Digital Inequalities: are social inequalities already existing in the society reproduced and reinforced online?

oxfOxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, 02/06/2015

Abstract: Social inequalities present in the social structures are not disconnected with the digital inequalities presents in the digital sphere. Digital inequalities, seen as the different skills at using information sources and opportunities, are embedded in social structures. Previous social inequalities not only affect digital divides but reinforce and exacerbate pre-existing social inequalities. Furthermore, several patterns which characterize and shape the social structure such as education, skills, income, occupation and gender influence the access and the use of the Internet. Analysed from this perspective it seems that social inequalities already existing in the society are reproduced and reinforced online. It might be argued that there exists a kind of recurring cycle between social and digital inequalities. Namely, social inequalities are the root of digital inequalities, and at the same time digital divides increase and reinforce social inequalities already present in a stratified social sphere. However, it is unclear whether the digital divide simply exacerbates traditional inequalities, or whether it also includes counter-trends that might mitigate traditional inequalities while forming new modalities of stratification.  Similarly, do traditional forms of inequality simply replicate themselves in the digital sphere, or does the digital divide operate under its own dynamics?

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