Digital Divide| A Weberian Analysis of Global Digital Divides
Weber hardly wrote about media, but his comparative historical analysis of the social implications of technology can be used to understand how the relation between elites and people is shaped by media. To do this, we can examine four countries and their uses of traditional media and new or digital media—the United States, Sweden, India, and China—providing a wide range for comparison. A further distinction can be made, along Weberian lines, between the political and cultural uses of media—the first focusing on the relation between political and media elites and people and the second on how elites are drivers of a popular consumer culture. The essay examines both traditional media and new digital media, with the central question of whether—and, if so, how—new media have reshaped the relation between elites and people, perhaps in different ways across the four countries. The essay concludes by arguing that consumer culture is rather homogeneous across the four countries, even if this form of culture also contains a variety of plural contents. In terms of politics, on the other hand, elites continue to control content, even if this control has been somewhat reshaped by digital media, though asymmetries between elites and people in this respect are quite different in the four countries examined here.