Although the concept of access can be understood simply, in terms of having access to particular technologies or tools necessary to mediate certain types of communication, access as we understand it is a much more complex concept. The notion of access that we discuss here draws on technofeminist rhetorical scholarship that has continually challenged the idea that having access to tools (computers, software, the internet, etc.) equates to having equal access to information, communication, and/or rhetorical power (Grabill, 2003; Hawisher, Selfe, Moraski & Pearson, 2004, Pandey, 2006; Selfe, 1999). As these scholars have repeatedly demonstrated, access is complicated by the types of tools available to different people and unequal access to the training needed to use these tools. Access is also complicated by how people actually use the tools available to them (Brady Aschauer, 1999; Harris Powell, 2007). And, perhaps most importantly, access to tools alone does not, in and of itself, eliminate existing systems of power and oppression in society, as these systems are often reproduced within the technologies themselves.
As we understand it, then, access as a concept reminds us to continually revisit how differing levels of access to technologies, the training to use them, and the ways that they are actually used allows for highly diverse interactions with the tools themselves and the communications mediated through them. Access is never simply about tools or even information availability. It is complicated by lived, embodied experiences and is always a product of the power imbalances that are already in place in everyday society.