“The other side of words”: Illectronism


The Covid-19 health crisis has highlighted certain deep deficiencies within French society, particularly highlighting two critical issues: the failures of our health system and digital exclusion affecting part of the population. The unprecedented rise of teleworking, online education and dematerialized administrative procedures has highlighted the inability of many individuals to equip themselves or master the necessary digital tools.

This gap in digital skills and access has led to disparities in the use of educational, professional and essential services. Some families, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have experienced significant difficulties accessing online educational and legal resources, highlighting the imperative to adopt a national policy aimed at ensuring universal digital inclusion and overcoming this specific vulnerability. This form of precariousness is known as ilelectronism.

This concept finds its roots in an older notion, that of the digital divide . Born in the early 1990s, it initially focused on the disparity of access to technologies, highlighting a fragmentation mainly based on material and geographical criteria. However, over time, this notion has been enriched to encompass not only access to digital tools, but also the ability to use them effectively: use the keyboard and mouse, browse the Internet, etc. This dimension has become central in the understanding of electronics.

Today, electronicism encompasses a complex set of difficulties and deficiencies in the digital domain . It concerns situations where individuals face obstacles, not only in the use of technologies, but also in their understanding of the overall architecture of the system. This includes challenges related to manipulating digital interfaces, such as mastering the desktop or browser.

Beyond technical skills, this concept also reveals a lack of acculturation to the digital framework. This results in a lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of the symbols, codes and elements of language – such as the wifi icon, the hashtags symbol or emoticons – which constitute the fabric of digital culture. This dimension is equally important because it influences the way individuals perceive and interact with the digital world.

However, defining electronicism in its entirety is complex. Given the great diversity of digital skills and the inequalities in use, this notion suffers from a theoretical deficit. Le Robert defines ilelectronism as the “state of a person who does not master the use of electronic resources”. Summarizing this concept as a lack of mastery of electronic uses amounts to considering this problem as binary and stipulates that people are, or are not, in a situation of electronicism.

In a context of increasing digitalization where administrative procedures, job searches and access to healthcare are increasingly done online, electronics raise crucial questions of social and economic inclusion. Its emergence as a public issue reflects a collective awareness of its impact on equity and accessibility in an increasingly connected society.

Author Bio: Guillaume Jarousseau is a Doctoral student at the Center for Interdisciplinary Analysis and Research on Media (CARISM) at the University of Paris-Panthéon-Assas