Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ding dong and the digital divide

A couple of week ago I wrote "if you aren't digitally literate it'll soon become very hard to obtain music that isn't mainstream". Since then the purchasing of one particular song has caused a huge amount of controversy both with politicians and in the media.

I'm not going to go into the reasons why people might be buying the song Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead, in this piece that's of no interest to me, I'm exploring the methods they're choosing to do so and how this might give us an insight into other services.

It's also worth noting that according to the Local Government Chronicle, this week plans to launch Universal Credit as "digital by default" have been amended to "digital as appropriate".

So, back to the song in question, let's say I wanted to legally own a copy of this recording today, there are basically two methods I can use to obtain it:

Digitally
From places like iTunes to more specialist sites like Beatport there are many online outlets to purchase and legally download music these days. I could buy the track in question for around 80 pence and it should take seconds to download on most broadband connections.

Purchases from sites like iTunes are now included in the official UK Top 40 Singles Chart so my purchase would contribute to the weekly Top 40 ranking.

Conventionally
If I wanted to buy this recording conventionally my task would be somewhat more difficult and costly. To start with (as far as I know) it's never been released as a single, which means to obtain the track I'd need to pay around 5 pounds for the whole soundtrack from the film the Wizard of Oz.

Secondly I'd need to find a shop selling it. Whilst it's not exactly obscure, I'm not sure if the supermarkets where I live would stock it (though perhaps they're more inclined to now) and since HMV closed down they and garage forecourts are only places to purchase music locally. If they didn't stock it I'd need to start ringing round record shops in neighbouring towns and drive to one that had it, adding to the cost.

There's one other aspect about buying the track conventionally that's different to digital. Because I've bought an album, not a single, my purchase counts towards the UK Top 40 Album Chart. If I was buying the recording to try to boost its ranking in the Singles Chart, as far as I'm aware, there's no way to do this conventionally and it's digital or nothing.

So there we have it, the Digital Divide demonstrated by a 70 year old song. Next time you're designing a service for the public I hope you remember this example and "Ding Dong" sets alarm bells around inclusivity ringing.

If you'd like to discuss this then you can find me at https://twitter.com/PhilRumens
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.