Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 5, Issue 3, Spring 2001

Jim Demmers, Dara O'Neil
Pages 131-143

Leavers and Takers
Alternative Perspectives on Universal Access to Telecommunications Technologies

As pervasive as the use of the Internet has become in the United States, a huge percentage of the world’s population has yet to ever use a telephone. It seems ironic, then, that there is a concerted effort on the part of industrialized nations to first hook up their traditionally disadvantaged citizens to the Internet and second, to hook up citizens of developing nations. This paper addresses the universal access phenomenon by considering the growth of the Internet in terms of Leaver and Taker users—idioms usually associated with a culture’s interactions with its environment. Leaver cultures interact with their environment in a sustainable manner while Taker cultures produce more than they need and impose their ways upon others. The Internet is explored as a community of users, which in its current state is dominated by Takers. However, realizing the need for a more heterogeneous Internet community, this paper explores incentives for Leaver cultures to assimilate online and methods of improving interface designs to be more intuitive to Leaver communities. It is hoped that a tragedy of the commons of Internet resources can be avoided as more Leavers participate in the sustainment of the Internet as a valuable tool for all communities.