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Downloading inclusion: a statistical analysis of young people's digital communication inequalities

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Abstract:

In this article we quantitatively explore digital inequalities in the context of the on-going transition toward a new communication landscape, defined by the emergence of a mass self-communication system as well as of a new culture of convergence around media consumption and production. Digital communication inequalities arise when technological, socio-economic, cultural and institutional factors influence active participation in this emerging communication system, a process that is and will continue to be particularly relevant among the young. While communication inequalities have been the object of much theoretical and qualitative research, their statistical analysis remains unattended. We used recent Eurostat micro-data to better understand how demographic, socio-economic and cultural factors affect communication inequalities in Europe, performing a detailed statistical analysis on the Spanish case. We found that the ability to contribute to the new media ecology by uploading self-created content is significantly correlated to the activity of downloading online material, an association that, at this stage, is more relevant than the one observed for other factors. At one point, young European “downloaders” start to upload and contribute, a cultural mechanism that is currently driving inclusion more strongly than the socio-economic avenues that are normally considered in the literature on the digital divide. In the conclusion of the study, we reflect on the policy implications of these findings.

Keywords: communication inequalities; convergence; digital divide; uploading self-created content

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13511610.2012.699652

Affiliations: European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Information Society Unit,IDEA Action, Edificio Expo – C/ Inca Garcilaso, Seville,3E41092, Spain

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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