The pandemic has thrown a harsh spotlight on digital inequalities within higher education. The university campus brought staff and students into a shared space, with a degree of infrastructural provision which created at least an appearance of digital equality. In its absence during this crisis vast differences in the quality and quantity of internet access have been both revealed and deepened, as a consequence of the reliance upon digital platforms for research, teaching and engagement. This issue has been most widely recognised in relation to students but we should note the digital divide amongst academic staff which has been entrenched by occupational precarity and a cost of living crisis. These developments have existed under the surface in a university increasingly resembling a platform enabling access to services at a distance. However the pandemic has brought them to the fore in a way which raises conceptual, empirical and practical questions relating to matters such as:
- The role of public infrastructure in increasing or decreasing the digital divide
- Geographical and regional variation in digital inequalities within higher education
- Types of digital inequality and the role of university policy in entrenching or ameliorating them
- Academic practice and its capacity to ameliorate the problems of digital inequality
- Intersections between lack of study/work space and the digital divide
- The political economy of a lack of study/work space e.g. housing, cost of living
- Academic labour issues and the digital divide amongst academic staff
- The impact of the digital divide amongst staff on learning and teaching
- The political implications of platform choice and their implications for digital inequality
- The geopolitics of platform capitalism and its implications for digital inequalities
- Positive impacts of pandemic platformisation on equity e.g. accessibility and distance learning
These are just a few suggestions for our upcoming workshop. It will take the form of three hour long thematic dialogues between 4 participants, moderated by a host whose role is to facilitate a conversation. It will not involve a formal presentation but you will be provided with a list of conversation starter questions in advance of the session. These will be used by the host to facilitate an open discussion between the speakers in an interview style format.
If you would like to take part in this online workshop on the Digital Divide in the Post-Pandemic University, due to take place on May 3rd from 1pm to 5pm BST, please send the following information (at least 400 words) via this online form by March 31st. Accepted participants will be informed by April 3rd and provided with further details about how the event will work on the day.