Many excluded from opportunity to get tickets for Michael Jackson memorial services

The assumption about universal Internet access among Americans likely left some of the most enthusiastic Michael Jackson fans without the opportunity to enter the lottery for tickets to the memorial services being held today in Los Angeles. Registering for the lottery could only be done online and many millions of Americans don’t have Internet access in their homes. Worse yet, because registration was confined to the dates of July 3rd and July 4th, most public access points would have been inaccessible due to holiday closings at public libraries and other locations. Adding insult to injury, these constraints of online access are very much unequally distributed among the population leaving certain types of people – for example, African Americans – much less likely to have had the opportunity to enter the drawing.

Talking about the digital divide – or the differences between the technological haves and have-nots – is passé conjuring up seemingly outdated debates of the 1990s. Nonetheless, the fact remains that a big portion of Americans continues to live without Internet access at home or often without any Internet use anywhere. According to the
latest figures (2007) from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, over 38% of American households report no home Internet use. Broken down by race and ethnicity, close to 55% of African American households and over 56% of Hispanic households do not report home Internet usage. The Pew Internet & American Life Project has more
recent figures
confirming that large numbers of Americans continue to be disconnected with Blacks and Hispanics less likely to be online than Whites and Asian Americans.

Having the chance to win a ticket to the Michael Jackson memorial services required Internet access at several levels. First, one had to access a Web site on July 3rd or July 4th to sign up for the drawing. Second, entering the lottery required an email address. Third, in order to find out about winning, one would have to check email on Sunday, July 5th to see about winner notification.

So how come we’ve seen no buzz over this topic? Buzz these days seems to come from online discussions and by definition, the people being excluded in this process are not online. They don’t run searches on Google, they don’t use Twitter, they don’t blog and consequently what’s on their minds does not show up in data about trending topics online. This is just one example of how the voices of those not online and the positions they represent are systematically excluded from conversation and public discussions. Millions of Americans are not online and this is just one example of the many opportunities from which they are systematically excluded on a daily basis due to this constraint.

Of course, there is no basic right associated with a chance to attend the Michael Jackson memorial services, but the rhetoric suggesting that anyone could enter the contest is problematic and perpetuates assumptions about how universal Internet use is in this country.

5 Responses to “Many excluded from opportunity to get tickets for Michael Jackson memorial services”

  1. jack_b Says:

    Hi,
    I didn’t know about that lottery. That’s a very interesting example!
    I also think that the digital divide question must be asked in regard to everyday life (and not only in regard to participation in the democratic process). The same people that couldn’t enter the lottery are people that can’t look through amazon’s catalogue, recommendations and reviews. Nor can they look on facebook for former mates and send E-Mails to friends and organizations. Or subscribe to RSS feeds from online job exchanges. I think the Internet has evolved so fast from an information medium to an – let’s say – “tool”, that suddenly there are a lot more advantages for the users. I think such examples show very clearly that being excluded can really mean a disadvantage.

  2. alvaro Says:

    I agree with you, this is a good example for digital inequalities and especially that public access is not equal to home access. I think digital divide is still an important problem not just in the USA but in Europe as well. Or diffusion is just not enough…
    On the other hand I always think about this issue as part of a general excluded position in society and not a root cause, so i think affordable medical treatment, secure and healthy neighbourhood, pension opportunities, school etc. are more important. of course everything connected to each other.

    alvaro

  3. David Brake Says:

    A good “teaching moment” – it is a pity you were unable to get this picked up in the press outlet of your choice but I hope you have not given up on trying to get the mass media interested in this issue.

  4. Peter Says:

    Some people have no Internet access because they can’t afford it and some peple have no Internet access because they’re not interested in it. Are there any ideas as to the respective size of each group?

  5. jack_b Says:

    @Peter
    The Pew Internet and American Life Project has some data about those two groups: Lenhart, Amanda (2000): Who’s not online. Washinton D.C.: Pew Internet Project.
    Lenhart, Amanda; Horrigan, John; Allen, Katherine; Boyce, Angie; Madden, Mary; O’Grady, Erin (2003): The ever-shifting Internet population. A new look at Internet access and the digital divide. Washington, D.C.: Pew Institute (www.pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report=88). You can also find information in the UCLA Internet Reports and in some of the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) reports. There may be newer information ;)