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Toward Meaningful Connectivity: Using Multilevel Communication Research to Reframe Digital Inequality


Journal of Communication

Published online on


Digital inequality, or unequal access to the Internet and technologies that connect to it, has preoccupied communication scholars since the Internet's introduction into popular culture. The relationships between digital and broader social inequalities suggest that meaningful digital connectivity—that is, having the technical skills necessary to engage technology and mobilize information resources to address everyday needs—can empower socially disenfranchised individuals, families, and communities to address challenges related to those disparities. In this essay, we overview the arc of communication research on technology engagement and its consequences. On this foundation, we argue why multilevel research that accounts for individual‐, family‐, and community‐level influences on meaningful digital connectivity is the best path forward for research on digital inequality.