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Beyond Access: Digital divide, Internet Use and Gratifications Gained
Unformatted Document Text:  R ETHINKING THE D IGITAL D IVIDE 3 Beyond Access: Digital divide, Internet Use and Gratifications Gained Increased access to computer-mediated-technologies, such as the Internet, has extended Americans’ informational and interactive capabilities. The latest Department of Commerce / National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration data, drawn from the Current Population Survey of over 50,000 households, shows that for the first time, over 50% of all Americans have home "Internet access." The Bush administration interpreted these data as indicating that there is no longer a "digital divide" in the U.S. Others vehemently disagree with this conclusion, citing the fact that roughly half of Americans remain “disconnected” at home. As an increasing number of citizens use the Internet for communication, entertainment, shopping, and information, simple “connectedness” measures focusing on Internet access and time spent online are no longer sufficient to gauge whether a “divide” still characterize the digital world. Although the varied features of the Internet and the ever-changing face of Internet technology makes it difficult to examine the use and effects of the Internet, research must begin to re- conceptualize the digital divide in terms of the varied uses people make of the Internet and the specific gratifications gained from these interactions. Relying on national survey data collected by the Pew Internet and American Life Project during March 2000, we examine how differences in age and socio-economic status result in qualitatively different patterns of Internet uses and gratifications. These data provide rich measures of online activities, which this study attempts to relate to functional gratifications gained from various types of online behavior. We structure our analysis through the lens of recent work on the digital divide and more longstanding research on media uses and gratifications.

Authors: Cho, Jaeho., Zuniga, Homero Gil de., Nah, Seungahn., Humane, Abhiyan., Hwang, Hyunseo., Rojas, Hernando. and Shah, Dhavan.
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background image
R
ETHINKING THE
D
IGITAL
D
IVIDE
3
Beyond Access:
Digital divide, Internet Use and Gratifications Gained
Increased access to computer-mediated-technologies, such as the Internet, has extended
Americans’ informational and interactive capabilities. The latest Department of Commerce /
National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration data, drawn from the Current
Population Survey of over 50,000 households, shows that for the first time, over 50% of all
Americans have home "Internet access." The Bush administration interpreted these data as
indicating that there is no longer a "digital divide" in the U.S. Others vehemently disagree with this
conclusion, citing the fact that roughly half of Americans remain “disconnected” at home.
As an increasing number of citizens use the Internet for communication, entertainment,
shopping, and information, simple “connectedness” measures focusing on Internet access and time
spent online are no longer sufficient to gauge whether a “divide” still characterize the digital world.
Although the varied features of the Internet and the ever-changing face of Internet technology
makes it difficult to examine the use and effects of the Internet, research must begin to re-
conceptualize the digital divide in terms of the varied uses people make of the Internet and the
specific gratifications gained from these interactions.
Relying on national survey data collected by the Pew Internet and American Life Project
during March 2000, we examine how differences in age and socio-economic status result in
qualitatively different patterns of Internet uses and gratifications. These data provide rich
measures of online activities, which this study attempts to relate to functional gratifications gained
from various types of online behavior. We structure our analysis through the lens of recent work on
the digital divide and more longstanding research on media uses and gratifications.


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