Social inequalities in the network era: Exploring the links between Internet use and social mobility in Britain

Through analysis of OxIS survey data and in-depth interviews this project will explore if and how individuals from less well-off backgrounds can use the Internet to influence their social mobility.

Contact:

Dr Rebecca Eynon

Tel: +44 (0)1865 287206

Email: rebecca.eynon@oii.ox.ac.uk

Overview

In Britain, policy makers promote the Internet as a means to facilitate social mobility, through the provision of access to a wider range of learning, employment, networking and informational opportunities. Yet, research demonstrates that the Internet reinforces social inequalities. Individuals from better-off backgrounds tend to benefit far more from using the Internet than the less well-off.

At a time when many are concerned about growing social inequalities, and services and support are increasingly moving online, this project aims to re-examine this problem by focusing research on a largely ignored group of adults who despite being from less well-off backgrounds appear (based on survey data) to be successfully using the Internet to improve their circumstances.

Through analysis of OxIS survey data and in-depth interviews with adults from this group this project will explore the contexts and processes that lead these individuals, the “unexpectedly digitally included”, to use the Internet “against the odds” and examine in what ways this use influences their social mobility.

This research is supported by the British Academy.

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