Inequity in the Technopolis

Book by Joseph Straubhaar covers race, class, gender and the digital divide

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Through the past few decades, Austin, Texas, has made a concerted effort to develop into a "technopolis," becoming home to companies such as Dell and numerous startups in the 1990s. The city is revered as a model for others across the nation that wish to become high-tech centers while still retaining the livability to attract residents.

Joseph Straubhaar, professor in the Department of Radio-Television-Film, and his co-authors argue that this expansion and boom left poorer residents behind, many of them African-American or Latino, despite local and federal efforts to increase lower-income and minority access to technology. This was due in large part to the segregation of Austin by a 1928 zoning act, creating unequal access to the very educational resources required by a technology economy.

The book was born of a ten-year longitudinal study of the digital divide in Austin—a study that gradually evolved into a broader inquiry into Austin’s history as a segregated city, its turn toward becoming a tech hub, the digital divide that resulted from layering a tech economy over unequal education, what the city and various groups did to address the digital divide, and how the most disadvantaged groups and individuals were affected by those programs.

The editors examine the impact of national, statewide and city digital inclusion programs created in the 1990s, as well as what happened when those programs were gradually cut back by conservative administrations after 2000. The authors also examine how the City of Austin persisted in its own efforts for digital inclusion by working with its public libraries and a number of local nonprofits, including the positive impact those programs achieved.

For a short interview with author and RTF professor Joseph Straubhaar, click on the video below.

Joseph Straubhaar discusses his new book, "Inequity in the Technopolis" from Moody College of Communication on Vimeo.

Marc Speir
Senior Content Producer