Antropologi.info has a good link
to the above report. Lane DeNicola referred to it in the Teaching Digital Anthropology thread, but maybe it would be good to run them separately. Here is what he had to say there about the report issued by British Telecom TalkTalk.
The objective of the research underlying the report (which focused on Internet use in the UK) was ostensibly "to find out more about how digital technology has changed our behaviour...to find out what homo digitalis really looks like." A key component of the report is a use classification system that places users in one of six categories, including "digital extroverts," "timid technophobes," and so on (see the report link above for the full system).
Circulation of the announcement has so far been fairly rapid, including for example industry blogs and this story in the Telegraph headlined "People in North East 'are most timid internet users'." David Zeitlyn at the University of Kent (one of the principals involved in the study) is quoted in the story as suggesting that "Online engagement will soon replace social class as the most powerful determiner of economic success, damaging the career prospects of internet refuseniks," and that "there was a danger that people who did not embrace the web would be cut off from its financial and professional benefits."
First, a major telecommunications company is issuing something they're referring to as a "Digital Anthropology Report," replete with allusions to an anachronistic, almost caricatured anthropology—the framing of a cultural taxonomy, terms like "tribes" and "Homo Digitalis," etc. Zeitlyn himself has already responded online that despite early misgivings he largely agrees with the folks at TalkTalk that the term "tribes" has a conventional understanding—"labile shifting groupings whose membership may change with time"—that should be given precedence in the context of this report.
Another obvious observation is the dubious contours of a popularly-circulated, telecom-sponsored report effectively warning that "people who do not embrace the web will be cut off from its financial and professional benefits." It seems not too far-reaching to interrogate even the use of the term "Internet refusenik" (whoever might've initiated its discursive circulation) as having a questionable etymological basis (e.g. why not "Cautious" or "Skeptical adopters"?). I won't belabour the point, and I certainly don't want to suggest that anthropologists don't have genuine, substantive contributions to make to ICT design, but I do want to put forth that there are too many popular misconceptions about the approaches and objectives of social research (and perhaps especially anthropology) to let patent caricatures of the field end up becoming its "public face," and I do wonder if that possibility isn't a risk here. More involved scrutiny of the report itself and its place in wider "digital divide" discussions is warranted—and perhaps even a fruitful subject for discussion in a Digital Anthropology seminar!—but that's a different thread.
So here is that thread...