Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

7-2-2014

Degree Program

Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

2014

Month Degree Awarded

September

Advisor Name

Dr. Mari

Advisor Last Name

Castañeda

Abstract

There has been considerable zeal regarding the democratizing promises of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This belief has resulted in the proliferation of ICT development initiatives in education through public private partnerships. However, there are critical scholars who caution against an overly celebratory perspective of ICTs and expose the ways in which they may be contributing to the exacerbation of existing inequalities. This thesis was inspired by Dan Schiller’s book, Digital Capitalism (1999) with the purpose of examining how digital capitalism is evident today.

'Digital capitalism' refers to the relationship between politics, economics, and technology that explains the shift in the use of the Internet from aiding government agencies to serving private commercial interests. Through a political economy of communication approach, this thesis examines a new model of public schools in which IT companies are partnering with various cities and districts to equip students with the 21st century skills needed to participate in the labor market. These partnerships are designed to benefit marginalized youth that do not have access to ICTs so the study looks at one of these schools encompassing this new innovative model in order to examine the benefits and limitations of these partnerships

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the way digital capitalism is playing out in education today in order to shed light on the political and economic forces driving these initiatives while examining who the decision makers are as well as who benefits and why. It has a dual objective of contributing to current digital inequality scholarship and informing policy-making. This thesis ultimately argues that there is a need for more targeted and individualized policies that serve each district’s unique needs, which works to fulfill the policy objective. It challenges the notion that technology is a neutral artifact that is separate from broader political, social, and economic processes.

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