We are reliant on digital technology for nearly every aspect of daily life, including searching for job, completing coursework, and accessing healthcare. In this talk I will present data from two studies demonstrating the essential nature of digital access for the health, quality of life, and social capital of individuals from marginalized communities. First, I will present findings from a diary study in Philadelphia on the use of digital technology to broaden social networks for those constrained by geographic segregation. Second, I will present findings from a 6-month field experiment in Indiana demonstrating that stable access to cell-phones improves health and quality of life over time. These effects were moderated by social support, such that those individuals with the fewest supportive relationships benefited the most from stable cell phone access. In tandem, these findings point to the need for ensuring digital access in low-income communities and communities of color.
Amy Gonzales is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her work examines the effects of social interaction via communication technologies on individual identity, social support, and well-being , as well as the consequences of disrupted access to communication technology. She is especially interested in these phenomena for people from disadvantaged communities (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities, low- income populations, LGBTQ individuals, etc.). Her work aims to advance theoretical understanding and real-world solutions that may help mitigate the long-term consequences of new digital infrastructures that may otherwise exacerbate social inequalities.