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With a little help from my friends: An analysis of the role of social support in digital inequalities

A Research Paper by Pieter Verdegem, published by New Media and Society


This article reports an empirical study on the composition and socio-economic background of social support networks and their moderating role in explaining digital inequalities. It conceptually draws upon and empirically reaffirms Van Dijk’s multiple access model, acknowledging motivational, material, skill and usage divides, while focussing on the under-researched issue of social support as indispensible source of social learning. Besides a small group of self-reliants, the results indicate a pattern of relatively socially disadvantaged domestic support receivers, characterized by lower digital resources. A second social support pattern points to a relatively socially advantaged non-domestic support receivers (i.e. friends/colleagues), high in digital resources. Drawing upon the concept of homophily in social networks, the results indicate a link between offline and online exclusion, perpetuating digital inequalities.

Read the full text from Cédric Courtois and Pieter Verdegem >>



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Pieter Verdegem


Dr Pieter Verdegem is Reader in Technology and Society in the Westminster School of Media and Communication and member of CAMRI (the Communication and Media Research Institute).

His research investigates the political economy of media and communication and the impact of digital technologies on society.

He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and teaches core undergraduate and postgraduate modules every year.

Prior to joining the Westminster School of Media and Communication, he was Assistant Professor in New Media and ICT in the Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium (2012-2016) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala University, Sweden (2011-2012). He holds a PhD in Communication Sciences from Ghent University.


13 October 2016
Published By
New Media and Society
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CAMRI | With a little help from my friends: An analysis of the role of social support in digital inequalities - CAMRI
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