Digital Divides: Who Controls the Web?

Digital differences refer to the diverse experiences people have on the web depending on factors such as their age, gender and ethnicity. In order to explore this I will look at existing research (summarized in fig 1 below), before concluding with some thoughts on how digital differences impact the way I learn online.

dominiant groups in online spaces

Lutz, & Hoffmann, (2017) in their analysis of user’s online participation found several potential areas for a digital divide, including a split based on user participation based on political beliefs and age. Research indicated that there existed a divide between those of more extremist political beliefs espousing them online, and those of more liberal beliefs who self-censored in an effort to avoid confrontation and online bullying (Lutz, & Hoffmann 2017). Also whilst elderly people were found to want to access online spaces they lacked the technical abilities to do so (Lutz, & Hoffmann 2017).

Other studies have also looked at the web from an intersectionality perspective to see the differing experiences caused by gender, race and class (Nakamura, 2007). Studies on online spaces such as LambaM00 pointed to denial of forms of racial discourse in order to secure and reflect the values of the predominately white and middle class user base (Nakamura, 2007).

The ways in which I learn online are impacted in part by educational level and digital literacy. The University provides access to various academic resources which allow me to draw from a range of research materials to gain deeper understandings to certain topics that would be usually be hidden by academic journal paywalls. As for my economic status and country of origin, middle class, & British citizen this gives me the socio-economic ability to access the web which is largely catered towards English speaking people. Conversely people in poorer parts of India and certain other places in the World will have no ability to access the web.

Word Count: 300

 

References:

FutureLearn. (2018). Page from Learning in the Network Age – University of Southampton. [online] Available at: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-network-age/4/steps/303344 [Accessed 22 Feb. 2018].

Lutz, C., & Hoffmann, C. P. (2017). The dark side of online participation: exploring non-, passive and negative participation. Information, Communication & Society, 1-22. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1293129?src=recsys&

Nakamura, L. (2007) ‘Race in/for cyberspace: identity tourism and racial passing on the internet’ in Bell and Kennedy (Eds) The Cybercultures Reader (Second Edition only) London, Routledge. http://mysite.du.edu/~lavita/edpx_3770_13s/_docs/nakamura_race_in_cyberspace.pdf

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4 thoughts on “Digital Divides: Who Controls the Web?

  1. Hi Ryan, thanks for this blog post – it was a really interesting and enlightening read. I found your point on how access and usage of the web for religious individuals to be particularly interesting as many people choose not to discuss this when examining web-related studies. I also found your point on the geographical effect on access to the web really interesting – when you are brought up in a middle-class setting in England it can be quite often overlooked just how little access individuals across the world have when it comes to the use of the web. My question would really be if you think that this digital divide/ gap will ever bridge the world or whether you think this gap will continue to grow as it is at the moment? 🙂

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  2. Thanks for commenting. The question as to whether the gap will be ever be bridged I think is related to another question. Which is: Does the web simply mirror offline social inequalities through digital divides or does it reproduce these inequalities. With regards to my own experiences in a middle class setting in South England, it can be argued that the web mirrors my existing accesses to services like healthcare, and education. With regards to my point about access to academic journals, I believe the web is reproducing the existing digital divide between those who have the social mobility in order to enter an institutional setting for learning such as a University, and those who do not.

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