New technologies, new inequalities? Theoretical and empirical investigation of the role of mobile Internet access in differential engagement with online services




1.9.2017 - 31.8.2019

Range on year:

1.00 FTE | 2018


asist.dr. Darja Grošelj

Research activity:

Social sciences

The phases of the project and their realization:

WP1: PROJECT MANAGEMENT WP1.1: Project administration and coordination WP1.2: Preparatory research activities WP2: DEVELOPMENT OF A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH WP2.1: A systematic review WP2.2: Overview of trends WP2.3: Development of a conceptual framework of Internet access WP2.4: Development of a methodological approach WP3: ELICITING USER PERCEPTIONS AND DRAFTING THE SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE WP3.1. Eliciting user perceptions WP3.2. Generating general perceptions and novel concepts depicting Internet access WP3.3. Drafting survey items WP4: EVALUATING AND (RE)DESIGNING THE SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE WP4.1. Evaluating the survey questionnaire WP4.2. Redesigning the survey questionnaire WP5: IMPLEMENTING THE QUESTIONNAIRE IN PRACTICE WP5.1. Organising implementation of the survey questionnaire WP5.2. Deploying the survey questionnaire – data collection WP6: ANALYSING EMPIRICAL DATA WP6.1. Analysing existing data on ICT access and use in Slovenia WP6.2. Comparing Slovenian trends to other EU countries WP6.3. Analysis of the 2018 dataset WP6.4. Evaluation and synthesis of empirical findings WP7: PROPOSAL MADE TO THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL SURVEY WP7.1. Preparing the ESS proposal WP7.2. Submitting the application WP8: DISSEMINATION OF THE RESULTS WP8.1. Dissemination within scientific community WP8.2. Dissemination to the industry, to policy makers and to general public WP8.3. Workshop on measuring Internet access

Research Organisation:


Citations for bibliographic records:


The ways people go online have been transformed by the emergence of new mobile Internet technologies. Technologies like smartphones, tablets, Internet TV and wearable technologies not only support new uses of the Internet but also reconfigure spatial, temporal and social dimensions of use. Therefore, the changing nature of Internet access, its implications for disparities in online engagement and their potential role in social differentiation need to be thoroughly examined. Inequalities in Internet access have been neglected in the “second-level digital divide” research, which has focused on differences in skills and usage, resulting in two shortcomings in current research. First, no theory-grounded framework of Internet access exists. Yet, only with a good understanding of what constitutes Internet access we can disentangle its role in engagement with online resources and, consequently, the impact new Internet technologies can have on social differentiation. Second, measures of Internet access employed in survey research have not been appropriately updated and do not capture social complexities around emerging technologies. Inadequate measures of Internet access are problematic because they can obscure important policy issues impeding successful transformation to a digital society. The proposed project will address these gaps in our understanding of Internet access in general and mobile Internet technologies in particular by pursuing three main objectives: • developing a theoretically-informed framework of Internet access identifying and describing its specific socio-technical dimensions; • developing nuanced survey measures of Internet access that will encompass current and future socio-technical developments surrounding ways in which people access online services; • determining what aspects of use of online services are most significantly reconfigured by mobile Internet technologies and assessing their potential impact on social differentiation. The project objectives will be achieved by following a detailed work programme with eight work packages. Empirically, a mixed methods research design is proposed including: • a series of focus groups to elicit users’ perceptions about new mobile technologies, • cognitive interviews to evaluate a newly developed survey instrument, • deployment of the questionnaire through the Slovenian implementation of the annual Eurostat survey on Information society technologies within in households, and • a systematic multivariate data analysis. The project results are expected to have an impact in various areas, but most importantly: • in the scientific community by providing a socio-technical framework of internet access and a survey instrument for measuring access inequalities. Importantly, the conceptual framework will not be technology specific and will as such be applicable in future studies on emerging technologies. Likewise, the readily available survey instrument will enable researchers interested in digital inequalities and their impact on social differentiation to effectively include high-quality measures of access in their research, regardless of the main focus of their research. • in the policy making sector by providing valid and high-quality data on contemporary complexities surrounding internet access and new mobile technologies. As our society is undergoing a digital transformation (e.g. EU’s Digital Agenda) such insight is crucial for effective addressing of policy issues stemming from digital inequalities. The proposed project will bring together theoretical knowledge, methodological approaches and international networks of the project leader who obtained her PhD at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, which is the world’s leading institution in the social science of the Internet, and of the Centre for Social Informatics, University of Ljubljana, which has one of the longest traditions in researching the Internet and related social issues.

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