Coping With Disruption: What This New World Says About Digital Divide Theory

Ashley J. Coventry, Crystal Leung, Bryan Zuniga, Kacey Hsu, Amy L. Gonzales


In this study, we examine reliance on technology during the beginning of the pandemic, and how both digital access and skills impact people’s ability to cope with this unique situation. We situate our findings in research on technology reliance during large-scale disasters using the theory of amplification and the technology maintenance construct. We conducted 32 semi-structured in-depth interviews with participants from a range of socioeconomic statuses about their experience navigating technology in the early months of the pandemic. Consistent with the theory of amplification, participants who lacked needed digital technologies and necessary digital skills had a harder time adapting to the pandemic than better-resourced participants. Participants who lacked digital resources also often minimized struggles, suggesting that acquiescence as a means of surviving scarcity may be a key moderator that determines technology maintenance outcomes.


digital divide, COVID-19, technology maintenance, digital literacy, Internet access, stress, coping

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