Cultural Divides and Digital Inequalities: Attitudes Shaping Internet and Social Media Divides
Paper for delivery at the 44th Annual Telecommunication Policy Research Conference, George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia, USA, 30 September-1 October 2016.
31 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2016 Last revised: 28 Aug 2016
Date Written: August 15, 2016
Researchers on digital divides have identified demographic and attitudinal factors associated with inequalities in access, skills, and patterns of Internet use, primarily around age, income, and education. While attitudes and values of Internet users and non-users have been studied over the years, they have rarely been used to identify broader ‘cultures of the Internet’ and their role in shaping digital divides. This paper builds on research in Britain, which focused on patterns of attitudes underpinning Internet cultures, to explore the degree that similar or distinctive cultures have developed in the USA, and whether and how they are useful in explaining digital divides. This study utilizes original data drawn from a 2016 telephone survey of residents across the State of Michigan that adapts survey items and methods from the Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) of Britain. Based on these survey responses, the paper identifies and describes the cultures of the Internet among Michigan residents, as an exploratory case of the US as a whole, and shows how these cultures shape digital divides in Internet and social media use across this one American state. The robustness and explanatory power of these explorations of Internet cultures argues for further research on the United States and other nations.
Keywords: digital, divides, inequalities, survey, Michigan, cultures
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