Special Issue of New Media & Society: ‘Digital Inclusion of Vulnerable People: Factors, Significance, Intersectionality, and Policy Challenges’

Over the last three decades, researchers have increasingly understood the existence of multiple and complex digital inequalities that vary in breadth and depth and involve evolving nuances, assigning a multi-faceted nature to digital inclusion and flagging up a complex terrain of hurdles to it (Blank and Groselj, 2014; Borg and Smith, 2018; Brandtzæg et al., 2011; Katz and Gonzalez, 2016; Mubarak, 2015; Tsatsou, 2011; 2012; 2017; van Deursen et al., 2011;  van Deursen and van Dijk, 2014; Witte and Mannon, 2010).

It is widely acknowledged that barriers to digital inclusion are connected with social exclusion and associated social capital and social stratification trends (Clayton and McDonald, 2013) and that those vulnerable and at high risk of social exclusion are also those in greatest need of digital inclusion (e.g., Acharya, 2016; Alam and Imran, 2015; Chadwick, Wesson and Fullwood, 2013; Fisher et al., 2014; Helsper and Eynon, 2010; Menger, Morris and Salis, 2016, Seale et al. 2015, Tsatsou, Youngs and Watt, 2017). Vulnerability,  namely the ‘susceptibility to physical or emotional injury or attack’ (Ståsett, 2007, p. 51), is not a new concept and, while we ought to acknowledge that all humans and populations are potentially subject to conditions of vulnerability, there are some groups, which persistently face conditions of vulnerability, such as ethnic minorities/refugees, elderly, people with disabilities, homeless people, one-parent households, unemployed people, Gypsy-travelers, and others. To shed light on vulnerability in the context of the forces and significance of digital inclusion, intersectionality is a key notion. Coined by Crenshaw (1989) in feminist and gender studies, the notion of intersectionality points to interlocking systems of power and oppression and how they impact those most marginalized in society, acknowledging the multidimensionality of people’s experiences, namely the ‘intersectional experience’ (p. 140) within and outside the digital realm.

This special issue seeks to offer broad and case-specific, theoretical and empirical accounts that shed light on major dimensions, complexities and intersectionality patterns in the digital inclusion of those who find themselves at the margins of social inclusion and most vulnerable to existing and emerging societal challenges. In this sense, this issue aims to constitute a timely and diverse collection of studies of vulnerable people’s digital inclusion that will present original insights into the factors, significance, intersectionality patterns, and policymaking challenges concerning the digital inclusion of those who are vulnerable in socio-demographic, economic, geographic, political or other terms.

We invite papers that focus on one or more vulnerable populations and/or contexts and either offer an overarching (conceptual or empirical) account or delve into a specific case study. Suitable papers will make a distinct contribution to the exploration of the status and role of digital technologies in the lives of vulnerable population groups or communities in today’s society, drawing expertise and insight from the fields of digital media studies, social computing, community informatics, information systems, sociology, social psychology, and cultural studies.  In light of the current COVID19 pandemic, in particular, we invite papers that examine questions of factors, significance, intersectionality or policy challenges in the context of the pandemic and in consideration of today’s heightened necessities for and dependencies on digital inclusion, especially for those most vulnerable.

Hence, the themes addressed in this issue include, but are not limited to:

  • Theorising vulnerable people’s digital inclusion.
  • Vulnerability in the context of digital inclusion.
  • Current state of vulnerable people’s digital inclusion and associated trends and developments.
  • Value of intersectionality for the study of vulnerable people’s digital inclusion.
  • Empirical insights into patterns of intersectionality among different vulnerable populations’ digital inclusion.
  • Continuing or emerging factors influencing vulnerable people’s digital inclusion.
  • Significance of digital inclusion for vulnerable people’s social inclusion and wellbeing.
  • Research lessons and insights for policymaking on vulnerable people’s digital inclusion.
  • Emerging or new necessities for and lessons on vulnerable people’s digital inclusion in the context of the COVID19 pandemic.

Special Issue Editor / Correspondence: Panayiota Tsatsou (

Important dates:

Submission of abstracts (500 words): 22 May 2020.

Notification of decision on abstracts: 22 June 2020

Submission of full papers:  31 August 2020

Notification of peer review outcome: 30 October 2020

Submission of final papers: 1 December 2020

Instructions for authors: Abstracts must be submitted to Abstracts should not exceed the limit of 500 words (word limit excludes author details and list of references).

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