Digital Differences Discovery!

Fig 1: My Representation of van Dijk’s conceptualisation of Digital Users

Digital Differences is a concept I find is often overlooked, so I was pleased to have time to explore the concept. In Web Science, I looked it Digital Differences last year in Prof Susan Halford’s excellent SOCI3073 module. I noticed that this module chimed closely with Section 1.11 of the Learning in the Network Age MOOC. The view here, and one that I support, is that our online appearance and activities (if we are online at all) is shaped very closely by our offline context. This is proves the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to studying the Web, particularly in technical and sociological field. van Dijk’s paper on “Inequalities in the Network Society” is an excellent read to explore this further (van Dijk, 2013). He gives the networked society a tripartite structure (see Fig1). There is an elite, who can network globally, securing value. Then, a group of middle masses, using the web for entertainment, and other activities. However, there remains an excluded minority, but one that this still significant. It is also useful to consider preferential attachment. This concept, borne of network theory, states that those with most connections, get more connections. This is useful for thinking about the growth of the web, but also the people that use it.

Considering the differences identified in the MOOC Section 1.13, analysed my own Digital Differences (click on each one to expand):



This analysis led me to believe that I am lucky. Whilst I felt that I suffer very little from Digital Differences, conducting this analysis opened my eyes to how, for others, it is possible to be very affected. This is why I believe it is important to not just plough ahead with innovation after innovation, but consider the wider affects, and who might be left behind.


Word Count: 300 words


Reference List:

Van Dijk, J. (2013) ‘Inequalities in the Network Society’ Orton-Johnson, K. and Prior, N. (2013) Digital Sociology



10 comments for “Digital Differences Discovery!

  1. 20th February 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Tom,

    Really enjoyed reading your blog post! I particularly appreciated the interactive content!
    You raise some interesting ideas about not going ‘full steam ahead’ with more innovations, and whilst I agree, I wonder if it is not just intrinsic human nature to explore and develop new ideas. Nonetheless, I agree that we should be more conscientious about those left behind.


    • 20th February 2018 at 4:57 pm

      Hi Natasha. Thanks for you’re reply, glad you enjoyed that 🙂 I think you may actually be right, and perhaps it is not a case of us having to stop this, but maybe we should be sure that we reflect and consider as we move forward? Do you agree? I’m not sure and nor, probably, are most people! But thanks for reading!

      • 23rd February 2018 at 1:52 pm

        Hi Tom, exactly! What you’ve just mentioned is actually what I concluded in my blog post. That it is important to identify and recognise these differences between people.

        • 27th February 2018 at 10:59 am

          Hi Natasha – that’s good – I will make sure to give your post a read in that case. Tom

  2. 27th February 2018 at 11:44 pm

    Hi Tom,

    You’ve written an interesting post with links back to content from your other Web Science module and I like your graphic of van Dijk’s digital users.

    You mentioned the Barabasi-Albert preferential attachment model when thinking about people who use the web. Kunegis et al. (2013) concludes that more work needs to be carried out to assess the governance models controlling these online connections and observed social phenomena before confirming a valid power law exponent. Where you say, “our online appearance and activities is shaped very closely by our offline context”, do you believe that our offline tendencies are a more reliable tool at predicting our online connections than just the inevitability of preferential attachment – following someone on Twitter for example just because they have a few million followers, compared to someone you have offline links with but only a few followers?


  3. 2nd March 2018 at 4:16 pm

    Hi Adam. Thank you for the comment. I believe that offline tendencies are a better basis for predicting online connections when looking at indiviudals, but it is incredibly hard to expand these to create a universal theory for a large group, or for society in general. I’d assume then that this the “more work” mentioned by Kunegis et al, from their paper. What’s your opinion? Tom

    • adamderann
      4th March 2018 at 5:36 pm

      Hi Tom,
      Yes I agree that more work needs to be carried out to assess online activity, but we might be at the point now where our online connections are already influencing our offline activity, that then influences our online activity and the cycle continues. So it might be impossible to work out someone’s online connections based upon a starting offline point.

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