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When communication innovations lead to social exclusion


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Presented at Partnership for Progress on Digital Divide conference, 22.10.2015, Phoenix, AZ

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When communication innovations lead to social exclusion

  1. 1. Mgr. Petr Lupač, Ph.D. Charles University in Prague World Internet Project The Czech Republic Financed due to Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (GA13-21024S) „World Internet Project –The Czech Republic II“
  2. 2. “An unequal Internet access is a new, stand-alone source of social inequality requiring an intervention.” Method: „Data“ gathered in 2006-2013 I. Preliminary bibliographic search II. Books and reports III. Systematic bibliographic search of articles via ISI Web of Science I. 1995-2011, „DIGITAL DIVIDE“ in topic or title II. Filtering irrelevant research areas III. 914 articles processed IV. Updates Result: Patterns, logical structure of the argument
  3. 3. System of social inequality Unequal Internet access Unequal gains/losses “Those at the ‘wrong’ end of the digital divide will become second-class or third-class citizens, or no citizens at all.” J. van Dijk (2005: 17)
  4. 4. Is digital divide closing? Securing a connection Securing a broadband connection Improving digital skills ?
  5. 5. 0. Presumption of the new social structure (information society) 1. Reduction of ICTs to the Internet 2. Ubiquitous influence (all aspects of life/society) 1. Homogeneous relevance (all societies, all parts of society, all contexts) 2. (Linear) positive influence 3. Pro-innovation bias 1. Presumption of inevitable digitization/informatisation 2. Presumption of possibility to close the digital divide 4. The construction of universal need to use the Internet 5. Individual-blame bias
  6. 6.  Rich-get-richer effect (benefits dependent on offline resources)  Resources are and will be unequally distributed  Excessive use can lead to negative effects For certain people in certain situations, in certain contexts, the Internet is irrelevant or detrimental  The Internet rather transforms than increase (->new conditions)  Supplement hypothesis: People… “ are organizing their communications based on the context of their contact. People use multiple media to communicate and can choose the one that is most suitable for the moment.” Rainie, Wellman (2012: 97)
  7. 7. “ (…) an innovation should be diffused and adopted by all members of a social system, that it should be diffused more rapidly, and that the innovation should be neither reinvented nor rejected.” Rogers (1983: 92)
  8. 8. Perfectly connected digital society where each individual owns several ICTs and sacrifices enough time to maintain both his/her digital skills and knowledge of ICT innovations ⇣ Digital divide policies as cultural project
  9. 9.  “Why are you not using the Internet?”  “I do not need it” explanations ◦ irrational, sour grapes reasoning, cognitive dissonance ◦ Rational now but not in the near future  Purgation ◦ Focus on old, unsuccessful, deprived nonusers ◦ Who are the young, successful, rich nonusers? How do they navigate through today’s world and why?  Psychologizing nonusers as deviations ◦ Computer anxiety, technophobia
  10. 10. “Neither man was interested in making a purchase online. They told me that there is nothing like going to the local store, chatting with the regulars and browsing in person.” Kvasny (2006: 174) In the Great Britain, only 14 % of ex-users and 6 % of nonusers agree with “I could perform daily tasks better if I used the Internet” and half of ex-users claim they are better off by not using the Internet. Dutton, Blank, Groselj (2013: 57) App. 3/4 of Czech nonusers claim that that they are neither better or worse by not using the Internet (in 11 areas of life). Lupac, Chrobakova, Sladek (2015)
  11. 11. “the tendency to hold an individual responsible for his or her problems, rather than the system of which the individual is a part (Caplan and Nelson, 1973)” (Rogers, 1983: 103)  Individual factors of adoption (scdmg, attitudes, motivation, …)  ICT use as an individual, isolated activity (x cultures of sharing)  Outcomes derived from individual skills and online activities  „Usage gap“ overlooks the content of „communication activities“  Nonusers are not isolated entities
  12. 12.  69 % of Czech nonusers know anyone who could send an email, fill an online form or find something online for them (67 % for ordering something online for them) ◦ 31 % of nonusers asked someone to do so at least several times (2014)  72 % of British nonusers and 89 % of ex-users know someone who… (2013)… and over half has asked for help already (2009)  44 % of US nonusers “have ever asked a friend or family member to look something up or complete a task on the internet for them” (2013)  45 % of British users “use” family or friends to help them use the Internet (2013 data, 62 % in 2007) Sources: WIP-CZ, WIP-GB, PIP
  13. 13. Metcalf’s Law > “the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system” The Flip Side (Tongia & Wilson, 2011)> “as a network grows in size and value, those outside the network face growing disparities. (…) The increasing costs of not being in the network can spread to the “included”. Examples: - Car transportation and sidewalk, public transport - Health care system and uninsured - Taxi driving system nowadays and nonusers - Broadband Internet and those with slow connection
  14. 14. “The more exclusive are ICTs as a communication infrastructure and an information access point, the more disadvantaged are nonusers and “weak” users.” nonuser user Digital divide
  15. 15. …depends on  The embeddedness of ICT in his/her area of qualification (job market)  The institutional pressure to use the Internet (schools, public offices, massmedia)  The share of Internet users and intensity of use in his/her social network (close and weak ties)  The Internet penetration in broader social environment and among people with similar interests
  16. 16. In the given situation, actuality and seriousness of digital divide depends on  Availability of alternative communication channels  The costs differences (incl. translation points)  Ratio of communication networks size Situational digital divide (Situational information society !)
  17. 17.  Granting the variability of available communication channels ◦ Massmedia, governmental agencies, schools …  Regulation of cost differences  Establishing and/or mantaining “translation points” (intermediary institutions) to support delegated or assisted access  Priority of the individual and/or local needs over the vague scheme of the “benefits for all from spreading ICT”
  18. 18. Mgr. Petr Lupač, Ph.D. PETR.LUPAC@FF.CUNI.CZ @PetrLupac Department of Sociology Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Arts Celetna 13, Prague The Czech Republic