Digital Diversity and Belonging in Higher Education: A Social Justice Proposition

Digital Diversity and Belonging in Higher Education: A Social Justice Proposition

Book: International Advances in Education: Global Initiatives for Equity and Social Justice
Year: 2016
Authors: Timmis S, Ching W & Bent E
Editor: Elinor L. Brown, Anna Krasteva, Maria Raneri
Publisher: Information Age Publishing
This chapter focuses on social justice relating to undergraduate education for diverse and under-represented students. Within mass higher education, participation and equity are increasingly critical; including the experience students have whilst at university. We argue that the pervasiveness of digital media offers potential for supporting diversity and belonging through informal networks and peer support. The emerging concept of digital diversity is explored before conceptualising this as both the proliferation of digitally-mediated opportunities and the possibilities for more diverse communities to engage in digital practices that might be distinct or for different purposes. Drawing on a recent study, the chapter argues that digital technologies have a role in sustaining social networks and developing identities within academic spaces as well as affording alternative spaces and discourses. Yet such networks can also be exclusive or excluding for students whose identities may be more firmly established elsewhere. We conclude that digital diversity can help to understand the dynamics of under-represented student experiences in a digital world. From a social justice perspective, digital diversity suggests the need to expand understandings of ‘the digital university’ and recognize under-represented students as collaborators and knowledge producers in order to open up opportunities and mechanisms for participation and success.
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