The Internet and Social inequality: social media and digital divide

This is a post on what I was working on in the last few weeks, writing a book chapter for the great edition on the Internet and digital inequalities in International perspective including International contributors, and submitting some other papers on social networks and communication dynamics online.

Since many of you asked me on Twitter, email, Skype what the book chapter is about – I wanted to share with you a piece of it (the book is supposed to be published next year). It is individual work that is the result of several years of experience, qualitative research (semi-structured interviews), observations, recent talking and writing on different kinds of digital and social divides, social media and communication practices present on the Internet, and recently measured by quantiative (online surveys) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews, web desktop analysis, observation, etc.) research of mine. In short my focus for this book was on Internet and social media in European perspective – Balkan countries. My manuscript is theoretically grounded on social theories developed by the classical sociologists like Max Weber, Giddens, Meyorwitz and I applied them to the issues of Internet inequality. 

In addition to the classical sociological perspectives, I also observed inequalities from a communication theories point of view and computer-mediated communication (CMC). I  explored communication practices and possibilities that are present on the Internet (from interaction to collaboration).  With this research, I offered an understanding of social inequality in the hyper-connected information-driven globally networked world and I focused on South Eastern Europe (SEE) as it was interesting for me to observe countries in transition, where the political, economic and social turbulence of the nineties of the previous century have influenced its culture and ethical values, as well as the development of the ICTs and the creation of an online public sphere (Radovanovic, 2010). The observations and findings do not differ much from other European/SEE countries, very similar dynamics have been found.

However, I have examined the paradox of how moving beyond digital divides in the context of the technological infrastructure and Internet access that would permit us to tackle other existing problems such as digital inequalities (digital literacies, critical thinking skills/crap detector to navigate and evaluate data online, information/knowledge management and sharing, networking/notworking, etc.)  in order to explore the differences in how  people use the Internet not just in their everyday lives, but also for learning, communication and collaborative purposes. In doing so, I have used statistical data, national and international reports analysis, trying to fill the gap in the existing reports and data, using sources not used before, and presenting some empirical evidence that cannot be found in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

I have presented some of the findings from my research, online surveys and qualitative semi-structured interviews (N-125), and I have raised some important questions and shed light on current issues to be solved in the future. I hope that my modest contribution in theory and practice will help Internet practitioners and governments in the future to design new strategies and policies that will overcome the issues I’ve been addressing.

A book chapter within The Digital Divide: The internet and social inequality in international perspective should be published next year and here you can find the information.

I am more than pleased to talk and write more about this and other social media/Internet related topics in the future, and I’m currently open for collaborations and co-authorships for 2012 – both in practice and research. Feel free to contact me via email. Next month I’m advising Civic Society representatives in Social Media practices, and participating in a very interesting TechCamp in Euro-zone.