Hargittai, Eszter (Ed.). Handbook of Digital Inequality.

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Author: James Jarc
Date: June 2022
From: Communication Research Trends(Vol. 41, Issue 2)
Publisher: Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,652 words
Lexile Measure: 1630L

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Hargittai, Eszter (Ed.). Handbook of Digital Inequality. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2021. Pp. 400. ISBN: 978-1-78811-656-5 (cloth) $65. (OER options)

Eszter Hargittai's edited volume, Handbook of Digital Inequality, is an important addition to the communication and technology literature. It comes at a pivotal, post-COVID-19 inflection point for policymakers, educators, healthcare providers, and end users alike. While concepts like the "digital divide" and "knowledge gaps" have been present in the literature for some time, the pandemic of 2020 brought the abstract to the digital doorstep of countless individuals and organizations around the world. Digital inequalities are very real and significantly impactful, and this volume shines a bright light on the areas to which we should be giving more attention. Hargittai has compiled a thoughtful collection of chapters that collectively create a robust resource that readers will likely find themselves revisiting frequently for references, data points, and interesting ideas for research directions.

This hearty volume covers a great deal of ground, both philosophically and empirically. Throughout its 24 chapters, Handbook of Digital Inequality offers numerous data-supported pleas for deeper and more thoughtful approaches to the study of the inequalities we see in contemporary technology spaces. In the introduction, Hargittai defines digital inequality as how people of different backgrounds incorporate devices and networks into their lives, how skills and contexts affect use, and how this varied use impacts life outcomes such as health, education, professional attainment, and social mobility. Her introduction also includes some important historical context and sets a clear rationale for the work. The editor asserts the importance of this volume, part of which is that it is up to scholars in the digital inequality space to "keep other domains of inquiry in check about their assumptions" (p. 2) because often those assumptions are incorrect. As a result, we end up with policies or practices that fail to fully address inequalities or, in the worst cases, actually amplify the inequalities and the resulting impacts to life outcomes. Each of these aspects are teased out methodically in the editor's clearly organized work.

The book is divided into four main sections: Part 1, "Infrastructures and Geographies," features five articles that discuss the ways in which technological structures, hardware, and systemic factors both create new and exacerbate existing digital inequalities in different applications. In the second part, "Digital Inequality Through the Lifecourse," we learn from eight articles that explore inequalities at various points in users' lives. Part 3 engages the reader in an exploration of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A712300549