Conceptualizing digital capital

telematics_and_informaticsMassimo Ragnedda (2018), Conceptualizing Digital Capital, Telematics and Informatics,

1. Introduction

This article makes a theoretical contribution by looking at the rise of digital capital and its relation to the already existent social, economic, personal, political and cultural capitals (the five capitals, 5Cs from now on). It specifically refers to the ways through which the interaction between the digital capital and the 5Cs generates inequalities in online experience (second level of digital divide), and how this new capital contributes towards the creation of the third level of digital divide, seen as the inequalities in the returning social benefits of using the Internet (van Deursen and Helsper, 2015Ragnedda, 2017). This paper will attempt to explain how, in order to make profitable the resources gained from the digital realm and transform them into social resources, individuals need a positive interrelation between the digital capital and social (Bourdieu, 1983Coleman, 1990Putnam, 1995), political (Syed and Whiteley, 1997), economic (Bourdieu, 1983), personal (Becker, 1996) and cultural capitals (Bourdieu, 1983). This interaction helps individuals to transform the digital resources into social resources and to exploit the full advantages offered by the Internet.

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Oxford Union Debate: “This house believes that open technology and standards have widened social injustice”

SpeakersIt has been an honor to be invited at the Oxford Union (12 September 2018) to be part of the debate “This house believes that open technology and standards have widened social injustice”.

The motion I supported was that open technology and standards have driven a revolution in the way that information is created, consumed, shared and commented upon. From medical advice to fake news, almost anything can be found, at any time, by anyone, wherever they may be. Many might assume that the free-flow of information has reinforced the three tenets of social justice: liberty, equality and fraternity. The Internet age has freed voices that weren’t previously heard, spread education and wealth, brought communities together.

But is there a darker side to the information revolution that has, in fact, widened social injustice? Has it created a divide between those who control information and those who consume it; between the young who understand the new technology and the old who don’t; between the rich who have access to the latest electronic gadgets and the poor who can’t afford to get connected online?

I articulated my speech in four main points: First, I argued that social and digital inequalities are intertwined (this was the leading motive of my speech). Second, following up on this point and I showed how and why the most advantaged people get the most out of the internet, therefor widening already existing social inequalities. Third, I stressed how being digitally excluded means being socially excluded, and being digitally excluded increases the possibilities people will become second-class and third-class citizens. Fourth, I underlined how inequalities are widening both at the micro (between individuals) and at the macro level, both in terms of global digital divide (4 billion people are excluded from the Internet) and in terms of growing consolidation of power, as the leading ICTs companies are gaining monopoly over the technologies they control.


Tackling Digital Exclusion: Counter Social Inequalities Through Digital Inclusion

Global agenda for social justiceMassimo Ragnedda (2018), Tackling Digital Exclusion Counter: Social Inequalities Through Digital Inclusion in G. Muschert et al (eds) Global Agenda for Social Justice, Polity Press, pp 151-157.


The Problem

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have granted many privileges to their users. At the same time, they have given rise to new and complex forms of exclusion affecting those already marginalized and disempowered. The development of the information society has highlighted the existence of obstacles preventing certain social groups from accessing and properly using technologies. This limited access and use of ICTs is defined as the “digital divide.” Those who are digitally included can more easily access services that impact positively on their health, occupation, education, and housing. Therefore, an exclusion from, or even partial access to, the digital realm has become a significant source of social inequality. However, accessing the internet, alone, is simply not enough to be digitally included. Indeed, it is also necessary to have the capacity to use, create, successfully navigate, and understand online content. These are the skills necessary to be a digitally literate individual once the technology is available. Digital literacy, therefore, indicates the ability to utilize digital infrastructure and not simply to access it. Digital inclusion, then, refers to the policies that will bridge the digital divide and support digital literacy. It tackles social inequalities by providing solutions for socially disadvantaged citizens to easily access and effectively use ICTs to improve their quality of life. This chapter will explain strategies that public, private, and voluntary sectors should follow to reduce digital exclusion and promote digital and social equity. These strategies are intended to ensure that people who are disadvantaged in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, location (urban or rural), or disability can access and enjoy the benefits of the information society. Digital inclusion initiatives are designed to give citizens the right access, skills, trust, and motivation to confidently go online. Digital inclusion projects aim to enhance the capacity to use ICTs in ways that promote engagement and well-being and, therefore, to counter social inequalities.

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Call for Chapters: Digital Inequalities in the Global South

dig inMy colleague Anna Gladkova and I (we are both vice chair of the Digital Divide Working Group, IAMRC) are editing a book on the topic “Digital Inequalities in the Global South”.

We are organizing an edited volume which will examine how digital inequalities are affecting the cultural, economic and social development of the Global South. Contributions are invited for this edited international collection of original chapters engaging empirical case studies on digital inequalities in the Global South.

The book will be submitted to Palgrave and if all goes well will be included into the IAMCR/Palgrave Global Transformations in Media and Communication Research (Palgrave and IAMCR Series).

Please see the attached Call for Chapter Proposals for details on the scope, timing, and mechanics of this project. Also, please feel welcome to post this call for papers widely and to forward it to interested colleagues and students. We hope to see some proposals from many of you, and for now, please feel welcome to be in contact if you have any questions for us.

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Elected as co-vice chair of the Digital Divide Working Group (IAMCR)

did-logo-optimalI am honoured and happy to be elected as co-vice chair of the Digital Divide Working Group of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). The Digital Divide Working group was established in 1998. The main goal of this working group is to stimulate new theoretical approaches and empirical findings resulted from the research of digital inequality as a multi-dimensional phenomenon influencing various aspects of social life in different countries

The Digital Divide Working Group aims at providing a forum for scholars researching various aspects of digital inequality across the world.

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Digital stratification: Class, status group and parties in the age of the Internet

At the IAMCdid-logo-optimalR 2018 conference (Oregon, 20-24 June 2018), I’ll be chairing several panels and I’ll be presenting a paper titled Digital stratification: Class, status group and parties in the age of the Internet. This paper takes the Weberian social stratification model as a platform to examine digital inequalities, by explaining how social stratification is associated with different digital skills and practices, and tend to produce forms of inequality in the digital realm. This paper attempts to explain how and why the process of social stratification is relevant and useful to the study of digital inequalities. The aim is to develop an approach to digital inequality that acknowledges the process of stratification in a digital-enabled society. Digital inequalities are analysed not as separate forms of inequalities, but in relation to the social inequalities that exist in the offline world. Digital inequalities are embedded in the cultural, social and political context in which they emerge and cannot be disconnected from the social inequalities. Digital inequalities are, as the social inequalities, influenced by the Weberian triadic relationship at the base of the process of social stratification, namely class, social status and power. More specifically, the individuals’ economic position in society (class), the level of prestige individuals have (status group) and their influence on the decision-making process (power) effect the digital divide.

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My candidacy for the role of Vice Chair of the IAMCR Digital Divides Working Group

did-logo-optimalThe IAMCR Digital Divide Working Group will run partial elections for a co-vice chair position during its business meeting during the IAMCR2018 in Oregon.

The current chair Olga Smirnova and co-vice chair Anna Gladkova will stay in their positions having been elected in 2016 at the Leicester conference.

I have been serving as co-vice chair on an interim basis since IAMCR2017 conference and I am now seeking to formalise that position.

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