New Book series on Digital Inequalities (Palgrave)


Calling all Digital Divide Scholars!
Your work has a new home in Palgrave Studies in Digital Inequalities: we are seeking monographs and
edited volumes that speak to any aspect of digital inequality, digital divides, and digital inclusion writ
large.


ABOUT THE SERIES
We welcome monographs and edited volumes that are empirical, theoretical, agenda‐setting, and/or policy driven that explore any aspect of inequality, marginalization, inclusion, and/or positive change in the digital world. The series seeks scholars studying both emergent and established forms of inequality.
Potential themes include but are not limited to digital inequalities in relation to AI, algorithms,
misinformation, digital labor, platform economy, cybersafety, cybercrime, gaming, big data, the digital
public sphere, economic class, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, aging, disability, healthcare,
education, rural residency, networks, public policy, etc.

SERIES EDITORS
Massimo Ragnedda, Associate Professor in Media and Communication at Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK, and Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia.
Laura Robinson, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Santa Clara University, USA, and
Faculty Associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.


CONTACT FOR PROPOSALS
If you have an idea, we want to hear it! If you have questions or would like to initiate a proposal, send an
abstract of your ideas and author/editor bio(s) to editorial (at) palgravedigitalinequalities (dot) org

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Digital capital and online activities: An empirical analysis of the second level of digital divide

Ruiu Maria Laura and Ragnedda Massimo (2020), Digital capital and online activities: An empirical analysis of the second level of digital divide, First Monday, 25(7) DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i7.10855

Abstract: This paper explores inequalities in using the Internet by investigating several digital activities that require different levels of digital capital. Data collected in the U.K. through an online survey of a national representative sample (868 respondents) shows that levels of digital capital and type and quality of online activities are intertwined. The analysis shows that digital capital, conceived and measured as a specific capital, is entangled with the frequency/intensity of social, economic/financial means, ordinary/daily entertainment, and political activities, but not with learning-related activities. This work contributes to the literature in both empirical and theoretical terms by testing the reliability of digital capital and expanding its use to investigate digital inequalities. From a policy-making point of view, the awareness of citizens’ level of digital capital may help tailor initiatives to support citizens in using ICTs on a wide array of fields, such as job seeking, sociability, savings, familial relationships, and several online activities. Finally, this paper highlights that digital inequalities cannot be tackled by considering access and competence separately. By contrast, the adoption of measures that synthesise the two dimensions might help simplify policy-making’s initiatives to tackle digital inequalities.


Keynote Talk at the Foundation University of Islamabad: a few takeaways

It has been a great pleasure to be invited by the Foundation University of Islamabad to give a keynote talk (albeit virtual) about Digital Divide. The event has been moderated and coordinated by Dr. Sadia Jamil (Khalifa University) and Dr Shabbir Hussain (Bharia University, Islamabad) introduced the phenomenon of Digital Divide in Pakistan. It was pleasure see participants from Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In my talk, I emphasised how access to, and use of ICT is a new civil right: an essential necessity to be a full citizen. In fact, an insufficient and unequal access to the Internet can create new forms of social segregation that exacerbate already existing social inequalities. In a digital-reliant society being excluded from the digital realm means missing opportunities to improve one’s quality of life.

Throughout my talk I underlined several times how the advent of ICTs have granted many privileges to their users, but have also given rise to complex forms of exclusion affecting those already marginalized. We focused on the obstacles that prevent certain social groups from accessing and properly using technologies. This limited access and use of ICTs is defined as the “Digital Divide”. The metaphor of the digital divide suggested a division between two dichotomous groups that can be clearly determined. However, it is possible to observe different degrees of e-inclusion and use of ICTs.

For this reason, I focused on the three levels of Digital Divide, namely i) Inequalities in Accessing ICTs; ii) Inequalities in Usages and iii) Inequalities in Outcomes of Internet Access and Uses.

I concluded by emphasizing that accessing the internet, alone, is simply not enough to be digitally included. It is also necessary to have the capacity to create, successfully navigate, understand online content and use ICTs to improve their life chances.

Citizens need the ability to utilize digital infrastructure and not simply to access it.

Exploring Digital Inequalities in Russia: an interregional comparative analysis

Gladkova, Anna & Ragnedda, Massimo (2020), Exploring Digital Inequalities in Russia: an interregional comparative analysis, Online Information Review, DOI (10.1108/OIR-04-2019-0121)

Abstract: This paper contributes to the literature by proposing an analysis of digital inequalities in Russia that focuses on two aspects hitherto under explored: the inter-regionality (by comparing and contrasting eight federal districts) and the multidimensionality of digital inequalities (by taking into account the three levels of digital divide). Therefore, the aim is to address the phenomenon of digital divide in Russia by discussing the three levels of the digital divide (access / skills / benefits) in a comparative and interregional perspective.

This paper uses secondary data for its analysis, including both national (e.g. the total number of daily Internet users in Russia) and more regionalized data (related to particular federal districts of Russia). The choice of data sources was determined by an attempt to provide a detailed and multifaceted coverage of all three levels of the digital divide in Russia, which is not limited to the access problem only. For this purpose, we are using and re-elaborating various reports about the development of the Internet and ICTs in Russia prepared by national and international organizations to cover the first level of the digital divide. To shed light upon the second and third levels of the digital divide, we discuss digital literacy report (2018), the report on Internet openness index of Russian regions (2017), and the report on the digital life index of the Russian regions (2016). Finally, in the attempt to map out the key directions of the state policy aimed at decreasing digital inequality in Russia, on both federal and regional levels, we analyze the most important regional and national policy measures to foster digitalization such as the Digital Russia program, the Digital Government program, the Program of Eliminating Digital Inequality in Russia.

We consider this study to be both a first exploration and a baseline of the three level digital divides in Russia. The paper shows how the level of socioeconomic development of the federal districts, as well as a number of objective factors (distance/isolation, urbanization level, availability of infrastructure and costs for building new infrastructure, etc.) have impact upon digitalization of the regions. As a result, several federal districts of Russia (Central, Northwestern, and, in a number of cases, Ural and Volga federal districts) more often than others take leading positions in rankings, in terms of degree of Internet penetration, audience numbers, use of e-services, etc. This correlation however is not universal as we will show, and some regions lacking behind in terms of access can be booming in terms of digital literacy or other factors, like it happened with Far Eastern federal district for example. All in all, our research showed that digital inequality in Russia is still on place and will require more time for complete elimination, even though current state and public initiatives are being actively developed.

This paper will bring to light meaningful insights into the three levels of digital divides in Russia. Based on a multilevel (three levels of digital divide) and multi-sectional approach (the interplay of different types of inequalities), this paper contributed to overall better understanding of the digital inequalities phenomenon in Russia. It also allowed for a comparative interregional perspective, which has been missing in most papers on digital inequalities in Russia so far.

Read the Author Accepted Manuscript

Reconceptualising the digital divide

Mapping the Digital Divide in AfricaRagnedda, M. (2019). Reconceptualising the digital divide. In Mutsvairo, B., and Ragnedda, M., (2019) (eds)., Mapping the Digital Divide in Africa. A mediated Analysis. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 27-43.

Introduction

The term “digital divide” emerged in the 1990s to define inequalities in access to the Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), framing it as a matter of having or not having access to ICTs (Compaine 2001). The firsts empirical researches have shown how some specific socio-demographic variables, such as employment status, income, education level, geographic location, ethnicity, age, gender and family structure, influenced the access to the ICTs, creating a digital gap or divide among citizens (domestic digital divide) or countries (global digital divide). Such inequalities have widened during the years, despite the fact that the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Geneva (2003) and then in Tunis (2005) has stressed the idea that no one should be left out from the benefits offered by the information society. The importance of the Internet as a pre-requisite for economic and social development, has been further stressed by the United Nations in 2015 when the Internet has been included among its goals for resolving the most persistent social and economic challenges of our time (UN, 2015: 15). Indeed, in a digital enabled society, part of the human activities depends on how we access, generate and process information. It is then worth asking how the phenomenon of digital divide and digital inequalities has been approached and analysed by both scholars and policy makers and how such approach has changed over the years. Hence, the aim of this chapter is to discuss the change of perspectives in analysing and attempting to bridge the digital divide, and reconceptualise this concept by offering a nuanced theoretical approach to analyses the rise and persistence of digital inequalities.

Continue reading “Reconceptualising the digital divide”

Digital Capital. A Bourdieusian Perspective on the Digital Divide

cover book digital capitalMassimo Ragnedda and Maria Laura Ruiu (2020), Digital Capital. A Bourdieusian Perspective on the Digital Divide, Emerald Publishing

Description

Starting from the assumption that digital capital is a capital in its own right, and can be quantified and measured as such, the authors of this book examine how digital capital can be defined, measured and impact policy.

Using the Bourdieusian lens, this book makes a critical contribution to the field by examining in depth the notion of digital capital and by introducing a new theoretical toolkit in order to fully conceptualise it. Against this theoretical background, the authors propose a set of indicators that can be used to measure digital capital at an individual level. Ultimately, readers will learn how this can be used by policy makers to tackle social inequalities which are based on the digital exclusion of citizens.

Reviews

As digital communications becomes ever more central to everyday life, work and leisure, their impact on inequality becomes increasingly profound. Is there a new ‘digital capital’ acquired by those who gain most from these technologies? The authors, established experts in this field, address this problem with a thorough and informed analysis of the concept, and its implications for policy and understanding.’

– Peter Golding, Professor, Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, UK

Continue reading “Digital Capital. A Bourdieusian Perspective on the Digital Divide”

Does Digital Exclusion Undermine Social Media’s Democratizing Capacity?

New Global StudiesMutsvairo, B. & Ragnedda, M. (2019). Does Digital Exclusion Undermine Social Media’s Democratizing Capacity?  New Global Studies, doi:10.1515/ngs-2019-0035

Claims have been made that the advent of social media and its assumed ability to fuel social strife and organize anti-government protests has empowered people around the world to successfully challenge repressive authorities. However, in an era in which several issues ranging from digital colonialism to digital exclusion among other challenges, have become so dominant, it is our role as researchers to question some of these claims especially when they seem unsubstantiated. Sharing or finding solidarity is something that can be done on social media platforms but nothing is as critical as being part of the digital community. In that regard, questions surrounding digital exclusion are critical especially when discussing the extent to which social media influences democracy, questions that several scholars from every corner of the world are currently seized with. In this article, we not only identify social media’s potential but we also probe problems associated with beliefs that digital networks have the capacity to support democratization. Contemporary societies should be asking what the real gains of the fall of the Berlin Wall are in the work of these fundamental digital shifts, which have left both negative and positive outcomes on all countries including established Western democracies.

[…]

External examiner for a Ph.D. defence in Madrid

complutense tribunalThe 28th of October 2019, I acted as external examiner for a Ph.D. dissertation at the Facultad de Ciencias Politicas y Sociología de la Universidad Complutense, Madrid (Spain). The candidate, Daniel Calderón Gómez, brilliantly defended a thesis titled “Capital digital y socialización tecnológica: una aproximación bourdiana al estudio de la desigualdad digital y la estratificación social entre la juventud“. The candidate analysed youngsters’ variety of digital practices and forms of technological exploitation, in connection to their biographical trajectories of technological socialization, by using the constructivist structuralism of Pierre Bourdieu. The dissertation tries to unravel the role that younger generations play in information society, aiming at the dismantling of the cyber-utopian perspectives that glorify natural affinity between youth and digital world –by means of concepts such as digital natives or digital generations–.

Measuring Digital Capital: An empirical investigation

nms-cover-socialMassimo Ragnedda, Maria Laura Ruiu, and Felice Addeo (2019). Measuring Digital Capital: An empirical investigation. New Media and Society. 1-24.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819869604

Abstract

This article develops a Digital Capital Index by adopting the definition provided by Ragnedda, who defines Digital Capital as the accumulation of digital competencies and digital technologies, and the model for measuring it developed by Ragnedda and Ruiu. It aims to develop a measure that can be replicated for comparison in different contexts. This article contributes both theoretically and empirically to the literature by (a) consolidating the concept of Digital Capital as a specific capital and (b) empirically measuring it. A Digital Capital Index is developed through an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and validated with a representative sample survey of 868 UK citizens. The validation procedure shows that the Digital Capital Index is associated with socioeconomic and sociodemographic patterns, such as age, income, educational level and place of residence, while it appears not to be related to gender.

Introduction

This article develops a Digital Capital Index (DCI) by adopting a definition of Digital Capital as ‘“a set of internalised abilities and aptitudes” (digital competencies) as well as “externalised resources” (digital technology) that can be historically accumulated and transferred from one arena to another’ (Ragnedda, 2018). This definition conceptualises Digital Capital as a specific capital (though intertwined with other capitals). Moving on from this conceptualisation, Ragnedda and Ruiu (2019) proposed some indicators to measure Digital Capital. However, this model construct has hitherto never been tested. This article fills this gap in the literature by exploring the empirical application of these indicators which were developed only at a theoretical level.

Continue reading “Measuring Digital Capital: An empirical investigation”

Keynote talk: The Digital Capital Index: monitoring citizens’ digital inclusion

EDtA_ItXsAIQYZdIt has been a real pleasure to give a keynote talk on Digital Capital and Digital Inclusion at the “One day colloquium on Digital Inclusion” in Brussels,  the 5th of September 2019. The event has been organized by IDEALiC, a 4-year project funded under the research program BRAIN-BE of the Federal Science Policy (2015-2019). In my keynote speech I focused on the Digital Capital Index and how it can be used, by policy makers, charities and foundations, to address digital inclusiveness and promote digital rights. The “One day Colloquium” was devoted to the presentation of the results of the project carried out over the past 4 years by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) and the Fondation Travail-Université (FTU) and has been financed by BELSPO. The discussion on this theme was enriched by the experiences of field actors from the three regions and by the contributions of work carried out in other European countries.