Demystifying Digital Divide and Digital Leisure.

leisureMassimo Ragnedda and Bruce Mutsvairo (2016), Demystifying Digital Divide and Digital Leisure. Chapter in David McGillivray, Gayle McPherson, Sandro Carnicelli (eds) Digital Leisure Cultures: Critical Perspectives, Routledge, pp. 107-119.

Abstract: This chapter investigates the contribution of the digital divide towards the consumption of leisure among users. In analysing the entertainment and leisure dimensions of the Internet, the chapter draws on the literature exploring digital divide, but also on concepts such as network theory and liquidity. With the experience of leisure consumption in a postmodern society increasingly important as a distinctive form of identity, we question the extent to which digital inequalities, based on skills, income and education, influence leisure consumption online.

From Social to Digital Inequalities

13435300_10208296440186711_365484049517279225_nFrom Social to Digital Inequalities, paper presented at Intercom Comunicação, San Paulo, Brazil (18 June 2016).

Digital communication plays a key role in the process of the structuring of contemporary society, and may result in the emergence of new forms of social exclusion linked to digital inequalities. The digital divide is a form of social and digital exclusion which depends not only on technological, demographic and geographical factors, but also on economic, cultural and social circumstances associated with social structure. All these factors influence not only the use of the Internet, but also its cultural evolution and structure. The digital divide is a “moving target” that changes over time due to the diffusion of technological innovation; it therefore needs to be constantly redefined using more appropriate operational indicators. The Internet is a space that provides power for the growth of knowledge as a common good. The network structure is independent of the borders of the various states and has the potential to connect all the inhabitants of the earth, reducing disparities of all kinds. However, despite these unique qualities, many obstacles prevent their full integration. Diversified and unequal access to the Internet can create new forms of social segregation, which in turn generate communities based on weak ties (Ancu and Cozna, 2009; Baumgartner and Morris, 2010; Kraut et al., 1998; Withe, 2010, 2010; Gladwell, 2010; Fenton and Barassi, 2011). Inclusion and exclusion from the network society are based on the capabilities of technological devices (hardware and software), length and amount of Internet use, resources (mostly intangible) conveyed by the networks, digital skills, and online activities (DiMaggio et al., 2004; Hargittai and Hinnant, 2008; Howard et al., 2001; Van Dijk and Van Deursen, 2014). Van Dijk (2005: 166-177) identifies participation and social inclusion as the most important factors in combatting digital inequalities. In a network society where the new media are acquiring an increasingly important role in the acquisition of benefits and the competition between individuals, conventional electronic media and other traditional forms of communication will become less and less sufficient to allow full participation in each of these areas, while the use of the Internet will become ever more vital.

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Theorizing Digital Divides and Inequalities.

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Massimo Ragnedda and Glenn W. Muschert, Theorizing Digital Divides and Inequalities, in  an Servaes, Toks Oyedemi (eds) Social Inequalities, Media and Communication: A Global perspective, 2016, Lexington Books

Inequalities that exist in the digital sphere are certainly entangled with inequalities present in the “social sphere”. The aim of this chapter is to sketch a concept of stratification and inequalities in the digital sphere, the goal of which is to clarify whether the digital divide simply extends traditional forms of inequality, or whether it also includes new forms, which might include counter-trends that alleviate traditional inequalities and/or which form new modalities of inequality. The discussion will proceed from a theoretical perspective using Max Weber’s theory of stratification, in order to clarify how social stratification in the digital age is reproduced online. The main idea is that inequalities in the digital sphere are based on features that, just as in the social sphere, go beyond the economic aspects of inequality.

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6 fully-funded studentships available at Northumbria University

northumbria-logoTitle: Revisiting the digital divide: from social to digital inequalities.

Project Description: Defined as social and economic stratification in the access to- and use of- the internet, the digital divide is inevitably tied to the concept of social inequality. Systems of structured inequality exist in most human societies. Since more aspects of social life are migrating and expanding online, systems of structured inequality are being reproduced in the digital sphere: citizens without access to the internet (in terms of lack of equipment and infrastructural access) are likely to be disadvantaged when compared with their more networked neighbours. The project being advertised will incorporate both theoretical ideas and empirical analyses in order to bring fresh perspectives to debates around the forms of digital and social inequality and sketch a concept of inequalities in the digital sphere: the successful candidate will develop innovative ways through which to study digitally enabled networked societies. The connections between digital and traditional inequalities will be explored in order to better understand if the former perpetuates the latter, and how the latter informs the former. Indeed, despite the gradual closing of the digital gap over the past decade, significant differences remain in relation to the ways we use the internet, levels of digital literacy, issues of social capital and the development of ICT skills. All these factors influence how we use and experience the digital technologies around us and the benefits we derive from them.

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2b4729_c872dbf6fd0a4a1ca2a7a8b2155e9686RAGNEDDA, Massimo and BUDD, Kristen M.: (2015) ‘Invisible Violence’: Media (Re)Production of Gender Inequality in Italy. Vol.4 – Nº7, pp. 11-21. ISSN 2014-6752. Girona (Catalunya)

Abstract: Compared to other European countries, opportunities are limited for Italian women to fully and equally participate in Italian social life. In order to better understand Italian women’s social position and gender inequality that persists in Italy, this research applies Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic violence. Specifically, symbolic violence is used to explain depictions of Italian women in the Italian media. Because social institutions such as the media, that reach large audiences, have the ability to transmit dominant cultural representations, they also transmit representations of the roles of masculinity and femininity. This ability permits media outlets to depict images of the gendered status quo. These representations and depictions often reinforce gender domination in the form of promoting and reifying gender inequality. This research uses the Global Media Monitoring Project and the European Observatory on Gender Representations report to analyse how the Italian media misrepresent and stereotype women in television and news by limiting their social roles and status in these outlets, a form of symbolic violence. These limited social roles are also seen in Italy’s social reality where women are less likely to be represented in different spheres of social life, like politics. These persistent and prevalent stereotypes and images in the Italian media reify the economic, social, and cultural disadvantage of women in Italy that contribute to continued masculine dominations in all spheres of social life. The implications of symbolic violence in the Italian media and media in general are then discussed. http://ojs.udg.edu/index.php/CommunicationPapers/article/view/212/MassimoRagnedda

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Special Section on “Max Weber and Digital Divide Studies”: guest-edited by Massimo Ragnedda and Glenn W. Muschert

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Seminal sociologist Max Weber rarely wrote about media dynamics; however, the Weberian perspective offers rich potential for the analysis of various media issues, including the study of digital divides. In particular, the contribution of a Weberian school of thought to the field is the addition of noneconomic and nontechnical concerns to the study of digital inequalities, most notably the importance of status/prestige, legitimacy, group affiliations, life chances, and political relations as areas of focus.

Facets of social life are migrating and expanding on-line, including the functioning of key social institutions; yet digital participation (like all other aspects of social life) remains unequal. A Weberian perspective allows a multifaceted view of such digital divides which include the interplay of social class (lifestyle and culture), social status (prestige and market influence), and power (political impact). Indeed, these key distinctions Weber identified about inequality are still significant and important in the digital age, although this perspective is in its nascent stage. This Special Section focuses precisely on the potential of applying Max Weber’s thought to digital divide studies.

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Rethinking the digital divide (Keynote presentation, University of Exeter)

ExeterKeynote presentation: Rethinking digital divide, University of Exeter 03/06/2015 As more aspects of social life are migrating and expanding on-line, systems of structured inequalities are now well-entrenched and replicated in the digital sphere. However, the development of the theoretical aspect of digital divide studies has lagged behind the development of more empirical studies.  Traditional studies of digital divides have tended to be macro in scope, and often convey flavour of government reporting on infrastructure and electronic capacities.  Of course, there are many exceptions among scholars working in a variety of fields, however even given a variety of national and cultural perspectives from which such studies emerge, the theoretical underpinnings of such studies often proceed from a narrow range of perspectives (most commonly critical social theory perspectives, such as those in the Marxist and subsequent traditions).  While the critical schools have indeed brought great insight to the field, the narrow stretch of social theories applied to digital divides is surprising, given the diversity of theoretical developments which have developed in social theories, especially in the last half century.

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