Media and the Digital Divide

MDIA 4011, Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University


MDIA 4011 – Media and the Digital Divide
School of Media Arts & Studies
Scripps College of Communication

Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, United States

Laeeq Khan, Ph.D., M.B.A.

Office: 307, Schoonover Center, Athens, Ohio 45701
Email:; Twitter: @drlaeeqkhan

Course Description

The course steeps the student in some of the most current literature on the quicksilver proliferation of new technologies throughout the world, with emphasis on who has access, command, and knowledge about these technologies and who is lacking and why. Readings explore the contours of the digital divide as it shapes and is shaped by culture amid shifting cultural and geopolitical climates.

Teaching Philosophy
My role as an educator derives its greatest strength from the realization that I can make a positive difference in the lives of others. I can contribute by helping create a nurturing environment for students, which leads to innovation and critical thinking. My approach to teaching reflects my experiences with my own teachers and mentors, as well as my belief that learning spaces help explore emerging ideas. Students need to be engaged learners. I subscribe to the Japanese concept of Kaizen or “continuous improvement”. Students can achieve their personal and professional best if they continue to make small changes every day, ultimately leading to substantial positive impacts overtime. The process of continuous improvement demands that students reflect upon their daily routines.

Course Objectives and Outcome

  • To gain an understanding of media and the digital divide issues.
  • Understand the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of digital inequalities.
  • To develop critical thinking surrounding contemporary media environment and the ramifications of digital inequalities in a global context.
  • Examine ways in which various cultural and technological competencies interact in the new media environment.



Date Content Assignments

(May 08 – (May 14)

Digital Divide, Background and Context: History and Development of Research on Digital Inequality
Van Dijk, J. A. (2006). Digital divide research, achievements and shortcomings. Poetics, 34(4-5), 221-235. [PDF] (1) Student Introductions Due

(2) Weekly Comments Due


(May 15 – May 21)

Theoretical Dimensions of Digital Divide  
Pick, J., & Sarkar, A. (2016, January). Theories of the Digital Divide: Critical Comparison. In System Sciences (HICSS), 2016 49th Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 3888-3897). IEEE. Weekly Comments Due

(May 22 – May 28)

Global Digital Divide and New Media Influence
Chinn, M. D., & Fairlie, R. W. (2006). The determinants of the global digital divide: a cross-country analysis of computer and internet penetration. Oxford Economic Papers.

Correa, T. (2016). Digital skills and social media use: how Internet skills are related to different types of Facebook use among ‘digital natives’. Information, Communication & Society, 19(8), 1095-1107.

Weekly Comments Due

(May 29 – June 04)

Digital Inequality and Skills
Hargittai, E., & Jennrich, K. (2016). The Online Participation Divide. In The Communication Crisis in America, And How to Fix It (pp. 199-213). Palgrave Macmillan US.

Van Deursen, A., & Van Dijk, J. (2011). Internet skills and the digital divide. New media & society, 13(6), 893-911.

(1) Weekly Comments Due

(2) Critical Précis Due by 9:00 pm on June 1st.


(June 05 – June 11)


Mobile Devices and Inclusion
Steinfield, C., Wyche, S., Cai, T., & Chiwasa, H. (2015, May). The mobile divide revisited: mobile phone use by smallholder farmers in Malawi. In Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (p. 8). ACM.

Wijetunga, D. (2014). The digital divide objectified in the design: Use of the mobile telephone by underprivileged youth in Sri Lanka. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 19(3), 712-726.

Weekly Comments Due

(June 12 – June 18)

Education, Health and Wellbeing
Khan, M. L., Wohn, D. Y., & Ellison, N. B. (2014). Actual friends matter: An internet skills perspective on teens’ informal academic collaboration on Facebook. Computers & Education, 79, 138-147.

Friemel, T. N. (2016). The digital divide has grown old: Determinants of a digital divide among seniors. new media & society, 18(2), 313-331.

 Weekly Comments Due

(June 19 – June 23)

Public Access, Citizenship, and Digital Government
DeMaagd, K., Chew, H. E., Huang, G., Khan, M. L., Sreenivasan, A., & LaRose, R. (2013). The use of public computing facilities by library patrons: Demography, motivations, and barriers. Government Information Quarterly, 30(1), 110-118.

Basu, S. (2016). Digital Divide, Digital Ethics, and E-government. In ICTs in Developing Countries (pp. 161-169). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Weekly Comments Due

Final Project Report Due on June 22nd by 9:00 pm on Blackboard.


In general, students are expected to:

  • Be respectful to the instructor and others students; and,
  • Complete and submit original work by given deadlines.
  • Advance their understanding of digital divide issues.

The overall course grade will be based on students’ achievements in the following areas:

Grading Rubric
     Weekly Comment / Class Participation 300 30%
     Critical Précis 200 20%
     Final Project Report 500 50%
TOTAL 1000 100%

Readings & Assignments

Students are expected to complete all assigned readings. Please note that some of the course activities such as research articles and assignments test knowledge of the readings/lecture for that week. Students are required to submit their assignments according to the deadlines announced. Late assignments are not accepted. If you face any unforeseen circumstances that may inhibit your ability to submit your work on time, you must communicate with the course instructor.

Going on a family trip, attending a wedding, a conflict with work schedule, having a family vacation booked before the semester started, and any other personal matter are NOT considered legitimate reasons for missing assignments, activities, cases, or the final exam, and thereby, do not qualify for a make-up.

Course Format and Procedures:

There is no required textbook for this course. All readings will be available on Blackboard website. The grading scale is as follows:


Grade % Grade % Grade % Grade %
A 94-100 A- 90-93 B+ 87-89 B 84-87
B- 80-83 C+ 77-79 C 74-76 C- 70-73
D+ 67-69 D 64-66 D- 60-63 F <60

Course Evaluation and Grading:

  • Weekly Comments / Class Participation

All students are expected to contribute to the discussion of the readings for the week. For each week, questions will be posted in a course forum. Students are expected to post responses for each reading on the discussion thread. Responses should be thoughtful, courteous, and adding to the overall understanding of the issue being discussed. Simply stating that you agree or disagree with a statement is insufficient; you must explain why you agree or disagree. Weekly comments are due by 9:00 pm every Thursday for the length of the semester.

  • Critical Précis

The purpose of the Critical Précis is to do an in-depth exploration a research article or a published report. The requirement is to provide an article/report summary and critique comprising 500 words, which explicates the ideas, concepts, and significance of the study/report.

  • Final Project Report & Presentation

Students will work in groups of 4 to 5 students on a final project for the course (groups are randomly assigned by the instructor at the beginning of the semester). The final project will entail 15 – 20 pages (12-point font, double-spaced, Times New Roman) report that analyzes an issue concerning digital divide. The purpose of the final project is to apply the knowledge learned throughout the semester to further research some issues of significance. More details will be provided later on in the semester.

For the final project, you will select a topic from the following list:

  • Digital Skills Gap on Social Media
  • Can mobile devices bridge the digital divide?
  • Special access and usage issues of Native American groups
  • Contributions of Internet access to development outcomes in Africa
  • Digital Divide in an International Context-A Case Study of a Developing Country in Asia
  • Digital Divide in an International Context-A Case Study of a Developing Country in Africa
  • Digital Divide in an International Context-A Case Study of a Developing Country in South America
  • Digital Divide, Citizenship, and Access to Services and Opportunity
  • Mobile Telephony and its role in bridging the gap
  • Media illiteracy as a contributor to the digital divide

The report will be based on a review of literature about a topic in the digital divide domain. More details about the assignment and project will be provided soon.