This weekend, while driving through inner city urban neighborhoods, I noticed the appearance of several billboards that publicize a new government website, stopalcoholabuse.gov. While the topographies of the nation's digital divide morph into new configurations, it is interesting to see that government planners no longer assume that low-income citizens won't have access to computers and the web. However, as The New York Times observed in "Ads Against Drinking Speak Only Faintly," money spent on discouraging underage drinking through television advertising has plunged since 2001, so this combination of web and outdoor advertising may be a more economical substitute that mixes cheaper low-tech and high-tech approaches to raising public awareness.
Of course, one of the remarkable features of the bastion of consciousness-raising about alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous, is its low web profile, despite the fact that online communities have the anonymity that is essential to many addicts seeking help. For example, if one wants to find a meeting in California, the website simply directs you to a telephone number for further information.
I visited Stop Alcohol Abuse and was surprised to see that the guide for parents had pages that were unreadable because the color choices interfered with the basic information design. Also under "Community/Faith-Based" links, I was amused to see a government-recommended site, A Guide to Safe and Sober Event Planning, that encouraged digital piracy, since mix tapes were an essential component of the party planning.