“Second-class” Access

Homelessness and the Digital Materialization of Class

Authored by: Justine Humphry

The Routledge Companion to Media and Class

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138493612
eBook ISBN: 9781351027342
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351027342-21

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Abstract

We have moved from an era marked by the immateriality of the internet as “cyberspace” to one in which the materiality of digital media and culture is a growing focus of scholarly attention. The Marxist Critical Media School has made a major contribution to this “material turn,” exposing the ways that hidden forms of digital labor in social media use and in the production of digital devices reproduce exploitative capitalist structures and ideologies. Nevertheless, for all the insights gained from a class-based material analysis, rarely do we see the implications of class on the communication experiences and inequalities of digital media users with the least capital at hand. This chapter provides a contribution to our understanding of the (digital) materialization of class in the structuring of mobile phone communication plans, services and conditions of access. The analysis draws on research carried out on the access and use of mobile media by families, adults and young people experiencing homelessness in Australia from 2014–2016 to demonstrate that class, as a system of social stratification, is materially embedded in the design and distribution of mobile media, resulting in the delivery of more expensive and substandard digital access to low or no income media consumers.

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