How offline backgrounds interact with digital capital

Ragnedda, M., Ruiu, ML., Addeo, F., (2022), How offline backgrounds interact with digital capital, New Media and Society.

Abstract: This article investigates the interaction between digital capital and some offline components (economic, cultural, political, social and personal) that represent the background against which we access and use the Internet. Based on a stratified sample of the UK population (868), six indexes (one for each component) were generated through factor analysis and univariate analysis. We summarised them into a unique model by performing a multiple linear regression to evaluate the role-played by offline components in the development/reinforcement of digital capital. The interaction between these new indexes and the digital capital index shows that, with the exception of the political component, all offline backgrounds positively contribute to digital capital. Moreover, the multiple regression analysis shows that the economic and social components have the strongest influence on digital capital.

Introduction

The role-played by socio-cultural and economic backgrounds in influencing digital inequalities has attracted the attention of scholars since the very beginning of Internet studies (DiMaggio et al., 2001). Researchers have increasingly explored the relationship between digital and social inequalities by showing some interdependencies between the pre-existing backgrounds of individuals and their related degree of digital skills and experience in using the Internet (Blank and Groselj, 2015Van Deursen et al., 2015). The main contribution of this article is to conceptualise and measure how various components of individuals’ everyday lives (economic, social, cultural, personal and political components: referred to as the 5Cs from now on) contribute to the creation of digital capital. Our research builds on previous studies that have shown how individual backgrounds and the context in which people grow up influence how individuals approach (Gui and Argentin, 2011), use (Van Deursen and Van Dijk, 2014) and engage (Robinson, 2009) with digital technologies. More specifically, our research aims to analyse to what extent individual backgrounds influence the increase of digital capital, by following the path of other studies that underlined a connection between the cultural, social and economic backgrounds of users, and their Internet access and use (Helsper, 2012Van Deursen et al., 2014Van Deursen and Van Dijk, 2015). Adding to these studies, this work contributes to the investigation of the interaction between social (Bourdieu, 1985Coleman, 1990Putnam, 1995), political (Syed and Whiteley, 1997), economic (Bourdieu, 1985), personal (Becker, 1996) cultural (Bourdieu, 1985) and digital capital.

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