Digital distinction: Status-specific types of internet usage

Nicole Zillien*, Eszter Hargittai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

422 Scopus citations


Objective. Sociologists of technology propose that not only a technological artifact, as such, but also patterns of usage should be considered when studying the social implications of technologies. Accordingly, we explore how people's online activities are influenced by users' socioeconomic status and context of use. Methods. We analyze data from the Allensbacher Computer and Technology Analysis (ACTA) 2004 survey with uniquely detailed information about people's Internet uses and context of usage to explore this relationship. Results. Findings suggest that high-status and low-status individuals cultivate different forms of "Internet-in-practice." High-status users are much more likely to engage in so-called capital-enhancing activities online than are their less privileged counterparts. Conclusion. Results suggest differential payoffs from Internet use depending on a user's socioeconomic background. Digital inequalities might be mitigated by improving people's Internet equipment and digital experience, but they do not account for all the status differential in use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-291
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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