Social capital and the three levels of digital divide.

Social capital and digital divideMassimo Ragnedda and Maria Laura Ruiu (2017) Social capital and the three levels of digital divideIn Ragnedda M., Muschert G. eds. (2017), Theorizing Digital Divides, Routledge.

Introduction. Although the relation between the Internet and social capital has been largely investigated (Wellman, 2001; Vergeer and Pelzer, 2009; Hampton, Sessions, and Her, 2011), the nature of such relation is still unclear. The ongoing dispute is still between two opposite positions emphasized in the really early stage of Internet studies (Wellman, 2001): on the one hand, the Internet increases and improves social relationships (Lévy, 1997); on the other, it negatively affects face-to-face relationships (Stoll, 1995). A number of studies have implicitly investigated that relation by emphasizing the role of the Internet in promoting both new democratic, participatory and open spaces (Sproull and Kiesler, 1991; Kapor, 1993), and collective action (Frantzich, 1999; Diani, 2000). This enthusiastic attitude, which we can define as a “techno-evangelist” approach, sees the Internet as a place of freedom in which people (with similar and different perspectives) meet up for “building” something together. According to this approach, the virtual space gives to users a “power capital”, represented by freedom of choices and democratic spaces of discussion. In these virtual spaces, citizens have the power to decide and mobilize people and resources towards a common objective. By contrast, a “techno-skeptic” approach sees the other side of the coin, in which Internet users increase their activity online while decreasing and weakening their social interactions and civil participation offline (Kraut et al., 1998; Gladwell, 2010; Fenton and Barassi, 2011). More specifically, earlier studies show how online activities may also enhance and increase social, human and economic capital (Hargittai and Hinnant, 2008; Hassani, 2006). These are part of a broader body of research that has focused on how social capital may affect digital divide (Chen, 2013; DiMaggio and Cohen, 2003). Literature on this relationship mainly refers to how the digital divide may increase the inequalities in terms of possession of social capital (Pénard and Poussing, 2014; Di Maggio et al., 2004; Katz and Rice, 2003). More specifically, Kvasny (2006), Robinson (2009) and Sims (2014) adapted Bourdieu’s theory to the Internet and new media research.

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Theorizing Digital Divides

theorizing digital dividesMassimo Ragnedda and Glenn W. Muschert, Theorizing Digital Divides, Routledge, 2017

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 This volume examines and explains the phenomenon of digital divides and digital inequalities from a theoretical perspective. Indeed, with there being a limited amount of theoretical research on the digital divide so far, Theorizing Digital Divides seeks to collect and analyse different perspectives and theoretical approaches in analysing digital inequalities, and thus propose a nuanced approach to study the digital divide.

Exploring theories from diverse perspectives within the social sciences whilst presenting clear examples of how each theory is applied in digital divide research, this book will appeal to scholars and undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in sociology of inequality, digital culture, Internet studies, mass communication, social theory, sociology, and media studies.


Prof. Steve Jones (UIC Distinguished Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago): This book provides a much-needed wide-ranging theoretical foundation for research on the digital divide. While scholars and activists have done yeoman’s work identifying, studying and narrowing digital divides, Ragnedda and Muschert have put together the theoretical infrastructure with which we may understand past efforts and move forward with new ones.

Prof. Bridgette Wessels (Newcastle University): This is a welcome volume that develops our understanding of digital divides. It does so through a highly informed understanding of current theoretical knowledge of digital divides in a range of disciplinary perspectives.  The authors combine to extend this knowledge in meaningful ways to address the nuances and complexities of digital divides.  The theoretical developments will be extremely beneficial for scholars and students working in the area of digital divides.


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