chapter  13
10 Pages

Minding the digital gap: why understanding digital inequality matters: Eszter Hargittai

ByESZTER HARGITTAI

A large body of literature exists looking at differential rates of Internet diffusion both across and within countries (e.g., see Billon et al., 2009 for a review of the international comparative literature; and DiMaggio et al., 2004 for a review of mainly US-based studies). An important shift in this work over the past decade has been the recognition that inequalities related to digital media1 use will exist beyond mere issues of connectivity (e.g., Barzilai-Nahon, 2006; DiMaggio et al., 2004; Hargittai, 2002; Mossberger et al., 2003; van Dijk, 2005). That is, even after people gain access to the Internet and cross the so-called digital divide, differences will remain in how they use the medium, namely, how skilled they are at it, how free they are to use it in different situations and toward what purposes they put it. Ultimately, the question for scholars of social stratification is whether the increasing diffusion of this new resource will exacerbate or lessen inequities across the population (Hargittai, 2008). But a concern about this matter should not be restricted to those specifically interested in matters of social inequality, given that differentiated adoption of various information and communication technologies has consequences for numerous areas of media studies.