The rise of digital underclass. A takeaway from the IAMCR webinar “Digital Divide and Digital Inclusion”

On March 19 2021, we organized the first webinar in the IAMCR webinar series – ‘Digital Divide and Digital Inclusion‘ sponsored by Digital Divide Working Group. The webinar discussed digital divide and digital inclusion of various social groups. Presentations covered recent research on digital inclusion of disabled people, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, minor ethnic and cultural groups, and the evolution of digital inequalities from digital divide to algorithms divide.The well-attended event was moderated by Prof, Elena Vartanova (Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia), and see the participation of leading scholars in digital inequalities, such as Prof. Gerard Goggin, (Nanyang Technological University) who presented a paper on: ‘AI and digital inclusion: The case of disability’; Anna Gladkova (Lomonosov Moscow State University) & Nikita Argylov (Far Eastern Federal University) with a paper titled ‘Digital inclusion and ethnicity: Mapping differences between Russians and Yakuts online’; Bibi Reisdorf (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) presented a paper titled ‘Digital inclusion of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals: Case studies from the United States’; and, finally, myself with a paper titled ‘From digital divide to algorithms divide: The evolution of digital inequalities’.

In my presentation I proposed a new way to (re)think, analyse and understand inequalities in the digital age. The last decades have witnessed the rise of a new underprivileged and disadvantaged class in the digital society: the digital underclass. More specifically, I underlined how the digital underclass citizens are not only those who are disadvantaged in their access (non-users), use of ICTs (digitally unskilled) to improve their quality of life or in coping with the negative outcomes (the three levels of digital divide) but also those who are negatively affected by big data, AI and algorithms.

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