The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society

Jan A. G. M. van. Dijk

“During the mid 90s, around the time the Internet became popular, it became apparent that there was still one critical issue holding back limitless opportunities. Computer professionals had to find a way to close the gap between those who do not have computer or Internet access and those who do, also known as the digital divide. Suddenly, hundreds of conferences of computer professionals, social scientists, and government policy experts worldwide dedicated themselves to this concern. Then the Internet hype seemed to dissipate, and observers assumed the digital divide would fix itself. The Deepening Divide: Inequality in the Information Society explains why the digital divide is still widening and, in advanced high-tech societies, deepening. Taken from an international perspective, the book offers full coverage of the literature and research and a theoretical framework from which to analyze and approach the issue. Where most books on the digital divide only describe and analyze the issue, Jan van Dijk presents 26 policy perspectives and instruments designed to close the divide itself. Written in a simple, thorough, and multidisciplinary approach, The Deepening Divide offers insights to students, researchers, policymakers, and professionals in media and communication studies, sociology, educational policy, public policy, and computer education.”


Reader Comments

This book is oddly out of sync with sociological subfields that it attempts to connect with. What I mean is that if your work ostensibly has two major thrusts to it – ICT AND inequality – it would probably be useful to engage in-depth with the second of the two thrusts, and I don’t think van Dijk does this. While I think that van Dijk is putting forth a plan of action on how to analyze inequality critically and with an eye towards emergent problems and policy development, and is perhaps leaving the more detailed situational work to others, I was still sort of stunned by the way in which he frames and discusses some particulars of inequality.

1. The relational view of inequality and identity that van Dijk uses is not at all new – Among others, Black feminist theorists and those working with the concept of intersectionality generally pretty well accept this theoretical stance, and have for some time.

2. I think the way he separates personal categories and positional categories – especially as they are related to race and gender – is very odd. Again, I think there’s quite a bit of work out there that could have been mined for a better discussion of these analytical separations, and how they in fact overlap to a very large degree.

3. Connected to the above points is the way in which I think the author tends to essentialize race and sex as biological categories that are the same as age (without at the same time exploring the social aspects of age), and problematically uses “ethnicity” and “gender” as the “social” and “cultural” categories as opposed to the biological ones of race and sex. If one is going to do this sort of separation between biology and culture, I would expect a far more serious and deep treatment of what exactly it is that separates the two.