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The Great Equalizer Reproduces Inequality: How the Digital Divide Is a Class Power Divide

Rethinking Class and Social Difference

ISBN: 978-1-83982-021-2, eISBN: 978-1-83982-020-5

Publication date: 30 September 2020


Despite the pendulum swing from utopian to dystopian views of the Internet, the direction of the popular and academic literature continues to lean toward its liberatory potential, particularly as a tool for redressing social inequality. At the same time, decades of digital inequality scholarship have shown persistent socioeconomic inequality in Internet access and use. Yet most of this research captures class by individualized income and education variables, rather than a power relational framework. By tracing research on how fear, control, and risk manifest itself with inequalities related to digital content, digital activism, and digital work, I argue that a narrow stratification approach may miss the full cause and effect of digital inequality. Instead, a class analysis based on power relations may contribute to a broader and more precise theoretical lens to understand the digital divide. As a result, technology can reinforce, or even exacerbate, existing patterns of social and economic inequality because of this power differential.



Schradie, J. (2020), "The Great Equalizer Reproduces Inequality: How the Digital Divide Is a Class Power Divide", Eidlin, B. and McCarthy, M.A. (Ed.) Rethinking Class and Social Difference (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 81-101.



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