The Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society published a special issue on “The Digital Divide at the Nexus of Social Justice, Media Justice, and Ethics” including a contribution by Marina Micheli, Christoph Lutz and myself. We develop the concept of the digital footprint as the aggregate of data derived from the digitally traceable behavior and online presence associated with an individual, and connect it with the debates on inequality, big data, algorithms, and privacy.
In an article published in the International Journal of Communication (open access), we focused on subjective social well-being as one specific quality of life indicator and outcome of Internet use, finding that the perception of digital belongingness directly increases social well-being, and Internet skills do so indirectly. Both pieces deal with the more general question of how digital technology relates to well-being.
We are currently following up on this line of research and added the perception of digital overuse to our framework of digital well-being (see figure below for a first result).
The 2018 World Internet Project Meeting started in Paris, hosted by Sciences Po, with a public conference day addressing the impact of the Internet on societal participation and cross-national perspectives. Organized and hosted by the French World Internet Project partner M@arsouin, the internal meeting continued in Brest, Brittany. The Swiss team presented new results on Internet use and well-being and contributed to the discussion on methodological challenges of longitudinal and comparative survey research.
The study provides nationally representative and long-term data, which allows not only reliable results on current digital divides in Switzerland, but also important insights into their evolution. Thereby, an assessment of the success and suitability of existing policy measures for digital inclusion can be made. Such empirical results have been missing thus far but form a crucial basis and legitimization for potential policies regarding ICT developments. A broad view on Internet use and related perceptions is needed to complement existing, more specific analyses (e.g., use of voting advice applications or health information seeking) to locate structural digital inequalities in the information society. The case of Switzerland as a European country with very high Internet penetration offers indications for policies that also have value for other social democracies where the Internet is crucial for everyday functioning.
Four new research reports on Internet use and related topics in Switzerland have been published. Next to some basic figures on Swiss Internet users in 2017 (see figure), we also explored issues such as trust in online content, privacy, and digital well-being.
I recently presented an overview of our most recent studies on digital inequality to argue the relevance of studying Internet use at the Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of Philosophy and Sociology (IFiS PAN) in Warsaw. The conference was dedicated to a transdisciplinary approach to discussing new directions in the sociology of social problems and featured speakers from more than a dozen countries and disciplines such as sociology, economics, history, and philosophy. A short abstract of my talk can be found here.
An article I coauthored has been accepted for publication in Socius, an open access journal supported by the American Sociological Association.
A general mobilizing effect of the Internet on political participation has been difficult to demonstrate. This study takes a digital inequality perspective and analyzes the role of Internet expertise for the social structuration of online political participation. A distinct group of political online participants emerged characterized by high education and income. Further, online political participation is predicted by political interest and Internet skills, which increasingly mediated the effects of social position.