Event highlights Internet literacy across cultures

A research seminar conducted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism concerning the evolution of digital literacy worldwide was held Monday in the Geoffrey Cowan Forum.

The seminar featured Cal State San Bernardino Professor Mihaela Popescu, whose research interests include Internet governance, communication history and the relationship between media policy and cultural capital.

Digital literacy · Cal State San Bernardino Professor Mihaela Popescu presents research on how Internet-savvy different cultural groups are at an Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism event Monday. – Shoko Oda | Daily Trojan

Popescu’s discussion pertained to the challenges society faces in the global digital age as countries begin to envision a pro-digital learning environment.

“We know that new literacies are shaped by conditions associated with socioeconomic status,” Popescu said. “We have cause to believe that the lack of certain digital literacy competency may widen the knowledge gap that already exists along fault lines such as gender, race and income.”

Popescu illustrated the interconnectedness between the effective use of digital technologies and social, economic and cultural capital. She presented data from research she conducted in 2005 on patterns of internet consumption in different cultures in Southeast Europe, particularly in Romania.

According to her research, the level of Internet usage by particular groups of people is dependent on social class — high, upper status sections of economic and civic capital tend to be more frequent users of digital technologies in contrast to the lower status segments of populations.

“Internet use is very much dependent on class,” Popescu said. “Diffusion of digital literacies in Romania is highly stratified.”

Raffi Sarkissian, a Ph.D. candidate studying communication, found Popescu’s research interesting, noting the fact that more data collection on the topic of internet usage among younger demographics might provide more context in terms of analyzing how digital literacy is intertwined with cultural capital.

“I’d be interested in seeing the shift in data because huge internet phenomena, such as Facebook and Youtube, came after 2005,” Sarkissian said. “I’d be curious to see how that has shifted internet usage, especially among young demographics.”

Adam Kahn, a fifth year Ph.D. candidate studying communication, also said the research could provide interesting insights into other cultures for college students at a technologically advanced school like USC.

“I’m working on a project about integrating digital literacy skills into large lecture courses and whether that courts over to other schools that aren’t necessarily as fortunate as USC,” Kahn said. “It’s very interesting to observe how a country with low internet penetration such as Romania compares with parts of the U.S.”