A definition of Digital Expansion

For my work with People’s Production House and The Ethos Group, I’ve been trying to hash out a detailed answer to the question, “What is Digital Expansion?” here’s what I have so far:

Digital Expansion describes a comprehensive program for addressing the inequalities of the Internet. It differs from current, inadequate approaches in that it treats people as human beings and full, active participants in global society rather than as consumers, as the divided, or as those who have fallen behind. Digital Expansion assumes a transformation of the Internet as a result of expanding participation in it.

The core components of Digital Expansion are

  • A human right to communication
  • The freedom to communicate
  • Access to the means of communication
  • Open lines of communication
  • Popular engagement in determining a shared communications future

The human right to communication requires security for this right as for the rights to food, clothing, and shelter. And the freedom to communicate, which involves listening and being heard and so goes beyond a bourgeois freedom of expression, necessitates the elimination of economic or social conditions that prevent or restrict one’s participation in the exchange of information.



  1. tropology said

    I have been thinking on how to advance a dialog exploring this phraseology and related terms. What I get from Digital Expansion is an impression that it is a strategy, or it implies a strategy.

    Are those really components? Or are those values? I think they are the latter. Do they lead to Digital Expansion, or is it hoped/expected that Digital Expansion will lead there?


  2. I’m not sure exactly how to answer that. The idea of Digital Expansion came from an analysis of what was missing from Digital Inclusion. Maybe we should see if we share that analysis.

    DI, as typified by Wireless Philadelphia, is at best communications welfare, with low-grade computers and Internet service being handed out as charity. At worst, it’s merely a subsidy – delivered on the user side – for large corporate ISPs. As if the like giving away driving lessons and old cars as a way to encourage gasoline consumption. See One Economy and its relationship with AT&T, for example. In either case, you can accomplish your goal with access, hardware, training, and motivation/content, which are the components of Digital Inclusion.

    Digital Inclusion assumes lack of access is the root cause of economic equality, rather than seeing economic inequality and racism as the root cause of unequal access. DI programs generally do not allow people to determine appropriate technology for themselves. They also leave out any consideration of the ownership divide (at the infrastructure level). So, a city looking through the lens of Digital Inclusion is basically auctioning off a share of the new wealth it presumes will result from new access, instead of holding incumbent service providers accountable for their unequal treatment of various populations.

    Is that roughly how you see it or have we simply been talking past each other in this discussion?

  3. […] suggests that Internet-enabled cell phones might be an important component of a strategy to bridge the digital divide. However, if your Blackberry is your primary, rather than a supplementary source of Internet […]

  4. unityworks said

    Almost every other developed country has established a cohesive and comprehensive national strategy to stimulate the deployment of high speed broadband by establishing specific goals and policies. Because the greatest threat to an open Internet is bandwidth scarcity and unequal deployment of high-speed networks, building out of a universal high speed network is a must.

    At the same time, public policy must ensure that all network, content, and application providers honor consumers’ right to access the content, run the applications, and attach the equipment of their choice to the networks.

    Millions of people in the U.S. are unable to take advantage of the benefits of the telecommunications revolution because they do not have access to affordable, high quality Internet services. So whether the game is Digital Inclusion or Digital Expansion we need an appropriate government action to ensure that all residents participate equally in the benefits promised by the information revolution.

    After reviewing, the Communications Workers of America’s website Speed Matters, I realize we must invest more on communications; especially since the telecoms have enjoyed over $200 billion in tax breaks and other benefits from the Telecom Act. The U.S. needs to find constructive ways to deal with the significant digital divide that is being created based on income and geography.

  5. tropology said

    Sorry for the delay in coming back to this Josh. I am hoping to address this in greater depth, but based on your reply above I think we see things in a similar light… I think we (all of us) ought to be very aggressive in challenging the dominant view on Digital Inclusion. All who have been active in the field of the Digital Divide need to be very clear on these issues and not get caught up in or more bluntly, used, in the selling of networks.

    So, to affirm: as expressed above in comment, I share that stark analysis in best case and worst.

    Where we may be talking past each other is in the intention of the terminology of Digital Expansion. We’re both seeking a way beyond the deeper flaws and gaps in the language/frame of Digital Inclusion. I’m interested in our making a clear and compelling case and want to know what the rhetorical aims are in this shift of language. I’m being cautious with regard to what Digital Expansion means… not just as something you propose to define by the various components listed, but in how it is received without that context.

    It is my impression that the values and aspects listed above don’t constitute Digital Expansion… and that the term obscures their deeper value. I’m looking for a way to avoid that.

  6. […] Breitbart has been developing and promoting a vision of Digital Expansion. I have had some trepidation with regard to this phrasing since he first shared it with me. I […]

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