Critical Aspects in Young Swede’s Information Society Participation
In an era when access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) has become more or less matter-of-course to many people in the Western world, regardless of socio-economic conditions, various social and cultural digital patterns of use have emerged. Previous research concerning digital divides has often been criticised for having too limited and simplified a view of what constitutes these divides; in essence, research has been too preoccupied with analysing access to and use of ICTs (e.g. Burtseva, Cojocaru, Gaindric, Magariu, & Verlan, 2007; Mäkinen & Naarmala, 2008; Tsatsou, 2011; Vehovar, Sicherl, Hüsing, & Dolnicar, 2006). One way of elaborating a more nuanced view of the problem is to pay heed to differences in people’s abilities, motivations and opportunities in using ICTs to improve the everyday quality of life. This sort of more sociological approach aims to grasp digital stratification and inspires the aim of this research project: to analyse young Swedes’ use of ICTs and socialisation into techno-culture as critical aspects of information society participation. The research project is divided into four studies with different perspectives and methods. The first study describes young people’s access to and use of ICTs in schools, as well as for leisure. Data were collected through a quantitative survey among young people born in 1994, living in a medium-sized Swedish municipality (n=256, 92.7%). The result describes a high level of access to ICTs both at school and at home, but also different patterns of use where most usage was focused on private communication and entertainment. The second study analyses young people’s digital skills in general, and information-seeking skills in particular. These skills are discussed in the light of the Swedish school system’s high ambitions of equality in education and young people’s opportunities to become participants in ‘the information society’. The study builds upon previously collected survey data and complementary interviews with six of the participants. The aim of the third study is to analyse which aspects lead to digital stratification among young Swedes. Through interviews with students at a public secondary school, the study analyses how students with varying levels of access to social and cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1997) are socialised into techno-culture. Students with equal access to ICTs, from both academic and vocational programmes, are interviewed. This leads to a final study (four) that is designed to provide secondary school teachers’ views of their role, and the school’s mission, to support their students’ use of ICTs.