The real world

by Eszter Hargittai on December 19, 2008

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to go to DC and meet with some people on the Presidential Transition Team. I got to talk about my research on Internet uses and skills with people who seemed genuinely interested in what we know about this topic and how it might apply to future initiatives. It was an exciting experience.

It is great to see an administration again that cares about information technologies (see related comments in Obama’s weekly address from two weeks ago). However, it’s important to realize that achieving a knowledgeable Internet citizenry is not simply a technological problem and thus cannot be resolved by a solely technical solution. There is plenty of research now that shows how mere access to the Internet does not level the playing field when it comes to achieving universal Internet literacy. Rather, coupling technical access with education about uses is an important part of the puzzle. Of course, even if one accepts all this, solutions are far from obvious. I got lots of really good questions from the people in the room and was thrilled by the conversation.

Afterward, walking down the hall, I saw on the doors the names of lots of people who have been in the news recently. It’s wonderful and encouraging to see the number of smart and knowledgeable people on this team.

Conor Cruise O’Brien Has Died

by Henry on December 19, 2008

The “Irish Times”:http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2008/1219/1229523105576.html has the story, although it concentrates on his not-especially successful political career rather than his intellectual contribution. I found his later work (both books and newspaper journalism) to be very nearly unreadable, less because of its sometimes reactionary politics than because of how badly it was written. There was plenty of choler and spleen, but little real humour. But his earlier books – I’m especially fond of _States of Ireland_, which really remade the debate over Irish national identity – are still a joy and a delight to read. His best writing was liberal in the most expansive sense of that term, clearly thought through, open to its own contradictions, generous where generosity was warranted, and witheringly accurate where it wasn’t (he had a near Galbraithian facility for cutting through the bullshit with a pungent description).