Digital Distinction: Status-Specific Internet Uses

Authors: Nicole Zillien and Eszter Hargittai

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Citation: Zillien, N. & Hargittai, E. (2009). Digital Distinction: Status-Specific Internet Uses. Social Science Quarterly. 90(2): 274-291.


Sociologists of technology propose that not only a technological artifact, as such, but also patterns of usage should be considered when studying the social implications of technologies. Accordingly, we explore how people's online activities are influenced by users' socioeconomic status and context of use. Methods. We analyze data from the Allensbacher Computer and Technology Analysis (ACTA) 2004 survey with uniquely detailed information about people's Internet uses and context of usage to explore this relationship. Results. Findings suggest that highstatus and low-status individuals cultivate different forms of ''Internet-in-practice.'' High-status users are much more likely to engage in so-called capital-enhancing activities online than are their less privileged counterparts. Conclusion. Results suggest differential payoffs from Internet use depending on a user's socioeconomic background. Digital inequalities might be mitigated by improving people's Internet equipment and digital experience, but they do not account for all the status differential in use.


  • Objective
  • The Sociology of Technology and the Study of Differentiated Media Uses
  • Digital Inequality: Social Status and Differentiated Internet Uses
  • Data and Methods
    • Variables About Users' Background Characteristics
    • Variables Related to Internet Use
    • Methods of Analysis
  • Sample Descriptives
  • Findings
  • Conclusion

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