As a young, straight, educated, healthy, middle-class (if that is still a thing), white male I’ve always found it hard to speak about inequalities. Traditional inequalities such as sexism or income-gap I have researched many times as part of my studies in the social science field. As a first assignment in a new course I’m taking I had to read an article written by Robinson, L. et al. (2015) titled ‘Digital inequalities and why they matter’, which introduced the concept of digital inequality to me.
The problem with current social science research, at least in my home university, is the lack of a modern take on issues such as inequality. We are still reading the same books and studying the same theories that they did 50 years ago. I’m sick and tired of reading about Max Weber or John Locke, so just the fact that I’m delving into relevant issues is exciting. Even in the article this is mentioned. It is necessary to study current issues, such as digital inequalities, to be able to understand the 21st Century’s social landscape.
The concept of digital inequality basically boils down to a couple of simple concepts that relate to other societal issues, linking it all together. Digital inequality is the lack of equality that comes from different individuals having more or less contact with the digital world. Those who are more tech-savvy have a societal advantage over those who don’t use the internet that much, because they are more aware of their surroundings.
This simple concept really boggled my mind. Without even knowing it, I had another societal privilege under my belt because I use the internet for a lot of different daily activities in my life. Could I be more privileged without even knowing it?
I think the article does an excellent job of describing how digital inequalities affects other inequalities. I find that it is an extra layer that goes on top of other inequalities that exist in society, enhancing them.
One of the issues the article highlighted which I find to be a massive problem in the digital era is gender inequality. Most of the internet is filled with men, with content constantly being catered towards men, and even the content that is directed towards women is still sexist. Of course this issue is being fought, but there is still massive controversy on the issue.
As a gamer myself, a major example that I found to be very representative of how the internet works in these kinds of scenarios is the Gamergate controversy from a few of years ago. Basically it was a movement that revolved around the use of the #Gamergate hashtag to harass women in the video game industry. The anonymity aspect of the internet gives space for such movements of hate to happen. The most curious thing is that this movement had no leader or manifesto, it was purely a group of backwards misogynists hating on women with a certain hobby by using a hashtag to encourage each other.
Digital inequality is very much a real issue, and should be addressed when discussing any kind of societal issue in the 21st Century. Digital reality has merged with actual reality so much that they cannot be studied separately anymore.