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Digital Inequalities: The Role of Digital Media in the Everyday Life of Disadvantaged Social Groups and Vulnerable Individuals

Celie Hanson

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Digital Inequalities: The Role of Digital Media in the Everyday Life of Disadvantaged Social Groups and Vulnerable Individuals

About Prof. Ellen Helsper and this TKS episode:

Prof. Ellen Helsper is a Professor of Digital Inequalities in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Politics. In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, she discusses the digital divide, the impact of COVID-19 on this, and points towards what we can do to combat digital inequalities.

 

A brief synopsis:

Prof. Ellen Helsper gives an exclusive insight into her research that draws on her current interests around the links between social and digital inequalities, mediated interpersonal communication, participatory immersive digital spaces of VR and ER, and quantitative and qualitative methodological developments in media and communications research. 

Ellen begins by describing the development of digital media, how this has impacted the world in different ways, and the inequalities that have emerged. She outlines how COVID-19 has exposed ruptures in society, and has increased inequalities within the digital world. She talks about the ways that developing digital skills highlights the inequalities within this space, especially as the pandemic has urgently required the use of modern technology or ability to engage with the online content, whilst society has lacked the structures in place to support this and the additional training it requires. 

What we see is that young people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to have more problems in how to navigate the information and the digital world, but also struggle in the communication side of digital media.

Prof. Ellen Helsper

 

Ellen describes how commercial companies manage most of the content in the digital world. Thus, they have a responsibility to design their platforms to achieve equal outcomes for all people. Sadly, she explains why this is not the case.

Ellen talks to Hussain about her book, The Digital Disconnect, which explores the relationship between digital and social inequalities, and the lived consequences of digitalisation. She says that really we are all involved in shaping the digital world through what we consume online, and therefore we each hold a responsibility to agitate for digital media to be more equal.

When I talk about digital literacy training or skills and literacy training and awareness training within a digital world, it means we need to create more programs where we become aware of how our actions and reactions impact the way the digital world is going to look like in the future.

Prof. Ellen Helsper

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TKS take home points:

In this TKS episode, we learnt about how the inequalities in digital media influence society as a whole, and separate different social groups. Prof. Ellen Helsper believes that we need to stimulate and support a shift away from the techno-deterministic individualistic view of digitalisation, and work with organisations to achieve this. She pushes for us to be really attentive to the ways that each of us contribute to the design and development of the digital world. It is our collective responsibility to behave in a way that positively impacts the digital space. 

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