Conceptualizing Digital Capital

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This article makes a theoretical contribution by looking at the rise of digital capital and its relation to the already existent social, economic, personal, political and cultural capitals (the five capitals, 5Cs from now on). It refers to the ways through which the interaction between the digital capital and the 5Cs generates inequalities in online experience (second level of digital divide), and how this new capital contributes towards the creation of the third level of digital divide, seen as the inequalities in the returning social benefits of using the Internet (van Deursen and Helsper, 2015, Ragnedda, 2017). It explains how, in order to make profitable the resources gained from the digital realm and transform them into social resources, individuals need a positive interrelation between the digital capital and social (Bourdieu, 1986, Coleman, 1990, Putnam, 1995), political (Syed and Whiteley, 1997), economic (Bourdieu, 1986), personal (Becker, 1996) and cultural capitals (Bourdieu, 1986). This interaction helps individuals to transform the digital resources into social resources and to exploit the full advantages offered by the Internet. It looks at the rise of digital capital and how its interaction with income and occupation (economic capital), education (cultural capital), ties and trust (social and personal capital), motivation and purpose of use (personal capital), and political engagement (social and political capital), affects also the third level of digital divide. It defines digital capital (first attempt ever), and the reasons why do we – as researchers of communication and its social and technological aspects – need to introduce a new capital in our theoretical toolkit. It fills a gap in the literature by proposing a nuanced definition of digital capital (as a new “bourdieusian capital”) and analysing how its relationship with the 5Cs influences digital inequalities, and how it may reinforce or mitigate previous social inequalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2366-2375
Number of pages30
JournalTelematics and Informatics
Issue number8
Early online date12 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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