Outstanding Academic Title

Honoured to know that the book “Blockchain and Web 3.0. Social, Economic and Technological Challenges” (Routledge, 2020) I edited with Giuseppe Destefanis has been awarded as “Outstanding Academic Title”

This prestigious list reflects the best in scholarly titles reviewed by Choice and brings with it the extraordinary recognition of the academic library community. The list is quite selective: it contains approximately ten percent of some 6,000 works reviewed in Choice each year. Choice editors base their selections on the reviewer’s evaluation of the work, the editor’s knowledge of the field, and the reviewer’s record.

Blockchain is no longer just about bitcoin or cryptocurrencies in general. Instead, it can be seen as a disruptive, revolutionary technology which will have major impacts on multiple aspects of our lives. The revolutionary power of such technology compares with the revolution sparked by the World Wide Web and the Internet in general. Just as the Internet is a means of sharing information, so blockchain technologies can be seen as a way to introduce the next level: sharing value.

Blockchain and Web 3.0 fills the gap in our understanding of blockchain technologies by hosting a discussion of the new technologies in a variety of disciplinary settings. Indeed, this volume explains how such technologies are disruptive and comparatively examines the social, economic, technological and legal consequences of these disruptions. Such a comparative perspective has previously been underemphasized in the debate about blockchain, which has subsequently led to weaknesses in our understanding of decentralized technologies.

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Digital inequalities in time of pandemic: COVID-19 exposure risk profiles and new forms of vulnerability

Robinson, L., Schulz, J., Khilnani, A., Ono, H., Cotten, S. R., McClain, N., Levine, L., Chen, W., Huang, G., Casilli, A. A., Tubaro, P., Dodel, M., Quan-Haase, A., Ruiu, M. L., Ragnedda, M., Aikat, D., & Tolentino, N. (2020). Digital inequalities in time of pandemic: COVID-19 exposure risk profiles and new forms of vulnerabilityFirst Monday25(7). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i7.10845

Abstract In this article, we argue that new kinds of risk are emerging with the COVID-19 virus, and that these risks are unequally distributed. As we expose to view, digital inequalities and social inequalities are rendering certain subgroups significantly more vulnerable to exposure to COVID-19. Vulnerable populations bearing disproportionate risks include the social isolated, older adults, penal system subjects, digitally disadvantaged students, gig workers, and last-mile workers. Therefore, we map out the intersection between COVID-19 risk factors and digital inequalities on each of these populations in order to examine how the digitally resourced have additional tools to mitigate some of the risks associated with the pandemic. We shed light on how the ongoing pandemic is deepening key axes of social differentiation, which were previously occluded from view. These newly manifested forms of social differentiation can be conceived along several related dimensions. At their most general and abstract, these risks have to do with the capacity individuals have to control the risk of pathogen exposure. In order to fully manage exposure risk, individuals must control their physical environment to the greatest extent possible in order to prevent contact with potentially compromised physical spaces. In addition, they must control their social interactional environment to the greatest extent possible in order to minimize their contacts with potentially infected individuals. All else equal, those individuals who exercise more control over their exposure risk — on the basis of their control over their physical and social interactional environments — stand a better chance of staying healthy than those individuals who cannot manage exposure risk. Individuals therefore vary in terms of what we call their COVID-19 exposure risk profile (CERPs). CERPs hinge on preexisting forms of social differentiation such as socioeconomic status, as individuals with more economic resources at their disposal can better insulate themselves from exposure risk. Alongside socioeconomic status, one of the key forms of social differentiation connected with CERPs is digital (dis)advantage. Ceteris paribus, individuals who can more effectively digitize key parts of their lives enjoy better CERPs than individuals who cannot digitize these life realms. Therefore we believe that digital inequalities are directly and increasingly related to both life-or-death exposure to COVID-19, as well as excess deaths attributable to the larger conditions generated by the pandemic.

Read the full article here

Digital capital and online activities: An empirical analysis of the second level of digital divide

Ruiu Maria Laura and Ragnedda Massimo (2020), Digital capital and online activities: An empirical analysis of the second level of digital divide, First Monday, 25(7) DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i7.10855

Abstract: This paper explores inequalities in using the Internet by investigating several digital activities that require different levels of digital capital. Data collected in the U.K. through an online survey of a national representative sample (868 respondents) shows that levels of digital capital and type and quality of online activities are intertwined. The analysis shows that digital capital, conceived and measured as a specific capital, is entangled with the frequency/intensity of social, economic/financial means, ordinary/daily entertainment, and political activities, but not with learning-related activities. This work contributes to the literature in both empirical and theoretical terms by testing the reliability of digital capital and expanding its use to investigate digital inequalities. From a policy-making point of view, the awareness of citizens’ level of digital capital may help tailor initiatives to support citizens in using ICTs on a wide array of fields, such as job seeking, sociability, savings, familial relationships, and several online activities. Finally, this paper highlights that digital inequalities cannot be tackled by considering access and competence separately. By contrast, the adoption of measures that synthesise the two dimensions might help simplify policy-making’s initiatives to tackle digital inequalities.


Enhancing Digital Equity. Connecting the Digital Underclass

Enhancing Digital Equity. Connecting the Digital Underclass (Palgrave) highlights how, in principle, digital technologies present an opportunity to reduce social disparities, tackle social exclusion, enhance social and civil rights, and promote equity. However, to achieve these goals, it is necessary to promote digital equity and connect the digital underclass. The book focuses on how the advent of technologies may become a barrier to social mobility and how, by concentrating resources and wealth in few hands, the digital revolution is giving rise to the digital oligarchy, further penalizing the digital underclass. Socially-disadvantaged people, living at the margins of digital society, are penalized both in terms of accessing-using-benefits (three levels of digital divide) but also in understanding-programming-treatment of new digital technologies (three levels of algorithms divide). The advent and implementation of tools that rely on algorithms to make decisions has further penalized specific social categories by normalizing inequalities in the name of efficiency and rationalization.

Reviews

“The “digital divide” debate needs a radical update for an age of algorithmic power and intensifying inequality. In this accessible and well-organised text, Massimo Ragnedda provides this and more, enriching our understanding of how inequality works today and what digital equity might mean. Timely and important!” (Nick Couldry, Professor of Media, Communications and Social Theory, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.

“Division, exclusion and inequality: these issues have long been the focal point for social scientific work. In a changing world, we now need to understand their continuities and reformulations. This sparky and ambitious book takes on this challenge and produces insights that will be of interest to anyone who seeks to genuinely understand how the social world works today.” (David Beer, Professor of Sociology, University of York, UK)

Digital Inequalities in the Global South

 

Ragnedda M., and Gladkova A. (eds) Digital Inequalities in the Global South, Palgrave/IAMCR series.

This book discusses how digital inequalities today may lead to other types of inequalities in the Global South. Contributions to this collection move past discussing an access problem – a binary division between ‘haves and have-nots’ – to analyse complex inequalities in the internet use, benefits, and opportunities of people in the Global South region. Using specific case studies, this book underlines how communities in the Global South are now attempting to participate in the information age despite high costs, a lack of infrastructure, and more barriers to entry. Contributions discuss the recent changes in the Global South. These changes include greater technological availability, the spread of digital literacy programs and computer courses, and the overall growth in engagement of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and languages in digital environments. This book outlines and evaluates the role of state and public institutions in facilitating these changes and consequently bridging the digital divide.

Continue reading “Digital Inequalities in the Global South”

[BigDataSur-COVID] COVID-19 in the UK: The Exacerbation of Inequality and a Digitally-Based Response

Authors: Massimo Ragnedda and Maria Laura Ruiu

Big Data from the South

The COVID-19 crisis has been shown to highlight existing forms of socio-economic inequality across the world’s Souths. This article illustrates the reinforcement of such inequalities in the United Kingdom, showing the heightened vulnerability of minorities and marginalised citizens and proposing a response based on tackling digital inequalities.

The consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak in social, economic, psychological and health terms, are still under evaluation as the effects of the containment measures could last for years. However, something seems to be quite clear: vulnerable people and vulnerable communities are those who suffer the most from this outbreak. This is not surprising, since both social and medical studies have repeatedly shown an interaction between social environment and health status.

In this article, we specifically focus on the UK (even though similar arguments could be applied to other countries in the Global North) where some social groups are suffering more than others from the outbreak. Black, Asian or minority ethnic background (BAME communities) and elderly and marginalized citizens are affected the most by the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has, indeed, triggered inequality by exposing more vulnerable groups to higher risks of experiencing the most severe symptoms of the disease.

Continue reading “[BigDataSur-COVID] COVID-19 in the UK: The Exacerbation of Inequality and a Digitally-Based Response”

Keynote Talk at the Foundation University of Islamabad: a few takeaways

It has been a great pleasure to be invited by the Foundation University of Islamabad to give a keynote talk (albeit virtual) about Digital Divide. The event has been moderated and coordinated by Dr. Sadia Jamil (Khalifa University) and Dr Shabbir Hussain (Bharia University, Islamabad) introduced the phenomenon of Digital Divide in Pakistan. It was pleasure see participants from Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In my talk, I emphasised how access to, and use of ICT is a new civil right: an essential necessity to be a full citizen. In fact, an insufficient and unequal access to the Internet can create new forms of social segregation that exacerbate already existing social inequalities. In a digital-reliant society being excluded from the digital realm means missing opportunities to improve one’s quality of life.

Throughout my talk I underlined several times how the advent of ICTs have granted many privileges to their users, but have also given rise to complex forms of exclusion affecting those already marginalized. We focused on the obstacles that prevent certain social groups from accessing and properly using technologies. This limited access and use of ICTs is defined as the “Digital Divide”. The metaphor of the digital divide suggested a division between two dichotomous groups that can be clearly determined. However, it is possible to observe different degrees of e-inclusion and use of ICTs.

For this reason, I focused on the three levels of Digital Divide, namely i) Inequalities in Accessing ICTs; ii) Inequalities in Usages and iii) Inequalities in Outcomes of Internet Access and Uses.

I concluded by emphasizing that accessing the internet, alone, is simply not enough to be digitally included. It is also necessary to have the capacity to create, successfully navigate, understand online content and use ICTs to improve their life chances.

Citizens need the ability to utilize digital infrastructure and not simply to access it.

CfP: Digital Sustainability

CALL FOR PAPERS

Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance

Special Thematic Issue on Digital Sustainability

Abstracts Due     15 August 2020

Scholars are invited to submit abstracts for a special issue on the theme Digital Sustainability, guest edited by Dr. Massimo Ragnedda (Northumbria University, UK) and Prof. Dr. Glenn Muschert (Khalifa University of Science & Technology, UAE). Submissions will be peer reviewed and considered for publication in a special issue on the theme commissioned by Emerald Publishing’s peer-reviewed journal Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance.

SPECIAL ISSUE THEME: The special issue theme is “Digital Sustainability.” The decade of the 2020s is simultaneously the age of digital transformation and the time in which humanity has established a coherent set of sustainability goals to be achieved by 2030, namely the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). What is less commonly discussed is the role that digital technologies, digital skills, and digital social life will play in the pursuit and maintenance of a sustainable future. This special issue offers a forum for that conversation to develop, as a venue in which social scientists, STS scholars, and other digital scholars can explore the concept of digital sustainability with an eye toward establishing a conceptual framework for defining and theorizing digital sustainability, for studying and assessing digital sustainability, and for plotting out applied methodologies for implementing principles of digital sustainability in real, augmented, and virtual spheres. Thus, this special issue on digital sustainability will open up new scholarly and applied conversations regarding precisely the intersection between digital aspects of human life and wider sustainability concerns for humanity and the planet.

Lecture series in Media and Communication studies. Manipal Institute of Communication

As part of the Lecturer Series in Media and Communication Studies, organized by Manipal Institute of Communication (India), I have been invited to give a talk on the concept of Digital Capital.

This talk contributed both theoretically and empirically to the literature by (a) consolidating the concept of Digital Capital as a specific capital, and (b) empirically measuring it. It adopts a holistic variable (digital capital), conceived and measured as a specific capital and which is comprehensive of a number of aspects related to both digital competences and digital devices. In this lesson, I underlined how the level of digital capital that person possesses influences the quality of the Internet experience and In turn, and how it may be “converted” into other forms of capital and reinvested in the social sphere to enhance social position. Moreover, I stressed how the interaction between digital capital and the other forms of capitals (personal, economic, social, political and cultural) generates outcomes not only in terms of types and quality of online activities, but also in terms of benefits or tangible outcomes. Digital capital, therefore, is a mediating capital that plays a vital role in transforming previous offline capitals into digital activities and, in turn, in transforming these activities into other capitals.

I concluded outlining how Digital Capital is intertwined with the “traditional axes” of social inequalities and how the model to measure it can be used and applied in other contexts.

Exploring Digital Inequalities in Russia: an interregional comparative analysis

Gladkova, Anna & Ragnedda, Massimo (2020), Exploring Digital Inequalities in Russia: an interregional comparative analysis, Online Information Review, DOI (10.1108/OIR-04-2019-0121)

Abstract: This paper contributes to the literature by proposing an analysis of digital inequalities in Russia that focuses on two aspects hitherto under explored: the inter-regionality (by comparing and contrasting eight federal districts) and the multidimensionality of digital inequalities (by taking into account the three levels of digital divide). Therefore, the aim is to address the phenomenon of digital divide in Russia by discussing the three levels of the digital divide (access / skills / benefits) in a comparative and interregional perspective.

This paper uses secondary data for its analysis, including both national (e.g. the total number of daily Internet users in Russia) and more regionalized data (related to particular federal districts of Russia). The choice of data sources was determined by an attempt to provide a detailed and multifaceted coverage of all three levels of the digital divide in Russia, which is not limited to the access problem only. For this purpose, we are using and re-elaborating various reports about the development of the Internet and ICTs in Russia prepared by national and international organizations to cover the first level of the digital divide. To shed light upon the second and third levels of the digital divide, we discuss digital literacy report (2018), the report on Internet openness index of Russian regions (2017), and the report on the digital life index of the Russian regions (2016). Finally, in the attempt to map out the key directions of the state policy aimed at decreasing digital inequality in Russia, on both federal and regional levels, we analyze the most important regional and national policy measures to foster digitalization such as the Digital Russia program, the Digital Government program, the Program of Eliminating Digital Inequality in Russia.

We consider this study to be both a first exploration and a baseline of the three level digital divides in Russia. The paper shows how the level of socioeconomic development of the federal districts, as well as a number of objective factors (distance/isolation, urbanization level, availability of infrastructure and costs for building new infrastructure, etc.) have impact upon digitalization of the regions. As a result, several federal districts of Russia (Central, Northwestern, and, in a number of cases, Ural and Volga federal districts) more often than others take leading positions in rankings, in terms of degree of Internet penetration, audience numbers, use of e-services, etc. This correlation however is not universal as we will show, and some regions lacking behind in terms of access can be booming in terms of digital literacy or other factors, like it happened with Far Eastern federal district for example. All in all, our research showed that digital inequality in Russia is still on place and will require more time for complete elimination, even though current state and public initiatives are being actively developed.

This paper will bring to light meaningful insights into the three levels of digital divides in Russia. Based on a multilevel (three levels of digital divide) and multi-sectional approach (the interplay of different types of inequalities), this paper contributed to overall better understanding of the digital inequalities phenomenon in Russia. It also allowed for a comparative interregional perspective, which has been missing in most papers on digital inequalities in Russia so far.

Read the Author Accepted Manuscript