学历越低,上网时间越长

#研究分享#【学历越低,上网时间越长】数字鸿沟已不只是数字设备和技能有和无的不平等,现已体现在对因特网的使用上。那些低学历者要比那些高学历和就业人口在闲暇时间使用更长时间的网络。因特网发展越来越成熟,而其也将越来越反映线下现实世界中的社会、经济和文化关系,包括不平等。

【文章说明】“分享”译自文章“摘要”和“讨论”部分。

【文章全文】The digital divide shifts to differences in usage

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Abstract

In a representative survey of the Dutch population we found that people with low levels of education and disabled people are using the Internet for more hours a day in their spare time than higher educated and employed populations. To explain this finding, we investigated what these people are doing online. The first contribution is a theoretically validated cluster of Internet usage types: information, news, personal development, social interaction, leisure, commercial transaction and gaming. The second contribution is that, based on this classification, we were able to identify a number of usage differences, including those demonstrated by people with different gender, age, education and Internet experience, that are often observed in digital divide literature. The general conclusion is that when the Internet matures, it will increasingly reflect known social, economic and cultural relationships of the offline world, including inequalities.

 

Keywords Digital divide, digital inequality, knowledge gap, online activities, usage gap

 

Discussion

Main findings

In the last decade, attention in digital divide research has shifted from inequalities of access to digital skills and usage, pointing out the limitations of digital divide research in the beginning of the 21st century that mainly considered binary classifications of haves and have nots. Furthermore, the descriptive inventories of Internet activity use by the most important demographic categories made in the last 10 years now evolve into more analytic considerations. Our analysis of the data from a representative population survey revealed and validated seven clusters of Internet usage: information, news, personal development, commercial transaction, leisure, social interaction and gaming. This classification is used to answer the research questions. We investigated how and by who the Internet is used to explain the observation that currently in their spare time, at least in the Netherlands, people with a low level of education use the Internet more frequently and for more hours a day than people with medium and high levels of education. Low educated people seem to engage more in social interaction and gaming, which both are very time-consuming activities.

Besides education, age and gender are the most salient predictors for differences in Internet usage, whereas Internet experience, income and residency seem to be less relevant than expected. It is important to emphasize that both the knowledge gap and the usage gap thesis are framed in terms of knowledge and usage inequalities related to levels of education. It is a plausible statement that differences in age are partly a temporary phenomenon, not only because the contemporary young will grow old, but also because increasingly present-day older generations adopt Internet activities such as music and video, gaming and social media. The same could occur with gender differences when Internet activities become more equally shared. As with both age and gender, a particular share of inequality will remain that is derived from relatively permanent sociocultural preferences. It is also plausible that inequalities related to different levels of education are longer lasting as they are deeply engrained in the fabric of our information or knowledge society. Therefore, the suggestion for discussion can be made that ultimately differences in education might be more permanent than differences among age and gender.

Although, at least in the Netherlands, low educated Internet users spent more time online in their spare time, the findings reveal that those with higher social status use the Internet in more beneficial ways. Similarly, Zillien and Hargittai (2009: 287) concluded that ‘those already in more privileged positions are reaping the benefits of their time spent online more than users from lower socio-economic backgrounds.’ The findings suggest that as the Internet becomes more mature, its usage reflects traditional media use in society; Internet use increasingly reflects known social, economic and cultural relationships present in the offline world, including inequalities (e.g. Golding, 1996; Mason and Hacker, 2003; Van Dijk, 2005; Witte and Mannon, 2010; Zillien and Hargittai, 2009). For example, people with lower education and lower income also tend to watch more TV, or read fewer books and newspapers. Such parallels support the comparison between the knowledge gap hypothesis regarding the use of mass media and the usage gap hypothesis regarding the use of the Internet (e.g. Bonfadelli, 2002; Van Dijk, 2005; Zillien and Hargittai, 2009). The effect of education conforms to the thesis of the usage gap, and to previous assumptions that defended the knowledge gap.

Similarities between participation in the offline and online world are often a topic of debate in discussions concerning social inequality. A decade ago, Compaine (2001) compared the diffusion of television, radio and telephone with the diffusion of the Internet, and concluded that the digital divide is a temporary problem. Most scholars have moved away from such conclusions, but comparing the knowledge gap hypothesis with the usage gap hypothesis might lead to another misinterpretation, namely that differences in education have always been one of the causes of differences in society and opportunities in life and, thus, the Internet is just the next advancement in communication technology with its usage determined by education. The intensive and extensive nature of Internet use among the well-off and well-educated suggests an elite lifestyle from which those with less capital are marginalized (e.g. Van Dijk, 2005; Witte and Mannon, 2010; Zillien and Hargittai, 2009). Although inequalities within society have always existed, the Internet created an even stronger division; the higher status members increasingly gain access to more information than the lower status members. The Internet is not only an active reproducer of social inequality, but also a potential accelerator (Witte and Mannon, 2010). Rather than equalization, the Internet tends to reinforce social inequality and lead to the formation of disadvantaged and excluded individuals (Golding, 1996; Norris, 2001; Van Dijk, 2005). Wei and Hindman (2011), for example, found that socio-economic status is more strongly related to the informational use of the Internet than withthat of the traditional media, and that the differential use of the Internet is associated with a greater knowledge gap than that of the traditional media. They therefore suggested that the digital divide matters more than its traditional counterpart. After all, the Internet has more functions than traditional media have.

Information and network society theory both acknowledge the importance of the Internet as a vital resource in society. In political, social, cultural, health and economic domains, more and more information and services are provided online and, often, it is expected that they will be used by all. The results of this and other recent studies reveal that within several domains, current policy directions should be evaluated. There are strong indications that parts of the population will be excluded from several Internet activities. The results of the current investigation suggest that overcoming digital divides is a rather complex challenge that goes beyond improving access or Internet skills. Clearly, this article among others has shown that they are related to individual motivations and socio-cultural preferences. In a free society, such preferences can only partly be changed by, for example, governmental, social and cultural policies in education and community building. Internet activities related to information, career and personal development could be made more attractive for larger parts of the population. Finally, the improvement and spread of positions in education and on the labour market (actually following school or adult education and having an appealing job) might show the most positive contributions to the reduction of differences in usage.

【文章作者】Alexander JAM van Deursen and Jan AGM van Dijk

University of Twente, The Netherlands

【文章来源】New Media Society 2014 16: 507

【文章链接】The online version of this article can be found at: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/16/3/507

 


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