Universität Zürich

IKMZ - Department of Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

Andreasstrasse 15
CH-8050 Zurich
Phone +41 (0)44 635 20 92
Fax +41 (0)44 634 49 34

Digital Footprints: An Emerging Dimension of Digital Inequality


Micheli, Marina /

Lutz, Christoph /

Moritz Büchi

In: Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, 16(3), 242–251.

Purpose This conceptual contribution is based on the observation that digital inequalities literature has not sufficiently considered digital footprints as an important social differentiator. The purpose of the paper is to inspire current digital inequality frameworks to include this new dimension. Design/methodology/approach Literature on digital inequalities is combined with research on privacy, big data and algorithms. The focus on current findings from an interdisciplinary point of view allows for a synthesis of different perspectives and conceptual development of digital footprints as a new dimension of digital inequality. Findings Digital footprints originate from active content creation, passive participation and platform-generated data. The literature review shows how different social groups may experience systematic advantages or disadvantages based on their digital footprints. A special emphasis should be on those at the margins, for example, users of low socioeconomic background. Originality/value By combining largely independent research fields, the contribution opens new avenues for studying digital inequalities, including innovative methodologies to do so. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-02-2018-0014