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Digital inequalities: differentiated internet use and social implications


Büchi, Moritz. Digital inequalities: differentiated internet use and social implications. 2017, University of Zurich, Faculty of Arts.

Abstract

Effective use of the Internet as crucial information and communication network is increasingly necessary to participate in society. This thesis analyzes differences in everyday Internet use and discusses their social implications. A sociological digital inequality perspective based on the knowledge gap hypothesis forms the main theoretical framework. It assumes that Internet use depends on and contributes to social position. Quantitative international surveys were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Network and automated content analysis were additionally used on web data. Results show that general Internet uses can be grouped into four core purposes (information seeking, social interaction, entertainment, and commercial transaction). For valid cross-country comparisons of usage types, measurement invariance testing was found critical. There are pronounced second-level digital divides with consistent age, education, and experience effects. Differences in specific online activities— privacy protection, political participation, and science participation— are mainly explained by interests and Internet skills, and these in turn depend on social position. Overall, Internet use tends to reinforce social inequalities but policies aimed at enhancing Internet skills may counter this. The consequences for individuals’ subjective well-being is identified as a future avenue for empirical digital inequality research.

Abstract

Effective use of the Internet as crucial information and communication network is increasingly necessary to participate in society. This thesis analyzes differences in everyday Internet use and discusses their social implications. A sociological digital inequality perspective based on the knowledge gap hypothesis forms the main theoretical framework. It assumes that Internet use depends on and contributes to social position. Quantitative international surveys were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Network and automated content analysis were additionally used on web data. Results show that general Internet uses can be grouped into four core purposes (information seeking, social interaction, entertainment, and commercial transaction). For valid cross-country comparisons of usage types, measurement invariance testing was found critical. There are pronounced second-level digital divides with consistent age, education, and experience effects. Differences in specific online activities— privacy protection, political participation, and science participation— are mainly explained by interests and Internet skills, and these in turn depend on social position. Overall, Internet use tends to reinforce social inequalities but policies aimed at enhancing Internet skills may counter this. The consequences for individuals’ subjective well-being is identified as a future avenue for empirical digital inequality research.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Dissertation (monographical)
Referees:Latzer Michael, Segev Elad
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
UZH Dissertations
Dewey Decimal Classification:070 News media, journalism & publishing
Language:English
Place of Publication:Zurich
Date:2017
Deposited On:14 Feb 2018 16:09
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:08
Number of Pages:219
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Related URLs:https://www.recherche-portal.ch/permalink/f/5u2s2l/ebi01_prod010925504 (Library Catalogue)

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