Digital Divide| Authentication, Status, and Power in a Digitally Organized Society
This article explores Weber’s notions of status and power in societies that are increasingly organized via digital networks. It draws on a community study conducted in a former coal-mining town in the United Kingdom. The policy background is the UK’s Digital by Default agenda, which seeks to make online services the primary form of service access and transaction. In the context of a digitally organized society, a person’s status is created through his or her ability to provide certain status markers to authenticate who they are. Status is created through a person’s file, and those lacking an online profile become thin-filed and therefore excluded from many online services. The article argues that digital authentication is a feature of the formation of status in a digitally organized society. Without online system files, individuals lack the power to access public services, banks, credit unions, and e-commerce, and they feel a lack of social honor because of their low authentication status.