Understanding digital inequality: a theoretical kaleidoscope

Kuhn, Caroline, Khoo, Su-Ming, Czerniewicz, Laura, Lilley, Warren, Bute, Swati, Crean, Aisling, Abegglen, Sandra, Burns, Tom, Sinfield, Sandra, Jandrić, Petar, Knox, Jeremy and MacKenzie, Alison (2023) Understanding digital inequality: a theoretical kaleidoscope. Postdigital Science and Education, 5 (3). pp. 894-932. ISSN 2524-4868


The pandemic affected more than 1.5 billion students and youth, and the most vulnerable learners were hit hardest, making digital inequality in educational settings impossible to overlook. Given this reality, we, all educators, came together to find ways to understand and address some of these inequalities. As a product of this collaboration, we propose a methodological toolkit: a theoretical kaleidoscope to examine and critique the constitutive elements and dimensions of digital inequalities. We argue that such a tool is helpful when a critical attitude to examine ‘the ideology of digitalism’, its concomitant inequalities, and the huge losses it entails for human flourishing seems urgent. In the paper, we describe different theoretical approaches that can be used for the kaleidoscope. We give relevant examples of each theory. We argue that the postdigital does not mean that the digital is over, rather that it has mutated into new power structures that are less evident but no less insidious as they continue to govern socio-technical infrastructures, geopolitics, and markets. In this sense, it is vital to find tools that allow us to shed light on such invisible and pervasive power structures and the consequences in the daily lives of so many.

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