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). [Forthcoming].

Purpose – This conceptual contribution is based on the observation that digital inequalities literature has not sufficiently considered digital footprints as an important social differentiator. 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.