Month: January 2011

Minority status and the use of CMC A test of the Social Diversification hypothesis

Taking advantage of Israel’s multi-ethnic society, divided along ethnic and immigrant lines, I tested the diversification hypothesis with a large sample of Internet users that resemble the country’s population of Internet users. According to the diversification hypothesis, in socially segregated societies disadvantaged groups have deficits in social capital, particularly bridging social capital. Their use of channels of online communication will be motivated by an attempt to compensate for their disadvantage, and will direct the use of IT to expand their occupational and business ties. From this argument two hypothesis were derived. First, minority and immigrants will be more likely to choose the use of the IT best suited to this task. The findings of the study mostly support this hypothesis. Controlling for socio-demographic and minority status, it was found that people who are motivated to use the Internet to expand business and professional contacts are more likely to use Chat rooms and weblogs. At the same time those motivated to use the Internet to maintain ties with families and friends are more likely to use social networking sites. This finding indicates that each IT application is perceived by users to be suited to a different task.As for the specific hypothesis that minorities and immigrants will be more likely than Israeli Jews to use chat rooms and weblogs to expand their social ties, the results  are mixed. Regarding chat rooms, there is only support for immigrants being more likely than Arab Israelis to use chat rooms. Regarding weblogs, the latter proved more likely to use them than immigrants and Israeli Jews. The three groups did not differ from their use of social networking sites.

Second, a more direct test of the diversification hypothesis was conducted. The hypothesis that Arab Israelis and Immigrants have different motivations for the use of IT was tested by means of OLS regression multivariate analysis. The findings here indicated that the main difference was between Israeli Jews and Immigrants on the one hand and Arab Israelis on the other. Immigrants and Israeli Jews proved more likely than Arab Israelis to use IT for maintaining family ties and to sustaining ties with existing friends. At the same time Arab Israelis were shown as more likely to use IT to make new contacts and to expand their business contacts.

Taking the results together the strongest support of the diversification hypothesis seems to apply to the Arab Israeli population than to the immigrants. This difference might be explained through the differences existing between the two groups in society. As shown in the descriptive analysis, the Arab population of Israel is more disadvantaged in human capital than the immigrant population. Furthermore, the Arab population, perceived as part of the Arab world with which Israel is in a constant state of war, faces more discrimination than the new immigrants. This difference in social standing might be reflected in the more consistent pattern of motivations and usage by the Arab population than by the immigrant groups.