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Explaining participatory inequalities in digital environments: access, literacy, content and vicious cycles of disempowerment - 17 November 2021

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In this CRESTEM seminar, Dr Ellen Helsper will discuss her research on empowered participation in digital society, and how it requires access to platforms, skills, content, and engagement with people who hold privileged positions.

ICT’s non-hierarchical structures and availability led to optimism around equal participation for everyone online. However, research shows amplification of inequalities in literacy, stratification of inequalities in use, and normalisation or even leapfrogging in subjective (but not objective) empowerment outcomes.

Sequentiality is a problem: those who are historically of lower status are less likely to have quality access and digital literacy, and they are less likely to use ICTs in ways that influence decisions and shape digital spaces. However, there is also evidence for greater equality in online civic and political engagement and feelings of empowerment among the disadvantaged. A problem is that we know little about inequalities in everyday forms of participation. The scarce existing research suggests a silencing of voices and content that creates digital stratification and segregation amplifying inequalities.


About the speaker

Dr Ellen Helsper is Professor of Socio-Digital Inequalities in the Media and Communications Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She has a PhD in Media and Communications from the LSE and an MSc in Media Psychology from Utrecht University.

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