The chapter draws on the theoretical contribution of Sonia Livingstone and Leah Leavrouw (2006), who shifted the identification of what is new in the new media from technological features – technological innovation being itself a moving target and thus with poor definitory capacities – to the social shaping and the social consequences of technologies. Accordingly, the chapter theorises the relationship between new media and society as a co-determination, whereby technologies are appropriated and socially shaped by individuals and groups, while, simultaneously, the social is being shaped by new technological artefacts. The process of mutual shaping will be illustrated through the concept of affordances (Gibson, 1979; Hutchby, 2001), which highlights how technologies have different functionalities that sets the condition for, without determining it, human agency. More specifically, the chapter will discusses the affordances of - social media – persistence, searchability, replicability, scalability, networked publics (boyd, 2010; Livingstone, 2009; Papacharissi and Easton, 2013; van Dijk, 2013); - and mobile communication – portability and anywhere, anytime accessibility (Schrock, 2015) - emphasising the interplay between new communicative practices and social norms regulating these very practices, and the process of normalisation through which technologies become legitimised and taken for granted (Berger and Luckmann, 1966; Ling, 2014). It is at the heart of this very process of normalisation and taken-for-grantedness that the social consequences of new media lie, namely the profound implication of new media in every social process (mediatization) and the entrenchment of social inequalities and digital inequalities (Helsper 2013). The chapter therefore reviews the literature on inequalities in the network society (Castells, 1996): from inequalities related to access and use of the internet – the so called ‘second-level digital divide’ (Hargittai, 2002); to inequalities related to the mobile internet (Mascheroni & Ólafsson, 2015; Pearce & Rice, 2013); to unequal exposure to surveillance – namely the “privacy-poor and surveillance-rich” broadband to which marginal internet users are condemned (Ganghadaran, 2015).
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteTheorising Sociology in the Digital Society
EditorLinda Lombi, Michele Marzulli
Numero di pagine11
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017


  • affordances
  • digital divide
  • internet
  • mobile communication
  • social media
  • social shaping


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