Privacy at the Margins| Technology in Rural Appalachia: Cultural Strategies of Resistance and Navigation

Sherry Hamby, Elizabeth Taylor, Alli Smith, Kimberly Mitchell, Lisa Jones


Existing research on technology in rural, low-income communities has focused primarily on financial obstacles and lack of infrastructure. We use a sociocultural framework for understanding technology in rural Appalachia, using a mixed-methods study of focus groups and interviews. Eight focus groups were held with a total of 65 people (58% female) from low-socioeconomic-status communities in rural Appalachia (ages 12 to 75). Then, in-depth interviews were conducted with 24 participants (62.5% female) on issues generated from focus groups. Participants reported ways of both resisting and navigating technology, many of which were deeply grounded in core Appalachian values, such as respect for privacy. Many participants were skeptical of the value of technology weighed against the loss of privacy, expressed regrets about the loss of self-reliance due to technology, and used self-deprecating humor as resistance. Participants reported numerous strategies for navigating technology risks and generally took an agentic approach to protecting themselves online. Many prominent themes in these transcripts show the ways that people from this community have reasserted their agency in their relationships with technology.


privacy, digital, online, rural, Appalachia, technology

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