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Title: Keeping up with technologies : revisiting the meaning and role of Internet access in digital inclusion
Author: Grošelj, Darja
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 2215
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The ways people go online have been transformed by the emergence of new mobile Internet technologies. As modes of Internet access are becoming increasingly diverse, this thesis sets out to examine how various forms of access shape engagement with online resources. Inequalities in Internet access have been neglected in the "second-level digital divide" research, which has focused on differences in skills and usage. Thus, I argue that inequalities of access have to be revisited and their role in digital inclusion reassessed. To study individuals' arrangements of Internet-enabled devices and locations holistically and as a dynamic entity, access is conceptualised as infrastructure. Theoretically, I distinguish between material dimensions of access and social practices shaping access, and draw on existing models of digital inclusion to examine the role of these dimensions and practices in online engagement. Empirically, a mixed methods research design is employed, complementing longitudinal analyses of survey data representative of the British population with 29 qualitative interviews with British Internet users. This study contributes to our understanding of material and social dimensions of access and their impact on Internet use patterns. First, the conceptualisation of Internet access as infrastructure is empirically validated. Second, quality, locality and ubiquity are established as material dimensions of access, where offline social and economic resources most strongly affect inclusion in high-quality, multi-local and ubiquitous Internet access. Third, three specific practices encompassing how users develop and maintain their access infrastructures are identified: spotlighting, distributing and being stranded. They reflect differences in roles Internet technologies play in individuals' daily lives as well as differences in availability of offline resources. Fourth, the results show that, controlling for a range of digital inclusion factors, the access inequalities have significant effects on a range of online engagement types, but are most strongly related to commercial and communication uses of the Internet. In sum, this study provides a nuanced understanding of how different mechanisms underlie the development, maintenance and engagement with Internet access, depending on whether access arrangements are shaped by digital exclusion or choice. Specifically, by outlining critical differences among all-round, mobile-mostly, mobile-only and home-only Internet users, broader policy and research implications are also discussed.
Supervisor: Blank, Grant Sponsor: Adfutura Slovene Human Resources Development and Scholarship Fund ; Graduate Women International
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Digital divide--Great Britain ; Digital media--Great Britain ; Smartphones ; Tablet computers ; Information technology--Social aspects--Great Britain