Toward Digital Inclusion: Digital Divides and New Media Literacies

Toward Digital Inclusion: Digital Divides and New Media Literacies

Giuseppe Anzera (Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy) and Francesca Comunello (Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3822-6.ch019
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This chapter addresses the relationships between social inclusion and digital divide(s), mainly focusing on the conceptual frameworks that provide the basis for rethinking the relationship between technological, social, and human factors. Redefining the digital divide has deep consequences on the theoretical and empirical framework we apply to the digital divide and to the related social inclusion processes. It is widely acknowledged that the label digital divide can be partially misleading, because it is mostly emphasizing a binary dimension (haves vs. have not) and a mere technological dimension. In order to achieve a clear operational definition of the digital divide, we should avoid some misleading myths characterizing the debate and focus on the complex relationships between technological, social, and human factors (a dichotomous conceptualization, a narrow understanding of the technological factors involved, a technological deterministic approach), adopting, instead, an enabling technology approach. Therefore, the authors introduce a multilevel model for analyzing digital divides (Comunello, 2010), with a main focus on new media literacy (the model considers not only mere technology availability, but also real access, advanced reception practices, technical skills, content production, networking skills). Finally, they review some empirical methods for studying the digital divide, trying to underline how a more nuanced framework for analysing the digital divide can be adopted by empirical research.
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Access And Beyond: Enabling Technologies3

It is widely recognized that, after more than 15 years of debates, the very notion of the digital divide needs to be reconsidered (Selwyn & Facer, 2010). A rising number of scholars are questioning the label digital divide, adding in their books’ titles expressions like rethinking, redefining, reconceptualizing or beyond (Warschauer, 2003, 2007; Mossberger, Tolbert & Stansbury, 2003, etc.), or proposing the idea of a second order digital divide (Hargittai, 2002; van Dijk & van Deursen, 2010), going beyond the dichotomous first order conception; others introduce new concepts, such as digital inequality (DiMaggio & Hargittai, 2001), zones of silence (Potter, 2007, or use it combined with other expressions, such as digital exclusion (Selwyn & Facer, 2010).

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