Times Thirty: Access, Maintenance, and Justice

Crooks, Roderic N.
Science, Technology, & Human Values

Based on an ethnographic project in a public high school in a low-income neighborhood in South Los Angeles, this paper argues that access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) cannot be taken as helpful or empowering on its own terms; instead, concerns about justice must be accounted for by the local communities technology is meant to benefit. This paper juxtaposes the concept of technological access with recent work in feminist science and technology studies (STS) on infrastructure, maintenance, and ethics. In contrast to popular descriptions of ICTs as emancipatory and transformative, in the setting of an urban school, access produced extensive demands for attention, time, and information. This paper focuses on the labor of a group of student workers, Student Technology Leaders (STLs), and how they became responsible for the significant amount of repair and maintenance work involved in keeping hundreds of new computing devices available for use. An expanded process of accounting can more realistically frame issues of justice and its relationship to ICTs. I use a town hall meeting held with these students as an example of a processual vision of justice, one that encourages the beneficiaries of technological access to evaluate costs, benefits, and ethical concerns together.