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Closing the knowledge gap hypothesis with Web 2.0 Competing hypotheses
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Oct 22 2019, 10:52 am - by Rajashaker123

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The knowledge gap hypothesis explains that knowledge, like other forms of wealth, is often differentially distributed throughout a social system. Specifically, the hypothesis predicts that "as the infusion of mass media information into a social system increases, segments of the population with higher socioeconomic status tend to acquire this information at a faster rate than the lower status segments, so that the gap in knowledge between these segments tends to increase rather than decrease".[1] Phillip J. Tichenor, then Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, George A. Donohue, Professor of Sociology, and Clarice N. Olien, Instructor in Sociology – three University of Minnesota researchers – first proposed the knowledge gap hypothesis in 1970.

Although first formally articulated in 1970, Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien[1] note that the knowledge gap hypothesis has been implicit throughout the mass communication literature.

Indeed, research published as early as the 1920s had already begun to examine the influence of individual characteristics on people's media content preferences. For example, Gray and Munroe[2] identified education – still used today as an operationalization of socioeconomic status in knowledge gap research (see, e.g., Hwang and Jeong, 2009)[3] â€“ as a significant and positive correlate of a person's tendency to prefer "serious" (rather than non-serious) print content.

Popular belief, however, held that such differences in preferences might be diminished by the advent of radio, which required neither the special skill nor the exertion of reading (Lazarsfeld, 1940).[4] Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless telegraph, even believed that the radio would "make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous" (Narodny, 1912, p. 145).[5] Interested in whether radio had attenuated these individual differences in content preferences, Paul Lazarsfeld, head of the Office of Radio Research at Columbia University, set out to examine whether (1) the total amount of time that people listened to the radio and (2) the type of content they listened to correlated with their socioeconomic status. Not only did Lazarsfeld's data indicate people of lower socioeconomic status tended to listen to more radio programming, but also they were simultaneously less likely to listen to "serious" radio content. Contrary to popular belief at the time, then, the widespread adoption of the radio seems to have had little, if any, effect on a person's tendency to prefer specific types of content.

Further evidence supporting the knowledge gap hypothesis came from Star and Hughes (1950)[6] analysis of efforts to inform Cincinnati adults about the United Nations. Like Gray and Munroe (1929)[2] and Lazarsfeld (1940)[4] before them, Star and Hughes found that while the campaign was successful in reaching better-educated people, those with less education virtually ignored the campaign. Additionally, after realizing that the highly educated people reached by the campaign also tended to be more interested in the topic, Star and Hughes suggested that knowledge, education, and interest may be interdependent

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