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The social distribution of internet use in Australia : a case study


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Willis, Suzanne 2008 , 'The social distribution of internet use in Australia : a case study', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The spread of the Internet in advanced Western countries has been rapid and
uneven, resulting in some alarming diagnoses of a 'digital divide': an allegedly
widening gap between those with access to information and communication
technologies and the accompanying advantages, and those without access.
However, these diagnoses of a 'digital divide' are seldom based on
comprehensive analyses of the new information and communication
technologies and their social diffusion.
This study analyses the diffusion of the Internet in Australia within a broad
theoretical framework covering technological and social change associated with
diffusion of the Internet, and especially the changes in social hierarchy and
privilege. The study is based on empirical analysis of Australian survey data on
Internet use and on in-depth interviews of Internet users. The principal focus is
a critical evaluation of the 'digital divide' thesis: the study considers the pattern
and dynamics of Internet diffusion in Australia, the main social correlates of
Internet adoption and use, and the social impacts of differential Internet use on
the distribution of advantage and disadvantage. Although the study considers
the process and consequences of Internet diffusion in Australia, the results can
be generalised to other advanced societies in which Internet diffusion follows a
similar pattern.
The main findings of this study contradict the popular conceptions of a 'digital
divide' in Internet use in Australia. Internet use is becoming more widespread in
Australia, with current patterns of use now crossing the boundaries between
occupational classes, gender, and age groups. There is little evidence of any
social 'divide' forming or any significant accumulation of privilege and
disadvantage around Internet use. However, inequalities in access to the Internet,
and the related advantages, persist on the basis of age, gender, education,
income and occupational class, although they resemble 'digital stratification'
rather than a 'digital divide'. Further, the analyses of Internet practices reveal
the key roles of cultural, social and economic capital in distributing advantages
associated with Internet-related activities in both the workplace and the home.Cultural capital in particular appears as a central stratifying factor. Diffusion of
the Internet occurs primarily within specific (techno) habitus, but also crosses
between habitus along the lines marked by the dispersion of cultural capital.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Willis, Suzanne
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Copyright 2008 the Author

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