The Other Digital Divide

As fast as technology is advancing, there may be a growing number of people being left behind in their knowledge and ability to understand the new gadgets that this technology is producing. Surveys have shown that large numbers of consumers don’t know how the ins and outs of their various electronic devices. For example, a recent Canadian survey revealed that over two-thirds of respondents couldn’t even guess at the definition of “digital home”. A (scary) BBC article talks about how computer jargon confuses office workers. This seems to be in direct contradiction to the rate at which the corporate world have thrown computers at their workers in the hope of increasing productivity. I hardly think this works without adequate training.

So why are computers so difficult to use? In a nutshell, I believe it is because they *are* complex and there is very little abstraction from that underlying complexity to the interface and mechanisms that users need to deal with in order to use them. That may be an oversimplification, but if you think about a car, it is certainly a pretty complex animal as well, but the abstraction has meant that drivers only need to worry about a relative few things in order to operate a car. The most important things are only a handful: steering wheel, accelerator, brake, gears and possibly a clutch.