One of the many remarkable impacts of the Internet on our social lives has been its shaping of our language. A spontaneously evolving Internet-argot has relentlessly and conspicuously intruded itself into everyday life. The activities and circumstances of a people "on-line" are now described by an array of powerful and colorful metaphors that capture the spirit of a new, robust technology. We find ourselves often conversing casually and unselfconsciously in an idiom that would have been incomprehensible only a few short years ago. We do, indeed, talk differently now.
One Internet-spawned expression that seems to have achieved common linguistic currency is the term "digital divide". Whenever this alliterative phrase is dropped, immediate concern is aroused, which, one suspects, is why it has caught on. It has become a frequently re-sorted to locution of information specialists, librarians, public policy-makers and even politicians. It gives expression to a current form of what I call "sociological angst", a fear that the digital technology that has brought so many rapid changes into the workplace, education and commerce may actually be changing the lives of large groups of people for the worse. "Technologies", as one technologist has recently noted, "are not value-neutral but will have both beneficial and disadvantageous consequences for their increasing pervasiveness within society". Perhaps this reflection merely states the obvious. The point is made, with more eloquence and with some added insight by another technologist: "I think that most people would accept that all technology is a Faustian bargain, that it giveth and it taketh away, and that the verdict on the value of the giving and the adverse impact of the taking away often takes the jury, i.e. society, many years of observation and discovery before it can be delivered with any accuracy". With a technology as complex, fast moving, and far reaching as that of digital technology, it may be a long time before a just verdict can be accurately delivered.
Foster, S. P.
(2000). The Digital Divide: Some Reflections. International Information and Library Review, 32 (3/4), 437-45.