The Web Science Trust

Bridging the Scientific Divide: Building a common language between computer scientists and social scientists to understand the New Technologies and Digital Divide

Koletsi, Maria and Evangelou, Eleftheria and Kyriakopoulos, Giorgos (2009) Bridging the Scientific Divide: Building a common language between computer scientists and social scientists to understand the New Technologies and Digital Divide. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece. (In Press)

[img] MS Word (preprint) - Repository staff only
PDF (Poster Description) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
PDF (Poster Artwork) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader


  The term Digital Divide is reported as the inequality of accessibility in new technologies.Thus, Digital Divide describes the social inequalities that are created between those who have and those who have not access in new technologies. Equal accessibility in new technologies and the Internet indicates equal access to information society, e-inclusion strategies and knowledge sharing. The statement of the problem addresses both the capacities and the capabilities of users and social groups to the exploration and adaptation to the on line society.   Due to this reason, Digital Divide is considered to be a social problem that contains new forms of social exclusion with political, economic and cultural dimensions for users and social groups.  In a first level, the phenomenon and the different ways it appears, depends on demographic characteristics such as sex, age, place of residence (difference between the metropolis and the region) (Cuneo, 2002).  In a second level Digital Divide deals with access inequalities to Internet and more specifically in the way people use it, their skills and abilities, the quality of technical interconnections and social support, the ability of evaluation, the quality of information and its different uses in every day life (DiMaggio, 2001). Virtual social space is henceforth a reality and a new field for research study. Advancement of the research activity of the web relies upon the effective deployment of education on new technologies and the different, as well as the multiple, ways of their use. More concretely, the growth of web research, therefore the growth of web science, depends on the decrease of the Digital Divide and the measures that must be taken up.  Snow (1993) distinguishes two different cultures of science, “litteral intellectuals” and “natural scientists”, the relation of which is characterized by lack of  understanding which leads to weakness of the application of technology for the bluntness of social problems. Becher and Trowler (2001) describe academic cultures as tribes and disciplinary knowledge as their territories. The authors observe that even if knowledge seems to become in some ways more interdisciplinary still there are some factors that should be taken under consideration in the academic profession.  Basic hypothesis for our research is that social scientists tend to have a different degree of engagement in the use of new technologies and the Internet than computer scientists. The different culture between social scientists and computer scientists tends to affect the understanding of the upcoming Digital Divide and their approach towards the bridging policies.  More specifically, the scientists working in the field of computer science seem to have a weakness of comprehension concerning the social dimensions of technology. At the same time, the language they use is enough specialized and it creates difficulty in the comprehension of significances and the ways of application. In this way the use of new technologies is rendered problematic for social scientists as well as for the wide public. The weakness of approach of technology via common codes of communication creates bigger problems of collaboration between the scientists and complicates the interdisciplinary approach of Digital Divide. The specific culture tends to approach the Digital Divide as a problem that depends on the basic infrastructure and the technological development and evolution.  On the other hand social scientists tend to face a difficulty concerning the use and exploitation of new technologies. At the same time social scientists seem to have a lack of comprehension on technologies' social characteristics, especially the world wide web. The lack of sufficient familiarity and education, the predominance of negative stereotypes regarding the social characteristics of technology but also a phobia on technology, that appears to prevail mainly for the Internet, prevents the adoption of new technologies and the Internet as a new scientific area for social science. Bridging the Digital Divide seems to be a problem that could be faced basically through traditional methods for social inclusion. They tend to focus more on educational measures without excluding as a measure the infrastructure necessity. Their attitude towards technology leads them to the perception that new technologies and the Internet is value free, enhancing the idea of the technological determinism.  The above research hypothesis aims to investigate the attitudes and perceptions of students and academics from social science and computer scientists departments. The sample is constituted from students that study in the Greek universities in undergraduate and master's level as well as teachers from the above scientific sectors. The data basis was gathered among departments of social science and computer science from Universities in Athens. The academic disciplines were psychology, sociology, media and computer science. The questionnaire was asked by the researchers between September and October 2008. A number of 415 responses are included in the analysis. The questionnaire investigates the scientists' status and the level of familiarity with the new technologies, the degree of understanding the opportunities ICTs offer and the degree they involve new technologies in their research field. The basic research categories are the degree of use and exploitation of new technologies and the Internet in the personal as well as in the academic level, the exploitation of the Internet as a mean of social networking and a space of social interaction, the engagement of Digital Divide as a social problem. The choice of the particular sample will allow us to observe the different way the two scientific cultures percept and comprehend technology and its impact on science.  The responses showed that all scientists use and understand the need of ICTs and Internet, but they do not use it in the same manner and extent. The findings show differences according to the academic discipline and the attitudes they have towards the need of the use of ICTs in their scientific topics. Computer scientists seem to use the Internet more often and extensively than social scientists. They also succeed in comprehending the need of ICTs in their research area and realizing the concept of digital divide, although they attribute it to the lack of technological infrastructure.  The present research constitutes a first pilot collection and recording of quantitative and qualitative data for the differentiations concerning the use of technology in the different fields of science and their perceptions towards Digital Divide.    The results of the present research will allow us a first mapping of opinions regarding the Digital Divide, between the social scientists and computer scientists. The indication of points of convergence and points of divergence for the approach of the phenomenon may constitute the appropriate base for the growth of a dialogue between the social sciences and the computer science, the configuration of a common code of communication for the more effective confrontation of the Digital Divide. The development of a common culture of communication in order to confront the major phenomenon of Digital Divide can shape progressively a common culture of interdisciplinary approach of on line society promoting the evolution of a new science, the web science.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Uncontrolled Keywords:digital divide, social inequalities, knowledge society, social science, computer science
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:176
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:38

Repository Staff Only: item control page

EPrints Logo
Web Science Repository is powered by EPrints 3 which is developed by the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. More information and software credits.