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.

Does this mean that the digital sphere is stratified? If so, do social and digital stratification follow the same patterns and reproduce the same hierarchies and inequalities? And, more specifically, how and why the Weberian analysis of social stratification sounds useful for the analyses of inequalities in the digital arena? This paper will attempt to shed light onto these intricate issues, proposing a nuanced theoretical approach that introduces the Digital Stratification, here intended as an idealtype. By adopting a Weberian perspective this paper seeks to recontextualize the process of social stratification in the digital realm. The aim is to understand the relevance of the three elements of the social stratification – social class, status group and power – in determining inequalities in the digital sphere, how they influence the process of digital inclusion/exclusion and how, in turn, this influence the social inequalities.

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