Demystifying digital divide and digital leisure
Introduction Of what significance is the digital divide insofar as analysing the gap, among digital users, in consuming leisure? This chapter moves from this core question, attempting to provide a theoretically assembled response. In an attempt to analyse the entertainment and leisure dimensions of the internet, this chapter will draw extensively upon scientific literature, focusing on the concept of the digital divide (Bonfadelli, 2002; Van Dijk, 2005), but also exploring concepts such as networks (Castells, 2001), liquidity (Bauman, 2000), communities, identity and social inequalities. It aims to investigate, from a theoretical point of view, how the use of digital technologies is influencing the consumption of leisure, questioning further the extent to which the consumption of leisure and free production of online content may influence social inequalities. Our first step will be to define the digital divide, a term used to describe differences in access to and the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) correlated mostly with several factors such as age (Soker, 2005), gender (Ono and Zavodny, 2008), race/ethnicity (Mesch and Talmud, 2011), education (Clark and Gorski, 2002) but also geographic (Chinn and Fairlie, 2007) and socio-economic dimensions (Ragnedda and Muschert, 2013). All these elements and features are the basis of social strata, present in any given society. The social strata and the process of social stratification provide the grounds for social and digital inequalities. Indeed, it has been proven that the digital divide not only exists between richer and poorer countries in the use of ICT (Shih et al., 2008), but also within countries (Ragnedda and Muschert, 2013). Digital divide and digital inequalities affect the leisure culture which in turn influences – and this is what we argue here – social and digital inequalities. Indeed, as elaborated later in this chapter, the widespread proliferation of digital communication has revolutionised the way in which traditional entertainment and leisure media are distributed and consumed, which in a postmodern society is a vital part of the identity formation process. In fact, one’s sense of belonging to a community, which is vital in the creation of an identity, is increasingly based on consumption, sharing lifestyles and experiences in an online realm.