Eszter Hargittai


The online participation divide

Wednesday, October 31st, 18:00 – 20:00, PALAZZO CONGRESSI Auditorium A

While digital media offer many opportunities for people to express themselves, not everybody participates online at the same levels. This talk will discuss online participation from a digital-inequality perspective showing current limits to the democratizing potential of the Internet. The talk will consider how differences in online participation vary by sociodemographic characteristics as well as people’sInternet skills. The presentation breaks down the various steps necessary for engagement – the pipeline of online participation – and shows that different factors explain who has ever heard of, who visits, who knows to contribute to, and ultimately who engages actively on various online platforms. Skills matter at all stages of the pipeline. Drawing on several data sets, this talk will discuss who is most likely to participate online from joining social media platforms to editing Wikipedia entries. The talk will also offer insights on the potential biases that can stem from relying on certain types of data sets in big data studies. Given that users of social media platforms are not a random sample of the Internet-user population, projects deriving their data from such sites must be conscious of the biases these sites as sampling frames introduce into their studies.

  • online participation
  • digital inequality
  • skills
  • participation divide

Eszter Hargittai is Professor and Chair of Internet Use and Society at the Institute of Communication and Media Research, University of Zurich. She studies how differences in people’s Web-use skills relate to what they do online. Her research has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, Nokia, Google, Facebook, and Merck, among others. Hargittai is editor of Research Confidential and co-editor with Christian Sandvig of Digital Research Confidential, presenting a behind-the-scenes look at doing empirical social science research. She is currently editing the Handbook of Digital Inequality and a new methods volume.

For more information, see: and University of Zurich