Digital Dead End - Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age - Virginia Eubanks (MIT Press, March 2011)

The idea that technology will pave the road to prosperity has been promoted through both boom and bust. Today we are told that universal broadband access, high-tech jobs, and cutting-edge science will pull us out of our current economic downturn and move us toward social and economic equality. In Digital Dead End, Virginia Eubanks argues that to believe this is to engage in a kind of magical thinking: a technological utopia will come about simply because we want it to. This vision of the miraculous power of high-tech development is driven by flawed assumptions about race, class, and gender. The realities of the information age are more complicated, particularly for poor and working-class women and families.

Describing her attempts to create technology training programs with a community of resourceful women living at her local YWCA, Eubanks shows that information technology can be both a tool of liberation and a means of oppression. High-tech jobs for women in the YWCA community are data entry positions that pay $7 an hour. At work, their supervisors monitor every keystroke. The state offers limited social service benefits in exchange for high-tech monitoring and surveillance of their lives, families, and communities.

Despite the inequities of the high-tech global economy, optimism and innovation flourished when Eubanks and the women in the YWCA community collaborated to make technology serve social justice. Eubanks describes a new approach to creating a broadly inclusive and empowering "technology for people," popular technology, which entails shifting the focus from teaching technical skill to nurturing critical technological citizenship, building resources for learning, and fostering social movement.

About the Author

Virginia Eubanks is the cofounder of Our Knowledge, Our Power (OKOP), a grassroots anti-poverty and welfare rights organization, and teaches in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, SUNY. She edited the cyberfeminist ‘zine Brillo and was active in the community technology center movements in the San Francisco Bay Area and Troy, NY.