Prior to undertaking UOSM2008, I was completely unaware of the mass inequality and difference that shrouds the internet. Last week I began by understanding the division through generations:
However through my research this week, there is increasing evidence to suggest other variations to how we perceive, interact and experience our digital lives.
This new form of inequality, is referred to as ‘The Digital Divide’. van Djik, (2013) describes four types of inequalities and the four areas of unequally divided property these inequalities have:
Digital differences, refer to how your offline, social characteristics, affect your place on the web, and can either advance or prevent you from accessing the web.
This is a debate taken by Robinson (2015), who states that when access to the web is difficult, it can be detrimental to an individual. To the extent where Robinson (2015) believes that it should take its place alongside traditional forms of inequality such as race, class and gender.
The ‘digital footprint gap’ (Robinson 2015) is creating such massive inequalities because of what internet provides us with, mass resources. These include, news on events (Natural disasters etc,) Business and job opportunity, education and information resources, access to family and sociability.
Interestingly, I previously came across this TED talks youtube video in first year when trying to research what % of the population doesn’t have access to the internet, and perfectly describes what a digital divide can have on an individual:
I have entered the digital footprint gap (Robinson, 2015) on the very fortunate side, I have always had access to the internet, new technology and devices, so have been able to use it for educational and job opportunities. However, looking back, I was never aware of the impact it had on a population who was not able to access it so freely.
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Reconsidering Political and Popular Understandings of the Digital Divide by Neil Selwyn:
Inequalities in the Network Society by Jan A. G. M. van Dijk
Click to access Digital_Sociology_-_Hoofdstuk_7_Inequalities_in_the_Network_Society.pdf
11 thoughts on “Digital Differences; How Do I Use The Web?”
I’ve really enjoyed reading your post this week – I particularly liked the way you reflected on what we learnt last week and linked it to this week’s topic! Having watched the Ted talk, it’s hard to comprehend just how many people live without the internet in 2018 – it’s definitely something I can’t imagine living without!
What I found to be particularly shocking whilst doing my research was this article on The Guardian:
It talks about how the majority of disabled people are still unable to access the internet due to a lack of training and funding. You wrote in your post that the internet provides us with a way to socialise, so it seems absurd that those who may struggle to get to their families have the most trouble trying to talk to them online! How do you think we can improve internet access for disabled people in the U.K.?
Firstly, thank you very much for the very nice comments, the Ted talk was particularly eye opening for me having gone back over it for this weeks blog.
Especially because it opens your eyes to an inequality, you are completely unaware of and don’t always consider. Much like the article you have mentioned.
What strikes me most was that when I first considered disabilities as an inequality, I was naive to only think of physical disability. But you are right, it is crazy to think that someone with a mental illness such as depression is not able to use the internet to socialise with loved ones, something that would significantly improve their quality of life. This I believe, like Robinson discussed is why the digital footprint gap should be considered an inequality at the same status of traditional ones such as race, age and gender. To answer your question though, at this current time, I believe that are main method in increasing internet access for disabled people would be via Charity. One example of this is Scope who have provided this small article on the affects it could have on a disabled person: https://www.scope.org.uk/press-releases/internet-usage-disabled-people. On top of this, it is extremely important to raise awareness so people are aware of the impacts it is having on lives, and how their donations could help.
I really like the idea of asking charities to increase the awareness of internet as a tool to combat feelings of loneliness for people with mental health disabilities. I wonder if many mental health services currently consider connecting people with similar illnesses via internet messaging sites – maybe this would help them to feel less isolated if they were shown how to use the internet to connect in this way!
I look forward to reading your future posts!
I found the TED talk you included in your blog very interesting and I too also feel I am on the fortunate side of the digital gap, due to geographic location. But do you feel there are any other factors that, instead, limit your digital usage more than others?
I think in countries such as the UK, that have more access to the Web, there are still digital differences among the population due to reasons such as disabilities and age.
I read a policy paper to help bridge the gap within the UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-digital-inclusion-strategy/government-digital-inclusion-strategy
I think that the strategy here will definitely help motivate and help digitally enable users such as those with disabilities more.
Do you think this strategy is effective and could a similar one be used on other countries that are at a more digital disadvantage?
Firstly thank you very much for your nice comments, I also found the ted talk to be extremely eye opening to an inequality you would not always consider or think about.
Someone on a previous comment on my blog post had mentioned disability as another factor of inequality and something that could extremely limit your data usage. When I first consider disability as something that could affect and limit you access to the internet, I initially thought of physical disability, a very naive assumption! Mental illness can extremely limit your access to the internet if you are placed into a caring facility, in order to facilitate your needs. A crazy thought when access to the internet, something that provides an option to socialise with friends and family could greatly improve the quality of life for an individual with depression. Here is an article which talks about this in more detail: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/29/disabled-people-internet-extra-costs-commission-scope
The policy paper you linked is a very interesting read, and when I was reading it, I saw the big link between this week and last weeks topic as it began to discuss how it wanted to increase the digital literacy of the older generation, something that would definitely be beneficial to our country. The problem I believe this strategy will have in other countries, is the lack of funding, and the general lack of internet access in order to improve digital literacy in the first place.
I completely agree that there is a lack of funding for the National Digital Inclusion Strategy to be carried out in other countries but i also discovered the GSMA which is a group that aim to try and give everyone a digital identity from all over the world.
Hopefully associations similar to them will help close the digital gap