Democracy and Digital Inequality

The history of the Internet over the past decade has been defined by the explosion of social media that created seemingly unlimited ways for people to participate in the growing online dialogue. From commenting to blogging, from posting photos to social networking, observers hailed the emergence of the social Web as a step toward creating a more egalitarian platform where everyone’s voice could be heard. But is the Internet really an accurate picture of America? Sociology doctoral candidate Jen Schradie’s research interrogates digital democracy claims in America, particularly for marginalized groups. Her dissertation research examines digital activism: have new media technologies transformed social movement organizations (SMOs) with working class members in the same way as those with upper middle class members? Have they altered the terrain for right-wing groups in the same way as left-wing organizations? She is investigating how the Internet matters for 1) Internal organizing, or the nature of organizational structure and participation; 2) External diffusion of SMOs’ messages. Related projects include:

Schradie, J. 2012. “The Trend of Class, Race, and Ethnicity in Social Media Inequality: Who Still Cannot Afford to Blog?” Information, Communication and Society, Volume 15, Issue 4.
Summary: By drawing on 13 national surveys of American adults from 2002 to 2008, this study incorporates class differences and finds that an educational gap in blogging persists, rather than narrows, even among people who are online. Race and ethnicity do not have a relationship with class in accounting for the inequality.

Schradie, J. 2011. “The Digital Production Gap: the Digital Divide and Web 2.0 Collide,” Poetics: A Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, the Media and the Arts, Volume 39, Issue 2.
Summary: When it comes to creating publicly available online content across 10 online activities, the new generation of digital creators are still dominated by those with more income and education. The digital divide still trumps digital democracy.

Schradie, J. 2011, “The Online Gender Production Gap: Whose Voices in the Digital Public Sphere(s)?” International Communication Association Conference, Boston, MA. May 30, 2011.
Summary: I find a widespread gender-based digital production gap. Surprisingly, the inequality persists among all age categories and is widest between college educated men and women. A lack of women’s leisure time, which includes parental status, also does not fully explain the gap.

Schradie, J. 2011, “The Persistence of Class, not Race, Social Media Inequality: Who Still Can’t Afford to Blog?” American Sociological Association Conference, Las Vegas, NV. August 22, 2011.
Summary: Black Americans are less likely to be online than whites but are more likely to blog. Meanwhile, class-based gaps among bloggers persist, regardless of race. Class matters more than race in digital inequality over the last decade.

Contact: schradie [at] berkeley [dot] edu