Measuring Inclusion and Diffusion in Europe
Edited by Paolo Guerrieri and Sara Bentivegna
Chapter 1: Digital development in Europe: a theoretical framework
1.1 DEFINITIONS OF DIGITAL INCLUSION: BEYOND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN ‘HAVES’ AND ‘HAVE-NOTS’ In the early phase of study on the diffusion of ICT, the predominant approach was clearly based on the distinction between ‘haves’ and ‘havenots’. This distinction became widely known as the digital divide, defined as ‘the gap between those who have access to the new technologies and those who do not’ (US Department of Commerce, 1999, p. xiii). Embedded in a sort of technological determinism, the concept of the digital divide – even if connected to a range of economic, social, cultural and technological differences – maintains a predominant dichotomy in terms of access only, insofar as it utilizes the binary categories of information haves and information have-nots. Having mightily entered the everyday vocabulary, the expression ‘digital divide’ has had a unique destiny: the more it spread, the more it was criticized and revised by scholars. The inflection point of the parabola describing this destiny can be identified soon after 2000, when articles and volumes declining the concept of digital divide in terms of criticism and analytical revision started to circulate. Examples include ‘From the “digital divide” to “digital inequality”’ (DiMaggio and Hargittai, 2001), ‘Second thoughts: toward a critique of the digital divide’ (Gunkel, 2003), Virtual Inequality. Beyond the Digital Divide (Mossberger et al., 2003), Technology and Social Inclusion. Rethinking the Digital Divide (Warschauer, 2003), and ‘Reconsidering political and popular understandings of the digital divide’ (Selwyn, 2004). The perception of the presence of this cultural wave represents the first...
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