A Framework for Studying Differences in People’s Digital Media Uses

Authors: Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Hargittai, E. (2007). A Framework for Studying Differences in People's Digital Media Uses. In Cyberworld Unlimited. Edited by Nadia Kutscher and Hans-Uwe Otto. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften/GWV Fachverlage GmbH. 121-137.


Information technologies have become a staple of adolescents' lives with young people among the most connected in countries that have seen high levels of Internet and cell phone diffusion by the first decade of the 21st century (Livingstone and Bober 2004; National Telecommunications and Information Administration 2004). However, merely knowing various digital media.s rates of use says little about how young people are incorporating IT into their everyday lives. Ignoring nuanced measures of use, it is difficult to determine whether digital media are leveling the playing field for youth or whether they are raising new barriers for some while advantaging the societal positions of others. While many have suggested that we must move past the binary classification of haves and have-nots when it comes to information technology uses, few have offered a detailed conceptual framework for such an undertaking, one that can then inform empirical studies of usage differences. This chapter considers the various domains in which users of the Internet may possess different levels of know-how. In addition to presenting the conceptual framework, it also draws on unique data about a diverse group of young people's Internet uses to illustrate existing differences along the lines of the discussed dimensions.


  • Introduction
  • Refined approaches to the digital divide
  • Informed User Participation
  • Differences in Young People's Internet Uses
  • Conclusion


The author would like to thank Brigid Barron, Greg Duncan, Karen Mossberger and Connie Yowell for helpful conversations on this topic, Ann Feldman and Tom Moss for supporting the study at UIC, and Laurell Sims, Dan Li, Vanessa Pineda and Erika Priestley for assistance with data collection and data entry. The author is also grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Northwestern University Research Grants Committee, the Northwestern School of Communication Innovation Fund and the Northwestern Department of Communication Research Fund for their support.

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