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Title: Rural sociability in the digital world
Author: Wilson, Ruth
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2015
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The nature of sociability in the digital world has attracted much attention, with theories of the network society describing the formation of networked connections across distant geographies. Policymakers are optimistic about the potential for these new forms of connectivity to overcome some of the longstanding disadvantages of rural life. However, a prerequisite for full and meaningful participation in the network society is equal access to digital infrastructure, and a persistent urban–rural divide in this regard has been documented across Britain. The thesis argues that the meaning of the divide has been under-investigated with the result that our understanding of rural sociability in contemporary society is theoretically underdeveloped. This is addressed through a study of sociability in rural Britain, which adopts a “facet methodology” approach, examining the research problem from different angles using a range of methods. The first facet of the research compares the perceptions of rural and urban Internet users through an analysis of the Oxford Internet Survey. The second facet conducts a social network analysis of the online connections formed by a group of bloggers in the Scottish islands. The third facet explores the discursive interactions of the same set of bloggers through a thematic analysis of their writings. Together, the methods shed light on key aspects of the research problem. The findings reveal that people living in the country's rural areas are experiencing a different relationship with digital technology from urban residents. Rather than occupying peripheral or inferior positions in the network society, however, they are cultivating unique forms of digital sociability, informed by particular influences and motivations that set their social behaviour apart from the networked norm. Throughout the thesis, an understanding of the place of rural in the digital world is elaborated and the network society is shown to be differentiated across multiple dimensions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social interaction ; Rural population ; Digital communications