THE FLAWED IMAGINARY OF THE DIGITAL DIVIDE RESEARCH: THE NEED FOR A NEW MODEL
Although our understanding of the changes ushered in by the informatization of society has significantly improved in the last two decades, in some regards, not even the increase in empirical evidence has yielded satisfying answers. One of the areas in question is research on the digital divide. One may be surprised by finding that despite there being plenty of data about the sociodemographic correlates of the Internet diffusion, digital skills, Internet-related attitudes, and online activities, we only have little empirical evidence about the actual effect of Internet (non-)use on a person's participation in society, as has been repeatedly stated by leading scholars in the field (DiMaggio, Hargittai, Celeste, & Shafer, 2004; Helsper, 2012; van Dijk & van Deursen, 2014). In the paper, the author aims to deepen our understanding of this issue by (a) a brief presentation of the set of assumptions that misguided previous digital divide research, (b) a proposed solution in the form of a situational model of the digital divide, and (c) a presentation of an empirical model in which a derived set of variables is used to outline Internet-related changes experienced in selected dimensions of quality of life. The first two parts are based on the author’s existing research that will be published in the upcoming book “Beyond the digital divide”, whereas the third part is an outcome of the research project “World Internet Project – the Czech Republic II", where the author is the principal investigator.