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Online Engagement: What Causes Variation in Contributing to Participatory Web Sites?

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Published on Jan 27, 2011

Google Tech Talk
January 24, 2011

Presented by Eszter Hargittai.

ABSTRACT

Much enthusiasm surrounds the opportunities made available by digital media for people to express themselves and participate in the public sphere without having to go through traditional gatekeepers. Indeed, likely more people than ever before participate in discussions and collaborate on projects yielding outcomes of value to many. While the enthusiasm about new opportunities is thus warranted, we are in need of empirical examinations of these phenomena to get a better sense of who is actually participating, who is not, and what patterns in participation may imply for the democratizing potential of new tools and services. This talk draws on unique longitudinal survey data collected on the same group of young adults in 2009 and 2010 to explore these questions. Findings suggest that users' demographic and socioeconomic background, the context of their uses and their Internet skills are related to active online engagement. The talk will explore reasons for these differences and will discuss the implications of the findings.

Eszter Hargittai is Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Faculty Associate of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University where she heads the Web Use Project. She is also Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society where she spent the 2008/09 academic year in residence. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University where she was a Wilson Scholar. Hargittai's research focuses on the social and policy implications of information technologies with a particular interest in how differences in people's Web-use skills influence what they do online. Her current research has been supported by the John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Google Nokia Research, and the Hiatt Fund at Northwestern University. She sits on the Advisory Board of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy and the Princeton Technology Advisory Council. For more information, see eszter.com and webuse.org.

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