Internet Walled Gardens: Artificial Internet Limitations and Digital Inequalities

Kreitem, Hanna (2019) Internet Walled Gardens: Artificial Internet Limitations and Digital Inequalities. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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There is a growing body of literature on digital inequalities with an interest in mending inequalities in a world that increasingly relies on the digital by identifying and isolating the factors that predict digital opportunities. However, there is little which addresses differences in Internet access where infrastructural access in terms of availability and affordability is not an issue. In addition, artificially limiting Internet access is becoming normalised, with limitations used liberally as means for control, neglecting the potential implications of such measures.

The inspiration for this research came from the small body of knowledge available on the effect of artificial Internet limitations on digital inequalities and the consequences of Internet controls on how people make use of the Internet. This research highlights these potential consequences, whether deliberate or not, and link them to outcomes of Internet use, while shedding light on the effectiveness of such limitations. The research was motivated by a belief in the potential the Internet allows as an open platform for a universe with equal access and opportunities for the people. The first part of the research studied artificial Internet limitations in three communities, Bahrain, Estonia, and Singapore, as a factor in determining digital inequalities through two studies aimed at assessing change in opportunities, measured as differences in tangible outcomes of Internet use, as a function of artificial Internet limitations. The findings showed that artificial Internet limitations do indeed affect digital opportunities, producing lower satisfaction, with achievement opportunities attained when the individual is able to circumvent the controls.

The second part of the research is a practical implementation of the model developed in the first part to predict digital opportunities in one of the projects to reach new Internet users, commonly referred to as Next Billion(s). Facebook’s Free Basics platform was chosen as an example. The platform provides access to a set of services without incurring data charges in a form of zero-rating. The innate limitations of the platform were proven to limit the potential for individual to access any content not within the walled garden of the platform with near-zero circumvention potential, leaving opportunities provided by the platform to wither in front of the limitations set. People with access only to that platform remain passive consumers and part of disconnected and excluded communities, as the platform limits the potential for meaningful participation in the network society.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Digital Divide, Tangible outcomes of Internet use, Network Powers, Digital Sociology, Media and Communication
Subjects: L300 Sociology
P900 Others in Mass Communications and Documentation
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2021 08:11
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 15:35

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