Year of selection 2008
Institution Sciences Po Paris
Digital technology promises to enhance awareness of the world more than ever before, fostering open and free access to knowledge. But what’s the real story? Fascinated by new technologies and the way in which they affect our interactions in society – or how they connect us to others – Pétry is conducting a close-up study of these evolutions in society. “Sociology has shown how individuals’ living conditions are greatly affected by their cultural resources and social networks,” she explains. Her research looks at the digital practices of high school students from working-class backgrounds in the suburbs of Paris and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Such a comparison is necessary for investigating whether the practices widely adopted by this age group open individuals up to cultural references and social contacts other than those available in the physical world – regardless of where they live.
After several months of research, she has been able to separate facts from fiction. “Digital technology may increase cultural consumption, but it does not really change the type or diversity of the cultural goods available,” says Pétry. “Also, generally speaking, only a small minority of students use digital resources for school, except for doing research online.” Her study confirms that digital communication improves sociability; albeit only following pre-existing norms. Teenagers in the suburbs of Paris are more focused on their peers, while students in Rio tend to be more family-oriented. Finally, digital interaction tends to reduce inequalities in social capital as it becomes more widespread, rather than deepen them.
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