“It is widely accepted notion that media interactivity is power. If this is true, then scholars and institutions wishing to create an equal and fair society have an interest in measuring types and degrees of digital interactivity as it is distributed among different social groups. We must create nuanced terms and concepts for evaluating participation to assess the impact of cultural power differentials on the ability of people of color, youth, senior citizens, and others to deploy their identities on the Internet.
Rather than focusing on the question of Internet access, a clumsy binary model of participation that ignores crucial questions about kinds of access, more recent scholarship has considered the impact of factors like skill level with search engines, as well as duration, speed, and location of internet access, on which kinds of access to information users can have. However, empirical studies have not tended to survey users about their production, if any, of Internet content.
As Greek Lovink notes, “read-only members” of virtual communities possess a different status in relation to that community than do those who post online. They more resemble television users in an infinitely channeled multimedia university than they do the idealized active, mobile, expressive subject posted in early research on online community.” (pp. 176-177)
“It is imperative that we devise rigorous methodologies to help us understand what constitutes meaningful participation online, participation that opens and broadens the kinds of discourse the kinds of discourse that can be articulated there. It is not enough merely to be “there”: the image of the online “lurker” invokes the passivity and ghostliness of those who watch from the sidelines of online life” (p. 201).
Nakamura, L. (2008). Digitizing race: Visual cultures of the internet. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.