What is Cultware

Cultware is a new label used to describe aspects of access to computing and communications technology that are often overlooked. It focuses on the social connections a person has, both online and in their analogue environment, and serves to complement the more traditional focus on the individual isolated at the point of access to the technology. I have written about this in The Revolution Will Not be Downloaded edited by Tara Brabazon, and also in my earlier PhD research available online through the Murdoch University Library http://wwwlib.murdoch.edu.au/adt/browse/view/adt-MU20051222.112058


Each person ultimately accesses the Internet on their own, each individual computer screen is designed for a solitary user. This point of access involves the synthesis of a number of separate elements. The hardware of the computer, hosts the software of its operating system and other programs. The fusion of these two elements enables the digital environment represented at the analogue edge of the screen, this then interfaces with wetware, or the person using the device and their knowledge and experience. This atomised convergence creates a matrix of these three elements which determine both if access is possible, and the quality of that access.


While this matrix is a useful intellectual tool for understanding access to communications technology, this new fourth element, culture-ware or cultware enables a more complete understanding of access. Cultware seeks to provide insight that reaches beyond the atomised individual and allow for this individual access to be understood in the wider context in which it occurs. Following from Bourdieu's notion of cultural capital, cultware describes the digital and analogue environment in which the user is embedded, and the value and characteristics of that environment. While the first three elements describe one point in the digital landscape, cultware provides a broader view of the surroundings both through the screen in the digital space it creates, and also in an individual’s analogue setting. It measures the social networks that might enrich online experience as well as those networks, both digital and analogue, that might determine an individual’s ability to enhance their own knowledge and experience through their social network, such as to seek help when there is a problem they do not know how to solve with hardware, or new software they don’t understand.