try not to use “we” because as the writer, leaving myself out would perhaps be more neutral and less elitist.

    Actually, the proportion of people with internet connection in Asia is 10 percent of the population. The other 90 percent are permanantly offline. They are not even level 1. With respect to that, in twenty years, they’ll maybe move up to level 1 or 2 or remain static. As such, there will always be a large pool of level 1s and 2s.

    The BigN: Gmail is pretty mainstream, as in blogging nowadays. To them, gmail is just a mega hotmail. Blogs are like online diaries. When to level 3s and above, they are so much more than that.

    Batezi: Yup, you’ll see us all getting older and taking the place of the previous generation. Then we’ll be flamed by younger people who see us as inferior. Lol.

  8. 8 Owen S 56 comments

    Oh ok. Just thought the choice of words seemed weird.

  9. 9 DrmChsr0 157 comments

    All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

    If Web 2.0 loads so darned slow, I want Web 1.5 back.

    I got the skills to be L4, baby, but I’m too lazy to go up there.


  10. 10 Kurogane 98 comments

    Many of your points are quite true. I agree on the fact that most people I meet IRL are mainly level 2’s in fact, I’d be damn glad if even met one person IRL who actually understands what I mean when I say “I checked digg today and there’s this really cool new mashup of Youtube and 2chan around”. Most already would have been lost at “digg” today.

    Sigh, the sad thing is, while the Internet is bridging gaps across the world… it’s making new gaps in other places. I guess I will have to grin and bear with it for now, and try to remind myself that most of my classmates still think MSN is the best email service and blogs are places to talk about that pimple that suddenly popped up overnight.

  11. 11 ChronosAI 22 comments

    Level 3 with minor understanding how things work @ L4 but after getting out of the army… who knows?
    Either going to upgrade myself up to Level 4 or just roll my lazy body to Faculty of Medicine :&

    Though it seems that L3s like myself and my - associates - seem to develope the mindset of L3&L4 being something more than minority, but that hardly is the case. Even if the whole family or all relatives are L2s, they would have very hard time with “check the cables” or “install/modify”. They just leech of what - we - the L3s at home or L4s at somewhere out there in the world prepare for them. Also it sucks for them to have such a narrow vision on these things we L3 and upper take any oppoturnity to go out and test/modify something you are familiar with. They would be much pleased to stay on “Internet Exploder” and “Hotmail”.

    I for one, won’t be stepping out of the “new stuff” loop, upgrades are always welcome if they are actually more advanced or lighter/efficient. L1 & L2 can keep the bloatware and “designed for beginner” programs.

  12. 12 Zeroblade 85 comments

    I should be level 4, but I suck at computing, so I’m with you guys at level 3. I do admit that a lot of guys I know in real life are level 2 or so (my mom’s not even a level 1 >_>). It’s sad to say, but every time I mention IRC, they ask me what exactly it is, and if they could use Yahoo Messenger along with it.

    Also, in this sense, we can more or less say that levels 1 and 2 and levels 3 and 4 have a much larger divide between them; the former have just basic knowledge of the internet and its functions while the latter tend to get a broader view of what it was, is and could be. Here’s to hoping that the gap be bridged.

  13. 13 Zeroblade 85 comments

    Oh, that article you linked was a damn good read, by the way.

  14. 14 Mr. Mercurial 28 comments

    I don’t agree completely with your labeling people in the specified levels. Perhaps what you call ‘level threes’ stay ahead with current trends in internet usage, but as far as ‘level fours’ go, I know some net/sys admins who don’t blog or use flickr. It’s not that they’re oblivious to the new stuff, but rather that they don’t obsess over it because they know of more options i.e. using their own webmail, and probably aren’t swept up by the hype (at least not the same hype…).

  15. 15 Seth 70 comments

    lulz u have no freedomz like Americar GEORGEBUSH IS MADE OUT OF PENISES

  16. 16 LianYL 472 comments


  17. 17 exalt dragon 124 comments

    How to pass though the barrier and graduate to level 4?

  18. 18 zer0 76 comments

    I guess its still an intellectual desert in most tutorial rooms of Singaporean universities.

    Many top scorers from the uniformed school days, I feel, are still logged on to the ‘10year series model answer mentality’, and are not able to participate in free-flowing discussions in the classroom. I guess many of them are sitting there, waiting for the tutor to provide the model solution for the exam questions.

    To tame a polsci student, just throw some Marxist jargons his way.

  19. 19 tj_han 920 comments

    zer0: How true. One thing I don’t like about local universities is exactly that.

    Exalt: The same way you graduate from being an otaku consumer to a doujinshi artist or an animator.

    LianYL: My FFT is better than you!

    Seth: In America, penises coagulate into politicians.

    Mr Mercurial: I don’t think you’re getting what I mean. Level 4 people don’t need to use those things, they are just those who can create new infrastructure on the web, not unlike architects and engineers of the real world. Or even city planners.

    ChrnosAI: Go do medicine. Half of my peers are in medicine and they don’t know the difference between BT and Kazaa due to their extremely busy schedules. You’ll be some anomaly there.

    Kurogane: Huh, there’s internet in Malaysia?

  20. 20 ninghua 2 comments

    Yes, the internet does exist in Malaysia, through the average speed is around 6KB/s. :P Cause half of the bandwidth avaliable is used for zombies and spambots, and the rest is fought over for p2p’ing, MSN’ing and ranting.

    I must say, you hit the nail on the head there with this post. But at the same time, elitism is the only way societies have moved forward. Leave it to the peasants (teenages, kids with goth myspace pages etc), and they will abuse the freedom of expression with their narrow minded way of thinking.

    i was one of the first few (back in 1996) to get online in Malaysia. Since then I have seen things turn for the worst, in Malaysia and the world. Back then you could more of less trust people online, on BBS systems (remember that?) we used our real names, and our email addresses reflected our real names (mine does). Today I see people hide behind names like “talkingcock”, “upleg” (I’m not making this up) show their total ignorance and lack of eloquency, while claiming to have the moral high ground, generating rubbish. Based on your “tj_han internet hierarchy’, I see these people below level one in terms of mental maturity.

    Before the internet, they had no place to speak out their utter rubbish. And that was fine, considering that “children should be seen and not heard”. But now, even 10 year old kiddies have their own blogs, with (digital) immigrants who, while mature in age, aBuSE tHe pLAc3mEnt 0f capItAl l3tt3rS aNd nuMb3rS. It drives me nuts to no end. And the use of shortform such as ‘u’, ‘yr’ etc is disgraceful. The internet was designed for accademics. There is a reason why not everyone can go into university (where academics, usually, are). Not everyone should be allowed to use the internet.

  21. 21 Tsubaki 418 comments

    I love this entry. You just made us internet people look far more intelligent than those level 2 uni students.

  22. 22 Mitsuki_Hayase 175 comments

    Erm, isn’t the term “elitist/elitism” being taken to very general terms?

    I’d rather say that today’s society is specialised, rather than elitist. While I have gawked in disbelief that most of the uni students know nuts about Bittorent (take that IPOS and AVPAS!), I’m of the opinion that while they may not be good at Internet stuff, they most probably would pawn you and perhaps most of the commenters on this blog in other aspects, let’s say…. International relations (for the pol sci grad).

    @ninghua Given your argument, shouldn’t crimminals be locked away from eternity? I’d liken the Internet to that of a society (albeit electronic, not physical, cultural or geographical), and I believe society should, as much as possible, be inclusive. Perhaps what you’re trying to point out would be the total lack of maturity/understanding some people have shown, given the freedom of the Internet. Still, i’d like to point out that maturity/wisdom is not gained overnight, its accumulated through experiences, and through interactions.

    @tjhan I’ve already met a few same year entrants who can start and sustain a decent/intriguing discussion on various issues. The lack of depth reflected in class might be due to the topic at hand (which is why they are signing up for in the first place), or it could be due to other reasons (culture, unfamiliarity with the other students etc). I don’t eliminate the possibility though, that some are just plain shallow, or blindly/stubbornly stick to their points though. There will always be such gorillas around, somewhere.

    I like the epenis fapping though. Seems all commenters have been fapping hard. Good job.

  23. 23 exalt dragon 124 comments

    “Not everyone should be allowed to use the internet.”


    I take issue with this statement. As Mitsuki_Hayase has said, your argument assumes that people can be divided into “should be allowed to use internet” and “should not be allowed”..exactly how do you plan the define whether an individual should or should not be allowed to use the internet?

    More than that, your argument carries a chance of causing damaging to society as a whole. If you alienate people who in your opinion are bad for the internet, this will only cause them to hate the internet and it’s denizens such as you and me. What good will come out of that? That will only reinforce their negative perceptions and deepen their misunderstanding. Instead, this behavior on the internet is indicative of a bigger social problem: the lack of experience and knowledge on these people’s parts. Banning them from the internet will not solve the problem but push it to a place where you can’t see/hear it. Maybe, for a short while, you will get the internet to yourself, and not be bothered by what you don’t want to see. But the root of the problem will not be gotten down to. A better approach would be to accept that they are less knowledgeable, and educate them on why that way of thinking is incorrect.

    Accept the dialectical value of the negativity that you see, and move on.

  24. 24 tj_han 920 comments

    Ah some interesting replies.

    Ninghua: You have misunderstood the term “digital immigrant”. This term is used to describe those who had to pick up the internet late into adulthood and hence do not find using the computer intuitive, unlike say a 12 year old on Maple Story. The fact that most of us youngsters have grown up with the computer and hence have the linguistic, social and technological skills needed to fully utilise IT makes us digital natives. It has no relation to intelligence. I don’t actually agree that the immature people should not be allowed to speak - that is just censorship, and very elitist. The current system works fine, where individuals are naturally sorted into virtual communities through the automatic filters of “common interest”. See 4chan, myspace?

    Tsubaki: You’re alive? Have I passed you your shirt yet?

    Mitsuki: Nobody was saying that these uni students are not smart. I have made it explicitly clear in my post that I meant that they shared a very different internet culture compared to the people here. But you are overestimating many of them when you claim they are capable of intellectual discussion. Sure, there’s about 30-40 percent who are very good but the others are pretty much disinterested in just about anything. The fact that they can pwn me at international relations and still look like a gorilla has no relation to this post, which talks about how there is a widening gap in IT culture between similar digital native youngsters.

    The lecturers provide readings and they do impart a lot of info during the lectures. Hence there is no way these people wouldn’t know anything if they bothered to listen or read.

    Exalt Dragon and Mitsuki working hand in hand? Are pigs flying these days?

  25. 25 LianYL 472 comments

    My calculators work hand-in-hand too.

    To wipe out my party.

  26. 26 Mitsuki_Hayase 175 comments

    I find it amusing that tjhan and I post huge chunks about a minor point that he and I agree on. I referred him to the 30-40 percent, and he refers me to the 60-70 percent. Okay, fair point. Actually that was intended for Zer0 and his statement of unis being an intecllectual desert in the tutorial room, but it matters no longer, so my mistake.

    @tjhan I am the UK, exalt is the USSR.

  27. 27 Ashram 29 comments

    Nice writeup! There isn’t likely to be a time where everyone feels a need to use the internet (or whatever comes to replace it) for a loooong time, just like there are still so many people that don’t even have electricity today, over 100 years after its first introduction.

    Sorry to hear the majority of your class are stubborn zoo escapees! Blogging isn’t journalism (yet), it’s just voicing opinion. Not sure why they feel so strongly that should be cause for criminal charges. Though I don’t know what the Wee Shu Min case is, link is blocked at work.

  28. 28 James 5 comments

    On behalf of all sane lvl 2 PoliSci majors everywhere, past and present, I profusely apologize for my dimwitted colleague’s simian antics. Suffice to say, not all of us are complete technophobes. >_>

    Given the pervasiveness in which the web now influences our economy and political structures, though, I suspect we’ll eventually see the passing of the tier-2 population. If they can afford to use the internet, the day will soon come when they CAN’T afford not to participate in its social aspects. Or, at least, understand it.

  29. 29 omo 59 comments

    This hits home for me. Thanks for writing it. Granted I didn’t need that last few bits about predicting human behaviors, partly because I’m almost a level 4 but dealing with a level 1 world and I see how vast the latter is. And to some extent, how irrelevant levels 2-4 is.

    Study copyright law much?

  30. 30 Crest 87 comments

    Stratification, and boundaries are in play here. Instead of approximating to what is a homogenous society, we are going the other end of the spectrum, which is diversification. What could be the cause of it? It could be due to different means to reaching the Nietzchean concept of “The Will to Power”, the subconscious impulse of fulfilling their existence and to overcome supposed limitations. It could be seen as an even superior impulse over the will to live because in life, one will desire, and try to overcome their circumstances to reach a desired state. Such a desired state need not be one of actual power such as being a ruling position over others.

    How does such a concept come into play in this comment? The stratification or the dispersion of society can be seen by the arising of different means for one now possess more then one means to manifest “The Will to Power”. This has slight differences with social mobility because “The Will to Power” is the fulfilment of one’s energies and thoughts, where it’s concentrated to a certain point. There are individuals able to seek out “The Will to Power” simply by choosing a seemingly simple life. Different fields of academia, kinds of jobs, types of lifestyles allow the formation of different cultures and classes. If we are to look at history, distinctions began to appear or break down upon the introduction of something totally new, be it ideas or technology or events. For example, modern democracy and political ideologies were conceived through thinkers like Rousseau, Locke and Vico and their ideas that were propagated among the populace. This led to the breakdown of absolute monarchy that we knew in Europe and led to the idea of power among the populace, to trace even further we can see how servitude evolved and changed with the introduction of new technology such as the fall of trade Guilds to better transportation and production means.

    Likewise, the internet which can be the most radical and profound entity to be introduced into humanity is allowing people to take yet another path to fulfilling their existence and as an extension and outlet of their thoughts. Despite the seemingly unlimited possibilities, the Internet is still yet only a gateway among many others in society where one will pick to manifest themselves. Using the term of “Digital Divide” speaks of seemingly two differences where the stands will be strictly two conflicting ones, I can’t agree with the usage of this term, a dispersion would be a better word instead of divide as using the internet and not using the internet are not mutually exclusive. To use the dialectic thought process would be quite erroneous because the Internet is not yet the Alpha and Omega of society stratification or the only means towards “The Will to Power”

    As what tj_han said about the different levels/classes of people using the internet, it serves as an example that not everyone using the Internet will use it as a means to attain “The Will to Power” or be proficient enough to start actually utilising it. Even those who are indeed at Level 4, will they necessarily embrace the lifestyle aspects of the Internet? One other analogy could be that people in the anime industry, would they necessarily be otakus? The pyramid illustration in this situation can mislead others to think that we are talking about a supposed aristocracy of IT-savvy but in my opinion, it is more to illustrate the narrowing figures in the populace that uses the Internet.

    The Internet itself offers many means for others to extend themselves and overcome limitations such as the different sub-cultures or gateways I would call it, such as professional gamers, artists, writers, the YouTube posters and not the least, porn. This is not about whether the Internet is a viable avenue for one to make a living but how can the Internet offers many means to attain “The Will to Power”, a realization of one’s existence. Yet it’s not the only means or gateway for people to choose. One can choose not to employ the Internet in their journey of life to find fulfilment and purpose in themselves or can choose to use it with other means.

    That’s on the individual level, how would Society choose to reach “The Will to Power” in today’s age is yet another matter.

  31. 31 ninghua 2 comments

    Foreword: I am 100% Malaysian and 100% “asian”

    @exalt dragon

    “A better approach would be to accept that they are less knowledgeable, and educate them”

    Have you ever tried educating Asians? I’ve learnt from past experience, that no matter how much education you give them, they will only understand brute force. Why else does Singapore and Malaysia have the death penalty for drug trafficking? No matter what western governments and societies may think, you cannot educate asians with words. The only way of stopping it is by giving the fear of being locked up and executed. On a smaller scale, I’ll say my experience. I once worked in a kitchen. The owner once brought back a small machine that cut a plastic wrapper cleanly to an exact size, so there is no wastage. (anyone who ever tired cutting a plastic wrapper with a pair or scissors will know how hard it is). The staff there were amazed, and were taught how to use it. Instructions were pasted on the machine. 1 week later the machine was broken. Don’t ask me how they broke a machine with only 5 buttons. After fixing it and being broken again and again, the owner gave up and brought back the 1KM bulk roll and the pair of scissors.The fact was, the machine was too “high tech” for these normal people.

    And you want these people to to have access to the internet. Right…………..

    “exactly how do you plan the define whether an individual should or should not be allowed to use the internet?”

    Universities define who can and can’t enter their gates all the time. They “alienate people” who in their opinion are not fit for the university.” Are the masses “hating universities and their graduates”?

    “The current system works fine, where individuals are naturally sorted into virtual communities through the automatic filters of “common interest”. See 4chan, myspace?”

    As long as they stay there, thats fine. But when they come and enroach into our world? Malaysians will know how n00bs destroyed Lowyat.net for the geeks and techies.
    Elitism is the only way societies past and present can move on and develop. Leave it to the masses, and we’d still be in the fields planting paddy, thinking sliced bread is the best thing since….well, sliced bread.

    “Perhaps what you’re trying to point out would be the total lack of maturity/understanding some people have shown, given the freedom of the Internet.”

    Thanks for straightening that out. I admit i may have misinterpreted tj_han.

  32. 32 Lainforce 4 comments

    “All you anime bloggers belong to this group.”

    Way to generalize us, bastard.

  33. 33 Mitsuki_Hayase 175 comments

    @Crest OMG another long comment! I shall put my summary skills to good use once more and summarise your passage: The term “Digital Divide” is not correct, if viewed from the viewpoint of the unique levels/standards of satisfaction demanded by each individual. Rather than view the Internet as a dividing factor, it would be better to view the Internet as the latest addition to the myriad of methods available to each individual in meeting his level of satisfaction/goal.

    @Ninghua I take issue with a few points.

    Firstly, what’s up with the focus on Asians. Stating upfront that you are Asian yourself does not hide/mask the fact that you’ve been blinded by past experiences with people around you. Simply put, everywhere, anywhere, incidences which you quote and claim to occur only in Asia happen all the time. So what’s up with the “Asians are n00bs” stereotype?

    Secondly, is barring them from the Internet going to help? We’ve all seen how effective banning has been on various other issues/vices: Not effective at all. It’s a short term issue at best; as I’ve said, are we to condemn crimminals forever just because they’ve erred once? Am I to treat whatever one says as lies once I catch him lying the first time?

    I think it all boils down to how one interprets “free will” to be. Does it literally mean “free will”, where anything, and everything goes? Or does it refer to the balancing point where everyone’s wants/satisfactions are maximised, but not totally (due to the unique nature of each individual’s wants/needs, as stated earlier), which in turn would require a certain amount of compromise, a limitation on “free will”. The way society is structured today was not achieved overnight, the basic tenets of society were tested, shift, negotiated over several millenia, and are still shifting in today’s world. I’d like to just point out that limiting access to the Internet is a dangerous step down the slope towards a dictatorial, uniform society (Imagine a society of Itoh-sans! OMFG), especially when the Internet is often viewed as the bastion of free will, as as Crest stated, a gateway for individuals of attaining their “will to power”.

    While the example of universities restricting access was interesting, it still does not answer the question on how one should restrict access of the Internet to the masses. I’d also like to point out that the universities have limited capacities, while the Internet has almost unlimited bandwidth, and server space.

    Lastly, I’d like to say that it was meritocracy, not elitism, that paved the way for progress. The crucial difference between meritocracy and elitism is that the former is inclusive, while the latter is exclusive. And we’ve seen how adopting an isolationist/elitist mentality has led to stagnation of society, from the macro level (Look at China during the Qing Dynasty, or Japan before the Meiji Era), to the class/caste level (How the nobles degraded throughout the various dynasties in various empires with the imposition of the exclusive class system; too many to quote), to the micro level (how cooping yourself up in a room causes you to have a myopic view of the room).

    @Lainforce I quote tjhan’s original reply to Owen S:

    “I’m a level 3 just like all of us. I try not to use “we” because as the writer, leaving myself out would perhaps be more neutral and less elitist.”

    I’m pretty sure too, that his parentage is not in doubt. LOL.

  34. 34 HalcyonDF 50 comments

    was on my way to a lvl 4 then i dropped comp sci to take design. heh. either way, welcome to life in uni, where you will find irritating and or annoying people. Discussion in Uni can be pretty sucky, but they are some good ones. but some people are really no matter how you look at them… stupid.

  35. 35 weew 14 comments

    I’m a level 2 lifer…..

    I use bitorrent often…but that’s cuz it’s easy…..and i like jav. o o o

  36. 36 Windbell 25 comments

    You didn’t use the term “Internets”

  37. 37 anonymous 1 comment

    >In fact, some of these may be retarded, just look at 4chan
    That’s where you’re wrong, and where I’ve stopped reading. 4chan is made of smart people who tried to act retarded. Everyone should’ve realised that already.

  38. 38 reslez 2 comments

    I think your distinction between level 2 and 3 is arbitrary and artificially gender-based. The activities engaged in by both these groups are not significantly different. As a girl with a BSCS I have to say fanboys who can operate a bittorrent client and wordpress are not functionally different than the girls who update their livejournals and flickr accounts. The real distinction will always be between those who can make their own tools and those who can only use tools created by others. The number of people in the former group, your level 4, will always be a minority. It seems require a level of effort and abstract reasoning ability that most people are too lazy or unmotivated to achieve.

  39. 39 reslez 2 comments

    Also, what the hell is this “public domain” stuff? Nothing on the internet is public domain, whether you’re talking about copyright (Berne convention) or property (trespassing). Every server you visit on the net is owned by someone, somewhere; there is no public space in the sense of a communal village squarer. Blog owners can censor any posts they want regardless of “freedom of speech”, which in the States only applies to the government. Maybe he was confusing “public domain” with the fact that there really is no privacy on the net. Sorry to double post but I thought that guy was truly bizarre. >_>

  40. 40 tj_han 920 comments

    Reslez: The distinction is not based on gender but on mindset. It’s a coincidence perhaps that more girls tend to be level 2. There are plenty of people who do not know what flickr is and are still using hotmail, IE and MSN messenger as their only internet outlets.

    Yes he was bizarre but he just has a fundamentally different understanding of the internet. Coincidentally today was my last tutorial for this module so I’ll never see him again.

  41. 41 exalt dragon 124 comments

    Oh dear I have been missing from the discussion XD

    “Universities define who can and can’t enter their gates all the time. They “alienate people” who in their opinion are not fit for the university.” Are the masses “hating universities and their graduates”?”

    I think you are missing the point of the section which you quoted. I will be more specific: Well, ninghua, it sounds like you are proposing that we have some kind of test or exam to determine whether of not people are fit to use the internet? I would like to hear how you plan to carry that out in practical terms, spelling out how you will carry out these tests(a la Terra e perhaps?), where you will get enough influence to actually make it possible for such a test to be carried out, on what criteria you will assess candidates suitability in using the internet, who will be setting these exams, how you plan to make sure that the ISPs not grant internet access to those who count as non-qualifiers, etc etc.

    “Have you ever tried educating Asians? I’ve learnt from past experience, that no matter how much education you give them, they will only understand brute force.”

    Why are you targeting asians?

    “Why else does Singapore and Malaysia have the death penalty for drug trafficking? No matter what western governments and societies may think, you cannot educate asians with words. ”

    The death penalty exists in numerous western societies too, who certainly have shown no reluctance to execute people if necessary, so your point basically has no clout. Besides, your point of view is blatantly self-Orientalising. Why are you projecting a negative stereotype of asians? Why are you creating a self-constructed division between east and west? Tell me then, where does the the east end and the west begin? How did the discourse change from an age-based divide in technological know-how to an east-west regional divide in learning-ability?

    ” the machine was too “high tech” for these normal people.”

    Your story quite rightly illustrates the problem, that they weren’t properly given sufficient time and someone to show them examples of how things should be done. In sharp contrast to your point, have you seen the entire floor of Indian IT professionals who work in Suntec City? They are so technologically savvy that they know how to take control of my networked PC and fix all problems while I watch them from my monitor. Likewise with the hordes, pardon the pun, of WOW players from china that mine virtual resources and sell them off in real life.Don’t you think that your experiences have overly coloured you? The fact is that such examples aren’t enough to prove that asians are that bad. I have seen my fair share of computer (or rather internet related) stupidity in my lifetime; in fact it pervades my own immediate family, but I would like to say that, in terms of the entire society, it isn’t as bad as you think it is.

    “And you want these people to to have access to the internet. Right…………..”

    Not. I want you to want these people to to have access to the internet.

Do not use any < and > for your own sake. It will end the comment there and then. Also, there is an automatic IQ filter which weeds out comments made by those who accidentally got transported from the stone age.

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