The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age

Authors: Eszter Hargittai and Gina Walejko

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Citation: Hargittai, E. & G. Walejko. (2008). The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age. Information, Communication and Society. 11(2): 239-256.


This paper looks at the prevalence of creative activity and sharing in an age when the barriers to disseminating material have been considerably lowered compared to earlier times. We use unique data to explore the extent to which young adults create video, music, writing and artistic photography, as well as the prevalence of sharing such material online. Findings suggest that despite new opportunities to engage in such distribution of content, relatively few people are taking advantage of these recent developments. Moreover, neither creation nor sharing is randomly distributed among a diverse group of young adults. Consistent with existing literature, creative activity is related to a persons socioeconomic status as measured by parental schooling. The novel act of sharing online, however, is considerably different with men much more likely to engage in it. However, once we control for Internet user skill, men and women are equally likely to post their materials on the Web.


  • Introduction
  • Differences in People’s Digital Media Uses
  • Methods
  • Sample Descriptives
  • Engaging in Creative Activities
  • Posting Content Online
  • Conclusion


The authors are grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for its support of this project. Hargittai is indebted to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and The Lenore Annenberg and Wallis Annenberg Fellowship in Communication. The authors thank Sarah Burgard and Jeremy Freese for helpful comments. They are also grateful for feedback received from people at Northwestern University’s Culture and Society Workshop, at the annual meetings of the Association of Internet Researchers, at the University of Michigan Communication Studies Colloquium and at Harvard Law Schools Berkman Center for Internet and Society Luncheon Series. Additionally, they appreciate the support of faculty and staff at the University of Illinois-Chicago for making this study possible, namely, Mary Case, Ann Feldman, Tom Moss, and Karen Mossberger. Also, they thank the following people for their assistance with data collection and entry: Waleeta Canon, Soo An, Dan Li, and the group of undergraduate research assistants in the Web Use Project group during the 2006-07 academic year. Funders: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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