Laura RobinsonPublicationsESMC

Digital Inequalities & Youth

I have conducted extensive research on youth and digital media. From 2006 to 2013, I gathered rich primary data from youths attending two high schools in an agricultural region of California. The first school is Title I and serves a relatively uniform low-SES student body. The second school is an elite charter school sending over 95% of its graduates on to college. Nonetheless, both schools are characterized by heterogeneity in terms of students’ digital engagements. In terms of methodology, I combine ethnography, interviewing, and original surveys. 

Drawing on this data, my research explores the linkages between socioeconomic inequalities, information resources writ large, and the development of information capital among youths. Each of my publications sheds light on a particular facet of this increasingly important form of inequality. Taking my cue from Bourdieu, I develop the concepts of information habitus and informational advantage. I show how the information habitus has profound consequences for youths’ self-conception across different foci including temporal and resource constraints, social costs, college and vocational planning, learning and skill-building opportunities, gender, and information seeking and evaluation processes.

Across these life realms, I show that youths’ internalization of belief in their own capacity to render judgments autonomously has significant ramifications for life chances. For highly resourced youths, playing seriously allows them to develop agentic identities stemming from a deeply internalized sense of authority. Conversely, long-term digital scarcities engender a taste for the necessary in which agency always rests outside of under-resourced youths’ hands. While their task-oriented strategies appear rational because they work well in the short-term, in the long-term a taste for the necessary hinders these youths from realizing their capabilities as autonomous information assessors. Yet, I also argue that these cycles of power reproduction are not inevitable. Across these articles, my analysis illuminates the processes by which more equitable opportunities can be created. When this occurs, all youths benefit from greater opportunities to develop and internalize agentic self-identities. 



​Robinson, Laura. 2017. “The Identity Curation Game: Digital Inequality, Identity Work, and Emotion Management.” Information, Communication & Society.  

Ignatow, Gabe and Laura Robinson. 2017. “Pierre Bourdieu: Theorizing the Digital.” Information, Communication & Society. Volume 20:7: 950-966. 

Robinson, Laura, Shelia Cotten, Hiroshi Ono, Anabel Quan-Haase, Gustavo Mesch, Wenhong Chen, Jeremy Schulz, Tim Hale, and Mike Stern. 2015. “Digital Inclusion and Why It Matters.” Information, Communication and Society 18(5): 569-582.

Robinson, Laura. 2014. “Endowed, Entrepreneurial, and Empowered Information-Seekers:
Doing a Lot with a Lot, Doing a Lot with a Little.” Information, Communication, and Society 17(5): 521-536.

     2015 Selected for Inclusion in the CITASA “Stellar Seven” 
     Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association

Robinson, Laura. 2014. “Freeways, Detours and Dead Ends: Search Journeys Among Disadvantaged Youth.” New Media & Society 16(2): 234-251. 

Robinson, Laura and Jeremy Schulz. 2013. “Net Time Negotiations Within the Family.”
Information, Communication, and Society 16(4): 542-560.

Robinson, Laura. 2012. “Information-Seeking 2.0: The Effects of Informational Advantage.” RESET Social Science Research on the Internet 1(1): 27 pages.

     2014 CITASA Paper Award Honorable Mention Co-Winner
     Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association

Robinson, Laura. 2011. “Information Channel Preferences and Information Opportunity Structures.”
Information, Communication, and Society 14(4): 472-494. 

Robinson, Laura. 2009. “A Taste for the Necessary: A Bourdieuian Approach to Digital 
Inequality.” Information, Communication, and Society 12(4): 488-507. 

     Reprinted Forthcoming 2015 Education and Technology: Critical Concepts in Education
     Edited by C. Davies and R. Eynon (Routledge Major Works Series)


Robinson, Laura, Jeremy Schulz, Hopeton Dunn, and Alejandro Alejandro Artopoulos, editors. 2016. ICTs and the Politics of Inclusion in the Caribbean and Latin America: Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Emerald Studies in Media and Communications: Vol. 12). Bingley: Emerald Books.

Robinson, Laura, Shelia Cotten, Jeremy Schulz, Tim Hale, Apryl Williams, and Joy Hightower, editors. 2015. Digital Distinctions and Inequalities: Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Emerald Studies in Media and Communications Vol. 10). Bingley: Emerald Books.

Robinson, Laura, Shelia Cotten, and Jeremy Schulz, editors. 2014. Doing and Being Digital: Mediated Childhoods: Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Emerald Studies in Media and Communications Vol. 8). Bingley: Emerald Books. 


Schulz, Jeremy and Laura Robinson. Forthcoming. “Security-Autonomy-Mobility Roadmaps: Passports to Security.” Ch. 6 in Beyond the Cubicle, edited by A. Pugh. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Kretchmer, Susan et al. including, Laura Robinson. Forthcoming. “The Digital Divide: Worldwide Challenges for Communication Across the Life Span in the Digital Age.” In Communication Across the Lifespan. Jon F. Nussbaum. Editor. Peter Lang.

Kuo-Ting Huang, Laura Robinson, and Shelia R. Cotten. 2015. “Mind the emotional gap: The impact of emotional costs on student learning outcomes.” In Digital Distinctions and Inequalities. Laura Robinson, Shelia Cotten, Jeremy Schulz, Tim Hale, and Apryl Williams. Editors. Emerald Studies in Media and Communications: Communication and Information Technologies Annual. 

Kretchmer, Susan, Joy Pierce, and Laura Robinson. 2015. “The 20th Anniversary of the Digital Divide: Challenges and Opportunities for Communication and 'The Good Life'“in the International Communication Association Theme Book, edited by H. Wang. New York: Peter Lang.


Ito, Mizuko (lead author) and (contributing authors) Sonja Baumer, Matteo Bittanti, danah boyd, Rachel Cody, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Heather Horst, Patricia Lange, Dilan Mahendran, Katynka Martinez, C. J. Pascoe, Dan Perkel, Laura Robinson, Christo Sims and Lisa Tripp. 2009. Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Ito, Mizuko, Heather Horst, Matteo Bittanti, danah boyd, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Patricia Lange, C.J. Pascoe, and Laura Robinson. 2009. Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. Cambridge: MIT Press.