Universität Zürich

IKMZ - Department of Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

Andreasstrasse 15
CH-8050 Zurich
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Internet Use in Algorithmized Digital Societies: Selected Implications of a Socially Stratified Practice


Noemi Festic

Doctoral dissertation. University of Zurich. https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-216936

The internet, and algorithmic-selection applications that rely on the automated assignment of relevance to selected pieces of information in particular, have pervaded all domains of our everyday lives in digital societies. This thesis approaches internet use and its implications from a user-centered, social-sciences perspective, relying on a co-evolutionary conceptualization of digitization as a socio-technical adaptation process, which becomes apparent through the trinity of datafication, algorithmization, and platformization. In the context of these algorithmized digital societies, the first part of this thesis addresses internet use and the use of algorithmic-selection applications in particular from a longitudinal digital-inequality perspective. The results reveal a persisting social stratification of internet use over time, even in the highly connected Swiss society. Conceptualizing implications of this internet use as co-occurring risks and opportunities, the second part of this thesis answers the call for theoretically-founded empirical research on implications of internet use that takes into account the growing relevance of algorithmic selection. Digital overuse and privacy violations are among the risks studied. The impact of the embeddedness of algorithmic-selection applications in everyday life is addressed from an institutional-governance perspective and results are discussed in the broader context of digital well-being outcomes. This thesis applies an innovative mixed-methods approach and draws on qualitative interviews, repeated cross-sectional telephone interviews representative of the Swiss population as well as data from a combined online survey and internet-use tracking for a representative sample of Swiss internet users. The results provide evidence-based answers to a set of pressing questions concerning internet use and selected implications in algorithmized digital societies and lead to broader directions for the empirical investigation of digitization effects