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New forms of discrimination: Young people’s social constructions of technology, regional infrastructure and time in England and Germany

New forms of discrimination: Young people’s social constructions of technology, regional infrastructure and time in England and Germany

As we move towards an era dominated by technology personalisation and artificially intelligent algorithms, some young people are experiencing ever-greater social exclusion. This is because the adoption of modern technology has exaggerated existing forms of discrimination, as well as introducing new ones. The study "My Life Online" examines the spread and impact of this phenomenon on the education and development of young people (age 15-19) in two regions: one in England, and the other in Germany, exposing such discrimination, and how it exploits the new social currencies of time and attention. The project examins possible paedagogical interventions helping young people to understand how their social and digital identities are underpinned by commercial algorithms, and how to train these personal algorithms to their educational advantage.Our research took place from 2018-2019 and explored the lived experience of high speed broadband, mobile phone signals and public transport use amongst 15-18 year olds, an age when usage habits are being laid down for adult life. Many deprived young people in Western Europe live in areas where, even if they have everyday access to a good quality computer or smartphone, inadequate regional telecommunications infrastructure can present a barrier to effective use. If superfast fibre optic broadband is not readily available in your area, or if you are too far from a telephone exchange to get a good enough download speed to watch video clips without too much buffering, or if local mobile phone signals are unreliable, there are going to be limitations to how effectively you can use telecommunications equipment in your local area. This is sometimes attributable to being in a rural area, for example the Zones Blanches (‘white zones’ without high speed broadband in most areas) in rural France (French Government, 2010). However it is not necessarily just related to a rural/urban divide, as deprived urban or metropolitan areas can also suffer from this problem, such as the British cities of Hull and Aberdeen, the London boroughs of Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Bethnal Green and Bow, Poplar and Limehouse and Westminster North (Johnson, 2015; Rathbone, 2016; Hern, 2016; OFCOM, 2019), and the German capital city Berlin (Lukas et al, 2013; O’Brien, 2013). In these areas, there is a notional time penalty for users as they seek to engage with technology in a fruitful way. Things can take a lot longer than in better-connected places. Such a barrier may in turn encourage unhelpful use patterns amongst young people, if their only access to the Internet outside school is via mobile phone (Livingstone et al, 2005).

Principal Investigator(s) at the University Prof. Dr. Jutta Mägdefrau (Lehrstuhl für Erziehungswissenschaft mit Schwerpunkt empirische Lehr-/Lernforschung)

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