DEQUAL: Capturing Digital Social Inequality

The project DEQUAL explores how digital information and communication technologies implicate in social inequalities among youth.

Studying digital inequalities

Finland represents a digital society developed on digi-technological imperatives, and with a young generation that is considered as “digital natives” with competences and opportunities to benefit digitalization in their life-courses.

Statistics still show “digital divide” and unequal socio-material stratification among them. We aim at making visible this divide, both at the societal and life-course level, and operate in three different home-regions among youth born in 2005: in a remote and emptying agricultural village; in a small working-classed and industrial town that continuously seems to lose its young population; and in a growing, “youthful” city that has an image of a tempting region especially for young adults. The places are materially and socio-culturally different environments to grow up in a digital society, that seems to believe that digi-technologies cross the unfair structures maintained by, e.g., local opportunities and distances.

The project combines qualitative and quantitative data in analyses of digi-cultural structures, practices, and meanings. The state of art is figured from numbers: by tracing structures of youth marginalization from statistics of education, participation, employment, and leisure. After this, structured web-questionnaire data are collected among youth born in 2005 from three localities, from where systematic forms of digital divide among digital opportunity structures are examined. Among these locally covering samples, young people with different backgrounds are invited for focus group interviews. Within these, selection is further made for individual life-course interviews, to reach also the experience level of meaning making for digital opportunities. The methodologies are supplemented by a multi-sited media ethnography to study digital cultures of youth’s everyday life. Ethnographic in-depth interviews with a scroll-back method and observations of digital practices are collected as well.

Regional comparison is an important dimension of DEQUAL: the three research localities represent both materially and socio-culturally different environments to grow up in a digital society.

We have two sub-projects:

DEQUAL operates via sub-projects that give light to the issue from different perspectives:

1) “Digital upstairs, downstairs” captures understanding of processes that link Internet and the web to social inequality, and

2) “Lived digital practices” defines young people not only as victims of unequal structures but also active agents in their social and youth-cultural environments.

We aim at:

1) Analyzing mechanisms that produce digital social inequality among youth, and the ways young people living in three different localities benefit digital opportunity structures,

2 ) Analyzing the practices of youth’s digital cultures and how they shape and also challenge unequal divides at regional life-spheres and digital environments,

3) Analyzing both societal and life-course consequences of these asymmetries.




Project name:

DEQUAL: Capturing Digital Social Inequality Young digi-natives’ asymmetrical agencies within socio-technical imperatives and imaginaries


Lead partner: University of Eastern Finland
Partial partners: University of Eastern Finland, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences
Area of strength: Sustainable wellbeing
Competence edge: Equality and empowerment of youth
Research unit: Juvenia


Financier and main source of funding: Research Council of Finland
Total budget: 798 601 €
Xamk part of the total budget: 399 793 €

Project partners