Digital inequalities 3.0: Emergent inequalities in the information age


  • Laura Robinson
  • Jeremy Schulz
  • Hopeton S. Dunn
  • Antonio A. Casilli
  • Paola Tubaro
  • Rod Carvath
  • Wenhong Chen
  • Julie B. Wiest
  • Matías Dodel
  • Michael J. Stern
  • Christopher Ball
  • Kuo-Ting Huang
  • Grant Blank
  • Massimo Ragnedda
  • Hiroshi Ono
  • Bernie Hogan
  • Gustavo S. Mesch
  • Shelia R. Cotten
  • Susan B. Kretchmer
  • Timothy M. Hale
  • Tomasz Drabowicz
  • Pu Yan
  • Barry Wellman
  • Molly-Gloria Harper
  • Anabel Quan-Haase
  • Aneka Khilnani



Marking the 25th anniversary of the “digital divide,” we continue our metaphor of the digital inequality stack by mapping out the rapidly evolving nature of digital inequality using a broad lens. We tackle complex, and often unseen, inequalities spawned by the platform economy, automation, big data, algorithms, cybercrime, cybersafety, gaming, emotional well-being, assistive technologies, civic engagement, and mobility. These inequalities are woven throughout the digital inequality stack in many ways including differentiated access, use, consumption, literacies, skills, and production. While many users are competent prosumers who nimbly work within different layers of the stack, very few individuals are “full stack engineers” able to create or recreate digital devices, networks, and software platforms as pure producers. This new frontier of digital inequalities further differentiates digitally skilled creators from mere users. Therefore, we document emergent forms of inequality that radically diminish individuals’ agency and augment the power of technology creators, big tech, and other already powerful social actors whose dominance is increasing.

Author Biographies

Laura Robinson

Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Santa Clara University

Jeremy Schulz

Researcher at the UC Berkeley Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and a Fellow at the Cambridge Institute

Hopeton S. Dunn

Professor of Media and Communication in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Botswana and Senior Research Associate in the School of Communication, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Antonio A. Casilli

Professor of sociology at Telecom Paris, the telecommunication school of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris, and a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Institute on Innovation (i3)

Paola Tubaro

Associate Research Professor at the National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Rod Carvath

Associate professor in strategic communication at the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md.

Wenhong Chen

Associate professor of media studies and sociology at the University of Texas at Austin

Julie B. Wiest

Associate Professor of Sociology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Matías Dodel

Associate Professor of Communication at Universidad Católica del Uruguay

Michael J. Stern

Professor and Department Chairperson in the Department of Media + Information at Michigan State University

Christopher Ball

Assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Kuo-Ting Huang

Assistant professor of Emerging Media Design & Development in the Department of Journalism at Ball State University

Grant Blank

Survey Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute and Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, both University of Oxford

Massimo Ragnedda

Senior Lecturer in Mass Communication at Northumbria University, Newcastle (U.K.)

Hiroshi Ono

Professor of Human Resources Management at Hitotsubashi University Business School and Affiliated Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University

Bernie Hogan

Senior Research Fellow at the OII and Research Associate at the Department of Sociology

Gustavo S. Mesch

Professor of Sociology and the Rector of the University of Haifa

Shelia R. Cotten

MSU Foundation Professor and the Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University

Susan B. Kretchmer

Co-Founder and President of the not-for-profit Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide

Timothy M. Hale

Medical sociologist at the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Tomasz Drabowicz

Chair of the Department of Sociology of Social Structure and Social Change in the Faculty of Economics and Sociology at the University of Lodz (Poland)

Pu Yan

Researcher at Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Barry Wellman

Director of the NetLab Network and former S.D. Clark Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto

Molly-Gloria Harper

Graduate student in the Ph.D. Sociology program at Western University (Canada)

Anabel Quan-Haase

Professor in the Department of Sociology and Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University in Canada

Aneka Khilnani

Medical student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.




How to Cite

Robinson, L., Schulz, J., Dunn, H. S., Casilli, A. A., Tubaro, P., Carvath, R., … Khilnani, A. (2020). Digital inequalities 3.0: Emergent inequalities in the information age. First Monday, 25(7).