CSI members presented a paper at the ESA 2021 conference
The CSI research group of the project The Implication of Proxy Internet Use for the Internet Skills of Older Adults (dr. Andraž Petrovčič, dr. Katja Prevodnik and dr. Darja Grošelj) in collaboration with dr. Bianca C. Reisdorf (Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA), attended the 15th Conference of the European Sociological Association, “Sociological Knowledges for Alternative Futures”, which took place from 31 August to 3 September 2021, with an original presentation “Does Proxy Internet Use Foster Digital Inclusion?: How Internet Skills Affect Engagement in Proxy Use, Internet Uses and Outcomes” as part of RN18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research conference track.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of digital inclusion, as participation in society is dependent on internet technologies, especially during the pandemic. This sudden societal change has widened the gap between internet users and non-users, and it has accentuated the differences between users in terms of internet skills, uses, and outcomes. In this context, proxy internet use becomes particularly relevant. It encompasses practices in which users perform online activities on behalf of others, where we distinguish between proxy internet users (who perform online activities for others) and users-by-proxy (for whom activities are performed). We examine how proxy use fits into the sequential model of digital inequalities (van Deursen et al., 2017) by conducting a path analysis that tests whether proxy use mediates the effects of internet skills on internet uses and outcomes. Using nationally representative survey data (N=1,047) from Slovenia, we found positive pathways between operational and creative skills, proxy use, uses, and outcomes. Internet users with high operational and creative skills who are proxy users expand their own online engagement and associated outcomes. Conversely, creative skills are negatively associated with use-by-proxy, which, in turn, has no effect on and individual’s internet uses and outcomes. The limited benefits of use-by-proxy are an important finding, especially during a pandemic: not only does physical distancing make relying on proxy users more difficult, but individuals who lack internet skills might get only limited advantages from having others perform online tasks on their behalf.
The study is supported by the Slovenian Research Agency under Grants J5-2558 (The Implication of Proxy Internet Use for the Internet Skills of Older Adults), L5-9337 (Understanding and analysis of users’ needs for the development of e-services for integrated social and health care in the ageing society) bilateral project (ARRS BI-US/18-20-051) A multidimensional perspective of gradations in digital inclusion through examining access, motivation, skills, uses and outcomes of online engagement (Slovenia-USA) and research program P5-0399 (Internet research).